The SBA dollar was the same size as the successful Canadian loonie. But they should have made it more distinguishable by making the color and edge different from the quarter the way Canada did.

My recollection is that early images showed the SBA dollar was planned to be polygonal. If so, I wonder why they dropped it for the quarter-like milled edge. (Itself a vestgial artifact of precious metal coins, where it was a guard against clipping.)

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Just because I tend to miss "the the" in your writings doesn't mean I miss it in other people's writings. Have you considered controlling for the writer in your duplication tests?

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A couple years back, I was having a discussion in a travel forum about moving overseas, and to my surprise an Italian joined the conversation and made the argument that immigrating from one highly developed country to another on a whim is morally wrong. He argued that refugees coming to Europe from war-torn regions is fine when their homelands are inhospitable, but if say an American were to immigrate to Europe, it would be shallow and spiritually vain since they're just chasing some economic edge, or looking to maximize their quality-of-life per location in a kind of detached analytic way, almost blind to/removed from the culture and nation that inhabits it.

Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you'd say, "If it were America of 20 years ago I would agree, but with the way things are going lately..." - you get the idea. Anyway, it kind of shocked me and it's an idea I still haven't reconciled. Like lots of Americans, now and then I get those thoughts of various European countries I'd love to live in, and many of us actually do make that move. Still, when I think over my criteria for -what- country I'd like to live in, I run out of material pretty quickly. Why France? "Well, they have amazing food, the best creamy cheeses, killer wine, great labor laws, the country is beautiful...". Why Netherlands? "Great infrastructure, high HDI, they all speak English...". Across thousands of miles of ocean, you too can enjoy a life that's 10-15% better than life at home. Something about it begins to feel trivial. Now - this is not some rebuke against those who wish to immigrate. I'm still meditating on my true feelings over this, because perhaps he had a point.

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Nov 23, 2022·edited Nov 23, 2022

Is it okay to store physical US fiat coins inside of my physical leather wallet*?

I got into an argument over this with my dad earlier this week. My dad argued that the coins could damage the surface of the wallet since the coins have sharp edges. However, I argued that the wallet is probably strong enough, and that storing my coins elsewhere would make it much harder for me to find them/mark them as mine. After looking this matter up on my dad's command (and filtering out the content relating to the other kind of coins and wallets), the only relevant result I found was a guide for coin collectors (https://www.preservationequipment.com/Blog/Blog-Posts/How-to-store-coins-full-guide ) which suggested that whatever I put my coins into should be acid-free.

*I deliberately added the extra words to make it clear that I am not discussing the other type of coins and wallets.

EDIT: remove unbalanced parenthesis

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Will you be bringing back challenge mode open thread?

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Nov 23, 2022·edited Nov 23, 2022

I remember that Hamilton (the musical) got some interest in the SSC comment field back in the days. So if you have missed it, let me tell you about "Scamilton". A Texas church put up their own Hamilton production. It's surprisingly ambitious, unauthorized and totally illegal. The cast is not-great, they cut out some songs (for brevity I assume), censor all the bad words and add a new little segment about Hamilton finding Jesus. And the post-show sermon offers help to those struggling with homosexuality. Ergo, it's a glorious trainwreck. Plenty of youtubers have been on it, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GLBEBCwqp4

For more in the same genre, I highly enjoyed Jenny Nicholsons video on church plays: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK4gM7RC1M0

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Whatever happened to fluidic devices like fluidic transistors?

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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

Fine-Grained feedback on online comments and its challenges.

At some point in internet history, probably beginning with Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/), some genius figured out the idea of self-curating online communities. That is, give every user the ability to "vote" for a comment, post, reply,etc..., and by the magic of "Wisdom of the Crowd" and other such dynamics you can obtain useful signals about the quality of those things. Basically, make the entire userbase an auxiliary network of moderators\curators operating in parallel without communication.

This is a good idea in the abstract, any idea that treats humans as dumb cells\units\components in a big network that is much smarter than the sum of its constituent humans has an intuitive appeal to me, I see it as a good approximation of reality and it has pleasing parallels to computer science and biology that I love.

The idea is sometimes criticized, however, as too crude. To take the 2 online communities with upvote-downvote systems I'm most familiar with, Reddit and HackerNews, a heavily downvoted comment can mean that the content of the comment is any of lots of things. Some are, ranked from most-deserving of downvoting to least-deserving according to my subjective view, :

1- Spam and obvious off-topic nonsense ("Come chat with hot single girls at scam.sexxxx.totally.not.a.scam", or "GO TRUMP 2024" in a non-politics thread)

2- Trolling (saying something while meaning something entirely different or opposite or not meaning anything at all, for the sole purpose of deceiving and upsetting people) and obvious bad-faith takes

3- Incorrect claims presented as facts

4- Mainstream opinions or facts phrased aggresively and\or personal insults

5- Controversial opinions (whether in general or just relative to the subreddit\thread it's posted in)

6- Comments that indicate the commenter hasn't read the article\video\etc posted

7- Jokes (on reddit, the overused ones, on HackerNews, nearly all)

And possibly more. It's obviously suboptimal to imply that all those things are the same and treat them uniformly, but that's exactly what upvote/downvote does. Suggestions to reform the system can be classified into 2 categories :

A- [Often Suggested] Fine-Grain the feedback. Instead of a generic yes/no counter, or even 2 yes/no counters (as in old youtube), make the feedback much more varied and high-dimensional. A button for spam, a button for overused jokes, etc... Optionally offer various filtering algorithms and other user-modifiable configuration that punish those things differently or not at all. Optionally offer buttons for positive things as well as negative things ("funny", "factual", ....). Basically, move the simplistic up/down mentality to a rich tag system with all its associated paraphernalia.

