Atvelonis's recent activity

  1. Comment on Non-profit endowment creation in ~finance

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Thank you for the reply and info! I'll send you a DM.

    Thank you for the reply and info! I'll send you a DM.

    1 vote
  2. Non-profit endowment creation

    Hi Friends, I'm in the (very) early stages of creating a financial endowment fund for a small non-profit community organization I help out with. I feel they're a good fit for such an investment...

    Hi Friends,

    I'm in the (very) early stages of creating a financial endowment fund for a small non-profit community organization I help out with. I feel they're a good fit for such an investment vehicle: their current revenue stream fluctuates a bit and many of their events rely heavily on attendance fees for funding, which is unrealistic when they attempt to cater to lower-income demographics. However, they have a relatively wealthy patronage that tends to remain involved for years or decades, and I believe they have the institutional stability to operate more complex financial instruments.

    I pitched the idea of an endowment at a high level to the Chairwoman last week, and the Board is interested in moving forward. We haven't decided how exactly we want to structure the endowment yet: restricted endowment, quasi-endowment, etc. We also haven't determined exactly how much money we should fundraise for a principal investment, what our portfolio spread should look like, and how much of the annual interest we can afford to spend. (I have estimates, but they're not final.) I'm particularly interested in resources that can help the institution plan for inevitable economic downturns.

    Has anyone here done this kind of work before? If so, would you be willing to chat about some of the nuances of organizing it, and/or do you have recommendations on reading material to help with the creation and maintenance of such a fund? We plan to receive consultations from an accountant and a lawyer, but I don't have much formal background in finance and would welcome any experience, advice, warnings, or external resources Tildesians can offer.

    Thanks,
    Atvelonis

    10 votes
  3. Hard water solutions?

    I recently moved to a place with harder water than I'm used to (more minerals). It tastes bad, it makes my detergents less effective, it forms soap scum everywhere, and it's definitely not good...

    I recently moved to a place with harder water than I'm used to (more minerals). It tastes bad, it makes my detergents less effective, it forms soap scum everywhere, and it's definitely not good for my appliances. Does anyone have advice on how to deal with this in a cost-effective way?

    I unfortunately can't install a point-of-entry water softener here. I can theoretically install point-of-use softeners for each of my appliances (bathroom sink, kitchen sink, dishwasher, washing machine, maybe shower), but the portable ones cost like $300+. I can't decide if it's worth the purchase. I also don't know enough about the different kinds or whether they're available in portable formats (reverse osmosis filtration, potassium chloride water softening, and sodium water softening; maybe others). Does anyone have recommendations?

    I recently bought a showerhead with a better filter, which will probably help reduce skin irritation, but it can't actually remove calcium or magnesium. I can't visualize what a genuine point-of-use softener for a shower would even look like or how I would attach it to my showerhead, and I don't know where to get one that isn't just marketing fluff.

    I have some CLR that I intend to use with my dishwasher, but I don't want to have to buy this stuff constantly (just another cleaning product in my cabinet). And I have a Brita for drinking water, but was thinking of getting an under-sink filter as I don't like waiting for it to refill; I have no idea how much to spend on this or which brands are best.

    Happy to hear everyone's thoughts on household water management!

    9 votes
  4. Comment on US high-speed rail: What's next? Analyzing extensions and expansions, and what makes sense in ~design

    Atvelonis
    Link
    Ray Delahanty ("CityNerd") is a transportation planning and engineering consultant who has a YouTube channel covering city planning, transit infrastructure, and traffic management, as well as the...

    Ray Delahanty ("CityNerd") is a transportation planning and engineering consultant who has a YouTube channel covering city planning, transit infrastructure, and traffic management, as well as the mathematical processes used to make design choices. He's been a consultant on a number of infrastructure projects in the United States and seems to have a philosophy integrating many aspects of New Urbanism with the practicalities of real-world project management.

    There are a variety of urban planning YouTube channels out there, and most of them are not run by actual planners. They have their place, but I particularly enjoy Delahanty's content because it's professional and succinct; it often goes into more procedural depth than most qualitative planning video analyses; he recognizes and jokes about his own biases; and his videos aren't ideological, pretentious, or whiny. He's careful about his vocabulary in a way that non-engineers tend not to be. He also has an amusing kind of dryness that I find supremely appropriate for someone heavily engaged with traffic safety.

