# philh

Karma: 5,469
• Minor, but: 5′11 is 71 inches and 6′5 is 77. And if Alice turns out to be 5′0 your friend would owe you $11, but if she’s 6′0 you’d owe him$1.

• 4 May 2021 21:40 UTC
2 points

### 99% Invisible #439 (14 Apr 2021): Welcome to Jurassic Art Redux

Rerun of a show from 2018. In the present-day into, Roman and someone talk about how even though we can recite that 90% of an iceberg is underwater, we tend to picture that stuff being mostly below the stuff above it, like an ice cream cone, when actually it’s a lot more spread out. Drawings can make this sort of thing much more intuitive. They mention a website where you can draw a 2d iceberg shape, and it’ll show you how it would orient itself.

For a long time people thought dinosaurs were slow and cold-blooded. They’d picture brontosaurus and diplodocus standing in swamps to help support their body mass. Evidence comes along suggesting they were warm-blooded and at least some of them were fast.

Bob (Barker?) writes an article defending this, and draws a picture of a dinosaur running, and this sets off a wave of other people drawing dinosaurs doing stuff and thinking of dinosaurs as fast and exciting things. Jurassic Park (the movie, book isn’t mentioned) is part of this.

But most depictions still assume dinosaurs are basically just what we can derive from the skeletons. You can’t figure out the shape of a whale or a camel or an elephant from its skeleton, so you probably can’t do it with a dinosaur either. Three things happen in I don’t remember what order:

• We find a dinosaur with some of its softer tissues preserved, and it had quills, maybe feathers?

• A book comes out, All Yesterdays, with pictures of “we can’t rule out that this is what this dinosaur looked like”.

• That kind of thing becomes more accepted, as long as you make it clear that it’s “we can’t rule this out” not “this is what we know”. E.g. you might draw a triceratops with a nose balloon because that’s what the big nostrils might be good for.

Also, after All Yesterdays comes All Todays, where people take skeletons (sometimes partial skeletons) of modern day animals and do the All Yesterdays thing to them.

• 3 May 2021 14:44 UTC
2 points

### Corecursive (2 May 2021): Etherium Rescue

“Daryl” was an ETH user who fat-fingered a transaction. Went online for help, guest said sorry, nothing anyone can do. Then later guest went o shit maybe there is.

Daryl was playing with uniswap, a smart contract letting people provide liquidity for exchanging crypto, e.g. ETH for USDC. Normally when providing liquidity you’d do two things in one transaction, with something like a try/​catch letting you do them atomically. I guess Daryl had only done one of them? Anyway, his money was just sitting there, and as soon as anyone tried to take their liquidity from uniswap they’d get Daryl’s money as well.

Guest realized this and went to check, and the money was still there. But! He also remembered stories of generalized ETH frontrunners. These will examine the pending transactions, see if there’s something in there they can use to make money, and if so, submit their own transaction with a higher fee so it gets executed first. Guest worried that one of these would show up if he tried to recover the money. He asked on a group chat if others would also be worried, some of them were, and they got together to try to figure something out.

Ultimately they’d need to do some kind of obfuscation so that a bot wouldn’t try the thing they were doing. They settled on two separate transactions in one block, where the second one wouldn’t do anything unless the first had already happened, hoping bots would only try them separately. But there’s stuff set up to protect you from making transactions that don’t do anything, and it was stopping them from making the second.

Guest was tired and stressed and the money might disappear at any minute, so eventually Guest said YOLO we’ll do them in two different blocks and hope. The second transaction got front-ran and they lost the money. On the plus side his worries were vindicated.

Guest and Adam (host) discuss Meditations on Moloch. The thing they take away from it is that you need regulation/​Leviathan. Guest says for Hobbes the Leviathan was hereditary monarchy, recently we’ve been trying democracy and that seems better overall, but he’s optimistic that smart contracts will be another solution.

