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I'm concerned with the stability of the district borders. Because of the way this algorithm seems to like to slice through cities, it seems like minor changes in neighborhood density of a city is likely to significantly change the angle of the bisecting line, thus shifting large areas of the outlying region from one district to another.

This is bad for two reasons.

First, it seems a big weakness of democracy is voter ignorance. Throwing people repeatedly from one district to another, so they don't have time to learn the issues relevant to their district and the record of their representatives, will exacerbate the problem.

Second, the system can be gamed. It looks to me like approving or denying the construction of a large apartment complex near the center of a city can be used as a tool to push lines one direction or another. So approving that big apartment building in the city will increase population in that region, tending to tighten the angle made around it, thus freeing some voters from that district and pushing them into a neighboring one. Indeed, since the algorithm is recursive, this could have big follow-on effects subsequent iterations.

With a quick visual survey of their results, it seems this is a particular weakness of this algorithm. It appears to me that it's tending to split large cities into chunks and tie each chunk in with a huge outlying area.

Not only does that inconvenience polling places, but I think it does impose some socio-political outcome. I'm not sure whether it's good or bad, but the decision to not have cities voting as a block, and instead to include slices of them with their suburbs and outlying rural areas, certainly impacts the way representation will be determined.

True. Rural residents will often have completely different issues than city dwellers. To include them in a slice of the city pie, is probably going to entirely disenfranchise them. Depends on the numbers.

I vow never to hire someone who comes in for an interview accompanied by their parent (unless it's support for a physical disability).

Can't such helicopter parents see the perception problem that they're creating?

As with several other comments in this thread, I think your worries about are exaggerated and even wrong.

The fact is that the common American has far more than anyone has in the past, and even the poor aren't fairing too badly, according to the US Census as reported here [1]

Your comments about vanishing upward mobility are very much debatable. There's plenty of reason to think that mobility hasn't changed. [2]

Perhaps even more surprising to some, while the middle class may indeed be shrinking, statistics show that this is happening by squeezing them up toward higher incomes [3] (this doesn't contradict #2, since it's a difference in counting income ranges versus n-tile demographics)

It's really not such an awful world out here. Some people just seem to want us to think so.

[1] http://dailysignal.com/2015/09/16/are-there-really-40-millio...

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/business/upward-mobility-h...

[3] https://www.aei.org/publication/yes-the-middle-class-has-bee...

EDIT : in para #1 I said "Senate" when I meant "Census"

Try these, the data in the other direction is very strong:






Not just a US phenomenon either. Here's a UK perspective:


I'll grant that my points are in some ways controversial.

But the very fact that someone can come up with a study at all that disagrees with your argument is sufficient to prove that statements like what we're seeing in this thread - "if you're not in the top 1% you're doomed to a life of drudging misery" are absurdly exaggerated.

That 1% claim is hugely absolutist, so it takes only very weak evidence that broad swathes of the country are content and even happy, to disprove the chicken little argument.

Some of those statements might be hyperbolic to a degree, but it's really a question of degree, not the overall trends. My personal characterization was 'The choice is more between "member of various elite / professional jobs" and "Starbucks"', which I don't think is all that hyperbolic if you look at the actual "hollowing out" data from Autor, Stiglitz, et al.

If you read only one link, make it this one: http://economics.mit.edu/files/5554 - the study is one of the universally acknowledged and well-respected around. As far as the happiness quotient for the broad swathes, I think the polls do contradict you:


Edit: here's one from the AEI, a right-learning source you linked to (Tyler Cowen, a popular right-libertarian blogger's book "Average is Over" deals with this as well. Definitely worth a read if you haven't):


Even if you're consider "poor" by American standards, you do not have a problem with earning "enough to cover even the basics of life".

Quoting from [1]

"According to the government’s own reports, the typical American defined as poor by the Census Bureau has a car, air conditioning, and cable or satellite TV. Half of the poor have computers, 43 percent have Internet, and 40 percent have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.

"Far from being overcrowded, poor Americans have more living space in their home than the average non-poor person in Western Europe. Some 42 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes; on average, this is a well-maintained three-bedroom house with one and a half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio."

And that's just the poor people. In this article, we're talking about people who at least have the resources to attend college.

[1] http://dailysignal.com/2015/09/16/are-there-really-40-millio...

EDIT: remove duplicate word in first sentence.

Oh, I agree that poor by American standards are still good compared to world wide or historical standards. The problem is that if everyone around you has a car, you really can't get by without one (due to society expectations, such as being able to get from where you live to a job that could be 30 miles away). Whereas if everyone around you didn't have transportation, then jobs, stores, and housing would be closer together. And in the past (and in poorer areas of the world), daycare is provided by family instead of having to pay half your income to cover it. Not to mention that it is more miserable to go from school or work or stores with A/C and then go home to a house without it. Whereas if you aren't exposed to A/C anywhere else in the summer, you can acclimate to the heat better.

