A Better Voting Alternative

“Vote for only one.” It’s written on most ballots, on most races, between the name of the race and the names of the candidates. But why is a ballot with multiple filled bubbles void? And what is this “excellence” thing people do at Olin?

To start, the system used by the U.S. and most other national governments is plurality voting, a.k.a. “first-past-the-post”. In this nearly ubiquitous winner-take-all electoral system, each person gets one vote, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

Critics of plurality cite various negative mathematical and historical consequences of elections carried out in this fashion and generally hold up instant-runoff voting, a.k.a. “transferable voting”, as a fairer single-winner electoral system that is more conducive to healthy democracy—“the alternative vote”.

But is instant-runoff really better than plurality? Well, yes. But is instant-runoff really the best alternative to plurality? By most metrics, not really no.

Despite the fact that instant-runoff receives by far the most attention and discussion of all alternative electoral systems, there are numerous systems that are far better suited to choose our elected officials than either plurality or instant-runoff. 

To aid in comparisons, let us distance ourselves from real politics and consider a vote for the new state capital of Texas. The five candidates are Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston. In this scenario, geographical location is an analogue for political alignment. That is, voters, distributed according to the real population distribution of Texas, will vote for the cities that are physically closest to them.

Figure 0. The map of Texas that will serve as the basis of this discussion.

It’s not immediately clear from looking at it which city is best to lead, so let’s hold an election.

With plurality, it’s straightforward. 23% of Texans vote for Dallas, 17% for Fort Worth, 23% for San Antonio, 10% for Austin, and 28% for Houston. Houston has the most votes, so it wins!

But wait. Is Houston really the best choice here? I mean, for one thing, 72% of Texans voted against it, among them the nontrivial western vote that sees this as the worst option.

For another, Dallas and Fort Worth are practically one city, and if they ran together, their combined voter base would be 40% of the population, enough to handily beat out Houston. 

This is the spoiler effect: when two similar candidates run separately in a plurality election, split the vote, and lose where either of them could have won. The spoiler effect is the most commonly-cited flaw of plurality voting, and there are two common Band-Aid® solutions to it.

In the U.S., we have primaries. That means that similar candidates organize into parties, which then each choose a single nominee to run on behalf of all of them. In our example, Dallas and Fort Worth can team up as a single Northern Party. Taking the western vote, Fort Worth wins the nomination and goes on to the final.

Figure 1. The hypothetical party line with which our primaries operate.

However, in practice (as you may have noticed), such systems typically come to be dominated by exactly two parties. San Antonio, Austin, and Houston also team up as an opposing Southern Party. The South primary nominates Houston by the same pluralistic mechanisms as before. Then, Houston collects a 52–48% lead over Dallas and wins again.

This is kind of an improvement. At least now that we’ve seen the direct showdown between Fort Worth and Houston, we know why Dallas–Fort Worth didn’t win: given the choice between them and Houston, voters chose Houston.

It still wasn’t a very enfranchising election for western voters, though. Those in El Paso didn’t see anyone in the final election that they liked at all.

Beyond that, primaries are problematic for other reasons. They require voters to go to the polls twice each cycle—a biɡ ask for some—and they give immense power over our democracy to political parties, which it’s easy to forget are private organizations.

The other common solution is runoffs, a.k.a. “the two-round system”. An election governed by runoff voting starts off as an ordinary plurality election, but if no candidate earns a majority of the votes (or some other threshold), all but the top two candidates are removed and the ballot is run again (this is called the “runoff election”).

In our first scenario, the two top winners were Houston and, by a slim margin, San Antonio. In the runoff, San Antonio picks up western voters but, unable to win over Dallas and with a smaller core base, loses to Houston 58–42%. The final candidates were different, but the results were the same.

Western voters at least felt more enfranchised in the final election this time. That combined with the fact that runoff systems don’t automatically let political parties choose who ends up on the ballot makes runoffs solidly better than primaries. It still requires of voters multiple trips to the polls, though, and the result was still an eastern extremist.

Both of these issues are corrected by instant-runoff voting. Instant-runoff, as you might have guessed, is an expansion of the runoff system. It allows many runoffs to be virtually held while only requiring voters to ever go to the polls once per election. It does this through a ranked-choice ballot.

First, every voter ranks the candidates from best to worst. Then, a plurality election is held, with each voter’s vote taken as their top choice. If no candidate earns a majority of the vote (or, again, some different threshold), then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The votes that went to that candidate then go to the candidate that those voters ranked second. This repeats until one candidate has a majority of the votes.

Let’s return to Texas, and assume that each voter ranks the candidates from nearest to furthest. The first vote is the same as our plurality vote, then. The most votes one candidate has is Houston’s 28%, while the candidate with the fewest is Austin with 10%. Since Houston has no majority, Austin is eliminated.

Austin voters are divided four ways on whom they would choose next, with most turning to San Antonio. The new tallies come out to 23% for Dallas, 19% for Fort Worth, 30% for San Antonio, and 28% for Houston. Still no majority, so Fort Worth drops out next.

Unsurprisingly, Fort Worth voters mostly favor Dallas next, bringing it up to 40%. San Antonio’s number rises to 31%, and Houston remains at 28%. Having fallen behind, Houston becomes the final elimination.

Now this is the final showdown voters wanted to see. The two contenders represent a broad spectrum of geography, so while not everyone is completely satisfied, pretty much everyone has someone they at least like a little. Those who had voted for Houston are split, but most of them prefer San Antonio, handing it a 55–45% victory over Dallas.

The process is a clear improvement on plurality and its cousins. The spoiler effect is practically eliminated, as one of a pair of similar candidates will always be eliminated before the other. Because every voter is effectively consulted on every elimination (without requiring them to turn out multiple times), voters should feel more enfranchised, and the resulting candidate should better represent the whole of the population.

It’s still not the best answer, though. What if I told you that Austin, prior to its early elimination, had 49% of second choice votes? Or that San Antonio is actually farther from the average Texan than Houston? While instant-runoff is intuitive and spoiler-free, it’s far from mathematically sound.

A more advanced ranked-choice system is Condorcet voting. This is technically a family of electoral systems that includes Schultze, Ranked-pairs, Kemeny–Young, and others.

In a Condorcet election, the winner is the candidate who would beat every other candidate in a one-on-one election, if such a candidate exists. In the uncommon event that it doesn’t, the winner depends on which Condorcet algorithm is used.

Final tallies in Condorcet voting take the form of matrices: for each candidate i and for each candidate j, how many voters prefer candidate i over candidate j, or equivalently, by how many votes would candidate i beat candidate j? The answer is

i, j D. F. W. S. A. A. H.
D. 0% +2% -9% -20% -5%
F. W. -2% 0% -12% -19% -4%
S. A. +9% +12% 0% -54% -17%
A. +20% +19% +54% 0% +33%
H. +5% +4% +17% -33% 0%

The only city with no negatives in its row is Austin, so this time, Austin wins! At last, we have the one true capital of Texas. I didn’t want to spoil it earlier, but Austin is actually closer to the average Texan than any of the other contenders, so this is the best choice in my opinion.

So does this mean that Condorcet is the better “alternative vote” for which we’ve been looking?

Well, it still has its issues. Most importantly, it’s on the complicated side. It didn’t take as long for me to explain as instant-runoff, but expressing the final tallies did require tabular formatting.

Plus, there’s the question of what to do when there is no Condorcet winner. It’s very uncommon—I didn’t see it in any of the 51 simulations I ran—but it does happen. As I said, each algorithm has a way to select a candidate in that situation, but they’re all different, and most of them are themselves pretty complicated.

Then there’s Arrow’s theorem, which basically states that no ranked voting system can be both fair and logical, but that’s a whole discrete analysis rabbit hole I don’t want to fall into.

