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1st person POV hatred

Hanging out on /r/fanfiction recently, I've run across multiple people who hate 1st person narrators. This baffles me, like "I won't read books by women" or "I won't read books with a girl lead". There are so many great 1st POV books out there, including seminal works of the genre or its penumbra as well as 'literature': Frankenstein, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, the parts of Moby Dick that aren't pure infodump, Amber, Night in the Lonesome October, Vlad Taltos, Book of the New Sun, Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee, Sunshine, Heart of Darkness, the Farseer trilogies, Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, Bertie Wooster, Hunger Games, Ancillary series, Black Company, 20,000 Leagues... and multiple high quality fanfics.

(Also my own Nanoha fics but I make no claims for those.)

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A 2013 Sightline article: http://www.sightline.org/2013/08/22/apartment-blockers/

"Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has modeled a typical affordable housing development and concluded that including one parking space per dwelling raises the cost of each rental unit by 12.5 percent; adding a second parking space doubles that to 25 percent."

"Parking quotas constrain the supply of dwelling units, particularly of modest, economical ones, which causes their price to rise. (Dr. Kasper affirms: “Supply and demand, not cost . . .”) You may end up building only 25 apartments, rather than 50. The same goes for every other builder in the city. Fewer new apartments mean more competition for all apartments. Rents go up."

"Developers cannot convert vacant warehouses into lofts, or aging office blocks into condos, unless they somehow shoehorn floors of parking into the historic structures. " (This might have a bigger impact on limiting the flexibility of businesses to change what they do.)

[LA] " When parking requirements are removed, developers provide more housing and less parking, and also . . . developers provide different types of housing: housing in older buildings, in previously disinvested areas, and housing marketed toward non-drivers. This latter category of housing tends to sell for less than housing with parking spaces."

"Quickly, the deregulation of parking yielded more than 6,000 new apartments and condominiums, some of them in previously dilapidated historic office buildings that dated from the Art Deco era."

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housing supply and demand

Recent thought about equilibrium effects on housing:

If many people actually *prefer* denser areas, or the amenities that result from them, then shifting the supply curve right (by loosening zoning codes) leads to more housing and lower rates, but may be followed by the demand curve shifting right because the area is more desirable due to higher density, leading to more housing and higher rates. And then shifting again, until the demand curve stops shifting or you run into a steeper part of the supply curve (whether due to looser but still extant legal limits, or sheer physical capacity) so that price increases outweigh increased amenities in desirability. (Or you simply run out of ability to add people.)

So it's true that free market housing won't necessarily lower prices for good; OTOH, it does allow more people to live in a place they'd prefer, which is still good.

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is $15 minimum wage too high?

I knew that Australia had a "high" minimum wage; somehow I'd remembered it as $22/hour, but that seems totally wrong. (I think 22 is where the US would be if it had tracked productivity gains.)

As often, Wikipedia has a handy and hopefully accurate table: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_wages_by_country

the fun part being to sort the columns. In nominal (exchange rate) US$ terms, the highest minimum wage is yes, Australia, at $15.58/hour. Next is Luxembourg at $14.75, and a handful of countries scattered around $12. Germany drops down to $11.28, then Canada at $9.45.

In PPP terms, the highest is San Marino, at only $12.55. Luxembourg is second at $11.43, Australia third at only $11.14, and things quickly slide down from there.

Also interesting is the annual minimum wage as a %age of GDP/capita. There's some variation -- Luxembourg is only 26%, Argentina 75%! -- but 40-50% is common, with the US low at 27.6%. 40% would mean $10.50/hour, 50% would mean $13.13/hour. $15 would mean an annual wage of 57% of GDP/capita, which would put us alongside San Marino and New Zealand.

(Side note: many poor countries allegedly have a minimum wage that is a *multiple* of the GDP/capita.)

Note: Switzerland and the Nordic countries have no official minimum wage, relying on massive collective bargaining instead, and aren't listed. Some web pages say Denmark has an average (over sectors) minimum of US$20, with $15 at the minimum. Another says $19 for Sweden. Methodologies aren't given, so I'd guess those nominal, not PPP; still high. Swiss search results are poisoned by the referendum for a $25/hour wage (overwhelmingly rejected by the voters.)

The PPP multiplier for both Denmark and Sweden seems to be 1.3, so that $19-20 nominal would be about $15. But also note that it's not actually universal; there may be some lower wage sectors.