B. [Original To Me, as far as I know] Fine-Grain the *applicability* of the feedback. Instead of upvoting or downvoting **a comment**, you should really only upvote or downvote **a selection of text inside the comment**. In an ordinary politics thread, "GO TRUMP 2024" shouldn't really be a punishable thing to say (or, in an A-system, should only be tagged with the "Obnoxiously Capitalized" or "Trump Fanboyism" tag). It's probably the "TRUMP WON 2020 !!!" part before it that should be downvoted (or tagged "Non-Factual" in an A-System, along with the obligatory reference to the legal machinery that rejected the claim). This also opens the door to "vote-restoring edits" (or tag-revoking edits in the A-system generalization) : If you delete the non-factual trump claim, all the downvotes due to that claim instantly disappears, or at least decrease in effect. If feedback is tied to the content of the comment, then it makes sense that deleting content invalidates or dilutes the feedback.

Systems A and B are orthogonal as far as I can see, and they are very customizable and full of degrees of freedom. You can mix and match tons of unique cocktails from them as basic ingredients. They potentially offer massive improvments in the quality of signals on online comments.

The difficulties facing those systems, however, are legion:

1- [Applies to A and B] People won't use them correctly, Anti-Trump users will see "TRUMP 2024" and mash all the negative buttons without thinking, people will see spam and downvote as many selection of text as humanly possible thinking that will make it disappear faster. (and probably they would be right if there is a "master" ranking algorithm that averages all the downvotes\tags over a single comment, but they are still corrupting the signal)

2- [Applies to A and B] It's exhausting to use them correctly. This is a subtly different point from (1), but it reinforces its effect. It's not fair to ask people to consider all 5-10-20 tag we came up with (system A), or all possible selections of text in a comment (system B), or every possible combinations of both (hybrid). People will just focus on the most popular 3 or 4 tags, and the most eye-catching selection of text in a comment, and ignore all the rest, making it useless or worse. Even if different people focus on different things, this differential "sparse" feedback feels wrong somehow, like if 50% of people only ever press on "unfunny" when applicable and 50% of people only ever press on "non-factual" then some non-factual comments won't be labeled as such and some non-funny comments won't be labeled as such and..., so heckin complex. And what if the percentages of people who care about each tag is different as well ?

3- [Applies To B] What is the granularity of "claims" ? I handwaved this away with "Selections of Text" but this is clearly nonsense, it will allow some mad anti-trump users with too much free time to downvote "T", "TR","TRU","TRUM","TRUMP","TRUMP W",etc... in a "TRUMP WON 2020" comment. The issue comes back in the "revoking" feature too : if the pro-trump user deleted "TRUMP WON 2020" and instead wrote "THE DONALD TRIUMPHED IN TWENTY-TWENTY", should that revoke or decrease the effect of the downvotes or "non-factual" tags ? should it notify the users who downvoted to consider un-downvoting instead of doing it automatically ? (and how many would care and actually go back and read again? and is that fair for them even if they do?) how similar should two snippets of text be to be considered the same (and what if the original claim was at the top of the comment but the new claim is now at the bottom instead?) how.... oh holy heck this looks like it's AGI-complete.

1,2 and 3 are complete deal breakers that significantly nullify the possible benefits of the 2 systems or any hybrid of them, and - worse - they all look like extremly gnarly "people's problems" that require Politics-Heavy or AGI-complete machinery to solve.

Thoughts ?

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I am curious of how many physicists are present in the rationalist movement (compared to other studies)?

I ask because when I was an high schooler i was attracted to transhumanism and rationalism and i assumed that studying physics i would have found more people interested in it. However, some years later, i know noone in my institute that knows what rationalism, effective altruism or ssc are.

(Personally, studying physics made me grow skeptic of some of the "accepted wisdom" (coff drexler coff) so maybe this has some selection effect)

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Does pregnancy mess with your immune system in any direction? I have a kid and am pregnant with the second, and my subjective impression is: I was healthy before the kid (including through first pregnancy); I caught a lot of whatever the kid caught as he started going to daycare, including the wave of catch-up infections as people came out of COVID quarantines; I seem to have dodged the last two infections that the kid brought home from school. As an isolated observation, it could have a number of causes, including random luck or the kid recently bringing home kids' diseases that don't jump to adults as much. Or it could be pregnancy ramping up the immune system (if that's true, I'd expect a lot of women to complain of allergies during pregnancy). Or it could be lifestyle choices -- I might be sleeping more, and I'm dutifully taking multivitamins which I normally don't do -- and if that's what's going on, I'd like to know so that I can keep doing it! Statistics probably can't help me disentangle "luck" vs. "I normally run a mild vitamin deficiency," but it might be able to weigh in on whether pregnant women have better immune systems?

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I found this interesting treatise about magical fantasy settings -> http://jbr.me.uk/mytho.html (especially parts 5-6), describing how a world that was created ex novo -- without needing to arise from natural/evolutionary processes, or to imitate one -- might look; extremely different from what we are familiar with, in which life is shaped by natural selection, geography by plate tectonics, and so on. (It also contains some IMO less-than-perfectly-fair criticism of traditional fantasy and Tolkien in particular that might rub people here the wrong way; I hope they will not turn you off from the rest.)

Some choice quotes:

"After all, there's no reason to imagine the first appearance of the “gene for magic” would be in a sapient species. [...] So feel free to go and visit some biosphere where the wildlife has developed thaumaturgical powers, but don't come back. If you arrive early enough to find it ruled by parasitic para‐wasps that can turn you into a willing host for their larvae, you're relatively lucky, because all the non‐magical parts of that insect are vestigial. Give it another million years and the place will be a witch's cauldron of cell cultures whose sole purpose is to pump out clouds of retroviral hex‐chromosomes."