    This video explores the potential for a High-Speed Rail (HSR) network in the United States, with particular attention on the practical, economic feasibility of it. He discusses a potential extension of Amtrak's Acela line—which currently goes from Boston, MA to Washington, D.C.—all the way down to Atlanta, GA, analyzing the relative demand for such routes in a mathematical but still accessible way. I found it very informative!

    I'm not sure if ~design is the best category for topics about transit, but it's sort of tangentially related to urban planning, which I suppose counts as design.

    3 votes
  5. Comment on What did you do this week (and weekend)? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link
    I watched Everything Everywhere All at Once at my local theater. I had a great time and I recommend the movie to everyone here. It's witty, exciting, and moving, with a creative and distinctive...

    I watched Everything Everywhere All at Once at my local theater. I had a great time and I recommend the movie to everyone here. It's witty, exciting, and moving, with a creative and distinctive aesthetic.

    6 votes
  6. Comment on A dramatic makeover as N. 2nd Street plans for the future of Northern Liberties, Philadelphia in ~design

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check them out. I can testify that Philadelphia's bus routes need some work, and it's almost completely because of car-induced traffic. If people were on bikes, or...

    Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check them out. I can testify that Philadelphia's bus routes need some work, and it's almost completely because of car-induced traffic. If people were on bikes, or if they were taking public transit, it simply wouldn't be an issue.

    What Philadelphia really needs is a few permanently car-free blocks. A couple weeks ago, the city closed off 2nd Street between Market and Chestnut from traffic for some kind of local festival: street bands, a group salsa dance lesson, a (rather creative) sing-along to some Freddie Mercury, and other charming routines. I've been living in the suburbs for so long that I forgot what it was like to walk outside and actually see people on the street laughing, catching up over drinks, eating stacks of ice cream before it melts. No honking, no exhaust, no fear of getting crushed by a two-ton metal machine. It's nice.

    Residents would inevitably grumble if this single block remained closed to traffic permanently, but I can hardly think of a better way to get people to spend time at the restaurants and bars there. It's already a tourist spot, and not an essential artery. Why not go all the way? Give the city back to the people?

    Just imagine: people would actually… come outside their homes just to "hang out"? Talk to each other? Listen to music and play games? It would be great for the businesses and encourage people to experience life beyond the literal sidelines of the road. Imagine everything you could do with a place like that: farmers markets, pop-up art galleries, flash mobs, chalk drawings in the road, children running free. All the pedestrian opportunities of a park and all the amenities of a city street.

    But that's just a dream.

    3 votes
  7. Comment on A dramatic makeover as N. 2nd Street plans for the future of Northern Liberties, Philadelphia in ~design

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link
    This article looks into some of Philadelphia's (tentative) plans to redevelop sections of North 2nd Street in the "Northern Liberties" district, just north of the Vine Street Expressway and south...

    This article looks into some of Philadelphia's (tentative) plans to redevelop sections of North 2nd Street in the "Northern Liberties" district, just north of the Vine Street Expressway and south of Girard Ave. To provide some context for non-Philadelphians, the neighborhood is adjacent to:

    • Old City, the easterly and most historic part of Center City
    • Fishtown, a historically working-class district with a growing artistic flair
    • Poplar, a mostly residential (and surprisingly suburban) neighborhood
    • South Kensington, an industrial area in the past with some recent gentrification

    Northern Liberties has a lot of these qualities in it too. Like many parts of Philly, it has a history of immigrants, rowhouses, and heavy industry. The neighborhood has suffered financially from deindustrialization over the last century. However, it's recently become a destination for "young professionals" and artists given its relative affordability, community, and aesthetic.

    "Makeovers" like the one described in this article highlight the attention Northern Liberties is getting from Philadelphians and the world of real estate. They also point to a transition away from the automobile-centric infrastructure of the 20th century, which is a pattern we're thankfully seeing more of across the city. The project plans call for a road diet, greater pedestrian access, and more green spaces along a stretch of 2nd Street that is currently a hodgepodge of car parking and concrete.

