"Sons of a bitches"

Sep. 24th, 2017 10:18 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

In his 9/22/2017 rally speech in Huntsville, Alabama, Donald Trump said

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners
when somebody disrespects our flag
to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now —
out, he's fired.
Fired!

This posed a question for people who wanted to speak up in support of the football players he was threatening: What's the plural of "son of a bitch"?

I always thought it was "sons of bitches", but a surprising number of people decided on "sons of a bitches" instead. (See "Plurals", 9/22/2013, for some additional context.)

 

 

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Politically adorable

Sep. 24th, 2017 01:09 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

I wondered when this would happen. Jack Shafer, "Week 18: The Further Perils of Paul Manafort", Politico (Swamp Diary) 9/23/2017 [emphasis added]:

Flynn has hired seven attorneys, and his family has established a legal defense fund for him, stipulating that donations from foreign governments or the Trump campaign or business won't be accepted. Isn’t it adorable that Flynn, who worked for a United Nations klatch of clients now insists on a legal defense entirely made in America?

In current public discourse, adorable is mostly what young children and small fluffy animals are, with the range of reference occasionally expanded to include young women, courting couples, or old people being childish. A small sample of today's adorable headlines: "Feel the full range of emotions with this adorable baby Orioles fan";  "ADORABLE: Baby calf and baby human make friends during photo shoot"; "Kelly Clarkson's Adorable Kids Come Visit Her on Set of 'Love So Soft' Music Video"; "Phoenix Zoo welcomes adorable baby giraffe"; "Marcel The Adorable Therapy Dog Brings Joy To People With Dementia"; "Inside Mandy Moore's Adorable Engagement Party With Her Besties"; "You Will Never Guess Prince Philip’s Adorable Pet Name for Queen Elizabeth"; …

But adorable entered socio-political discourse about a month ago, as a sarcastic insult meant to suggest that ordinary people are small, childish, and unworthy of attention other than as a source of amusement.

Louise Linton, the wife of the U.S. treasury secretary, had instagrammed a picture of herself returning by government jet from a quick trip to Fort Knox to look at piles of gold (yes, really), hashtagging elements of her expensive wardrobe — "#roulandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf  #valentionrockstudheels #valentino".

In response, Jenni Miller, described by the NYT as "a mother of three from Portland, Ore", commented "Glad we could pay for your little getaway #deplorable", where deplorable is an echo of Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment.

Linton seems to have been stung, because she responded at considerable length:

She uses forms of adorable twice:

Aw!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable! […]
You're adorably out of touch. […]

The meaning in context is clearly sarcastic — Ms. Miller is framed as one of those little people who are so far beneath Linton that she can view their criticism as amusingly cute, like a mischievous puppy chewing on one of her designer sandals.

Presumably Linton's adorable was primed, consciously or not, by Miller's deplorable. But I wondered at the time whether the word, as well as the attitudes it so effectively expresses, might be common in Linton's social circles.  Unfortunately for my curiosity, this word choice clearly communicated more about Linton than it did about Miller, and so given the wave of negative reactions, we're unlikely to see more examples from others like her.

Still, this way of expressing disdain is too effective to be abandoned, and so I've been expecting to see it picked up by others in contexts that are safely distant from Linton's "let them eat cake" effusion.

Michael Flynn is a perfect target, from that point of view — he's not poor, ordinary, small, fuzzy, young, female, elderly, or visually cute. But by suggesting that Flynn's defense-fund appeal is "adorable", Shafer manages to suggest that Flynn is now a powerless and even pitiable player trying in kittenish ways to escape the much larger and stronger forces threatening him.

 

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Posted by Victor Mair

From Zeyao Wu:

I am intrigued by how the pronunciation of my nickname changed when I moved to Guangzhou [VHM: in the far south, formerly Canton] from Dongbei [VHM: the Northeast, formerly Manchuria].

