Old Anti-Marriage Essay

This is an essay I wrote in Feb 2002 criticizing marriage. Oh God, the writing style is so bad! I hope this will show you that no one is a lost cause!

I bet some of you FI bros are already better writers than this... So things are looking good for you!

I do like the use of italics and the connections between Shakespeare's play and my points. But lots of this is a mess, and it's got tons of that awful school essay style.

Can anyone refute some of these arguments? Reply in the comments below!

Marriage in Measure for Measure: A Destructive Force Revealed

The depth of Shakespeare's commitment to marriage is shown by the fact that he continues to take it for granted as an institution even while the action of his play, Measure for Measure, systematically reveals its ability to hurt people. Marriage even leads a number of characters to immoral ideas! The characters in the play seem to think marriage is very important, but at the same time they are constantly pointing out flaws. Their inability to notice the flaws they elucidate strongly supports the thesis. Hence, some of their statements will be highlighted, and the flaws examined.

In most societies, ideas about love and marriage do terrible damage. Marriage is a form of vertical, or contractual, relationship that functions as a control mechanism. Horizontal visions of marriage, in essence marriage as a true friendship or ARR (Autonomy Respecting Relationship), could utterly destroy the tradition. The more ARRs catch on, the more people would realise that no personal relationship needs contractual obligations, or state approval. This would lead to a more dynamic society, and even while the ideas are on the whole unpopular, some people would certainly begin to question their local dictator. Therefore, said tyrant cannot allow this process to begin; relationships must be painful obligations without truth-seeking. However, it must be noted that the ruler does not consciously understand this. He, too, acts on anti-rational memes which contain knowledge about what he must do. Some of them tell him to protect marriage. He does not know why he does this; there is no conspiracy. In Measure for Measure, the Duke goes to elaborate lengths to create a number of marriages, and enforce the contractual obligations inherent in them.

One of the issues Shakespeare goes into is distorted ethics; marriage contributes fairly well to confusing people ethically. For example, Isabella would choose highly immoral actions such as allowing her close friend and brother Claudio to die, before she would violate the rigid rules outlawing premarital sex. Any good person would make a minor, inconsequential sacrifice of some temporary discomfort to save the life of a valued friend. However, Isabella says, “I had rather my brother die by the law than my son should be unlawfully born” (Measure for Measure, Act III, Scene I, Lines 187-189). Isabella makes the same mistake as many others in her society, placing false importance on marital contracts. She cannot see the inherent harm, even when it hits her in the face by forcing her to sacrifice her brother. And, transitively, Shakespeare also misses the harm, or he would abandon marriage.

One of the issues Shakespeare goes into is reason; marriage causes people to act unreasonably. It is common to hear such lines as You will find true love someday or Your soulmate is out there, somewhere, waiting. The message is to cheer up, because the listener will find love. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. In most people, such a strong desire for love is instilled, that they will often convince themselves a relationship is love, despite reality. They then hang on to this so-called “love” for fear of losing their soulmate. For example, the Duke says of Marianna, “[Angelo’s] unjust unkindness, that in all reason should have quenched her love, hath, like an impediment in the current, made it more violent and unruly” (238-241). When reason dictates that Marianna should hate Angelo, she instead loves him more. Even the Duke (and transitively Shakespeare) admits that love causes people to act against reason!

Marriage blinds its followers to its own harm. For instance, the Duke says, “[Angelo] swallowed his vows whole…bestowed her on her own lamentation, which she yet wears for his sake” (224-227). He associates breaking vows with causing suffering. However, if Angelo and Marianna had a healthy relationship—a friendship or ARR--this would not have happened. When Angelo decided he did not want to marry Marianna, he would have gone his own way, and neither party would have felt bad. It would be wrong of Marianna to attempt to control Angelo, or force him to do things against his will, and as a friend she should not even want to; however, marital ideas have confused her. Marianna, if she were rational, would correctly feel sad because her brother and her wealth were lost at sea, which was a true loss. Angelo’s changing wants should not cause such grief. The Duke continues, “and he, a marble to her tears, is washed with them, but relents not” (227-228). The Duke feels Angelo should self-sacrifice, following an obligation long after his desire to do so has left him. Again, a character in Measure for Measure advocates harm over any action contrary to marriage. The Duke—quite explicitly—would rather harm Angelo than allow him to do anything against the marital status quo.

The Duke must advocate immoral ideas to achieve his desired outcome of protecting the establishment of marriage. Consider a proposition: if we grouped people into sets of three, then randomly slew one in each group, and gave his wealth to the other two, two people would benefit greatly for every one that lost, therefore the world would be a better place. It’s absurd! Trading two benefits, which may only be benefits in the Duke’s eyes, for one wrong is terribly immoral. However, the Duke says, “[If you choose to do this,] the doubleness of the benefit defends the deceit from reproof” (253-255). Basically, he says it’s ok to do one wrong because he gets two things he wants, or to put it graphically, it would be justified to rape one person if you had two orgasms. The Duke (and transitively Shakespeare) understands that his marriage laws harm some people, but prefers that to any contradiction of marriage as perfection.

What if some horizontal marriages were allowed? What would be so terrible about a few outcasts? The real question here is this: What happens to authority figures who make exceptions? The answer is simple, there is a real possibility a haze will clear from the eyes of the ruled, and they will realize their leader’s fallibility. If his laws are not always the best in all situations, perhaps that time a law hurt me, I should have had an exception! some peasant might think. Small freedoms lead down a slippery slope towards people requesting then fighting for freedom. However, the Duke (and Shakespeare) do not consciously understand it. This knowledge is embedded in anti-rational memes, so they act as if they know this, but are actually simply meme-controlled. That is one of the tricks of marriage that keeps Shakespeare so committed to it: a number of anti-rational memes tell him it’s terrific.

Measure for Measure could be a strong critique of marriage that exposes it as the harmful idea it is, contrary to autonomy. However, if Shakespeare understood marriage as such, he would not have clung to it. For instance, he ends the play with more marriages! Marriage as an important part of the social structure is firmly entrenched in Shakespeare’s mind. The Duke himself is caught admitting that love makes people act against reason. Isabella prefers immoral actions inline with the no-premarital-sex commandment to her brother’s life. Marriage, in her view, is more important than ethics! Only an utterly taken in Shakespeare could write this play without realizing what he had revealed. It is fitting that the Duke uses marriage as a punishment to end the play, for it truly is a terrible thing.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blog Revamp

Thanks to Lulie Tanett for help improving the blog colors and design.