"Earth's flora and fauna naturally fall into families sharing large sets of characteristics (toothy, furry, viviparous mammals versus beaky, feathery, oviparous birds) just because all the members of a given family share a common ancestral bodyplan. A biome that was Intelligently Designed de novo last Wednesday, with each individual creature a separate expression of its maker's artistry, is never going to end up organised this way. [...] Folkloric secondary worlds do often seem to nod in this direction by having furry/feathery hybrids like griffins and owlbears and whatnot, but there shouldn't be any coherent taxonomic groupings to hybridise – the things that look something like lions and something like eagles are liable to turn out to reproduce via acorns."

"... we should anticipate that the creatures tailor‐made for domestication by a beneficent providence would resemble perambulatory mushrooms rather than geese or goats. [...] If predators and parasites and prey aren't all locked in an eternal genetic red‐queen's‐race, there's no point leveraging chromosomal variability with a fancy diploid reproductive mechanism. In other words, there's no practical need for sex [...] Elves themselves [...] aren't going to have any evolutionary vestiges like tailbones or wisdom teeth; everything's there because it's biologically or aesthetically appropriate. [...] Their hands aren't feet that have been put through a minor redesign to make them work better as manipulatory appendages, they're organs designed purely for their current role. And similarly, while we upstart monkeys do our talking with repurposed masticatory organs [...] they have articulatory organs that were designed with that function in mind all along."

"In such a cosmos, living things are special because they're full of élan vital; caterpillars turn into butterflies because they're attracted to the right Platonic form by morphic resonance; and magic works because the meaning of your incantation is a thing in its own right that can have a direct impact on whatever it refers to. [...] If organisms are animated not by adenosine triphosphate but by a ghostly vital essence, having a cerebral cortex as well as a soul is redundant – look at ents, which are remarkably nimble thinkers when you consider that their heads are made of solid wood. [...] that the simplest and most obvious way for messages to get from one mind to another is for them to hop across psionically without ever going near the material plane. That sounds as if it would work much better, but it would mean a setting with no need for conlangs."

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I've just realized the very obvious kabalistic/punny connotations of "Bangkok", after being in the city twice, and I can't help but be surprised at how long it took or how well it fits.

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So it's that time of year when I wonder whether it was really such a great idea for mankind to migrate past 40° N.

Personally, I want this for the circadian effects rather than SAD. For this reason, I'd consider it useful to be able to fade on the light shortly before I need to wake up.

People around here have been DIYing 10klm SAD lamps, capable of irradiating a 1m^2 area as brightly as daylight (not direct sun) on a clear day for a long time. But LED technology has come far since then so I don't think the traditional LessWrong solution of spamming two dozen domestic lightbulbs is necessarily optimal. So what is the current state-of-the-art?

This preprint promotes the moar dakka approach, cranking the brightness up to 100klm.


High-bay lights like this come as a single unit that can be plugged into mains power:

amazon dot co dot uk/Blivrig-Industrial-Lighting-Waterproof-Workshop/dp/B0B6FKL2VG/

Or you can run a much smaller COB at 30V:

amazon dot co dot uk/Chanzon-6000K-6500K-Intensity-Components-Lighting/dp/B01DBZHUXA

This youtuber has done some high power LED builds that replicate sunlight pretty well in terms of rays being parallel.


One of the big challenges seems to be thermal management. By volume, these things are 90% heat sink. Assuming a luminous efficacy of 100lm/W (this is kind of worst-case nowadays) and a brightness of 10klm, we need to dissipate around 100W of heat. The LEDs don't want to go much above 80°C so we have a ΔT of around 60K to play with. Apparently that's close enough to what CPUs need nowadays that you can use heat sinks designed for them. The other, crazier idea I just had was to get a small radiator (either one meant to be on a wall filled with water or a freestanding oil radiator) and dump heat into there, as they are often designed to output a few hundered watts of heat. This could be done either by attaching the heat source directly or using it as the reservoir for a liquid-cooled system.

I'm not sure how best to orient the lighting. I want to make sure a lot of light reaches my eyes but not to dazzle me. Perhaps uplighting would work. I also have plans involving fresnel lenses.

Colour Rendering Index may or may not be important. I'll be buying cheapo LEDs for now but they could be easily retrofitted with ones that produce a more realsitic sunlight effect.

N.B. Links broken to make this post look less spammy. Products are random ones I saw. Not necessarily the best or even good.

So does anybody here have experience with stupidly bright LEDs and/or SAD lamps?

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Any recommendations for what could be called a "recreational chemistry" nonfiction book or blog? Basically, I feel like I have a huge hole in my knowledge of chemistry, and that bothers me since chemistry underlies so much technology. I don't have the will to self-study chemistry textbooks, so I was wondering if there are any "fun" books that could also improve my chemistry literacy. In case it matters, I'm good with math and physics, so not afraid of seeing equations in the text.

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I ran across this article: There is No Liberal West (https://theupheaval.substack.com/p/there-is-no-liberal-west). I suppose I always thought freedom of speech for example was seriously under attack, but seeing it all laid out like this is rather striking:

> Of course Yousaf and his comrades argue they have no intention to chill freedom of expression, but few can take this seriously, given how many people in Scotland have already been arrested for speech and thought crimes – people like Marion Millar, a feminist who faced prosecution this April for the “transphobic” act of tweeting a photo of a suffragette ribbon and “#WomenWontWheesht” (women won’t shut up). Already, between 2008 and 2018 there were 7,618 convictions for speech under the existing Communications Act of 2003, which the new legislation seeks to significantly strengthen. In Scotland, even filming your pug doing tricks can lead to the police showing up at your door. Maybe we should head south.