    I like Northern Liberties a lot and I'm excited to see work planned on improving it. 2nd Street has a lot of character in Old City, and one of the reasons why is because it's full of restaurants, bars, and other cute shops (as well as a few trees, though it could use more!) and doesn't completely sideline pedestrians. It maintains much of this aesthetic in parts of Northern Liberties; additional infrastructure further centering trees and people—not cars—is very welcome.

    Separately, my eventual hope is that Philadelphia caps the entirety of the Vine Street Expressway to explicitly unify the northern and southern districts. Highways divide communities and have no place in our cities. Along with careful street redesigns, such changes will have a positive impact on the character and economy of Philadelphia.

    3 votes
  8. Comment on Bill Gates is so over this pandemic in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    I'm referring to the present. It was reasonable to be more wary of COVID in the past, especially pre-vaccine. I was in New York when the pandemic first hit. We were not overreacting then; there...

    I'm referring to the present. It was reasonable to be more wary of COVID in the past, especially pre-vaccine. I was in New York when the pandemic first hit. We were not overreacting then; there were morgues in the streets. I hardly left my home except to eat and run for an entire year—but I don't have to live that way now.

    The March study in the Times piece I linked earlier is an empirical example of how the "very liberal" (as Leonhardt puts it), who tend to be urban, vastly overestimate the risk of COVID. Today, with good vaccines and treatments readily available, it's untrue to say that 47% (!) of "very liberal" Americans are personally at "great risk" of COVID. It's especially untrue to say that 48% (!!) of their children are. Young people are also more likely to be "very worried" about COVID than seniors are, despite being 65x less likely to die from it. Gates' point is that their collective risk assessment does not reflect today's reality, and I have to agree.

    When a rural conservative mocks urbanites for getting vaccinated, they're making a different argument than an inoculated city-dweller who, in mid-2022, wants to take their friends to dinner without wearing a mask.

    Cases have gradually risen since early April, but hospitalizations have increased at a much slower rate. The percent of hospitalized people in the ICU has decreased (15% to 11%) even as total hospitalizations have increased—treatments against COVID work. Importantly, deaths have consistently dropped (see "U.S. trends" and sort by "Last 90 days"), and relatively few of those are from vaccinated people.

    Today's upticks are unlike the spikes in 2020–21. We have the medicine to handle them better now, and public policy should match this reality. I encourage individuals to loosen up too, though I respect anyone's decision to play it safe if the drawbacks of isolating and masking for them are worth feeling protected from infection. COVID is still scary, and introducing unnecessary anxiety into your life is not good either way.

    5 votes
  9. Comment on Bill Gates is so over this pandemic in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    Out of curiosity, what makes 80,000 a sensible cutoff to you? Or even 12,000? It's not clear to me why any arbitrary number like this is "objectively" satisfying; why it deserves to have a special...

    Out of curiosity, what makes 80,000 a sensible cutoff to you? Or even 12,000?

    It's not clear to me why any arbitrary number like this is "objectively" satisfying; why it deserves to have a special status as the threshold that determines public health policy and behaviors. It makes intuitive sense, but being socialized to recognize the flu as a "normal" part of life seems like a shaky foundation for how we ought to shape human behavior. It wasn't always normal, and it technically doesn't have to be. If the goal is to reduce death, why don't we go further? Why allow anyone to die of the flu when everyone could live?

    I don't mean to prod you too hard—I know this isn't your main point. I'm just not sure it's useful to even think about precise numerical thresholds in such extremes. I see statistical value in things like positive/negative basic reproduction numbers, but I feel weird giving them moral significance in most other cases.

    3 votes
  10. Comment on Bill Gates is so over this pandemic in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Yes, you're right. I rarely think about risk statistics in my day-to-day life, and I don't think anyone has to. With that said, when people advocate for sweeping public health mandates on behalf...

