Highlights from the stock phrase to start a fairytale in other languages

Back in the days when it was still of help to wish for a thing —German

Cross seven countries, through the sea of Operencia, through the glass mountains, where the curly-tailed pig delves —Hungarian

I remember something that our father told me and that is this —Iraqw [typo?]

A long long time ago, when goats had feathers —Kazakh

Back when tigers used to smoke tobacco —Korean

Where the water was being strewn and the sand poured —Slovak

In a time already long past, when it was still of use to cast a spell —Esperanto

Once there was, and once there wasn't. In the long-distant days of yore, when haystacks winnowed sieves, when genies played jereed in the old bathhouse, [when] fleas were barbers, [when] camels were town criers, [and when] I softly rocked my baby grandmother to sleep in her creaking cradle, there was/lived, in an exotic land, far, far away, a/an —Turkish

SCP-5031 is a sweet story, about prisons and the Other. For context, SCP stands for Secure, Contain, Protect, and in-universe is an organization that protects humanity from anomalous entities. Many of these entities are hostile, and some of them are incompatible with humanity.

Vampire Flower Language is a romance written about actually remotely sensible people. The characters enter conflict over a deep moral question, and resolve it by growing as people and talking with each other. Strongly recommended: I have been reading it for a while, but this is the month it finished.

vellartrill’s someone who I lost touch with after following them for a while on tumblr, and since then they’ve gone off the deep end, but they do have a beautiful essay on transhumanism

eternity is our rightful inheritance, the stars our appointed clay, space our canvas and matter our ink. and they have been stolen away from us by the petty machinations of the cosmos.

how can we simply accept this, the greatest crime imaginable, committed against every being that has ever lived and ever will live?


A Method for Measuring Investigative Journalism in Local Papers is sort of useless by itself, but is just begging to be combined with other datasets. You could do that! I have more projects than I have time for, but am happy to provide guidance to anyone interested but unsure how to start.

I’ve been travelling this month: three weeks away from home in all, mostly to the East Coast. No, my circadian rhythm has not approved. But I’ve been learning some interesting things. Probably the most model-breaking is that not only do American soldiers overall not have a different suicide rate from the demographically-adjusted US average, deployment doesn’t affect suicide risk. Even combat risk doesn’t have an impact! Conversely, normal seasons do, though apparently the connection between holidays and suicides is a myth? I am left somewhat confused, and more convinced that social bonds are very critical for suicide prevention. Or someone’s playing fast and loose with their data.

Mechanical Engineering Historical Landmarks! I love humans.

Scott Aaronson has some excellent lecture notes on Quantum Information Science, and so far they’re accessible (in that as long as your linear algebra is up to date you’ll be able to read them at the speed of math). This is a striking point of difference that I had to learn before I could read math. Social scientists and historians write reams upon reams of text, and skimming is the only way to usefully extract information. Conversely, in mathematics the best way to extract information is to go extremely slowly, verifying each statement and understanding how and why it works.

A lovely meta-meta analysis, providing all good results for predicting something about someone in the future based on their traits today. How strong is the relationship between childhood X and age-50 Y? Here it is!

I made something! Two sources, 1801-1997 and 1997-2018.


  1. I’d never realized how much smaller WWI was than WWII for America.

  2. The lack of increase after 2001 is striking in context

  3. As is the relatively slow decrease after 1989

  4. Always always always plot on a log scale when doing data visualization over datapoints that vary by multiple orders of magnitude, you see very different things. Nobody ever talks about the lack of drawdown after the Spanish-American war!

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Nobody ever talks about the lack of drawdown after the Spanish-American war!

The proximate cause appears to be the occupation of the Philippines after the US decided to take them as a colony rather than liberate them. The unexpected insurgency that followed forced Congress to maintain the army's wartime size.

A complete explanation of why the army stayed large after the general end of the Philippine insurgency in 1902 is beyond me, however. I am seeing several general explanations along the lines of "the Spanish-American war revealed serious problems in the US military, and a man named Elihu Root was appointed to correct them; this led to a large reorganization, which included the de facto founding of the National Guard and the creation of many new military bases around the world".

I might chalk it up to "the US decided it ought to become a major military power with colonies after it thrashed Spain", in a more general sense, but that's just armchair history. Interested if anyone with solid historical knowledge of this period could weigh in.

As is the relatively slow decrease after 1989

Which was the right call in retrospect. Enemy never accepted defeat, they just barely lost that round. Cold war just took a pause, not ended.