> But it would of course be untenable for England – home of John Locke and John Stewart Mill – to be left behind by the Scots, so the rest of Britain is rushing to catch up. Britain now launches manhunts for 12-year-olds who allegedly send racist messages on social media, convicts teenagers of hate crimes for quoting rap lyrics in general circulation (fitting them with ankle monitoring bracelets for extra public safety), and jails people for offensive jokes. But the real innovation of the nation of George Orwell has been the invention of the “Non-Crime Hate Incident” – a brilliant category encompassing anything the police deem to potentially be offensive to someone, somewhere. That was the lesson learned by the unfortunate Harry Miller, whose 2019 tweets about gender were reported anonymously to police, who then quickly stormed into his workplace to “check his thinking.” Some 25,000 such incidents are now investigated by UK police each year, with each case filed in a permanent record that shows up in employment background checks even if no crime is ever prosecuted.

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So what can be done about the massive homeless encampments in America? My brother recently went to Denver and was quite shocked by them. He also commented that they seemed to be populated by the mentally ill (unlike in Puerto Rico, where there are no encampments but the homeless seem to be mainly drug addicts, sometimes falling apart with disease), which jives with what I saw in Portland. I once heard that this happened because the big state psychiatric hospitals were forced to shut down, so maybe the homeless do need to forcibly interned?

I am somewhat skeptical about the provide housing solution. I happened to have a neighbor who both went insane and became a drug addict and he completely trashed his house (which was paid for and maintained by his dad) and became homeless all the same.

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Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022


Yale Law School and others abandoning the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

On the one hand - awesome. U.S. News has been a pretty pernicious source of bad incentives for US universities. For example, https://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2012/05/step-right-up-ladies-and-gentlemen.html Columbia University inviting people with no chance of being admitted to apply so that it can reject them and beef up its "selectivity" metrics.

So schools abandoning the metric is a thing I'm happy about.

On the other hand... Yale's reasons are so mindbogglingly self-serving that instead of just being glad about it, I actually come away annoyed with Yale! Among the reasons they give that this decision had to be made:

- When Yale hires its own graduates for temporary fellowships (popular move schools use to inflate their "employment after graduation" statistics), US News is counting the fellows as unemployed, and refuses to stop doing it.

- USN keeps factoring in "how much debt does a student have at graduation?" as a factor in the rankings, despite Yale's demands to switch over to "how much aid did the school provide the student." Making that switch would allow a school like Yale, which charges $60,000 a year, to give a student a 33% discount, and then when the student graduates with $120,000 of debt, instead of being a negative in Yale's USN ranking ("student with huge debt load"), it would be a positive ("student who received a total of $60,000/33% in aid").

- When measuring "how much debt does a student have at graduation?" USN insists on using the actual amount of debt students have, rather than discounting it based on the possibility of debt forgiveness if a graduate manages to hold down work exclusively with 501c3 charitable organizations for 10 years.

Yale dresses all these things up to try to make them sound like they're about "encouraging public interest work," but they're so completely self-serving that I think I might have torn a retina rolling my eyes.

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https://freakonomics.com/podcast/is-google-getting-worse/ (transcript available)

I just found about https://neeva.com/, a no-ads, subscription supported search engine which I've found give much better results than google.

It's $6/month or $50/year. It promises privacy, but I don't know whether it's actually good on that.

As a side issue, the link includes google's vice-president in charge of search, and she's pretty classic marketing droid. She's got a plausible point that one of the reason google is getting worse is that there are more low-quality sites online to sort through, but infuriating with her attitude of "everything we do that you hate is really well-designed to give the public what it wants".

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Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

People who argue that voting is a waste of time generally point out that a single vote has a very small chance of making a difference. This paper puts the chance of a vote making a difference in the UP presidential election at one in 60 million:


It seems to me this argument fails to consider what the value of actually being able to flip the presidential election is, since the fair value of your vote is the expected value, which is the product of the chance you'll make a difference, and the value if you do. And make no mistake, the presidency is a big deal. Replace George W. with most any Democrat, and the Iraq war probably doesn't happen. Replace Obama with most any Republican, and the Affordable Care Act doesn't happen.

With that in mind, has anyone tried to put a figure on how much it would be worth to flip the presidency?

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How do people here feel about compulsory voting? I’m an Australian, where attending a polling place is compulsory although you can leave your ballot blank. I, and a majority here, greatly support it: it ensures our politicians have to appeal to everyone, not just to their base. We rode out the Trump-Johnson-Xi years with only a small handful of crazy/overtly racist politicians (we also have preferential voting so minor parties can get in). I recently learned that it has actually been repealed in several places. The main reasons on Wikipedia were free speech grounds/refusal to support any party (but just submit a blank ballot?), or a sense that uninformed people might vote on simplistic grounds (surely that isn’t worse than a typical partisan voter?), or an estimated 10% swing to the left (surely that can’t be the real motivation for everyone opposing it), and the website didn’t make a big fuss but it’s also annoying sometimes to spend the time going to a polling place and voting.

How do people from places without compulsory voting feel about it? I’m mostly interested in people’s gut reactions about why this is a good/bad idea, or anecdotes or examples where it would be good/bad.

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Headline of the Day:

“Highly ruminative individuals with depression exhibit abnormalities in the neural processing of gastric interoception.

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The linked comment about (partly) Adequan is illuminating. I worry that my own industry, ophthalmology, is going to see a steady decrease in Restasis scripts written because offices are going to have a harder and harder time getting hold of samples, an important part of getting a patient's symptoms under control as they start a dry eye regimen for the first time.

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Medical issue:

I am really trying to talk myself into quitting smoking. I am 67 years old and have been smoking since I was 15. In addition I worked a lot with plaster and wood so lots of airborne stuff-(and I usually smoked while I worked as well just to get the full benefit….)

Here’s my big hurdle; a very deep sense that I’ve been doing it so long it won’t do me any good to quit at this stage so light up!

What’s the science? Anyone know? Can I shift this issue one way or the other?