In Dongbei, all my relatives and my friends called me Yáoyao 瑶瑶, with the second tone of the second syllable becoming neutral. [VHM: the base tone of yáo 瑶 ("precious jade") is second tone]

When I moved to Guangzhou, my friends call me Yǎoyáo 瑶瑶. It seems that this sort of pronunciation is not standard. I think Cantonese speak in this way because they pronounce Mandarin with the tones of Cantonese.

Here are some other examples (the first column is Pekingese [note the pattern of base tone on the first syllable and neutral tone on the second syllable] and the second column is Guangzhou-style Mandarin [note the pattern of base tone on the first syllable and full base tone on the second syllable, not neutral tone as in Beijing]).

dōngxi | dōngxī 东西 ("thing")
máfan | máfán 麻烦 ("trouble; bother")
shítou | shítóu 石头 ("stone")
yīfu | yīfú 衣服 ("clothing")

Judging from Zeyao's evidence, Cantonese-style Mandarin doesn't favor neutral tone for the second syllable of words. Conversely, northerners, especially Pekingese, seem to favor a very reduced neutral tone on the second syllable of words. When Zeyao said "déxing 德行" ("virtue; virtuous behavior; moral honesty / integrity / conduct; shameful; disgusting" — yes, in Pekingese colloquial, in its most mordant form as a condemnation, déxing 德行 means the exact opposite of its overt signification ["virtuous conduct", etc.]), there was hardly any vocalic quality left to the second syllable at all. So it came out sounding like "désh". I walked up right next to Zeyao and had her say it about five times in front of the whole class, and each time it came out sounding like "désh", with even nary a trace of nasalization. Already over 35 years ago, when I first heard it spoken by Beijing shopgirls, I was intrigued by this Pekingese colloquialism, both for the fact that they used it to convey an antonymous meaning, but also for the very unusual pronunciation. Dripping with vitriol, they would begin quite low in the register for a second tone, and then gradually glide upward — in a haughty, drawn-out way — on the first syllable to a rather high, attenuated pitch, then clip it off with a dismissive sibilant: deeéééé↗sh↓.

Comments by Neil Kubler:

Much of Southern China, also Taiwan, uses the pronunciations cited for Guangzhou. There are at least two reasons for this, I think: (1) Cantonese and Southern Chinese topolects in general don't have nearly so many neutral tones as Mandarin; (2) since Mandarin was learned as a second (foreign, non-native) language by these folks, and typically through character texts — which were often recited by the (typically herself not native) teacher with exaggerated tones, they picked up "reading pronunciations."

However, while I think the preceding is true, I think it's also true that (sadly, from my non-Chinese linguistic perspective), the number of neutral tones in Beijing speech is decreasing. More and more younger Beijing residents are speaking Putonghua rather than Beijinghua, and the emphasis of character texts ("reading pronunciations") is strong there also.

Your student said:

"my friends (in Guangzhou) call me Yǎoyáo 瑶瑶".

In Taiwan also there is a curious phenomenon where some personal names and also kinship terms — like baba, mama, gege, jiejie, didi, meimei — all change from their normal tone patterns (with the 1st syllable one of various tones and the 2nd syllable a neutral tone) to this pattern:

TONE 3 + TONE 2 (just like what your student described for her name in Guangzhou. So "daddy" becomes ba3ba2, and so forth.

I haven't been able to find a satisfactory explanation for why this happens.

Judging from Zeyao's evidence, Cantonese-style Mandarin doesn't favor neutral tone for the second syllable of words. Conversely, northerners, especially Pekingese, seem to favor a very reduced neutral tone on the second / final syllable of words. As I pointed out in my analysis of déxing 德行 ("virtuous / shameful conduct") above, when Zeyao pronounced this word à la Pekingese, there was hardly any vocalic quality left to the second syllable.

OT85: L-DOPEN Thread

Sep. 24th, 2017 04:02 am
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Posted by Scott Alexander

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Bay Area SSC meetup today (Sunday September 24th) in San Jose, 3806 Williams Rd, starting at 2. I probably can’t make it but I hope you all have a good time.

