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Listening

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.08.15

Recommendations for audio books, to listen to on the drive home? Something we can download. Something that doesn't require concentration, because inevitably we're pausing it every two minutes to toss someone a snack. A thriller-mystery might be nice.

(We listened to John Grisham's The Summons on the way up, and it is far worse than I expected. So terrible.)


 

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Counterintuitive!

Posted by Ogged
on 08.08.15

Let me put on the thick glasses of my evil twin, Jeff Goldblum, and tell you that what you suppress comes roaring back, so Donald Trump is really a product of leftist PC culture. I'm surprised that Chait or Goldberg hasn't written this column yet. Or have they?


 

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Times Change

Posted by Ogged
on 08.08.15

I don't know enough about Baldwin, Coates, preaching, or rap to make my own determination, but this sure seems like a very smart take on all of the above.


 

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Stew

Posted by Ogged
on 08.08.15

Jon Stewart: cringeworthily unwatchable, no? I can't claim to be an expert, because I tried to watch maybe five times over the 16(!!) years he was on, and each time I had to tap out because the smugness was just too much. And it was really just "here's a digest of the day's liberal blogosphere, with extra mugging for the camera," so I'm sure I wasn't the target audience. Maybe it had some value?


 

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Guest Post - You say you want a resolution

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.07.15

Minivet writes: In the realm of specific proposals for policing reform, Martin O'Malley just released a big list. It includes independent investigations of policing cases. Curious what people think of the whole.

Heebie's take: we're off to visit a bobcat farm!


 

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Paddle

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.06.15

I tried a stand-up paddle board thing on the lake yesterday. I loved it. It took concentration, especially if the water got a bit choppy, but there was no adrenaline or fear factor. It was mostly light exercise, like leisurely hiking. Next summer I might rent one, and see if I use it on our river, and if so, maybe I'd buy one of my own.

The key combination that I enjoyed so much was having to concentrate on balancing and being out in nature. If the concentration faded as it became second-nature, it might be sort of boring.


 

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Sharp?

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.15

A question for the programmers: I'm considering taking classes toward a CS or programming certificate at one of the local colleges, but the program that seems most attractive has switched from a Java focus to a C# focus. They claim that with the growth of Mono and other third-party tools, C# is no longer a Microsoft-only world, but as I'd like to be able to start looking for work right after I finish the studies, I'm still worried that I'll be much more likely to wind up in a Microsoft shop (which I don't think I want) than otherwise. Thoughts?

I have to run out for a while, but will be back to the thread later in the day.


 

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Parenting

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.06.15

Knecht sends in this link, Tiger Daughter Intact, about how well the tiger parenting seems to have worked in that one case.

Vaguely on the topic of parenting, I read this list of specific examples of emotional labor. I really wish I'd read something like this at age 18, with the advice of "these are more-or-less the things you should expect from someone you're in a relationship with." I had no idea how to evaluate what was reasonable or unreasonable in the context of a relationship. (On the other hand, that would not have helped me when the problem was that I needed to break up with a nice person.)


 

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Meet up - Pittsburgh!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.06.15

Ydnew writes: I'm in Pittsburgh with a free night Monday Aug. 10. Drinks? Let's say 6 pm (I'm flexible), location TBD in comments? I'll have a car.


 

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Guest Post - The Dorito Effect

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.05.15

Nick S writes: This seems like perfect unfogged fodder.

The calories in food are what make us overweight and obese -- and lead to so many of the associated morbidities -- but flavor is what ignites our desire and leads us to these foods. Ask yourself this: How much soft drinks, potato chips, and tortilla chips would we eat if they weren't flavored? The answer, I believe, is much, much less.

The interview also includes two ideas which relate to things that my brother has been saying for years. First, that companies which sell processed food aren't primarily competing against each other -- they are all collectively interested in having a world in which people eat as much fast food as possible and that means that, on some level, they are all competing against all the other forms of food. Secondly that one should be suspicious of any product which contains natural flavorings because adding flavoring means that you're breaking the connection between flavor and nutrition. You are sending a signal that this food contains something which it doesn't actually contain.

I think both of those are valid arguments, and it's interesting to run across somebody else saying essentially the same thing.

Heebie's take: First,

Michael Pollan [the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma] suggests avoiding anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. But the interesting thing to me is if you go back in time and give your grandmother some of the real food we eat now like cucumber or tomato, she wouldn't recognize them either. It tastes so watery.

Cucumbers used to have an intense flavor?!

One of the things I like about avoiding carbs is that the food is pretty delicious. I have lost no weight whatsoever. But it's really doing wonders for my sense of resignation.