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Book recommendation: Poor Economics, by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. I'm only half way through it, but so far it's fascinating, and I think many people here might be interested in it.

The book talks about the economics of poor people in poor countries, how they make decisions about how to allocate their scarce resources, and what holds them back from improving their situations. A lot of the book is spent talking about whether "poverty traps" are real -- whether there are places in which a simple injection of money is enough to bring a desperately poor person out of poverty, or whether poverty is caused by more complex issues than a simple lack of money.

A simple example of a poverty trap would be something like this: you're a manual labourer and you're malnourished; because you're malnourished you're too weak to work well so you earn very little money so you can't buy food. If someone comes along and gives you money to buy decent food for two weeks then you get stronger and can work harder so you earn more money and can eat better in the future. Sometimes, that kind of thing happens. On the other hand, sometimes you take the extra money and use it to buy booze, spend a week drunk and wind up even weaker than you started.

What I like about the book is that it doesn't simply _assume_ that poor people are not responsible for their own situation, nor does it assume the opposite. It presents empirical data about the sorts of economic decisions that people in extreme poverty make, and I feel like I've got a lot more understanding of the actual lives of poor people than I had before.

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Hypothesis: one of the reasons EA was moving towards longtermism is that there really weren't many opportunities for charity that had provable good impacts, were neglected, and whatever the third property is.

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What are the rules regarding promoting a project that I’m a part of on an open thread? Do I need to wait for a classifieds thread to do it?

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I feel like the FTX crisis exposes what I think is an under discussed flaw in EA: that the movements dependance on large dollar donations puts it at the whims of a group that are fundamentally incapable of behaving in a meaningfully altruistic way. Take for example Scotts criticism of leftist revolutions where the demands of violent revolt empower individuals and institutions which are power maximizing instead of equality maximizing. Similarly the kind of people and institutions who can give the kind of 9 or 10 figure sums EA depends are simply not going to get that kind of money by nurturing an altruistic instinct.

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Why do I suck at recognizing satire?

A few months ago, I wrote a piece [1] that mentioned Scott's "My Immortal as Alchemical Allegory" [2]. People on the subreddit were quick to point out that Scott was bullshitting to make a point, and I pushed back! At least until I spent 2 minutes on the My Immortal fandom site.

Today I read another (amazing) piece by Sam Kriss [3] which, in retrospect, was obviously satire. But I didn't get the joke until I saw his footnote at the end, and even then I had to try looking up the fake Sun Ra albums he mentions to verify.

Is it tone deafness? Do others read those articles and immediately understand that they're written in jest? Or am I just too credulous?

[1] https://superbowl.substack.com/p/the-mysticism-of-scott-alexander

[2] https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/05/26/my-immortal-as-alchemical-allegory/

[3] https://samkriss.substack.com/p/the-secret-history-of-wakanda

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In the comments of the scandal market for Eliezer Yudkowsky that got started last weekend on Manifold (https://manifold.markets/IsaacKing/will-eliezer-yudkowsky-be-found-to#), there was a comment linking a blogpost (https://sinceriously.fyi/net-negative/#comment-216) accusing Yudkowsky of being involved in statutory rape and blackmail. Some commenters seemed to take it pretty seriously, but I've never heard anything about this before and the blogpost doesn't seem to cite any evidence beyond the author's word. Does anyone here know more about this?

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Cross-posting this question here should a subject matter expert in proof theory and/or recursion theory wish to comment: https://twitter.com/jpt401/status/1594079004574863361

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Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

When I was new to the U.S years ago, one of the most puzzling things was that people were constantly walking together or doing other activities, to raise money for causes. As a poor student, I was invited for walks I couldn't afford, by classmates. It seemed very hard to comprehend this aspect of culture. Why did this never happen in India?

My only reference point was a P.G. Wodehouse story where Ukridge (famous for his get-rich-quick schemes) realizes it is easy to get people in London to give you money, as long as you have a nice cause to get them to support. He invents "Buttercup Day". He makes a lot of money although no one quite knows what it is!

It looks like Larry David and Seinfeld might have been inspired by this. The character George Castanza invents something called The Human Fund. I loved that episode.

Why is this such a thing in Western culture? Is it bizarre to anyone else?

I have become more comfortable with it over the years but I remember thinking it was an entirely new kind of a thing I'd never encountered before. I'd encountered altruism before, but not quite this organized version of it that was so hugely tied to people's identities.

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Are these Open Threads in fact Clopen [0] Threads?

Reasoning: Open Threads Hidden Open Threads are both, definitionally, open. OTs and HOTs are complements within the universe of <X>OTs. Thus, both are clopen.

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How bad is hiring at big tech now? Are no big companies hiring anymore?

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Is there any way to see only the new posts since my last update? It's very time consuming to follow threads of discussion when you have to go back through old posts

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Scott Aaronson posted his take on AI Alignment, and it seems a lot more like Paul Christiano's than like Eliezer Yudkowsky's. https://scottaaronson.blog/?p=6821 Maybe even less urgent. I am not sure what to make of it.

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Pac-12 football has been entertainingly chaotic this year, although it looks like USC is going to be the one that comes out on top (assuming they win the championship game). Good show for one of their last years in the conference.

It looks like NASA is drifting back towards the bad plan again for a prospective 2040 Mars mission (which won't happen, but it shows where their thoughts are). Once again, they're supporting a mission that theoretically is supposed to be safer because it's not as long, but you end up with astronauts actually getting more cosmic radiation dosage because they're in space for more days as opposed to the mission architecture that has them on Mars itself for 18 months (Mars effectively blocks out half of the sky and thus half the radiation dosage you'd get in space, and you get it even lower by putting your landing site in a crater or near a cliff).

I wonder if it's a case of the nuclear rocket people throwing their weight around. They really want their nuclear-thermal rockets to be included somehow in a Mars mission.