Also note that a lot of these countries have relatively high unemployment rates, especially among youth, while being much nicer countries to be unemployed in.

According to https://www.dol.gov/featured/minimum-wage/chart1 the highest inflation-adjusted minimum wage in the US was $10.34, in 1968; $8-9 was a more sustained plateau.

So what does this mean for US policy? Going by PPP numbers, the highly popular $15/hour is in fact notably higher than any other country's legal minimum wage; it's also pretty high as a %GDP, though not uniquely so. It may also be standard for de facto heavily unionized Nordic countries. Even Hillary's $12 is on the high end in dollars, though fairly standard as %GDP. (Note that Hillary also proposes inflation-indexing it, which might be a radical detail in itself. Possibly risky, even -- part of the macroeconomic role of inflation is to quietly depress wages when that's needed.

So I'd say that $15 for the whole country really is pushing the envelope, especially if we're not prepared for higher unemployment as a possible outcome.

EDIT: I should say, I wrote this post from a perspective of comparative macroeconomics, as in "what levels can we safely say won't mess up a modern economy." If we look at lifestyle attained, obviously one needs less money in a country with subsidized health care, college, parental leave, and with superior public transit and bus/train networks. You'll live better on $24K (PPP) in Germany than in the US because of the greater public services.

EDIT 2: Also of interest might be how many, and what sort of, people receive minimum wage, for how long, in various countries. Stepping stone, or permanent underclass?

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sorting invariants

Of the standard fast sorting algorithms, heap and quick are in-place but unstable, merge is stable (or can be) but take O(n) extra space. You can decorate input with the original sequencing in order to break ties and make a stable sort, but now that takes O(n) extra space. Insertion sort is stable and in-place, but takes O(n^2) time; if you insert into a tree it becomes faster, but takes space again (as you're not just copying the data, but creating two pointers per item, too.)

If I understand radix sort right, it has worst case O(n*log(n)) performance (if there are n distinct entries, they take log(n) bits to be represented, and radix is O(n*numbits), and the LSD version is stable, but I think takes extra space. MSD can be stable but takes extra space for that.

So, seems like a pattern! Except Wikipedia intimates of in-place stable mergesorts in O(n*log n * log n) -- okay, that still takes extra time -- or in just O(n log n) but with high constant values. And there's blocksort, allegedly an in-place, stable, worst case O(n log n), best case O(n) algorithm. Which sounds like the Ultimate Sorting Algorithm, doing everything you'd want. Why haven't I heard of it more? Apart from seeming pretty complicated.

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Lightly microwaved cherry tomatoes explode in warm sweetness when you eat them with pasta.

El Goonish Shive is a good webcomic.

A Miracle of Science is still a good webcomic, and unlike EGS it's long over.

A Borrowed Voice is a surprisingly good crack-premise Tolkien fanfic.

A bunch of new Madoka AMVs, which I've added to my list. I'll link to just one. Warning: spoilers for series and Rebellion.

Years ago, I proved the sin(A+B) identity from first principles while lying in bed. I think it took 40 minutes. The impressive part is that I'm usually more of a symbolic/numerical thinker than a visual one, I still slide my fingers to manipulate supply and demand curves, so doing finicky geometry in my head, no paper, was pretty impressive. Last night I thought about it again (and again in bed), and solved it much faster; I think I found a simpler solution, though I can't be sure. Alas, the margins of this blog post... or rather, I've never invested effort in learning how to make pictures on line.

The Renaissance art hallway at the MFA was more interesting than I expected, especially in the half that's largely maiolica.

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Some Greyhound experiences

A post I made elsewhere, on my past many trips:

I had an awesome conversation with some girl I was sitting next to, though she never wrote me back afterwards. One of my first photos with a new camera was of another cute girl across the aisle (I asked permission.) One time I sat next to a vet who had a pet ferret in his backpack. I didn't ask where it crapped.

The station in San Francisco sells porn. The station in Omaha mostly sells stuff with crosses or other Christian themes. Also one time the Omaha station felt like a refugee camp: 4am, possibly some bus was delayed due to drivers, lots of people sitting around looking bleary with what looked like their worldly possessions. (not really)

It was neat stepping out in or near Salt Lake City and seeing the mountains there.

Heading west to Spokane I encountered my first dry electrical storm, not having ever heard of such a thing. It was really creepy: no rain, no sound, not even many visible lightning bolts, just the sky flashing frequently. I had crazy thoughts about Canadian nuclear barrage or something.

