If you ever want to see people gripped by nameless, protean dread, all you have to do is get on a bus.
Most people on buses are students or commuters, their brains deadened by fatigue, oblivious to the horrors that surround them. They squeeze into seats next to grubby strangers or hang listlessly from the handholds, staring with dull lidded eyes at smartphones and occasionally slurping from a cardboard cup of Starbucks. They are mercifully unaware of the terror that envelops them and whisks them to work or school and thence back home
But some people in this waking nightmare are indeed AWAKE. They are inescapably aware of the yawning abyss in which they travel, however desperately they may try to feign the dulled ignorance of their neighbours.
They can’t tell you what they fear, only that they fear it and that it is indeed fearful.
Seats are places of safety. When an Awake rider boards a Bus, he or she scurries to the nearest empty bench. But seats can also become traps, like foxholes can become graves under artillery fire; sitting constantly risks that one of the deadened, zombielike commuters might sit next to you, trapping you in the yawning horror of public transit with neither respite nor recourse.
Some of the Awakened will place bags or boxes on the seat next to them, like sleepless children whose blankets are their only protection against the carnassial things in the dark. But this too carries risk, that of rousing one of the Oblivious from their stupor into indignant confrontation. The wrath of a soul-deadened commuter may be less fearful than the ineffable terror of The Bus, but none of the Awakened dare risk being weakened by the former in the face of the latter.
Lacking the security of an unaccompanied seat, the Awake huddle near the exits, clinging desperately to this proximity despite the rude shocks of the Oblivious squeezing past them into the depths of the bus’s interior and the cacodaemoniacal scolding of the brusque and uncaring Driver. Only when the opprobrium of the Oblivious threatens to boil over into violent action will the Awakened be pressed into the bowels of The Bus, pressed from all sides by sullen, looming crowds of the Oblivious and shriekingly distant from the portals that lead to the meager safety of the outside world.
Most dreadful of all of The Bus’s confines is the rear deck, up two steps from the main deck and with no exits of its own, only a single cramped portal leading to the rear doors. The Awake will never enter the rear deck of an even remotely crowded Bus, and resist most desperately being chivvied into this area even when prodded by throngs of the Oblivious under the maddening lashes of the Driver’s instruction. For even when trapped in the aisle between exits, if an Awake rider finds his path to an exit blocked by the Oblivious, he may still hope to find passage to the other exit; but any Awake so trapped on the rear deck has no recourse beyond panicked shoving and terrified shrieks. (It is an article of faith among the Awake that a tap on the shoulder and a quiet “excuse me”, courtesies otherwise respected as a matter of course, are of no avail on The Bus.)
Once perilously ensconced on The Bus, the Awake peer desperately at the world outside as it whizzes past the windows in a dreamlike blur, their fear-dilated eyes searching for landmarks that might indicate progress towards the respite of Their Stop. Any and every obstacle between themselves and this sanctuary is an object of the utmost horror, be it unexpected construction causing a blockage of traffic, inclement weather clouding the windows, or a mass of Oblivious commuters between themselves and the pull-cord or button that instructs the Driver to halt at Their Stop. Faced with such impediments, the Awake become more and more agitated, but since the circumstances are beyond their control they rarely have any recourse but to stand, sweating and shaking, and pray to the uncaring gods that they may be granted timely exit from The Bus.
On occasion, whether by mischance or cruel conspiracy of fate, one of the Awake will board an unfamiliar Bus on an express route. Thereupon, they will witness another traveller request egress at the next Stop, only for the hideous and uncaring Driver to pass a visible stop by with neither hesitation nor remorse. This provokes within the Awake passenger such frantic terror that they may launch themselves at the nearest pull-cord or button, heedless to the leaden Oblivious in their way, and yank or pound frantically on this device to no apparent effect. Even the other Awake on The Bus might turn in nervous curiosity to search out the source of the terror, and their apparent complacence in the face of endless purgatory drives the tresspassing Awake to new levels of panic.
Then The Bus stops, and the unperturbed traveller exits, leaving the Awake to shudder at the apparent randomness of the Driver, granting sought-after escape or horrible imprisonment seemingly at his whim.
So I’m joining the rising tide of anti-intellectualism that’s destroying Classical Liberal Arts Institutions, or whatever, and taking a course on reactive programming on Coursera (one of those MOOCs that’s destroying &c.). Feels good to stretch my brain again; I’ve wanted an excuse properly to learn Scala for a while, and maybe this time around I’ll actually grok monads. (If you’re wondering what “reactive programming” is, it’s writing Erlang in languages that aren’t Erlang. So far as I can tell, at any rate.)
