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Quality Contributions Report for January 2024

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(Reposting post-reboot):

(from the leadup to papardus's comment)

No matter how many epicycles go into justifying the position and adding layers of nuance to it, there has to be some point where you take a step back and notice that the only thing they care about is vilifying racial minorities, blaming all of our problems on them, and advocating for policies against them. There has to be a word for that position regardless of the aesthetics that it is cloaked in.

Well said, and I wish I shared your optimism. Unfortunately, the English language doesn't care about what "has to be".

Heading off to a calmer front of the Culture War, it would also be nice if there was a word for a fictional character that is confident, driven, and in charge of their own decisions. Unfortunately, attempts at describing that sort of person get misinterpreted as lifting heavy weights and punching really hard.

The problems with "strong characters" are magnified a hundredfold with "racist". I've largely given up on using both of those terms because they do not enlighten the listener as to which claims I'm making.

Do you truly, really believe that there should be no legitimate way to ever have that conversation [about racial bias] at all?

Quite the opposite: If elected to the position of Language Czar, I promise to simplify and enable those conversations by creating a single word that unambiguously and specifically refers to those people. This will fix a glaring oversight where cross-burning KKK members are given the same label as people who get high scores on implicit association tests.

What, roughly, do I think the word “racism” means? Not just what does it not include, what should it definitely include?

To a first approximation, I don't. That's the entire problem. Toss it on the euphemism treadmill (dysphemism treadmill?) and let it sit in the dustbin of history.

imagine if I argued “right-wing people have abused the term free speech into complete meaninglessness because almost all of them invoke the first amendment in response to private actors criticizing them or banning them from a forum etc”. You can’t really deny that a large number of people actually do this all the time, but this is a terrible comment, right?

Oddly enough, I don't think you would have the opportunity here.

Take this comment, posted today. It's about someone being fired for making political statements, but the phrases "free speech" and "freedom of speech" don't show up in any of the 20 comments currently in that thread.

If you did find an appropriate target, then go for it. I'm sure someone would clarify which principles were at issue, and if necessary expand on why they are worth defending (or defying).

While not relevant to the death penalty conversation, adding to felis-parenthesis's hypoxia stuff, I'll add first-hand experience. Part 91 regs require supplemental oxygen if you're spending more than 30 minutes at 12.5k feet above sea level, for the crew for any amount of time over 14k feet above sea level, and for all aboard for any time over 15k feet above sea level. These are not the only conditions where judgement and ability will be impaired.

(For pressurized aircraft operating under any FAA class, above 25k feet, you need both the aircraft's supplemental oxygen, and then the pilot flying additionally has to have oxygen on-hand and easily accessed, as well as alarms, because fulminant hypoxia can knock you out in seconds. Above 41k feet they have to be wearing that supplemental oxygen constantly. But you don't see that in commercial aviation unless people goofed up bad.)

10k feet above sea level is easily achieved on many non-turbocharged piston aircraft, and most people can breathe fine in most weather conditions up there. But altitude is not the only thing that impacts pressure. General aviation pilots mostly think about density altitude for takeoff and climb engine performance, as hot tarmac at high surface levels can significantly impact your max takeoff weight and climb rate. But it also changes the amount of oxygen available in every breath of air. Similarly, some levels of shorter-term anemia (and age) make people much more sensitive to density altitude changes, and some people just don't compensate as well (probably mostly genetics? Women tend to be worse-hit on average, but the worst-hit I've seen are male and don't seem to automatically breath deeper as their pulse-ox falls) .

This wouldn't be too bad if you noticed it. But low blood oxygen, especially subtle hypoxia, doesn't feel like you're drowning, or suffocating, or even like being drunk; the warning signs to look out for are difficulty with night vision and memory problems. Felis links to a video of a guy with slowed reaction times and a derpy look and some memory loss at 20k+ MSL with 60% pulse-ox (and I've seen people pass out in those conditions!), but I've seen people lose awareness at 80% pulse-ox, and their fellow pilots not noticing for ten-plus minutes -- at best, their copilots just nodded off, but more often subtle hypoxia goes from fixation on an already-completed task to simply the lights being on, but no one's home. Sometimes they'll realize that they've lost time, but it's sometimes just a headache when they get back to normal oxygen levels.

Most videos will emphasis 18k+ feet, where the impact is more immediate and more obvious to observers, because this range tends to also impact self-assessment and judgement, and because those accidents tend to involve bigger aircraft with more catastrophic impacts, while subtle hypoxia at lower altitudes is extremely hard to diagnose even among recovered or surviving pilots. But even with strict (though not always followed) rules on supplemental oxygen and common dire warnings, there are a lot of close calls and a number of likely hypoxic events at lower altitudes.

Apropos of nothing, but this is similar to what carbon monoxide poisoning survivors report. Most American smoke detectors do not also detect carbon monoxide; if yours do not, or if you're unsure, you can get reputable ones for ~30 USD/per.

