Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

IN  WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo—a sometime economist, trader, artist, expat, poet, EA, and programmer—writes on things of int­erest.

Culpable Priors

A recurring series of posts in which Ross hears something in Ballroom class, and decides to blog about how it's actually general life advice. This is the first.

Today, in Harvard Ballroom's Wintersession series, the advanced class was doing Waltz. The only thing you need to know about Waltz to read this post is that steps come in repeating sets of three:

  1. drive (forward)
  2. swing/rise/shape
  3. float/lower/prepare

Our instructor had this to say about what to fix when things go wrong:

...And here's the thing: Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Some people have strong drive, but problems with float. Others have problems with swing. But remember this: If a step feels bad, the problem is with the previous step.

If you have problems with float, it's probably because your swing left you off balance. If you can't drive, it's probably because you didn't lower out of your float in time...

And I think that there's a bit of this that makes good sense in general, in a


Changing the Stakes Sideways

I was having an interesting discussion over dinner the other day with my aunt and cousins, which began as a relatively minor complaint about the propensity of Agents of SHIELD screenwriters (yes, I only just discovered this show) to use real science words in absurd ways, rather than making things up. At some point, the conversation had morphed into something about the general habit of filmmakers to publish misleading science as if it were plausible. (I found myself attempting -- but failing -- to communicate a point better made by Eliezer Yudkowsky in his post Science as Attire.) Some of us were of the opinion that this was a pretty bad thing that should probably stop; others didn't see much harm in it, so long as it was in works that were clearly fiction (false-science documentaries another matter entirely.)

My aunt, in the latter group,

"It's fiction, and it's art. If you're watching it as an audience and as a scientist, then it means one thing to you, but


Necessary, True...

Just a short post today, dumping something that I found interesting out of my brain and into plaintext.

Today, I had someone pull me aside and ask me if I was alright; several people had noticed that I was really worked up about something the other day, to the point of getting angry at one of my coworkers.

It took me a few seconds to figure out what he was talking about, and when I did, I laughed a little. "Oh, Lucian and I go way back; we've been roommates for two years now. We're in the habit of giving each other a hard time; there's nothing wrong."

Afterward, I realized what I should have said -- something like: "Oh. I understand what it might have looked like, but actually everything's okay. We've been roommates for two years now, and I was just giving him a hard time."

The crucial difference: If someone comes to you concerned that there might be a problem, first let them

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