FYI I also added some caching, some links on my More page, and some links in the (edited) "I'm an American, atheist, classical liberal, and philosopher. I like Ayn Rand, Karl Popper, William Godwin & Ludwig von Mises." sidebar bio.

And I added *italics*, **bold**, ***bold-italics***, and >quote colors to comments. (Put one or more > at the start of the line for quotes.)

Update: I got a new linode with Debian instead of the very old ubuntu I had. I got new versions of nginx and passenger, and I got rails 2.3 LTS. I migrated from mysql to sqlite3. I added 3 db indexes and enabled gzip compression for nginx. The result: utf8 unicode is now fully supported including emoji in comments! And things should be more secure and a little faster. 😎

Update 2: I added an RSS Feed For Comments. You can now get updated on blog comments with an RSS reader, not just new posts.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (11)

Vanilla and Kink

Someone asked where the line is between vanilla sex and kink. There is no clear or principled line. It varies by subculture and is fluid over time. And the line has a substantial arbitrary, like fasion, trends and fads.

For a subculture, there are:

1) common sex acts ppl consider normal, admit to in public

2) common sex acts ppl are ashamed of, hide

3) uncommon sex acts

So 1 is "vanilla" (normal) and 3 is "kinky" (deviant). 2 is a grey area that people lie about a lot. It's normal, but the official line is it's deviant.

Someone claimed BDSM is kinky. Actually, some significant chunk of BDSM is normal in many subcultures. Some people seem to think BDSM is in category 3. But tons of it is category 2, and some is category 1.

You can see BDSM on mass market TV, for example USA's show Satisfaction.
Neil and Simon legitimize their partnership while Adriana introduces Grace to the world of BDSM.
Among other things, they have like a jail cell built into a house they lock a girl in and then use BDSM toys on her, on the show. It's softcorn pornagraphy meant to arouse its mainstream audience.

And who makes this? Comcast owns the TV channel. Comcast is huge and also owns NBC. Comcast's market cap is $150,000,000,000.

And most of the viewers feel so naughty watching it. That's part of the appeal. It's on fucking mass market tv. It's normal! But they somehow feel it's naughty at the same time.

Keeping things a big deal somehow is part of how ppl keep lasting interest in it. It keeps the excitement. It helps avoid it staleness. Over-hyping the amount of deviance of an activity is one way to keep it seeming like a big deal. It makes it more special, secrative and important.

It wasn't that long ago that, legally, you couldn't rape your wife. Marital rape excemptions ended in all 50 US states in 1993, but different legal treatment of marital and non-marital continues to this day in some states. Yet ppl act like rough sex is a rare, weird preference.

It wasn't that long ago that beatings were common. Beating children. Beating slaves. Beating wives. Is it any surprise at all that these ideas aren't all gone?

It's not like these things stopped b/c ppl were thoroughly persuaded and fully rationally understood something better. They didn't become Objectivists. It got suppressed in various ways, and lots of ppl are half-persuaded. It contradicts some liberal ideas with some popularity, but people don't really understand liberalism that well or thoroughly.

The ppl who are half-persuaded beatings are bad are a great target market for beatings-sex-play. It's toying with an issue they think is important and are conflicted about!

From the female side a bunch of the appeal of BDSM is like "you wouldn't do that. no way. that's off limits. omg u did! that's so intense!"

Some of the male side of BDSM is similar to parents who say "because i said so" and maybe hit their kids now and then. It's getting sex "because i said so", without reasons.

Some of the appeal for both sides is faking reality – pretending he's so great and appealing and dominant and alpha and worthy of submission to. Like a great leader, a great head of household you can trust and follow.

But they are using whips and ropes b/c that's all false and he has trouble getting her to submit, at all, without the props. E.g. he doesn't feel confident she won't stop sex at any moment if she isn't tied up. And she doesn't feel confident he'll keep her in the mood if she isn't tied up. She may want to stop.

Like William Godwin explains, using force is a confession of weakness. That still applies when it's fake.
Let us consider the effect that coercion produces upon the mind of him against whom it is employed. It cannot begin with convincing; it is no argument. It begins with producing the sensation of pain, and the sentiment of distaste. It begins with violently alienating the mind from the truth with which we wish it to be impressed. It includes in it a tacit confession of imbecility. If he who employs coercion against me could mould me to his purposes by argument, no doubt he would. He pretends to punish me because his argument is strong; but he really punishes me because his argument is weak.
Also girls like having no choice about sex. By which I mean pretending they have no choice. And the guys like feeling they have given the girl no choice. That makes them more manly and able to take or get what they want in life.

Things like ropes, beatings and rape fantasies (rape fantasies are very common, but commonly not admitted) help pretend it isn't voluntary. Putting effort into pretending it isn't voluntary is, by the way, such a fucked up thing. It really clashes with liberal values. That's one of the reasons people lie about it in public so much.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (5)

Trump Loves Fossil Fuels

Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, sent out a newsletter today:
I’m writing this from the Republican debate in Las Vegas. I will be attending as part of an upcoming campaign to make America’s amazing energy opportunities a central theme of this election. I hope you’re as tired as I am of candidates trying to win on negatives—like Trump’s Tweets or Clinton’s emails—rather than giving us a positive, inspiring vision. In the next couple of weeks you’ll see what I believe America’s future could be with the right policies—and I hope you’ll join me in fighting for it. [emphasis added]
At first I read this as an attack on Donald Trump for writing negative tweets that insult people. I found that surprising because Trump is so good on energy, and Epstein is a one-issue guy (energy, energy, energy). Now I've decided the newsletter is confusing and I don't know what it means. I also find it weird to bring up the emails (a serious crime that ought to land Hillary in jail) next to the tweets.