The replies you got pre-reset were (in order, but not in hierarchy):


So if lack of oxygen is not immediately obvious why didn't they just make an airlocked room filled with 100% nitrogen and then just throw the inmates in? Why the whole circus. Further if people overdose on opiates all the time to the point their hearts stop while they are purely blissed out of their nogin why aren't we just ODing the executees on pure fentanyl.


Death penalty procedures operate under a wide variety of legal constraints, some of which are well-meaning attempts to avoid unnecessary pain or messiness, and some of which are pretty overt efforts to make no process lawful. The "unusual" prong has been held to require that death penalty protocols have to be standardized. Ramirez holds that they must allow (when requested) a religious leader to be able to touch the person being killed.

That said, sodiummuffin has a timeline suggesting that you'd probably get a lot of reporting on how the condemned struggled the entire way to the execution chamber.


So if lack of oxygen is not immediately obvious why didn't they just make an airlocked room filled with 100% nitrogen and then just throw the inmates in? Why the whole circus.

Executioners are in a bind, because they're always trying to placate the most impossibly small amount of squeamishness in the public. The first choice is whether you can essentially spring the execution on the prisoner as a surprise or not. If you choose to not make it a surprise, well, you don't really get the option you propose, but then you end up pretty much going down the route of having the "whole circus". You likely have to give the prisoner a piece of paper that says, "You are scheduled to be executed at [TIME] on [DATE]." But then people are squeamish about, "How horrible is it to have to live that last period of time, knowing that you're going to be executed?" And moreover, you give them plenty of time to figure out how to 'fight' the execution, and likely a decent chance to do so. You can only restrain someone to a table so well, and if they really want to try to thrash around on it to make a scene and maybe have it written in the newspapers about how terrible it was that this guy thrashed around while being executed, they're probably going to be successful.

On the other hand, if you choose that it can be made to be a surprise, you'll still get squeamishness. "How horrible is it to have to live in prison, knowing that you're going to be executed, but not knowing when. It could be at any moment, what seems like a routine transfer, etc. You'd be constantly on edge in a way that is nearly torturous." And now, maybe instead of just waiting and fighting to make a scene when the preappointed hour comes, maybe they start fighting and making a scene all the time over just trivial shit that is misinterpreted as, "Could this be how they spring the surprise?!"

So, you've got this airlocked room with all the nitrogen that you're going to throw prisoners into. Did they get a notification that this is the time and day? Then they fuckin' know. And they might throw a fit and try to fight. So now, what are you gonna do? Have a whole circus where you tie a guy up before rolling him into the room? Dude's still gonna fight and thrash when he wants to fight and thrash. If you didn't give him a notification of the time/day, then how hard is it for him to figure it out? At the very least, he has access to a lawyer and perhaps occasional communication with other outside family/friends, as well as the 'prison wisdom' network. How many rooms does this prison have which can be made to be airlocked? ...probably just the one; that's expensive. What is it used for besides executions? ...probably not much; I doubt you want prisoners to have regular access to it such that they could potentially sabotage it in some way. So how hard is it, really, for him to realize, either on the way to the room or immediately after he's been thrown in there (probably by himself) that this is the time/date? Probably not very hard. So then, he can decide to fight/thrash.

Given all this nonsense, it's far simpler and less resource intensive to just tie the guy down to a table and put a mask on his face. Sure, he's gonna fight and thrash, but there was literally no plausible situation that you were going to devise where he wasn't going to fight and thrash, especially not one that is considered acceptable to a broad enough swath of the public.


This is one of the elements that's hammered into when training for scuba diving; hypoxia is subtle, insidious, very difficult to realize you're suffering from, and can kill due to a cascade of bad decision making.

Funny how the same stuff can kill you whether you're thousands of feet in the air or 30 feet underwater.


Every so often, I’m reminded that aviation is absolutely insane. We’ve pushed the limits of transportation so hard that people have to plan for having the oxygen forcibly pulled out of their lungs. It might be crazier that these plans actually work and generally avoid accidents.

If we're on the topic of carbon monoxide detectors, note that the alarms will trigger when you have deadly levels, but they generally won't go off for slow leaks. I had a coworker whose family was getting headaches, waking up tired, everyone just generally feeling cruddy. Many tests and doctors later, no answers, but doctor #3 mentioned carbon monoxide and my coworker went out to buy one with a readout. It was a carbon monoxide leak, at some fraction of the level that the alarms would go off for. He got his furnace fixed and the headaches went away.

That was enough to convince me to add one of the plug-in CO detectors with a display to my house. CO generally spreads evenly through the air, so don't worry about placing it floor level or bed height or whatever. I found a plug that we never used but was in eyeshot occasionally, and there it has sat for many years.