2. New advertisement: The Greenfield Guild, a network of independent software contractors you can call for help with various software-related business needs. Free online 60 minute consults available via their website.

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Does anyone know if people have thought about mitochondrial DNA in heritability calculations?

Suppose that having better mitochondria gives brain cells more energy and so increases IQ or some other variable of interest. MZ and DZ twins pairs both have identical mitochondrial DNA, but unrelated people don’t. That means standard genetic methods would underestimate the genetic similarity of DZ twin pairs. I think (though I’m having trouble figuring out how to think about this) that should bias estimates of heritability a little bit upwards, depending on how important mitochondria turned out to be. Has anyone thought about this?

Southern Ohioisms

Sep. 23rd, 2017 10:24 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

During my recent trip to Ohio, I met a man named Don Slater from southeastern Ohio who regaled me with endless examples of how people from his neck of the woods (centered on Noble County, but down into eastern Kentucky and Tennessee) talk.

People from Noble County don't butcher a hog, they "burcher" it.

They don't say "ain't that awful" or "tain't that awful".  They say "hain't that awful".  Don said he thought that pronunciation might have some Irish influence behind it.

One of the most amazing expressions Don taught me was one he said is used around Gatlinburg, Tennessee:  "beyall".  See if you can figure out what it means before you turn to the next page.  HINT:  this expression is often used by waiters and waitresses in restaurants.

Try again.  SECOND HINT:  it is a question — "beyall?"

THIRD HINT:  it is equal to four words in standard English".  NO MORE HINTS.

"Will that be all?"

Here's a set of sentences from Noble County with three homonyms that are completely separate morphemes:

1. How fur is it to Caldwell?

2. What did you do that fur?

3. That bear has thick fur.

A few more words as they are spoken in Noble County:

1. koelidz — a place where you go to receive higher education

2. bulgee — subject you might study at a koelidz

3. daiton — city in southwestern Ohio

4. murrow — large painting on a wall

5. westcomsin — name of a northern state

For southern Ohio "probably" –> "pry", see starting at 0:47 in this YouTube:

Here's another YouTube on "Southern Ohio Slang":

My Mom (and everybody in my family following her) always used to refer to bell peppers as "mangoes"*.  When I joined the Peace Corps and went to South Asia, I got to know what real mangoes are.  The speaker in this video gives a good explanation of why people in southern Ohio call bell peppers "mangoes", starting at 1:56.  Around 5:30 she discusses a "non-verbal 'hey'".  There are dozens of other intriguing expressions that she introduces, including "a lick" = a little bit (8:23), "born in a barn" = be rude, have no manners, forgot to close the door when you came in (my Mom used to say that too; 9:30), "get on" = leave (10:13),  "done did" = did (12:00), "et" = ate (12:43), and many others.  The speaker says "I don't know" about almost everything and giggles a great deal.  Nevertheless, she offers a lot of interesting information about southern Ohio speech.

*[From Portuguese manga, fruit of the mango tree, from Malayalam māṅṅa or a kindred Dravidian source; akin to Tamil , mānti, māti. (American Heritage Dictionary).  Borrowed into Sinitic as mángguǒ 芒果, probably through Malay mangga, with the second syllable, guǒ 果 ("fruit"), being a convenient phono-semantic match.]

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This probably isn’t quite what you’re asking, but of all the weird medication scams out there, I think the scammiest might be Silenor.

It works like this: doxepin (brand name: Sinequan) is an antidepressant from the 1970s, rarely used these days. A typical dose would have been about 100 mg. Some people noticed that very low doses of doxepin (maybe 10 mg) would put people to sleep. So even though as an antidepressant it’s been mostly replaced by SSRIs and stuff, for the past 40 years psychiatrists have used very low doses off-label as a sleeping pill. Not all psychiatrists did this, because you have to open a pharmacology textbook to realize that this sort of odd way of using an obsolete medication is even an option, but enough psychiatrists that it was a reasonably common practice. And a cheap one too - a supply of the 10 mg dose costs about $10 per month.