• 3 May 2021 14:42 UTC
2 points

### History of English #39 (5 Mar 2014): Not Lost in Translation

Now that people are writing Christian poetry in (old) English, they need to come up with English words for Christian concepts. One thing was that they had a stock phrase “blank-guardian”, and Cadmin’s poetry called god “mankind-guardian”. (Cadmin was the cowherd from last episode.)

The only history I remember from this episode was a cross called the Roothschild cross or something, which had a poem written on it that was also found in the Italy book from last episode. In the 17th Century the cross was broken up (either because it was Catholic and Protestants were doing that sort of thing at the time, or vice versa) and scattered across church grounds, but eventually it was mostly reconstructed. The poem was written from the perspective of the cross that Jesus was crucified on, and the way it talks about blood has similarities with Beowulf. Some people think it was written by Cadmin but we can’t know.

Some etymology: “good” and “god” are unrelated, but they sometimes get mixed up. “Goodbye” comes from “god be with you” and “gospel” comes originally from something meaning “good news” that at some point becomes “godspel”. “Drip” comes from blood dripping, and cognate with dreary. “Lord” comes from loaf-guardian (“breadwinner” is more modern but similar) and “Lady” comes from “loaf-maid”. That’s kind of redundant because “maid” itself comes from “dough-maker”, so we have loaf-guardian and loaf-maker.

• ### History of English #38 (17 Feb 2014): Nobles, Nuptials and a Cowherd Poet

After Edwin became king in Northumbria, he didn’t want Ethelbert’s son down in Kent to do aggro at him, so he married Ethelbert’s daughter. She agreed on condition she could stay Christian and bring a priest, which is similar to how her grandmother had eventually converted Ethelbert’s father when she married him. (Or how her mother had converted Ethelbert?) The priest tried to convert Edwin. One day one of his enemies sent an assassin, but someone jumped in front of the blade, and also his daughter was born. He was mildly injured, said he’d convert if he recovered. He recovered and eventually converted. Then he got killed by a Welsh king or something.

One of Ethel???’s sons came to take the throne, he was somehow important but I forget how, then he was killed by the same Welsh king. Then his brother came too, possibly named Oswald? Oswald had been in Ireland, which had not been invaded by Germanic tribes and had a monastic culture. Oswald defeated the Welsh king and married Edwin’s daughter (also named Ethel??? but a different Ethel??? name) who had gone back down to Kent for safety. So the Roman Catholic and Irish Celtic churches were both trying to be A Thing at this point. It was awkward because they e.g. celebrated easter a week apart, so Oswald would be celebrating while his wife was still fasting.

Since we’re talking about marriage, some related words that I mostly forget. The “lock” in “wedlock” is actually “activity”. “Bridal” sounds like a normal construction, but it comes from “Bride-ale”, as in “Bride-beer”, a feast. “Wife” is possibly cognate to “weaver” and “bride” is possibly cognate to “brewer”.

Eventually a big meeting happened and they agreed on Roman Catholic doctrine, but the Irish Celtic monastic tradition stayed in place, and in particular it was literary.

At one point, I think this was sort of mid-7th century, there was a monastary with a cowherd. He’d hear the monks reciting poetry but was too shy to recite any himself. One night he had a dream where he came up with some poetry. He recited it to the Abbess who was impressed, and then he came up with a bunch more when asked. (It was a monastary for both men and women, though they’d live separately. Those places were fairly normal, and it was fairly normal for them to have Abbesses.) They wrote it down. And this was in English, which was a big deal because all the religious stuff so far had been in Latin. Some people consider this year as big a deal as 1066 in the history of English.

All the Old English poetry we know comes from four books, and this was one of them. Another, the one that included Beowulf, was just in some dude’s large library. Another somehow made its way to Italy, no one knows how. I forget the last.

• ### Planet Money (Rerun 21 Apr 2021): The Writer’s Revolt

Rerun of a 2019 episode.

