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Guest Post: Post-pandemic parlor game

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.17.20

Sir Kraab writes: In 2021 . . .

. . . real estate ads will list "pandemic-sized pantries" and "Zoom nooks" as amenities.

. . . "I would hit that" will be replaced with "I would quarantine with that."

Heebie's take: Young teenagers will rebel by going to the grocery store twice a week. Parents will fret about their wayward children.

Honestly, I will lose my mind if the fall semester is entirely online. I'm braced for a few weeks, a few times. But doing the whole thing online might make me stab my brains out.


 

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Semi-Weekly Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 4/17

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.17.20

This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.

Episode 8.


 

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Well-rested.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.16.20

My own personal theory on the vivid dreams thing is that we're all just not as sleep deprived. When you don't get a full nights rest, you don't get into that dream phase very deeply. When you sleep plenty, you spend a lot more of it in weird dreamland.

I think this business about "the subconscious is overcompensating for the lack of stimulus" is ad hoc bullshit. If we were all finding that vivid dreams coincided with days spent at Disney World, the theory would go that we were all overstimulated and it bled into our unconscious minds. If moderately stimulating days produced the wildest dreams, the theory would go that there's a sweet spot in the middle. Too much or too little stimulus inhibits our subconscious from processing our feelings optimally. I call shenanigans, and think the vivid dreams are just because we're not exhausted.

Thank you. This hot take has been brought to you by the years 2008-2016ish, through pregnancy and toddlerhood, where I was chronically sleep deprived and thought, "I am no longer a person who has dreams" and then was surprised when I started having dreams again. And the longer I sleep in a particular overnight, the weirder and more vivid the dreams.

Another thing: adjusting to quarantine is interesting. Initially I had a real vertigo if I contemplated doing this through May or June - I had to constrain my perspective to a day-at-a-time thing, so as not to feel desperately overwhelmed. But the cooped-up-edness has gotten pretty routine and does not feel harrowing in the same way anymore.


 

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More on Models

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.15.20

I am still overly troubled by these models. Specifically, (which I mentioned in the comments) how can the peak be less bad and quicker than expected? If social distancing works, then the peak should be delayed. If social distancing isn't working, then it should be tearing through the country. We don't have herd immunity nor a vaccine, so how can it be close to waning?

Now, New York revised it's death toll upwards, which gives evidence towards "tearing through the country", but we already knew there was a hotspot there. IMHE is predicting that lots of places will never become hotspots, but also won't have prolonged, flatter outbreaks. How can that be?

The heart of my question: I really just wonder if the central flyover states are going to be walloped or not. (And being petty, I want the danger to feel real to Republicans. I don't want people to die, but I want deadly voters to feel the right amount of scared.)(Of course it woudn't go down like that. The African American communities and Hispanic communities would experience disproportionate tolls of life, health, and economy, and the Fox News viewers would stay in their misinformation bubbles.)

Via J, Robot, commentary on the IMHE model:

I think of models as being of one of two types, from the bottom up and from the top down. A model built from the top down chooses a curve to fit to a data set and then uses that curve to look at other data. One built from the bottom up takes component parts that go into the progress of the epidemic - how effectively the virus is transferred from one person to another, the effect of social distancing - gives them each a mathematical representation, and combines those representations into a model. Gradations between the two are possible.
The influence of various factors is easier to see in a bottom-up model. In a top-down model, the factors may be mixed with each other and harder to separate. The types of assumptions are different for the two types of model. A bottom-up model can separate the parts of the transmission process: interactions among people, susceptibility to the virus, the infectiousness of carriers, along with damping down of transmission by distancing and acquiring immunity.

The author says that IMHE is top-down and the Imperial College model was bottom-up.

Extra questions that I never see addressed:
- What's the effect of suburban/midwestern sprawl? Is there a critical mass of city living that tips transmission? If your cities are spaced further apart and smaller, does that itself contribute to social distancing? Is there some sort of phase transition thing going on, where people can just plain live sparsely enough to have a protective impact? (Is the seasonal flu worse according to density?)

- What's the effect of multiple points of entry? I remember seeing an article that the New York outbreak seems to be from Europe, whereas the Washington outbreak was from China. From there, I made up a story in my head that went like this: It's not that New York was caught flatfooted so much as that there were a hundred different seeds simultaneously taking root. The more international travel a city has, the more simultaneous seeds get planted. That places you further along the exponential growth.

