Kieran Healy and Laurie Paul have a post at CT, linking to a paper by Prof. Paul on the impossibility of making a rational decision about whether to have children. (If this sounds interesting at all, I'd read the paper rather than just the post -- it's short and clear.)(Well, superficially clear. I expect that what I'm going to say about it indicates that I've violently misunderstood it, but the possibility of misunderstanding doesn't establish lack of clarity in the paper.)
The argument, roughly and oversimplifiedly, is that while someone who hasn't had children can learn facts about what it is like to have children, without direct experience of what it's like they can't possibly evaluate the subjective value of the experience to them. And while that seems true to me, it seems equally true of any new experience -- skydiving, having sex, eating sushi. It would seem odd to think of the sort of evaluation you can do of whether you'll enjoy any new experience -- do I enjoy things that are similar in some regard? do people like me generally seem to enjoy it? what's the worst case scenario for how it will turn out and how likely does that seem? -- as not part of making a rational choice. Such a choice is imperfectly informed, but not irrational.
This seems like an obvious enough objection that I assume I've missed, or misunderstood, how it's dealt with (the degree of care with which I read philosophical papers while I'm supposed to be doing administrative work is either too little to do justice to the philosophy, or too much to do justice to the admin work.) Anybody else who's read it want to walk me through a counterargument?
I'd certainly agree that as a matter of practice, the way most people decide whether or not to have children has very little to do with rational decision making -- my decision-making process certainly wasn't rational. I'd never thought all that much about having kids as a lifeplan, and had been looking forward to a pleasantly single middleage involving multiple, but not egregiously numerous, cats. Nonetheless, the day Buck asked me to marry him, we got halfway through dinner afterward and one of us, I honestly can't remember who, said "Oh, good, now we can talk about having kids." No thought process at all, really, it was just perfectly obvious we were going to. It's worked out nicely, but I can't say I planned it much.
I was thinking about Anon for This One, the commenter who had two stillborn boys within a year, and hoping she was doing okay.
Then I thought about all the other anonymous or presidential comments, and thought maybe we could have an Update Thread. Ideally, you'd link to your original comment, and then tell us how the situation resolved or how it's ongoing or whatever. Feed our curiosity! We want to know about you.
(I've gone presidential before. Maybe I'll throw in my own updates. Digging through the archives to find the original comment sounds onerous, though.)
Oh right. I'm completely unprofessional.
And ant comics.
I've been driving the minivan for about a month now, and it's striking how the world has become designed for bigger vehicles. First, anything drive-up: I'm now at the right height for ATMs, pharmacy windows, etc. I used to have to open my car door and stand up. Second, reversing out of parking spaces: now I have a tiny bit of visibility through the windows of the adjacent truck/SUV/minivan, whereas I used to be staring at their body and have zero visibility.
The improvement is nice, but the situation on the whole is annoying.
So is Marissa Mayer a sell-out?
(Either way, I don't see how Yahoo isn't going to lose a lot of talented people who can find more flexible jobs.)
Girl X has been reading the lesswrong fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, as I mentioned. (She has run out of real Harry Potter.) I read it all the way through and decided it was too unpleasant for her at a certain point. So, I said, she should get up to there and then I'd just summarize the rest for her. She's OK with that. My husband is often a poor judge of what will frighten her. It upsets him that she can't watch, say, The Lord of the Rings. She can't slide down a waterslide either, not even with him.
So, she's anxious. She loves to read inside. She would be sorted into Ravenclaw. They have the best library! She was very upset when I said that a solution she had thought of for a problem in a manhwa we read was a Slytherin solution. In truth it was merely utilitarian, and so probably a Ravenclaw solution that Gryffindors would say no to. Namely, in the excellent series "Moon Boy": the rabbits should have killed the one black rabbit when he was born, rather than running the risk he would survive to adulthood, and then get his liver eaten by the fox queen, who would then be revived from her dormant state to a vigorous rule of terror. (The foxes and the rabbits are people, of a sort. And no black rabbit has been born for a thousand years.) But of course they should have killed him! But Girl X was very angry. "I'm not a Slytherin!" The girls ask about Husband X. I say, "your daddy went to the University of Ravenclaw."
To be fair, I more or less went to the Ivy League Ravenclaw. And I do love to read books. But I was happy that Girls X and Y agreed I would probably be a Gryffindor, because I was a brave person, and I had done a lot of things that were brave. I was happy even if they don't know what the brave things are. I said I thought maybe I would be a Slytherin, it might be interesting. They were pretty horrified. I said maybe I would get sorted into Slytherin because I don't really care about rules very much. I would like power to defend the people I care about. There's a little charmed circle, and all of us huddled inside, and I want to rain cobalt bomb death on anyone threatening us; I'm selfish otherwise. Though it's easy to get into the circle, in a way. If there were a big grimoire that said "black magic do not touch" on the side there's a fair chance teenage me would crack it right open. And god, they start when they're 11! And what truly threatens us, but death, sickness, pain? What's magic for if not selfishness?