Also, as a parent you make super flimsy capricious decisions about what is junk food and what isn't. I find myself relying on the metric of how irresistible it is. Goldfish crackers? they seem to be much more irresistible than Saltine crackers. I'm basically just enforcing some weird puritanical metric that you shouldn't enjoy most food too much.


 

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The Queen's English

Posted by Ogged
on 08.05.15

I have no interest in who's "right" or "wrong" in this scenario, but I do want to say, I'm sorry, but the stereotype is true: Brits are so much more articulate and entertaining than Americans. Remember the road rage video with the motorcyclist in Arizona? Punch, punch, "Stop!," fall, choke. Contrast. "Are you a fucking tank? Are you a car?" "No, it says knock you cunts over." And this is from a guy who, as the mucho satisfying denouement shows, is completely livid.


 

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The Subaltern Says Fuck You

Posted by Ogged
on 08.04.15

The whole thing is worth the minute it takes to read.

My excitement was doused when I realized that the lion killer was being painted as the villain. I faced the starkest cultural contradiction I'd experienced during my five years studying in the United States.

Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being "beloved" or a "local favorite" was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from "The Lion King"?
In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror.

For those who prefer pictures. Please do click play, and watch the whole six seconds.


 

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Reading Group

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.04.15

Is there interest in jumping in to another book? I'm not sure I'd commit to reading because school will be starting, but I'm happy to play the admin role. I think Halford suggested Ta-Nahesi Coates's book, but toss out other suggestions if you're interested.


 

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ATM: Keeping Passion in Marriage (or, Recovering From an Affair)

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.04.15

Emma Bovary writes: I have a question for the mineshaft. How do you keep that in-love feeling, or just straight up lust, in a long term relationship?

My husband and I have been together for 11 years and we have two elementary school aged kids. He is a good guy, he makes me laugh, we have fun together, and we have been good friends and partners. Up until a year ago, I was basically content. We didn't have that exciting in-love type of relationship anymore, and maybe I was a little bored because of that, but I figured that's normal after a decade together.

I had an ongoing attraction to a much younger man that my husband knew about; this man is single, lives far away, and we weren't close friends but had a great connection whenever we saw each other at conferences (maybe once or twice a year). I decided to have a conference fling, my husband was cool with it, so we got together last summer. However, it spiraled out of control almost immediately. The conference fling became a non-conference fling which became a full-blown love affair that lasted almost a year. I kept most of it hidden from my husband once it continued past the conference. I fell completely in love with the younger man, felt like we had a connection that was unique, and felt understood by him in a way I never had by my husband. We traveled to meet up several times throughout the year and it was romantic, exciting, and deeply emotional. I began to contemplate leaving my husband for the other man. In the end, the other man decided to end it, and I was (and remain) heartbroken.

I confessed to my husband and we have been working through healing from the affair since then. He is eager to stay together and make our marriage stronger, which impresses me since I'm the jerk in this story. We're both in therapy. I feel like I should want to keep the marriage, and I do, mostly, but feel haunted by the contrast between the in-love feelings and lust I had in the affair and how I feel about my husband. I know that it's impossible for a stable, long-term relationship to compete with the excitement and newness of those first few months of being in love. But it is ever possible to regain or even maintain some sense of lust in a long-term marriage? Sex is fine and all, but I don't long to make out with my husband. I don't even really like the idea of kissing him. Part of it might be that I'm not over the other man yet, but I didn't want to kiss my husband before the affair either. It's just that I wasn't particularly bothered by that before, and now it bothers me a lot. I feel like I've had an experience of what things could be like, and have to give that up forever in order to remain in the marriage.

How do couples keep that excitement alive? Is it even possible, or should I just calm down and forget about that stuff? Part of me wonders if I'm asking for too much, but it feels bleak to think about spending the rest of my life without a sense of romance or being in love. I know that I used to have all of those feelings for my husband back in the first year or two, so I wonder if I just long for that newness sensation, which isn't really healthy if I don't want to spend my life jumping from one relationship to the next.

Thanks,
E. Bovary

Heebie's take: I...I don't know. I think this is more or less why people open up their marriages. Mineshaft, surely you can be more helpful than me.

I would say that this:

He is eager to stay together and make our marriage stronger, which impresses me since I'm the jerk in this story.

is happening in conjunction with him sensing that you want to flee. If/when the tide turns and you start genuinely wanting to be closer with him, he'll start feeling anger and the other assortment of emotions that he's suppressing right now out of fear. (The fear being that if he displays anger or whatever, no one will be fighting for the marriage and it will fall apart.)


