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AvatarComments by Doctor Jay in reply to veronica d*

On “Weekend Plans Post: What *WOULD* you have planned for this weekend, if you could?

I don't miss shopping. But I miss my martial arts class. I miss seeing people I've been doing this with for the last 20 years. Every Saturday morning. But not this last month.

And gaming. Yeah. Board gaming. Role playing. And so on.

ALSO, I'd go see a movie. In a crowded theater. We'd all laugh together, or boo or hiss (we do that here) or cry.


On “Tiger King: America’s Newest Obsession

Well, you make Joe Exotic sound like a younger, gay, Donald Trump (with a mullet), and that's just not a great sales pitch for me.

On “Hammers and Hangnails

I fully agree in general. Just because one person has it worse, doesn't mean you aren't worthy of consideration, and should be piled on.

In particular, I'm not sure that the comments referenced were in particular toward Saul's piece or more in general, and perhaps inspired by other comments.

Because of the nature of the comment, it's ambiguous.

On “Q is for Quarantine

I ... how is this not parody? Is there actually someone out there who is taking this seriously and not trying to top other people's wild fantasies with a yet wilder one?

On “A Tragedy, Not a Statistic

There is a chance that you are an asymptomatic carrier. I hope not, but this is something that happens.

If we had the testing resources, you would be tested, and if you were a carrier, you would be isolated.

Having said that, I don't necessarily disagree with the triage decision to not test you.
Yeah, we need more testing. A lot more testing.

And here's hoping that you and yours stay well!


Top line, I endorse this wholly. We need to be doing a lot more testing. We need to get to a 'test and trace' scenario. We are slowly getting there, but we aren't there yet. So what do we do until we get there?

There is a lot we don't know, I accept that. And there are plausible scenarios where things get very, very bad. They might or might not be correct, but I'm certainly not willing to assume they aren't the case. That's terrible risk management.

At the same time, of course the disease will spread during the initial phases following an exponential growth path. How could it do differently? All the data we have says it is doing so.

It might not be so bad, but then it might. We might see 3 million deaths, or it might be 300,000. A lot depends, a lot, on what we do. I am willing to do my thing to keep all y'all and myself safe. We'll sort out the money stuff. We can figure that out, if we're still here.


I want to acknowledge that this is hard on us. It's hard to stay at home. It's hard to tell others to do it. It's hard to see your beloved comic book store close its doors with the thought it might not come back. It's hard to see your favorite restaurant, the one you have been going to twice a week for the past 5 years close. This is just hard.

And, I have an issue with the framing of "only X people have died". The problem is that you didn't include the word "yet". We're still in the leading edge of this thing. On our trendline, we will have reached a million deaths by April 26 (

Yes, that's math. I've seen remarks, though not from y'all, of "that's just math, that's not real". It makes me shudder. Math put men on the moon.

On this trendline, we will get to a million deaths in three weeks time. That's how fast this is growing. At a million deaths there might be maybe 3, maybe 5 million serious cases, requiring a ventilator? So a couple thousand unused will be used up.

Predicting this course is not as reliable as calculating trajectories of rockets, but it's pretty solid. The main thing that will knock us off this trajectory is our own interventions.

We are finishing up our second week of sheltering in place in our county. I'm unsure how long this will continue. I'm quite clear that it is helping a lot. Santa Clara was mentioned as a hot spot three weeks ago. I am willing to do this, because not only does it keep me and my family (my daughter has MS!) safe, it keeps me from being the guy who spreads the virus to 100 other people at a corporate meeting, not knowing I'm even sick. (That happened!)

On “Big Jim vs The Corona

I think "fishing" covers a whole lot of ground, depending on who you are. One solitary guy in a boat in the middle of the lake is one possibility, but there are others.

I suspect that if "fishing" weren't banned, then the resort lakes would be jammed with campers, trailers and tents, and there would be a lot of face-to-face impromptu contact.