What if I told you that there was a third alternative about which almost no one talks that consistently achieves the same results as Condorcet, brings back the simplicity of plurality, and always has an unambiguous winner?

This is score voting, a.k.a. “range voting”, “point voting”, “evaluative voting”, “utilitarian voting”, “libertarian voting”, or “capitalism voting”. Score voting is simple and intuitive: each candidate is rated, say, from 0 to 10, and the candidate with the highest average score wins.

Running the Texas election again, we now assume each voter rates the candidates linearly by distance, normalized so that each voter gives at least one 0 and one 10. We now see Dallas get a 4.5/10, Fort Worth 4.4/10, San Antonio 3.8/10, Austin 5.5/10, and Houston 4.3/10. Austin wins again. Even though next to no one would place Austin as their first choice, it’s the one city that everyone can agree is a little bit better than average.

Despite the fact that score is way simpler than Condorcet, they usually get the same answer. In my simulations, whenever they disagreed, it was because score chose a smaller, slightly more central city. That results from the fact that score takes magnitude of voter preference into account while Condorcet knows only polarity.

Score is, in many ways, the ultimate electoral system. Still, there’s one last alternative about which I would like to talk: the special case of score voting where the fineness of the ratings is reduced to two levels, 0 and 1.

This is approval voting, or as we call it at Olin, excellence voting. Approval can be described as plurality with the one alteration that voters are free to vote for as many candidates as they like. The candidate with the most votes (the highest predicted approval rating) wins.

The points in approval’s favor are very different from those in score’s. In approval voting, voters can no longer express the magnitude with which they like or dislike candidates; only whether they approve or not. This reduction in information often leads to worse results.

In the case of Austin, its distance from the other major population centers is such that a handful of people like it a lot, and a lot of people dislike it a little bit. That’s what enabled it to rise above 5/10 last time. In approval, those preferences become pure likes and dislikes, pulling Austin down to 43% approval. The other cities, which polarized more evenly, fare similarly to as they did with score: Dallas gets 46%, For Worth 46%, San Antonio 34%, and Houston 39%. This time, Fort Worth wins by 0.1% over Dallas.

As I’ve stated before, Austin was, mathematically speaking, the best choice. It was preferred by voters over every other candidate when compared directly, and it was closer to the center of population than any other candidate.

But does it really matter? Fort Worth is actually only 7% farther from the average Texan than Austin, and, looking at the map, it’s not obvious that one is significantly better as a capital than the other.

I ran this simulation with all fifty states plus Washington D. C. (that one was pretty unexciting), and Texas was the only one that gave me four different results for seven different electoral systems. Most of them got the same capital no matter what was used.

That’s why, in spite of score voting’s mathematical superiority, I think that approval is the electoral system voting reformists should pursue. It’s a good enough improvement over plurality that can easily be expanded into full score voting later if public opinion favors it. Its similarity to plurality makes it more likely to catch on than instant-runoff or score, and it requires no modification to existing polling procedures beyond the removal of “Vote for only one” from the ballots.

But then again, there’s always [strong Arrow’s theorem](xkcd.com/1844).

In any case, happy voting this upcoming cycle, and remember: the other party is not the enemy. The Annunaki are.

Thanks to the Center for International Earth Science Information Network and the International Center of Tropical Agriculture for the population data I used.

Introduction to Oltilip

wafe ‘olin. olsunkwelwel wel min es piasaki puket um oltilip on.

Now, you’re probably wondering, “What does ‘oltilip’ mean?” “What language even is this?” “Jeezum crow, not another one of these?”

Oltilip (/oʊ̯lˈtɪləp/; Oltilip: [olˈtilip]) is the auxiliary language that I’ve been constructing for the last year. Its limited phonology, free word order, and oligosynthetic tendencies make it, in my opinion, a far superior potential international language than Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, or any of the other major auxlangs. Let me show you why.

First of all, the phonology. Oltilip uses only the seventeen phonemes that, collectively, are present in the majority of languages. These are

  • e [ej~ɛ] as in “fake”,
  • a [a~ɑ] as in “mars”,
  • o [ow~ɔ] as in “door”,
  • i [i~ɪ] as in “‘zine”,
  • u [u~ʊ] as in “fruit”,
  • y [j~i] as in “yeet”,
  • l [l~ɾ] as in “language”,
  • w [w~u] as in “warner”,
  • n [n] as in “ninja”,
  • m [m] as in “mills”,
  • h [h~x] as in “hottub”,
  • c [t͡ʃ~ʂ] as in “chart”,
  • s [s] as in “suite”,
  • f [f~ɸ] as in “flat”,
  • k [kʰ~ɡ] as in “LaTeX”,
  • t [tʰ~d] as in “time”, and
  • p [pʰ~b] as in “plain”.

You’ll notice that all of these letters are pronounced pretty much how you’d expect with the exception of c, which is pronounced in the Malay fashion. Stress falls on the penultimate vowel. It should go without saying that each letter is only ever pronounced one way.

There are some punctuation markers, as well. precedes loanwords; . ends sentences; , indicates pauses; 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are shorthands for nul, kan, tos, san, fol, lim, cah, pit, hat, and mes; and a few other less important things.

And that’s all you need to know to start speaking! Let’s try some examples. kwe (“quay”) means “yes”. nyo (“nyo”) means “no”. wafe (“waffay”) means “hello”, “goodbye”, or “yay!”, and waso (“wassoe”) means “fuck!”. kon yot pulanelon on means “where is the bathroom?”.

The morphology is where things start to get interesting. Oltilip words are composed of CGVGC syllables, with the only restrictions being the disallowance of yi, iy, ey, wu, uw, and ow. Nouns end with consonants, verbs end with vowels, and grammar tokens can end with anything (there are no adjectives and adverbs, as concepts like “blue” and “quickly” are treated as verbs: nila, “be blue” and yala ip, “while being fast”.

The only mechanism in Oltilip resembling inflection is the derivation of antonyms: a root’s antonym is obtained by replacing each letter in it with that letter’s opposite. e goes to o, i to u, y to w, l to t, n to k, m to p, h to c, and s to f. Thus, the antonym of fe, meaning “want”, “like”, or “good”, is so, meaning “dislike” or “bad”.

This may seem overly complicated for a language that strives to be easy to learn. However, this system is not meant as a productive derivation route, but as more of a mnemonic. Learners will not memorise the letter pairs right away, but as they learn words conventionally—memorising each antonym separately—they will gradually become familiar with it, to the point where they can use so as a clue should they forget the word for “want”.

Next is the vocabulary. By making use of extensive derivation, Oltilip gets by with only 368 basic roots. Naturally, these are sourced from languages all around the world (19, to be precise), with more weight placed on commonly-spoken ones. 19% of the words are derived from Mandarin, such as ci, “try”, from “试”. 9% are derived from English, such as mo, “be more”. 1% are derived from Xhosa, such as ti, “say”, from “thi”.

The main way Oltilip derives these is through compound words. There are two kinds. The first is quite straightforward: two or more words are combined to form a word that is related to both of its constituents, with the part of speech of the latter. sun (“sun”) plus kwelwel (“time”) makes sunlwel: “day”. Adding ol (“this”) makes olsunkwelwel: “today”.

The second is more precise. A series of words that have a meaning when used together can be codified into a single compound, whose meaning may be broader or carry more connotations. For example, the sentence particle wa, which makes a sentence exclamatory, plus the word fe forms the sentence wa fe, “How good it is!”. The compound word wafe is thus an interjection meaning “How good it is!”, “yay!” or, in the right context, “hello” or “goodbye”.