I see what you mean: we're bidding up the cost of entry into white-collar society, and people feel pressure to keep up with it. But...

1. The fact that someone has something you don't doesn't make you worse off in an absolute sense. I have trouble making the moral leap that we need to do something that will amount to handicapping those who have earned wealth, based only on feelings of envy in the broader population.

2. In any case, it kind of proves my main point: it's not true that only 1% is successful, and the rest of us are doomed to desperate drudgery. Your explanation demonstrates that a lot of us - indeed, enough of us to set a standard of sorts - achieve success. So the point that keeps coming up in this thread about it being a winner-take-all world where any failure dooms one to purgatory is clearly false.

1. If the infrastructure is then built solely for people that have that something you don't, then you are worse off compared to a situation where everyone does not have it and the infrastructure reflects that. This is not just about jealousy.

an increasingly winner-take-all world in which failure actually is catastrophic

I find this surprising. In what way is, in today's world, failure any more catastrophic than at any time in the past?

Are there very many examples of people who have never failed at anything? For the rest of the population who has experienced failures, am I to understand that we're now doomed?

Student wages are lower, student debt is higher.

I think a similar development can also be seen in countries without any tuition fees, but my sample size could be too small to say that with certainty.

But that's not winner-take-all, that's just a situation where investment must carefully be coordinated against projected future returns.

I am also waiting for an explanation of this winner-take-all idea. A couple/few posters have mentioned it. Sounds quite depressing.


Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the highest brackets. The delta between someone in the top 5% and the top 1% has increased markedly. Competition for that 1% slot has increased dramatically. Tenure-track positions now have thousands of applicants.

In tech, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. made tens of thousands of millionaires. Google made, say, thousands. Facebook made, say, hundreds. Instagram made ten. (I exaggerate for comic effect.)

I don't entirely disagree with the authors general point: kids are extremely shielded today, but I don't think he is properly sympathetic to the context in which kids (and parents) find themselves in. To the point of a comical lack of self-awareness. (In fairness this is an article in psychologytoday.)

Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the highest brackets.

You're making the classic zero sum game error. And the language of the rest of your reply should reveal this: " Microsoft, Oracle, etc. made tens of thousands of millionaires"

Notice where I quoted you, I emphasized the word "made". This was indeed the correct word to use, because Gates, Ellison, etc., did indeed create something. They got rich not by taking something away from me or you or anyone else. They got rich by building something new, something so compelling that people willingly gave them money, and considered themselves better off having done it.

The creation of Windows, of Oracle, etc., made the world a better place. And some of that betterment is reflecting in the wallets of those guys. They're not holding anything that would rightfully be yours, they made the economic pie bigger, and are enjoying a portion of that growth.

I agree with your general point regarding wealth, although I do think it's worth considering that absolute real wages are down significantly from their peak, and academia, in particular, is a brutally tough place to get a stable job now.

Humans generally rate themselves in relative terms: how are they doing compared to the people "around them". This wealth gradient has become more extreme in the last thirty years, leading to more intense competition for the higher slots. Additionally, modern media has brought more people "around us." I say this descriptively and without any value judgement, simply to explain the current behavior of children and parents.

It's a long conversation that is hard to carry out in HN comments, but suffice to say that despite the fact that I lean stoic, I cut parents and kids quite a lot of slack given the context they find themselves in.

Thanks for your rational response. I think what you're describing is very much the point, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel it a bit myself.

But if there exists a tiny set of super-rich people, that only affects our perceptions, and doesn't do anything to actually make our life worse. Most of us will never even come into contact with the stratospherically rich; why should their theoretical existence bother us?

Disproving my own point a bit... I actually do regularly come into contact with one such person. My employer is a billionaire (or so says Forbes magazine), and I interact with her regularly. But, believe it or not, she's a real person. She drives her own car, I've bumped into her at CostCo, and so on. And I'm really glad that she is so successful, because her success is the success of the company that puts food on my table, pays my mortgage, etc. I can see that it's her skill, her work, that has built the enterprise, and I'm grateful that she continues to invest those into its success. And for what it's worth, I know that she personally feels the responsibility of the livelihood of a couple of thousand employees on her shoulders.

"Winner" is a reflection of social status in this context, it's not a measure of some objective state.

Maybe the root cause is the "devil take the hindmost" attitude that came in with Reagan and the general decline of the welfare state.

It's funny how the obesity epidemic started in the 1980's too...

If you're not in the 1%, you're a loser and will have crap jobs for the rest of your life

This seems a silly claim to me. Do you have any citations showing that folks who aren't in the set of college grads in the top 1% wind up with crappy lives? (or for its complement, that >99% of the population has a crappy life)

There's good reason to blame FDA regulations for problems with the Daraprim debacle. Even for approved, out-of-patent drugs, it's still expensive to get a new generic instance approved, and for drugs that have few users like this, it's just not worth it for a new supplier to get it.