I don't know what Gavin Newsom is saying in private, but in public he's been quite polite. This surprises me a bit. I suppose he knows what the words "mission focus" mean.

On “Life Under Quarantine

Alaska fascinates me for many reasons, not the least of which is growing up in the very spot in the Lower 48 that is closest to Alaska. But for now, the fascination is with a red state that in many ways acts like a blue state.


To be fair, the lack of a paycheck for an extended period can be pretty rough. Much worse than a hundred years ago, I would think.

On “Pandemic Reading about Pandemics Past

I am looking at One Hundred Years of Solitude on the shelf wonderingly. Will this be cathartic, or just frustrating?

On “In Which Em Goes Into Hiding

The county I live in - Santa Clara County in CA - issued a "shelter in place" directive Monday. "Non-essential" social gatherings/contact is to close or stop. We had regular sessions with people in on three nights a week. These are now cancelled, though they weren't large. My martial arts classes are suspended for at least 3 weeks. That's another 2 nights and Saturday morning for me.

My workplace is an office with just me and a bookkeeper for half a day a week. Other employees work remotely from home. We will continue, as it involves no contact. I had a conference call via Slack just yesterday. My bookkeeper has agreed to continue coming in so we can cut checks and pay people.

I'm lucky. As I was getting takeout lunch yesterday (restaurants can remain open for takeout) I chatted with the counter guy, who was the boss. He said working remotely isn't a possibility. I know of a long-time comics store that's closing because it can't pay rent.

So I'm doing better than most, but I'm really not sure what I'm going to do with myself in the evening.

On “Post Mortem On The Ontario Basic Income Experiment

There's some sort of doubling up going on in your pull quote.

One of the fundamental pillars of UBI is that everyone gets it. No means testing, not to the unemployed, etc. What part of "universal" didn't they understand. I think this is, in fact, really important. It avoids stigma and it doesn't make or create distinctions. People's situations may change, and change dramatically, and UBI still keeps plugging along.

Also, it reduces the bureaucratic load, and overhead costs. Nobody needs to make complicated decisions about whether this or that person "deserves" it.

Seriously. This is important.

On “In Case You Missed It, It Isn’t 2009: Pandemics Then and Now

Speaking of YouTube (and covid-19), I want as many people to see this as can:

On “Liz Warren Drops Out

I'm thinking that she will not get tapped for VP. I think a woman, or a person of color, is in the cards, but I think someone younger than 70 is also important.

On “Nobody Owes Elizabeth Warren a Thing

Just which skills do you think Warren claims but doesn't have? I'm curious.

I mean, was her law professorship a fake? All those degrees? Her expertise on financial affairs and instittutions? If so, why do you think so? Is it because someone on Wall Street said that she was a fake? Have you considered that such people might just be "talking their book", which is to say, lying out their ass?

Americans really kind of don't like intellectuals, which I get. She tried to bridge that, but failed. You don't know until you do it. But "skill set that never existed"? Where does that come from?

It reminds me of a right-wing friend who described Obama as "the most incompetent person to ever hold the presidency", which was downright puzzling. I mean, sure, you don't like his policies because he's more to the left, but incompetent? Frankly, he annoyed conservatives so much precisely because he was competent.


I supported Warren. I am not a woman. So I am maybe not really so angry as I am puzzled. Many of the explanations offered have pretty easy rebuttals.

The thing that puzzles me is that, unlike any other candidate, Warren showed a strong upward trendline in support for the better part of a year. It then peaked right at a time when many in the financial sector, for instance, were getting very nervous and started talking her down.

The trendline reversed direction at that point and stayed steady on a downward slope. None of the narratives about her supposed failures really explains this. Maybe there is no explanation. Maybe this is like the polling lines for many of the also rans in the 2016 R primary. There is a surge of interest, but it doesn't survive scrutiny.

