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AvatarComments by veronica d in reply to DensityDuck*

On “Two Different Attitudes Toward Chance

The Piquet series of miniature wargames handled the chance-versus-strategy thing in an interesting way. There were three components:

One player at a time had "initiative," meaning they could act. The other player could fire in response, but couldn't necessarily "reload." This initiative was random. Basically, each player rolls a d20. The player with the higher roll gets the difference in "initiative pips," which they could spend to do stuff. Usually the winning player had a few pips, maybe 4 or 5. Sometimes they had 19. They could win initiative over and over again. You could never depend on getting initiative.

However, the "things you can do" were determined by a card deck. If the current showing card was "movement," then you could move. If it was "reload," then you could reload. It costs an initiative pip per unit to do that thing. You could only spend that point once per unit per card. It cost an initiative pip to turn the next card.

Combat results were highly random, but tended to be extreme. You didn't "chip away" at enemies. You did a lot of damage, or none at all.

People complained that it was stupidly random, but the point was, you could never feel safe in your plans. Each initiative roll, each card turn, each combat roll, could change everything.

That said, the game still has a lot of opportunity for strategy. It's not pure randomness. The decisions you make matter a lot.

On “Wednesday Writs: The Daubert Standard

I understood what you meant. I just constitutionally can't avoid a chance to defend the virtue of loyalty.


Loyalty is an important virtue. However, it is important to choose well to whom you are loyal.

On “Ryan Adams, Fandom, and Tolerating Bad Behavior

Sure, but that cuts both ways. "Imperfect justice" might include white men being "canceled" even though they did nothing wrong.

That's acceptable, right? After all, we cannot have perfect justice.

I'm being sarcastic, of course. But still, I hope you see my point. We cannot have perfect justice, but the deck is stacked against women and minorities, and indeed it is. So if that's the case -- well it sure is convenient how "principles" just accidentally align themselves with the powerful at the cost of the less powerful.

Funny how things work out.

I'll ask this: from a libertarian perspective, what is "canceling"? How is it different from free individuals speaking up against injustice, and in turn acting on those beliefs? If we discover some artist is a sexist goon, does your libertarian philosophy allow us to call them out on it, to stop buying their art, etcetera?

I think so.

How can they seek forgiveness?

Well, to start with, they should seek it. There is no "sjw committee." Each person decides on their own.

How is it supposed to work?

On “Getting to Ten Times Better

I’ve mentioned before the one developer we had in our group who was crazy smart. Wrote really tight, compact code that got the job done is very interesting ways. And she never documented any of it, and was very vocal with her attitude of, “If you can’t understand my code, you aren’t a real developer and you should be fired.”

Good grief.

On “Ryan Adams, Fandom, and Tolerating Bad Behavior

What would that look like, though? And who decides? Would it be a checklist?

Can others forgive on my behalf? Can I forgive on the behalf of others?

If someone is a terrible racist, can I (a white person) forgive them? If someone is a serial sexual abuser, what role do men have in saying that is was really okay?

People have been getting away with awful sexist and bigoted behavior for ages. In many cases, they still get away with it, because women and minorities tend to have less social power. This remains true, even in the age of #metoo. Nevertheless, people still are very concerned about the potential harm to white men, but evidently less concerned with how women and minorities continue to be hurt.

Yes, forgiveness should be possible. But how does that work, in a way that won't give license to continued abuse?

On “Getting to Ten Times Better

I'm definitely the "trick memory" sort of person. At least, I've had a number of coworkers tell me I have a ridiculous amount of short term memory. Instead of 7-plus-or-minus-2, I think I do more like 15-plus-or-minus-2.

I also like to do math problems without using paper. I used to get a bit drunk, grab a calculus text, and try to solve all the "methods of integration" problems in my head without using paper. I think doing this trained my brain to hold a lot at once.

(That's totally true. I used to really do that. While drunk. I'm weird.)


Is that 10X programming?

Sure, why not. :)

I like {whatshisname's} mantra: "smart and gets things done." The whole "10x" has morphed into nerd self indulgence and excuses for terrible behavior. "Smart and gets things done" is as valuable, but more humble.

Oh, and nothing but Lisp is Lisp. A lot of modern languages have tried to become more Lisp-like, but they aren't Lisp. On the other hand, Common Lisp, which is what I use, is a horrible brainfuck of terror that was spat from the void by an evil god who hates us. But Lisp remains Lisp, and nothing else is Lisp.


Note, I didn't start the project. I've only been working on it for about five years now. I'm starting to kind of understand a bit of it.

Anyway, we search for airline flights and fares, which sounds like it should be pretty easy, but given 1) the complexity of the industry's filing practices and 2) the need for real time inventory management, together make it a really tricky problem. This is a 2009 slide deck that discusses the complexity:

(When I first got hired, they sent me that document to see if I was actually interested. I was.)