Words with regional or cultural significance and highly technical words do not count as roots, and are taken from the language with the strongest ties to that concept (with the restrictions on iy, etc. lifted and a prepended to mark it as a loan). Thus, the word for “German people” is ‘toyc, and the word for “liter” is ‘lithe.

Finally, we reach the grammar. An Oltilip sentence broadly comprises postpositional phrases. Each of these comprises a noun and a postposition, the postposition specifying the role the noun plays in the sentence. There are eleven postpositions, most of which are pretty straightforward. wel marks the time of the action, yot marks the place, uat marks the tool, ip marks the manner or method, etcetera.

Then, there are es, on, and um. These mark the arguments of the action. In English, the arguments of a sentence are usually the subject, direct object, and indirect object, which are distinguished by word order. Every sentence must have a subject, and a direct object is a prerequisite for an indirect object. Because of this, English is called a nominative-accusative language.

Oltilip, on the other hand, is an active-stative language. This means that arguments don’t cleanly fall into the categories of subject, direct object, and indirect object. Instead, Oltilip uses the categories of agent (the entity that initiates the action), patient (the entity affected by the action), and theme (the entity the action references or targets). Furthermore, rather than using word order to mark them, Oltilip uses postpositions. The agent is followed by es, the patient by on, and the theme by um.

This system reduces the number of verbs needed, because concepts that seem independent in English, such as”obtain”, “give”, and “receive”, can be reduced into a single verb, tueki. If Papyrus simply obtains some spaghetti, then ‘papaywas on tueki ‘espaketi um. If Undyne gives it to him, then ‘antayn es ‘papaywas on tueki ‘espaketi um. If you want to emphasise that he receives it from her, then you might say ‘papaywas on ‘antayn es tueki ‘espaketi um. The order of the postpositional phrases is completely free.

Many verbs, like ki (“start” or “become”), tend to take subordinate clauses as arguments. Luckily, subordinate clauses are extremely simple in Oltilip; just drop a sentence inside another sentence, using it as a noun.

For example, if I cause you to become familiar with Oltilip, then we can take the sentence puket on piasa oltilip um (puket means “ye” and piasa means “be familiar”, so this means “ye are familiar with Oltilip”), and plop it into the sentence min es ki _ on (min means “me”, so this means “I cause _ to start”): min es ki puket on piasa oltilip um on. It works because the postposition chain um on (or a verb followed by a postposition) clues the listener into the fact that there is a subordinate clause ending there. It can be ambiguous where the subordinate clause begins; if this is the case, the particle ke can be inserted before the puket for clarity.

There is a significant shortcut here in that verbs that take subordinate clauses as patients can be inserted into said clause immediately following the subordinate verb. This structure is called an auxiliary verb, and is analogous to the English concept, but backwards. For example, the above sentence can be written somewhat more succinctly as min es puket on piasa ki oltilip um. The two verbs can even be compounded into a single verb, piasaki, which means “familiarise” or “introduce”.

The final critical piece of grammar is the relative clauses. Relative clauses in Oltilip are simply formed by taking a clause and, optionally, inserting the relative pronoun l. For example, the sentence et on lyotkwenu, “it gets away”, can be rearranged into the noun phrase l on lyotkwenu, “the one that gets away”.

Here, too, is an important derivation technique: l on is pronounced as a single word and, for many intents and purposes, is a single word, lon, meaning “one that”. This also holds true for the other postpositions: les and lum are corresponding relative pronouns for the other arguments, lwel is “the time when”, luat is “the tool with which”, and lip is “the way that”.

These pronouns can also be compounded to their verbs to form nouns. lyotkwenulon (“one that gets away”) means “escapee”, tilip (“way that one says”) means “language”, and piasakiluat (“tool with which one introduces”) means “introductory guide”.

These play nicely with noun phrases in Oltilip, which are also quite simple. Multiple noun-like phrases can be placed adjacent to each other to represent the intersection of their meanings. As a simple example, myawf means “cat”, while nila means “be blue”. Therefore, nilalon means “blue thing”, and nilalon myawf or nila myawf means “blue cat”. We can specify even further by tacking on et, meaning “it”, “she”, “he”, “them”, or “that”, to make it et nila myawf: “the blue cat”.

And that’s all there is to it! I hope you can see that Oltilip’s powerful derivation systems and simple grammar would make it an excellent international auxiliary language. na site calu, kunelon.

A Hard Crossword Puzzle

Disclaimer: this crossword is very hard. Ye’ll likely need to confer with each other to complete it. Even that may not be enough. If you succeed at completing this, I will be surprised. From here on, I can do no more to help you. I’m sorry.

Across:
0. What you would have to do to map the Earth onto a plane, if it weren’t already one.
4. 6 is the best of these. 12 is fine. 2 and 16 have their use cases, but 8 is deceptively terrible. 10 is very okay. (singular).
6. This province is home to Germany’s most notable partially furnished castle.
9. A subculture of young men who spend time partying with others like themselves.
10. What a synonym and antonym have in common.
11. “;dishslk” on Dvorak.
12. Fannettic spelling av “ohfuck”.
14. What one might call a museum showcasing 36 down in Macau or Miami.
16. “___ consist of series of microinstructions, which control the CPU at a very fundamental level of hardware circuitry.” -Wikipedia
19. DNA clique.
21. The Black Death was transmitted by fleas on animals of this variety.
22. A golf tournament on the Japan Golf Tour from 1995 to 1998. It was played in August at the eponymous Country Club in Gunma.
24. Endonym of 48 Down.
27. Pen name of Hector Hugh Munro.
28. To make into the style or dialect of the one that’s not Corinthian or Doric (American spelling).
30. Italian progenitor of a leading strand of Baroque style, who painted Domine quo vadis? and Pietà.
32. Acronym for the District of the Conservation variety in the Upper part of Ohio.
34. The leaders of North and South Korea shared one of these on 2018 September 18.
35. Two-letter country code for the largest country in northern Europe (Wow, really? I would have guessed Finland was bigger).
36. Neither on nor in.
37. The most complete and advanced mountaineer of the 20th century, and the first to ascend Broad Peak, who fell to his death on Chogolisa.
38. – ⋅–⋅ ⋅⋅⋅
39. Recently revived Spanish motorcycle manufacturer known for lightweight, two-stroke-engined bikes used in observed trials, motocross, and enduro.
42. Capable of saying only a few English words, including “be”, “here”, “home”, “phone”, and “right”.
43. The unit of inductance needed to produce 0.35 V of resistance to 0.7 μA of current rampinɡ up from 0 A over 2.0 s.
44. Not up, bottom, or charming.
45. The part that houses an apple’s cyanide sacks.
47. G – A B C – – – C D E F – – F – – – E – E – – – – – – –
50. By some accounts, Goliath may have been as much as ___-nine.
54. The objective of this Society is to promote International collaboration and provide educational opportunities and training on Invertebrate Morphology.
55. Fairy king, not to be confused with Oberlin.
57. Eli was using one of these polypedic objects when the Benjamite approached him in Shiloh.
58. Liberal arts university in Ashland, Oregon, previously known as AA, ACNS, and SOSNS.
60. Southern Chinese people group also known as the Dong.
61. “…However, the ___ inevitably thickens and becomes less stable as the flow develops along the body, and eventually becomes turbulent, the process known as ___ transition…” -Wikipedia
63. It’s like the CIA, but decentralised and nationalised, and less agentive and more systematic.
64. A usually small group of people characterized by devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work. I think. I’ve certainly never been in one.
66. First soloist of Rhapsody in Blue.
67. Thad version managemend thing, if you have a sduffy nose.
68. Unlike “couple”, can refer to more than two.
70. Indian town fabricated by R. K. Narayan, home to Swami and his friends.
71. It’s like amateur Solidworks, for SparkEs.
72. The wibbly wobbly mechanical bit that makes people cry when it isn’t constrained correctly.