Montana really is Big Sky Country and it gives me the willies.

Some line not far west of the Mississippi river separates "not enough rain for many trees" and "trees will grow unless actively suppressed". This first became obvious when I woke up in Arkansas, going east, and Surprise! Trees! outside the window.

If you're north enough there are trees in the west again, but they're stands if not plantations of conifers and really boring.

Around 2005 our bus almost broke down in the Rockies; certainly the air conditioning stopped working. The driver said their new CEO had previously cost-cut Northwest Airlines into bankruptcy. Around this time the company also dropped a lot of the small town stops, including the not-that-small college town of Bloomington Indiana. Around this time I stopped riding Greyhound much...

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Allergies suck. Job hunting sucks. Let me dig up saved links that aren't live politics or RPGs.

Maps of store zones in cities https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/04/26/what-your-city-looks-like-when-nearly-every-store-is-mapped/?postshare=5051461732762915&tid=ss_fb

Origins of modern racism https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/4gzfbf/how_true_is_the_statement_race_is_a_modern_idea/d2m2zri

WWII production numbers https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/4h4c7w/could_the_soviet_union_have_defeated_nazi_germany/d2nfhkd

Clinton role in Irish peace process http://irishamerica.com/2015/03/when-it-comes-to-irish-peace-hillary-and-history-rhyme/

on worker co-op productivity http://www.thenation.com/article/worker-cooperatives-are-more-productive-than-normal-companies/

why exit polls mislead http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/05/upshot/exit-polls-why-they-so-often-mislead.html?_r=0

Klingon and copyright https://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/in-a-lawsuit-over-copyright-in-klingon-here-come-the-klingon-speakers/

feminist season of GoT? https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?780808-Game-of-Thrones-Show-Book-SPECULATION-and-SPOILERS-Episode-6x1-quot-The-Red-Woman-quot&p=20027961#post20027961

Krugman on the importance of models http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/25/economics-and-self-awareness/?_r=0
and tax progressivity not being the end-all: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/25/a-note-on-the-soda-tax-controversy/

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Misleading descriptions

Inspired by a Scalzi article on accurate but misleading movie descriptions, I tried some of my own. Not always as complete as his:

Cordelia's Honor: a woman falls in love with her captor and is convinced to cover up a mass murder.

The Warriors Apprentice: a mentally unstable noble acquires a private fleet through deceit.

Nine Princes in Amber: the inmate of an insane asylum has increasingly surreal adventures.

The X-Men: a teen runaway meets and falls for a much older and dangerous man.

Castle in the Sky: two kids defy the advice of their elders and destroy a priceless historical site.

Nanoha: a boy spends months living with a girl without telling her he's a boy.

Lord of the Rings: a special forces team sets out to infiltrate enemy territory and assassinate the enemy leader. Multiple betrayals ensue.

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More fun with honorifics

I have since finished the Akagami anime, and almost all of the manga.

* Kiki and Mitsuhide, Prince Zen's first two guards/attendants, who used -dono on each other until they asked each other to stop, are in fact noble. Shirayuki uses -san with them even in private, contrary to my guess last time. They don't use an honorific with her or Zen, Zen and S don't use honorifics with each other (in private; his attendants qualify as private.)

* Obi, the definitely non-noble ninja, got promoted all the way to "Obi-sama" by a palace servant in Tanbarun. In the same scene, underage royalty call him Obi-san. That's not surprising given the relative ranks, but I note it.

* Those royal kids get "omae-tachi", or "you two" from their older and very annoyed brother. "omae" is a pretty casual/rude way of saying "you", like "hey you" -- Mitsuhide uses it on Obi a lot. One of the kids uses "nii-sama" for that brother, which is like "Exalted Big Brother". The kids also says Shirayuki-san, when their older brother, the first prince of their country, is saying Shirayuki-dono. That's kind of interesting... sort of they're responding to her base status, he's treating her as an honored guest plus all the... complications... they have.

* Between careful listening and the manga, I'm pretty sure he says "ojou-san" for Shirayuki much of the time, not my guess of an accented "ojou-sam". But he can switch it up: in one scene he opens with "ojou-san" as basically "Hi" or "Yo", but uses "ojou-sama" when speaking formally to her a moment later. For her part, she just calls him Obi. Then in that scene he loosens up and almost calls her by name, "Shirayu-" before clapping his hand to his mouth in horror.

