bandwidth and electricity are the same but also different

August 22, 2017 Electricity is ultimately a scare resource (burning coal, collecting sunlight), with the complication that it is being produced all the time so there are good reasons to try to offload usage to non-peak hours, as opposed to just reducing usage entirely.

Bandwidth is beguilingly similar to electricity, in that people access the internet via this huge network of wires, and there are similar peak usage problems.

Another similarity between electricity and bandwith is that non-usage can be wasteful–there has to be slack to accommodate burst and peak usage, but for the most part if communications infrastructure isn’t being used to its full capacity it is being wasted; it’s like building a six-lane highway that no one drives on. Similarly, particularly with fossil fuels, if power is generated but not used it just means that the fuel used to generate it was wasted. But there is a difference, in that electricity generation can be ramped up and down, while the amount of bandwidth available on given infrastructure remains fixed. (That’s not to say that an individual user can’t buy more bandwidth on demand, meaning that increased usage could cost an individual ISP more in, for example, transit costs; it’s just that the total global bandwidth available remains fixed until someone installs more stuff, in the same sense that road capacity remains the same until more roads are built.) Also I suppose it doesn’t matter too much if more solar or wind power is generated at a given moment than can be used–especially if it can be usefully stored in batteries or by pushing water uphill.

However I think drawing too many conclusions from the similarities between electricity and bandwith can lead to problems, because ultimately electricity is a scarce resource that is used up, while bandwith is mostly just a congestion problem. The idea situation is that all communications infrastructure would be used to just-below its peak capacity at all times. (Similarly it would be great, if impossible, if people’s road trips were evenly distributed throughout the day–no rush hours or event congestion.) But there’s no reason not to use as much bandwidth as is available–to the extent there can be waste the waste comes about from building unnecessary infrastructure. This seems very different than electricity where it always makes sense to try to reduce usage.

So, a per-bit metering system for bandwidth would likely be a bad policy because it would discourage usage all the time, but it makes no sense to discourage usage unless there is actual congestion. Thus while it might make sense to use pricing or other means to try to smooth out bandwidth usage or even to reduce it overall when infrastructure is nearing capacity, unlike with electricity encouraging conservation” does not always make sense–instead you often want to encourage use of the infrastructure, and the best way to do this might be a metered price of zero.

May 19, 2023

I’ve been working on this since kindergarten and I am ready to finally provide a list of my favorite colors.



heather grey

black / white (tie)

navy blue

dark gray






other greens


other blues


May 19, 2023

Assorted Free Speech Takes from 2017 that I am not reviewing before re-posting to see if I still agree. I probably do.

So I don’t have to try to tweet all this, here are my various takes on the free speech controversies that have been welling up lately.

These are my personal (and provisional and subject to change) opinions and I don’t speak for my employer or any organization I belong to.

I am almost but not quite a free speech absolutist when it comes to the government: prior restraint is bad. Hate speech” is not an exception to the First Amendment. I think the ACLUs suit against WMATA is correct. If the government is going to sell advertising space (which it doesn’t have to do and probably shouldn’t) in public places then under current law it needs to sell ads to NAMBLA and Nazis, and in any circumstance must accept political” ads.

However, we already have laws that make some kinds of speech illegal per se, in all circumstances, regardless of context. When the evil to be restricted so overwhelmingly outweighs the expressive interests, if any, at stake, … no process of case-by-case adjudication is required.”Thus child pornography is so amazingly illegal that there are specific safe harbors in the law that make it so that merely investigating and reporting it is not itself illegal. Direct incitement is also illegal (although it is much much narrower than people usually think), and it is also speech. (Attempts to justify banning some kinds of speech by simply labelling it not speech” are obviously fig leafs—instead I think of these restrictions as justified censorship that passes strict scrutiny.) So, I do not have any philosophical objection to creating new categories of speech that is illegal per se along those same lines–that is, it might or might not be a good idea but the Rubicon was crossed long ago, and if some kinds of speech restrictions can pass strict scrutiny there is no reason to think others can’t. The general approach to Nazi propaganda in Germany, for instance, may pass strict scrutiny. However such exceptions need to be very, very narrow, and written into law, leaving practically zero room for discretion by individual law enforcement, prosecutors, or judges. So, while simply banning hate speech” would be a terrible idea, since such laws would immediately be put to work attacking people who criticize white racism or the police, banning Use of symbols of the Nazi government of Germany or any organization or government associated or allied with the Nazi government of Germany to express support of the persecution of persons because of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion.” might be workable. (In practice this means that white supremacists would just start using Norse and Celtic symbols and Fred Perry shirts, which they do anyway.)