Is fairness a process thing or an outcome thing? I suspect most of us’ll pick one until we come across an instance of the other we don’t like, at which point things go all Black Monolith and we club each other with femurs.
Duh, you say, which tells me you haven’t read it. “But why wouldn’t you prefer to hire a better worker?” Why didn’t you buy a Bentley Mulsanne instead of a used Camry? “So practical!” Shut up, you’ve made my point. Why hire a superstar developer for a gajillion dollars when all you need is someone to poke node.js with a stick? “But assholes drive Bentleys!” You think Mark Zuckerberg’s an asshole, don’t you? “Huh?” Just scroll down already.
Oh look, a nice comforting hobby-horse. Meta-analysis shows that “saturated fat is not the problem”. No shit, buttercup. Fat loss is widely correlated with improved cardiovascular health, and a fat loss diet is, de facto, high in saturated fat coming from your own god damn adipocytes. Here’s the paper’s author giving me an enormous confirmation-bias boner:
Saturated fat has been demonised ever since Ancel Keys’s landmark “seven countries” study in 1970. This concluded that a correlation existed between the incidence of coronary heart disease and total cholesterol concentrations, which then correlated with the proportion of energy provided by saturated fat. But correlation is not causation. Nevertheless, we were advised to cut fat intake to 30% of total energy and saturated fat to 10%.” The aspect of dietary saturated fat that is believed to have the greatest influence on cardiovascular risk is elevated concentrations of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Yet the reduction in LDL cholesterol from reducing saturated fat intake seems to be specific to large, buoyant (type A) LDL particles, when in fact it is the small, dense (type B) particles (responsive to carbohydrate intake) that are implicated in cardiovascular disease.
We make kids go to school because it’s “good for them”, and everyone agrees that it’s “good for” kids to go to college. So why not round them up at gunpoint, herd them into cattle cars, and send ‘em off to West Bumfuck State?
As odd as it may sound, the majority of time and resources of the FTC is not spent on punishing bad business practices as authorized in the FTC Act. The agency overwhelmingly concentrates on enforcing another act also passed in 1914, the Clayton Act, and specifically section 7, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect “may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.”
An interesting discussion on how humans can add value to computer programs when those programs are really, really good. The context there is chess, which is a pretty well-understood game of finite complexity. I claim that humans have been doing this for decades in software development, whose practical complexity is limited only by what you can convince your publisher is actually possible. Worried about computers taking over your job? Computers have taken over mine on the regular over the past two decades, and as a result I keep getting better and more interesting jobs.
“Creative destruction” is something that most people who aren’t raging anarchocapitalists like to write off as abstract, idealistic propaganda. Fortunately, Bryan Caplan is a raging an-cap, and he’s set it all out in time-series graphs so you can actually see it.
I’m sick of people shitting on Twitter, especially now that it’s established its utility as a low transaction cost (that part’s important, reread it until you understand why) ad-hoc communications medium. For example, this would have been mired in delusional architecture and Kafkaesque specifications-by-committee if Twitter hadn’t made it possible for Translink’s customer-service folks to simply tell everyone who was interested why the bus is late today. And if you don’t think web development is all that hard, I invite you to try to buy American health insurance. Software will fuck you up.
Turns out the market’s response to the horrible, eschatological, cataclysmic government shutdown was… “Huh, did you say something? Government what now? Sorry, I was focusing on things that might affect my bottom line.” You’d think a Mad Max scenario would qualify, which should make you wonder whether it was likely to happen in the first place.
“Treasury bonds default” has gone from “don’t be absurd” to “well, of course it’s an absurd idea, but…“. This does not make me any happier. There’s also this:
Addendum: By the way, we used to read that an attack of the bond market vigilantes would be good for the economy, but it seems this is no longer the case when the vigilantes are led by Republicans. Hint: an attack of the bond market vigilantes is not good for the economy.
An immediate consequence is that developing countries are turning into service economies at substantially lower levels of income.
“Deindustrialization”, if you haven’t bothered to click through, is the act of turning manufacturing jobs that make anti-sweatshop activists righteously indignant into call-centre jobs that make anti-sweatshop activists with bricked iPhones righteously indignant. Which is progress, I suppose, because if their iPhones are bricked they can’t tweet you handwringing nonsense when you’re busy trying to set your fantasy football lineup.
