August 2014 Media Thread

post by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:11.698Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 108 comments

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.


NOTE: The rules this month have been edited slightly, for the purpose of greater clarity. Their intended meaning hasn't changed, just the wording. Please discuss any disagreement/objection under the "Meta" thread.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by shminux · 2014-08-01T20:58:51.230Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Which thread do online serials like Worm and Ra belong in?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:15:40.323Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd put them in fiction book myself, or other media. Also, this comment belongs in 'Meta Thread'.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2014-08-01T21:36:55.994Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eh, disagree on both counts. Web serials are different from finished books, and the meta thread is apparently for a poll about new threads. Anyway, maybe a new thread is needed. Or not. Just wondering, really.

Replies from: skeptical_lurker, Luke_A_Somers, ArisKatsaris
comment by skeptical_lurker · 2014-08-02T16:36:18.869Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Clearly we need a meta-meta thread to discuss the purpose of the meta-thread.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-08-02T15:06:11.752Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Worm is finished, isn't it?

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T22:57:26.353Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, the meta thread isn't exclusively for polls -- such questions also belong there. I agree with gwern on that.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:59.269Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fanfiction Thread

Replies from: Nectanebo, David_Gerard, Alejandro1
comment by Nectanebo · 2014-08-02T12:54:37.311Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Metropolitan Man is finally complete. If you still haven't read it and you're on this site, I recommend you do. You likely won't regret it.

This story was recommended in the last two media threads:



Replies from: alexanderwales, NancyLebovitz, ArisKatsaris
comment by alexanderwales · 2014-08-03T05:24:47.135Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the recommendation - those always make me happy. :)

Replies from: Nectanebo
comment by Nectanebo · 2014-08-03T06:15:59.078Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I really liked it. I think it's one of the best pieces of fiction I've ever read, I genuinely feel that strongly about it.

Can't wait for whatever you write next.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-05T19:33:58.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was impressed by the characterizations, especially Lois Lane and Clark Kent/Superman, but did Lex ever consider the possibility that trying to kill Superman might increase the risk of Superman becoming inimical to the human race?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-05T19:46:12.360Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm pretty sure that comes up somewhere in it. The obvious response is that Superman is likely going to go bad at any time (either from mental illness, disgust with humanity, long-laid alien plans, or unexpected development of his power) so you're not so much changing the risk as changing the timing, and that avoiding research into killing Superman also means you are indefinitely exposed to anyone like Superman.

And of course, Lex does do his best to keep the work a secret from Superman to the extent humanly possible, and doesn't actually try to kill Superman until the last moment when Superman forces his hand.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-06T13:48:54.097Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm pretty sure Lex doesn't consider it, but I'd have to reread it to make sure. My memory is that Lex just looks at the risk of of Superman becoming dangerous, which is fairly low, and considers that the amount of damage Superman could do is so high that drastic measures must be taken. IIRC, Lex never finds out how very non-human Superman is, so I can't blame him for not updating on the risk of mental problems.

I'm more certain that Lex never considers the possibility that if Superman exists, then so might other aliens, so Superman might be needed to defend the earth from alien attack.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-06T16:15:12.361Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, he definitely takes seriously the mental concerns seriously. Consider :

Superman was an extinction level event waiting to happen, and where those were concerned there were no second chances. If Superman ever decided to kill everyone, there would be no stopping him, and so it stood to reason that humanity should take every possible precaution to prevent that from happening. The most direct path would be through killing Superman. Lex had written multiple letters to the editor under various pseudonyms, but none had ever been published, and his point of view seemed entirely unpopular. It was always one that he voiced from a position of anonymity, because in public he was playing the role of Superman's champion.

People were bad at estimating the risk that an extinction posed, because no one had ever lived through one. People were also quite bad at imagining a catastrophe so large. A woman might weep when you mentioned the possibility of her child dying from consumption, but the total obliteration of Earth-originating life would produce only a shrug. It was too vast for people to think about rationally. Worse, they assumed that "Superman is the greatest threat to humanity" was a shorthand for some decision on Superman's part, when in truth that was only a part of it.

Many people accepted Superman's story at face value; the last son of a dying planet, the only one of his kind to exhibit such incredible powers, with little aid from technology save for the ship that had provided him with a trip through the stars. There were many parts of the story that Lex was skeptical of, but he found it most terrifying to think that the story was true, namely because of what it suggested about Kryptonian science.

Huntington's disease was a hereditary degenerative disease with cognitive and psychiatric symptoms, one of which was psychosis. Huntington's was seen in perhaps one in eight thousand people, and psychosis was seen in perhaps one in ten of those. If a randomly selected human of Superman's apparent age were to obtain Superman's powers, there would be a one in eighty thousand chance that they would both have Huntington's disease and symptoms of psychosis, the result of which would probably be casualties that would dwarf the Great War by a large margin. If Superman was telling the truth about the culture that he came from, his society wasn't much further advanced than humanity, and so likely hadn't grown past degenerative diseases and hereditary defects. Even if Superman were perfectly good in some abstract sense, the onset of a mental disease might be just around the corner.