Whatever Epstein meant, he should be a fan of Donald Trump. He should be gushing about Trump in his newsletter. He should be thrilled and telling me all about Trump's energy policies. Here's why:

Epstein has done such a great job of promoting industrial progress and fossil fuels that people sometimes falsely accuse him of being a paid shill for oil companies. Epstein wrote The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

In Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, Trump presents a positive vision (notice the title) and he talks about energy. Trump comes out for fracking and developing all the US's energy resources. He attacks climate change, solar, wind, tree huggers, cap and trade, and the EPA. Trump emphasizes cost efficient energy, not green or sustainable energy. He says we have plenty of oil and gas underneath the US to last hundreds of years, and we should use it. He's in favor of development, drilling and pipelines. This is a similar message to Epstein's.

Here are quotes from Chapter 6, "The Energy Debate: A Lot of Hot Air", with my emphasis added:
Now these “experts” [on global warming] can’t figure out whether it’s getting too hot or too cold, so the new term is “extreme weather conditions.”
In his 2015 State of the Union speech, President Obama declared the biggest threat on the planet today is climate change. The biggest threat?! We have ISIS troops chopping off the heads of innocent Christian missionaries. We have a coalition of adversaries in Syria supporting a dictator who uses chemical weapons on his own people. We have millions of Americans who have mortgages greater than the value of their property, while middle-class incomes are stagnant and more than 40 million citizens are living at poverty levels.

And our president is most concerned about climate change?
I do agree that so-called global climate change is causing us some problems: It’s causing us to waste billions of dollars to develop technologies we don’t need to fulfill our energy needs.
The truth is, we have sufficient energy supplies in this country to power us into the next century—all we have to do is develop them. Among all the gifts that God gave to America was an abundant supply of natural energy. According to the Department of Energy, the natural gas reserves we have in the ground could supply our energy needs for centuries.
Researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have estimated we might have two trillion barrels of recoverable oil, enough to last the next 285 years. Technology has changed so much in the last few years that a Goldman Sachs study has estimated that by 2017 or 2018, we could overtake both Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s largest oil producer.

The oil is there for the taking; we just have to take it.
We need to be prepared to drill our own oil. And we need to take advantage of every opportunity, including approving the Keystone XL Pipeline.
One of the main criticisms of the pipeline has been the possibility of oil spills. Even the State Department has said the pipeline will be safe, and far better and safer than the existing system of transport. But mere possibilities shouldn’t prevent progress. You prepare for these situations, taking as many precautions as possible, and when they occur, you clean them up.
Our first priorities need to be approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and starting to drill everywhere oil is accessible.
There has been a big push to develop alternative forms of energy—so-called green energy—from renewable sources. That’s another big mistake. To begin with, the whole push for renewable energy is being driven by the wrong motivation, the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. If you don’t buy that—and I don’t—then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves.

The most popular source of green energy is solar panels. They work, but they don’t make economic sense. They don’t provide enough energy savings to cover the cost of installing and using them. They are the most highly subsidized form of green energy in America.

Some estimates claim it takes as long as several decades after installing solar panels to get your money back. That’s not exactly what I would call a sound investment.
It’s no secret that I’ve had serious personal issues with the supporters of wind turbines.
The bottom line is that we are going to remain dependent on oil and natural gas to fill our energy needs for a long time into the future. So if we are going to become energy independent, we need to keep drilling. The good news is that we have tremendous supplies of fossil fuels. We just need to decide to go after it.

We need to use every cost-effective method we have available to retrieve these resources. That includes fracking. For those who don’t know, fracking is a technology that involves injecting fluids into shale beds at a very high pressure to free locked-in resources. It makes it possible to recover vast amounts of oil and gas that otherwise can’t be reached through traditional methods.

While New York governor Andrew Cuomo has banned fracking, this technology has created an economic boom in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. There were more jobs created and less unemployment in those areas than practically anywhere else in the country. Upstate New Yorkers would like to replicate that boom in their region, lower taxes, and pay off massive New York State debt.

The bottom line on energy is that until there is a better “alternate” or “green” way of supplying our energy needs, we must put our resources to work for us, and now.
When it comes to energy (and immigration!), there's a lot to like about Donald Trump!

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Godwin's Anarchism

William Godwin surpasses David Friedman in his anarchism in some respects. Godwin's fundamental principles do not allow him to think that the Government is good at anything in a privileged way, that force is good for anything that persuasion can't do better (excepting self-defense), or that abolishing Government is a sacrifice in any respect. Friedman thinks we lose something with anarchy but it's worth it; Godwin thinks anarchy is best full stop, that there's no sacrifice. This is very important b/c it ties into Godwin's deep view that there is a right thing which everyone can be happy with in every way, so there's no necessary conflict.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)


everyone has some mistaken ideas. and some good ideas.

they don't know which are which. some ideas they think are good are actually mistaken. some ideas they think are mistaken are actually good.

so then we can look at lots of a person's ideas and evaluations and ask: what if this one is mistaken? how might they find out? how might they fix it? if they're mistaken and they never find out, that means they won't fix it. is that a big deal?

often it is a big deal, and there's no serious, realistic efforts going into finding out what one is mistaken about.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (17)

Bad iPad Screen Size Scholarship

Displaymate.com has a lengthy article which appears to look at iPads in great detail. It presents itself as a rigorous comparison which a large amount of work was put into. It gives the impression that they dealt with all the details, carefully, so you don't have to. And it presents factual information which you are intended to believe is true.

An example statement they make is,
we examine in-depth the LCD displays on the Apple iPad mini 4, the iPad Air 2, and iPad Pro based on objective Lab measurement data and criteria.
Lab measurements! They sure put a lot of work into getting everything right. Didn't they?

But people suck at dealing with details. They may well have tried hard, but they have presented false information as if it were a fact. Here's the relevant part of their fact chart:

What caught my attention was the claim that iPad Air 2 is 7.8 inches tall while iPad Pro is 7.7 inches wide. I remembered Apple saying the Air's height and Pro's width matched during a presentation about new multitasking features. (As I remember it, Apple basically said you can fit a whole iPad Air on the pro screen and then have an area left over to the side for a second app.)

So I thought, huh, Apple fudged it. I thought they'd present an exact match here, but actually it's just pretty close.

But then I noticed the number of pixels does exactly match. The Air is 2048 pixels tall. The pro is 2048 pixels wide.

And the Pixels Per Inch exactly matches too at 264.