In theory, if you’re a screenwriter for Hollywood, you have an agent who gets you the best deals because that’s how they get money. But there’s a practice called “bundling”, where the agency puts together a collection of a writer, director, showrunner, and sells them to the studio as a package deal. (Agencies represent everyone. Not just Hollywood, e.g. pop stars, and one of them bought Miss America from Trump in 2016 or so.) Then the agency has less incentive to get the best deal for the writer.

The guy who wrote The Wire discovered this when trying to pitch The Wire, and also discovered that he’d been bundled on a previous project of his without being told. The agency had represented both him and the director when they’d been negotiating, which he didn’t like because, again, incentives.

We also hear from a writer whose show didn’t make it into production because two agencies—neither of whom represented him—were fighting over who got bundling fees.

Anyway, writers didn’t like this. They have their own union, so they started doing collective bargaining. Most of the agencies didn’t budge, so eventually they fired all those agents at once.

We hear from a head of a smaller agency, who gave in soon after and thinks doing so was good for them because they didn’t do that much bundling anyway. Writers feel like they have more power now.

As of 2021, the pandemic has also been good for writers’ power versus agencies, because people still watch Hollywood content at home, but not so much pop stars.

• 29 Apr 2021 19:31 UTC
2 points

### Rationally Speaking #223 (16 Dec 2018): Chris Fraser on “The Mohists, ancient China’s philosopher warriors”

The Mohists were a group from early China, either the Qin dynasty or whoever preceded the Qin dynasty. Then in the following dynasty, they were mostly forgotten.

They were consequentialists, and the consequences they considered good were something like, material wealth, something I forget, and people acting in their assigned roles. (Fathers acting as fathers, administrators acting as administrators, that sort of thing.) They were also anti-war, and their philosophy encouraged them to actually go out into the world and try to make it better. If there was a war, they’d offer their services to the defender, making it more costly to the attacker. They were kind of well-known for that. One story tells their founder walking ten days to talk to an aggressor and try to convince them to call off the attack. Aggressor is like “well but I’m all prepared now, it would be awkward to cancel. Plus I’ve got these neat siege engines”. Mohist demonstrates how he’d defeat the siege engines, and says he’s placed thousands of followers on the walls of the defender, which in this case is a flat lie but it works. Aggressor sighs and calls off the attack.

They were very religious, and their philosophy followed from their religion, but I didn’t really follow how. Also, they weren’t into equality. They thought society should be stratified, and the people above should be rewarded, but also they should use their rewards to help the poor.

A few factors in their decline. One was that their rank-and-file got super into giving stuff away for status, like you couldn’t live comfortably and be a proper Mohist, which the central Mohists didn’t agree with at all. Parallels to EA there. (Though the central Mohists did think you shouldn’t have, like, decorated clothing or weapons, because they function just as well as clothing or weapons without the decoration.) Another was that Chinese unification meant there were fewer wars for them to make themselves useful in. Another was that they sort of got into the water supply, some of their ideas became mainstream and then there was less distinguishing them from others.

1. Vitamin D is generally recognized (eg NICE, UpToDate) as effective COVID treatment: 70%

Vitamin D is good and important, you should be taking it, but I’m skeptical that such sources will recognize this in the future if they haven’t done so by now. Conditional on (I haven’t checked) the sources that matter not having made this call yet, I’d sell it to 50%, while saying that I definitely would use it to treat Covid if I had the choice.

This was a typo on Scott’s part, he’s updated it to “not generally recognized”. He’s previously written about why he doesn’t think it’s effective.

• Note: it seems the paper itself is linked from your original blog, but not on LW? So for the benefit of LW readers, it’s: Dodis, Y., Halevi, S., & Rabin, T. (2000, August). A cryptographic solution to a game theoretic problem. In Annual International Cryptology Conference (pp. 112-130). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

By using the techniques mentioned above, two players can then execute the following protocol:

1. At the beginning of the protocol, the Preparer randomly permutes the list, encrypts it element-wise and sends the resulting list to the Chooser.

