Sahasrahla's recent activity

  1. Comment on AMBER Alerts were designed to recover children in the most serious abduction cases, but they might be ineffective at saving lives, and could carry hidden costs. in ~science

    Sahasrahla Link
    With the new and poorly implemented Amber alert system frequently making news in Canada and setting off acrimonious firestorms on social media I was curious about my (and many others') assumption...

    With the new and poorly implemented Amber alert system frequently making news in Canada and setting off acrimonious firestorms on social media I was curious about my (and many others') assumption that Amber alerts as a whole save lives. Common sense would say they obviously do but the research, which is all that really counts, paints a different picture.

    The abstract of the article discussed in the linked interview:

    A sample of 448 child abduction cases in which America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response (AMBER) Alert was issued was examined to determine the extent to which AMBER Alert is successful in rescuing abducted children, and whether the successes suggest ‘lifesaving’ rescues. We reached conclusions consistent with the scant available prior research on AMBER Alert: although over 25% of the Alerts facilitated the recovery of abducted child(ren) and are thus arguably ‘successful’ by that standard alone, there was little evidence AMBER Alerts ‘save lives.’ In fact, AMBER Alert success cases are in almost every measurable way identical to AMBER Alert cases in which the child(ren) were returned unharmed but the Alert had no direct role in that outcome: they typically involve abduction by family members and other (apparently) non-life-threatening abductors, and the vast majority of recovery times are over 3 h. The implications for the public discourse regarding AMBER Alert and directions for future research are discussed.

    source

    1 vote
  2. Comment on Flags of Japan and Taiwan replaced in Top Gun remake in ~movies

    Sahasrahla Link
    Tweet with pictures for reference. I'm hardly an expert on Top Gun lore but each flag being replaced with a visually similar design seems to indicate this is meant to look like the original jacket...

    Tweet with pictures for reference. I'm hardly an expert on Top Gun lore but each flag being replaced with a visually similar design seems to indicate this is meant to look like the original jacket at a glance and the decision to remove the flags was a conscious one and not just "it's a different jacket."

    I know this isn't the most pressing issue of our time but the chilling effect of this kind of soft censorship of topics that might make China uncomfortable is still worrying. This is especially true of anything related to Taiwan where international opinion can have pretty big consequences for its continued existence as an independent state.

    (Also, this link is the best source I could find, but anyone feel free to post others that are better.)

    6 votes
  3. Comment on Beyond Meat has hit the ‘short-squeeze trifecta’ as borrow fees keep soaring in ~news

    Sahasrahla Link Parent
    I have no idea and I hope someone else can chime in. I know the concept but not the specifics of how they work in practice. When I read up on this before the low-level details were frustratingly...

    I have no idea and I hope someone else can chime in. I know the concept but not the specifics of how they work in practice. When I read up on this before the low-level details were frustratingly elusive so I'd be happy if someone else could fill in the details.

    2 votes
  4. Comment on Beyond Meat has hit the ‘short-squeeze trifecta’ as borrow fees keep soaring in ~news

    Sahasrahla (edited ) Link Parent
    As I understand it it's a bit like this: If I think Acme is going to do well as a company I can buy their shares, wait for them to increase in price, and then sell them for a profit. That's kind...

    As I understand it it's a bit like this:

    If I think Acme is going to do well as a company I can buy their shares, wait for them to increase in price, and then sell them for a profit. That's kind of the standard way of doing things: buy low, sell high. But what if I thought Acme's share price was going to go down and I still wanted to make a profit of it? Obviously buying their shares now and selling them later won't make me any money so I have to get a bit creative.

    That's where "shorting" comes in. I find someone (let's say it's my buddy Steve) with a bunch of Acme shares and ask to borrow them with a promise to give them back later. (I also offer him a bit of extra money so he'll benefit from the deal and want to do it.) Then, I take those shares and sell them. Let's say I borrow 1000 shares of Acme worth $10 each. After I sell them I have $10,000. That's nice, but I still owe Steve 1000 shares of Acme.