* ...I just accidentally discovered TV Tropes ojou, which distinguishes 'ojou', lady, from 'oujo', princess. *headdesk* Not a distinction I'd been aware of, obviously, and not sure one my ear would be trained to discern even listening for it. It'll be interesting to try, though, especially where Shirayuki is concerned. Probably it's been 'ojou'.

* Speaking of which, a pirate captain calls Shira "ojou-chan". Given the personality and situation, this was probably mocking, it's like "little lady".

* After being rescued, Shirayuki is "Zen-ouji, Kiki-san, Mitsuhide-san", but once the outsider is dismissed and in the process of leaving, she's back to "Zen!". She'd also used Zen-ouji in talking *about* him to the local prince.

* The chief court herbalist, the one who calls S Shirayuki-kun, says Mitsuhide-sama and Zen-denka. Why is Mitsuhide -sama to her and -dono originally to Kiki? I have no idea. Maybe because Kiki was noble. You'd think a senior court official would kind of rank... Various random guards say "Kiki-dono". (But in the manga, they use -sama.) S uses Zen-ouji in front of her, keeping up appearances. I feel she's more diligent about that this season than she was last, but could be wrong.

* Mitsuhide says Izana-denka in talking about the first prince, S says Izana-ouji in talking nto him. Again, I don't know if that has any meaning other than varying things up. Except, I note I'm not sure she's *ever* said denka, she uses ouji whenever she bothers being that formal. (Nope, she has, I just caught her saying "Zen-denka" when asking "you're Prince Zen's older brother, right?" Mostly uses ouji, though.)

* Manga: chief herbalist uses -kun on visiting herbalists who are her juniors but not her direct subordinates. She just calls Ryuu by his name though; he's the 12 year old prodigy who outranks most of the others; I assume she's going by his age. Oh, right, he asked S to call him Ryuu, and she's his junior, though he keeps calling her -san. The Chief also says Obi-kun, which is amusing. What *do* you call the prince's sketchy messenger? Izana honors both the chief and Ryuu with -dono, which given his rank and personality really is high honor.

* Huh, I never noticed what Prince Izana calls or uses for Shirayuki. Assuming he's ever *had* to use her name.

* Huh, Raji was saying "Shirayuki-dono" while talking about her to Zen back in first season, when he didn't respect her, just feared Zen. Uses it in talking to her a bit later, too. I guess he's been properly cowed, or is treating her as Zen's lover, which he thought she was.

* Not an honorific per se, but the second time Izana confronts S, I catch him saying "anata", "you", which is fairly rude in Japanese. Then he uses 'hime', "princess", right after that, which is mocking-rude in context.

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Fun with honorifics

One thing I've become fascinated by in Japanese in the use of honorifics to convey degrees of intimacy and relationship. I don't think English was ever quite so developed, and modern society has lost much of the nuance we had (e.g. Miss Bennett vs. Miss Elizabeth.) Which may be just as well for social equality, but still, interesting subject. Two examples weigh on my mind.

First is the Nanoha franchise, and the many names of Fate Testarossa (given name, family name), especially in the first two series, where she's a 9 to 10 year old girl.

* Fate-chan to Nanoha and many others. This is the default state of a little girl, almost anyone can -chan them on minimal acquaintance.
* Fate to her mother and her familiar. This is really intimate, but those are the people you'd expect that from. If it has shades of being condescending, too... well, her mother's not very nice.
* Fate-kun while speaking to 'Admiral' Graham, as a probationary member of magical Starfleet. -kun is sort of the -chan for boys, but it's also used for junior employees, including female ones. So this fits.
* Fate-san to Lindy, who also uses it for mundane girls like Arisu and Suzuka. I like my interpretation, wherein Lindy believes in treating everyone with dignity and respect, even 9 year old girls, and even 9 year old girls who can't defeat her in single combat (which Fate quite possibly could). But it's odd seeing a conversation wherein Chrono or Amy refers to Fate-chan and Lindy uses Fate-san, in adjacent lines.
* Testarossa to Signum, an antagonist and old warrior. Seems to fit, standard brusque 'hey, lastname!'
* Testarossa-chan to Shamal, Signum's softer and more motherly colleague. Interesting blend of "little girl that I am not on first name basis with especially as she's an enemy." Logical, but funny.