Ecrypting it elementwise means encrypting the components of the pairs separately, not just the list element separately. So if the list starts as , it becomes . The encryption is random, such that even if , the encryptions . That way you can’t look at the frequencies in the encrypted list.

1. The Chooser picks a random pair of ciphertexts (c, d) from the permuted list.

Here the Chooser picks one random list element, which is a pair of cyphertexts.

It then blinds c with 0 (i.e. makes a random encryption of the same plaintext), blinds d with a random blinding factor β, and sends the resulting pair of ciphertexts (e, f) back to the Preparer.

The blinding with 0 here is necessary so the Preparer won’t be able to recognize , which would tell her what is.

• Thinking in ways which systematically arrive at truth. Tie between rationality and metacognition.

Echoing what Rob said above: these labels apply in very different ways. “Rationality” applies in a definition-like way, which is how it’s used on the page. Metacognition applies in an example-like way. You would never say “what we mean by metacognition is thinking in ways which systematically arrive at truth”, because even if the practice has that result, that’s not what the word means. (And I doubt the practice always does have that result.)

I really do think there’s a strong contingent of people in this space who are more interested in metacognition, and have a skepticism of attempts to become a rational agent.

Eh, my reaction to this is something like, then they can have their metacognitive movement. And it can overlap with the rationality community, but they shouldn’t be the same thing.

• I think referencing Bayes in the name would be a mistake for the same reason as metacognition—it’s a tool, and it’s a law, but it’s not an end and it’s not The Thing.

• 27 Apr 2021 20:53 UTC
2 points

### Planet Money #946 (23 Oct 2019): Fries of the Future

America doesn’t eat a lot of potatoes in general, but it does eat a lot of French fries. Unfortunately, French fries only take a few minutes to go from crispy and great to soggy and shit. This is a problem for fast food.

The industry partially solved the problem once, when drive-through became a thing. Previously it was “drive-in”, you’d stay there in your car and a waitress on roller-skates would take your order and deliver it with plates and cutlery. But then people would drive off with their plates and cutlery, which was expensive. Enter the wrapper. Now you’d just get your food and drive home with it. In like the 70s or 80s? this became more common than a sit-down fast food meal. (It also gave us cup holders in cars.) But now your fries would mostly be sitting until you got home, by which time they’d be shit. So they invented “stealth fries”, which were french fries coated in something you couldn’t see, which kept them crispy for longer.

But delivery makes that harder again. Someone with a fairly high position in the relevant industry happened to go to Shangai? one time, noticed a crazy amount of delivery drivers, followed them around a bit and saw they were delivering a lot of fries. Thought, huh, if this happens in America people won’t want fries any more because the fries they get will be shit. So she went back home and tried to convince her bosses to work on making fries keep longer. They didn’t think it would be a problem, who wants to wait 30+ minutes for delivery? But she had enough power to work on it anyway, and eventually they managed to solve it. PM reporter sampled them and approved. These new fries aren’t available yet though.

PM reporter dips her fries in milkshake. Twelve-year-old me is vindicated.

• 26 Apr 2021 20:05 UTC
2 points

### Planet Money #945 (19 Oct 2019): The Liberty City

Von Army (???, edit: it’s Von Ormy) is a city in Texas. It used to be unincorporated, then some firefighters were grousing about how San Antonio was going to annex them and they’d get higher taxes but no representation. One of them was like “we should make our own city”, the chief was all “go on then”, and they did. That first one became mayor.

Wanted to be as cheap as possible. Initially had property taxes to get them going, but started reducing them every year. One thing they did: buy a squad car from a nearby city that was replacing theirs. It lasted like a year but no regrets.

Another thing they did: some recent college grad from some city-development-related major wanted to do an internship and didn’t really like the obvious options. Heard about Von Army, called them up and was like hey do you want an intern? They said sure, and got their intern to write their legal code by looking at codes from nearby cities and copying the good bits. Health and safety, stuff like a fire code, sure. Indoor smoking prohibitions, not so much.

