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Boston Rents Over Time

A friend asked about the seasonality of Boston rents, wondering if there was a good time to look. Short answer: sooner is better.

Both the mean and median rent are rising over time, going up about $100 or 4% per year. There doesn't seem to be much of a pattern for when in the year is cheapest. more...


When we started putting Lily down to sleep we tried various routines to try to help her transition from awake time to sleep time. Early on Julia had a series of songs she would set her phone to play while nursing before she put Lily down, and given how many times I heard them I'm kind of surprised that I can't bring the melody to my mind at all. Just that the first song was a woman singing in Spanish. When I started having Lily full time during my paternity leave, though, I was the one putting her down for her naps, and I preferred singing.

In the early days with Lily, when she needed a lot of rocking to sleep, I made up a lot of songs. Most of them had lyrics consisting entirely of "Lily". For example, one I sang a lot: more...

How to get a massive discount on college

Have you been accepted to a top college, one that promises to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need? (see list)? If you're planning on anything near the $60k/year sticker price you are dramatically overpaying. What if I told you that you could attend one of these top schools for free?

They all figure your financial aid the same way. First they collect information about your income and assets using the FAFSA form, then they give you aid (effectively a discount) to make up the gap between what they charge and what they think you can afford. This is absolutely wonderful price discrimination: every industry would love to look deeply into your finances to figure out exactly what you'd be able to pay and charge you that, but only with colleges do we let them.

As a high school senior, you probably don't have much in terms of income or assets. So why doesn't the college see you can only pay very little, and give you financial aid for most of the cost of college? Parents. The FAFSA doesn't just ask about your finances, it also asks about theirs too.

But what if there were a simple way to exclude your parents' finances from consideration by the college? Where you'd be granted aid based only on your own income and assets? What's the catch?

All you have to do is get married.

Married? That seems a bit excessive! Promising to spend the rest of my life with someone from age 18 on, just to save money on college?

Now that we have no-fault divorce, though, we're not talking about something permanent: you can plan to get divorced right after you graduate. So just find a friend you're not interested in romantically, sign a prenup, and go get married. Just a legal ceremony, you don't have to act married.

Doesn't this devalue marriage?

Marriage as a social institution is really important and beneficial. It's a good fit for a large fraction of couples, and the ability to invest and trust in a long term relationship is a wonderful thing. The declining marriage rate and high divorce rate make me sad. But the key thing here is that you don't act married. You're married legally but not socially, and it's the social institution that's actually important.

But this sounds like fraud!

From my reading of Marriage Fraud, (Abrams 2012, pdf) this wouldn't be marriage fraud because the test that would apply to determine if you count as married is simply "do you have a legal marriage" and not the more intrusive tests we apply in cases like immigration. But I'm not a lawyer, just someone interested in how this works, so you should probably check with one. The cost of running this by a lawyer is so much smaller than the cost of paying full price for college that it's worth checking. You can even have the same lawyer draw up your prenups!

So who wants to save $200,000?

(You could also turn this into a sketchy business. Offer to give people college for $10k/year and you'll handle the rest. You do the prenups, marriage, and divorce. You cover health insurance through age 26 because they're not on their parents insurance. You offer free legal advice in any situation that comes up where they're not sure how to report their marital status. You keep whatever money is leftover.)

full post...

Obama Denied Free Raisins

Over the past thirteen years raisin farmers Marvin and Laura Horne have been fighting with the Raisin Administrative Committee about whether they are required to give a percentage of their crop to the government. Their case has gone through many layers of the court system, and I wrote about it with more background two years ago when the Supreme Court ruled on the case for the first time. The case has now come back up to the Supreme Court and their new ruling is up (pdf). more...

Subway Synchronization Protocol

Transit Rider Protocols Working Group    J. Kaufman
Request for Comments                      June 2015
Category: Standards Track

     Subway Synchronization Protocol -- SSP 1.0

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies a standards track
   protocol for the Transit Rider community, and
   requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Please refer to the current
   edition of the "Transit Rider Official Protocol
   Standards" for the standardization state and
   status of this protocol.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.


   The Subway Synchronization Protocol (SSP) is a
   single-purpose stateful user-level protocol for
   distributed coordination among convergent
   parties of subway riders.

   SSP has been in daily use since 2014.  This
   specification defines the protocol referred to
   as "SSP 1.0".

Table of Contents

   1   Introduction ..............................2
   1.1    Purpose ................................2
   1.2    Requirements ...........................2
   1.3    Terminology ............................2
   1.4    Notation ...............................3
   1.5    Overall Operation ......................3
   2   Structure .................................4
   2.1    Notification ...........................4
   2.2    Acknowledgement ........................4
   2.3    Resending ..............................4
   2.4    Exceptions .............................4
   3   Notifications .............................4
   3.1    Carriage Designation ...................4
   3.2    Stop Arrival ...........................5
   4   Handling Notifications ....................5
   5   Merging ...................................5

J. Kaufman         Standards Track         [Page 1]

RFC    Subway Synchronization Protocol    June 2015

1 Introduction

1.1 Purpose

   The Subway Synchronization Protocol (SSP) is a
   single-purpose stateful user-level protocol for
   distributed coordination among parties
   attempting to converge on the same subway

1.2 Requirements

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED",
   "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
   document are to be interpreted as described in
   RFC 2119.