    Here's where the clever part comes in: if I'm right and the share price of Acme goes down then those 1000 shares will be cheaper for me to buy back than I sold them for. Maybe the price goes down to $2 from $10 and now it only costs $2000 to buy the 1000 shares I owe Steve. So I do that: I take the $10,000 I made and buy 1000 shares for $2000 and now I have the 1000 shares I owe Steve plus $8000 in profit. I give Steve his shares back, I give him a bit of extra money for his trouble, and I still have thousands of dollars in profit. I'm a genius!

    Except what if I'm not a genius? What if I'm wrong and the share price goes up? If the share price goes up to $13 it will cost me $13,000 to buy the 1000 shares I owe Steve and I only made $10,000 selling the shares I borrowed. I'm in the hole. Maybe I hope for a reversal of fortune and that the shares will drop below the $10 I originally paid for them, but maybe the opposite happens and they keep going up. Maybe Acme was the next Amazon and soon those shares will be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. I'm going to be out on the street and Steve is going to send some goons by break my legs.

    This is why shorts are fundamentally risky: if I invest normally I can only lose whatever money I put in, but with a short the sky's the limit for what I can lose. This is why there are some regulations to try to make sure I can pay up if I make the wrong bet. (I think, I'm a bit hazy on the details.)

    Shorts are also pretty controversial. If I short a company then I have an incentive to try to destroy their stock price. Maybe I write articles and give interviews about how much Acme sucks. Sure, if I just bought their stocks normally I could act unethically to try to boost their price, but generally it's considered a bit more negative to try to destroy a stock's value (along with the value of anyone who invested in them). I mean, our whole economic system is based on the idea that the value of the economy will increase over time forever, so having a bunch of powerful people (i.e. rich and well connected investors) with an incentive to burn down and destroy the value of certain stocks is something that doesn't play well with the rest of the system.

    11 votes
  5. Comment on Hong Kong leader says extradition bill is dead after mass protests in ~news

    Sahasrahla Link
    For context, here's the discussion in /r/HongKong: https://redd.it/caudye The general opinion there seems to be that the English and Chinese statements have different connotations and that there's...

    For context, here's the discussion in /r/HongKong: https://redd.it/caudye

    The general opinion there seems to be that the English and Chinese statements have different connotations and that there's no legal weight behind what's being said. Basically, this statement isn't a concession or an attempt to meet the protesters' demands, it's a deliberately misleading action meant to confuse the issue and give the appearance of the government backing down without doing so in any meaningful way.

    7 votes
  6. Comment on Mississippi is forbidding grocery stores from calling veggie burgers “veggie burgers” in ~food

    Sahasrahla Link Parent
    Though I'm sure some would like it for that aspect I figure at the level of people making policy it's more about favouring certain industries over others (lobbying? corruption? entrenched...

    Though I'm sure some would like it for that aspect I figure at the level of people making policy it's more about favouring certain industries over others (lobbying? corruption? entrenched interests? winning votes from farmers? I don't know). It makes me think of the surprisingly controversial history of margarine here in Canada. For a while it was banned altogether and until fairly recently it was regulated in terms of colour (can't have it looking too much like butter) because of lobbying from the dairy industry, especially in Quebec where they're quite powerful. A fun article on the topic, and some excerpts:

    Quebec's strong dairy lobby was able to persuade the government to protect the population from margarine until 1961. But margarine did manage to make its way to morning toast in the province. The dairy lobby, though, was determined to make sure that Quebecers would not be confused and buy margarine if they were really after butter.

    The dairy lobby persuaded Premier Robert Bourassa to ban coloured margarine in 1987. At the time, most other provinces had either dropped their prohibition of butter-coloured margarine or had stopped enforcing laws against it.

    ...

    In 1997, Unilever declared war on the ban. In November, the company imported 480 containers of yellow margarine it had manufactured in the U.S. and delivered them to a retail distributor in Quebec.

    On Nov. 24, 1997, the government responded. It sent in inspectors from the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation. They seized 384 containers of the offending product. Outraged, Unilever went to Superior Court to have the seizures quashed. It also asked the court to declare the law banning coloured margarine "null, unconstitutional, invalid, inoperable, unreasonable and contrary to Canadian federalism."