But if you have the same number of pixels, and the same number of pixels per inch, then the number of inches should also match. The chart contradicts itself.

So how many inches is it? Assuming the pixels and pixels per inch are correct then it's: 2048/264.0 = 7.757575 repeating.

So the actual value is between the 7.7 and 7.8 inches given, and a little closer to 7.8. Both numbers should have been rounded up to 7.8 inches since that's closer.

I wouldn't mind so much if both numbers were rounded the same direction, either way. But getting the same number in two adjacent boxes on your chart, and then rounding one up and the other down, is really not OK. This is a factual error caused by a methodology error. Whatever one's policy for rounding numbers, the same policy should be used for the entire article.

I emailed the article author and will update this post if it's fixed. The article did invite comment. As usual, I understand that mistakes can happen. We'll see if he's willing to fix it. Willingness to fix mistakes, or not, is even more important than making mistakes, or not, in the first place.

Update 2015-12-03:

They replied:
You have incorrectly assumed that both displays have exactly the same 264.0 ppi in order to calculate their width and height. This is a technically weak assumption.

We used the published screen size to calculate the width and height. Both methods are subject to a round off error of the Apple published specifications, but ours is the more technically sound one because it only assumes that the displays have square pixels, which is true for all current high-end displays to very high precision.

A 2732x2048 pixel 12.9" screen is 7.74" by 10.32" which is 7.7 x 10.3 as published

A 2048x1536 pixel 9.7" screen is 7.76" by 5.82" which is 7.8 x 5.8 as published
So they did it by assumption, not lab measurement. And they did the calculation using Apple's tenths of diagonal inches number as exact, even though it's easy to guess that's rounded. Basing their numbers directly on Apple's rounded tenths of diagonal inches is not a reasonable way to end up publishing that two things which are basically the same length are a tenth of an inch apart.

The 264 PPI number from Apple is also rounded, but it could still easily be that the displays Apple gives the same PPI number for are actually made in the same way and have the same PPI. PPI is not something Apple would want to manufacture in lots of slightly different variants, they'd prefer reuse. (If Apple was fine with slightly different PPIs, you'd often see PPI numbers that are a couple apart, rather than different by at most a rounding error, but you don't see that in Apple's lineup.)

So I still think DisplayMates are mistaken and their article is unreasonable. And I think it's bad to publish seemingly contradictory numbers without saying the methodology you used so that readers can judge for themselves if it's reasonable. And they've refused to change this.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Game Design and Resource Depletion