    Yes, you're right. I rarely think about risk statistics in my day-to-day life, and I don't think anyone has to. With that said, when people advocate for sweeping public health mandates on behalf of others, they're obligated to be utilitarian about their decisions. We aren't robots—our emotions are not things to be ignored to see "the truth," but rather lenses through which we can understand the world. Recognizing how our natural responses to threats affect our judgment is useful because it lets us keep those lenses without becoming overwhelmed by any particular one. It's those emotions and those qualitative trade-offs that make us human.

    I have a bit of a literary background and I've always been more moved by arguments rooted in subjective, experiential inquiry than data, as compelling as the latter can be. Statistical analysis is a tool to cross-reference with individual perspectives. I mainly find myself frustrated with our hyper-fixation on the dangers of COVID not because it tends to be statistically misleading (though it does), but rather because it perpetuates an environment of endless anxiety, fear, and isolation in our already fractured society. Feeling scared is fine; taking extra precautions is fine. The problem is that the most intense subset of people in this category expect everyone else to reach the same subjective conclusions as them—not only that it's irresponsible to eat at a restaurant, but that no one should be allowed to; and that those who don't share this opinion are bad people.

    "We must do this to save lives" is a convincing message, especially when you say it loudly, so it's easy to go along with it. I get these perspectives, especially coming from people with extra risk factors. I just think it's disingenuous to leave it at that, as if mandating masks or closing schools or limiting the size of social gatherings is unambiguously going to rescue society from peril. Sometimes it isn't.

    4 votes
  11. Comment on Bill Gates is so over this pandemic in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I see your point, but Gates is primarily suggesting that the risk we perceive in COVID vs. driving (for example) is disproportionate. By extension, upending your life to address the less risky...

    I see your point, but Gates is primarily suggesting that the risk we perceive in COVID vs. driving (for example) is disproportionate. By extension, upending your life to address the less risky factor—but not the more risky one—misses the point of evaluating risk through statistics in the first place.

    If someone feels threatened enough by COVID to avoid contact with their (vaccinated and boosted) social circle, it's reasonable that they also shouldn't drive, they shouldn't eat much red meat, and they definitely shouldn't smoke. Making these changes isn't always financially or logistically realistic, but it's more reasonable to stop doing more dangerous activities than less dangerous ones if you want to minimize risk.

    Gates' frustration stems from an observation that many (mostly left-leaning, city-dwelling, internet-overusing) people are not reacting to COVID this way. Instead, they continue to radically overestimate the danger of COVID and underestimate that of their other behaviors—some of which, like driving, have become significantly more dangerous over the past two years even as the risk of COVID has dramatically fallen.

    I can't blame people for being scared of COVID. Disease is frightening, and this one has been so heavily enmeshed in partisan debates that "wearing a mask" has become part of many people's political identity, and so the nuances of public health precautions disappear entirely. Either you're constantly masking and avoiding gatherings like a good citizen or you're literally and single-handedly "committing genocide," to quote a friend from social media last week. I understand how they reached that conclusion, but it's a bit dramatic.

    It would be callous to tell people to just "suck it up" and forget about COVID, but it's similarly unconstructive to focus on COVID at the expense of our society's equally or more significant causes of death. Obesity correlates with heart disease; pollution with pulmonary disease, and respiratory conditions like cancer; and terrible road infrastructure with fatal traffic collisions. Lockdowns shatter social circles and cause tangible psychological damage; long-term masking probably does too, but feeling overwhelmingly isolated and depressed because you can no longer properly hear people or read facial cues isn't as visible, so it's not a popular argument.

    Gates' interview is easy to pick at because he isn't doing a serious statistical analysis (Levy isn't either). But nitpicking the statistics in this particular article is less important than recognizing that any public health decisions we make are going to adversely affect large swaths of people. Vaccination and treatments address the greatest causes of death from COVID; remaining practices are complicated and therefore less universally beneficial.

    5 votes
  12. Comment on Bill Gates is so over this pandemic in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    COVID is also an existential risk for those without severe comorbidities. It's not like it can't kill healthy people. It's unrealistic to expect you'll avoid COVID forever, no matter how careful...

    COVID is also an existential risk for those without severe comorbidities. It's not like it can't kill healthy people.