Even my friend W eventually granted that the diversity in Fate's case was a bit much.

We could get really geeky and consider who's actually Japanese or speaking it. The franchise chickens out of considering any language or translation issues; the simplest explanation seems to be to assume that the non-Earthlings are mostly using translation programs through their Devices. Fate's family isn't Earthling, so it could be that her mother and familiar are simply using her name. Lindy is a Japanophile -- she's got a thing that goes doink in her starship office -- and thus could plausibly be learning Japanese on her own, so maybe she's using -san as many foreigners do, to not mess up. Signum and Shamal are outsiders but must have had Japanese downloaded into them before they booted up this time around.


Then there's a more recent one, Akagami no Shirayukihime ("Snow White with the Red Hair"). The star's given name is Shirayuki, family name unknown. Age also unknown to me, but I'd say somewhere between 15 and 25, probably 18-20. It's set in a Disney-like "fantasy" quasi-European world: no magic or fantastic elements yet, but a weird anachronistic stew of gas or electric lighting, big glass greenhouses, leaf spring carriage wheels, essays on cyanobacteria, and no guns. My subtitles here, unlike the Nanoha ones, try to translate ("Miss Shirayuki") rather than copy honorifics, which I'll grudgingly grant is maybe appropriate for the setting, but I listen for the honorifics in the spoken Japanese anyway. There do seem to be a lot fewer of them, and a lot more use of simple (given name), but they are there.

One particularly interesting one is -dono, which is even more divergent in use than -kun. One use is to address a social superior, but someone not as superior as -sama implies. Another use is for superiors to address each other, sort of granting "you are *someone's* superior and I respect that, though of course you aren't *my* superior."

So, when I was re-watching and paying attention for this stuff, I caught the palace guards of Clarines addressing the heroine as Shirayuki-dono. Who is she to them? At one level, she's a town girl from another kingdom, with no inherent social status whatsoever, definitely not a -sama. At another level, she's the prince's friend (or, they might imagine, mistress) with his personal invitation to visit the palace, and who addresses *him* with his given name, no honorific, which AIUI is kind of more intimate than actually having sex. So more than the default -san. -dono fits perfectly.

Later, another prince visits, and the princes address each other as Raji-dono and Izana-dono, which fits: equal social superiors acknowledging each other's superiority.

More surprising: a recent flashback revealed that Prince Zen's bodyguards initially used -dono with each other. I don't know their background; given their clothing and their job as his permanent companions, it's plausible that they're members of the minor nobility. In the current time they're on unadorned given name basis with each other, Prince Zen, and I think Shirayuki.

Obi, a later guard/attendant, who's some lower class ninja scum, got to be "Obi-dono" recently while accompanying the heroine on a semi-state visit. I imagine that was "you're the personal attendant of this girl who isn't a princess but is kind of being treated like one, and you're dressed up, -dono seems safe, won't insult any -samas who overhear and you won't kill me if it turns out you really are a -sama yourself." For his own part he may still use honorifics with the other two guards (I'm not sure, I haven't paid *that* close attention), and definitely refers to Shira with respect; if not an actual honorific, then certainly a lot of "oujo" (lady/princess), especially when talking about her.

As mentioned, Shirayuki normally addresses the star prince as simply Zen, which must be shocking and provocative for those who overhear. Usually he's either Denka or Zen-denka to people. The chief herbalist used "Zen-sama" in talking to him about how he could abuse his position, but I couldn't parse it more than that. When Shira said goodbye to him recently, while surrounded by lots of people, she used Zen-ouji (another suffix for 'prince'), I assume to cater to appearances for once. She also addressed his older brother as Izana-ouji. Why ouji vs. denka? I have no idea. I've seen 'denka' translated as "highness" while 'ouji' is literally "king-boy", but I don't know the relative status.

Shira herself as apprentice court herbalist is Shirayuki-kun to the Chief Herbalist (that employer-employee thing against), Shirayuki-san to Ryu, who is her herbal senior but her junior in age, and Shirayuki-chan way back in the first episode to the old people she'd grown up among.

I'm trying to recall if anyone addressed Prince Raji, who's a sleazy scummy chump, as Raji-kun to be insulting.

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PR vs. gerrymandering

I was at an anarchism reading discussion last night, and afterwards talking with a fellow social democrat about election reform. He didn't see why I said proportional representation solves gerrymandering, and I didn't have a fluent explanation at the time. Thus this post.