Justin Mallone:
    U can get a lot of gaming done on an iPad mini 2 from Walmart
    Very cheap gaming system
Elliot Temple:
    it even runs TOKI TORI
Justin Mallone:
    Is portable
    Dude it runs baldurs gate heh
Elliot Temple:
    it runs toki tori with great UI
Justin Mallone:
Elliot Temple:
    it runs baldur's gate with inferior UI
Justin Mallone:
    I should play BG or BG2 on my new iMac sometime
    I also have new shadow run game
Elliot Temple:
    hard to argue with that
Justin Mallone:
Elliot Temple:
    i checked their new bg 1.5 game the other day
    release date unannounced
    says it's like bigger than sword coast + throne of bhaal expansions i think
    > 25 hrs
    not full game size
Justin Mallone:
Elliot Temple:
    i haven't even touched IWD EE yet
    i played mb half of iwd when it was new tho
    my bg2 game is still like 70% thru
    haven't played lately
    still interested in using a difficulty and AI mod pack on bg1
    or mb bg2
Justin Mallone:
    And then solo bard?
Elliot Temple:
    or kinda curious about rekking bg2 with solo sorcerer (with mass save/load)
    bard? eww
Justin Mallone:
    Challenge bro!!!!
Elliot Temple:
    challenge is more fun with the best mage spells
Justin Mallone:
Elliot Temple:
    half the point is to abuse time stop and simulacrum!!
Justin Mallone:
Elliot Temple:
    another way to make the games way more fun is to limit resting heavily.
    not just like "only rest in town"
    but actually map out areas ur gonna do in one go
    like this whole dungeon
    or clear these 5 wilderness zones
    and try to do that. without save/load
    one result is u will actually care about bringing 500 potions
    and it makes u manage resources more
    one of the main problems with the game is basically most fights aren't threatening to u to DIE
    they only threaten resources. the tension is: do u use up 3 spells or 4? lose 5 hp or 20hp?
    these differences only matter if ur trying to do a large amount of gameplay on fixed resources
    if u restore resources often, then the easy fights are boring
    btw this is a really common game design issue affecting many games
    lots of games have all/nothing fight outcomes
    u die or u win
    lots of games now just give u instant full hp/mana after every fight or something resaonably close to that
    like in WoW u eat/drink after and ur full shortly
Justin Mallone:
Elliot Temple:
    in diablo ur pretty much full after every fight
    dragon age gives u out of combat hp/mana regen that's large
    so the result with free resources coming back after combat
    is all fights that don't threaten to kill u r boring
    u don't care if it uses 25% or 75% of ur resources
    another result is u rarely ever use resources that don't regen like potions. cuz u don't need to, and they aren't free
    this makes for bad gameplay. diablo has to have things that can kill u in like 2 seconds or less, or u can't really be in danger
    in WoW ur healer can get u from 1% hp to full in like 2 seconds
Justin Mallone:
    It'd be interesting if getting below certain HP like maimed u, so permanent stat hit. And healing resources were scarce. So then there's issue of being more aggressive on healing and using up more scarce resources, vs trying to conserve but risking getting maimed more
Elliot Temple:
    not to mention u can drink a potion, have an instant cast shield put on you by a healer (to protect u during heal casting time), have instant heal for a third of ur hp (not sure), etc
    in general i think u need to really limit resource regen in games, so that dying can happen over a period of, say, 30 seconds, slowly
    as ur resources deplete gradually and u make multiple choices over time
    this requires preventing really ez retreat
    most games only do that on boss fights (lock u in arena)
    in TKoK (rpg i worked on. i worked on design, testing, balance, items, bugfixing. and played a ton), healers can full heal u pretty instantly. but their heals go on cooldown. (in WoW most heals don't go on cooldown).
    a fair amount of deaths are full to dead very fast, esp if u do something dumb, but
    a lot of deaths are b/c of chaos and lots of ppl getting hurt and healer being busy
    and ppl getting out of range of healer, spread out, running around everywhere
    and it gets messy and so some ppl stop getting immediate heals
    and also the healer has to keep a good chunk of his heals going to the tank usually
    when he gets stressed, and distracted healing dps, sometimes tanks fall
    so it allows for things to fall apart over 15s sometimes
    cleric can half dps for about half their life instantly, with 2s cd, and has a bigger heal on 5s cd
    so if ppl are getting hit frequently and tank needs a good amount of the heals, the leftover to keep everyone at full gets limited
    tkok has full resource regen btwn fights
    just makes the fights hard
    has a lot of stuff to prevent retreat including on trash enemies
    so that they aren't boring and can threaten u
    there's other stuff to worry about too
    like some boss fights have time limits, so u have to keep dpsing
    or like they can have a specific part where a bunch of enemies spawn
    and u need a lot of aoe dps fast or u'll die
    and u have to manage aggro (which enemies attack who). basically u want tank to aggro everything
    if certain trash enemies attack a non-tank
    they will kill him in a few seconds
    it's really harsh later in the game
    so there's different ways to die or get hit, e.g. standing in enemy aoe spell zones, or not managing aggro properly, or there's some basically unavoidable dmg that can hit non-tank, but is low enough not to kill, but needs prompt healing to be safe
    managing aggro well often requires good positioning. if dps all just stands wherever and shoots, and enemies can walk up from different sides, can be real hard for tank
    if they can kinda get in back in a corner, then it's much easier to keep enemies off them
    tkok2 had default AI aggro instead of a system based on who damaged something (with tanks having a large bonus multiplier, so their hits do the most aggro even tho dmg is low)
    and that was cool too
    u'd use chokepoints to force enemies onto the tank
    there was a boss fight where u'd go squish ur dps behind some rocks and there's openings on both ends, but other than the 2 ppl at openings u can keep them safe (mostly. there's ranged enemies)
    lots of times there were many different spells to worry about dodging at once
    like a boss had a splash dmg melee attack in front of him (short range cone) and rotated (so like melee dps who walk up and hit him have to watch out for rotations), and had a longer range shockwave that would 1shot most ppl and he'd do that in random directions sometimes, and had a starfall (it'd just pick random spots in boss zone and send down a thing that does dmg with a short warning graphic. it would do several of these per second, so there's usually some going off near u)
    and then sometimes he'd do his big spell where it turns the battlefield dark and makes pillars of light
    and u have to get into the pillars. ONE PLAYER PER PILLAR and there's no extras
    and u have a few seconds to do this or u die
    if u share a pillar u both die
    so ppl have to be good at coordinating – don't run to same pillar.
    and have to be spread out b4 it starts
    and meanwhile the range on heals is like 40% of the size of the boss fight area
    so ppl going everywhere are often away from teh healer
    and then meanwhile there's 3 minibosses who the tank aggros and runs around the fight in a circle the entire time
    (there's a bonus goal for better loot of not killing them)
    and they each have spells, and u have to also worry about not hitting them with splash dmg cuz they dont' have that much hp, and dont' ehal
    the tank in theory doesn't have to run circles, but if he stands still he'll take tons of dmg from them and it'll eat up most of the healer's healing
    tanks would actually swap on faster movement speed gear for this fight, at the cost of armor/hp, in order to outrun them better. taking fewer hits that way worked better than being more tanky
    it's common for fights to have several things that are quite hard to dodge but do maybe 1/3 or 1/2 of ur hp, and then some things that are somewhat easier to dodge and less common but will 1shot most ppl.
    and to have phase changes. different parts of the fight. either a progression, or a cycle.
    and being prepared for the changes, not taken by surprise, really helps with dodging
    another thing that adds complexity and skill is defensive cooldowns
    like ways to reduce incoming dmg temporarily, but which u can only use infrequently
    like 25% dmg reduction for 5s, with 90s cooldown
    was a potion
    this is another way to allow things to fall apart over time
    as ppl get a lot of resources like that on cooldown
    WoW has that too. has lots of longer cooldown spells and items that are great. some are defensive.
    another thing we had that WoW doesn't do much (or at all? not sure) is shared cooldowns
    hp and mana potions use the same cooldown
    and mana potions are a big deal
    commonly used
    so if u ever use hp pot for emergency, ur losing out on some mana
    and if u drink mana constantly, ur hp pot isn't even available to use most of the time
    the 25% dmg reduction pot shared cd with a dmg boost pot and a speed boost pot
    and this led to interesting gear choices
    for example some fights have movement speed requirements to deal with certain things
    and u can either wear enough permanent move speed (at cost of dps, hp, mana, etc)
    OR you can be too slow but use ur consumables to cover up that weakness
    for mana vs hp pots, u can wear extra mana regen gear (giving up a bit of dps or hp. or move speed, or some other things)
    so that u'll have hp pots available more
    warriors and healers did this a lot
    whereas dps would rely on mana potions more, and not have heal pot safety much
    another thing was lots of gear had negative stats
    so instead of like having lots of extra in various categories
    as is common in most games
    u could actually manage the amount of each resource u need
    like if ur willing to play with small mana pool, u can have more hp
    rather than just having plenty of mana and no choices about it
    u could give up whatever mana, hp, speed, armor, etc, u thot was extra to get more dps or other resource
    it was common for ppl to play with significant amounts of negative hp regeneration
    so that's another thing that woudl stress healers lol
    b/c ppl wanted to be losing 2.5% of their max hp per second
    in order to do more dps
    ppl would adjust gear for different bosses tho and for trash
    like u can't have that kinda hp degen on some fights
    too suicidal
    but u can on others
    degen + higher max hp is actually safer for some things
    if u can get ur hp high enuf, u can hit breakpoitns
    like turn some 1shots into 2shots
    or turn some 2shots into 3shots
    or 3shots into 4shots
    (u might think etc. but after those 3 cases, who cares. after that it's just more hp is better, not really breakpoints tho)
    the first 2 breakpoitns are the main one
    being able to live thru something at full hp. or being able to get hit by 2 of something from full instead of only 1
    being able to live thru 3 of something btwn heals also matters sometimes. beyond that, ur not counting exact hits in that way
    note that accepting hp degeneration for more dps is not necessarily greedy or risky play
    if u win a boss fight in 4min instead of 5min, u just arguably reduced ur chance of fucking up and dying by 20%
    if u made the fight 5% more difficult due to the degeneration, than maybe ur coming out safer – that is, will succeed in 80 out of 100 attempts with degen, and 75 out of 100 with the longer fight.
    more dps also adds safety in situations like: boss spawns extra minions temporarily. the faster u kill them, the safer.
    and it adds safety on bosses with time limits. (which are usually soft – meaning it slowly, gradually gets harder over time)
    the tradeoffs are fun. ppl decide things like: exactly how much movement speed do i need here? and try to aim for not too much or too little.
    in most games either u can't control that, or u basically just maximize it.
    u never go like "ok well i think i can play with 20% less than default move speed and get away with it. i'll take some more hp instead."
    on my healer i'd intentinoally run extra hp and move speed and mana regen so i could go save ppl who fucked up
    could run thru danger zone fast and heal them while taking hits myself
    and have hp pot ready, cuz not using mana pots
    i think most dps cut too many corners for dmg
    and overall wasn't worth it. ppl too greedy
    the cost of any deaths is super high
    however i'm partly biased b/c i'm good at playing long fights without fucking up
    good at playing very consistently and correctly without having a concentration lapse
    whereas most ppl were worse at that, so benefitted more from being greedy to try to make fights shorter
    also extra defense matters more if u know the game better and play in a more organized way
    the more u control the situations, the more u can know what the threats are and what defensive will actually work to address it
    whereas if ur play is more chaotic, then more defense MIGHT help, but lots of times it won't save u anyway
    the more everything is carefully managed, the more u can keep things in situations where specific extra defenses actually make the difference
    the issue with long fights (e.g. 20min) and ppl messing up after a while isn't just stuff like concentration
    it's also things like: what is their strategy for dealing with X threat or Y spell?
    and ppl will have strategies that have small risks. work like 97% of the time when done right.
    and so in longer fights, the chance of something going wrong when u keep rolling those dice gets reasonable sized
    whereas i'd more often work out strategies to deal with stuff that are more than 99% safe if u don't make a mistake
    so in a longer fight, if i don't make a mistake, the odds of bad luck remain quite low
Justin Mallone:
    >another thing we had that WoW doesn't do much (or at all? not sure) is shared cooldowns
Elliot Temple:
    i think it has some
    medium hp pot and greater hp pot
    would share cd
    stuff like that
    but idk about any serious choices like tkok has
    where it's like speed pot vs dmg reduction pot vs dmg boost pot on shared cd
Justin Mallone:
    Witcher has something like this kinda. Pre-battle potion prep big part of Witcher universe lore. anyways u can use several different pots but they add to ur toxicity level. Start getting various penalties if u use too many
Elliot Temple:
    that's just an overall resource limit
    that's the same as D&D spells
    where memorizing spells b4 a battle is big part of game
    but ur blocked from having too many
    witcher toxicity is soft limit (increasing penalties as u go higher). D&D spell memorization is hard cap. but basically same thing.
Justin Mallone:
    It's not a literal hard number of seconds cool down I guess. More like a soft cool down. ur toxicity goes down over time tho so similar effect u kno
Elliot Temple:
    (i assume @ toxicity. not actually familiar)
    a global limit can be interesting but
    pretty different than having small groups of things to choose btwn
Justin Mallone:
    Oh heh u guessed what i wrote