In 2010, Somaxon Pharmaceuticals rebranded low-dose doxepin as a new sleeping pill, Silenor. They spent $170 million to get it approved by the FDA at a dose of 6 mg (this non-round number will be important), with a nice FDA label saying “THIS PILL IS APPROVED FOR SLEEP”. Now they are selling it for about $450 per month.

You might ask: if you can get a month’s supply of 10 mg pills of a certain drug for $10, and a month’s supply of 6 mg pills of the exact same drug for $450, surely everyone will just buy the $10 version, right? Well, some people do, other people don’t; sales of Silenor are about $5 - $10 million/year.

Why? Well, about half of doctors don’t realize Silenor is just doxepin. The other half realize it, but have no incentive to prescribe the cheaper pill and can’t be bothered to do so. Part of this is that the official FDA studies showing doxepin promotes sleep were only done on the 6 mg dose. Everyone knows from personal experience that the 10 mg dose also makes you sleepy, there’s no pharmacological reason to believe the 10 mg dose is much different from the 6 mg dose, but if you prescribe the 10 mg dose then annoying people might say “Oh, you’re just EXTRAPOLATING from a study done on the 6 mg and your own anecdotal experience? Guess you must HATE EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE.”

(the blog Thought Broadcast does a good job looking into some of the actual pharmacology here - see https://thoughtbroadcast.com/2011/03/18/thank-you-somaxon-pharmaceuticals/ )

The good news is that even $10 million/year sales of Silenor aren’t enough to recoup the company’s initial investment in getting it through the FDA, so they’re going to make a huge loss from the whole affair and maybe this will discourage other people from trying the same thing. In the future, I expect pharma companies will stick to their usual strategy of at least taking a stereoisomer or a metabolite of an old medication before claiming that they’ve found something new and exciting we should all pay ten times as much for.

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Posted by Anthony Wells

Yesterday I got a few questions about a new BMG poll in the Independent that had voting intentions in a hypothetical EU referendum tomorrow at 52% remain, 48% leave. The Indy wrote this up with a pretty hyperbolic “Majority want to stay!!!”. The full results – along with a fair more reasonable and caveated write-up by BMG themselves – are here.

So, what is the bigger picture in terms of attitudes to Brexit, and is there any sign of people changing their minds?

I should start by pointing out that how people would vote in a hypothetical referendum tomorrow is not necessarily the same question as what people think should happen now (perhaps surprisingly!). If you ask people what should happen now, a clear majority say Britain should leave the EU. If you ask people how they’d vote in a referendum now, they are split down the middle between Remain and Leave. The difference appears to be because there is a chunk of people who personally favour remain, but think the government has a duty to leave following the referendum. Neither of these is necessarily a “better” measure of public opinion, opinion is best understood by looking at both: that is, the public are split equally on what they’d prefer, but some remainers think that the referendum means Brexit should go ahead anyway.

If we do look specifically at how people would vote in a referendum tomorrow, there is comparatively little change since 2016. Most Remain voters would still vote Remain, most Leave voters would still vote Leave. People who did not vote at all in 2016 tend to split in favour of Remain, meaning that the overall figure tends to be around a 50-50 split. Polls, of course, typically have a margin of error of around 2 or 3 points. This means if the actual position is a 50-50 split, then normal sample variation will inevitably spit out some results that are 52-48, or 48-52, or whatever. This is the unavoidable result of normal statistical variance, however, it does mean that now and again there will be a poll showing Remain with a small lead, which pro-Remain sorts will get wrongly overexcited about.

In terms of a trend, my impression is that there is some small degree of movement against Brexit… but it is very small. It is hard to discern a trend from questions asking the referendum question because they are infrequent, different companies use different methods and there may be different “house effects”. BMG have probably asked it more regularly than any other company, and looking at just their figures (in the link above) there is a slight trend towards Remain.

YouGov regularly ask a question about whether Britain was right or wrong to vote to Leave the EU (below), which also shows a very tight race, but a slight trend towards Remain. Last year it tended to show slightly more people thought it was the right decision than the wrong decision, now it tends to hover around neck-and-neck.