Worse, if Superman's powers weren't the result of engineering and carefully controlled science (a hard pill to swallow) then no one had made sure that they were safe, and perhaps some day something internal to him would simply unravel, unleashing enough energy to destroy an entire hemisphere. If Superman was to be believed, his powers had come from seemingly nowhere, and yet everyone simply trusted them as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

Estimates were difficult to make, given Superman's silence. His second interview with Lois Lane had provided little illumination. Nevertheless, numbers could be pulled from thin air in order to get a sense of things. There was the possibility that something would happen that was completely outside of Superman's control which would result in Superman destroying the Earth. There was the possibility that Superman could simply have a bad day and decide to kill a large number of people, which many people seemed to think was absurd. There were also failure modes which didn't involve the destruction of humanity but would nevertheless result in an effective end to humanity as Lex Luthor knew it, the most probable of which seemed to be that Superman would turn into a tyrant. When these probabilities were multiplied together, the final very rough estimate was that Superman had a one in ten chance of bringing about a global scale human catastrophe of some kind in the next thirty years. Even if the odds had been one in a hundred, Lex would have taken a similarly extreme course of action.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-06T19:10:09.035Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for posting that.

I can't see anything to indicate that Lex considered the possibility that he'd increase Superman's bad days, and might cause a disaster before he'd found a way to stop or kill Superman. He also doesn't consider the possibility that Superman's account of his biology is false, as it turned out to be.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-02T17:18:31.331Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I second this recommendation.

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-08-04T16:09:45.171Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

THE TECHNO QUEEN (capitals) (thunder). I've spent the last month reading Worm fanfics and this is definitely the finest so far. Up there with The Goblin Queen.

Replies from: shminux
comment by shminux · 2014-08-13T18:30:54.927Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I liked the first few chapters, then it becomes too self-referential for my tastes, so I dropped it.

comment by Alejandro1 · 2014-08-02T16:56:37.864Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Turnabout Confusion is a Daria fanfic that portrays Lawndale High as being as full of Machiavellian plotters as HPMOR!Hogwarts is. Each student is keenly aware of their role in the popularity food chain, and most are constantly scheming on how to advance on it. When Daria and Quinn exchange roles for a few days on a spontaneous bet, they unwittingly set a chain reaction of plots and counterplots, leading to a massive Gambit Pileup that could overturn completely the whole social order of the school…

Part One: We All Fall Down.

Part Two: All the King's Horses.

Replies from: Risto_Saarelma
comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2014-08-05T10:27:36.436Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This gets pretty incomprehensible pretty fast if you remember a show that had Daria, Jane, Quinn and Nameless Background Characters in it.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:54.528Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nonfiction Books Thread

Replies from: StephenR, gwern, spxtr, Vulture, RichardKennaway, mesolude
comment by StephenR · 2014-08-04T02:39:51.420Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. Very famous book, and worthy of its reputation by the looks of things. About halfway through at the moment. Something I did not know before reading the preface was that Kuhn was a grad student in theoretical physics.

Induction: Processes of Inference, Learning and Discovery by Holland et al. This is a collaborative interdisciplinary work that straddles computer science, psychology and philosophy of science. It's almost 30 years old now, but I still found that I gained some perspective by reading it. One of its most important arguments is that induction should be viewed as a pragmatic rather than syntactic process, i.e. you won't get a working theory of induction without putting a spotlight on agents' goals and how they influence the hypothesis space and categorisations of the agent.

Replies from: Protagoras
comment by Protagoras · 2014-08-04T05:33:29.918Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Kuhn certainly knew physics better than he knew philosophy. The frequently mentioned "positivist" in his narrative is entirely made of straw. He discusses a lot of interesting ideas, and he wrote better than many people who had discussed similar ideas previously, but most of the ideas had been discussed previously, sometimes extensively; he was apparently simply not very aware of the previous literature in the philosophy of science.

Replies from: RichardKennaway, jsteinhardt, StephenR
comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-08-04T10:39:58.666Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Kuhn certainly knew physics better than he knew philosophy.

Ah. Well.

comment by jsteinhardt · 2014-08-04T05:53:52.266Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wasn't his book extremely influential within philosophy? Whether or not he was aware of previous literature, his own contribution seems to have been vast.

comment by StephenR · 2014-08-04T16:13:41.254Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you're exaggerating. The amount of references he makes to publications in philosophy, social science, science and history suggests he was aware of a big chunk of the literature relevant to his interests.

Still, I'm interested in hearing some criticisms in more detail. Where specifically does he rely on straw man arguments?