    It's unrealistic to expect you'll avoid COVID forever, no matter how careful you are. Anecdotally, the most hyper-cautious people I know can still end up sick—double boosted, masks everywhere, basically zero contact with humanity. I've somehow been spared, despite living with five people; going to athletic tournaments, dances, restaurants, and bars for months; and regularly taking public transit.

    This pattern contradicts every statistic we know as well as common sense. In reality, what we "know" is not comprehensive. Quoting an epidemiologist in The New York Times from last year, "We’ve ascribed far too much human authority over the virus." The disease's trends are often inexplicable on both the micro and macro scale. Vaccinations, masks, and distancing help, but it just isn't that simple.

    It's reasonable for you to take extra precautions. However, COVID is endemic now, so nothing you or anyone else does is going to guarantee your safety. I respect your fortitude here, but the disease is so random that potentially ending many of your friendships for the sake of maximum protection is not necessarily worth it.

    I think it's also worthwhile to consider that treatment for COVID is pretty good now. According to a study by the CDC, the risk of death from COVID is enormously higher when a patient has 4+ comorbidities (see Figure 2); any less and the risk of death is still significant, but much lower. That said, a lot of this data was pre-vaccine, and today's antivirals are significantly better! Pavloxid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir), for example, apparently reduces the risk of death from COVID by 89% in unvaccinated patients. People don't seem to know about these drugs—the math is different now than it was in 2020.

    Pretending COVID is gone would be systemically irresponsible, but we don't have to completely structure our lives around it anymore.

    7 votes
  13. Comment on What do you love? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Not since I was very young. There's actually an ice rink down the street from me, so I could give it a shot! I do have this idyllic image in my mind of ice skating on a frozen lake or river,...

    Not since I was very young. There's actually an ice rink down the street from me, so I could give it a shot! I do have this idyllic image in my mind of ice skating on a frozen lake or river, though that hasn't been realistic around here for about a century. :P

    3 votes
  14. Comment on What do you love? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link
    I love dancing. I talk about it too much. I love movement, and exercise, because I love to feel in touch with my body. My senses are the gateway to appreciating the world; the "views" and all...

    I love dancing. I talk about it too much. I love movement, and exercise, because I love to feel in touch with my body. My senses are the gateway to appreciating the world; the "views" and all associated feelings that open up in front of me as I travel. I rarely feel more alive than when I'm active, whether that's in a dance, on a bike ride, or while climbing a mountain. It reminds me of all the opportunities ahead of me.

    6 votes
  15. Comment on No meaning without justification in ~humanities

    Atvelonis
    Link
    Thank you for sharing this interesting article. I'm currently working on some literary analysis that deals with theories of purpose (anywhere from ancient/teleological to postmodern/posthuman) and...

    Thank you for sharing this interesting article. I'm currently working on some literary analysis that deals with theories of purpose (anywhere from ancient/teleological to postmodern/posthuman) and often find myself remarking on the complexity of the philosophical structures in the material, especially as they so often lead to dead ends. But it doesn't always need to be that deep.

    I think I'll start saying, "The tomatoes made me do it" when I'm asked to justify myself over the mundane.

    4 votes
  16. Comment on The Great Offline - The concept of “offline” is built on the earlier concept of “wilderness,” inheriting its flaws and hazards in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link
    This is a great article, thanks for sharing.

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing.

    1 vote
  17. Comment on What changes are you looking to make in 2022? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    I'm not properly versed on the history, but my impression is that social dancing has always been primarily social. It's just fun—George Washington famously adored it, though he didn't always do...

    I'm not properly versed on the history, but my impression is that social dancing has always been primarily social. It's just fun—George Washington famously adored it, though he didn't always do the steps!

    But yes, for young bachelors and les filles à marier, social dancing would have been an opportunity for courtship, a way for young people to get a sense of potential matches both physically and emotionally. Some dances are quite long and would have offered a chance to converse relatively privately, or at least get snippets of conversation in. A silent, awkward dance with no eye contact would have meant a poor match. Couples would have been observed by other dancers, and there would have been a great deal of gossip about partners.