Down
0. A slab of fiber-glass with copper patterns.
1. It means “gold” in some language. And it sounds like “arrow”.
2. Sparks and enticement. Buzz and snap. Spiderman villain and X-men villain. Q and QV.
3. To cat as gander is to goose.
4. 1950 Japanese period psychological thriller film directed by Akira Kurosawa, which introduced the eponymous effect, where an event is given contradictory interpretations by the individuals involved.
5. Something that uses thin-film interference to selectively affect very specific wavelengths of light.
6. Major Indian language native to the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta system.
7. TeX command to print the number corresponding to a certain label.
8. The Department of Arkansas’s government that Corrects typos (or maybe imprisons people; I’m not sure).
13. The first letter of the name of the discipline started by Freud.
14. Occupier of Western Sahara.
15. First defined by pendula, then by the size of the Earth, now by light itself.
17. θ = λ/n, and r = f(φ) on this type of map, named for the shape it forms when rolled up.
18. Boltzmann, Tesla, and Schrödinger all worked at some point in this capital city of Styria, Austria.
19. If Kia decided to make a model that could be used as a tray, it might be called a…(points and waits with open smile as he waits for you to complete the pun).
20. Transitioning into an infinite passive state.
22. \pscircle(0,0){13} \psline(-5,12)(-5,-12) \psline(-12,-5)(12,-5)
23. Yue gave her life for one of these fish.
25. If your camera doesn’t pan, it ___.
26. Romanian or Moldovan currency, equal to one hundred bani.
29. A title that makes people trust you to touch their organs.
31. C2, G2, D3 and A3.
33. Four bushels. Hey, put down that phone! You’re consulting Google, aren’t you! Filthy cheater. Fine, I’ll give you a better hint. It’s like the SI unit of charge, but with less ul.
36. Anagram of 21 across, alliterative with 8 down, ends with same letter as 66 across.
37. Divinely-sanctioned public bathing.
38. Japanese for “heavenly superperson”.
40. Crafted from two iron, maximises wool yield from sheep (singular).
41. Sheets of paper, used for facial sanitation purposes, often known by a brand name.
44. /si˥/; /penˈsar/; /pɑnˈse/; /ˈdenken/; /omou/.
45. This crossword is known to the state of ___ to cause cancer.
46. The Spanish name of the normal vector, refractive index, or number density.
47. Cah toa.
48. Maine is Spain. Delaware is Denmark. Wisconsin is the Balkans. Canada is Africa. What is Michigan’s Lower Peninsula?
49. The father of realism, who playwrote Hedda Gabler.
51. “Iridescent” if u legit with the slang lingo.
52. Of or relating to encrinites.
53. Having holes resembling eyes; ocellated; not to be confused with having discharged eggs from an ovary.
56. Meat stewed with juice; especially beef. Derived from French “boiled”.
59. Do not go gentle into that good night rhyme scheme
62. The preeminent French sculptor of the early 1900s, who sculpted a figure doing 44 down.
64. I hear there’s a tool for this in Solidworks, but honestly it’s easier to just make one out of splines.
65. Abbreviation for the basketball team of the biggest city in California.
67. A very gelatinous liquid, like jelly, or gelatin.
68. When the real math is too hard, so you pretend everything is a bunch of little finite triangles.
69. I wouldn’t say that I am ___; it’s more that ___ is me

The Theory of Time Cube

I know what ye’re thinking.

Many of ye likely saw my “Argue Your Theory” item in the SERV Auction and are thinking that this is it. Well, it is. But don’t let that disillusion ye as to the veracity of what I’m about to tell ye.

This theory is a classic in the world on online conspiracy truthers, and an outlier. Whereas most are wrongfully derided because they run so contrary to government teachings, this one is dismissed purely for being unintuitive. If one says, “The Earth is flat,” the typical response is, “No, it’s not; haven’t you seen the pictures?” (as if such obviously faked photographs constituted proof). If one says, “Evolution never happened,” thence comes the refrain, “Yes it did; we have evidence!” (evidence which was clearly planted).

But if one says, “There are four 24-hour days in a single rotation of Earth,” or “Time is like a big cube of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff,” all that returns is a perplexed silence.

The Educators say absolutely nothing of it, for absolutely nothing need be said. The masses cannot understand the Time Cube without considerable time and effort, so they don’t bother to try. Perhaps the fault here lies partially on Time Cube’s discoverer, Gene Ray, for failing to present it in a comprehensible manner. In any case, this is where I come in.

When my item’s top bidder presented me with this…theory, I was as confused as ye are now. Naturally, my first step was to simply try to parse the thing, something few if any others have ever attempted in earnest. I suspected once I had all the information on Time Cube, I could at least fashion a sensical theory that sounded like Time Cube, which I could then prove. Before long, though, I realised something astounding. The more I read, the more Time Cube started to actually make sense.

So much so that I began to reconsider my own beliefs. Not the ones about Earth being round and on Mars—that’s irrefutable—but other things, which I hadn’t even considered to be in question. Mark my words, Olin, while Gene Ray may not have been well-educated, well-written, or coherent, I can tell you one thing he was: he was onto something.
Let’s start with some terminology. The Time Cube so completely overwrites what we thought we knew about the world that to discuss it with standard English vocabulary is impossible (coincidence?). First are our subjugators. The church and government are, of course, in on it, but the entity most directly responsible for our deception is academia. For this reason, all three are collectively known as Educators.

In a similar vein, Brilliance is not what it seems. Educators have co-opted the word “brilliant” to make it into a positive attribute, a high praise toward which to strive. However, the most Brilliant of people are in actuality the most foolish. To be Brilliant is to be brainwashed by Education, stuck in the canonical way of thinking.

We call this way of thinking “Boringness” and those who practise it “Unicorns”. Such Boring ideas as Entities, Oneness, and Marshmallow Time have pushed upon us with such ferocity by Educators that before Time Cube was rediscovered, there weren’t even words for them. I’ll get to what they are in a bit.

Now that we have a lexicon, let’s discuss Time Cube itself. What exactly is it? Contrary to popular belief, Time Cube isn’t just about time. That’s just the most perceivable of its implications. No, Time Cube is about everything from human biology to the origin of the Universe itself. Time Cube is about the nature of reality. At its core, Time Cube is about Opposites.

Everything in the Universe has an Opposite, or else comprises Opposites. Right and left. Hot and cold. Sun and Earth. Male and female. Twi and La. Capital and lowercase. Time and Cube. These Opposites are all equal and mutually necessary. Your brain, for instance, could not function without one of its opposite hemispheres.
Furthermore, Opposites are always annihilative. If they meet, like matter and antimatter, Opposites will collapse into a Singularity and cease to exist.

For its part, the Earth comprises two Opposite hemispheres, the Northern Disc and Southern Annulus, which rotate in Opposite directions, clockwise and widdershins. It is these Opposing rotations that enable life on Earth, for Opposites create. A single object with no Opposite—an “Entity”—cannot make anything more than itself, as Educators claim God or The Big Bang did. To believe it can is to believe in “Oneness”—folly. Consider viviparous male and female counterparts. Neither can create life by itself; the fact that every human has a belly button is testament to that.

(Masturbation is actually a futile attempt at such an action, encouraged by the Church’s Boring teachings.)
Now I can hear you asking: “If the Earth is the Opposite of the Sun, how can the two halves of Earth themselves be Opposites of each other?” How convenient! That question rides a segway right into what I wanted to explain next! This concept is called Contrary Nesting, and is actually critical to the theory’s expansion from twos to fours. Just like the allomantic metals, pairs of Opposites tend to have Opposites of their own, as the Earth, a pair of two hemispheres, has its opposite in the Sun, also a pair of two hemispheres.