Replies from: Protagoras
comment by Protagoras · 2014-08-04T18:13:13.351Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't have time to re-read the whole book to come up with examples, and there is unhelpfully no index in my copy, but checking through the footnotes quickly, I found exactly two references to actual positivists (or close enough); a quick dismissive paragraph on Ernest Nagel's use of probability theory, and a passing reference to Philipp Frank's biography of Einstein. No references to Reichenbach or Hempel or Carnap. The closest he comes is perhaps the (one) reference to Goodman, who was heavily influenced by Carnap, but Kuhn cites Goodman favorably, while apparently being unaware of how positivist-influenced the ideas he was agreeing with were. There's also a citation of Wittgenstein, which seems vaguely favorable but complains about Wittgenstein's lack of development of an idea, which is surely fair enough; I won't mark anyone down for complaining about that problem in Wittgenstein. But I do have to give low marks for talking so much about "the positivist" while citing only one major positivist philosopher of science (Ernest Nagel) and attributing many views to "the positivist" which are far more simplistic than that positivist would ever have endorsed. Also no references to Duhem. Quine doesn't get mentioned until the postscript, although it's quite plausible that the enthusiasm for Kuhn at the time was part of the same broader phenomenon that turned Quine and Putnam and Goodman into huge stars in philosophy around the same time (all three of those were also to varying degrees prone to denial about the extent of their influence from positivism, but at least they were generally better about citing actual positivists when criticizing them).

Maybe he's referring to Comte or Mach? But I saw no references to them at all, and criticizing 19th century figures in 1962 doesn't sound very revolutionary. The most charitable I can be is that there may have been some confused historians of science employing some positivist ideas without understanding them (I don't know much about history of science in Kuhn's time), and Kuhn's "positivist" may be an assembly of such characters. But that's just speculation. It still seems to me that Kuhn is part of the depressing philosophical tradition of ignoring and misrepresenting previous philosophers in order to appear more original and insightful.

Which is not to say that the book is worthless. I do find the idea of a paradigm very fruitful, and it seems a lot of scientific progress involves the discovery of new ways of making observations, and these are issues that perhaps hadn't gotten sufficient emphasis prior to Kuhn. But a lot of the radical claims that he is most famous for are either not as radical or original as he claimed, or not as well supported by his examples as his very slick writing might lead one to believe, or both.

comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:15:52.895Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • 2014 COPSS anthology, Past, Present, and Future of Statistical Science (review)
  • Pioneers of Soviet Computing, Malinovsky 2010 (review)
comment by spxtr · 2014-08-02T22:54:30.897Z · LW(p) · GW(p) Replies from: Benito
comment by Vulture · 2014-08-13T02:34:38.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Greatly enjoyed Peter Singer's Practical Ethics. Covers his positions on various political issues, including a non-crazy discussion of race and intelligence, and the ethical implications thereof. I think Singer has been recommended here before, but to reiterate: he's a preference utilitarian consequentialist philosopher whose style and clarity of analysis is very Less-Wrong-esque, but he engages directly with the philosophical tradition. Both the meta- and object-level analysis are well worth reading.

Edit: In particular, if you're interested in how philosophers think and talk about the orthogonality thesis and some related practical matters, his final chapter is an exceptionally lucid starting point. Singer also gets bonus coolness points there for discussion of the actual (disclaimer: 1978) research on psychopathy, and its relation to the concept of normativity.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2014-08-12T07:44:59.218Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Reza Aslan's Zealot. It's a life and times of Jesus. I am not qualified to judge the story he tells; I would be interested to see comments from anyone who is. The story is of a messianic zealot, of a sort that were common in those days, from the poor and obscure village of Nazareth, who wandered around preaching a message of deliverance for the Jewish people to happen in this world, not the next. He eventually came up against the Roman powers in Jerusalem, who immediately executed him for sedition, as they did all of his sort. The label "King of the Jews" on the cross was not a recognition of his divine status, but the charge against him. The only thing that distinguishes him from other failed messiahs (of whom Aslan mentions a good many) was that his movement survived his death and grew.

Aslan passes on the question of whether the resurrection actually happened, but identifies it as the key idea that transformed the movement into one that would spread across the world. Without the resurrection, Jesus is just another false messiah, the crucifixion being the proof of his falsity. Aslan declares the resurrection to be "not a historical event" and to lie "outside the scope of history", which seems like fudging. The paucity of sources may make it inaccessible to historical inquiry, but in fact, either something of the sort happened or it did not. Other messiahs were executed and that was the end of them. Somehow, in Jesus' case, the idea of the resurrection took hold and gave his followers hope for the future of what he had started.

