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Tsarnaev death sentence

No one I know here is happy about the death sentence. And it makes a mockery of "trial by a [random] jury of your peers" if the government has to reject most of the candidates to make a jury.

Couple articles about a book about the brothers:

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oh god the heat

Today's one of those days where we skip past spring. I haven't been out because of allergies and fatigue. I thought my apartment was getting bad, up to 26 C. Cooler later but not super cool, and blowing in cool air mean blowing in pollen. So I set up my A/C, and it's busy cooling off my bedroom. I feel a bit bad for the environment and my power bill, but I like non-itchy eyeballs.

Then I took my garbage downstairs and popped my head out. OH GOD IT BAKES. 30 or 31 out there. I'd forgotten what heat feels like. Plan bike to TJ

I so hate SF's building limitations.

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Politicians keep their promises

2012 article: contrary to popular cynicism, politicians try to keep their campaign promises, whether out of genuine belief or fear of the voters. Campaign mood and rhetoric can be quite indicative of leadership style, too:

"established that about 75 percent of the promises made by presidents from Woodrow Wilson through Jimmy Carter were kept. In Presidents and Promises: From Campaign Pledge to Presidential Performance (1985), Jeff Fishel looked at campaigns from John F. Kennedy through Ronald Reagan. What he found was that presidents invariably attempt to carry out their promises; the main reason some pledges are not redeemed is congressional opposition, not presidential flip-flopping."

'"What we need to do is lead the world to peace. And that’s exactly the kind of president I intend to be.” And it was exactly the kind of president he [Bush II] turned out to be, with regard to foreign policy—never worrying about what other nations thought, considering any type of accommodation or compromise an unacceptable “retreat,” and imagining the most bellicose actions, including, in this case, withdrawing from a treaty and building a new generation of weapons, to be “lead[ing] the world to peace.” '

'Let’s return to George H. W. Bush’s “kinder, gentler” speech, the one in which he made his (later broken) tax pledge. The first thing that’s notable about that speech is how few policy promises are contained in it; all candidates feature a lot of rhetorical flourishes in their convention speeches, but Bush’s was almost entirely composed of them. That in itself was a good predictor of his presidency, especially on the domestic side, in that Bush’s presidency was marked by passivity in domestic policy'

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Urban streets and other links

In my last post on urban densities I mentioned some research I didn't bother giving links for. In honor of a cool conversation two nights ago, let me get back to that!

Two related links on %age of city land devoted to streets and parking:

Chart in the first has columns for "built or buildable land", "streets and sidewalks" (so not just asphalt), "parks and plazas". Housing projects can be really low in built use, 10-27%; Cabrini Green had 44% streets and 29% parks. Actual cities listed start at 51% buildable and 44% rights of way, for both Savannah and Boston's Back Bay! Given Commonwealth boulevard, the latter isn't that surprising. Portland's at 47% streets, with almost no parkland. You actually get lower numbers with Phoenix -- I suspect wide streets but long blocks, whereas Chicago has decent sized streets and shorter blocks. NYC is 2/3 buildable, Paris 74% with 25% streets, and Tokyo 80% buildable with 20% streets (and no parks? wow.) Buenos Aires goes even further with 15% streets, but I've never been there.

So my model last time of 20% streets, 75% buildable, 5% parks seems like a nice place. And many US cities, even or especially the relatively pedestrian/transit ones, could in theory use only half the land they do for roads. The change to buildability is a smaller proportion but still significant, 40% to 60% more land use.

The second link has the blogger trying to estimate rights of way *plus* off-street parking; the first link was just "land devoted to roads", the second is "land devoted to cars." We start with 65% for Houston. DC is 44%... I guess almost all the parking in his sample area is curbside or underground? Anyway, it's just a few sample points, but at least some US cities put over 20% of their land to off-street parking. provides some more numbers: 59% iin 1960 LA, 50% in 1953 Detroit.


Shoup talked about how parking requirements are based on imaginary numbers. Apparently the professional recommendations for how much land to put to roads is equally airy:

"Take an average school. Whereas the ITE manual predicts it will generate about 41 million trips a year, the 2009 household travel survey suggests the real trip number is closer to 13.7 million—overestimating traffic by 198 percent."