In summary, there hasn’t been any vast sea-change in attitudes towards Brexit. Most people who voted Remain would do so again, most people who voted Leave would do so again. There is some movement back and forth, but it mostly cancels itself out. If you look at the two most frequently repeated questions, the BMG question on referendum VI and the YouGov question on whether the decision was right or wrong, then there does appear to be movement towards Remain… but it is as yet pretty small and pretty slow. In short, there are some “bregrets”, but not enough to really get excited about. If there is going to be a big change, I still wouldn’t expect to see it until the leaving deal (and the consequences of it) become a bit clearer.

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Posted by Zoe O'Connell

Last Saturday, The Times published an opinion piece by Janice Turner in which she tells a version of events that took place at Speakers’ Corner last week during a protest by trans activists. By the time of publication, Janice’s narrative of an elderly woman being beaten up had already been proven false by video circulating on YouTube. This is my letter to the editor in response to that piece, sent on Saturday afternoon – The Times have chosen not to publish it.

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to Janice Turner’s article “The battle over gender has turned bloody”.

Janice seems to be unaware that the incident which occurred during a protest last week was videoed and that it was posted on YouTube. The video tells a very different story to the one she presents, in which she claims a trans activist committed an unprovoked assault on a 60 year old woman. Or perhaps she has taken a leaf out of Donald Trump’s campaign playbook, and wants to try to establish her view as the pure and unadulterated truth regardless of the evidence to the contrary.

What the video shows is Janice’s “60-year-old in specs and sensible shoes called Maria”, who she clearly want to portray as someone defenceless, holding a trans activist in a headlock and trying to kick them repeatedly. I understand the police were called, viewed the video and concluded no action was needed because Maria’s injuries had been sustained as a result of her being pulled off by one of the activist’s friends.

Although stills are available, the video has since been taken offline. Presumably because the person who posted it realised that crying foul when you sustain injuries in the process of assaulting someone else is not a good PR tactic.

I condemn all violence. If Janice wants to condemn violence, she too should condemn all violence. Not just those incidents that help prop up her narrative of hate.

Yours,

Councillor Zoe O’Connell

The post In response to Janice Turner: An unpublished letter to The Times appeared first on Complicity.

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balioc:

jadagul:

I really wanted to link to this Jacobite article (via Left Conservative which I’m pretty sure is @bambamramfan?) with the description “This article explains why IKEA is awesome, as a metaphor for why liberalism is great.”

Rather, they have no concept of foreignness at all, because they have no native traditions against which to compare. Indeed, the very idea of a life shaped by inherited custom is alien to our young couple. When Jennifer and Jason try to choose a restaurant for dinner, one of them invariably complains, “I don’t want Italian, because I had Italian last night.” It does not occur to them that in Italy, most people have Italian every night. For Jennifer and Jason, cuisines, musical styles, meditative practices, and other long-developed customs are not threads in a comprehensive or enduring way of life, but accessories like cheap sunglasses, to be casually picked up and discarded from day to day. Unmoored, undefined, and unaware of any other way of being…

Like, isn’t that obviously the goal and the good life?

But he said too many things I substantively disagree with for that joke to land comfortably, especially in the second half. Including the next part of that quote! “Unmoored, undefined, and unaware of any other way of being, Jennifer and Jason are no one.” But the great thing about unmooring is that it allows you to recreate yourself, as you wish yourself. It makes you someone much more thoroughly than slotting into a pre-existing community would.

Basically, this bit is utterly baffling to me:

If one is not attached to a way of life structured by inherited values and customs, then one is unlikely to be attached to anything at all. Jennifer and Jason illustrate this: life choices follow arbitrary taste, friends come and go, ties with family are thin, and superficial interactions (largely online) with peers fill the gap.

The fact that my values and relationships aren’t inherited doesn’t have to make them shallow.

…it is not especially difficult to square this circle.