    In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813), Elizabeth Bennet and other characters make genuine character evaluations based on their partners' skill at dance, although to some extent their being asked to dance by someone socially desirable (read: wealthy), such as Bingley, is less a way to personally gauge a partner and more a way to "distinguish" oneself from the crowd of potential suitors. I don't recall what exact sort of dancing they do in the text, but it's either country dancing or formal ballroom dance. In Chapter 3:

    The evening altogether passed off pleasantly to the whole family. Mrs. Bennet had seen her eldest daughter much admired by the Netherfield party. Mr. Bingley had danced with her twice, and she had been distinguished by his sisters. Jane was as much gratified by this as her mother could be, though in a quieter way. Elizabeth felt Jane’s pleasure. Mary had heard herself mentioned to Miss Bingley as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood; and Catherine and Lydia had been fortunate enough to be never without partners, which was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball.

    Conversely, Darcy famously refuses to dance with almost anyone, for "I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. […] there is not another woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with." This helps form Elizabeth's negative first impression of Darcy.

    Scottish and English country dancing sets traditionally had a men's side and a ladies' side (left and right if you face the top of the set), which reinforced the opportunity for courtship. Contemporary dancers try to use the gender-free terms "lark" and "raven" (or "robin") to refer to the left and right sides of the dance, respectively, or similar alternatives. We take new partners with each dance, so it's good that we can be flexible when the sets get all mixed up. This way, no one has to sit out a dance unless they want to.

    Romance/attraction is still at least a minor factor for many people when they choose partners at a ball. My parents met through Scottish country dance, and they had a ball with all their dance friends right after their wedding. My teacher first started dancing when he was dragged along by his wife, and I'd be willing to bet it contributed to their getting married. Pinewoods Camp also makes the very cute decision to give newlywed dancing couples a special "honeymoon cabin" by the lake during Scottish sessions. And I can confirm that I've met some lovely people at dances myself. ;)

    3 votes
  18. Comment on What changes are you looking to make in 2022? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Yeah, I feel the same way. Scottish dance has brought me into a lovely community and kept me in touch with an aspect of culture that most people never get to appreciate. Some of the dances we do...

    Yeah, I feel the same way. Scottish dance has brought me into a lovely community and kept me in touch with an aspect of culture that most people never get to appreciate. Some of the dances we do are hundreds of years old (or at least the tunes are); others were written by people I dance with every week! I happen to have some Scottish ancestry, but that really just gives me an easy choice of kilt tartan. What I enjoy most about SCD is the social component: it's such a kind group of people, and we all feel so intimately connected in a way I struggle to describe. Many people dance all their lives and even pass it on to their children.

    If you're interested in watching a real dance, this recording of Maggie and Caitlin is one of the most representative I've found. This was taken at Pinewoods Camp in Plymouth, MA, where I was able to dance for the first time this summer. I recognize at least half the dancers in this video; one of them I actually danced with yesterday, and will dance with again tomorrow (the charming man in the green kilt flying down the middle of the set at the very beginning). I like this video because, in addition to dancing pretty well, everyone shown is smiling and clearly having a great time! That's what happens when you're on the floor with 145 other people.

    Just watching those short clips makes me wonder... how?

    Hah, I know the feeling. It looks complicated, but it's actually not that hard to get started.

    Most SCD branches have regular classes where they teach the figures and footwork. If you're dancing in a group of experienced people, you pick it up really fast. (It takes a whole five minutes to learn the skip-change, the primary traveling step.) Anyway, the footwork is the least important part of the dance. It's more about being in the right place at the right time, making eye contact, maybe flirting a little, and having fun! Social dancers are very non-judgmental people, so your form doesn't have to be perfect.

    The step they're doing in the demonstration videos I linked is called the pas de basque, which is a three-beat transfer of weight intercepted by an optional jeté (the toe point) to switch the primary foot you're landing on. The dancers shown are quite good at it, so they can move around in interesting geometric figures without breaking rhythm. The steps and directional changes are feasible by themselves, but putting them together correctly takes a lot of practice!

    If you want to add some culture to your life, I'm sure your local branch would love to see a new face. :) English country dance and American contra dance are related alternatives if there's no Scottish in your area.

    2 votes