    9 votes
  7. Comment on history of the entire world, i guess in ~humanities

  8. Comment on I paid $47 an hour for someone to be my friend. Is this a cure for the loneliness epidemic? in ~life

    Sahasrahla Link
    There's a lot to unpack with this article. The service itself makes me think of the "ask a sex worker" threads on Reddit that are full of anecdotes about how many of the clients are lonely men who...

    There's a lot to unpack with this article. The service itself makes me think of the "ask a sex worker" threads on Reddit that are full of anecdotes about how many of the clients are lonely men who seem most interested in companionship, intimacy, and a sort of therapist-like relationship, to the point where some people quit the work because they couldn't handle the emotional weight of being de facto therapists. (Which is not to say that's the only way people experience sex work; it's a fraught and difficult topic.)

    A service like this provides intimacy and a feeling of normalcy, and perhaps a cover for people who are embarrassed about their lack of friends (i.e. the people in the article hiring-a-friend to attend a social function with them) but it doesn't provide friends. Like the article points out, there are some odd power dynamics that don't exist with a non-monetary relationship and the very nature of what the service is prevents it from being what it advertises itself to ostensibly be. You can't pay someone to be your friend because at the heart of friendship is how you feel about each other and you can't pay someone to feel a certain way, only to act a certain way. (Well, leaving aside issues of manipulation and coercion, and how pretending to feel a certain way can influence how you really feel.)

    The next point, which is mostly unaddressed by this article, is why so many people need a service like this in the first place, i.e. why are so many people so lonely? The question is brought up and framed in terms of "is technology making us lonely?" but I think it's more about how we've set up our society, specifically in terms of how we spend our time and how we've organized our physical spaces.

    Personally, the easiest time in my life socially was university. Not only was it easy to meet people just by going to class but as far as socializing with friends went there was a lot to facilitate that: even if we were busy our time was flexible, we all had a reason to frequently be in a central location within walking distance of each other, and there were free places to spend time in where we could be together or happen to run into each other. Now that I've graduated, though, much of that has disappeared: our schedules are fixed and unaccommodating, we live and work spread out across a sprawling city, and there's no place to go where we'll "run into" each other and few places we can go to for free. Social engagements, especially in groups, take a lot more effort and planning and it feels like there are more responsibilities and obligations competing for our time. This isn't something caused by smart phones and social media; those are just stopgap solutions for an alienating way of life.

    As an aside, it would be interesting to see scifi tackle these issues of technology and intimacy more. Often this topic is covered from a romantic angle ("What if you fall in love with a computer‽") but it's much less frequently covered from a friendship angle. One example I can think of is the Netflix series Maniac. Though a small part of it overall, the alternate world-of-2018 included "ad buddies" and "friend proxies", with the latter especially sounding a lot like the real-life service talked about in the OP article.

    A bit more about that here. A relevant excerpt:

    You probably have your own Friend Proxy, whether you realize it or not. The NFL announcers who crack jokes all the time to duplicate for lone viewers the experience of a group hang? They’re providing a service beyond just translating the action of the game. In the world of Maniac, Friend Proxy would be there for that lone viewer to turn to after clicking off the game and suddenly finding himself alone. You probably also have something like your own Ad Buddy, if you follow enough people on Instagram beholden to #sponcon.

    20 votes
  9. Comment on I paid $47 an hour for someone to be my friend. Is this a cure for the loneliness epidemic? in ~life

    Sahasrahla Link Parent
    Betteridge's Law is applied way too broadly. It's a good rule of thumb that headlines like "Did science just cure cancer?" probably have the answer "no" because if the answer was "yes" then the...

    Betteridge's Law is applied way too broadly. It's a good rule of thumb that headlines like "Did science just cure cancer?" probably have the answer "no" because if the answer was "yes" then the headline would be "Science just cured cancer!" instead of something more tentative. However, questions in headlines are used rhetorically all the time and especially in the case of opinion pieces might just be setting up the topic for a "yes" or "maybe" argument.