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What else are we missing?

I was thinking back to my 60s childhood. One weekend my sister & I stayed with my Grandmother, who was born around 1900. Grammy, had bought us some coloring books and crayons. As we were coloring, we noticed Grammy didn't know how to color, but scribbled like a toddler. Being uncouth youths, we told Grammy, you're supposed to color inside the lines. Grammy said, "Oh, I didn't know, we didn't have coloring books when I was a child." In our 60s now, my sister & I still comment upon this ; but only from the perspective of what Grammy didn't have growing up.

Today I had a thought. What else are we missing?

One of the things I see, is the 'video-game generation' which thinks that shooting an animal always results in insta-kill, as if a bullet has magical life-stopping properties. Yes, a bullet has great damage-doing properties, but not necessarily life-ending properties. Many animals live a surprisingly long time after taking big bullets to the head and/or other vital organs.

I also see in threads which divert towards the prepper-survivalist needs, ala post apolitical world, the phrase "I read a book, I'll just grow a garden." As a life-long gardener, I know that one doesn't 'just grow a garden.' There's a lot to it ; books whilst being a good resource, gardening books, typically aren't written by actual gardeners, but instead are primarily written by someone hailing from the PMC (Professional Managerial Class) who is merely regurgitating other bookish learnings. On gardening shows, the people with dirt under their nails are wearing black 'LANDSCAPE CREW' T-shirts, and standing just off-camera.

Today, I read once again, the worn-out Anthropological fallacy that hunter-gatherers worked less than farmers. I'm pretty sure hunter-gatherers lived quite differently than our image of the noble hunter stalking the equally noble big game, quickly dispatching the beast with a well placed arrow from his handsome bow, hand carved with a stone tool he harvested from yonder volcano. Having hunted, fished, collected rock, lived remotely, lived in Alaskan Exploration camps surrounded by wolves, and observed wolves hunting, and taking down moose calves. I'm more certain the early hunter-gathers lived by shadowing the wolves, coyotes, vultures, etc. and robbing them of their feast. Whilst in the middens, we find the bones of moose, deer, bear, rabbits, fish, etc. I'd venture if we examined feces, we'd find a whole lot more beetle carapaces, mouse, lizard, and snake skeletons, indicating such critters featured higher on the menu than the 'television noble fur-bearers.'

There's a local story—actually a book too—of a 1950s homeopath named Frank, they called "The Goat Doctor" — because he lived amidst a flock of goats. Frank had the ability to fix bad backs by massage, and people came from far distances to be treated by Frank. Many doctors sent their unhealable patients to Frank, where they were promptly treated and healed. Frank credits his learning from a lifetime of slaughtering goats for food. What is it our doctors could learn about backs by slaughtering a lot of goats?

In an earlier life, I had a herd of cattle, and took a weeklong livestock reproduction class, learning how to do artificial insemination on livestock ; I guess I'm a licensed cow-fucker. As part of the class, the instructors brought in—from the slaughter house—a dozen fresh bovine reproductive tracts, vulva - cervix - uterus - ovaries all connected. We examined these, handled them, learned a lot. But when I read r/BadWomensAnatomy, the purported females online have absolutely no sense of female anatomy—perhaps that's why its called Bad Women's Anatomy. I sometimes read women who were considering sex, stating they didn't shave their vaginas ... um ... that's an internal organ, not the external portion. I'm pretty sure you're not shaving that part - its equivalent to a man saying he's shaved his urethra.

What else are we missing by not doing?

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I've been reading the Economist for a few months, and I find its articles to be much higher quality than most other "mainstream media". Do you agree or disagree? Any better recommendations?

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About a year ago, Scott quoted a claim that "Nazis hated IQ research":

"But here’s a claim that actually, Nazis hated IQ research, worrying that it would “be an instrument of Jewry to fortify its hegemony” and outshine more properly Aryan values like “practical intelligence” and “character”. Whenever someone tells you that they don’t believe in IQ, consider calling them out on perpetuating discredited Nazi ideology." (see https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/links-for-october/comment/3264463)

Now to add two datapoints to that:

(1) Fritz Lenz, a human geneticist and "influential specialist in eugenics in Nazi Germany" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Lenz), whose work was referred to by Hitler in "Mein Kampf", propagated a concept of racial hierarchy; according to wikipedia, claims about intelligence were part of that (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Lenz).

(2) Here's a file of an intelligence test used in 1937 to decide whether a person should be sterilized: https://www.landesarchiv-bw.de/stal/grafeneck/grafeneck03.htm, from the hospital of Göttingen.

You can always discuss about what is actually "IQ research" and what is merely applying some concept of "intelligence". I will not take part in such discussions in this thread.

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Recently ended a relationship. Went right into the no contact thing, it's been 1.5 weeks. Today experiencing mild emotions/thoughts that are weirdly more difficult than the previously intense ones (guilt, missing her, wondering how/what she's doing, etc). I don't have ambivalence about whether it's the right thing, but do intensely miss her. I don't think I need the typical advice (push yourself into hobbies, stay occupied, talk with friends/family, gym, etc). Wondering if anyone had anything to say that could relate or that could numb the ruminations or... I don't know... anything at all.

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Does anyone have any experience with hiring a style or image consultant as a man and any advice on getting the most from the experience?

I'm asking because I get the feeling, as a nerd's nerd, that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit in fashion and dress for a relatively minimal investment. For example, I've done some experimenting this year and I've been shocked at how relatively small changes have lead to noticeable changes in how people treat me. Just wearing a little Seiko watch, some decent boots, and some mid-priced cologne has notably improved how people treat me. It's very hard justifying spending a lot of time studying fashion, however, because I'm not terribly interested in it and the opportunity cost is getting some technical certifications which would lead to pay increases well beyond what an annual style consultation would cost. So, has anyone done this successfully and does anyone have any advice on finding a good consultant or, more importantly, advice on communicating what exactly I want to the consultant?