Intern later became City Administrator. Mayor wanted him to do a bunch of stuff but didn’t want him raising taxes. Mayor’s plan was to attract big businesses (Walmart, Target) with something or other, and collect sales taxes. Administrator tried to work with them, but the lack of sewage was a dealbreaker (residents just had to empty their septic tanks). So Administrator tried to work with San Antonio for sewage, got what he thought was a pretty big deal, but Mayor rejected it. Administrator resigned.

Today he thinks Von Army is not working out very well, and PM reporters spoke to people who also didn’t think that. Former Mayor thinks it’s fine, people just don’t understand that this is the price of low taxes. Von Army still has low taxes, but gets lots of money from speeding tickets for people passing through. $60k this year, expecting$250k next year, reporter is a bit incredulous at that, I don’t think Current Mayor explains. (I don’t know if $60k is actually a lot in this context. Current Mayor is Former Mayor’s mum.) Reporter questions whether it’s a bit paradoxical, like “low taxes on residents but high taxes on non-residents”, Current Mayor says every place does this. • 26 Apr 2021 19:44 UTC 2 points in reply to: philh’s comment ### 99% Invisible #438 (7 Apr 2021): The Real Book In the early days of jazz, musicians would be playing in a club and receive requests, Broadway hits were popular, and have to search through their mountain of sheet music for the song, which they’d then improvise on top of. Some people started making stripped-down versions of the sheet music, not enough to reproduce the original but enough to riff off. Those might have been legal in their original incarnation? And then people started collecting those in “fake books”, which were much more convenient to carry around than a mountain of sheet music. Those definitely weren’t legal. They also kind of sucked, they were often wrong and they were outdated, both in terms of what songs they included and in terms of how they were played. Jazz had evolved, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, and the fake books hadn’t. (I don’t think the show ever said why not, or treated that as an interesting question?) (I think it was here we heard two versions of a song from Snow White. I couldn’t have told you that the jazz version was the same song. Though, listening on 2x probably didn’t help.) Some students at Berkeley Music College in Boston approached their teacher with an idea to create a new fake book, updated for the 1970s. He hesitated because illegal and because people getting money for their work is good, but decided it would be worth it. They called it The Real Book, printed out a few hundred copies themselves, then those started getting copied all over the world. The teacher in question said the music quality when he’d walk down the hall improved, people were now playing the right things. No one could compete legally with The Real Book because they couldn’t get the rights to all those songs. But then someone did get the rights to almost all those songs, and printed a legal version. They kept basically the same design and made a digital font of the original handwriting. Today The Real Book is basically essential for jazz musicians. (Has it been updated since the 1970s?) Some hand-wringing about how the person who has legal credit as songwriter might not have been the actual songwriter. Some criticism that The Real Book has essentially become canonical in a genre that shouldn’t have canon. Some opining that you can’t learn jazz from a book, you have to study with other jazz players. Reporter eventually managed to get an email exchange with one of the original students, who did the handwriting. He wants to stay anonymous basically because it’s fun. Agrees with the criticism and the opining. Thinks the digital font isn’t very good. • I read it as • Biotech startups currently “experiment with things that just might work”, which is [apparently?] incremental thinking. • Instead they should refine definite theories about how the body’s systems operate [which sounds incremental to me, too]. • 24 Apr 2021 15:04 UTC 2 points in reply to: philh’s comment ### Planet Money #753 (Rerun 16 Oct 2019): Blockchain Gang Rerun of a show from 2017. Charlie Shrem found bitcoin early, got into it like other kids would get into Ayn Rand. Founded BitInstant, which helped people something something with bitcoin. Other people who liked bitcoin at the time were criminals, some of them used BitInstant, Charlie knew this. He got arrested, convicted of aiding and abetting something or other, and two years in prison. Prisoners aren’t allowed cash so they used tins of mackeral from commissary, which is not a great currency. You could only