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AvatarComments by Vikram Bath

On “Win it Warren

I think you're basically right here. People keep insisting she is ridiculously smart and has detailed plans, but I don't see her plans as reflecting a lot of thought. This is true of a lot of candidates, of course, but I don't generally hear people talk about how brilliant Bernie Sanders is as I do hear about Warren

On “The New Religion of The OA

>The Lady or the Tiger

The Raymond Smullyan book? Or another one? I hope it's the Smullyan one. Or maybe I don't because it means I have something else important to read

On “The New York Times on Living a Smarter Life

The New York Times published an article about distraction and living a more meaningful life filled with name dropping, calls to do unrelated actions and buy unrelated products. I'm sorry, but I'm allowed to make fun of that


It is attempted satire, though it's not so far off from what I actually read and how it was presented on their site.

On “Livable For Whom?

I feel what Cheapsville needs is better branding

On “Manifestly American: FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions

It does! Though I also want to ask whether this was a world cup match.

Also, it does seem different to win a game by 32 versus 13 even though they are both insurmountable leads.

A third question I have is whether the Australian team was truly suppressing their joy of scoring to spare the feelings of the other team or if they just genuinely weren't excited about scoring. To look at how that goalie handled some of those shots, I don't think I'd feel like partying either. I'm not sure this is a game that needed to be played at all. In contrast, the teams the US women beat by large margins were actually pretty decent.


I wouldn't note high fives. That would seem normal. I'm talking fist pumps. Really vigorous fist pumps, often accompanied by a cry out.

Good point about two-on-two. Though I don't know. In another way it could be worse if you miss the ball and are on a team of 8 on the court. at least with a two-person team you both know you will have plenty of chances to screw up

On “Democratic Presidential Candidates: To Whom Should We Extend Your Compassion?

India has definitely been its own worst enemy with respect to trade. My argument is simply not to compound their self-imposed problems if and when they decide to stop stepping on their own feet.

I've been traveling to India on and off since before the mid 90s, and it's quite obvious how much they benefit whenever they decide to liberalize a bit more, but the problem with democracy is that not everyone is going to like that path all the time


The theory being put forward here is that trade is a win/lose proposition,that in order for a factory to be built in India, one cannot be built in Indiana.

Sorry, but this is a mis-reading of the post. The claim I make (which is not unique or controversial) is that it's worse for people to only be capable of being employed by fewer employers than by more employers.

I do include this sentence:

Or will they lambaste the companies for not building the factories in the United States instead?

which very much does invoke the lump of labor fallacy, but I believe it is clear that the question is whether the fallacy will be invoked by Democratic presidential candidates and that I am not myself doing the lambasting.

On “Lee Iacocca: The Car Guy Who Could Count Beans

Good lord, y'all. I was just saying that my son recognizes the Jeep Wrangler, not that it is the only Jeep that matters or that the Explorer wasn't meant to compete with the Grand Cherokee rather than the Wrangler.

That said, I love every one of you who participated in this conversation

On “What’s In A Name?

I think it's more likely done to accommodate some PTA person who wanted the opportunity to jazz up a uniform. Consider that the actual sport that is being played is usually far more important than the gender of the players, but we almost never see that added to the team name. The team names are not the Basketball Eagles and the Lady Basketball Eagles.


I find the call to action clear. Don't have team names that are of the form: Eagles (for the boys) and then Lady Eagles (for the girls).

And I find myself agreeing. Lady Eagles seems a bit lame to me. And not to get too bent out of shape about it, but it does seem like the wrong kind of mindset for naming things. "Men's basketball" or "Women's basketball" works just fine, and I hope I don't have to explain why that is different than sticking "Lady" in front of a specific team's name while the boys team does not get a modifier.

On “Manifestly American: FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions

Just about every night here when I pass by the TV, there is a women's volleyball game on: China versus someone else. I'm often a bit surprised at how enthusiastic the responses players give to just about every point where they do just about anything. I am not talking about game-winning points. These are points early in games doing ordinary things like spiking the ball or blocking a spiked ball, each of which happen many times within a single game.

And yet, there is a considerable amount of fist pumping because they are somehow excited about playing volleyball or whatever.

And that basically seems OK to me? They presumably play volleyball a lot. They presumably have invested a lot of time and effort into getting to play on these teams, and it makes sense to be happy when you do a good thing.

As for running up the score in a game that has been decidedly one, I think it's worth noting that there are a couple ways that can happen.