Myself, I mostly work on the "reshop" product, which airlines use to change an existing ticket. We have to reconstruct the original data from what the airlines provide, and then using the restrictions on the original fares, try to find a (near) optimal solution that satisfies the customer's desired change. Usually it's simply changing the dates of the return flight of a round trip, but it can get very complex. For example, a customer might have a trip booked from Boston to New York to London to Johannesburg, and then back through Milan to Boston. If they want to change the Johannesburg-Milan leg to a Johannesburg-Paris leg, with the ensuing changes to the return Boston flight, it can be complex figuring out 1) if they can change the ticket, and 2) how much that should cost.

It's much fun. However, showing up with the "10x programmer" nerd bullshit is not going to work.


Plausibly, you could set up sabermetrics type algorithm that compared salary versus potential profit in some betting network. You would have to adjust for the fact Basketball is a team sport, and therefor probably has synergistic effects between players on a team, but I think we can imagine ranking players that way -- with a suitable set of provisos.

But your point is a good one. Being able to fit a power-law versus normal distribution requires measurable quantities.


I think the "10x" programmer thing is probably real enough. Note, the idea was introduced by Fred Brooks a million years ago, based on his experiences at IBM. It is not a product of SV hacker culture. It was not meant as Paul Graham style nerd self indulgence. In other words, it is an idea of respectable providence.

That said, I don't think it's merely a matter of raw brain power. I think it is as much the capacity to hyper focus and work for extended periods of time. It's a deep dive where you shut out everything but the code. Don't forget your Adderall.

Note, such engineers can be very productive, but they can be very difficult to work with. Any distraction can drive them into a rage. So managing such people has a cost beyond measuring salary-versus-lines-of-working-code. Also, pity the poor bastard who has to maintain that code over the ensuing years. It is very often needlessly complex, and the documentation only runs on the brain of the original engineer.

When I was younger, I could produce code like that (even without Adderall). Nowadays, it takes a heavy toll on my soul. I can still be productive, but I'm not going home Friday thinking about a problem, and then arriving at work Monday morning having solved that problem during a 40-hour brain surge over the weekend. At one time I could do that, but not now.

On other other hand, I've seen everything, so even terrible complex software doesn't scare me. I rarely encounter something that intimidates me. (The code base I work on is 600k lines of Common Lisp and 400k lines of C++. It's about fifteen years old. Needless to say, it's hellishly complex.)

Plus, even if I take longer to produce code, my coworkers hate me less. I don't freak out, or fight over minutia, or generate freakish towers of hyper-logic that only I understand.

On “Thursday Throughput: Leap Year Edition

I think the problem with leap seconds is the software engineering community just kind of decided to treat UTC as the single default time system, as it is pretty good for that most of the time, but ignored the fact that it actually isn't ideal for timestamps, because of leap seconds.

On “Gone With the Wind: The Great American Feminist Novel

I find intersectionality is impossible, and far too often the people who are expected to bend and accommodate are we of the female variety.

The thing about this is, I feel like you do understand intersectionality, inasmuch as you at least understand that different women will have different life experiences. In other words, I feel like you get the basic idea.

The foundations of interesectionality were the frustrations of black women dealing with 1) white feminists, who ignored (and often supported) racism, and 2) male civil rights activists, who ignored (and often supported) misogyny. It's not a deep mystery. In fact, it's entirely predictable that privilege and power don't stop working even among social justice activists.

Second wave feminism arose because the women involved in the 60's peace movement discovered that the men for "radical social change" wanted women to be obedient domestic sex-providers, the same as patriarchal men. In retrospect, this is unsurprising, although it is disappointing.

Regarding GWTW -- it's okay to have problematic faves. On the other hand, it's pretty darn racist. So that's a thing.


I think there is a difference between "including every voice," which isn't possible for any one piece of media, and "actively dehumanizing a marginalized group," which should always be avoided. So yeah, it's fine for lesbians to "have their own thing," but do those things need to be overtly racist? I don't see why.

For example, not every piece of media needs to be by-and-for trans women. That said, if someone includes us in their story, I would insist that they not treat us as freaks or monsters.

On “Very Stable Genius Predictions


But seriously, why should we see that as an either/or? It seems obvious it would be a feedback loop.


I mean ... don't overgeneralize :P

On “Mini-Throughput: We’re All Doomed Edition

Gawd I fucking hate Express. They have a new "doom asteroid" post up every 3 nanoseconds, which then get put on my newsfeed in place of literally any other science article that might be worth reading.

On “Unforgiven: Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl”

That having been said, the real issue here to me is that you might have brought this up to me a thousand different ways, but you chose to do that as some kind of unquestionable expert correcting an ignorant and woefully misguided person who was not able to understand the complexity of the issues involved.

That's a fair point, and you're correct. I was speaking down to you. I get caught up thinking about ideas instead of people. It's not fair to you. You deserve better.

I'm sorry I spoke to you that way. I'll do better in the future.


I'm actually saying the opposite of that.