Of course, if you do PR from a single district, or pre-existing districts like US states, then there's nothing to gerrymander, so we assume multiple districts are drawn, for locality or to limit ballot size, with some number n of delegates being elected from each.

If n=1, almost half of the votes in a district can be wasted. (Or more, with more than two candidates and plurality voting, but let's assume optimal competition instead.)

With n=2, almost 1/3 of the votes can be waste: two candidates with a bit over 1/3 each, and the rest for someone else.

With n=3, almost 1/4. The pattern should be obvious. Bigger (or rather, higher n) districts mean there's less room for throwing votes away.

But I think it's more useful to look at minimal votes need to capture a legislature. With single-member, n=1, like the House, you in theory need bit over 25% of the votes to control the body. (Or less, with plurality...) With half the seats, with half the votes in each of those districts, and no votes anywhere else. Yes, that's absurdly fine tuned, but it's *possible*.

For n=2, you need a bit over 2/3 of the vote in half the districts, for 1/3 of the total vote.

N=3, 3/4 in half, for 3/8. Or half (to get two seats) in 3/4 of the districts, for 3/8 -- comes out the same.

N=10, need 10/11 in half the districts for 5/11 of the total vote, or some other arrangement that I'm fairly sure will come out the same.

Once you have any number of districts greater than 1 (or maybe 2) there's some potential for getting a majority of seats with a minority of votes, but the threshold needed approaches 1/2 as the number of seats in a district rises.

And, of course, bigger districts means fewer districts, which I think reduces the flexibility of gerrymandering.

(Even in a single district, there may be potential to get a majority without a majority of votes if lots of small parties don't make the cut to get any seats, especially if there's an artificially higher threshold. This is the equivalent of more than two parties running for a plurality seat, and not so much 'potential' as "happens all the time".)

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[Edit: the low numbers seem to be be bunk; I was trusting the report of Google [washington caucus] and such, but e.g. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-p-mcdonald/iowa-caucus-turnout-what-it-means_b_9141408.html and http://iowademocrats.org/statement-from-idp-chair-on-tonights-historically-close-caucus-results/ report much higher Iowa numbers. http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/05a3e761e16d4aa2beaa47c294f76071/WA--Washington-Caucuses-Democrats talks about 250,000 turnout, and 26,000 "delegates".]

Alaska caucus: 539 votes. That's not a margin, that's how many people were at the Democratic caucus. (The GOP had about 20,000 people, still small but a lot bigger.)

WA caucus was 26,000 people for the Democrats. The MA primary had nearly 1.2 million voters on the Democratic side, and MA has somewhat fewer people than WA.

HI is similar to the other caucus numbers (AK Democrats seems exceptional.)

Iowa caucus was over 150K for the GOP. About 1400 people for the Democrats.

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Peking ravioli

I was so confused when I first saw these here. (At Mary Chung, in fact.) I correctly guessed what they must be, from the name and the lack of anything else called potstickers.

Unrelatedly, I think I only ever heard 'potstickers' after going to college. Growing up, our 'Chinese' food was mostly Mongolian House in Uptown, and we'd order what I remember phonetically as "kwah teh", or maybe "gwa teh". (Also, princess prawns, which I've never seen since. :( )

Unrelatedly, my parents insisted on referring to the nearby high school, Von Steuben, as "Fon Stoyben", not "Von Stewben".


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Democrats and green energy

Oregon Democrats pass a big new clean energy bill http://www.vox.com/2016/3/17/11252280/oregon-clean-energy-bill

Which is playing catchup to California's green revolution (long article) http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/03/california-cuts-greenhouse-gas-jerry-brown-growth-energy
To be fair, that owes some to Arnold. And some Republicans are getting on board with wind and solar when it means business for their districts. But mostly, Democrats.

(As I say, Hillary with a D Congress would be far more progressive than Bernie with an R one, even ignoring the fact that they voted pretty similarly in Congress.)

How to fuck up green energy: Venezuela's socialist government is turning off power for a week. Drought is the trigger, but low investment and subsidized prices have set the stage. http://www.vox.com/2016/3/17/11254860/venezuela-electricity-crisis

Interesting thing on the complex interaction between electric car prices and oil prices. http://www.vox.com/2016/3/4/11161758/electric-cars-oil-crisis

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So high, so low, so many things to know

Still job hunting.
Realized that Scala and Clojure are functional languages at least some people pay people to use, I should go learn them! (I have a functional bias.)

