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Thoughts on Ad Blocking

I really despise being advertised to, and I reserve every right to have my own hardware do whatever I want in the way of changing the data a site sends me before displaying it (as you say, it should be up to me what I see). 

If the site wants to run some intrusive thing that monitors whether there are ads being displayed and refuses to send any more data if they aren't, then fair play and I'll take my eyeballs elsewhere. If they want to paywall their content so that they don't need to run ads, then I'll consider the cost of a subscription (although I'm even more likely to look favourably on the "pay what you want/voluntary support from the keenest for free content for everyone" Patreon type model). 

But whatever the case, I feel no compunction about blocking every ad I'm technologically capable of blocking; and I can't say I have a great depth of respect for nag screens that are so easily circumvented. If you don't want to serve me content, then actually don't, but sending a combination of [content + nag screen] is a blob of data that's easily transformed into just [content].

What topics are on Dath Ilan's civics exam?

May want a further filter, to look specifically for facts/algorithms that people know because they received explicit instruction or training (or some measure of knowing it better and more deeply because of explicit instruction)

Otherwise you end up duplicating things that people were already learning informally. Potentially taking those things into the "ownership" of formal teaching and convincing people you need to be taught them in a classroom for it to count.

Voting-like mechanisms which address size of preferences?

My first instinct is to be sceptical that it's possible to find enduring compromise and a working legislative process in a society that's split 50/50 between two factions who hate each other and have diametrically opposed preferences.

I suspect the existence of some kind of common ground (mutual interests and mutual trust, at least to the extent of neither wanting to literally cannibalise or exterminate the other) might be a necessary component for avoiding a war between them.

Book Notes: Scaling, Why is Animal Size so Important?

I'm familiar with similar points about scaling, made by JBS Haldane in the essay On Being the Right Size - which is well worth a read if you haven't already.

Good brainteasers for children?

One can, on demand, produce quick sketches of islands and bridges to make puzzles like the Bridges of Konigsberg - then either challenge them to solve different sets of bridges, to draw their own for you to solve, or (perhaps for older kids) to figure out how their uncle can tell at a glance which puzzles will be possible.

Or if you play with the rule that you can add or remove one bridge before you start, then it should always be solvable, which might be more impressive than "This one is unsolvable, trust me"

Tap Water and Filtration

I don't have a full answer, but I would expect taste to correlate much more with the water's particular mineral content than anything to do with its safety. Different areas will have water that travelled through different rocks, and picked up a different profile of dissolved minerals.

The Median is Less than the Average

In the forwards and afterwards

(forewords and afterwords)*

The Multi-Tower Study Strategy

If you've never played it, Jenga is a game where each player starts with a tower of wooden blocks in crisscrossing layers of three blocks. Each turn, you take one block out of your tower, and put it on top. The towers get taller and less stable every turn. The first person whose tower collapses is the loser.

I've played Jenga, but never with a tower each - always with a single shared tower that we took turns trying to take/replace one block from.

Not that this is in any way material to your point, I just found it distracting for the central metaphor to be a near-miss at familiarity.

Covid 1/21: Turning the Corner

(the title of the Guardian article actually calls it a “scheme” by name)

The word "scheme" doesn't have quite the same negative connotations in the UK as I gather it does in the US. Government (or otherwise large-scale) programs and projects being described as "schemes" is fairly common.

Describing a person as "scheming" carries the association of being devious and underhand, but somehow not so much for big organisations.

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