Cute picture of road chasms:


Arguments for 20 mph speed limits

The deadliest US cities for pedestrians:


Bike lanes in NYC improved biker safety a lot and didn't slow down traffic:

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Hillary the liberal

According to DW-NOMINATE voting analysis, Hillary was the 11th most liberal member of the Senate during her period. The other 10 are dead, even older than she is, obscure enough that I haven't heard of them, Russ Feingold, or Bernie Sanders. Feingold seems to have gone quiet, but Sanders is loudly considering running.

Article notes she's more liberal in voting than Obama (-0.37 to her -0.39) or the median Democrat (-0.33).

Now, that's one measure; maybe you'd care a lot more about her opinions on Israel or executive power, which might not have come up in votes. OTOH, if you're hoping someone more liberal than her to run, you've got like two options -- both men -- among recent Senators. Except maybe for even more recent Senators, but do we really want more first-term Senators running?

Who's out there among governors, I don't know.

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Phoenician circumnavigation of Africa

As for Libya, we know it to be washed on all sides by the sea, except where it is attached to Asia. This discovery was first made by Necos, the Egyptian king, who on desisting from the canal which he had begun between the Nile and the Arabian Gulf, sent to sea a number of ships manned by Phoenicians, with orders to make for the Pillars of Hercules, and return to Egypt through them, and by the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians took their departure from Egypt by way of the Erythraean Sea, and so sailed into the southern ocean. When autumn came, they went ashore, wherever they might happen to be, and having sown a tract of land with corn, waited until the grain was fit to cut. Having reaped it, they again set sail; and thus it came to pass that two whole years went by, and it was not till the third year that they doubled the Pillars of Hercules, and made good their voyage home. On their return, they declared — I for my part do not believe them, but perhaps others may — that in sailing round Libya they had the sun upon their right hand. In this way was the extent of Libya first discovered.

Herodotus, Histories, Book 4 ch. 42

"sun on the right hand" sounds like "noon sun was in the north as they went west below South Africa".

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Some thoughts on #BoycottIndiana

So, as you may have heard, Indiana passed its version of a "religion freedom" aka freedom to discriminate against gays bill, and there's lots of backlash, from Salesforce pulling out, to the NCAA and GenCon making noises about doing so, to a Twitter/Facebook campaign led among others by George "Sulu" Takei to boycott the state. There's also opposition to such a boycott, even from the left, particularly among those with ties to Indiana. E.g.

She makes what seem like strong arguments. Thing is, they always apply. Geographic (as opposed to specific-corporate) boycotts and their official version, sanctions, are crude tools that can hurt lots of innocent people. That's as true of boycotting apartheid South Africa or divesting from Israel or sanctions on Russia as it is of the sanctions on Iraq or a boycott in this case. McEwan does touch on this: "If you're a person who criticizes sanctions against foreign nations because you understand that they harm the people of the nation more than the government, but then turn around and advocate boycotting states, you're not a progressive—you're a fauxgressive." But what if you do support the apartheid boycott and Putin-sanctions?

An obvious response is "this bill isn't *that* bad". Of course, I'd be a straight person thinking that. But an obvious counter seems to be "no it's not as bad, but it's going in the wrong direction, and we boycott now to keep it from getting worse."

Also, the audience isn't just Indiana, it's any other state thinking about going down the same path. If the Republicans of OtherState see that such laws provoke real backlash from the business community, this may cool their ardor for pandering to their homophobic base.

Me, I don't know. Boycotts *are* a crude tool, but I've never ruled them out before. Mostly it's irrelevant to me, it's not like I buy anything clearly sourced from Indiana.


As a tangent, there's also articles on how 40% of the states already have 'similar' laws. But this is the one that provoked a backlash, including from billion-dollar companies that can afford good legal advice. Is the backlash an arbitrary decision of the zeitgeist, or is this law actually worse in specific ways?

Edit: one difference I hear is that some of those states, like Illinois, have anti-discrimination laws that supersede their "religious freedom" laws. Indiana doesn't and Governor Pence doesn't want one.

Edit 2: "But Adam Talbot, a spokesman with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, stressed that those 20 laws are "dramatically different in their scope and effect."

From elsewhere: "Illinois' RFRA is not like yours. Illinois' RFRA does not feature clauses that allow businesses in the state to treat their personal beliefs as their business' beliefs. Indiana's does.