    One example I saw recently where the article's answer to the headline was yes: Did Hong Kong Police Abuse Protesters? What Videos Show

    3 votes
  10. Comment on What's a question you genuinely don't know the answer to? in ~talk

    Sahasrahla Link Parent
    As unlikely as it is I enjoy the thought of someone typing a random number into Google and finding as the only result a comment on this thread saying that number has no results. (And how far into...

    As unlikely as it is I enjoy the thought of someone typing a random number into Google and finding as the only result a comment on this thread saying that number has no results. (And how far into the future could someone do that? If someone 300 years from now does a search will they be able to find many results from today? Unrelated, but I love the thought that hundreds or even thousands of years from now bored grad students will be combing through ancient Reddit or Tildes threads to try to learn about people of this day and how we thought.)

    4 votes
  11. Comment on Hong Kong protesters occupy legislative council building after police leave in ~news

    Sahasrahla Link
    An additional article with photos from inside the legislature. I don't have the background knowledge to assess what's happening but photos like this one make it look like a pretty serious event.

    An additional article with photos from inside the legislature. I don't have the background knowledge to assess what's happening but photos like this one make it look like a pretty serious event.

    3 votes
  12. Comment on What's a question you genuinely don't know the answer to? in ~talk

    Sahasrahla Link
    What's the smallest positive integer that yields no results on Google? Some numbers in the 10 billion range like 10030521010 (for now) don't have any results but maybe there's something much...

    What's the smallest positive integer that yields no results on Google? Some numbers in the 10 billion range like 10030521010 (for now) don't have any results but maybe there's something much smaller that's somehow escaped being put online.

    18 votes
  13. Comment on Streaming TV is about to get very expensive as Disney, NBC and more companies start launching their own services and pulling their content from others in ~tv

    Sahasrahla Link
    I think there will be an eventual contraction in the number of streaming services. Right now it feels like a bit of a land rush; Netflix showed there's a lot of money to be made in streaming...

    I think there will be an eventual contraction in the number of streaming services. Right now it feels like a bit of a land rush; Netflix showed there's a lot of money to be made in streaming television and every content provider thinks they can bootstrap their own service and become one of the dominant players. The thing is though, there can't be that many large streaming services, and a streaming service is only good if it's large, i.e. if it has a lot of content that viewers want to watch. Some people say we're going back to an age of de facto cable TV where we'll have to buy a subscription for each network but I think the psychology of paying for a cable package and paying for 12 different subscriptions for 12 different looking services is quite different, especially when people have gotten used to cord cutting in favour of 1–3 streaming services. Add to that the ease with which even non-technical people can pirate shows and movies and I think there will be very few people who are willing pay for a different streaming service for each content provider.

    Then there's the calculus of profit to consider for the networks and others. Selling an old show to Netflix (or whoever) is free, easy money. Starting your own streaming service is full of costs: you have to pay to create the service and make sure it works seamlessly, you probably have to pay for more content (original programming or licensing) beyond the shows you were already making to attract and keep subscribers, and all of this has to be consistently more profitable than what you could get from just selling your content to an established streaming service. I think most of these new or planned streaming services we're seeing now will fizzle out and we'll be left with a few big players like we have now. Maybe there will be a few more, maybe they'll be different than what's dominant now, but this new status quo can't last.

    18 votes
  14. Comment on Andrew Yang says microphone was 'not on' at times during Democratic debate in ~news

    Sahasrahla Link Parent
    He's not just some guy, he's a candidate on the debate stage saying there was a problem with the debate. An accusation like that from someone in his position (even if he is an also-ran polling at...

    He's not just some guy, he's a candidate on the debate stage saying there was a problem with the debate. An accusation like that from someone in his position (even if he is an also-ran polling at the bottom with very little realistic chance of winning) should be taken seriously. That doesn't mean we should accept or reject it right away but it's at least worth talking about. Respectfully, you're not just saying that you don't think it's likely (which is fair enough), but you're saying the idea shouldn't be considered at all and that doing so is conspiratorial thinking that reflects badly on this site as a whole. I think that's going too far.

