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The GATTACA Trilogy

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[Few people realize that the 1997 cult hit GATTACA was actually just the first film in a three-movie trilogy. The final two movies, directed by the legendary Moira LeQuivalence, were flops which only stayed in theaters a few weeks and have since become almost impossible to find. In the interest of making them available to the general public, I’ve written summaries of some key scenes below. Thanks to user Begferdeth from the subreddit for the idea.]

GATTACA II: EPI-GATTACA

“Congratulations, Vincent”, said the supervisor, eyes never looking up from his clipboard. “You passed them all. The orbital mechanics test. The flight simulator. All the fitness tests. More than passed. Some of the highest scores we’ve ever seen, frankly. You’re going to be an astronaut.”

Vincent’s heart leapt in his chest.

“Pending, of course, the results of the final test. But this will be easy. I’m sure a fine specimen like you will have no trouble.”

“The…the final test, sir?”

“Well, you know how things are. We want to make sure we get only the healthiest, most on-point individuals for our program. We used to do genetic testing, make sure that people’s DNA was pre-selected for success. But after the incident with the Gattaca Corporation and that movie they made about the whole thing, public opinion just wasn’t on board, and Congress nixed the whole enterprise. Things were really touch-and-go for a while, but then we came up with a suitably non-invasive replacement. Epigenetics!”

“Epi…genetics?” asked Vincent. He hoped he wasn’t sounding too implausibly naive – he had, after all, just aced a whole battery of science tests. But surely there were some brilliant astronomers who didn’t know anything about biology. He would pretend to be one of those.

The supervisor raised an eyebrow, but he went on. “Yes, epigenetics. According to studies, stressful experiences – anything from starvation to social marginalization – change the methylation pattern of your genes. And not just your genes. Some people say that these methylation patterns can transfer to your children, and your children’s children, and so on, setting them back in life before they’re even born. Of course, it would be illegal for us to take a sample and check your methylation directly – but who needs that! In this day and age, everybody’s left a trail online. We can just check your ancestors’ life experiences directly, and come up with a projection of your methylation profile good enough to predict everything from whether you’ll have a heart attack to whether you’ll choke under pressure at a crucial moment. I’ll just need to see your genealogy, so we can run it through this computer here…you did bring it like we asked you, right? Of course you did! A superior individual like you, probably no major family traumas going back five, six generations – I bet you’ve got it all ready for me.”

Vincent reached into his briefcase, took out a slim blue binder. Here goes nothing, he thought.


Two weeks earlier, he had thrown a wad of cash down on a granite table in a downtown apartment.

The man across from him leaned forward in his wheelchair, extended a trembling arm to slowly take the cash.

“You’re, uh, sure you want to do this?” asked Vincent, suddenly feeling a pang of conscience.

“Yes,” rasped Jerome. “You’re young. You still have your whole life ahead of you. You can still make something of yourself. Me, I’m done.”

“Look,” said Vincent, despite his better judgment, “just because you’re partly paralyzed doesn’t mean you can’t…do anything, really. Write a book. Travel the world.”

“You want to know how this happened?” Jerome asked. “I did it to myself. I used to be the best swimmer in the state, maybe in the country. I was going to the Olympics. With a spotless family history like mine, there were no limits. Then it happened. I had a fluke defeat. Lost the Olympics qualifier by a hairbreadth to a guy I’d beaten twenty times before. After that, why go on?”

“But…couldn’t you have just tried again four years later?”

“You still don’t get it. It wasn’t the loss. That loss stressed me out, Vincent. It made me feel bad about myself. I experienced lowering of my social status. With my methylation profile that screwed, it wasn’t just my own body I had ruined. It was my future children too. How was I ever going to marry when I would have to look my wife in the eyes and tell her our kids would be epigenetically tainted forever? So I did the only thing I could. I threw myself in front of a car. Couldn’t even kill myself properly, that’s what happens when your methylation profile is ruined. So here I am.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Vincent, who was starting to regret ever having come. “We can help you. We can find some way to…”

“No,” said Jerome, and he put the cash in his pocket. “What’s done is done.” He took a slim blue binder, slid it over the table to Vincent. “My geneaology. Absolutely perfect. Not a single microaggression against any of my ancestors since the Mayflower.”

Vincent considered saying something, but finally just nodded. “I won’t let you down. I’ll use the gift you’ve given me in a way that would make you proud.”


He’d been so close. And now, this…whatever it was.