Those followers continued to meet, led by James, Peter, and John. First among these was James, brother of Jesus. But then Paul had some sort of conversion experience, joined the movement, and then fought bitterly with its leaders to take it over and take it in a new direction, one more palatable to the Roman authority. The very idea of Jewish deliverance from oppression was eliminated, the kingdom was declared to be not of this world, Jesus' death was firmly placed on the heads of the Jews, Pilate was whitewashed (the whole trial account in the Gospels, Reza says, is clearly fiction), James in Jerusalem was marginalised in favour of Peter in Rome, the original emphasis on justice for the poor and upholding of the Jewish law faded away, and modern Christianity began to be created.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz, None
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-15T17:09:43.258Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In a radio interview (and less emphatically in the book), Aslan says there's no evidence of the Roman government permitting a crucified corpse to be buried. Part of the point of crucifixion was to desecrate the corpse.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-08-12T07:51:15.512Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you liked Zealot, his prior book No God But God is also good. It does a similar treatment of the history of Islam and an analysis of the ongoing reformation within the religion that is currently driving world politics.

comment by mesolude · 2014-08-03T05:20:29.222Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • The Age of Spiritual Machines - Ray Kurzweil, outdated but thought provoking.
  • My Stroke of Insight - Jill B Taylor, a TED talk-ish book on neuroscience for the masses.
  • I am a Strange Loop - Douglas Hofstadter, GEB without the dialogues and focused on consciousness.
  • The Signal and the Noise - Nate Silver, makes a good case for Bayes' theorem without showing the theorem.
  • Social Engineering: the Art of Human Hacking - Chris Hadnagy, rehashes Cialdini's Influence, describes some neat techniques, and includes some pseudoscience. Still nice intro to social engineering despite the author being a pentester, not a writer.
comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:49.433Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fiction Books Thread

Replies from: None, NancyLebovitz, mesolude, gwern, Nornagest, moonshadow
comment by [deleted] · 2014-08-04T12:47:45.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • The Causal Angel - Hannu Rajaniemi, Conclusion to the Quantum Thief trilogy. I enjoyed it maybe 80% as much as the first book.
  • Anvil of the Stars - Greg Bear, sequel to the The Forge of God.
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-15T17:34:50.326Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Spellbound by Ru Emerson.

This is a retelling of Cinderella, and it's notable for sensible characters (some bad emotional habits, but they're thinking about what they're doing a lot of the time). There's care taken with practical details-- no matter how much of a hurry you're in, you still need to get the horse ready to be ridden.

I also liked it because some of the scary bits were distinctively scary.... and there's a quite an unusual take on the prince searching for the mystery woman.

comment by mesolude · 2014-08-03T05:27:22.195Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly - Sun-mi Hwang, touching contemporary fable.
  • Nightfall - Isaac Asimov, old enough to be cliche and predictable despite being original for its time.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire (1-5) - G R R Martin, took a while to read and addictive. Stays interesting if he explores a character you can relate to.
  • Guards! Guards!, Going Postal, and Making Money - Terry Pratchett, fun Discworld novels.
comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:16:00.324Z · LW(p) · GW(p) Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-02T06:31:09.239Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What did you think of Brain Wave? It's one of the most vivid descriptions of intelligence increase in sf.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-02T14:54:11.728Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found it overall fairly good but as far as intelligence went, almost hopelessly outdated, both in its ideas about what increased intelligence would look like and its effects on society - when was the last time you saw an elevator operator? (Especially the obsession with new natural languages as a feature of greater intelligence; but see my review of Malinovsky for more discussion of that: ) A few bits made me face-fault too - like how he took a perfectly good solution to the Fermi Paradox and then casually screwed it up by mentioning other starfaring civilizations.

comment by Nornagest · 2014-08-15T19:31:32.156Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I recently picked up the (commercial; I understand there are fan translations in the wild) English translations of the Witcher books by Andrzej Sapkowski as airplane reading, partly because I found the games interesting but poor at explaining background but mostly because I'd woken up at 5 AM to catch my flight and didn't have the bandwidth to keep slogging through the dense mock-Elizabethan prose of The Worm Ouroboros.

The series is subversive fantasy with a heavy dose of folktale influence, somewhere between Gregory Macguire's books and A Song of Ice and Fire in tone, and while it doesn't add much to that subgenre that I haven't seen before, it does pull it off competently and from a perspective I'm not used to. (I suspect this latter has something to do with its Polish origins.) It does hew a little too close to genre convention in places; there are good narrative reasons to have nonhumans running around, for example, but not to pull in the full D&D-style demihuman panoply. On the other hand, it's unusually good at grounding its genre: nations fall and are created, for example, over periods of a few decades rather than staying static for Tolkienian centuries or millennia. Monsters are treated as rare and dangerous animals rather than unique aberrations. Individual martial skill is valuable but easily neutralized by luck or fatigue or weight of numbers. Magicians approach their craft more as scientists than as sages or superheroes. It's a fairly refreshing take and I'd like to see more of it.