Illinois has also enacted anti-discrimination protection for GLBT people in the state, making the argument of whether a state business could discriminate according to the owners religious beliefs moot."
"Calling them similar in this way risks being misleading. Indiana is the broadest and most dangerous law of its kind in the country," Talbot said."

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American social psychosis

'Recently, researchers at the University of Virginia conducted interviews with 100 parents. “Nearly all respondents remember childhoods of nearly unlimited freedom, when they could ride bicycles and wander through woods, streets, parks, unmonitored by their parents,” writes Jeffrey Dill, one of the researchers.

But when it comes to their own children, the same respondents were terrified by the idea of giving them only a fraction of the freedom they once enjoyed. Many cited fear of abduction, even though crime rates have declined significantly.

The most recent in-depth study found that, in 1999, only 115 children nationwide were victims of a “stereotypical kidnapping” by a stranger; the overwhelming majority were abducted by a family member. That same year, 2,931 children under 15 died as passengers in car accidents. Driving children around is statistically more dangerous than letting them roam freely.'


'Is your child ready for first grade? Earlier this month, Chicago Now blogger Christine Whitley reprinted a checklist from a 1979 child-rearing series designed to help a parent figure that one out. Ten out of 12 meant readiness. Can your child "draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?" Of course. Can she count "eight to ten pennies correctly?" Heck, yeah, I say for parents of kindergarteners everywhere. "Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?" Isn't that what preschool is for?

"Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?"'

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how many western TV shows have I seen?

I've seen about 100 anime series. (Go go IU anime club.) For Reasons (exposure to cliches), I wondered today how many Western TV shows I've seen to completion. I think I can count them on two hands.

Roswell (I *think* I saw it through)
Futurama? (not sure if I ever saw *all* of it.)
I, Claudius


I have seen a lot (like a couple seasons) of some others:

The Simpsons
Stargate SG-1 (probably have seen most of the first 7 seasons)
Dawson's Creek
Gilmore Girls
Doctor Who
Sarah Jane Adventures

And spotty (multiple episode) exposure to some others:

Game of Thrones
plus some others that I barely remember at all. Also, yes, I think I've seen little enough of TNG to be worth noting, whereas I remember (sadly) my exposure to Enterprise and Voyager.

So more than I thought at first. Still, something like 26 going down to exposure, with about 8 full shows, another 8 substantial. Of course, the US shows tend to be a lot longer. I think the longest anime I've seen is 75 episodes, which are half-hour (ignoring ad and title/credits time); B-5 was 5*22 episodes, Buffy and Angel 7*22 each, and those are hour eps. 418 hours for the three shows, which would be 32 26-episode anime series. Roswell's 3 seasons, SG-1 I've watched is probably at least 4 seasons in total...

Not sure if I've seen more hours of anime than of Western TV. Might be equal to within a factor of 2 and I don't care to count more precisely.

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St. Patrick's food articles

Irish people don't eat corned beef, have Irish butter instead. Grass-fed apparently, what with all the rain and grass, plus European butters have higher milkfat anyway.

As for the corned beef, the Irish valued cows for labor and milk -- hmm, should compare them to the Indians, not the Jews, as it later does -- and pig is the main Irish meat. "Corned beef" was a colonial export. Though Irish *immigrants* to the US started being able to afford meat, and bought a different corned beef... from their kosher neighbors in New York City.

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random stuff

A riddle! Not mine:

We are little airy creatures,
All of different voice and features;
One of us in glass is set,
One of us you'll find in jet,
T'other you may see in tin,
And the fourth a box within;
If the fifth you should pursue,
It can never fly from you.


I've sometimes seen "lady/princess in the streets, hooker/slut/??? in the sheets". Today I saw "Senpai in the streets, Hentai in the sheets."



Swiss fines wealth based fines
Finland fines day fines
Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland also have
some sliding-scale fines

bike lanes don't hurt businesses bike lanes and businesses

Thomas Piketty on Greece, eurozone monster

getting RPGs on the same page tool

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Geography fun

The Earth is about 40,000 km around. (40,006 polar, 40,075 equatorial.) This isn't a coincidence: the 1790s French defined the meter such that 10,000 km was the pole-equator distance. (Picking that ratio to be close to an existing unit.)

The volume of the Earth is 1 trillion km3. 1.083e12 if you need more digits. This is a coincidence.