One way is that a team can purposefully make moves to run up the score. For example, I once saw a football game where the winning team that was up more than two touchdowns faked taking a knee at the end of a game and instead threw a touchdown pass to go up by three touchdowns before the clock ran out. I can see why someone might judge that as jerkish behavior. (Though I would argue if you don't like it, don't make teams take a knee to run out the clock. It would be an easy rule change to make taking a knee optional and instead let the team take a down to keep the clock running.

A second way the score can be run up is that a team just keeps playing and because it wasn't at all a fair match-up to begin with, the score ends up lopsided even without the winning team making any sort of special effort to run up the score. I have seen this too innumerable times in football games where the winning team simply runs the ball, not trying to really score, but it turns out that they score anyway because they are a good team. Again, perhaps the teams should do something about this and take the ball to the opposing team's 1-yard line and then take several knees, but I don't really think that is any less condescending. Again, if you don't like this sort of result, it'd be a trivial rule change to implement a mercy rule that a 10-goal advantage to one team ends the game right there. There are plenty of sports that have such rules, and if you want to avoid larger blowouts, just do that.

On “Tenshot: Hanna (Amazon Prime)

I remember seeing the ad for this and thought it might be a good show to watch with LB but perhaps it would be a bit mature for her.

It sounds like it is way too mature for her. Not anywhere in the same ballpark

On “FACT CHECK: Fact checking is bunk

I don't think it's fine to call Fiorina a liar based on that. She said she was a secretary, and she was a secretary. Just because she didn't meet someone's stereotype of what a secretary should be and for what reasons exactly she should be working doesn't mean that she wasn't one. If reality contradicts your stereotypes, it's not reality that's wrong, it's your stereotypes

On “Ordinary Bookclub: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Chapters 100-113)

I, unfortunately, haven't yet read Lord of the Rings, but apparently that is what the quote "oft evil will shall evil mar" means


This from 17 is also great, I think:

Dumbledore's left eye twitched. "You intend to sow seeds of love and kindness in Draco Malfoy's heart because you expect Malfoy's heir to prove valuable to you?"

"Not just to me! " Harry said indignantly. "To all of magical Britain, if this works out! And he'll have a happier and mentally healthier life himself! Look, I don't have enough time to turn everyone away from the Dark Side and I've got to ask where the Light can gain the most advantage the fastest -"

Dumbledore started laughing. Laughing a lot harder than Harry would expect, almost howling. It seemed positively undignified. An ancient and powerful wizard ought to chuckle in deep booming tones, not laugh so hard he was gasping for breath. Harry had once literally fallen out of his chair while watching the Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup, and that was how hard Dumbledore was laughing now.

"It's not that funny," Harry said after a while. He was starting to worry about Dumbledore's sanity again.

Dumbledore got himself under control again with a visible effort. "Ah, Harry, one symptom of the disease called wisdom is that you begin laughing at things that no one else thinks is funny, because when you're wise, Harry, you start getting the jokes!" The old wizard wiped tears away from his eyes. "Ah, me. Ah, me. Oft evil will shall evil mar indeed, in very deed."

Now that we are also wise (in that we know what Dumbledore knew then, we also get the joke!

And my understanding of that last line is that Voldemort's last act was to mar the very evil he was trying to commit. He had created a good(ish) Voldemort to oppose the bad


You all might find it interesting to go back and see different sections of the book knowing for sure what you now know. Among the things that strikes me as funny is now this Chapter 18 ( ) exchange with Dumbledore after Harry confronts him about Snape's treatment of students:

"I suppose," Dumbledore said slowly, "that from your perspective it is a reasonable question. So, Mr. Potter, if Professor Snape is to leave you alone henceforth, will that be the last time this issue arises, or will I find you here every week with a new demand?"

"Leave me alone?" Harry's voice was outraged. "I am not his only victim and certainly not the most vulnerable! Have you forgotten how defenseless children are? How much they hurt? Henceforth Severus will treat every student of Hogwarts with appropriate and professional courtesy, or you will find another Potions Master, or you will find another hero!"

Dumbledore started laughing. Full-throated, warm, humorous laughter, as if Harry had just performed a comic dance in front of him.

Minerva didn't dare move. Her eyes flickered and she saw that Severus was equally motionless.

Harry's visage grew even colder. "You mistake me, Headmaster, if you think that this is a joke. This is not a request. This is your punishment."