Short-short-short version: it’s much better to be a real self-created person with a real unique identity than to be a prefab generic traditional-model person, but it’s also much better to be a prefab generic traditional-model person than to be Jennifer/Jason.  And, at this stage in our cultural development, it’s not wrong to recognize that the world contains a lot more Jennifers and Jasons than real self-created persons.


Which is to say –

Constructing yourself takes work.  It takes work to go out and comb through a whole bunch of possible self-bits (interests styles philosophies mannerisms books movies etc.), so that when you’re trying to figure out what you want to take up into yourself, you have a reasonably-sized array of things from which to choose.  It takes work to reject the conformist identity pressures, both great and subtle, being imposed by everyone around you – and to keep on rejecting them, over and over and over.  It takes work to keep on investing in things even when they’re not immediately rewarding.  It takes work to say I AM FOO AND NOT BAR to a world that is almost certainly indifferent, and quite probably hostile, to such choices. 

Certain people do that work instinctively, usually because they started doing it at a very young age, which is usually because they kind of had to.  When you’re more interested in things than in social acceptance / social status, of course you’re going spend your time and effort checking out a whole bunch of things.  When it’s forcibly made clear to you that you’re Not Like Everyone Else, it’s an obvious next step to go and think about what you are like.  If you’re reading this, the odds are pretty good that you are such a person, and you can take comfort in knowing that this silly IKEA article is not about you.  Yay, weirdo pride, rah rah sis-boom-bah. 

But it doesn’t actually work that way for most people, most of the time. 

Most people aren’t pushed into forging identities for themselves, either by circumstance (which does it only for a few oddballs) or by culture (which at this point doesn’t do it for anyone).  They adopt whatever’s lying around.  They follow the lead of the people they see surrounding them; they walk the path of least resistance, which is usually some kind of general-purpose life behavior script; they adopt the prevailing values, and try to live up to the prevailing standards (because acceptance! and status!). 

The nice thing about traditional communities with well-defined norms is that they allow this strategy to work, mostly.  There’s actually a script for you to follow, and if you follow it, you get rewarded and you fit in.  You won’t blaze like a star or anything, and maybe there’ll be some strange inchoate yearnings deep in your soul that never get answered, but…if you can keep on the straight and narrow (whatever the local version of that may be), you’ll be more or less fine.  People will look upon you with respect and approval.  You will be given the satisfaction of knowing that you did a Good Job.  Even stupid things like “we eat This Dish all the fucking time because it is Our Dish, goddammit” can be sources of identity and pride.  After all – you’re one of Us, right?      

Anomic liberal bourgeois society got rid of the scripts, but didn’t actually teach people how to replace them with properly-crafted individual identities.  So instead you get…Jennifer and Jason. 

They haven’t been trained to do the self-construction thing that weirdos have been doing since early childhood.  (Sometimes they try it out, in desperation or just on a lark, but usually they find that it feels ridiculous and affected. Why am I going through this phase like a teenager, trying to care about this arbitrary thing?  So it doesn’t stick.)  They’re expecting to take their cues from everyone else.  So they watch everyone else, but because there’s no widely-accepted vision of the Good Life in which to ground themselves, all they see is –

– fads.  Fashions.  Petty status competitions and virtue-signaling.  Punishment for doing the wrong thing, for being uncool or unaware, but never any real reward for doing the right thing because there is no right thing.

So they try their hardest to be cool and aware, and they watch the TV shows that everyone they know is watching and they parrot the political opinions that everyone they know is parroting, and surprise! they are wretched, empty, unhappy people. 

You had me until the last line. How is parroting other people’s political opinions and cultural consumption in our society any worse than parroting people’s political opinions and cultural consumption in a traditional society? When a medieval Christian believes that Jesus Is Lord, reads Pilgrim’s Progress, and has a traditional Byzantine icon in his house - how is that interestingly different from or better than all the people who believe that Black Lives Matter, watch John Oliver, and have Ikea furniture?