 

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Transformative Experience afterword

Posted by Ben
on 08.02.15

By conflated:

Summary:

So, as we've heard earlier, the usual way of making big decisions is simulating expected outcomes, and choosing according to a combination of probabilities of expected value, including both objective elements, and more problematic subjective elements. These subjective elements are great because you should follow the dream in your heart, ie there is something special and particular about your own personal internal view on your own future. They are problematic in the case of transformative experiences, like having a durian baby, because you can't know how you'll feel about that in the future. Therefore, to make a rational decision, you have to decide on the basis of the transformative experience, not the outcome. You should like jumping the fence, not the colour of the grass on the other side.

The afterword provides some DVD bonus features and previously never seen footage from this argument.

Firstly, why not value objective criteria more? It's not that third person or objective criteria are irrelevant. Paul is a fan of objective criteria really and doesn't seem hung up on accessibility of truth or other hard skeptical positions, as they aren't mentioned, and scientific results are seen as objective enough to count, which is practical. The concern is that ignoring personal subjective values entirely seems inauthentic. Sartre would call us a phony. That stings. More rigorously, the findings of science around human behaviour and psychology apply as trends across populations. They are too coarse-grained to be predictive for individuals; over-specific prediction (the specific lives of individuals) is here a type of over-generalizing (the scientific result). This is linked to the fundamental identification problem in science: that tests on human psychology aren't as strictly repeatable, because of greater variation among people, each of us being a special snowflake. The main concern flagged isn't that subjective experience is different in kind, but more a problem of data quality, model coherence and bandwidth. This suggests to me that if we had mind observation and simulation of sufficient granularity, which would be vastly more sophisticated than today, Paul might consider following that over gut feel as rational.

Informed consent around transformative experiences isn't very informed, because you can't know what you'll really feel like in the future. Doctors sometimes get patients facing such choices to tell stories about the future instead and decide based on that, and that seems to make everyone recover better. Choices around addictive substances like durian cocaine have a similar structure.

Games designed to break mathematical models of decision making, like ones which unpredictably have infinite gains and losses (the Pasadena game), are pretty good at breaking it. Maybe we should throw out the normative model of rationality.

Paul then has a technical passage that struck me as the main concern, though not the main argument, of the book.

"the main problem with truly transformative choices is not a problem in formal epistemology; it is a problem in formal phenomenology. To make a start on the problem, we need to think about the possibility of developing models for epistemically indeterminate values, perhaps starting by examining ways to model imprecise values (although since the real problem is the special kind of epistemic inaccessibility of the values, models for imprecise values won't be able to do all the work)."
[...]
"which parts of a person's previous experience, understood from her subjective point of view, could be exploited to give her the information or the ability she needs to determine the contours of what it is like [?]"

How do you deal with lo-fi knowledge of the future, or in the jargon, imprecise credences?

One approach is to use a type theory, or higher order decision procedure. You generalize your future experience by assigning it a category (type) and then generalizing from personal historical experience of things of that type. You liked green and red grapes, so you guess you'll like golden grapes, even though you've never tried them. Perhaps this works for grapes but not more major differences, say across sight and hearing. Interesting psychological research indicates that despite some long philosophical traditions, there are fundamental similarities between the way a blind person and sighted person think about movement and space: this supports the category approach. You could use a hierarchical Bayesian model as your type system and evaluation function. There might be problems of the knock-on consequences of an action being multitudinous, and therefore hard to think about; the decision tree might be computationally extraordinarily expensive to search.

Maybe some transformative experiences are too profoundly unknowable even given partial knowledge based on a category. There are still rational approaches to situations of extreme ignorance (perhaps we should say very low bandwidth). You can follow simple conservative rules based on the little you do know, and your knowledge of your own ignorance. Perhaps the only knowledge you can rely on is your own attitude to the transformation itself, and so you decide based on that.

--
Commentary:

I thought deciding based on partial data and a model of how preferences might change under transformation was reasonable, and a better description of what people already do. I don't know that you need a research program or a hierarchical Bayesian model of great computational complexity for that, even if they would help. You just muddle along with your human limitations and pattern matching, much as you would when trying to win a game of chess, without being able to search the game-space as well as a computer. I tend to think people are ok at this muddling, because if radical transformation includes having a child (fair), it's not a historically new phenomenon.

I'm sure Prof Paul could explode my brain from across the room with the mere power of her thoughts, but I suspect this corner of philosophy has some long held assumptions about decisions that are hard to relate to internally. In a way I would have liked the book to have started where it ended. I guess that means I'm still open to a sequel.


Lastly, a song.


 

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