“It’s not a problem with you,” said the supervisor, though he looked haggard and did not exactly inspire confidence. “It’s just…there’s been an incident. We’re interviewing everybody.”

It was two days before launch. Everything had been set up. Now, as the supervisor ushered him into a sterile-looking interview room, he could already imagine the headlines. MAN BUYS FALSIFIED GENEAOLOGY, TRIES TO HIDE EPIGENETIC INFERIORITY. Or, FRAUD DECEIVES EPIGATTACA CORPORATION, MISSION CALLED OFF.

He was so busy generating worst-case scenarios that he didn’t even notice the identity of the detective seated across from him until the door had closed and they were along together.

“Anton?”

“Vincent?”

“Um…yeah…” was the best Vincent could think of to say to his older brother.

They’d been in touch, sure. But Vincent had thought it prudent not to mention his exact job description, lest his brother start asking the wrong questions. He’d just said he worked for the Epigattaca corporation, letting Anton infer that he was sweeping floors or validating parket tickets or something else suitable to someone with his inadequate histone pattern. Finally he put himself together and spoke.

“What are you doing here?”

“There’s been a death. One of the executives. Foul play suspected. I’m a detective, so…”

Then it had nothing to do with him. Or, at least, it hadn’t. Now…

“Okay, Anton. Before you ask, yeah. I admit it. I faked my epigenome. There’s a black market in geneaologies. I found a guy willing to sell his identity. I saved up, bought it from him, gave it to the suits here. They think I haven’t had a microaggression in my family line since the Mayflower. And they’re going to do it. They’re going to let me go to space.”

“But why, Vincent? You were always such a good kid!”

“Of course you wouldn’t understand,” said Vincent.

It was true. Anton was five years older. He’d been born perfect, the product of the latest eu-epigenics program. Female infants with good epigenes were sent to live a sheltered existence in Denmark, the most equitable country in the world, and kept drugged on heroic doses of beta-blockers to prevent them from feeling any trauma or anxiety. They were raised in special houses by caretakers who denied them nothing, then sent to special schools where it was impossible to fail or feel inadequate. Then, when they reached puberty, they were artificially fertilized – no way the program was going to let them deal with something as stressful as sexual relationships – until they pumped out five or ten kids each. The most innocent were brought back to the shelters to restart the cycle.

It had all gone so well with Anton. But a year after he was born, everything had changed. One of the nurses had gotten sick, and an untrained nurse was brought in to cover. She had told Anton’s mother that she was looking “a little chubby”. Faced with this sudden awareness of patriarchal beauty standards and devaluing from a human being to a sex object, her histones had wilted instantly, her precious DNA inundated with methyl groups. When the scientists found out, they discharged her from the breeding program, she married a similarly damaged man, and the result, a few years later, had been Vincent.

“You’re right,” said Anton. “I can never understand what you go through. But I’m going to clear you. Right now. No conditions.”

Vincent could barely believe he’d heard correctly. “What?”

“It’s…my son. Your nephew. I never told you this, but a few years ago, he broke his leg biking. We got it treated by a black-market doctor, covered it up, no trace of it in any of the records, but – I can’t help worry about him. He remembers what happened. He’s going to need role models to look up to when he grows older, people who overcame epigenetic determinism and succeeded despite the changes our experiences impose on our DNA. He’s going to need someone like you. And besides, we’re brothers. I’ve already figured out who committed the murder – it was another executive whose department would profit by delaying the launch. I’m going to report that you’re innocent. And I’m also going to report that I didn’t discover anything else of note about you. Nothing that should delay this week’s launch.”

“You…you’d really do that for me?”

“Good luck in space, bro.”

Vincent walked out of the office in a daze. By the time he reached his desk, the email was already on the screen “Detective has said you’re good to go – launch is still on for Wednesday”. He read it three times, lost in thought.

He had always wanted to be an astronaut. Now he realized why – it was to escape his own epigenome. More than that – it was to escape a world that held epigenetics in such high regard that his epigenome mattered. He would still go to space. He would do it for Anton’s son, and for all the other individuals with a history of personal or family trauma. But he no longer felt like there was nothing for him on Earth. There were people who would judge him as a full human being, not just a methylation pattern shaped by familial disadvantage. And someday – he vowed – everyone would be able to say the same.