I think she is an outstanding Senator, and will continue to shine in that role. She couldn't find the way to bridge to people despite her intellect, which many find off-putting, the way Barack Obama could. I thought the town hall woodshedding she did would help, but I guess it wasn't enough.

For what it's worth, I predict that when America does elect a woman president, the woman will be conservative, just like Britains two female PMs have been conservative. It's reassuring to the public that way. Nikki Haley might be the one, or someone like her, though probably not Collins or Murkowski.

On “Super Tuesday Open Thread

Likewise. I'm a bit surprised to hear of some of the people that are supporting Bernie, as in, "Wow, I never thought of Jaybird as a guy who would vote for Bernie". But that, I guess, is what Bernie's campaign is about.

I think Warren should stay in the race as long as possible in case of strange contingencies:

1. Bernie has another heart attack which is more serious and can't be hidden.
2. Bernie gets Covid 19 and is laid up.
3. Biden gets Covid-19 and is laid up.

She's younger to begin with, and women of that age are generally a bit healthier than men.

On “Sunday Morning! “Wavelength” by Michael Snow

Yeah, I liked the completely cold reads, listens, or views that we used to have, too. I sometimes come away from something feeling like you describe - I didn't quite get it, but I want to do it again, but it bugs me. For some reason, I like that feeling, but "like" is an odd word to use, since I'm usually somewhat irritated in the moment.

On “They Don’t Have a Clue

Very well done. I love it.

On “Getting to Ten Times Better

Even for a guy like Bezos or Larry Page and Sergei Brin (founders and inventors of Google). I don't begrudge them the money, they did something that has a big, big impact and helps me every day.

AND, they were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes your luck is in what year you were born.

I ain't a billionaire, but I've done better than most. I can't say whether I deserve it. I am smart, and I've done things that were smart moves, and I've worked hard (love that Ezra Klein quote), but I do know I've been lucky in several ways.


Ok, that's not what I thought specifically, but it does have an AI-ish quality that corresponds to using LISP. Which I also thought!

These days I tend to think that anything done in LISP can be done just as well in Javascript using a package like Ramda. But legacy code is legacy code and it works just as well as it did when it was first written.

Here's an interesting train of thought: Even though in college and grad school I was very mathy and loved optimization type problems such as these, I've never worked on them professionally. I've done a lot of systems-oriented work instead. In spite of being a mathy/algorithms guy.

And the funniest part, which seems relevant, is that the biggest-impact, highest-visibility thing I ever did was redo a companies software update system. It turned something that took 6 people an entire evening to do one site into something that one person could for two sites in one evening. None of that required "big brains". Just a lot of tough slogging and determination to get all the details right and working smoothly.

Is that 10X programming?


I want you to know that in spite of my comment above that is disparaging of the "10x" idea, I am not at all skeptical about your narrative description of a certain type of programmer, who is able to pass certain difficult thresholds, and is maybe 2 or 3 times more productive than other programmers.

I am also boggling at the notion that someone started a project in Common LISP in 2005. That seems to say a lot about what it does, too. Sounds like some pretty unique stuff, stuff that has something in common with the work of Margaret Hamilton, for instance.


I am skeptical of the 10X programmer as such. I do think that there are serious thresholding effects: There are tasks that some programmers can handle without a lot of struggle that others can't really manage to do at all.

The 10X programmer is not necessarily 10X in every programming task. They are probably wasted on the whole "grind out boilerplate javascript for web pages" thing, and they probably do not produce 10X over the average person in that position.

And, if you compare the average programmer grinding out boilerplate javascript for web pages to someone who is only just learning to code, that person looks like a 10X programmer.

One thing that I am good at, and I really am good at it , is coming up to speed on new codebases quickly. I've done this many times in new positions. I learn fast, I read, I observe, I remember. This makes a big difference. But I doubt I'm more than 3X the average replacement guy. Mind you, 3X is a lot, and it also justifies the 2X salary you mentioned (though I never quite got there).

Yeah. Power laws are a thing, but so are thresholds.

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