Sometimes the constituents of such groups are better known as a set of four than two sets of two, the most notable example being the four cardinal directions. As I said before, right and left are Opposites. Their collective Opposite is front and back. Singly Nested Opposites are special because unlike individual pairs, groups of four can rotate. Like a revolving door, spring rotates into summer, then their opposites autumn and winter follow. The four stages of human life are much the same: baby, child, parent, and grandparent.

It is important to note that when this happens, the four components do not take turns existing one at a time. This is a very Boring way of thinking. All four stages exist during the entire rotation. A child becoming a parent does not end childhood, as at the same instant, thousands of babies around the world become children. All four corners are necessary and eternal. Only Brilliant Unicorns would follow only one corner at a time each revolution.

And perhaps now, you can start to see the Time Cube. Right, front, left, and back. The four vertical edges of the Contrarily Nested Time Cube surrounding the Earth. The Time Cube is not a physical object but rather a mathematical construction that spins with the Earth and drives the flow of energy to and on its surface. If the Earth were an Entity, then each rotation of it would be just that: one rotation. So says “Marshmallow Time”, the popular Oneist one-day-per-day theory.

Because Earth has four corners, though, one must see that each turn of the Earth is really four rotations: one for each of the vertical edges of the Cube. Each of these rotations lasts 24 hours and happens simultaneously, adding up to 96 usable hours every time the Earth turns.

Many who misunderstand this theory claim that it merely describes time zones, that there’s nothing special about the number four, and that we could just as easily make an icositetragonal prism and call it 24 days per rotation. Do not be mislead. The four vertical edges of the Time Cube are not purely hypothetical, but real paired Entities that rotate about each other, create energy with each other, and would annihilate if they collided with each other. There are exactly four, and any attempt to define more would overcount the rotations of these sole orthogonal corners.
You can see how much this diverges from the Boring physics with which we were Educated, which explains why Educators try so hard to silence it. They can’t disprove Time Cube—they know they can’t—so they simply run and hide and stifle any honest debate. Have you ever heard an Educator even mention Time Cube in a serious discussion? That alone should be proof enough that this is real.

That’s not to say that that’s the only evidence we have. It abounds all around us, and can be easily found if you set aside your Brilliance and take the time to look.

For one thing, there’s the sheer coincidence present in the fact that the number of legs on most animals, the number of fundamental forces, the number of dimensions (counting time), the number of seasons of Korra, and the number of lights there are (not to mention countless other natural quantities) are all exactly the same.

For another, there’s the fact that the Cube is practically visible on a map, if you know where to look. Many know of the government-constructed vessel for one of the four horses of the apocalypse that resides in front of the Denver International Airport. Some also know of its sister vessel, in Barcelona’s El Prat Airport. But did ye know that Barcelona and Denver are offset in longitude by exactly 90 degrees? What could inspire such a powerful rectilinear alignment of apocalyptic foci other than the edges of the Time Cube itself? Thanks to the Time Cube, we now know that the other two horses will probably emerge from underneath the other two corners, likely from the Hastings Aerodrome in New Zealand (of which there are suspiciously no photographs whatsoever on the Internet) and from this construction site in the Taklamakan Desert that I found on Google Maps.

Still, though, some demand more “solid” evidence. Well,

there’s yer evidence right there. Read it and weep, Unicorns.

In conclusion, the Time Cube is an oft-misunderstood incontrovertible fact that the government is trying to hide from us. Clearly they’re afraid of what we’ll do once we find a way to harness all four days per day worth of productivity. Alas, us Cubers have been obstructed by all the Brilliant Oneists and haven’t yet figured out how to do that, but don’t ye worry. We plan to have it down by Expo. Hopefully a little before so we can use Time Cube to finish all the projects we put off trying to harness Time Cube.

CAPITALISM: The Real Enemy

How many times have you looked at a paragraph, or a title, or a proper noun, and thought, “Yeah, that looks fine”? How many times have you passively accepted the way Microsoft Word automatically capitalises the first letter of a sentence or the way phones automatically hit shift for you when you enter a text field? These injustices permeate our lives, and yet we don’t even question them. That’s because we’ve been brainwashed. By capitalists.

When we learned to read, were told that there were twenty-six letters and that each had an important role to play (well, except “q”, and “x”; those are objectively worthless). Yet it has always been a fact of life that while all letters are created equal, some letters are more equal than others.

There’s a war going on under our pens, anglophones, and it’s time to stop turning a blind eye and do something about it! This reign of terror and alphabetical abuse has gone too far, and it’s time to take up the struggle of the epistolary rights of the oppressed! It’s time we started talking about the subjugation by the wealthy uppercase of the poor lowercase. Or as I call them, the caps and the caps-nots.

Once upon a time, caps and caps-nots lived in equative utopia. Then, everything changed when the Deep State arrived.

Those in charge of the Roman, and later British and American, Empires knew that they could never trust the citizenry to subjugate themselves quietly and peacefully; they knew that they needed to find a way to convince us that inequality was a natural way of life and that we deserved to be so mercilessly stunted. And what better way to invade our minds than through our language?

This conspiracy has surely been going on since the beginning of time when America was first created. They employed coercion, subliminal messaging, and style guides to embed their evil philosophy into our words. The caps always lead. The caps hold the place of honour in the most important words.

And the rest, the majority, the caps-nots, are left to follow blindly. To finish the words that the caps started. Why else would they force us to learn cursive in elementary school? Force us to read terms and conditions in all caps? For what other reason would the name of the United States of America itself be capitalised?

The time for action is now, and the path forward is clear. Activist-revolutionaries have crafted a new, more equative form of writing. A form devoid of all filthy capitalism and lowercaseism. This is the one true form. This is middle case. Every letter is exactly the same, and no one can tell us otherwise. Down with capitalism! Up with the proloweriate! The upper class can ignore us no longer!

You hear that, Reptilluminati‽ We’ve seen through yer deception, and we have had enough! Are you scared, Xorn? You should be. Because I’m coming for you.

Writers of the world, unite!