GATTACA III: EDU-GATTACA

“Congratulations, Vincent”, said the supervisor, eyes never looking up from his clipboard. “You passed them all. The astrogation test. The crisis simulation. All the physicals and health panels. More than passed. Some of the highest scores we’ve ever seen, frankly. You’re going to be an astronaut…”

Vincent broke out into a giant smile.

“…pending, of course, the results of the final test. But this will be easy. I’m sure a fine specimen like you will have no trouble.”

“The…the final test, sir?”

“Well, you know how things are. We want to make sure we get only the strongest, most intelligent individuals for our program. We used to do genetic testing, make sure that people’s DNA was pre-selected for success. But after the incident with the Gattaca Corporation and that movie they made about the whole thing, public opinion just wasn’t on board, and Congress nixed the whole enterprise. Then we tried epigenetics, but it turned out they made a movie about that one too. Really, our luck in all of this has been terrible. But this time, we’ve really got it! This time, we know how to identify truly superior human beings who deserve to be astronauts, no creepy biology involved. We’re going to base our decision on…what institution you spent four years in during your teens and early twenties!”

“Oh, come on,” said Vincent. “Can’t you just give up already and judge people on their merit?”

The supervisor pounded the desk. “Never! So-called meritocracy is a sham designed to justify inequality. No, we’ve made our choice, and we’re going to judge you by which university accepted you at age 17 based on a combination of illegibly-inflated grades, recommendations by people who barely knew you, and how much money your parents were willing to donate. You can complain all you want, but that’s just how we roll, here at the…” He pointed out the window, to the gleaming sign outside “…at the PhDMSMABSBA corporation.”

“How do you even expect people to pronounce that?” asked Vincent.

“Irrelevant! Now tell us what college you went to, so we can figure out what Greek letter to assign you on your application.”

“Greek letter?”

“Just an internal company code we use. We got tired of saying ‘top-tier institution’, ‘second-tier institution’, and so on, so now you’re Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. The Alphas get positions like executive or astronaut. The Betas get positions in middle management. The Gammas and Deltas have jobs like clerks and call center reps. And the Epsilons do the really dirty work, the stuff nobody else will touch.”

“That’s terrible!” said Vincent.

“That’s what everybody does,” the supervisor corrected. “The only difference is we use Greek letters. Is your moral system so fragile that its results depend on whether you refer to something with Greek letters or not?”

“Wow,” said Vincent, “this conversation has taken a disturbing turn.”

“That’s right. So why don’t you just show us your college degree, and we can get your application going?”

Vincent reached into his briefcase, took out a slim red binder. Here goes nothing, he thought.


Two weeks earlier, he had thrown a wad of cash down on a marble table in a suburban apartment.

The man across from him leaned forward in his wheelchair, extended a trembling arm to slowly take the cash.

“You’re, uh, sure you want to do this?” asked Vincent, suddenly feeling a pang of conscience.

“Yes,” rasped Jerome. “You’re young. You still have your whole life ahead of you. You can still make something of yourself. Me, I’m done.”

“Look,” said Vincent, despite his better judgment, “just because you’ve got some kind of condition doesn’t mean you can’t…do anything, really. Write a book. Travel the world.”

“You want to know how this happened?” Jerome asked. “I did it to myself. I used to be the best football player in the state. Maybe the country. Got accepted to Harvard on a football scholarship. Then I learned that college football causes so many concussions that it increases your risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. I didn’t know what to do. Stick around, and I risked degenerating into the condition you see me in now. Leave, and I’d lose my scholarship, never get a degree, and have to go to community college. I’d never be anything higher than a Delta.”

“A Delta?”

“Some new corporate jargon people are using.” Jerome shrugged. “So I kept it up and got my degree. Now I can barely walk, and half the time I can’t remember my own name. So here I am.”

“I’m so sorry,” said Vincent, who was starting to regret ever having come. “We can help you. We can find some way to…”

“No,” said Jerome, and he put the cash in his pocket. “What’s done is done.” He took a slim red binder, slid it over the table to Vincent. “My Harvard degree. Top-tier institution, absolutely Alpha quality. With this, every single door in the world will be open to you.”

Vincent considered saying something, but finally just nodded. “I won’t let you down. I’ll use the gift you’ve given me in a way that would make you proud.”


He’d been so close. And now, this…whatever it was.

“It’s not a problem with you,” said the supervisor, though he looked haggard and did not exactly inspire confidence. “It’s just…there’s been an incident. We’re interviewing everybody.”