- I mentioned in the comments an idea that was originally made by a Kevin Drum commenter: If your social distancing is successful, then you're switching from one curve to another. You can't mash it onto one single curve, because then it's artificially going to look like you're getting near the peak, when you've actually just transplanted to a different hill with a longer, flatter incline.

Is that what's happening? The only way to know is to wait until you're on the decline, right?

Today the Texas governor is supposed to make an announcement about the public schools. Currently they're officially closed until May 4th. Presumably he's going to announce that they're closed for the rest of the year, but there's so much current breathless speculation about reopening the economy that I can't quite discount the idea that he may be toying with opening schools back up. We shall see.

(Current IMHE state by state projections. States that they claim have peaked: Montana, Alaska, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington, Nevada, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, New York, DC, North Dakota, Colorado, Main, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee. (That's from the NPR link.))


 

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Semi-Weekly Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 4/14

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.14.20

This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.

Episode 7.


 

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Guest Post - Pandemic Cuisine

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.14.20

J, Robot sends in What the coronavirus forcing me in lockdown's taught me about cooking; plus, how to make Mantou, a reddit thread, and A Couple in China on Living (and Cooking) Under Coronavirus Lockdown which is a follow up with the couple from the Reddit thread.

The best part of the first link is midway down:

Think of almost any dish that you can name. Anywhere in the world. Chinese food, French food, whatever. There's probably 95% chance that that dish - or at least what you would recognize as that dish was first invented during the time period of 1750 - 1950. A few examples:

Mapo Tofu, 1874.

Modern (not fermented) sushi, 1750.

Neopolitan Pizza, 1889.

Pho, mid 1880s.

Gumbo, 1802.

Modern Paella, 1840.

Beef Bourguignon, mid 1800s.

Risotto, 1809.

Eggs Benedict, 1894.

Char Siu Bao, 1924.

For any of these, you could obviously quibble about the exact dates. E.g. slaves in Louisiana were eating a gumbo-esque Okra stew that was labelled 'gumbo' since the early to mid 1700s, 1802 was simply the first recorded instance of the dish. You could do this exercise the list over, of course - hell, fermented narezushi can be traced all the way back to 2nd century AD China.
But as you stand back, a mosaic begins to emerge. First thing you notice? Much of what we consider 'cuisine' is... surprisingly modern. Like, I know with Chinese food there's almost an assumption that most of the food has thousands of years of history or something... nope! While it's definitely cool that there's a few dishes that you can trace back to the Song dynasty or even earlier... like it is the world over, most of the innovation (on the level of individual dishes, at least) seemed to happen post 1750. Second thing you notice? Most of the innovation stops around the time of world war two. Post war? The landscape of newly invented foods seems... pretty barren.
The question of why has... knawed on me ever since I saw those puzzle pieces.

Maybe it's a mirage. Maybe if you were standing in 1870 England and you fired up your Victorian steampunk Babbage-engine equivalent of Wikipedia, you'd find all the dishes you loved seem to have been invented in the years of 1600-1800? Who knows. Food history is murky as all hell. After all, throughout the course of human civilization, people tend to write about Kings and Revolutionaries and Conquerors... not the cooks that fed them. But I think we at least need to entertain the notion that maybe there was some sort of special sauce that led to that Cambrian explosion of dishes in those two centuries.
I'm still not sure if I have an answer - in fact, I'm pretty sure that I don't. Some possible reasons for the upsurge of recorded dishes mid 18th century:
1. The Columbian exchange/the entire colonial project introduced novel ingredients from around the world and touched almost every society. Obviously this process started in the 16th century, but it was a couple centuries yet before it people started eating tomatoes in Italy and chilis in Sichuan.
2. The development of the restaurant. Restaurants became common in China in the Song dynasty (I believe, don't hold me to that) and in the West in the 19th century. This seems to coincide with a greater diversity in recorded dishes in both those places.
3. The printing press could be another possibility. The dates aren't quite as neat though, as the first printed cookbook was in 1485. But cookbooks began gaining popularity in the mid 17th century, so maybe.
Or perhaps any number of those reasons. Or perhaps a combination. I don't know, I'm far from a historian. As to some possible culprits of the decline of cooking:

1. The electric refrigerator became commonplace in 1940s, potentially killing the creativity-inducing 'scarcity mindset'

2. Women in the workplace became much more common post war. Obviously a very good and beneficial development from a societal perspective, but perhaps the loss of half of society devoted to the job of cooking may have harmed cuisine?