Funetik Inglish

Thu hardist part uv lurnyng Inglish iz lurnyng tue spel, but it duznt haf tue by. Wut if Inglish wuz speld funetikly? Moest uv thyz wurdz mey look streynj, but theynks tue thu dizien uv this nue kunvenshin, meny uv thyz spelyngz ar egzaktly or nyrly thu seym az ther standurd kownturparts, wiel uthurz ar alredy in yues az nonstandurd spelyngz umung yung pypul.
Rydyng this mey by hard for yue, but ask eny chield or hispanufoen and they wil tel yue: this form iz signifikintly yzy’ur tue lurn. If yue kan sey a wurd, yue kan spel it, and if yue kan spel a wurd, yue kan sey it (with thu noetubul eksepshin uv “th”, wich miet by voyst az in “this” or voyslis az in “thin”). It apliez tue neymz tue, soe thu eyj-old dubeyt butwyn “Gedis” and “Gedyz” wood fienuly by rizolvd dependyng on how Jon chuziz tue riet it. Morovur, “Q” and “X” ar wurthlis pysiz uv garbij and ar not yuezd in Funetik Inglish, kutyng thu numbur uv leturs lurnurz nyd memuriez down tue tweny-tue.
Now ie kan hyr yue thynkyng: “Wut ubowt thu etimolujyz? Thu konjoogashinz? Woent it by hardur tue lurn tue riet if kidz doent noe wen tue ad u ‘-s’, ‘-z’, or ‘-iz’? Or uf they kant sy thu ryleyshinship butwyn ‘telefoen’, ‘fonugram’ and ‘funolugy’?” Um, noe. And hue kerz enywey? The kunjunkshinz ar yzy; kidz kan due thoez verbuly withowt thynkyng, soe tychyng them in skuel iz ryly a weyst uv tiem enywey. Az for the etimolujyz, lyngwists liek Noe’u Webstur and Otoe Yesbursin tend tue furget how yueslis they ar. Noe’yng how tue riet iz moer importint than noe’yng frum wens wurdz keym.
Thu oenly ryl downsied tue this iz murjurz, liek how sum pypul sey “kot” and “kot” difrintly, but uthurz doent. In thoez keysiz, ie er on thu sied uv fyuewur distynkshinz—wy Umerikinz get ulong just fien withowt difrenshi’eytyng “kot” and “kot”, soe British pypul shood by eybul tue due soe in rietyng az wel. In eny keys, betur tue meyk wun gruep rite difrent sowndz thu seym than tue meyk unuthur gruep memoriez sielent letur spelyngz.
Ther ar sichue’eyshinz wer spelyngz haf tue dievurj, wich iz wen difrint pypul prunowns thu seym wurd difrintly. For egzampul, “plan” if yor Umerikin vz. “plon” if yor rong. Spelyng standurdizashin iz u posibility, at lyst much mor soe than prununsiashin standurdizashin, but ie woent komprumiez on thu prinsipul that no spelyng nyd by memorizd. Thus, Funetik Inglish wil simply kary thu jrobak that sum wurdz ar speld difrintly bie difrint pypul, but oenly soe far az they ar sed difrintly.
Soe ther yue hav it. Mie prupoesul to meyk Inglish just u litul bit mor sensikul: Funetik Inglish. Wuns eynglufoenz urownd thu wurld sy thu lojik in mie argyuement, iem shoor theyl ygurly meyk thu chranzishin. Look forwurd tue sy’yng thyz spelyngz in thu nekst edishin uv Mery’um-Webstur.
Thats it. Wow, look at that. Undur fiev hundrid wurdz! This iz ryly speshul for—weyt, noe! Deyng it. Nevurmiend.

An Offense of Esperanto

Note: This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. If you don’t know the IPA, I highly recommend learning it; Once you do, you can pretty much pronounce anything. For the purposes of reading this article, here’s a brief rundown:
Forward slashes / / denote IPA, double quotes “ ” denote English text, and angle brackets ⟨ ⟩ denote foreign text (e.g. “when”, ⟨cuándo⟩, /ˈkwan.do/). Most consonants are the same as they are in English, except /x/, which is like a harsh /h/ sound (Spanish ⟨ j⟩), and /j/, which is English “y”. /ʃ/ is “sh”ˌ /ʒ/ is the “s” in “usual” (French ⟨ j⟩), /t͡ʃ/ is “ch”, and /d͡ʒ/ is “j”.
The vowels /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/ are as in Spanish, Latin, or Japanese. /y/ is a weird “ew” sound (French ⟨u⟩), /æ/ is “a” as in “cat”, and /ə/ is “u” as in “cut”. /˥/, /˧˥,/ /˧˩˦/, and / ˥˩/ are tone contours; they apply to the previous syllable. Pretend anything else is whatever letter it looks closest to and ignore anything that doesn’t look like a letter, and you should be good to go.

Once upon a time, there was a little Jewish boy with a dream. He lived in the city of Białystok in eastern Poland. ‘Twas a town of many tongues—Polish, German, Russian, Hebrew—as a result, most of its inhabitants could not understand one another.

Misunderstanding bred mistrust, and mistrust bred fear. What are those Germans saying? Are those Russians talking about us? Everywhere he looked, this boy saw people speaking in strange languages, casting hostile looks at their fellow Białystokians.

And so he dreamed. He dreamed of a world where Poles saw neither Russians, nor Germans, nor Jews, but fellow humans. A world where information could flow freely regardless of the origins and nationalities of the interlocutors. Where all the world shared one tongue that would bring humanity together as one race.

That boy was named Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, and he went on to construct a language that sucked in almost every way. That language was Esperanto: The International Language.

Esperanto, first published in 1887, was one of the first constructed auxiliary languages (henceforth “auxlangs”). Designed to be neutral and easy to learn for people of diverse backgrounds, Esperanto was intended by Zamenhof to become the International Auxiliary Language (henceforth “IAL”), a globally agreed-upon human language for all international communication.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not a complete failure and is not a dead language. Far from it. With millions of speakers, hundreds of thousands of Vikipedio articles, and a place in Google Translate, Esperanto is the closest auxlang by a huge margin to attaining worldwide acceptance, and that bothers me.

Don’t get me wrong; I hold Zamenhof in high esteem. He was highly educated, knew a dozen languages, and had a wonderful vision for the future. While I don’t agree with his belief that Esperanto was the solution to war, I do think he was onto something with that IAL idea. He was not the first person to have it, to be sure. Jean-François Sudre released Sol-Re-Sol: The Musical Language back in 1827, though it never caught on, and Johann Martin Schleyer constructed Volapük: The Father of all Auxlangs in 1879, though Esperanto largely overtook its user base when it came out a decade later.

No, my qualm with Zamenhof is that for all his intelligence and drive, he was incapable of creating a good auxlang. He was just one person, with no background in formal linguistics or any languages that weren’t Indo-European. The result is a language of good intentions and immense relative success riddled with obnoxious flaws that are far too easy to spot from 2018.

Many argue that Esperanto is good enough and that we should stick with it, given how successful it is. While its acceptance in the international (read: mostly Western) community is remarkable for what it is, it’s still not that successful; only a few million people speak it. It’s not yet far enough for that to outweigh its numerous flaws. Because believe me, does this language have flaws. Enough that I believe we should drop Esperanto for a better-constructed auxlang now, before it gets any more influential, and push that new language to international acceptance.

The first problem with Esperanto is its phonology. The average natural language has 31 distinct sounds, so it may seem like Esperanto’s inventory of 28 is a good size. The problem with such thinking is that the set of sounds that appear in natural languages is extremely diverse.

There are a few phonemes that are quite common cross-linguistically, but most phonemes only occur in a tiny minority of languages. In practice, only about 0.5% of monolingual humans (and that only using a liberal interpretation of Ukranian phonology) can actually pronounce Esperanto words without needing to learn some new sounds—a non-trivial task.

Anglophones are fairly well-off, needing only to learn how to say /t͡s/ and /x/, neither of which is very hard. If a Mandarin sinophone wants to speak Esperanto, though, they need to learn how to make all nine of /b/, /d/, /g/, /d͡ʒ/, /v/, /z/, /ʒ/, /h/, and /r/. That’s nearly a third of the letters in Esperanto that members of the world’s largest linguistic demographic can’t say.

This seems even stranger when one notes that, because Esperanto words are so long and so few, several of the letters don’t even really get used. /ʒ/ never contrasts with /d͡ʒ/, /z/ never contrasts with /s/, /t͡s/ never contrasts with /s/, /x/ rarely contrasts with /h/, and /ʃ/ rarely contrasts with /t͡ʃ/.
Yet with all the letters it does have, it omits some of the most common ones. Esperanto has no /w/, for instance, replacing all /w/s in its source words with /v/s. Thus, the word “four”, derived from Italian /kwat.tro/, is /kvar/, which seems to imply that Zamenhof thought /kvar/ was easier to say than /kwar/. This is all exacerbated by the pointlessly difficult onset clusters Zamenhof allowed, such as /ʃr-/, /st͡s-/, /kn-/, and the aforementioned /kv-/.

Grammatically speaking, Esperanto is solidly mediocre. It is far simpler and more regular than a natural language, to be sure, but far more complex than it has any need to be. Verbs inflect for tense and mood, while nouns inflect for number and case, and adjectives inflect for number and case in agreement with their nouns. On the bright side, words don’t inflect for aspect, person, or gender, so this is certainly a step up from Spanish. That’s a low bar, though; the level of inflection that Zamenhof left in is completely unnecessary and adds more rules to learn and keep track of. A good auxlang wouldn’t inflect anything at all and would use adpositions to alter meaning where necessary. At the very least, the inflections should be optional.