It was two days before launch. Everything had been set up. Now, as the supervisor ushered him into a sterile-looking interview room, he could already imagine the headlines. MAN BUYS FAKE DEGREE, TRIES TO HIDE EDUCATIONAL INFERIORITY. Or, FRAUD DECEIVES PHDMSMABSBA CORPORATION, MISSION CALLED OFF.

He was so busy generating worst-case scenarios that he didn’t even notice the identity of the detective seated across from him until the door had closed and they were along together.

“Anton?”

“Vincent?”

“Um…yeah…” was the best Vincent could think of to say to his younger brother.

They’d been in touch, sure. But Vincent had thought it prudent not to mention his exact job description, lest his brother start asking the wrong questions. He’d just said he worked for the PhDMSMABSBA corporation, letting Anton infer that he was sweeping floors or validating parking tickets or something else suitable to someone with his educational background. Finally he put himself together and spoke.

“What are you doing here?”

“There’s been a death. One of the executives. Foul play suspected. I’m a detective, so…”

Then it had nothing to do with him. Or, at least, it hadn’t. Now…

“Okay, Anton. Before you ask, yeah. I admit it. I faked my degree. I found a guy willing to sell his identity. I saved up, bought it from him, gave it to the suits here. They think I’m a Harvard alum. And they’re going to do it. They’re going to let me go to space.”

“But why, Vincent? You were always such a good kid!”

“Of course you wouldn’t understand,” said Vincent.

It was true. Vincent had spent years working ten-hour days after school teaching the saxophone to underprivileged children to build his resume, but the Admissions Departments hadn’t been impressed. Anton had learned from his mistake, hired an admissions coach, and with her guidance had founded the country’s first Klingon-language suicide prevention hotline; the Ivy League had eaten it up. Vincent had ended up with a degree from a Gamma-level state institution; Anton had gone to Yale.

“You’re right,” said Anton. “I can never understand what you go through. But I’m going to clear you. Right now. No conditions.”

Vincent could barely believe he’d heard correctly. “What?”

“It’s…my son. Your nephew. You remember how he started a synchronized underwater molecular gastronomy team at his high school? Apparently all the other kids have been going to the Third World and starting synchronized underwater molecular gastronomy teams there, and we never knew about it. Now there’s no way he’s going to be competitive. I can’t help worry about him. He’s going to need role models to look up to when he grows older, people who overcame going to a low-tier college and succeeded anyway. He’s going to need someone like you. And besides, we’re brothers. I’ve already figured out who committed the murder – it was another executive whose department would profit by delaying the launch. I’m going to report that you’re innocent. And I’m also going to report that I didn’t discover anything else of note about you. Nothing that should delay this week’s launch.”

“You…you’d really do that for me?”

“Good luck in space, bro.”

Vincent walked out of the office in a daze. By the time he reached his desk, the email was already on the screen “Detective has said you’re good to go – launch is still on for Wednesday”. He read it three times, lost in thought.

He had always wanted to be an astronaut. Now he realized why – it was to escape his own low-tier college degree. More than that – it was to escape a world that held degrees in such high regard that the college he went to mattered. He would still go to space. He would do it for Anton’s son, and for all the other individuals with a subpar secondary education. But he no longer felt like there was nothing for him on Earth. There were people who would judge him as a full human being, not just a set of letters after his name. And someday – he vowed – everyone would be able to say the same.

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francisga
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Am I the only person on earth who enjoyed Gattica? (I saw it in theaters way back when.)
Lafayette, LA, USA
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You’ll Be OK

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The post You’ll Be OK appeared first on The Perry Bible Fellowship.

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ARKit 2: Why Apple keeps pushing AR, and how it works in iOS 12

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Enlarge / A LEGO app using Apple's new ARKit features. (credit: Apple)

Augmented reality (AR) has played prominently in nearly all of Apple's events since iOS 11 was introduced, Tim Cook has said he believes it will be as revolutionary as the smartphone itself, and AR was Apple’s biggest focus in sessions with developers at WWDC this year.

But why? Most users don’t think the killer app for AR has arrived yet—unless you count Pokémon Go. The use cases so far are cool, but they’re not necessary and they’re arguably a lot less cool on an iPhone or iPad screen than they would be if you had glasses or contacts that did the same things.

From this year's WWDC keynote to Apple’s various developer sessions hosted at the San Jose Convention Center and posted online for everyone to view, though, it's clear that Apple is investing heavily in augmented reality for the future.