As my algorithms studies continue, it's scary to look back and realize how much CS is out there that I didn't even know I didn't know, back when I was working. Both the stuff I learned in grad school (computer theory, OS concepts, graphics, programming language implementation) and the stuff I've learned since (graph algorithms, non-trivial dynamic programming, quickselect, heaps/priority queues, AVL trees...) What did I actually get hired on? Structured programming, lists, trees, recursion, Big-O analysis, hashes (thanks to Perl on a previous job, not any class I took.) Well, you really can do a lot with that. But man.

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Primary surprise and party politics

Here something that has nothing to do with the presidential primary: when I voted (actually, when I looked at the sample ballot ahead of time), there were also people running for state and ward committee positions. (And not for Congress; apparently that's a *different* primary.) What are those? Turn out they're *party* positions, and reddit led to some fascinating primers on the subject:


Even if you don't live in MA, it might be an interesting look at how party politics works. Like, it sounds really easy to join up and start working your way up from the ground floor. Also, not much of a progressive caucus -- because the party is old and hostile, or because progressives haven't been showing up? And the MA Democratic party has a lot of diversity baked in, like equal state seats for men and women, and seats reserved for gays, racial minorities, linguistic minorities, etc.

If I wasn't busy job hunting and possibly relocating, I'd be tempted to go look up my local committee right now. Maybe in a few months. I've said before "it's not like I'm committed to being a Democrat, they just run the people I can vote for", which is true, but it seems likely they'll be running all the people I can vote for for the foreseeable future, might as well get involved.

(I wonder if anyone has ever been centrist enough to be involved in both parties at the same time.)

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A reminder to Bernie fans

Bernie's campaign is a long shot.

It's easy to forget that now, in all the enthusiasm, but step back some months and look at the candidates objectively:

Hillary is an established national figure who finished the 2008 primary in a dead heat. (Say what you want about DNC bias, she's proven the ability to get the support of half the Democratic voters.) She's gotten only stronger since then, with a fine career as Secretary of State.

Martin O'Malley -- remember him? -- is an actual Democratic governor, who talked more about the environment than either of the other two.

Bernie is a Senator from a small state, a self-described socialist, unhead of to much of the Democratic base, and *not even a member of the party he's now running in*. (DNC bias? Shockingly, people in a party prefer people who have put in the time to help build or at least be part of the party, to outsiders suddenly crashing the party...) He'd also be the oldest person to become President, by over five years. (Reagan's currently oldest. Hillary's a bit younger than Reagan, relatively, and women have better life expectancy.)

Go back a year, and we'd rationally expect Bernie's campaign to die an ignominious death, like that of Kucinich and various would-be progressive candidates. That the old socialist who's not even a Democrat would be, not just getting 5-10% of the vote, but crushing out a governor and turning the race into a two-way, would be incredible. That it's actually happening is amazing, and kudos to Bernie. (And that O'Malley got ignored is I think some evidence that Bernie's support is actual hunger for leftist ideas, not just sexism against Hillary. There was another man available. (Not to mention Webb, but really.))

But for all that, it's *still* a long shot. It's possible he can pull another Obama. It's possible Hillary can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Those aren't even terribly unlikely possibilities, at this point.

But I'd say they're well less than 50% chances. Again: socialist who hasn't even been a Democrat, vs. a long-standing Democrat who's already roped in half of the electorate before, and has the "first woman President" cachet to boot. If he wins, wow. But if he doesn't? Don't feel crushingly disappointed, feel amazed that he did as well as he did. And then go vote for Hillary in November, the way you voted for Obama before.


A related reminder: the Democratic Party is not naturally a liberal or leftist party. It is a big tent party that liberals can find a place in. A coalition of diverse interest groups loosely united by an interest in equality, fairness, or helping the underdog (especially when it's themselves.) But full-bore ideological leftists? We're a distinct minority. The party has big chunks who care about economic help but aren't all that socially liberal, and social liberals who feel the existing market economy is treating them quite well. And if we want to get things done, we need to work with at least one of those chunks, if not both, not view the Democratic party as our natural territory that's somehow been stolen from us.

Conversely, it's not the enemy either: a plurality electoral system can only stably support two parties, and at the moment the Democratic party is the one for us. Not satisfied with it? Try to change it, first of all by voting at every chance, second by convincing other voters that your ideas are attractive.