Everest is the highest point above sea level. (mean sea level? the nearest ocean?) The land furthers from the Earth's center is Mount Chimborazo in the Andes, which at 1 degree South benefits from the equatorial bulge, vs. the 28 N of Everest.

The northernmost point of land and the southernmost point of ocean are at 83 N and 83 S.

(mine) What European country is due east of Florida?
(someone else) Which US state is closest to Africa?

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Costs of sprawl

Putting numbers on the obvious: sprawl costs taxpayers more. Canadian study, but ratio matters more than the precise numbers.
I'm amused that their low-density urban is near the high end of US cities -- Chicago, Boston -- while the "mid-density" is higher than anything I know of besides NYC. Certainly denser than San Francisco or Somerville.

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The fall of American democracy?

Two Vox links:

"The breakdown of American constitutional democracy is a contrarian view. But it's nothing more than the view that rather than everyone being wrong about the state of American politics, maybe everyone is right. Maybe Bush and Obama are dangerously exceeding norms of executive authority. Maybe legislative compromise really has broken down in an alarming way. And maybe the reason these complaints persist across different administrations and congresses led by members of different parties is that American politics is breaking down."

with several examples of "constitutional hardball".


tl;dr: gridlocked Congress (fueled by increasingly polarized and ideological parties), growing presidential power to fill the gap, backed by an increasingly partisan judiciary. Hey, we're lucky our system survived this long, most presidential ones don't.

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"The Coin", a Haruhi Suzumiya fanfic. It read like one of the novel translations, or better. From Haruhi's POV. I liked it a lot. Seems a lot shorter than the alleged word count.

There are 11 Elaine Belloc fanfics on AO3. I'm not sure any outright suck, but five in particular stood out to me.

They're all pretty short, and I'm too lazy to give additional descriptions. They do tend to a common "Elaine chatting with Lucifer" theme.

Possibly linked before: Speak of the Devil, a Lucifer/Madoka-Rebellion crossover fanfic. I've seen the Madoka series, though not Rebellion. I thought it was pretty good as writing, and as a worked crossover fic, including addressing my metaphysical objections to "how could this even happen".

Not a completed fanfic, more a sketch of ideas: Bishop Jayne.

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some women in Roman history

"Theodosius II was made Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, at seven years of age. On July 4, 414 a fifteen-year-old Pulcheria proclaimed herself regent over him, then thirteen years of age, and made herself Augusta and Empress of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Theodosius II died on July 26, 450, and Pulcheria soon married Marcian on November 25, 450. Marcian and Pulcheria were proclaimed Emperor and Empress of the Eastern Roman Empire. Three years later, in July 453, Pulcheria died and was later made a saint by the Church.[2] Pulcheria is known to have held a significant amount of power in her brother's reign as emperor. Pulcheria was also the greatest influence over the church and theological practices of this time by presiding and guiding two of the most important Councils in Church history( Ephesus and Chalcedon) , including over anti-pagan policies, church-building projects, and the debate over the Marian title Theotokos ("Birth-giver to God")."

"Irene of Athens or Irene the Athenian (Greek: Εἰρήνη ἡ Ἀθηναία) (c. 752 – 9 August 803) is the commonly known name of Irene Sarantapechaina (Greek: Εἰρήνη Σαρανταπήχαινα), Byzantine empress regnant from 797 to 802."

There's others, like Empress Theodora, or the breakaway queen Zenobia, or the unofficial power of Livia, whose husband was Augustus. I do note it seems easier to find powerful 'Roman' women in the Christian Byzantine empire.

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Urban density: metric data and Fermi problems

Back in college, I found a newspaper article talking about the decline of US cities (or not, of a few) and it gave population densities. Having read Jane Jacobs and turned into a wee amateur urbanist, I memorized the numbers. I still know them. But of course they were all in people/sq. mile. Since I'm on a one person campaign to get more comfortable with the units used by 96% of the human race, I thought I'd type up the numbers in /km2, for my better retention. And then I'll do various botec/Fermi modeling, to try to show what's going on on the ground.

People/square km
(cities proper unless otherwise indicated)
(numbers vary a bit, depending on I don't know what; I haven't tried capturing the ranges, except for Seattle).