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144 Pieces of Caffeinated Power Gum $9

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  • Gum with no calories, no sugar, 80mg caffeine, and 100mg L-Theanine per piece.
  • One piece is equivalent to one cup of coffee but with more chemicals that are apparently helpful.
  • Look, you’re going to see caffeinated gum and you’re either going to want some or not.
  • For those who don’t read the write-up, the following are Shawn Miller’s breakdowns of each flavor:
  • If you like mint flavors, go with peppermint
  • If you actually want to chew some gum for more than a few seconds, go with mixed berry for its chewy texture and least potent flavor
  • If you want the best flavor even though it doesn’t last, go with blood orange
  • As for mango? Nah, fuck mango. [Buyer’s note: uhh Shawn is nuts, mango is the clearly the best flavor]

Everyone's A Critic

It can be hard, as a copywriter, to stop writing copy. By which I mean: for as much as we make honesty a cornerstone to our philosophy here at Meh, there are times when I can’t help but revert to sales-y bullshit speak. That’s why, I’ve called in our very own technology guru Shawn Miller to help us with today’s product.

Basically, Shawn will be testing each flavor of this Caffeinated Power Gum, while I observe how it affects him. Two things to note up front:

  1. Shawn does not like gum, and the following are his real actual reviews. (My contributions may or may not be very slightly exaggerated).

  2. You should not try this at home; this stuff seriously comes with a warning: “DO NOT EXCEED 3 GUMS IN 24 HRS”.

Now, without further ado, let’s get started. Of peppermint, Shawn says:

It’s 5 seconds of a pleasant peppermint taste that surprisingly quickly turns into a sour, vomit-flavored chalk that you can’t shake for several minutes because it’s like you brushed your teeth with stinky socks.

Observation: Shawn began the taste test fairly tired. After chewing a piece of gum, he’s definitely a little more perky. He sits up straighter, talks slightly faster, drums on the table with his hands.

Of spearmint, Shawn says:

Spearmint kinda has an initial smell of fresh mint that, on the tail end, turns into a dark roast coffee that’s sat out a few days. Mmm, tastes just like Wrigley’s Doublemint. Oh wait… that’s just the first 2.5 seconds. Now it’s turned into like if Children’s Tylenol came in a new dark, bittersweet chocolate flavor that coats your throat.

Observation: Shawn is now running on a treadmill. I did not even realize there was a treadmill in this room. He is wearing a bluetooth headset in each ear and between chews of caffeinated gum he is closing deals, the origins or details of which I cannot discern.

Of blood orange, Shawn says:

Oh, god. Blood orange smells terrible. No idea if this is what raw L-Theanine smells like but it’s kinda like if there was a biochem lab setup in the middle of a nursing home. Not even the slightest hint of orange until I pop it in my mouth. Ok, mmm, there’s the orange and it’s rather pleasant. Wait a second, here comes the blood part. Now it’s like an orange if it were mixed with the driest dirt.

Observation: Shawn continues to close deals and run on the treadmill until, eventually, it overheats. To keep his hands from shaking, he takes to building a virtual assistant using mostly paperclips and tape. In just under six minutes, he finishes. He speaks Italian to it. It dings, and he reaches around to a compartment in the back, from which he produces a cup of fresh gelato. I ask how he did it, but in the time it takes to vocalize the question, Shawn has already sold the prototype for 3.9 million to a tech conglomerate and cannot discuss it without violating an NDA.

Of mixed berry, Shawn says:

Mixed berry has that air freshener “new car” smell. It’s like the best approximation of petroleum-based solvents in plastic and vinyl I’ve ever encountered in chewing gum. Hmm, surprisingly softer, chewier, and less gritty than the other flavors. Caught me so off guard I need to pop in another piece. Hmm, I’m not getting much of a berry flavor. Just mostly nothing followed by even more nothing until my tongue feels odd and tingly.

Observation: I cannot say when the last time Shawn blinked was. I ask him if his eyes feel okay and he says, “Do they look okay to you?” Then he stares at me with a gaze so piercing my nose begins to bleed and I have to turn away.

Of mango, Shawn says:

Mango smells a lot like blood orange but a little, uh, fresher. Like if they tried to sanitize the biochem lab in the nursing home with Original Scent Pine-Sol. I’m not a big mango fan and all this gum is starting to turn my stomach, but let’s give it a shot. The texture is chewy like mixed berry but gritty like the mint flavors. The artificial mango flavor is strong, passionate, but short-lived (possibly not unlike Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande’s romance). Now it’s just gross and I want this experiment to be over.