Generic drugs don’t need the excruciatingly drawn-out safety and efficacy studies required of new brand-name medications, but they do need to pass a bioequivalency study proving that their drug is absorbed the same way as the original. ... it’s just too hard to start making a generic medication. If all you want to do is synthesize an active ingredient in powder form, and you’re not too concerned about staying on the right side of the law, it costs pennies and takes however long you need to FedEx something from China. If you also want FDA approval, it costs $2 million and takes two years.

Remember, Daraprim is used by about 10,000 people per year, and before the recent Turing price markup, it cost $13.50 per pill x eighty pills per treatment. 10,000 x 80 x $13.50 = about $10 million per year, of which maybe $5 million was profit. That means you have to capture a big chunk of the Daraprim market before it’s worth trying to get yourself approved to make Daraprim; the FDA is essentially telling pharma companies to “go big or go home”. Nobody wanted to go big, so they all went home.

In the absence of this barrier, it would be easy for small boutique companies with a couple of chemical engineers on hand to spend a few weeks manufacturing a few thousand doses of the drug whenever it was necessary to meet demand. This is how the supplement and nootropic industries work right now, and nootropics are dirt cheap

- http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/09/24/the-problems-with-gener...

(and if you don't read SlateStarCodex regularly, this is a good time to start)

Several years back, Hyundai got in trouble for having worse fuel efficiency than their EPA numbers claimed. They had to pay off all owners of that car (I don't recall whether that was due to class action lawsuit, or an agreement with the gov't).

So it seems to me that if VW has to detune their engine performance, they'll similarly have to compensate owners of the affected cars.

That was easy to do since you could determine the difference in gas cost between advertised and actual performance. How do you value power though?

Exactly. I just ordered a Passat Wagon 2Liter diesel 191hp (Last week, what are the odds?) because among the options under the pretty strict CO2 emission restrictions I needed to follow (120g/km) it seemed like the best choice.

If the CO2 emissions had happened to be ever so slightly higher than 120g/km then I couldn't have bought it, and would have picked the V70 D4 instead.

Obviously, if VW had been fair, maybe they couldn't have squeezed 191hp and 5L/100km consumption out of it. Suppose it would have been 170hp and 5L/100km instead to reach the required emissions targets. Now instead of better perforomance than the competition (such as the Volvo) it would have be worse! It's entirely possible I wouldn't have picked it.

So as a customer I'm not really suffering from VW's wrongdoing here. At least not yet (until I get a message saying my not-yet-received car will be delayed 2 months and is already less powerful than when I ordered it). Volvo on the other hand may well have already lost a sale of a new car. Makes you wonder how many sales they lost, and makes you realize how important accurate tests are.

A couple more 'anecdotes' like that and I see an entirely different angle of fall-out from all this, lost income from missed sales by other brands.

"Last week, what are the odds?"

So this scandal is all your fault, then? :-)

toomuchtodo 4 minutes ago Determine the average sales price of vehicles with the power your car now has after correcting its ECU fuel maps, subtract that from the average sales price of vehicles with the power you advertised. That number you arrive at is the compensation you owe each person who purchased your vehicle.

I don't think that would quite work because the new sales would also factor in distrust and changes in consumer perception and taste which further reduces the amount of sales VW might have. You'd essentially have to do this in a vacuum where the updated vehicles' sales were subtracted from the non-updated vehicles and the numbers crunched on the premise that nobody ever found out about this and it was just fixed and swept under the rug.

Either way, I like your idea and I hope these owners get adequately compensated for this.

the new sales would also factor in distrust and changes in consumer perception and taste which further reduces the amount of sales

But that would be appropriate, because these factors would negatively affect the potential resale value for the defrauded owner.

Determine the average sales price of vehicles with the power your car now has after correcting its ECU fuel maps, subtract that from the average sales price of vehicles with the power you advertised. That number you arrive at is the compensation you owe each person who purchased your vehicle.

I went NY->Chicago->SF, the reverse of the route in the OP. We were held up for about 3 hours in Helper, UT, due to a washed out track. It was a really positive experience. Many passengers were gathered in the observation car, and one guy had a guitar with him. We spent much of the time having a singalong.

And once we got past the washout, the train was positively flying - we made it into SF only about 1/2 hour late.

I loved pretty much the whole thing. High points were watching the scenery, and also interacting with other passengers - both in the observation car and, as the OP notes, at meals. But I'm really glad we did it "1st class" - that is, with a sleeper cabin. This was comfortable and quiet, and provided a way we could make it "our experience" when we didn't want to be stuck with the rest of the crowd.

The sleeper car is much more expensive, but includes meals. All told, I think the price of the three day trip including sleeper cabin and meals, works out similar to airfare plus hotels and meals for a similar time period.


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