3. Mass production of full meals - in the form of TV dinners and began in earnest in the post-war period.

Again, I'm not sure the answer. If you pressed me before this whole coronavirus lockdown episode, I'd probably have told you that modernism and mass production is to blame. Now... I'm not so sure.
I think time has something to do with it, potentially. I can't seem to find any good data on the topic for the pre-war period, but in 1965 women in America spent - on average - two hours a day cooking. Now women spend an average of 51 minutes (men, 22 minutes... c'mon guys...). Despite what the "QUICK AND EASY!!!!!!" bloggers of the world tell you, you can prepare much better food in the time of two hours than you can in 22 minutes.
Mix that with a dash of scarcity induced creative limitation? The entire society over? That seems like a recipe for some good food.
Why modern 'fusion' is boring:
Which brings us to the other great culinary mystery our time: why does fusion suck so hard?
Because I mean, if you look at cuisines around the world... the cultures at the intersection of great migrations or trade routes seem to have some pretty damn interesting food. Situated in the middle of the silk road, Uighur cuisine is an awesome mix between Northwestern Han Chinese and other central Asian foods. Sichuanese food, meanwhile, was the product of one of the most massive internal migrations of human history, when the province was repopulated by people from Hunan and Shandong after a devasting war (the Qing government kinda killed... everyone). The food in the Malacca straights, with the mix of Southeast Asian, Indian and Chinese flavors is aggressively awesome. Istanbul - at the crossroads of Occident and Orient - is one of the world's great food cities.
So why, despite all of our best efforts in the past forty years, have our culinary mashups seemed to go basically nowhere?Like, seriously. With a touch of digging, you can have an entire globe's worth of ingredients available to you. With the smallest amount of gumption, you can have authentic recipes and techniques the world over demonstratedto you in video form.
When it was just out-of-touch white American chefs mindlessly smushing together high end French and Japanese food in the 80s, you could kind of get why "fusion" sucked: it was pretty much the dictionary definition of pretention. But now... now we have all these resources... now we have so much more diversity in chefs... and the best the great culinary minds of our generation can come up with is... fucking Kung Pao Pastrami? Seriously?

He has a theory why. I'm just starting to feel like I'm grabbing too big an excerpt.


 

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Gotye watch

Posted by Ben
on 04.13.20

"tonight i learned gotye stopped releasing music after "somebody that i used to know" and instead became friends with this 80+ year old electronic musician and devoted all his time and resources to preserving the guy's legacy, and playing old synthesizers from the 40s. what a king"


 

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Guest Post - Interesting Things

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.13.20

LW writes: Blogging is dead, they said. Nobody will bother to put together worthwhile material regularly any more they said.

Repository.

Here's a nice 2-page overview of the relevant fundamentals.

I learned how to use calculus of variations, but still don't get fundamentals properly I feel. One more thing to find time to do.

It's true that there was more good stuff like this written 10 years ago: Serial Endosymbiosis Theory (SET).

Heebie's take: On the main page of the math blog, you can also find more pretty pictures in entries like this or this.

(I have an impulse to get very insecure talking about math around non-math people who are probably more capable than me at understanding this stuff! I have to remind myself hokey things like how we all have our place in the world, and my job is not to know all the math best, nor do I want that job, nor do I spend any time doing that job.) I always wonder how deeply people read casual math - does anyone read casual math with a paper and pencil out to verify anything they aren't already familiar with? I always feel uneasy with any math that I haven't worked out with a paper and pencil for myself.

I have no such insecurities with biology, though.

Ultimately, both the prokaryotic host and the bacteria endosymbionts developed an interdependence through which both entities lost their ability to function without the other (5). It is assumed that Cyanobacteria-generated oxygen in the early atmosphere necessitated endosymbiotic metabolic association between ingested aerobic bacteria and anaerobic host prokaryotes. The ingested bacteria ultimately performed oxidative metabolism necessary to the survival of the original host cell, which would otherwise have been poisoned by atmospheric oxygen. The former free-living aerobic bacteria assumed the role of mitochondria within its host cell (purple organelles within 5).

Fascinating!


 

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