The weakest point's probably the translations tapped for Kindle, which are noticeably inconsistent and pretty clunky in places. Characterization's competent but nothing to write home about.

comment by moonshadow · 2014-08-12T11:34:25.739Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • There is a new Robin Hobb out as of today (in the UK, anyway), "Fool's Assassin". An automatic buy on the strength of the previous novels for me; will report further once I have finished it.
comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:44.893Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

TV and Movies (Animation) Thread

Replies from: ShardPhoenix, moonshadow, gwern
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-08-02T05:01:31.655Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Knights of Sidonia is a 13 episode (so far) series about space pilots in the far future who defend their generation ship from alien attacks. I really enjoyed the dark atmosphere (huge image) and the show-not-tell world-building. Sidonia, while probably not as strange as it really would be (some aspects are a bit contemporary-Japan-in-space), still feels like a different enough place to be interesting. The pure-CGI graphics worked well for me, though some people find the CGI characters a bit offputting. The action was also quite exciting at times. The only major weakness I felt is that the main character is rather bland, though by the end he's slowly improving, which brings hope for him in the upcoming sequel.

There is an English-dubbed version available on Netflix for those who have access.

comment by moonshadow · 2014-08-01T23:41:38.274Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anime from the current season:

  • Terror in Resonance is a kind of reverse Death Note without the magic
  • Aldnoah Zero is shaping up to be a Code Geass-alike, although the timescales for the alternative history are implausible enough to jolt one out of suspending disbelief occasionally.
Replies from: ShardPhoenix
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-08-02T05:05:19.052Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Terror in Resonance is a kind of reverse Death Note without the magic

I really like the style and direction of this show, but the actual plot is pretty generic so far.

comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:17:10.751Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (I found it relatively interesting and the harem antics not as bad as expected; Spice and Wolf is still better, though)
comment by Friendly-HI · 2014-08-02T14:59:38.533Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am (still) listening to an audio-book called "Command and Control" by Eric Schlosser. It's mainly dealing with a Titan II missile incident in the US. I know the Stanislav Petrov and Vasili Arkhipov incidents, but very little about just how badly America managed her own stockpile. I was prepared this would send a few shivers down my spine and I was not disappointed.

What I don't like about it is that first and foremost it's written in a way to tell a gripping story, so the juicy information is embedded in a narrative that spends too much time describing things I don't care about. It jumps around too much, it cuts just like a movie - the overarching plot is the Titan II incident and the narrative jumps back and forth from this red thread to how the first bomb was built and tested, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, how the bombers worked, how Eisenhower saw it, how Kennedy saw it, how the safety and failsafe mechanisms were slowly developed and added, how NATO became the dumping ground for missiles that were just about as likely to blow up somewhere you didn't want as they were to hit anywhere close to a Soviet target...

I'm not quite finished with it yet but I mainly enjoyed listening so far and learned quite a deal despite the suboptimal "story-presentation". Also I can only recommend audio-books in general, they are really good while you have to do tedious chores that require more working with your hands than with your head.

Replies from: Friendly-HI
comment by Friendly-HI · 2014-08-02T15:03:48.790Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh no I cocked that one up. I wanted to copy-paste this under "Meta", as audio-books aren't listed yet. I thought to retract this post meant to delete it entirely. Captain?

Replies from: gwern, ArisKatsaris
comment by gwern · 2014-08-02T15:16:38.025Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When you retract a comment, then a deletion button appears in the retraction button's place. So deletion is a two-step process.

Replies from: Friendly-HI
comment by Friendly-HI · 2014-08-02T15:35:00.565Z · LW(p) · GW(p) there a time limit before that happens? Because my button is gone now yet it wasn't replaced by another button, it just says "Retracted" where the button was beforehand and the word is not clickable either.

Replies from: ArisKatsaris, gwern
comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-02T16:43:53.029Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you just need to reload the page for the 'delete' option to become available to your retracted comment, but that it's only possible if it hasn't yet been responded to. So the very fact you asked about how to delete it under your original post, meant that you no longer could.

Replies from: Friendly-HI
comment by Friendly-HI · 2014-08-03T00:53:28.928Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Someone with moderator/admin rights should be able to delete it entirely - if anyone with those rights passes by here then please do so. Sorry for the inconvenience.

comment by gwern · 2014-08-02T15:39:54.401Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not sure. There may be an interaction with whether it's been replied to.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-02T16:40:56.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wanted to copy-paste this under "Meta", as audio-books aren't listed yet.

Btw, that's what the "Other Media" thread is for, not the Meta thread. I've inherited the 'rules' from my predecessors, but I'll edit the post to try and make them a bit more clear, short and to the point, for this and all future monthly media threads...

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:43:09.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Short Online Texts Thread

Replies from: gwern, gwern, gwern, westward, NancyLebovitz, Risto_Saarelma
comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:18:21.336Z · LW(p) · GW(p)





Replies from: Benito
comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2014-08-01T22:28:31.899Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The walrus lodger add is down; could you explain what the add was for exactly?

I mean...