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

STD Scholarship

Scholarship for STD risks and test accuracy is extremely bad. The information on this topic is awful.

One paper on HSV IgG (herpes, many cases of which are called "cold sores") testing stood out to me because it had a good section:
Summary of Test
1. Prepare 1:51 dilutions of Calibrator(s), Controls and samples in the test set Diluent. Mix well.
2. Place 100 μl of the dilutions in the Coated Wells; reserve one well for the reagent blank.
3. Incubate at room temperature for 30 ± 5 minutes.
4. Drain wells thoroughly. Wash wells 4 times with Wash Solution and drain.
5. Place 2 drops (or 100 μl) of Conjugate in wells.
6. Incubate at room temperature for 30 ± 5 minutes.
7. Drain wells thoroughly. Wash wells 4 times with Wash Solution and drain.
8. Place 2 drops (or 100 μl) of Substrate in wells.
9. Incubate at room temperature for 30 ± 5 minutes.
10. Stop the enzyme reaction with 2 drops (or 100 μl) of Stop Reagent.
11. Read absorbance at 405 nm against reagent blank.
It's great to specify details like washing 4 times and the 5 minute error margins on incubation times.

This is much better than most "scientific" papers I've seen which do not give repeatable procedures for doing the experiment with this sort of detail. I think maybe it's because herpes testing is actually repeated a lot (to test many different people), whereas most scientific experiments are only done once or a few times.

No excuses though. All science should meet this sort of standard or higher. (Honestly it's really not that hard or amazing. This shouldn't be unusual.)

But later the paper says something awful:
A negative serological test does not exclude the possibility of past infection. Following primary HSV infection, antibody may fall to undetectable levels and then be boosted by later clinical infection with the same, or heterologous virus type. Such an occurrence may lead to incorrect interpretations of seroconversion and primary infection, or negative antibody status. [my emphasis]
Heterologous is a prestigious word meaning, basically, it's a different strain of the virus.

So they are saying something may later be boosted by infection with the same virus or a different virus. Why would you say it could be either the same or different? And why present that like it's a fancy, complex point requiring sophisticated and hard-to-read language? They are using fancy words like "heterologous" but I think they didn't really think through what they are actually trying to say. The content is confused and confusing.

And the comma after "the same" is incorrect grammar. They're trying to write in a fancy way but are getting the basics wrong. This is written to impress and intimidate people, not to communicate.

The authors are more interested in sounding like smart medical researches than actually communicating effectively.