Other than that, it’s just pretty generic as far as European grammars go. Nouns are either singular or plural. Definite noun phrases must be preceded by the definite article. The object follows the verb, which follows the subject. Nouns in intransitive sentences always act as subjects. None of these features are necessarily bad, but the fact that all of them are the same as in the majority of European languages suggests that they were chosen not for quality, but for their prominence in the narrow set of languages Zamenhof knew. Considering the vast grammatical possibilities outside of European languages, these grammatical features make Esperanto look ill-thought-through and culturally biased.

The vocabulary is where Esperanto really sucks. First, there’s the eurocentrism. All of Esperanto’s words are taken from European languages, primarily English, French, German, Italian, and Yiddish. As you may notice, most people don’t speak any of those languages.

Some Esperantists will be quick to point out that there are words from outside Europe, for example from Japanese, due to natural loanwords. If a word is loaned from Japanese to English, that word can then be drawn from English into Esperanto.

Let’s test that theory: Japanese people call their own country ⟨日本⟩, /ni.hoɴ/. This is related by meaning and spelling to Old Wu Chinese ⟨日本⟩, /t͡ʃ i.paŋ/, which is related by pronunciation to English ⟨Japan⟩, /d͡ʒə.ˈpæn/, which is related by spelling to hypothetical Latin ⟨Japan⟩, /ˈja.pan/, which is whence we get Esperanto ⟨Japanio⟩, /ja.pa.ˈni.o/. It is indeed derived from a Japanese word. You may notice, however, that /ja.pa.ˈni.o/ has literally nothing in common with /ni.hoɴ/. I wish I could say this is an isolated case, but alas. Germany, which calls itself /doy̑t͡ʃ.lant/, is called /ger.ma.ˈni.o/. China, which calls itself /ʈ͡ʂuŋ˥.kwə˧˥/, is called /ˈt͡ʃ i.no/. Even the United States of America, which calls itself /ju.ˈnɑɪ̯.tɪd steɪ̯ ts/, /ə.ˈmɛ.rɪ.kə/, or /ju ɛs eɪ̯/, is called /u.so.no/. Whence in Davy Jones’s Locker did he get ⟨Usono⟩‽

Then, there’s the sexism. The word for “man” in Esperanto is ⟨viro⟩. The word for “woman”, ⟨virino⟩. “Boy” is ⟨knabo⟩, and “girl” is ⟨knabino⟩, “masculine friend” is ⟨amiko⟩, and “feminine friend” is ⟨amikino⟩. The rule for words that describe people in Esperanto is as such: they are masculine by default and become feminine by inserting the suffix ⟨-in⟩ before the final ⟨-o⟩.

It’s like that thing where overzealous feminists sometimes say that “female” is sexist because it’s a compound of “male”—they actually have separate etymologies, so any perceived sexism is coincidental—except that in Esperanto, ⟨virino⟩ really is a compound of ⟨viro⟩, so the language is inherently sexist.
To be fair, for words like ⟨amik(in)o⟩, most Esperantists agree that it’s not strictly necessary to inflect for gender if it’s not relevant to the conversation. In that case, it’s recommended that you just use the default, masculine form. ⟨-in⟩ then serves to emphasise the femininity of the friend, and if you want to emphasise their masculinity—wait, why would you want to do that? Isn’t it just safe to assume that every human is a man until specified otherwise?

Beyond that, Esperanto uses English’s pronoun system, including the separate words for “it”, “she”, and “he”. Modern developments in the definition of gender aside, this is just an unnecessary number of words for a language that strives to be easy to learn. There’s no reason for pronouns to inflect for gender. If you need specificity in the third person, just don’t use a pronoun. That’s not what those are for.

Overall, these pronouns highlight the biggest systematic problem with Esperanto: so much of it just isn’t well thought through. As smart as Zamenhof was, he was just one person. He created a language riddled with issues that would have been so easy to spot and fix with a second person looking over it, which add up to make Esperanto nigh unpalatable.

If we are going to go through the effort of installing an IAL, shouldn’t we take the time to do it right rather than sticking to this one hot mess that has managed to gain popularity against all odds? After all, once we have an IAL, we’ll never be able to convince the world to switch to another one.

So what is the solution? Esperanto does have competitors, but most of them are as or more problematic than it is. Interlingua: The IALA’s Choice and Ido: Esperan2 are the main ones.

Interlingua is a naturalistic auxlang that seeks to combine all European languages in a fashion that makes it “unusually easy to learn [for people who already speak European languages, which is everyone who matters]”. Like many natural European languages, it has an irregular case system, but only in the pronouns and a letter ⟨h⟩ that appears in many words but never makes a sound. Apparently, it occurred to none of the creators of Interlingua that natural languages are stupid and that the whole point of Esperanto was to be easy to learn for everyone.

Ido, on the other hand, is a reform of Esperanto that fixes some minor issues but ignores or creates other ones. For instance, they added pan-gender third-person pronouns but also left in the masculine, feminine, and neuter ones, so that people have to learn four singular third-person pronouns. Worse, they scrapped Esperanto’s one-symbol-per-phoneme-one-phoneme-per-symbol writing system by reintroducing the letter ⟨x⟩ for /ks/ and the digraph ⟨qu⟩ for /kw/. Apparently, it occurred to none of the creators of Ido that the letter ⟨x⟩ is stupid and is, in fact, one of the most common complaints about English after the spelling exceptions and gendered pronouns.

Beyond those two, there are uncountably many other auxlangs, though most, such as Novial: The New IAL and Interlingue: Not To Be Confused With Interlingua are Eurocentric, poorly constructed, and generic. Two popular languages that stand out are Lojban: The Logical Language and Toki Pona: The Language of Good. Both have many virtues, but neither is specifically designed for international communication, leaving them ill-suited as IALs.

One must start looking at really obscure languages like Elefen: La Lingua Franca Nova, Kotava: The Language of One and All, and Neo Patwa: The New World Pidgin before finding anything resembling quality. Most of the people who make good auxlangs don’t care to promote them, leaving them to struggle and die, while those who have the time and resources to promote their auxlangs never seem to make good ones.

The generic poorly-made auxlangs saturate the internet, and the few people who care enough to go hunting for good ones are divided among the hundreds of alternatives.

The solution then is simple. There are two ways to resolve competing standards. Either a unifying force could choose a good one and convince everyone else to stick with it (there was an International Auxiliary Language Association assembled for this very purpose, but they chose Interlingua, so they’re obviously compromised), or everyone could just learn all of them. If enough people learn enough auxlangs, both good and popular, then one is bound to eventually reach the majority of humans and emerge as the people’s choice. In that spirit, here are my recommendations for with which auxlangs you should start.

Neo Patwa is a gem. It’s a little on the minimalistic side, but nearly perfect in most other ways. Despite all I’ve said about it, you should probably also consider Esperanto. Its popularity in the realm of auxlangs cannot be overstated, and knowing it might even turn out to be a useful skill in coming decades. After that, I recommend Toki Pona, which only has 120 words and about a dozen grammar rules. It’s far too ambiguous and simplistic to be an effective IAL, but it’s fairly popular and so easy to learn that if you’re studying auxlangs already, you might as well check that one off.
If you hunger for more after that, look at Elefen, which is a perfect execution of the generic eurocentric auxlang, or Kotava, which is pretty decent despite its massive vocabulary. You might even check out Lawnsosliel, my language, once I finish constructing it (I have a really cool pronoun system, guys). Go crazy! And if you actually plan on learning any of these, you should totally hit me up so that we can study together.