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One of the supposed use cases for crypto that gets bandied around a lot, is a stable currency for residents of developing countries. Sometimes you'll see these emotionally-framed arguments (almost always from someone in the developed world)- 'you don't know what it's like to have an unstable/inflationary currency if you live in Argentina/Africa/Pakistan/random 3rd world country, etc. Inflation takes all your gains, the government can steal your savings out of your bank account at any time, and US dollars are only available on the black market. Bitcoin/PonziCoin/whatever is the only humane solution for the 3rd world'. While I live quite comfortably in the 1st world, reading about say Argentina's travails (Google their currency inflation woes) does show this to be very true for their citizens. Remember that Facebook's now-shuttered currency scheme involved utopian language around 'banking the global unbanked' or whatever.

So, uh, why don't we just make it easier for residents of developing countries to use stable currencies from functioning governments, as opposed to crypto? The US dollar, euro, yen, British pound, Swiss franc and others are vastly more protected from inflation than any 3rd world country's currency- and they're a million times more practical to use for actual payments than anything in crypto. A few countries have officially adopted the US dollar as their currency (Ecuador, El Salvador and Panama, to varying degrees). Dollars are apparently in extremely high demand on the black market of unstable countries, precisely for their stability.

My understanding is that the real bottleneck here is the banking system. Local governments can outlaw the dollar or euro usage, and it'd be tough to have a regulated bank that could offer seizure-proof accounts in those currencies to say every person in Argentina. Anyways, I don't really have a point here other than rambling a bit, but I feel like 'let's find a way for the 3rd world to use stable currencies backed by actual governments' is vastly more practical than most crypto schemes. (Or perhaps there's a synthesis, like a US dollar stablecoin)

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12th grade English teacher here in the state of Florida. I believe that our education system has no idea what it wants to signify by a student having earned a high school diploma. This fact is responsible for a whole lot of the dumb things about our experiences teaching.

If you were to look up the official version of what the high school diploma means, it would be something about having adequately mastered the educational standards up until that point. But educational policy is not aligned with this. I regularly have a students A who enter 12th grade having already surpassed the level of proficiency in the standards that student B will ever achieve. If both are going to graduate and Student A has this proficiency at the very beginning of the year, why should he not have the option to opt/test out of the rest of the year? Because the system want them to sit in classes.

So this means that another part of what the high school diploma signifies is that you sat in classes. What exactly is the value of this? I mean, it’s not that this student will learn nothing sitting in class (if he has achieved this level of knowledge already, likely has the curiosity to at least take some advantage of the fact that he has to be there), but shouldn’t that be his choice if he has already reached the standard that is required for earning a diploma?

And there are plenty of students who are going to graduate who have only the most rudimentary grasp of the standards. The bar is so so low…. In truth, the “sitting in class” portion of.what the diploma means seems to outweigh the actual mastery of standards signification of what the diploma means. Which is just so demoralizing because then it makes me feel like a glorified babysitter….

What would I propose? Bring back multiple diploma levels. Allow students who have passed the 10th grade state test but aren’t planning to go to college to opt out of upper level English and math classes in favor of vocational educational or apprenticeship programs. Maybe track the students who don’t pass that test into different courses or sections for remediation so that then your 11th and 12th grade English and math classes will have students who both want to be in them, and are at a comparable level of proficiency.

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Not speaking for Scott, of course, but it would seem to be more promising for American society if there were more reasonable, intelligent Republicans than crazed, uneducated wingnuts. More Mitt Romneys and fewer Majorie Taylor Greens.

Putting aside Republican or Democrat labels,, I personally find it hard to see the appeal of being socially conservative. Things that most Americans now accept as normal, and even essential, like women voting, civil rights, recognition of Native American rights, mixed race marriages, Social Security and other safety net programs, homosexual relationships between consenting adults, marriage equality, and on and on, were opposed by the conservatives of the era, sometimes even in later eras.

So why would you want to be on the wrong side of history over and over and over? Baffling.

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Intelligence is (currently) something that we as humans value a lot. And of course it is.

And AGI will take us to the limits of intelligence and the place it holds of value in our society.

However, there must be intelligence that is beyond language, and therefore unable to be selected for in our quest to optimize AGI. Powerful knowledge like the non-dualistic thinking within the Zen koans, mystic experience, and all other subjective qualia that is like a black box to our dialectic observational powers.

In a distant future, when our minds are shaped by augmented AGI (instead of by social and entertainment media), what will become of this unspeakable knowledge?

Is the end goal of our society to have selected completely for intelligence or human-ness?

Because as I see it, human-ness includes all the unspeakable knowledge that can't be entered solely into a language system. That is, unless we develop AE, artificial emotion, or something ridiculous like that. I believe feeling and the body are more than just stimuli to steer our grey mass of an intelligence center away from things that are too hot or too cold. They are part of the ecosystem we call a human being.

So I wanted to ask the readers here who I know will have some great takes: What will happen to a society that selects only for intelligence that fits into the bounds of language?

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I remember an SSC post that raised a hypothesis that was something like: "the USSR collapsed because its citizens realised that not only were they unhappy, but most other citizens were unhappy too."

Does anybody have a link to that post?

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Question for phantasics (people who can see mental imagery in their "mind's eye"): does mental imagery look like the after-images you get when you stare at a red light and then close your eyes and see green? Is it similar in vividness and/or apparent location?

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This is another update to my long-running attempt at predicting the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian war. Previous update is here: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/open-thread-250/comment/10448181.

