Vote, but not just today

Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States yesterday. This makes the current Supreme court one of the most conservative in ages, with a 6 to 3 majority. Previously, some cases would be ruled in favor of the liberal judges, because one of the conservative judges would agree with the liberal judges (and often they would dictate the terms of the opinion). Now this is much more unlikely, as it requires two conservative judges to side with the liberals.

This will have wide-reaching consequences. One of the most immediate consequences is on the current case arguing against the constitutionality of Obamacare.

If you’re a US citizen, you’ve likely been told to vote a hundred times already. Even if you’re not a US citizen, you’ve seen it, and are probably sick of it. This is, of course, because Trump is an extraordinarily dangerous president. But I want to point out the obvious: this whole situation with the Supreme Court did not arise from Trump shenanigans, it arose from plain old Republican shenanigans. Amy Coney Barrett is a judge that any Republican president could have nominated, and any Republican senate could have confirmed.

So don’t just vote out Trump, vote them all out. Note, senators are only reelected every 6 years, so this requires sustained commitment–voting in every election, including midterms. This year, everyone is anxious about the election and feeling a bit powerless. Channel that anxiety into a commitment to exercise your voting power at every opportunity.

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In which I program music

In my life I’ve tried many different art forms, and recently I’ve added a new one to the list. I’ve started making music, using programming. No music worth sharing for now, I’m just going to talk about the experience.

To create music, I use a tool called Csound. Csound has its own computer language, which I’ve been intermittently teaching myself over the past year. It’s not an easy tool to use, but it suits me because I’m comfortable with the programming and math, and because I want to full control over the creation of instruments.

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2020 California election positions

As I have done in previous elections, I’m going through my ballot, doing a little research, and making endorsements. My primary goal is to normalize the practice of informed voting, not just on the well-known issues, but on the entire ballot.



People complain about having to vote for the lesser of two evils, but abstention is just the middle of three evils. Trump may very well lead to the collapse of the US, or the collapse of US democracy, or my personal death.

Researching an entire ballot is frankly a slog, and I’m in favor of spending less energy on obvious decisions, even if those are the ones I feel most strongly about. To express the intensity of my preference, I’ve committed to voting against all Republicans in all elections throughout the ballot for the next 10 years, which incidentally frees up more time to research other parts of the ballot. The Republican party has become the fascist party, and their candidates do not even deserve my research. I have also made the maximum donation to the Biden campaign.

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Link Roundup: October 2020

School of Life: A Very Bad YouTube Channel | Big Joel (video, 25 min) – Just a funny take down of a ridiculous self-help channel.  I was surprised to learn that School of Life is made by Alain De Botton, who I mostly remember from his 2012 TED talk about “Atheism 2.0”.  At the time, his talk certainly struck a chord with a lot of atheists who were unhappy with the state of the atheist movement.  But whenever I heard details about his specific suggestions, they were completely full of shit.  He just had no idea what he was talking about, and worse, he erased the efforts of other atheists who had similar criticisms and who were actually involved in the communities they wanted to change.  I hated this guy, and now I feel vindicated.

The Dunning-Kruger effect: Misunderstood, misrepresented, overused, and… nonexistent? | Skepchick – Ever since researching and writing about the Dunning-Kruger effect, I’ve been convinced that it’s not very good psychology, and even worse as pop psychology.  So I’m glad to see this independent (and more thorough) review.

While on this subject, I was reminded of my research into perceptions of penis size, where I learned that (non-Asian) men systematically overestimate their penis size (“penis Lake Wobegon” I called it).  Following Dunning-Kruger logic, we must conclude that having a smaller penis deprives one of the ability to accurately self-assess one’s penis size.

Science & Religion Aren’t Compatible (But only in America) | Skepchick – Rebecca Watson discusses a study demonstrating the point in the title.  If anyone has paper access I’m curious what it says about the UK and Canada.

In Search of a Flat Earth | Folding Ideas (video, 76 min) – I see that video essays are quickly approaching movie length.  Dan Olson disproves a conspiracy theory with some beautiful footage, not that it matters to the doomsday cult.

I read popular physics: Interstellar Interlopers

This is an entry in my series where I read physics articles in Scientific American, and get annoyed that the only good ones are about astronomy.

I skipped a month, because the September issue was a special 175-year anniversary edition. I actually liked that one, but the physics article was a review of how cosmology had changed in the past 175 years, and I don’t have much to say about that. I learned that Scientific American basically predates the scientific establishment as we know it, and it started out as a thing for like, inventors and hobbyists.

The October issue has a presidential endorsement, the first endorsement that the magazine has ever made in its long history. No points for guessing who they endorsed.

Anyway, the physics article for this month is “Interstellar Interlopers” (no paywall this time), about the first two interstellar objects ever observed in the Solar System. I had never heard of these before, but I guess they made news a while back, as reporters breathlessly speculated about aliens.

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