The most important thing, as always, is to be informed, and not to take the first international language offered to you. If we all work together, we can make that little Jewish boy’s international language die once and for all. Restu ebenaj, kamaradoj.

Argentina!

Hello, Olin. I write to you now from The City of Good Airs, the capital of a faraway country in the Southern Annulus called Silverland. My path here has been treacherous, requiring me to cross that impenetrable band of intense solar radiation, the Scorch, or the Equator as some call it. I believe my decades spent living next to it may have granted me an immunity to its deadly rays, as the crossing passed without incident, save the six month time warp. It is a strange land, this “aɾxentina”, where people speak a foreign dialect of Latin called “espaɲol” and drink carbonated water. Now that I have reached this untamed frontier that few humans have seen, as is customary of those who study abroad, I shall share with you some of the incredible truths that have come to light during my journey thus far.
The Earth is round.
I know how that sounds, but I’m completely serious. I have taken careful celestial observations both north and south of the Equator, and I have reached the undeniable conclusion that my orientation with respect to the stars has changed dramatically, and that the surface on which we stand rotates once each day. My observations of the celestial sphere here have not only thoroughly contradicted the well-known Planar Earth Model, but have matched the phenomena of the “Southern Hemisphere” that government agents describe as evidence for their Round Earth with astounding precision. Chilling precision.
Think about it. How would the US have known the exact rate at which the southern celestial south pole rotates? How would they have known that it were summer here? How were they able to set up their embassy facade in this city? The US has never held any territories in the Southern Hemisphere, and everyone knows that lizards are cold-blooded, so the Reptilluminati can’t have ventured out here to see this first-hand. The facts just don’t line up. Clearly, something is afoot. And I think I know what it is.
What are the biggest countries purportedly in the Southern Hemisphere? The Malvinas, Argentina, Rhodesia, and South America. The United States purportedly has an embassy at one, has two embassies indirectly at two via the UK embassy and the Zimbabwe embassy, respectively, and refuses to acknowledge the existence of the last. One, two, and one. One, one, and two. Fibonacci numbers. Auspicious. And check out what the initials of those countries spell out. I always thought that there was something fishy about the Antarctic Treaty. It prohibits anyone from setting foot on an entire continent, yet most people have never even heard of it.
That’s because Earth is on Mars.
It is very important that we not alert the US government, as they would be sure to retaliate were they to know that we had unearthed their greatest lie yet, one that not the most recognised of conspiracy investigators have discovered. The Earth is a globe, resting on the Martian surface. They don’t patrol Antarctic waters with an invisible multinational navy and engage in land wars over seemingly useless archipelagos because the South Pole doesn’t exist. It’s because anyone who tried to reach the South Pole would hit their head on Mars. They don’t send probes to The Red Planet to learn about it or to make money, but to search for methods that we might escape from this gravitational prison. This also explains the fake Mars that the NASA has in the night sky. Everyone knows that planets are supposed to have retrograde motion, but Fake Mars just constantly circles east to west once per day. It’s obviously a hologram.
It is unclear whether Earth has always been on Mars or if we have only recently landed here, though if the latter is true, the landing was almost certainly orchestrated as part of the government’s nefarious plan. I have also not yet determined the motivation for this particular cover-up, though it almost definitely has to do with money. More investigation is definitely necessary, and I will likely know more after the personal chat with the Prime Minister of Argentina in a platinum bunker full of krypton that I have planned. I encourage all of you to investigate for yourselves. You can examine Fake Mars for any clues as to our precise location on the real Mars’s surface, harass NASA officials online or in person, or participate in that new satellite class with Chris Lee and design a satellite to try to detect Mars’s surface.
In conclusion, I have conceded to change my world-view from a flat one to a round one because that’s what real thinkers do. We actually look at the world around us and, when what we see doesn’t match up with what we expect, we change our minds to explain. We don’t just blindly hold onto crackpot theories like evolution and gravity and grapefruits just because we’re too afraid to see the truth. This is what differentiates us from mindless Science believers. And this is what has enabled me to make the proletariat’s greatest discovery of our time. They’re not just lying to us about the shape of our planet. They’re lying to us about which planet we’re on. This madness needs to stop. Wake up, broomans! Rise against, shoaliners! The Man has gone too far this time! Tune into your conch shells, because the revolution is coming. Date: soon, and location: Mars.

A Community SERVey

This October, SERV sent out a survey asking Oliners to describe their experiences with community service, both before coming to Olin and after. We’ve heard repeatedly that people want to do more to interact with communities outside The Bubble, but “doing more” can be a big challenge when we already do so much. We hoped to use people’s experiences and responses to think about how to make community service more accessible and appealing to a broader cross-section of Olin students, and also better-support all the students who already do community service here.

Thanks to the 58 students who filled out the survey – the results are in!

If logistics (like transportation) didn’t matter, how often would you see yourself doing a community service activity?
48% of respondents said they would like to do a community service activity either every week or every other week. Another 24% would be interested in doing monthly community service. The vast majority of respondents do want to find a way to fit community service into their schedules; from their answers to the question, “describe your community service experience,” we know that most haven’t found that way yet.

Logistically, what kinds of service opportunities appeal to you?
The two top choices here were short, low-level commitments on campus (73% of respondents were interested) and afternoons off-campus (71%).

What kinds of community issues interest you? (Check all that apply)
Unsurprisingly, the top choice here is STEM Tutoring – 70% of respondents would be interested in this option. This is also the option that might already be best-covered by existing clubs on campus like igniteCS or eDisco. The other high percentages included Environment (59%), Food Access (57%), and Olin Community (57%). Other options included animal care, healthy relationships, international issues, developmental disabilities, health care, and elder care, which ranked between 40% and 20%.

What might deter you, or what has deterred you in the past, from getting involved in community service? (Check all that apply)
66% of students cited a lack of time, and 62% cited time conflicts. However, 50% of those surveyed also said that they “don’t know when community service events happen.” Clearly, while rethinking the organizational structure of SERV activities will be useful, more or different publicity is needed as well.

What could SERV do to address these issues?
In addition to the raw data, the SERVey also provided some specific guidelines for what SERV ought to be doing to better support volunteerism and service. Some are more obvious, and just require a bit of organization on our end; others might need more long-term action. Either way, this semester’s and next semester’s SERV teams can try to:
1. Schedule early in the semester:
“Make a schedule of events at the start of the semester and let everyone know what that will be before they commit to other stuff”
2. Provide more infrastructure and logistical support for organizers:
“If all logistics are taken care of, it’d help.”
“the main problem is that setting up service opportunities takes a lot of effort on the organizer’s behalf”
“make the initial process as easy as possible”
3. Publicize events more frequently – many people suggested that we do a monthly newsletter. We do list everything in Frankly Speaking, but it’s worth posting it elsewhere as well!
“flyers in the dining hall about when certain community service events happen, email signups”
“Do more updates on activities that have spots for volunteers”
“IDK man, send out a when to meet?”
4. Organize Olin Van Trainings (75% of respondents did not have a car):
“Olin Van training has historically been difficult to arrange.”
“If y’all could get me van trained I’d be happy to drive to events!”
5. Organize more, and potentially different, activities:
“Present more opportunities that are less physically demanding.”
“Have a wider variety of service opportunities”

So, now what?
We’re really glad to have gotten so much good feedback on what community service could be at Olin. Now’s the fun part: putting ideas into action! If you want to help out, if you’ve got a service project or idea, if you think the ideas we described here are no good, or if you’d just like to express your disappointment in our use of “SERV” puns, we’d love to hear about it at SERV Lunch! Wednesdays, 12:30-1:00 under the clocks. We’ll see you there!

<3 SERV