Did someone want a walrus as a lodger?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T22:45:59.869Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did someone want a walrus as a lodger?

Basically, but they were willing to settle for someone who would pretend to be a walrus for a few hours each day in exchange for free rent. A pity it's gone, it was fairly funny even if I have to doubt its veracity.

comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:17:53.180Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Everything is heritable:


Replies from: MrMind
comment by MrMind · 2014-08-02T08:23:43.452Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My only regret is that I can't think of any situation in which I actually need an exact calculation of how much it would have cost to get from Londinium to Rome during winter while avoiding the Atlantic

What about constructing a decent fantasy-world economics? ;)

Truly remarkable though...

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-05T20:21:39.989Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What about constructing a decent fantasy-world economics? ;)

An alt-historical fic maybe, but you'd have to input an entire world of data to construct a fantasy world. Seriously, the world in ORBIS is amazing: they have detailed geographical tiles of land/shore/water/various-routes, water current speed in both direction, fees for each point to point, variation in fees by time of year... You'd spend more time constructing your world in ORBIS than it would take to write your novel with some reasonable guesses as to plausible economics.

Replies from: MrMind
comment by MrMind · 2014-08-06T09:15:08.642Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I know of at least one author who did exactly that (not with Orbis though). Predictably, the outcome was pretty boring.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-06T16:18:18.193Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Who was that?

Predictably, the outcome was pretty boring.

Yeah, realistic worlds are not necessarily optimized for being entertaining. That's why fiction exists, after all - because we're not satisfied with nonfiction.

comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:18:04.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)



Replies from: pianoforte611, PhilGoetz
comment by pianoforte611 · 2014-08-01T23:59:08.557Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gwern, are you human?

Serious question, do you naturally find high quality media the most entertaining or did you train yourself to make better use of your leisure time? I can't exactly define high quality media but I would say that all of those links are higher quality than youtube and online video games for instance.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-02T00:21:02.183Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I specifically quit video games to try to force myself to more important stuff. I do spend time on Youtube (as you can see from my music comments), but mostly for music which can be put in the background.

comment by PhilGoetz · 2014-08-09T18:34:04.140Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That okcupid link is really worth checking out... if you want to be depressed about humanity.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-15T17:22:20.910Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Originist by Orson Scott Card.

This may be the best science fiction story I have ever read, nudging Egan's Wang's Carpets out of first place. By best, I mean a high concentration of sparkly ideas, and in the case of the Card story, reasons to be fond of the human race-- and there's a metalevel, because a lot of the story is about the good we get from having mental models of each other, and the story is Card trying to channel Asimov.

It has none of the character torture which makes a lot of Card's fiction squicky to me.

I read it in Maps in a Mirror, and I can't vouch that the online version is complete or correct. On the other hand, I want to improve the odds of the story getting read.

If you're a Card fan, you may want to get the hardcover edition-- it's got some stories which are mentioned as not being included in the paperback edition.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:43:03.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Online Videos Thread

Replies from: pinyaka
comment by pinyaka · 2014-08-05T20:15:57.272Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Narcose - 13 min.

Deep water freediving exposes its practitioners to a form of narcosis, which induces several symptoms, among which a feeling of euphoria and levity that earned this phenomenon its nickname of “raptures of the deep”. The short film relates the interior journey of Guillaume Néry, the apnea world champion, during one of his deep water dives. It draws its inspiration from his physical experience and the narrative of his hallucinations.

La pratique de l’apnée en grande profondeur expose les apnéistes à un phénomène de narcose, appelé aussi « ivresse des profondeurs ». NARCOSE relate l’expérience et le voyage intérieur du champion du monde d’apnée, Guillaume Néry, lors d'une descente en grande profondeur. Le film s'inspire de son expérience physique et du récit réel de ses hallucinations.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:39.459Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

TV and Movies (Live Action) Thread

Replies from: gwern, David_Gerard, hesperidia, spxtr, shminux, shminux, StephenR
comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:16:39.408Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
comment by David_Gerard · 2014-08-04T16:11:58.129Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Finally showed the seven-year-old Star Wars this afternoon. (DVD Greedo-shot-first version, not that she gives a hoot.) She was delighted. Her previous reference for all the stuff in it is Angry Birds Star Wars. Culture! It's important!

comment by hesperidia · 2014-08-02T20:14:17.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would not recommend watching Persecuted in theaters. However, I would recommend later acquiring it, preferably in some fashion that does not pay the filmmakers (paying for it would just encourage more films of this type). It looks like it would be fun to invite some humanist/liberal friends over, make popcorn, and poke fun at it MST3K-style.

Note: film is about evangelical Christians persecuted by a Evil Liberal Establishment. If you are deconverted, please do not watch it alone. It will just make you angry.

comment by shminux · 2014-08-13T18:59:55.593Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Suits): first 3 seasons are on Netflix. "Legal" Will Hunting, complicated by the the prohibition against practicing law without a law degree, no matter how good you are and how many tests you pass. (It's as logical as prohibiting someone from working for Google because they do not have a B.Sc.)