Cuz, well, for all the talk about plutocracy, money doesn't win elections. Ask Jeb Bush or Ross Perot. Money buys airtime, money can influence elections, but votes (or electoral fraud) wins elections. And politicians listen to the voters... especially voters they can *mostly* rely on. Like, voters who actually come out to vote in every election, as opposed to ones who vote for the Presidency but skip the Congressional primaries and elections. Which, sadly, describes much of the Democratic base, especially youth and progressive blocs.

Especially the youth. Young people who don't vote because Bernie didn't win aren't sending a message, they're just doing what young people have always done: not vote, and thus be not worth politicians worrying about.


(And if you need a reminder of what the Democratic party has done for us recently: just off the top of my head: raised the minimum wage by 40%; fundamentally reformed how health care is provided; regulated tobacco and credit card companies; at least tried to regulate carbon emissions; stimulated the economy back from complete sickness; funding that's causing a big boom in renewable energy; Dodd-Frank Wall street reform; repealed DADT. And that's with the GOP controlling Congress for most of the last 8 years, because Democratic turnout collapsed in 2010 and 2014.)

At state levels, increased minimum wage further in many places. A whole slew of new progressive laws in California. Pharmacy birth control in Oregon. Banning "conversion therapy" in Illinois. Etc.)

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Pronoun compression

So, you'd think languages would tend to shorten the length of commonly used words. And in English, all pronouns are short. 'our' is arguably two syllables. 'theirs' is one syllable though a lot of phonemes. But I, you, though, we, your, ... all short.

Spanish too, mostly: yo, tu, el, ella. (But, nosotros). Even though inflections mean you often don't need them.

In Japanese, not so much. Of the truly excessive list of pronouns, I think all are 2+ syllables. Of the standard ones, watashi (I) and anata (you) are both three. Some informal ones are two (ore, boku). A standard really formal one is four (watakushi, I). And if you want to indicate possession, that needs another syllable, e.g. 'watashi no' for 'my'.

But, apparently, pronouns aren't used as much in Japanese. Raising a chicken and egg question: are they dropped because they're long, or are they long because they're easily dropped? At any rate, all I read says Japanese is good at dropping parts of its syntax in favor of context (more so than other languages?) so don't need to say 'I' if you're obviously talking about yourself.

Also, simply using 'anata' is often rude, and it's more proper to use people's names. And some girls trying to be cutesy will instead of using watashi, or the cutesy variant atashi, use their own names, like "Mariko-chan is hungry" instead of "I am hungry".

Which seems like a lot of work! Except... the pronouns *are* long, I realize, so the opportunity cost is a lot less. Personal names are typically 2-3 syllables, family names commonly 3-4 syllables, add a standard honorific and we're talking 3-5 syllables. Given that the alternatives are generally three syllables themselves, using the name might not take any more time. Or it might take 5 syllables to 3 -- Nakajima-san vs. anata -- but I don't know how our brains process that. Is it just as bad as using 3 for 1, two extra syllables, or is it "only 67% longer" vs. "three times longer"?

And for the cutesy usage, well, not only are personal names shorter than family names on average, they can be further truncated, especially if you're being cutesy. One manga Mariko I know of is Mari-chan (or -tan, or -chin) to her friends, and presumably if she were the sort of girl to refer to herself in the third person she'd use those forms too. No longer than atashi, then.

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Democratic Primary

I'm still undecided as to my vote, but since most of my friends seem to be pro-Bernie, I find myself in the position of skeptic, by which I mean passing on links.

Bernie pandering to liberals?

One woman's "How Bernie lost me". Links to Sady Doyle on progressive sexism, and another column on defending Hillary.

Imagine GOP attacks on a self-declared socialist. (From back when the Cold War was still on!)

Someone on Facebook on Hillary as embattled survivor, Bernie from a nice safe environment. Point is, Bernie's had the luxury of sticking to his principles and freely speaking his mind because he had liberal Vermont voters who loved him. As I've put it, Hillary had to change her own name to help Bill win over Arkansas voters. Not to mention the over 20 years of attacks that Doyle talks about.


Off topic but maybe thematically related: Kevin Drum on liberal reality distortion. I haven't had the time to read all the stuff he links to, so I'm posting it as "maybe interesting".

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Damien Sullivan

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