"Mr. Potter -" Minerva said. She didn't even know what she was going to say. She simply couldn't let that go by.

Harry made a shushing gesture at her and continued to speak to Dumbledore. "And if that seems impolite to you," Harry said, his voice now a little less hard, "it seemed no less impolite when you said it to me. You would not say such a thing to anyone who you considered a real human being instead of a subordinate child, and I will treat you with just the same courtesy as you treat me -"

"Oh, indeed, in very deed, this is my punishment if ever there was one! Of course you're in here blackmailing me to save your fellow students, not to save yourself! I can't imagine why I would have thought otherwise!" Dumbledore was now laughing even harder. He pounded his fist on the desk three times.

Harry's gaze grew uncertain. His face turned toward her, addressing her for the first time. "Excuse me," Harry said. His voice seemed to be wavering. "Does he need to take his medication or something?"

"Ah..." Minerva had no idea what she could possibly say.

"Well," said Dumbledore. He wiped away tears that had formed in his eyes. "Pardon me. I'm sorry for the interruption. Please continue with the blackmail."

Dumbledore's laughter makes a lot more sense when you know that he knows that he is talking to literal Voldemort using threats to try to save schoolchildren from mistreatment


I'd like to further note that she actually didn't actually stay dead for very long. Plot-wise, it's certainly a significant amount of time, but it's just a week's worth of chapters.


One of these is correct (as in it is what Harry ends up doing to solve the problem)! You just need to flesh it out more.

I'm rot 13-ing which one it is. (Though you may want to not have the hint. The rest of this post will contain spoilers about subsequent chapters. The spoilers get progressively more spoiler-y as you go down)

Uneel genafsvtherf fbzrguvat.

And I'll give you another hint if you want it:

Jung Uneel genafsvtherf vf noyr gb xvyy nyy gur qrngurngref, qvfzrzrore (ohg abg xvyy) Ibyqrzbeg

And a final one:

Vg vf n grpuabybtl-eryngrq guvat gung unf orra genafsvtherq UCZBE orsber, gubhtu vg jnfa'g hfrq sbe guvf checbfr, boivbhfyl. Erzrzore Uneel unf yvzvgf ba ubj zhpu ur pna genafsvther ng n gvzr, fb arrqf fbzrguvat gung tvirf n ybg bs onat sbe abg zhpu ibyhzr

On “The Heroic Knight in the Wife of Bath’s Tale

I do think it is more obvious in the synopsis. The text says something like
~"took her maidenhood"~ or something similarly obscuring the physical act, while the synopsis does not. Also, the synopsis being shorter is generally going to offer less opportunity forget stuff and focus more on the plot rather than the journey and the woman's speech at the end.

It's entirely possible I was just a dense reader too, but at least in my class, I was not the only one!

On “Ordinary Bookclub: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Chapters 100-113)

Same. And yet, in Chapter 102, we got this:

The snake was hissing laughter, strange sharp laughter, almost hysterical. "You tell me of that sspell? Me? You musst learn more caution in the future, boy.

Somehow I went through the hysterically laughing snake and thought "no, he might still be OK."

In chapter 101, Quirrell tells Harry

I would be lying if I said I'd never considered killing you myself."

Harry drops it, perhaps out of shock from being almost killed by the Centaur, but why did I drop it as the reader? Somehow I laughed it off or thought there must be some sort of sensible explanation. After all, why else would he just say it like that?

As mentioned before, this is a book whose puzzles were designed to be solvable by the reader, but I failed just about every test


Harry is very smart, but he keeps using his intellect against himself, making his intelligence a liability as often as it is a virtue. Harry came up with sophisticated reasons while Quirrellmort was dark, but not evil, while Hermione was capable of seeing the obvious – that they evil-seeming Defence Professor was actually evil.

Yes, yes, yes! As mentioned in the kick-off for the book, Harry is smart and clever and often annoyingly smart and clever and things work out for him in an annoying way, but it ends up not actually being the point of the book. Harry certainly is smart, but Hermione is the one who actually gets the right answers to the most important questions. If we read HPMOR as "be cool like Harry" then we've missed the entire point, in my opinion

On “Ordinary Bookclub: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Chapters 88-99)

I think there's an interesting discussion to be had in the area of women in HPMOR and Hermione specifically, but I'm going to wait till the whole thing is finished to get into it


Back in my time, we actually had to wait for the thing to be written!