Excellent through the first 1.5 seasons, with good amount of humor, movie references, interesting and comprehensible legal cases. Downhill after that, with all kinds of complications, increasingly caricature-like description of some characters, unbelievable (in a bad way) plot twists. Still funny. Probably worth watching just for the dialog.

comment by shminux · 2014-08-13T18:48:21.364Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Several new or recent SF&F shows:

  • Under the Dome) -- explores some interesting issues of isolated small towns, the SF aspect is totally superficial. Meandering plot. Decent acting. Also good for eye-candy if you like the actors. I am guessing that the Dome will stay up for as long as the show's ratings allow.

  • Extant) -- Halle Berry gets mysteriously pregnant by her former boyfriend's ghost while on a long solo space mission, and has to deal with her android child once back. Then it gets worse. Way worse. There is already a government conspiracy and there will be evil aliens shortly, I'm sure. The show is as ridiculous as it sounds. Not recommended unless you are a Halle Berry's fan. Well, they do explore the issue of AI integration into the society, but it is not done well at all.

  • The Lottery): basically Children of Men serialized, poorly. Annoying plot holes everywhere. Another government conspiracy, a cynical president, an evil head of a shady agency, just pick a trope and you have it. None of what the characters do makes any sense. If you like political drama, House of Cards is infinitely better.

comment by StephenR · 2014-08-04T02:52:20.518Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Both fantastically written by Wes Anderson.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:34.006Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Music Thread

Replies from: ShardPhoenix, gwern, pinyaka
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-08-02T05:17:32.211Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Last time I asked for some advice about Vocaloid and ended up with two tracks I really like:

Utata-P ft. 結月ゆかり - "There's Supposed to Be a Cheat Code for Happiness" (electronic/dance)

Azuma feat. Yuzuki Yukari - 夢魅鳥 - Yumemidori (rock/pop)

edit: fixed second link.

Replies from: Skeptityke, David_Gerard, gwern
comment by Skeptityke · 2014-08-02T19:22:04.113Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Further recommendations. Twice as many this time.

(remember, feedback on which songs were good and which ones sucked, possibly by PM, helps tailor recommendations to what you like.)

Setsugetsuka (Yukari) Another Yukari song since you seem to like those.

Lonesome Cat (Miku) Rock song about a cat. Funny.

Tori No Uta (IA) Cover of a song originally by the voice provider. Probably the best example of vocal tuning I've yet come across.

Cloud Rider (IA) Quite energetic, and one of the more prominent IA songs.

Smile Again (Miku, Gumi) I'm pretty sure this song needs to be classified as some sort of mood-altering drug.

And now for the electronic/dance/trance songs. They get more calming as you approach the bottom.

Twilight Star (IA) The first IA song I ever found. Still pretty nice.

Solosail Remix (Miku Dark Append) In a similar vein as Lost Memories and Idiolect. Feel free to let your impressions of those songs direct your interest in this one.

Unlimited Blue (Luka) It's always nice to see a non-Miku trance song. I mean, there are a lot of really good ones with Hatsune Miku, but the percentage is too high.

Starport (Yukari) Very calming and perfect at the end of a long day.

Planetarium (IA) The single most sleep-inducing Vocaloid song I know of. In a good way.

Oh, btw, for Yumemidori, this is the official upload of the creator which won't be taken down.

Replies from: ShardPhoenix
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-08-03T09:17:46.434Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh, btw, for Yumemidori, this is the official upload of the creator which won't be taken down.

Thanks, I fixed the link. (Haven't got around to listening to the others yet - honestly a large number of suggestions tends to be a bit intimidating).

comment by David_Gerard · 2014-08-02T20:53:25.444Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That Utata-P track is fabulous. I've been playing it all afternoon and listened most of the way through his official channel.

comment by gwern · 2014-08-02T15:13:32.859Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Utata-P ft. 結月ゆかり - "There's Supposed to Be a Cheat Code for Happiness" (electronic/dance)

I didn't like the song too much, but the lyrics/PV are interesting aren't they?

Warning, sketchy free MP3 site link

FWIW, you can always reupload to a host like Mega if you dislike those sort of adware sites. I've found Dropbox is easy to sign up for and good for light public traffic hosting.

Replies from: ShardPhoenix
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2014-08-03T09:19:55.214Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't like the song too much, but the lyrics/PV are interesting aren't they?

I'm sure a lot of people feel this way at one point or another.

FWIW, you can always reupload to a host like Mega if you dislike those sort of adware sites.

Yeah, I was just being lazy, but I've fixed the link now with the one provided by Skeptityke.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2014-08-05T19:49:58.839Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sure a lot of people feel this way at one point or another.