I certainly want there to be a wide swath. That I agree with.

As for minorities I trust them to tell their own stories.

Me too!

Some transgender history. If you read a trans autobiography written anytime before (more or less) 1990, you read one single story. It was the same story, hitting the same themes. It's what audiences wanted. It's what editors would publish.

It was sorta-kinda true, for some people. It was also partly bullshit, tailored to what mainstream audiences were willing to hear. It systematically rejected any trans woman who wanted to tell a different story.

That said, these were autobiographies written by real life trans women -- carefully selected to tell the one story.

Yes, trust minority voices, but which minorities do you hear from? Who get attention? Who gets published? What gets made into a movie? Based on what?

This is part of my point: if you're a minority writer, you will perhaps be writing for a majority audience. What will the majority audience reward?

This is a systemic criticism. It's about the process of selection and amplification.

I don't trust it.


In a lot of ways, things are better now. We have the internet, and thus less gatekeeping. (Although, about that...)

And yet, a big popular novel about an abusive woman just happens to be about false accusations, instead of about literally anything else a horrible narcissist might do.

I don't think that's an accident. That's all I'm saying.


I'm sorry it comes across that way. Can I try to clarify?

I'm very uncomfortable with saying, "It can’t be misogyny if it’s REALITY."

But I think it can. It can be, even if it's 100% true. The reason is this: there are many stories one could tell about (for example) an abusive, narcissistic woman. Among those, choosing the one that matches the narrative of a particularly loud group of misogynists is risky. What motivates a writer to choose that narrative among so many? Why does an editor pick that story? A filmmaker? Etcetera.

To be clear, this really is less about the author than "the industry." Authors will mostly write whatever appeals to them. It's editors who choose.

Then there is what the public wants to hear, but yeah.

This all becomes problematic when a rare occurrence is viewed as common, and a common occurrence is viewed as rare. Does Gone Girl do this?

I don't know, but I bet the answer is "It's complicated." I'm fairly sure both the author and publisher were aware of how this would play out. I'm quite sure they tell themselves they're brave defenders of truth and the arts.

Are they?

Honestly, I don't know. I really don't. That said, I'm very mistrustful of "edgy" art, for all kinds of reasons. I feel like it's too easy to go for the controversy and too hard for the socially powerless to counter bad narratives about them. I don't trust writers or editors to really think this stuff through, nor is there any real accountability (other than pointless shouting matches on Twitter). A publisher could be a complete narcissist and they'd still get fat paychecks and invitations to posh parties.

I'm not against "challenging" fiction. I certainly don't believe that every story needs to be about flawless, anodyne goodies. And yet...

I don't trust them.


As I read Gone Girl I completely recognized my former friend in the character of Amy Dunne. Amy Dunne represents an archetype of a person who actually exists, and thus it is not misogynistic to write someone like her. It can’t be misogyny if it’s REALITY.

You have to be careful with this. After all, if I write a story about a shifty black guy who likes fried chicken and watermelon, I'm not going to save myself by pointing out that some small number of real life black people might act this way.

Yeah, realism is an important foundation, but stories don't exist in a vacuum, and authors/editors/audiences don't make their decisions based on a pure attachment to truth. In other words, there is a reason that certain people might want to read about a shifty black fellow who likes fried chicken and watermelon. If I provide those people what they want -- well I don't get to pretend I didn't know what I am doing.

Likewise, tons of shitty men really really want some woman to stand up and say, "Yep, you were right about us. All your fears are justified." A woman willing to do that will be rewarded.

I worry about minority writers who want a quick path to validation. There will always be media space for the racist black guy and the homophobic gay dude and the misogynistic woman -- not to mention the transphobic trans gal who will sell out her sisters. There is easy notoriety there.

I'm not speaking about Gone Girl specifically, just -- be careful with this notion.

On “Harsh Your Mellow Monday: Martyrs, Saints, and Grifters Upon the Waves Edition

Ah yes, the "I just love playing with arguments" ploy. Great fun. For example, I love hanging out with some argumentative dork who doesn't understand why his ignorant speculations about gender-stuff offend me. He's just "playing with arguments" after all. Plus, he's really super smart. Just ask him. He'll tell you.

I mean, you probably understand why people don't like you. Maybe. Whatever.

Try arguing for what you believe based on principles you hold -- if you have any principles at all, that is.

On “Thursday Throughput: Solar Boil Edition

I'm pretty sure we've discovered evidence the Babylonians had basic trig before this. I distinctly remember reading in one of my math history texts that we had base-60 sine and cosine tablets from Mesopotamia, which I expect were Babylonian.

Maybe when I have some free time I'll check, but it's well understood that both the Egyptians and Babylonians had a pretty solid base of practical math well before the Greeks. The real advance of the Greeks was the idea of "pure" axiomatic math.


[ThT7] - A testable prediction from modern physics? How odd. I didn't know we did those anymore.

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