Observation: Shawn is now fully woke, and not in the Twitter way. I tell Shawn it is getting late and we should probably leave. He asks, “What is ‘late’? Is that what the mortals refer to as the dark half of the clock?” I ask if he at least would like a ride home. He shakes his head. His feet come off the ground and he ascends, turning liquid to pass through the ceiling. “Good bye,” he says from somewhere. I don’t know how, but his voice is all around me.

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francisga
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Program

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Later, the man humanely destroy's its CPU.


Today's News:
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francisga
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Links 6/18: Linkonberry Jam

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Scientists Share The Worst Stock Photos Of Their Jobs.

A subreddit for somnivexillology, the study of flags that appear in dreams.

In 1962, a pair of con artists claimed to be representatives of the Incan gods and used their charisma to enslave a small Mexican village. Then things got weird. Needing a fake Inca goddess to bedazzle the locals, they hired a nearby prostitute to show herself at the appropriate moment. But the prostitute got too into her role, became convinced she really was the Aztec goddess Coatlicue, took over the cult, took over the village, killed everyone who opposed her leadership, and led a string of grisly human sacrifices until the whole thing was finally broken up by police. The story of Magdalena Solis.

The latest exciting breakthrough drug for PTSD is…an unnecessary patent-protecting modification of cyclobenzaprine – ie it might be that cyclobenzaprine is an effective PTSD-sleep-disturbance drug for people who can’t tolerate prazosin. Link sent to me by a friend who reports unexpected dramatic improvement in PTSD nightmares when taking cyclobenzaprine for a muscle problem.

Some context for last month’s link on rare earths: China Can’t Control The Market In Rare Earth Elements Because They Aren’t All That Rare

In “primitive DNS hijacking” incident, Chicago man files change of address notice at the post office to change UPS corporate headquarters to his apartment, receives all their stuff and money.

Researchers claim that conventional statistics showing the War On Poverty didn’t significantly decrease poverty are calculated wrong, present alternative measurement methods suggesting US anti-poverty programs have been very successful.

New birth order study using Swedish records: “Firstborn children are more likely to be managers and to be in occupations requiring leadership ability, social ability, and Big Five personality traits.” Likely explanation is higher parental investment; not super-compatible with zero role for shared environment.

Volokh Conspiracy on good guys with guns: “Data from the FBI’s Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017 report [shows] legal civilian gun carriers tried to intervene in 6 out of 50 [mass shooting] incidents, and apparently succeeded in 3 or 4 of them.”

Gwern summarizes the idea of commoditizing your complement. This helped a lot of things about business snap into place for me.

Fun rabbit hole: “personality tests” that claim to be able to determine what neurotransmitters are dominant in your system, eg whether you’re a “dopamine type” or a “serotonin type”. See eg the Braverman Test and Brown et al. These show every sign of being about as accurate as their four-humors predecessors, even though in theory something like this ought to work. My guess is that there are so many different neurotransmitters, receptors, and brain regions where they can act that anything this broad is going to be able to explain a fraction of a percent of variance at best.

And while we’re talking crazy out-there psych hypotheses, Dual-gender macrochimeric tissue discordance is predicted to be a significant cause of human homosexuality and transgenderism.

Article on the tendency of places to play classical music to repel the unwanted. The default hypothesis would be that homeless people don’t want to sleep (and groups of ruffians don’t want to hang out and chat) in places with loud music, but the article seems to think (without really giving evidence) that there’s something more specific going on, where classical music’s high-class connotation has a specific anti-welcoming effect on poor people.

This week: Trump calls for elimination of all tariffs, endorses marijuana legalization, says he will talk to kneeling NFL players about pardoning the unjustly imprisoned. Next week: Trump defects from US, becomes President of Mexico, converts to Islam.

This article claims that a quirk of 1970s tax policy killed off smaller fiction genres. But see this comment, which casts doubt on some aspects of the story and clarifies a few things.

Up to 50% of daily marijuana users can end up with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition marked by constant vomiting relieved by taking hot showers or baths. Often dangerous insofar as people who have been told marijuana helps with vomiting try to solve their problem by taking more, perpetuating the cycle. If this is so common, how come we don’t hear about it more often?