Absolutely. In particular, during high school I often felt much like the song. (I think I could've withstood the schooling itself without too much problem, but the waking up at 6AM and the 3 hours a day on the bus were the straw that pushed me over the edge into unhappiness and apathy.)

comment by gwern · 2014-08-01T21:17:31.745Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Explosions in the Sky:


God is an Astronaut:

comment by pinyaka · 2014-08-05T20:07:01.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Neotropic - Whiter Rabbits - The first 9 songs are her album White Rabbits and the rest are remixes.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:30.024Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Podcasts Thread

Replies from: pinyaka, adam_strandberg
comment by pinyaka · 2014-08-05T20:13:09.866Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Welcome to Night Vale - free to download, previously recommended here. The news is amusing, the weather segments are enjoyable if you have somewhat eclectic musical tastes and the hosts crush in Carlos the dreamy scientist is something to root for. I just finished episode 18.

WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.

Turn on your radio and hide.

Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin. Music by Disparition. Logo by Rob Wilson

comment by adam_strandberg · 2014-08-03T05:19:43.785Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Social Networks and Evolution: a great Oxford neuroscience talk. I will also shamelessly push this blog post that I wrote about the connection between the work in the lecture and Jared Diamond's thesis that agriculture was the worst mistake in human history.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-08-04T11:11:23.880Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A couple of minutes in, the podcast mentions the somewhat dubious idea that obesity spreads through social networks. Does this cast much doubt on the rest of the piece?

Replies from: adam_strandberg
comment by adam_strandberg · 2014-08-04T19:28:15.357Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As far as I can tell from the evidence given in the talk, contagious spreading of obesity is a plausible but not directly proven idea. Its plausibility comes from the more direct tests that he gives later in the talk, namely the observed spread of cooperation or defection in iterated games.

However, I agree that it's probably important to not too quickly talk about contagious obesity because (a) they haven't done the more direct interventional studies that would show whether this is true, and (b) speculating about contentious social issues in public before you have a solid understanding of what's going on leads to bad things. He could have more explicitly gotten at the point that we're not sure what effects cause the correlations that we see- I caught it but I suspect people paying less attention would come away thinking that they had proved the causal model.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:25.482Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Other Media Thread

Replies from: adam_strandberg, moonshadow
comment by adam_strandberg · 2014-08-03T06:33:15.738Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Moire Eel - move your cursor around and see all the beautfiul, beautiful moire patterns.

comment by moonshadow · 2014-08-01T23:48:17.948Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Peeking in on Pact, the serial the author of Worm is currently writing, was arguably a mistake: compulsively catching up ate almost a week, I advise the reader to be prepared for that before venturing in. Pact feels more tightly paced and plotted than early Worm often was, is every bit as compelling and its punches are, if anything, harder.
Replies from: Benito, gwillen
comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2014-08-02T09:53:51.273Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I found the opening difficult to follow. I really enjoyed the slow opening of Worm, but when I started Pact, everything moved very quickly and I was confused about what was going on.

I'll read it again, as, given the awesomeness of Worm, it's probably an error in me rather than the writing.

Replies from: CAE_Jones
comment by CAE_Jones · 2014-08-02T10:20:27.291Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think Worm is better starting at 3.1 and doing 1-2 as flashbacks.

I read the preview for Pact, and felt like it was promising one thing, then switched in the last few paragraphs to something completely different. Similarly, I was skeptical of Worm until the encounter with Lung (I don't know if I would have made it that far without Eliezer's recommendation, but I am very glad I did).

The information in both intros is valuable, and it sets up the theme--bullies suck, "gaaah why wont this family leave me alone?"--but they invest the reader in one storyline, then completely pull the rug out from under them. Howard Taylor would call this 'breaking promises to the reader'.

(Which suggests the question: how should a writer initiate a story without too much in medias rais[sic] such that the reader knows what they're getting into before the protagonist, but we don't lose valuable information/etc?)

Replies from: hesperidia, Luke_A_Somers
comment by hesperidia · 2014-08-02T20:17:00.254Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think Worm is better starting at 3.1 and doing 1-2 as flashbacks.

It is a rule of thumb in writing that many novels (especially those written by relatively inexperienced writers) will feel tighter and better-paced if one lops off the first two or three chapters. I find it interesting that it also applies to Worm.

comment by Luke_A_Somers · 2014-08-02T18:32:03.680Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The opening chapter of a Song of Ice and Fire gives a nice big unforgettable hint that this isn't simply medieval politics in an odd setting.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2014-08-05T05:35:52.234Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I got pissed off reading A Game of Thrones because the opening led me to expect an adventure story and I ended up with several hundred pages of politics.

I liked the other books much more because I successfully recalibrated my expectations.

comment by gwillen · 2014-08-02T01:17:52.405Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Replying so that I can do my best to forget about this now, but still find it later.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2014-08-01T20:42:20.488Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Meta Thread