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Fair Market Rent

Here are two different ways you could figure out how much a 2-bedroom apartment costs:

  • Ask people what they're paying.
  • Look on CraigsList for 2br apartments.
These two methods seem to get dramatically different results. Why?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development calculates "Fair Market Rents" from Census data, which amounts to asking people what they pay for rent. They find that the 40th percentile rent for a 2br in Boston is $1,494/month. more...

Preemptive Cache Validation: Pushing 304s

While most websites could switch most of their resources to longcaching, typically sites still use simple urls and short cache lifetimes because longcaching (a) would require explicit effort on the part of someone who has lots of other things to worry about and (b) isn't 100% safe for web servers to apply automatically. [1]

This means there are very many times when a resource is sitting stale in the browser cache while the server knows it's still valid. In this case the browser has to check with the server and wait for a 304 Not Modified before it can use the resource. If the server could preemptively notify the client in cases where a cached result was still valid, this would cut out lots of blocking round trips and speed up pages a lot.

When I posted about this on public-webappsec one of the responses was that with SPDY or HTTP/2 it's possible to do this for your own resources by pushing down a preemptive 304 Not Modified response for the resource. You just set the ETag on the response to the current ETag, and then if the cached-but-stale resource has a matching ETag the browser should be able to use it.

When I tested this, however, both Chrome and Firefox don't seem to implement it this way. more...

Applying the 'Best Tradeoff' Argument Generally

An idea that often comes up in effective altruism is that you're not just trying to do things with positive consequences, you want to do the things that will have the most positive consequences overall. For example, in When should an effective altruist be vegetarian? Katja Grace writes that yes, going vegetarian would decrease animal suffering, but "the real question is not whether the cost to you is small, but whether you could do more good for the same small cost."

This argument gets brought up a lot in the context of people deciding whether to be vegetarian or vegan, enough that Michael Dickens points out that "the way people apply this argument to veganism but not to anything else looks suspiciously like motivated reasoning." I think effective altruists do and should apply this argument generally, and I try to in my life, so here's a list of some things I don't think are worth it: more...

'They' for individuals

In yesterday's Singular 'they' FAQ discussion one question people were interested in was when to use 'they' for individuals. I don't have an answer tidy and certain enough to put down as a FAQ response, but I have some disconnected thoughts.

Some people request you use 'they' to refer to them. So I'd say "Stacy forgot their book" or "Jules said they'll be late". This isn't actually about singular "they", though: if Pat wants me to use 'zie' as zir pronoun I'll do that for zim. Using people's preferred pronouns is a way to be polite and show respect. The mental burden of using 'they' this way is much lower than different per-person created pronoun sets, though, so I think it's great more people who are uncomfortable with 'he' and 'she' are asking for 'they'. more...

Singular They FAQ

What is singular "they"?

Sometimes it's useful to be able to talk about someone without specifying their gender. Maybe they're an underspecified hypothetical person who could turn out to be either gender ("the applicant"), maybe their gender is irrelevant ("my lab partner"), or maybe they don't have one ("my friend Alex"). In these cases you can use "they" to refer to just one person, even though "they" is more commonly used for multiple people: "the candidate seated themself by the window".

That's ungrammatical! You can't do that!

What's grammatical changes over time. The phrasing "you can't do that" uses "you" in the singular, which was once just as ungrammatical. A few hundred years ago you/ye was strictly plural, while thou/thee was the singular. Over time you/ye expanded into the singular as a way of indicating respect and deference, and eventually came to be used in all situations. more...


At LEAF [1] I learned a new cooperative card game, Hanabi. In general, I don't like cooperative games (like Pandemic) because they tend to turn into the one or two best players telling everyone else what to do for the whole game. Hanabi solves this by restricting information, so each player has their own part of the puzzle, and everyone has to think for themself.

Each player has a hand of cards that faces outward, so everyone can see their hand but them. There's a restricted language for communicating with each other: you can tell someone which of their cards are of a given suit, or which cards are of a given rank. Like "this, this, and this are 3s". From this people figure out which of their cards to play, and the goal is to get 25 points by playing one of each of the cards. According to the person who taught me people rarely win outright, and instead generally you just try to get the highest score you can.

When we played we used the game language as it was intended, without any conventions, but it got me wondering what a professional team would do. How far in the direction of Bridge bidding would it go? For example, you could say "your 2s are ..." to mean "play the second card in your hand". The main complication is that you aren't allowed to say "you don't have any 2s"; if they don't have any of something you can't bring it up. Still, because we can use both color and number to tell them about cards this seems like it could go a long way. more...

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