In Missouri, the beef industry is pushing a bill making it illegal to describe vegetarian meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger as meat. Opponents argue that misleading labeling is already illegal, so this would mostly ban people from using terms like “plant-based meat” that clearly state the nature of the product. Philosophical dispute about whether the category “meat” refers to things that taste a certain way vs. things that were produced by a certain process mirrors other categorization debates.

Kim Jong-un reported to have said that he hopes for “Vietnam-style reforms”.

China is forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs into mass internment camps, where they are subjected to brutal re-education. “Hour upon hour, day upon day, Omir Bekali and other detainees in far western China’s new indoctrination camps had to disavow their Islamic beliefs, criticize themselves and their loved ones and give thanks to the ruling Communist Party. When Bekali, a Kazakh Muslim, refused to follow orders each day, he was forced to stand at a wall for five hours at a time. A week later, he was sent to solitary confinement, where he was deprived of food for 24 hours. After 20 days in the heavily guarded camp, he wanted to kill himself.” It’s hard to know what to do about something so terrible and so under-discussed, but ChinaFile suggests that one starting point might be sanctioning Xinjiang officials under the Human Rights Accountability Act.

Somehow I never learned about Abscam, maybe the biggest federal corruption incident since Watergate. The FBI got some con artists to pretend to be Arab sheiks and try to bribe Congressmen to do various things. Most of the Congressmen agreed and took the bribes, and six were convicted and sent to prison – including John Jenrette, who when offered the bribe answered “I’ve got larceny in my blood. I’d take it in a goddamn minute.”

Very competent and well-funded German team tests the seemingly physics-defying EM Drive more precisely than previous experiments. Preliminary results suggest that its thrust comes from some of the electronics interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field, that there are no novel physics involved, and that it would not work in space.

Buddhist sources are silent on which direction the Wheel Of Samsara turns, but the evidence from salvia users who have weird visions of it (1, 2, 3) universally suggests it’s counterclockwise.

A post on the Effective Altruism forum discusses how funding vs. talent gaps are different for different charitable causes. Helped clear up some of my permanent confusion on what it would mean for causes to “not have funding gaps”.

You can now buy explicit placebo pills on Amazon. Professional-looking, very well branded, kind of convincing-seeming placebo pills, no less.

Popehat on free speech: courts will likely rule in favor of government employee fired for posting anti-Trump messages on Facebook on her own time.

A correction to my basic income post: some states will help financially support you if you are taking care of elderly or disabled relatives.

This week in headlines that would have sounded crazy just a few years ago: marijuana-based cryptocurrency PotCoin sponsors Dennis Rodman’s trip to join the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Our World In Data shows The Effect Of Life Events On Life Satisfaction over time. Especially interesting since they start their time series a few years before the events. For example, men’s life is terrible the five years before a divorce, but immediately becomes better starting the year the divorce happens. I’ve been showing some of these graphs to my patients to help convince them there’s life on the other side of [personal catastrophe]. Also, the unemployment graph seems to confirm claim that it’s uniquely hard to habituate to in a way that’s not just a function of pre-unemployment problems.

In some traditional Chinese and Korean families, the founder of the family chooses a poem, and the nth generation of his descendants will always have names starting with the nth syllable of the poem.

Some people will like this essay as object-level social commentary, others as a window into the anthropology of weird inter-left disputes, but here’s a very strong take on the disability activists vs. Democratic Socialists of America argument/scandal/clusterf**k.

A list of the latest ICE scandals and atrocities, in case you’re having trouble keeping track. But see also this correction to the “1500 kids missing” story.

Washington Post on the truck driver shortage and why few want an $80,000 job. Mostly because it doesn’t actually pay $80,000 unless you get lucky / accept unreasonably awful conditions.

Interested to know what people think of this: Labour vote in England closely matches historic presence of coal mining.

New big paper on intelligence by Gail Davis and co-authors including Ian Deary and Stuart Ritchie, finds more genes for cognitive function, able to predict 4.3% of variance with polygenic score. But the fun part here is the genetic correlations, which note among other things that the genes for higher intelligence also seem correlated with poor eyesight, eg the “smart people wear glasses” effect. This is really interesting because I was under the impression that people had done some really good work showing the glasses-intelligence correlation was mostly due to smart people staying inside reading and not getting enough UV light for their eyes to develop properly. Either I totally screwed up my analysis of that one, or this is an unusually good example of a multifactorial trend. I hope this paragraph was good enough to avoid ending up in Stuart’s Hall of Shame for how this paper has been covered in the media.