San Francisco Chinatown: 29,000
Manhattan 26,000
Paris 22,000
Paris 11th arrondissement: 42,000
Tokyo 23 wards: 14,500
Brooklyn 13,500
Boston Chinatown: 11,000
NYC 10,000

Santiago de Chile 8500
Somerville 7300
San Francisco 6900
Cambridge 6300
Tokyo 6000
London 5400
Boston 5200
Chicago 4900
Amsterdam 4900
DC 4100
Berkeley 4100

Los Angeles 3200
Seattle 2600-3000
Pasadena 2300
San Jose 2000
Portland OR: 1700
Houston 1550
Dallas 1400
Spokane 1400
Atlanta 1200
Austin 1000

Read more...Collapse )

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US stagnation

2014 article on how the US poor and middle class are falling behind their counterparts in social democracies. Low-tax, low-service policies are bad for almost everyone, who knew?
Assume ellipses between almost all the paragraphs below, I'm excerpting.

"After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.

A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.

Median per capita income was $18,700 in the United States in 2010 (which translates to about $75,000 for a family of four after taxes), up 20 percent since 1980 but virtually unchanged since 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The same measure, by comparison, rose about 20 percent in Britain between 2000 and 2010 and 14 percent in the Netherlands. Median income also rose 20 percent in Canada between 2000 and 2010, to the equivalent of $18,700.

But other income surveys, conducted by government agencies, suggest that since 2010 pay in Canada has risen faster than pay in the United States and is now most likely higher. Pay in several European countries has also risen faster since 2010 than it has in the United States.

Americans between the ages of 55 and 65 have literacy, numeracy and technology skills that are above average relative to 55- to 65-year-olds in rest of the industrialized world, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group. Younger Americans, though, are not keeping pace: Those between 16 and 24 rank near the bottom among rich countries, well behind their counterparts in Canada, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia and close to those in Italy and Spain.

Top executives make substantially more money in the United States than in other wealthy countries.

But both opinion surveys and interviews suggest that the public mood in Canada and Northern Europe is less sour than in the United States today.

“The crisis had no effect on our lives,” Jonas Frojelin, 37, a Swedish firefighter, said, referring to the global financial crisis that began in 2007. He lives with his wife, Malin, a nurse, in a seaside town a half-hour drive from Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city.

They each have five weeks of vacation and comprehensive health benefits. They benefited from almost three years of paid leave, between them, after their children, now 3 and 6 years old, were born. Today, the children attend a subsidized child-care center that costs about 3 percent of the Frojelins’ income.

Even with a large welfare state in Sweden, per capita G.D.P. there has grown more quickly than in the United States over almost any extended recent period — a decade, 20 years, 30 years. Sharp increases in the number of college graduates in Sweden, allowing for the growth of high-skill jobs, has played an important role.

And tax records collected by Thomas Piketty and other economists suggest that the United States no longer has the highest average income among the bottom 90 percent of earners.

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Anime I am watching

Currently watching Mouretsu Pirates and Yona of the Dawn. Pirates is a weird mix of semi-hard SF, outright silliness, and massive femininity. It's light-hearted and fun. Have watched through ep 17 of 26 so far. It's a bit dizzying what things they put effort into justifying, what they handwave. The future society seems pleasant, there's a lot of female characters with diverse talents and even a bit of racial or body type diversity, and I'm not sure it does pass reverse Bechdel -- given the premise, when two men do talk, they're usually talking about the lead girl, though not in a romantic way.

The original novels were titled "Miniskirt Space Pirates" but it's actually shockingly low on fanservice. Schoolgirl skirts in zero gravity simply fail to have the obvious failure modes. One of the adult pirates dresses pretty racily, but the camera doesn't male-gaze her, not the schoolgirls; there'll just be people talking, one of whom is showing a lot of skin, but it doesn't linger on her, nor does she poes. There's a *bit* of that in the ending, a brief zoom-in on schoolgirl walking thighs, but that's it.


4 of 17 and ongoing for Yona, which is like a blend of Seiunkoku Monagatari, Twelve Kingdoms, and maybe Seirei no Moribito. Fantasy China^WKorea, anyway. Only one female character of note, the eponymous Yona, lead princess in what looks like a possible reverse harem. I haven't looked up where this comes from yet. So far I'm intrigued but not blown away; I'm watching because a friend recommended it.

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Damien Sullivan

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