15 % on Ukrainian victory (down from 17 % on November 14)

I define Ukrainian victory as either a) Ukrainian government gaining control of the territory it had not controlled before February 24 without losing any similarly important territory and without conceding that it will stop its attempts to join EU or NATO, b) Ukrainian government getting official ok from Russia to join EU or NATO without conceding any territory and without losing de facto control of any territory it had controlled before February 24, or c) return to exact prewar status quo ante.

45 % on compromise solution that both sides might plausibly claim as a victory (unchanged).

40 % on Ukrainian defeat (up from 38 % on November 14).

I define Ukrainian defeat as Russia getting what it wants from Ukraine without giving any substantial concessions. Russia wants either a) Ukraine to stop claiming at least some of the territories that were before war claimed by Ukraine but de facto controlled by Russia or its proxies, or b) Russia or its proxies (old or new) to get more Ukrainian territory, de facto recognized by Ukraine in something resembling Minsk ceasefire(s)* or c) some form of guarantee that Ukraine will became neutral, which includes but is not limited to Ukraine not joining NATO. E.g. if Ukraine agrees to stay out of NATO without any other concessions to Russia, but gets mutual defense treaty with Poland and Turkey, that does NOT count as Ukrainian defeat.


Only important change from the previous update is that now it is clear Democrats will lose their House majority. On November 14 it was merely highly likely.

So, I want to use the space created by such unusually short update to address frequent pushback that I am defining Ukrainian victory too narrowly.

I think it is important to pay attention to what Ukrainians themselves define as their victory, not to choose a baseline of “victory means they were not beaten as badly as was expected by many Western commentators, who ate up Russian propaganda about the strength of the Russian army and also thought that Ukrainian army will disintegrate like Afghans after American pullback”**

Conveniently, at the recent G20 meeting in Indonesia, Zelensky (speaking remotely, of course), enumerated Ukrainian peace proposal in ten points. Here it is, in English, on the official website of the office of the Ukrainian president: https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/ukrayina-zavzhdi-bula-liderom-mirotvorchih-zusil-yaksho-rosi-79141. (here is the same speech but with points added at the beginning in the form of a numbered list: https://english.nv.ua/nation/president-zelenskyy-s-10-point-peace-formula-full-text-of-speech-to-g20-in-bali-50284154.html).

Among other things, Zelensky demands, as a condition for peace, withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, which for him obviously includes Crimea. He did not say the word “Crimea” in the speech, but “Russia must reaffirm the territorial integrity of Ukraine within the framework of the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the applicable international legally binding documents. It is not up to negotiations” doesn’t leave any room for another interpretation.

So, if the war would end in a ceasefire which would gave Ukraine de facto control over all of its internationally recognized territory with the exception of Crimea, and Crimea would NOT be recognized as a Russian territory, but would remain as an illegally occupied part of Ukraine, I would count that as an Ukrainian victory, but nevertheless, it would mean that Ukraine agreed to moderate its current demands.

Technically speaking, even if Crimea would be returned to Ukraine, but “Special Tribunal regarding the crime of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” would not be established, that would also be a step down from what Ukraine now demands.

*Minsk ceasefire or ceasefires (first agreement did not work, it was amended by second and since then it worked somewhat better) constituted, among other things, de facto recognition by Ukraine that Russia and its proxies will control some territory claimed by Ukraine for some time. In exchange Russia stopped trying to conquer more Ukrainian territory. Until February 24 of 2022, that is.

**Time for a bragging section: I think my prewar prediction of what will happen basically held up well, although not completely and it was less quantitatively rigorous than these updates. I did not post it here, but if someone is interested, I am happy to (badly) translate it from Czech so you might judge for yourself.

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When are we going to get some serious (any?) reporting on the relative economic performances of states/countries as a (possible) function of COVID repose (public and private)? For example, one has an informal impression that FL/TX did better than CA/NY. Is there data? What about among European countries with different responses

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Nov 20, 2022·edited Nov 20, 2022

Hello and welcome to the ACX invisible orbiting space station. Today the bomb bay is full of 25 Truth Bombs. Each Truth Bomb must be armed with a truth. The bomb, which is intelligent and aware, must be persuaded to accept this truth claim as proven beyond a reasonable doubt, or it will not arm. When dropped, a Truth Bomb causes everyone within 100 m of the impact point to believe that truth for 24 hours if they did not do so before. And our invisible orbiting space station can drop Truth Bombs anywhere in the world with pinpoint accuracy.

So, what Truth Bombs do you want to drop on the world, and where do you want to drop them?

ADDED: If the question becomes more interesting with bombs that have permanent effects (or maybe permanent effects that are subject to ordinary counter-persuasion,) feel free to consider that case instead.

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Anyone have any experience with getting modafanil in the UK without it being outrageously expensive? Recommendations for suppliers?

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So, this might be a silly question, but what causes insulin to break down, and why isn't such a compound part of the standard diabetic toolkit.

I know that insulin doesn't stay in your bloodstream forever (that's how they measure how well your pancreas is functioning if your T1 diabetic). I'm not entirely clear on what actually causes the breakdown, since one unit of insulin can handle pretty different amounts of carbohydrates in the blood for different people.

Secondly, if it is some sort of chemical reaction, could it be manufactured so that you could use it after you accidentally take too much insulin? If not, why not, and if so, where might one purchase such things?

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Does anyone know how you'd start a small manufacturing business? Like, with a company that makes power tools - how does someone decide to found it? How does he get funding and a minimal viable product and get it off the ground? I'm somewhat familiar with the tech startup ecosystem, but how does it work for old-fashioned brick and mortar manufacturing businesses?

(Backstory: I'm thinking of writing a short story about Uncle Vernon's backstory, which made me wonder: How do you start a drill company?)

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What is the value of Scott writing a "modest proposal" for Republicans if he doesn't support the party? Feels like a bad idea to write such a thing if he thinks it's helpful advice.

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deletedNov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022
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