1.3 Terminology

   This specification uses a number of terms to
   refer to the roles played by participants in,
   and objects of, the SSP communication.

      A group of one or more people traveling as a

      The member of a party responsible for
      inter-party communication.  The method of
      selection is left unspecified by SSP, but
      each party MUST have exactly one

      A vehicle for the transportation of parties.

      A place where parties may enter or exit a

      An ordered series of carriages moving as a
      unit between stations.

      A sequence of human-readable characters
      composed by a communicator.

J. Kaufman         Standards Track         [Page 2]

RFC    Subway Synchronization Protocol    June 2015

      The communicator of the party that boards the
      train first.

      The communicator of the party that attempts
      to, at a subsequent station, board the same
      train and carriage as the initiator.

      A message sent from the initiator to the
      joiner to assist the joiner in their task.

      A message sent from the joiner to the
      initiator confirming receipt.

1.4 Notation

   When referring to a message, the message
   contents are set off in square brackets.  For
   example, [example message].  The square brackets
   are notation only, and not part of the message.

1.5 Overall Operation

   The SSP protocol is a stateful protocol with a
   request-acknowledgement structure.  By sending a
   series of notifications an initiator can provide
   a joiner with sufficient information that the
   joiner can arrange for the parties to merge.

   Prior to use of SSP the communicators MUST have
   agreed through some out-of-band method on which
   stations the initiator and joiner will board the
   train.  These stations SHOULD have at least two
   other stations between them for reliable
   operation, and MUST have at least one.

   SSP communication usually takes place over Short
   Message Service (SMS), but other transports can
   be used.  The transport is not required to be
   reliable, but the correct operation of this
   protocol depends on low message loss and latency.

J. Kaufman         Standards Track         [Page 3]

RFC    Subway Synchronization Protocol    June 2015

2 Structure

2.1 Notification

   At several points described below, the initiator
   sends a message to the joiner indicating which
   point they have reached.  This message MUST be
   one of the standard statements described in
   Section 3.

2.2 Acknowledgement

   When the joiner receives a message from the
   initiator they MUST send back the message [OK]
   to indicate that they have received the message
   and are taking appropriate action.

2.3 Resending

   If the joiner sends a notification and does not
   receive an acknowledgement within 20 seconds,
   and has not already sent this notification three
   times, they MUST retransmit the notification.

2.4 Exceptions

   Failure to receive an acknowledgement after
   three transmissions of a notification, or
   receipt of any message that is invalid under SSP
   indicates an abort.  After an abort the
   communicator SHOULD interpret the triggering
   message and future messages, if any, using
   whatever protocol they would otherwise use for
   the underlying transport.

3 Notifications

3.1 Carriage Designation

   When boarding the train the initiator MUST
   choose either the initial or final carriage.
   Other carriages offer a risk of confusion that
   we consider excessive.  An initiator who has
   boarded the initial carriage SHALL transmit
   [First car], while one boarding the final
   carriage SHALL transmit [Last car].

   Note that this notification also serves to
   indicate departure from the initial station.

J. Kaufman         Standards Track         [Page 4]

RFC    Subway Synchronization Protocol    June 2015

3.2 Station Arrival

   Upon arriving at a station, the initiator MAY
   transmit the name of the station.  If the
   station immediately preceeds the agreed-on
   merger station they MUST send such notification.
   Sending notifications for the last two stations

   The station name MAY be abbreviated to a single
   letter in cases where this is not ambiguous.
   For example, upon arriving at Harvard station an
   initiator could send either [Harvard] or [H].

4 Handling Notifications

   On receieving each notification the joiner
   knows the position of the train and SHOULD

      - the time required for their party to travel
        to the agreed-on station

      - the time the train will take to travel from
        the next station at which notification is
        mandatory to the agreed-on station.

   If the second time is less than the first, the
   joiner SHOULD begin travel to the station.

4 Merging

   After the joiner and their party arrive at the
   agreed on station they SHOULD wait opposite
   either the initial or final carriage, as
   communicated in the carriage designation
   notification.  When each train arrives they
   SHOULD visually examine it for the initiator
   party, and board if and only if visual
   identification is successful.

   If the initiator arrives at the station and
   does not see the joiner, they SHOULD exit their
   carriage and wait opposite it until the joiner

   When the two parties have converged they merge
   to become a single party, the communicators lose
   their designated roles, and any future messages
   on the underlying transport SHOULD NOT be
   interpreted under SSP.

J. Kaufman         Standards Track         [Page 5]

full post...

Unmerging a Consonant Pair

Taking a college linguistics course, the professor claimed that the spelling of words was not accessible to the part of the brain that decided how to pronounce them. This seemed unlikely to me, so I decided to start distinguishing words starting with 'wh' from ones starting with 'w'. For example, "whale" vs "wail" or "while vs "wile". This is a distinction English traditionally made, but is no longer common.

When I first started doing this I would screw up sometimes or pause very slightly before saying a word starting with 'w' or 'wh'. Over time consulting my sense of spelling has gotten completely automatic, however, and ten years later I just don't notice anymore. more...

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