We have a cultural script. We have well-defined norms and ready-made cookie-cutter identities. You might find them distasteful or silly, but Biblical literalism wasn’t super-great either.

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sinesalvatorem:

cptsdcarlosdevil:

In Defense of Unreliability, on Thing of Things and LW

I primarily get places through public transit and Uberpool. The Bay Area’s public transit system is really really good compared to public transit in most of the rest of the country (for one thing, it is possible to get places on it). However, our public transit is certainly inferior to, say, New York City’s. One of the ways this works is that sometimes, based on the Inscrutable Whim of the Train Gods, the train will choose to show up fourteen minutes late. Uberpool also has high variance in time estimates, because they have to pick up and drop off other people. What this means is that when I say “I will get there at such-and-such a time”, I mean “there is a bimodal distribution of times when I could show up which is centered around this time and probably has a standard deviation of like five to ten minutes.”

I’m in the same position, except my arrival times are normally distributed with a mean of about “five minutes early”. Also, getting places is sufficiently hard that the whole thing is pretty costly in time.

However, I think I count my time as less expensive than Ozy counts theirs, so if people tell me in advance whether earliness or lateness is a better tradeoff for them, I’ll go with that. (I’ve found people prefer lateness to earliness for multi-person social events, so my arrival time has a mean of 5 mins late then, unless they specify otherwise. Meanwhile, individual hangouts in public places are like 10 mins early, while I try to avoid showing up early to people’s houses.)

I flake less than 10% of the time (maybe about 5%?) for things that I actually agree on a date and time for, though I’m sometimes hesitant to do that until I’m sure, because I very much don’t want to cancel after that. I’m OK with other people being flaky about showing up to my house, but I care far more if I have to head out, because going out is costly enough that I don’t want to turn back partway through. I don’t like lateness, but I mind it far less than cancellation.

I think it would be good if how flaky people were was information they shared publicly so that we could plan around that, along with what their arrival time distributions were. However, I understand why people aren’t incentivised to publicise that. :(

I think this breaks down when more than two people are involved.

When I went to school in Ireland, there was a culture there of not worrying much about being on time. Since only a fraction of the class would be there at the supposed starting time, the professor would wait until ten minutes after the supposed starting time when they could be pretty sure most people would be there. Well, soon enough we all realized it was stupid to come on time since we’d just be sitting ten minutes for no reason. So everyone would come ten minutes after the official starting time. But we couldn’t make that *official*, because then everyone would just come ten minutes after the new starting time, and so on.

So what we ended up with was a weird equilibrium where everyone trickled in at different times, and the professor would start at some unpredictable time in a distribution centered around ten minutes after the official starting time, and then inevitably be interrupted by a couple of people slamming the door as they entered. And if you tried to guess when the starting time would be, then sometimes you would guess wrong and be late, and other times you would guess wrong and be really early and have to sit around, and if you were a scrupulous person who felt bad about arriving ten minutes late. or an autistic-ish person who takes written rules seriously, then you were always going to waste about ten minutes of every day.

Also, we switched lecturers a lot, and every so often we would get a lecturer who was really strict, and who started exactly on time and locked the doors as soon as she started teaching, and then something like 75% of the class would miss the lecture. So you had to be okay with either missing some fraction of the lectures (and maybe getting yelled at later) or wasting ten minutes every day sitting around doing nothing.

I see this at parties too. Everyone assumes everyone else will be late to the party, but nobody knows how late, so unless you have some sort of weird social sixth sense that lets you predict this, you either miss the party or end up showing up super-awkwardly when no one else is there and having to just sort of sit quietly and stare at the host for an hour or so.

On the other hand, I’ve also lived in places where things that say they’re going to start at 8 actually start at 8, and it’s great. For the cost of giving the rare person who arrives at 8:05 slightly dirty looks, I can know exactly when to get to a place and have them be respectful of my time.

But in order for this to work, there has to be a culture of trying to arrive at the time you said you would. And I’m not sure you can have that culture for multi-person events without having at least some kind of relevant social norm as the default for two-person events.

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August 2017

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