The settled law that viewpoint-neutral time, place, or manner restrictions on speech are legal is correct. This is true even though people will get tricky and try to characterize viewpoint discrimination as viewpoint-neutral. A rule that leads to fact-specific arguments in situations like and occasional abuses is better than doing away with time, place, or manner restrictions. Based on reading the briefs and looking at the facts as they were known and presented to the court I believe ACLU was wrong in challenging the right of Charlottesville to move the Nazi demonstration to a different public park, and the judge was wrong in his decision, and that the events bear that out.

Major online platforms should afford everyone due process. Whether something is a major” online platform depends on the specifics of the market and the availability of alternatives. They should be required to have clear content policies in advance, they should be required to give notice for any content that they wish to take down (unless it is per se illegal, see above), they should permit people and opportunity to export their content (again, unless it is per se illegal) and they should give people an opportunity to challenge the charges” against them before a neutral decision-maker and have their content reinstated if victorious. (Maybe something like Hal’s idea would work, though I don’t think it’s the right approach for ISPs.)

If a platform is an actual monopoly (probably whether a natural monopoly or otherwise) or more infrastructural” in nature, then it should be subject to common carrier rules of some kind. This is a heightened version of the above, and it does not require them to carry per se illegal speech, but it would put some restrictions on their ability to decline to carry content even for reasons that are delineated in advance, and limit their discretion in individual cases. Some kind of restrictions that go beyond what the government would be permitted to ban may be permitted for some, but not all common carriers of this kind—for example with infrastructure-type services common carriage should be strongest.

The best way to avoid the abuse of power is to prevent accumulations of power. To the greatest extent possible would should avoid having any single platform having the ability to remove someone from the internet, which might mean breaking up, or restricting the size or conduct of some companies, even if they’ve done nothing wrong” to achieve their position. Although if a natural monopoly exists we should deal with that fact instead of idly wishing for more competition. (Why not transform them into customer-owned co-ops?)

This is not really a platform” issue but one of to what extent businesses should have the right to decline to do business with someone for any reason. We already prevent discrimination based on protected categories (mostly immutable characteristics) but should we go further? Obviously I think in some cases the answer is yes. The reason to talk about platforms” is that they tend to be more closely speech-related so these issues are more salient than they would be, for instance, in the case of a gas station.

In general, unions are very good and the best way to protect workers from arbitrary management. But even non-unionized companies should afford due process rights to employees, who should be able to challenge terminations. Due process must always be available to avoid pretextual termination or ones depending on falsified or no evidence. Believing and advocating hateful things, even outside the workplace, should be grounds for termination, but those kinds of things need to be spelled out, in advance, though not to the same level of precision that First Amendment exceptions need to be spelled out. For example, it would be ok to fire someone for denying the Holocaust (or the Holodomor or similar events). It would be ok to fire someone for believing in racial supremacy or gender-related pseudoscience. It should not be ok to fire someone for being a libertarian or a socialist or a supporter of the divine right of kings. Believing in things that are just generally stupid should not be grounds for termination. However companies should have the ability to buy someone out in such a circumstance, again under some clear pre-set rules.

May 19, 2023

AirPods Pro” sounds stupid and, by the way, Attorneys General” is not so hot either

October 30, 2019 tl;dr: When you have a compound noun, as opposed to a noun phrase, the proper way to pluralize it in English is just like a normal noun, with an -s at the end, not jammed in the middle, attached to what is now just another morpheme. But whether due to hypercorrection, or the legacy of noun phrases that have become compound nouns, sometimes you stick the -s in the middle anyway. But this is better thought of as an exception–an irregular plural–rather than a correct” application of the standard plural rule to a noun that happens to have a postpositive adjective.