This reminds me of a Richard Feynman story:
There was a sociologist who had written a paper for us all to read – something he had written ahead of time. I started to read the damn thing, and my eyes were coming out: I couldn’t make head nor tail of it! I figured it was because I hadn’t read any of the books on that list. I have this uneasy feeling of “I’m not adequate,” until finally I said to myself, “I’m gonna stop, and read one sentence slowly, so I can figure out what the hell it means.”

So I stopped – at random – and read the next sentence very carefully. I can’t remember it precisely, but it was very close to this: “The individual member of the social community often receives his information via visual, symbolic channels.” I went back and forth over it, and translated. You know what it means? “People read.”
Another interesting part of the paper was the data that around 70% of adults have herpes (and another roughly 15% test ambiguous, and 15% negative). This is in line with other sources I've seen. The result is that most STD testing skips herpes (unless there's a visible lesion), even though it's a common STD! Many doctors discourage blood tests for herpes. Some clinics or government run healthcare services don't do herpes blood testing at all, or refuse it to most people. People sort of act like herpes is too common to worry about, so just don't make any effort to avoid infection. No doubt this attitude contributes to so many people having herpes. (You may want to consider getting a herpes test. Herpes is contagious some of the time even if you have no visible sores.)

On a related note, many people who "get tested" for STDs don't even pay attention to which STDs they've been tested for. Lots of people are promiscuous without giving much thought to what STDs exist, what tests exist, how good the tests are, how long things take to show up on the tests with what accuracy, etc. (People are also extremely reckless about believing their partners' claims about safety. People lie to their spouses about their sexual activities, so believing someone you're hooking up with – who has to say how safe s/he is to get laid – is pretty foolish.)

Many people also think if they use a condom that is "safe sex" and they don't really have to worry about anything. This is stupid and dangerous. Using condoms doesn't make you immune or take away the value of thinking about what you're doing, researching STDs, etc. (I think one of the reasons STD information is so bad is that no one cares. People don't try to research this stuff in any kind of reasonable way. At most they just find some doctor saying don't worry about something, or assume percentages over 90 are high, and go back to their social life. For example, lots of people seem to think 97% is a high and safe accuracy for an HIV test. I'm not even joking. For fucking HIV, 97% is not something to treat as plenty safe!)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (0)

Daring Fireball Misquotes Yankees

Apple blog Daring Fireball posted bad scholarship today:

“It’s a typical gutless act by a cable carrier seeking to promote its own self-interest,” Levine told the NY Daily News. “This amounts to nothing more than a money grab. Comcast, who said it had an agreement in principle with YES, is saving millions of dollars now by not airing YES in the offseason.”
Calling one of Comcast's acts gutless is not calling Comcast gutless.

This kind of sloppiness with the facts is inexcusable. I know it's not the most serious, scholarly blog in the first place, but that's no excuse for misquoting people. And it's a news site which gets access to some Apple press conference invites and review units of new products, so it should at least not post things which are blatantly, factually false.

The false Daring Fireball title is a truncated version of the linked article's title which has the same mistake. So DSL Reports also messed up too, but that's no excuse.

I contacted Daring Fireball about the error and will update this post if it's fixed or there's a response.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comment (1)

Ann Coulter Mini Biography Article

I enjoyed this mini biography article about Ann Coulter. Read it! I even updated my Fear of Future Employers post with a quote from it.

There was one really bad part that stood out to me. Coulter's father used ~$200,000 as a bludgeon to sabotage her writing career. Sighhhhhhhhh :((((((
After Cornell, Coulter wanted to postpone law school to try to become a conservative writer, but knowing the reality of making a living being as controversial as a lion killer, her father said, "That's fine, but I'm not paying for it if you put it off." So off she went to law school.
Parents are so controlling and awful.

After this, Coulter could easily have never become a writer. She could have easily gotten stuck in law jobs she didn't like. Her wonderful career was put in jeopardy, by her own parent, to protect her employability in a profession she didn't really want to be in.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Parable of the Vases

Ann Coulter tweeted a bunch of praise for A Review of Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own today. She told people to buy the book. And she indicated her agreement with the "parable of the vases" .

I disagree with the parable. Here it is:
The parable begins with a simplifying assumption. This is that it takes exactly two workers to make a vase: one to blow it from molten glass and another to pack it for delivery. Now suppose that two workers, A1 and A2, are highly skilled—if they are assigned to either task they are guaranteed not to break the vase. Suppose two other workers, B1 and B2, are less skilled—specifically, for either task each has a 50% probability of breaking the vase.

Now suppose you are worker A1. If you team up with A2, you produce a vase every attempt. However, if you team up with B1 or B2, then only 50% of your attempts will produce a vase. Thus, your productivity is higher when you team up with A2 than with one of the B workers. Something similar happens with the B workers. They are more productive when they are paired with an A worker than with a fellow B worker.

So far, everything I’ve said is probably pretty intuitive. But here’s what’s not so intuitive. Suppose you’re the manager of the vase company and you want to produce as many vases as possible. Are you better off by (i) pairing A1 with A2 and B1 with B2, or (ii) pairing A1 with one of the B workers and A2 with the other B worker?

If you do the math, it’s clear that the first strategy works best. Here, the team with two A workers produces a vase with 100% probability, and the team with the two B workers produces a vase with 25% probability. Thus, in expectation, the company produces 1.25 vases per time period. With the second strategy, both teams produce a vase with 50% probability. Thus, in expectation, the company produces only one vase per time period.

The example illustrates how workers’ productivity is often interdependent—specifically, how your own productivity increases when your co-workers are skilled.
This is a dirty math trick (using the prestige and authority of math to trick people about a non-math issue) and the author doesn't explain what's going on. The different results are due to different amounts of idle vase-packing labor. In one scenario, A2 sits around doing nothing half the time (a loss of .5). In the other, B2 sits around doing nothing half the time (a loss of .25). A2 sitting idle is a bigger loss. That's all it is. Both potential pairings have a total of 1.5 value. They come out to 1 or 1.25 simply based on whether .25 or .5 value is sitting idle.

This can easily be fixed by hiring more appropriate labor ratios. If you have vase packers sitting idle, hire more vase blowers. You basically want two B workers doing vase blowing for each vase packer, not 1-to-1. They will on average produce one vase per vase-blowing cycle for the packer to work on. Then everything works out OK and, basically, you get the expected results: that 50% efficient workers are worth half as much as 100% efficient workers. (That's ignoring cost of materials, transaction costs to hire more people, needing a bigger factory to fit more workers, etc. When you factor all that stuff in, then yes one 100% efficient worker is better than 2 50% efficient workers. That's not what this parable is about, though).