Stupid migraines have been plaguing me for a long time now as you know. Also I have been dizzy a lot for ages, but I figured it was all the medicine I'm taking. Not so recently I started to have this electric tingling in my left arm, and a kind of crick in my neck; if I rotate my head around floppily it will get to a certain point where my neck hurts badly and the arm thing buzzes oddly. Naturally for a while I didn't tell anyone, on the grounds that, fuck medicine, I'm tired of this bullshit. Eventually my sister bullied me into on the grounds I always bully her into same. Then the right arm, likewise, but more painful than electric, blah. Blah fucking MRI, I told you guys all this. I saw the spine surgeon the other day and I have some new, different, lamer spine problem than the other doctors thought, and my fucking spinal column is damaged, and I have stupid unnatural reflexes, and I can't walk heel to toe, heel to toe in a straight line. At all! Fuck me. I just. What? Problems urinating lately? No. Wait, yes? Because I always have to pee again after I pee, like three times. And I thought it was the horrible excess dosage of the lyrica but I went 8 whole actual months without a single orgasm. I hope everyone who laughed at me is feeling like an asshole now! Just lately I've been moderately OK in that department. Not even. And maybe not for long though! On account of that part will be turned off! GRRRRRRR. OK, I found out on Monday, I'm giving myself 1 week to mope and then I'm getting over it. It's not the worst thing in the world, they can always operate on your cervical spine to fuse the discs together. It's not going to turn off my ladybits or paralyze me anytime soon. But you know what? The middle of my back hurts really bad. I didn't have a chance to mention it to my spine surgeon because...you know how it is; I had a list and stuff, but it's hard. I have an open date but I feel like an idiot turning up the next week. It's not even that, it's more that something might be wrong with that too. They're going to put me in traction, which seems to bear a suspicious similarity to the rack. My mother says I'll get taller.
Girl Y wants to be in Hufflepuff. When we asked her why she said it's because she cares about making friends, and helping people, and working hard to do fun things together. I'm absolutely dead certain, more certain than anything, that if you get under the sorting hat and you say "I want to be a Hufflepuff" then you get to be a Hufflepuff.
J, Robot passes along: Another piece for Unfogged's consideration, somewhat related to health insurance. I think it's wonderful that Phi Alpha Tau has launched this fundraising drive, yet depressing that they needed to.
Heebie: Not-very-relatedly, I keep chuckling over brogromming.
Are we due for a technological revolution in staplers? I feel like toothbrushes went unchanged for fifty years, and then in the mid-1990s there were suddenly blue fading stripes and contours and ridges for your gums and grips to help you hold it more easily, let alone the Sonic Toothbrush thing that came along later.
Can something analogous happen to staplers? I've never had one which seems endlessly durable. They jam, or the top pops open too often (mini-staplers, I'm looking at you), or they're inconsistent, or maybe I've just had a run of shitty staplers but this current Swingline can kiss my ass, stupid Swingline.
One weird thing happened when we were camping: Hokey Pokey woke up with one incredibly swollen hand (and one slightly swollen hand). It was cold overnight - maybe upper 30s - and I was in the valley of the air mattress, with both kids sort of rolled over in with me, and Jammies off to the side.
It wasn't frostbite, because the skin was rosy and red and responsive. It was just a really, really cold poor little hand. No idea why he didn't tuck it in next to his body or me. The swelling was gone by a day later.
My arguments against the death penalty generally run towards the practical: that I could never trust the state to administer such a punishment fairly. That it's hugely expensive. That it's ineffective as a deterrent and as comfort for the victims. Etc. I don't have a huge moral problem with the death itself, insofar as you could easily paint a picture for me where I wouldn't be that troubled by someone being executed.
The arsonist in California sounds like a pretty horrible guy. But starting a fire that kills people...is that really executable? What's weird to me is that when I'm troubled by the death penalty, I usually don't disagree that the crime itself is beyond the pale. Here, it does actually seem like the crime doesn't warrant the death penalty. (Maybe I just don't know what precedents have been set.)
J, Robot passes along: An unexpectedly good piece of journalism from Time Magazine.
Heebie's take: It is indeed good, although I'm not yet halfway through. I'm not clear about which parts of the billing procedure are addressed by ACA. (The Chargemaster is such a great evil name, FWIW.)
Recently I've gotten two refund checks, each ~$20, from urgent care clinics. My best guess is that they had decided not to implement ACA until it went to the Supreme Court, and are now scrambling to comply after the fact.
Also, will these red states really turn down Medicaid expansion money? There is an amazing amount of bluster against expanding Medicaid here and in other states. I can't tell if that's just to give politicians plausible cover when they end up accepting the money, or if it's because they actually intend to turn the money down. Because the latter is grotesque.