Apple has called its new wireless headphones AirPods Pro”–not AirPod Pros” or Pro AirPods.” Presumably just the right or left headphone would be just a singular AirPod Pro.” A lot of people, and probably Apple too, think that this is the correct” way to pluralize in this situation.

They are wrong. Well, sort of. At least, not so clearly right. AirPod Pro” is a single word and, in English, you don’t pluralize words by sticking an -s” in the middle. You stick an -s at the end. I mean, you can do it if you want–no one’s going to arrest you–but in so doing you’ve come up with a new way for pluralizing certain nouns that is always going to sound a bit weird and affected, and goes against the grain of how English normally works. At best you’ve coined a new irregular plural.

The obvious objection is that AirPod” is the noun, and Pro” is just an adjective that for weird reasons is postpositive,” so you’d say AirPods Pro” for the same reason you’d say pro gamblers.” But it’s not that simple.

The English language is full of compound words. Sometimes they are spelled as if they are two words (like White House” and high school”) because once they were two words, and spelling tends to preserve old forms of speech. If you build a market and you think it’s really super, you’ll probably call it a super MARKET,” with more stress on market.” That shows you that, at this point in the evolution of super market,” it’s still a phrase, and likely refers to something quite novel.

But as the phrase becomes more common, it will begin to be pronounced with the usual stress pattern you see in multisyllable words in English–as SUPERmarket,” which is in fact how it’s pronounced today. This follows the same pattern as other English nouns such as chicken” and bullshit,” where the stress is at the beginning. High school” is an even better illustration (thanks to [redacted] for this example), where the stress on the initial syllable has actually changed the vowel quality of high” from the long i” sound in eye” to the (phonetically distinct) long i” sound in might.”

Once the ceaselessly changing patterns of speech have turned a phrase into a compound word, it doesn’t matter where the individual units of meaning (now better referred to as morphemes,” not words”) came from. The word dog” has just one morpheme: dog. Dogs has two, dog and -s. And dog houses” has three: dog, houses, and -s (pronounced izz”). In English, cul-de-sac” is just a single word with a single morpheme. It doesn’t matter that cul,” de,” and sac” are words in French, as none of them carry any independent meaning in English.

Similarly, it doesn’t matter what grammatical role the various sounds once played in a foreign language. Lieutenant General” and Attorney General” also both come from French. In French, general” is the adjective, and attorney” and lieutenant” (spelled and pronounced differently, and borrowed from Old French, not modern French) are nouns. And in French you put adjectives after nouns. But for no particular reason in English we decided that a General” would be noun referring to a category of military officer, even though it originally was just an adjective (“general” officers have more general duties than field officers directly in charge of troops). But probably because we also adopted the word attorney” separately, in Attorney General,” Attorney” was still seen as the noun,” with the adjective general” just anomalously put after it, as in French, instead of the more Englishy way of doing things, which would be General Attorney.”

But whatever its origins, Attorney General” is now a single noun, not a phrase. We know this just by looking at how it is pronounced in everyday speech. Like with other compound words, the stress has shifted to the first part of the word–John McWhorter calls this the backshift” in his book Words on the Move. It’s the supermarket thing, mentioned above, or the difference between A crow is a black bird” and Look at the blackbird.” Plus, while there are a few random adjectives that can only be used postpositively, such as aplenty,” galore” and akimbo,” general” isn’t one of them. If Attorney General” were a noun+adjective phrase, rather than a compound noun, you’d be able to change it around and say General Attorney” and be understood, just as lost paradise” means the same thing as paradise lost.” But you can’t.

Thus the normal way to pluralize Attorney General” in English should be Attorney Generals,” not Attorneys General.” This is by contrast to phrases that happen to have postpositional adjectives but are not treated in speech as compound noun: You would certainly say Queens regnant,” Presidents-elect,” or demons incarnate.” But there’s no reason to think that you should pluralize compound nouns differently depending on the etymological origin of their various components.