So as I’ve mentioned before, I really like the idea of “cybernetic periodization”, which means “lifting as much as you can on any given day, but no more” rather than “replacing your body with robot parts” as you might expect. I’ve started lifting five days a week, which is great because it means (wait for it…) I get to lift five days a week, but it’s not so great in that some of those days I’m varying degrees of beat up and can’t exactly push for PRs. (Fun fact: This happens independently of how often I lift, because my job’s kind of engrossing and every once in a while it rises to dominate my life.) So, what to do?
Well, I’ve had my best gains on Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1. It’s based on the following principles:
Emphasize compound barbell lifts
Start too light
I’m on board with 1-3, but 4 tends to give me fits. I take it too literally, and my ego gets in the way. So, wat do?
I started off by identifying seven lifts I care about. You can guess what these are: squat, front squat, press, bench, snatch, clean, and deadlift. I took recent maxes on each of these from my training logs — not special “test day” maxes, not “six months ago I could lift this” maxes, not “on a good day I ought to be able to hit” maxes, but stuff I’ve done recently for clean singles. Then I took 85% of those.
That’s my target lift for the day. It’s a lift I ought to be able to hit for a single no matter what life throws at me, provided that I’m actually healthy enough to get to the gym and not spread cholera.
So on squat day, for example, I’ll work up to a single at my target weight. This is not taxing; in fact, it’s basically a warmup. From there, I proceed by feel. Did that single feel snappy and smooth? Add five or ten pounds and do another single, then reassess. Did it feel slow, grindy, or awkward? Maybe some technique issues need addressing? Hit another single, and reassess. They’re just singles, so they go by quickly — lots of lifts in a short time. Changing the weights is usually enough rest. Keep going as long as it feels good, adding weight when reasonable.
Did that single say “fuck this, I’m done”? Move on to backoff sets. Backoff sets are free-form, just get them done. Some days it’s five sets of three at the target weight or above; some days it’s one set of five at 50% and get the fuck out. The only rule here is “do some backoffs”.
If the day’s big lift is a squat, I just squat. If it’s a press of some sort, I try to superset in chins or DB rows. If it’s a snatch or a clean, I throw in a Klokov press or a jerk after each rep until I can’t any more, then I don’t worry about it. Supersetting is, again, something I don’t think too hard about.
Deadlifts are a special case in that I don’t do ‘em as a major lift, I work them in after presses. And I don’t do backoffs. My guess is that I’m demanding enough of my recovery capacity without lots of deadlift volume on the regular, and putting them after the main lift limits the load I can use.
Once I’ve finished the main lift (or superset), I work in whatever else I need to complete the “push, pull, squat” trifecta. If I squatted, I’ll do a push/pull superset like dips and chins. If I pressed or pulled, I’ll do something squat-like, counting deadlifts (as above) and their variations (I particularly like snatch-grip deadlifts in here). Again, I don’t think too hard about it, I just get it done. Eight sets of five feels about right? Okay. Five sets of three? Okay.
After that, I do some accessory work, conditioning, grip, whatever. I try to make sure I get out of the gym in less than an hour, which usually leaves time for a few sets of curls or rotator-cuff work and a bunch of wrist curls (believe it or not, fellow nerds, they’ll make typing all day a much less painful experience). If I’m having a bad day, my rest periods are long, and I barely get into accessory work? No big deal, I hit the important things. If I’m having a good day and squatting heavy singles forever, again, no big deal, I hit the important thing. As Matt Perryman says: the more you lift, the less bad days matter. You can always come back the next day and hit it again.
Progression is simple. The target for any given lift is supposed to be a weight I can hit no matter how bad I’m feeling, as long as I’m feeling good enough to go lift. If I hit (or exceed?) that weight for four workouts in a row, I’ll add five or ten pounds. After four workouts I should have a decent idea of how much I can increase the target, if at all.
Does it work? I don’t know yet. I’m not competing in anything, so I’m not paying attention to (actual or calculated) maxes on any of my lifts. The idea behind this is to maximize “total training effect” — that if I get into the gym and lift often enough, I’m going to get stronger. So far my bench (of all things) has been feeling strong, and I’ve set a massive PR on reps on overhead squats — which, unsurprisingly, left me floored for the next couple workouts. Mostly, lifting this way just feels fun and comfortable, and I’m finding ways to improve my lifts incrementally week by week.
I’m not suggesting any of you go out and do the same, or that I’ve found the next big thing, or even that I wouldn’t be better off just lifting on 5/3/1. But so far I’m pretty pleased with this, and I thought I’d give it some air time.