    (Just a note: thanks for the conversation so far but I'm bowing out. I just want to make clear in the spirit of this site that I appreciate your input on this even if I don't agree with your point. I feel that's worth saying in this case, even if we can all assume that's implicit when we're talking with each other here, because this issue is particularly heated.)

    8 votes
  15. Comment on Andrew Yang says microphone was 'not on' at times during Democratic debate in ~news

    Sahasrahla Link Parent
    At this point I haven't really seen many accounts. Yang says it happened, NBC says it didn't, and there's a video that (as it's being debated online) might or might not show Yang speaking on the...

    by all accounts

    At this point I haven't really seen many accounts. Yang says it happened, NBC says it didn't, and there's a video that (as it's being debated online) might or might not show Yang speaking on the debate stage without being heard. The one inarguable fact in all this is that Yang had the least amount of speaking time by far and that, unlike everyone else on the stage, he didn't get a word in edgewise without being asked a question first. (I think—I wasn't able to watch the entire debate or track everyone's successful interruptions. In any case it didn't happen often.) It seems like the explanation Yang is giving for this is that he was trying to speak up but his audio wasn't getting through. I don't want to jump the gun on an issue that's still developing (if it doesn't just fade away to nothing) but at the very least that accusation seems possible and is worth taking seriously.

    8 votes
  16. Comment on Andrew Yang says microphone was 'not on' at times during Democratic debate in ~news

    Sahasrahla Link Parent
    If they 'fucked up the audio' of Biden or Sanders to the point where they were unable to speak when trying to respond to others in a debate it would have quickly been noticed and fixed. There...

    far more likely that NBC just fucked up their audio ... than them trying to sabotage a dude who generously polls at 2%

    If they 'fucked up the audio' of Biden or Sanders to the point where they were unable to speak when trying to respond to others in a debate it would have quickly been noticed and fixed. There doesn't have to be a grand conspiracy for Yang to be treated unfairly by the media, it can just be a case of them not seeing him as a real candidate and deciding not to treat him as one. It even isn't too much of a stretch to think there might be some intentionality in silencing Yang; it's a packed debate stage with at least 4 candidates people want to hear from and only 2 hours to get to them all. Is it so outside of possibility that someone decided that one way to do that would be to not let Yang interrupt and give the speaking time to others on the stage instead?

    To the inevitable rejoinder of "so what? Yang sucks anyway I don't want to hear him," this gets right at the heart of the media's role in these races. The ideal of the media as a neutral reporter obviously can't hold up when the decisions they make have such a great effect on the process they're reporting on (I don't think I need to remind anyone of all the discussions over the last four years about how the media treated Trump or Sanders last time around) but at the same time I think there's an expectation of at least a baseline of fairness to allow a surprise candidate to get their name out there. If we're too strict on "he's not a real candidate so we're not reporting on him" then we get into a circular problem of "he's not being reported on, so no one knows about him, so he's not a real candidate, so we're not reporting on him, etc."

    As far as this particular case goes there was a clear and objective minimum standard set for qualifying for the debate stage and Yang (along with 19 others) met that standard. However, there's another far more important and ill-defined standard he hasn't met which is required to be taken seriously and given fair coverage. Cynically, this standard includes such criteria as: is this guy entertaining? do the entrenched powers-that-be like him or his ideas? does he tick the right boxes of identity? (For that last point I'd argue no; East Asians are almost completely off the radar and ignored in American racial politics.)

    Whether or not one likes Yang or supports him this accusation of misconduct against the debate-runners should be concerning to everyone who cares about the process of selecting the next president. If we cheer or dismiss this sort of thing because we don't like the candidate it's happening to then we're giving up on any expectation of fairness when it comes to the candidates we do care about.

    11 votes
  17. Comment on ‘Game Of Thrones’ writers cut battle with 50 direwolves from season 8 in ~tv

    Sahasrahla Link Parent
    Yeah, thank you too. It's nice to have a place to have discussions like this without things being so heated.

    Yeah, thank you too. It's nice to have a place to have discussions like this without things being so heated.

    4 votes