Jacob of Putanumonit has an article on outgroups in Quillete that uses a really interesting concentric circles model I hadn’t thought of before.

DeepMind publishes a paper theorizing that the human prefrontal cortex is involved in “meta-reinforcement learning” and claiming to have created machine learning agents that can duplicate it. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around this yet; grateful to anyone who wants to explain it to me.

Related: Eliezer Yudkowsky asks believers in an upcoming new AI winter what sort of resolveable claims (suitable for bets) their hypothesis would entail.

And Eliezer (vs. David Chapman, sort of) on Toolbox Thinking And Law Thinking.

The latest in the DashCon / FyreFestival / etc genre of “fan conventions collapsing disastrously” is the marginalized-fan-community-centered Universal FanCon. I first read about this on Siderea’s blog and then found my way to this longer article. An interesting detective story / rationality practice to sort through the competing accounts and try to figure out what happened, and how so many seemingly trustworthy and well-intentioned people ended up running something that looks so much like a scam. Also possibly a good test for how paranoid vs. trusting you are, or how willing to resort to bad actor vs. institutions-are-hard explanations. Something like an answer (if you believe it) about what happened here

Giussepe Conte chosen as new Italian PM, ending months of standoff (and settling my prediction about whether a “far-right” party would take power in a major European country). Of interest here – the ruling Five Star Movement has a campaign promise to institute a basic income of 780 euros/month, even though this is even less financially realistic in Italy than it would be elsewhere. Related: populist anti-immigrant party with anti-Semitic links retakes power in Slovenia.

Bloom’s Two Sigma Problem: children given private tutoring will do two sigmas better than average (ie the average tutored student will be in the 98th percentile of nontutored students). But see here for some argument that the real value is lower, maybe more like 0.4 sigma. Some further discussion on the subreddit asks the right question – can we simulate this with some kind of clever computer-guided learning? – and gives the right answer – apparently no. TracingWoodgrains has a great comment. Especially interested in their discussion of Direct Instruction: “One of the few schools to use it as the basis of their program for math and English, a libertarian private school in North Carolina called Thales Academy, is reporting results exactly in line with the two-sigma bar: 98-99th percentile average accomplishment on the IOWA test. Their admissions process requires an interview at the elementary level, but no sorting other than that, so it’s not a case of only selecting the highest-level students.” (though note that IOWA is nationally normed, and Thales is in the well-off Research Triangle area). On the other hand, it costs half of what public schools do, so file this under “cost disease” too.

Find out where your hometown would have been on Pangaea.

Study on the political impact of immigration: when more high-skilled immigrants move to an area, the native voters shift more Democratic; when more low-skilled immigrants move to an area, the native voters shift more Republican. Effect is not dependent on immigrants’ country of origin.

England used to have free college tuition. In 1998, they decided it wasn’t working, got rid of it, and their colleges now cost more than the US. A team from the Brookings Institution discusses the English experience and what it can teach Americans, including the surprising role of English progressives in the anti-free-college fight.

A one parameter equation that can exactly fit any scatter plot. Though see the comment thread starting with Slocum on Marginal Revolution for discussion of whether this is as interesting as it sounds. Another commenter correctly brings up Tupper’s self-referential formula.

New study finds that, contra popular myth, people who believe in the genetic determination of human traits are more progressive, more tolerant of vulnerable individuals, and less racist. Likely just because more educated people are more likely to be aware of genetics, but still useful in slapping down a whole class of terrible arguments.

Related: in good news for progressivism and tolerance of vulnerable individuals, new study finds that some trait differences among Asians, Europeans, and Africans have significant genetic contributions. Genetic role was found for height, waist-hip-ratio, and schizophrenia risk; was not found for cholesterol, diabetes, or educational attainment.

Remember the mystery illness afflicting US diplomats in Cuba, possibly caused by some kind of weird infrasonic weapon? Now it’s happening to US diplomats in China too.

You’ve probably seen the graph showing that even as US productivity increases, US worker wages do not. A new study finds that productivity and worker pay continue to be correlated, suggesting it’s not so much that productivity doesn’t help as that some other force is keeping pay down despite the productivity effects. This might be beyond my pay grade, so interested in hearing if anyone has a good interpretation of this.

Zero HP Lovecraft: The Gig Economy

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francisga
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Lafayette, LA, USA
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