buy 14 tins at a time, plus one time the guards redistributed all of one inmate’s mackeral, left it lying around for others to pick up, inflation. He started thinking about how to “digitize” it. You’d have prisoners writing down transactions in physical notebooks, and to solve the problem of trust you’d have several write down each one, and then at the end of the day everyone would compare and sum up. Sounds like this never got implemented though? When he got out he discovered that bitcoin is now mainstreamish, the existing institutions have adopted it rather than being replaced like he wanted. He starts a new crypto-related venture, which as of 2019 is no longer a going concern but now he has a podcast. • 23 Apr 2021 20:23 UTC 2 points in reply to: philh’s comment ### History of English #37 (21 Jan 2014): Seafarers, Poets and Traveling Minstrels The inhabitants of England at the time (6th century ish?) had been seafarers and there’s a lot in English that comes from this. The word way (cognates include weigh) which was originally more like weg; and the word from Latin that gave us port which is also cognate to ford; and voyage might be cognate to those too, through French, or that might have been a similar-but-unrelated thing. There was a bit with like four kings, Ethelbert in the south and Ethel??? in the North and someone else in East Anglia and Edwin. Edwin ran away from Ethel??? to the East Anglia dude, Ethel??? tried to bribe East Anglia to give Edwin up, but East Anglia supported Edwin, overthrew Ethel???, became a power, then later Edwin became a power too. At some point we discovered the ship-grave of East Anglia, no body remains but it did have his lyre. Lyre cognate to lyric, and the instrument may predate Indo-European in Greece, one was found in a particular region of it. Because these guys weren’t writing, minstrels just had to remember their poems. Poetry itself is a way to help with this, it’s easier to memorize poetry than prose. Modern English poetry is all about rhyming, but Old English poetry was more about alliteration: word endings were more constrained. The standard form was a line would have two halves, the first stressed sound of the second half had to be found in the first half. A modern English example would be: Jack and Jill /​ jogged up the hill Pleasantly pursuing /​ a pail of water Jack did drop /​ damaging his crown Jill tripped too /​ tumbling after Old English also had a lot fewer words than modern English, so poets would invent compounds. Beowulf describes something going over the sea as going “by whale-road”, “by sail-road”, “by swan-road”, changing the middle word according to alliterative need. There’s a possibly-even-older poem from around then too, describing a minstrel meeting all sorts of historical figures including Julius Caesar and Attila the Hun. After writing comes in, we have someone writing (in this style, possibly as homage) a complaint that no one does things this way any more. • 23 Apr 2021 20:21 UTC 2 points in reply to: philh’s comment ### Planet Money #524 (Rerun 27 Sep 2017): Mr Jones’ Act Following the Puerto Rico disaster, people are wanting to suspend the Jones act to get more aid to PR. That happened for Texas and (Florida?), but hasn’t happened for PR yet. Because it’s relevant, rerun of a 2014 episode. Jones act says that if you’re ferrying something between two ports in America, it needs to be done on an American-owned, American-made, American-crewed ship. There aren’t that many of those, so it’s expensive. Some workarounds people use: ferrying things from port to a bigger ship using a tiny Jones-acceptable barge that has to make several trips (is the bigger ship in international waters or something, or is port-to-ship just acceptable?); shipping cattle from Hawaii to Canada and driving them down to the states; flying younger cattle from Hawaii to the states. There was a family who ran up against it for their holiday, they missed the boat in not-America but had the chance to fly to Florida and board their cruise ship there, but then they’d have to pay like$300, I didn’t catch exactly why.

Economists are not fans. The (Council of Economic Advisors?) to Clinton recommended scrapping it. The person PM spoke to called it “stupid”. As a jobs program, it costs \$250k/​job which is a lot. Military says they need to encourage American shipmaking and skill-building, but council is unconvinced. But diffuse costs, concentrated benefits.

• Is this available for automatic crossposting? I guess thought saver will have some way to embed in arbitrary html (iframes? I haven’t done this kind of thing much) but will that work when crossposted?

I don’t know if I’ll use this much, so don’t put effort into making it work on my account, just wondering.