That said, depending on your social context, you’re better off sticking with the unnatural Attorneys General” because otherwise people will think you’re making a mistake. And maybe you are! But for a different reason than misapplying the normal -s plural rule. In the corpus of printed works Attorneys General” is much more common than Attorney Generals,” but it’s better thought of as an irregular plural, than an application of the normal rules of English grammar. Viewed this way, Attorneys General” not wrong,” but it is an exception, like mice” or beeves.” However, it weren’t for social considerations and hypercorrection, maybe Attorneys General” would sound as unnatural as sits up” as the plural of sit ups.

Thought experiment: let’s say we started talking about this demon incarnate, that demon incarnate, all day every day. Maybe there’s no other kind of demon, and no other way of things becoming incarnate. Would it ever switch to demon incarnates”? In a purely spoken language, maybe, but the written word has a pull on people and can prevent linguistic change that would otherwise happen. In any event irregular plurals in general are usually the fossilized remnants of old rules that used to be more systematic, but eventually just have to be learned by speakers on a one-off basis. So children learning to speak might learn demons incarnate” as an exception, just as children today learn children” as an exception, as opposed to the remnants of an older rule about -en plurals that now survives in just children, oxen, and brethren.

Back to AirPods Pro.” When products are given names like Whopper Junior,” iPhone 11,” MacBook Pro,” and AirPods [sic] Pro,” they tend to be analyzed–and pronounced–as compound nouns, not as phrases. So the plural should go at the end: Whopper Juniors, MacBook Pros, iPhone 11s. Apple’s new product would much more naturally be called Pro AirPods” or AirPod Pros,” unless, as seems to have happened with Attorneys General,” Apple wants to force a new irregular plural onto the scene. (You might argue that compound phrases only become single words slowly, and that AirPod(s) Pro” simply hasn’t yet. But I think it is so closely modeled after MacBook Pro,” an established compound noun, that it starts out as one.)

Anyway, I’d have gone with Pro AirPods.”

May 19, 2023

A list of movies that I like that I made for me girlfriend when we started dating

12 Monkeys 24 Hour Party People 2001 Adaptation Alien Airplane Amadeus American Psycho Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Apur Sandra) Babe: Pig in the City Badlands Barry Lyndon Being John Malkovich The Belly of an Architect Blade Runner Blood Simple Blow Out Blue Velvet BMX Bandits Buffalo 66 Bullitt Cabin Boy Certain Women Children of Men Chronicles of Riddick A Clockwork Orange Conan the Barbarian The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover Crumb Days of Heaven The Death of Stalin Death Race 2000 Dolemite Down By Law Dr. Strangelove The Draughtsman’s Contract Drugstore Cowboy Eastern Promises Edward Scissorhands Eraserhead Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Fargo Fast Times at Ridgemont High Fear of a Black Hat First Cow Friday Funny Games Galaxy Quest Gattaca Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai Godfather, Godfather II The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Hellrasier High Fidelity Hudsucker Proxy The Hustler Immortal Beloved In the Loop Interstellar Into Great Silence Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy The King of Comedy Koyaanisqati L.A. Story Leviathan (2014) The Lighthouse Lost Highway MacGruber The Man with Two Brains Mars Attacks! Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Michael Clayton Mulholland Drive The Muppet Movie My Cousin Vinny My Own Private Idaho Mystery Train The Naked Gun, Naked Gun 2 1/2 No Country for Old Men North by Northwest Office Space Old Joy The Passion of Joan of Arc Persona Pee Wee’s Big Adventure Phantom Thread The Pianist The Pillow Book Primer Prospero’s Books Pulp Fiction Pump Up the Volume Punch-Drunk Love Raising Arizona Rambo: First Blood River’s Edge Robocop Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead The Shining The Silence of the Lambs SLC Punk! Solaris (1972) Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring Star Trek II, IV, VI, First Contact Starship Troopers Stranger than Paradise Synecdoche, New York Taxi Driver There Will Be Blood The Thin Red Line Three Colors: Blue, Red, White Titus The Tree of Life Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me UHF Vertigo Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story Wall Street Wendy and Lucy Wet Hot American Summer Wild at Heart A Zed & Two Noughts

May 19, 2023

May 19, 2023