(This is all on the assumption that people are simply assigned one job and stick to it, and that A1 and B1 do the vase blowing and A2 and B2 do the vase packing. If the packers would simply do some extra blowing when there's nothing to pack, that would also solve the problem and ruin the parable in the same way that hiring more blowers than packers would ruin the intended result.)

It's not efficient workers working with inefficient workers that's wasteful in general. It's people sitting around doing nothing that's wasteful. The parable hides people having time spent idle which is where the entire mathematical difference is coming from.

The book reviewer is very impressed with his bad parable:
To illustrate the latter effect, Jones’s constructs an example, which I call “the parable of the vases.” In a moment I’ll explain the details of the example, but first let me briefly discuss its importance. The example has significantly affected my thinking, and it is one of the highlights of the book. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the parable ranks as one of the all-time great examples in economics. Although it is not quite as insightful and important as Ronald Coase’s crops-near-the-train-track example (which illustrates the efficiency of property rights), I believe it is approximately as insightful and important as: (i) Adam Smith’s pin-factory example (which illustrates the benefits of division of labor) and (ii) Friedrich Hayek’s example of an entrepreneur knowing about an unused ship (which illustrates the value of particular, versus general, knowledge).
This kind of bragging about something that's wrong and misleading is not very notable. What was notable to me was that Ann Coulter was fooled and thought it was a good point.
The example generates an even more remarkable implication. It says that, if you are a manager of a company (or the central planner of an entire economy), then your optimal strategy is to clump your best workers together on the same project rather than spreading them out amongst your less-able workers.
I actually do agree with something like this conclusion, although I don't consider it remarkable at all. But the parable of the vases is a bad argument. A good argument covering part of this issue is The Mythical Man-Month.

I'd add that this point about mixing workers applies to peers. Putting a better worker in a leadership and management role interacting with inferior workers does make sense.

So I propose that instead of bringing in lots of low skill workers here, we should encourage a few top quality Americans to emmigrate and be leaders that run the governments and major businesses of other countries.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (13)

Schizophrenia is a Lie

The video The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz has an interesting story. I'll paraphrase:

For context, the interviewer was bringing up the issue that insane people don't make sense. You can't talk with them. They played a couple clips of some people saying nonsense. So how do you deal with that?

So Szasz says, at 19:15, that he had this same discussion 20 years ago. A reporter from The Newyorker called Szasz and brought it up. So Szasz made a trip to New York and met him for an experiment. They went to central park and found a homeless schizophrenic guy and tried talking with him.

The conversation was perfectly normal. There were some wine cartons nearby, and they talked about wine. The guy knew how to get his welfare check, he'd been in Bellview several times, he gave a long description of how to stay out of the mental hospital (the last thing he wants to be in). He said where he can get a shower sometimes and how he gets food.

But the reporter didn't publish the story. His axe to grind was to show how crazy these people are and how they need mental healthcare. So when the experiment didn't fit his agenda, he didn't publish.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (7)

Leonard Peikoff Says He's Not a Philosopher

Leonard Peikoff is not a philosopher.

I transcribed his podcast, episode 22, starting 4min in:
And the fact is that I'm not an epistemologist, let alone a technical one. The older I get, I realize I'm not a philosopher, and never really was. My real interest in life is cultural analysis. How does philosophy influence, for instance, the rise of Hitler or kind of educational system we have or great plays ... that's always been the kind of thing I've done. The only exception is OPAR, which was pure philosophy, but that was simply paying off a debt. I had to do that to Ayn Rand in exchange for what she had, you know, taught me for 30 years. But other than that I never would wanna write or really lecture on philosophy. I don't see that there's anything wrong with that, but that is just not what I do.
So OPAR isn't Peikoff's kind of thing. Ayn Rand couldn't find an heir who actually wanted to be a philosopher. Ayn Rand couldn't find a better student to teach philosophy to than a non-philosopher.

It's not that Peikoff tried and failed. It's not that he values philosophy, like Objectivism, above all else, but isn't good enough at it. He doesn't even care about it like that.

How can a man like this be any kind of leader in a philosophy community?

How can any self-proclaimed non-philosopher consider themselves an Objectivist? Doesn't he know what Objectivism says philosophy's role in life is? Everyone should be a philosopher. Everyone needs philosophy. Everyone has a philosophy. The question is just how interested they are in thinking it through and getting their philosophy right.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (27)

Alan's Paths Forward Summary

The following is a guest post by Alan Forrester. It summarizes the Paths Forward idea. These concepts are really important and people have a hard time with them, so summarizing is valuable. Here's another summary I wrote.

People say you should be willing to open minded. You should be willing to consider new ideas because they might be better than your current ideas. But people don’t give substantive advice on how to do this.

This is a difficult problem because you only have a limited amount of time in the day, and you may have stuff to do.

What you need is a path forward: a way to advance a discussion or disagreement (including discussions and disagreements in your own mind).

A bad path forward impedes progress by rejecting ideas without answering them, regardless of your reason for doing that. Examples include authority, social status, curation, moderation or gatekeepers.

A good path forward lets you get ideas from anyone. A good path forward always involves discussion because only rational discussion can solve problems.

This may sound like it’ll take a lot of time. But you need not write a fresh answer to every question. You can direct people to stuff that was written before the question was asked. And the answer could also have been written by somebody else. What matters is whether it answers the question, not who wrote it or when it was written.

If you refer somebody to a pre-written answer, you should give specific references where possible, e.g. - a page or chapter of a book instead of a whole book. You should also be willing to fix flaws in those answers.

Good answers will be public so lots of people can read them. They should also be written since written material is easier to quote, edit and analyse in detail.

You should also take responsibility for your paths forward. If you recommend stuff written by somebody else, you should be willing to answer questions about it and address flaws.

Good paths forward make general claims. General claims solve more problems and are easier to criticise than more limited claims. So if they are right they are very useful, and if they are wrong it is easier to find the flaw.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Comments (34)