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Small-Scale Question Sunday for October 9, 2022

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

I'm generally astonished when I hang out with people who don't appear to be trying to improve themselves. Not continuously learning, not growing, not getting fit, not working on solving these big gigantic problems grinding away at their lives.

How do these people get up in the morning? I feel like a basic transition from childhood to adulthood is learning that base pleasure seeking is a fleeting distraction at best and that the purpose of life is to grow in as many dimensions as possible. Is this considered some kind of elite worldview. Maybe it is, but what do others replace it with? How do they wake up in the morning? Are they... happy? Are you one of the "they" I'm talking about? How do you see the world?

I do not do much improving because of inextricable low energy and some health problems. Most want to be a better version of themselves, but there are hindrances in the way. For lots of Americans I think there are emotional and psychological blockades.

Life is all base pleasure seeking. The only thing that changes is what you consider pleasurable. You can unflatteringly paint them as dull hedonists; they can unflatteringly paint you as an insecure gloryhound. You cannot understand why they are motivated by pleasure; they cannot understand why you aren't.

With apologies for sounding like a sneering monocle guy: my self-improvement/growth mindset is also a form of pleasure seeking. I consider mine more enlightened (mature), I suppose. Sophisticated pleasure-seeking, rather than base.

And the hedonist would argue that you are simply seeking a feeling of superiority. Your desire for knowledge and learning is why you see those things as valuable, not the other way around. Your innate preferences are not mature or immature.

Why do I do difficult things? Because I feel better accomplishing them than not. Why don't I drink? Because I dont want to. Any further rationalization is just delusion.

I like automatic trash cans, but the inside of a trash can lid tends to get coated with the most disgusting crud, since it is a trash can after all, and since it is electronic I cannot just hose it off. Are there models that are explicitly designed to guard against this?

For somebody mostly ignorant of politics: How come Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea was largely ignored by the west, or at the very least, did not receive such widespread popular culture support (e.g. Ukrainian flags everywhere)?

It was over too fast for people to do anything about it.

It wasn’t quite ignored. There was a lot of uproar about it, but the US blew their load of sanctions a couple years earlier with the Magnitsky Act. The West was probably quite happy with the Russia-backed candidate being couped.

I still remember in 2014 reading that the Broadcasting Board of Governors polling showed majority support for joining Russia in Crimea (after the coup). Some journalists years later got in trouble for bringing this up.

Crimea had somewhat of a "Schelling fence" around it, it was not so long ago still part of Russia, largely Russian population, etc. Attacking Kiev is a whole another deal.

I don't accept the explanations that tie all this to wokeness. There's nothing particularly diverse or marginalized about Ukrainians. Slavs are not around the top of the totem pole. And in fact things like Azov are the polar opposite.

So, don't only view it through an American lens. It's a legit big deal elsewhere too.

And if you explain it through war hawks, military industrial complex, Big Gun, then you realize that aspect has not changed since the awokening. It fits with decades of American proxy wars that the media has supported.

I don't accept the explanations that tie all this to wokeness. There's nothing particularly diverse or marginalized about Ukrainians. Slavs are not around the top of the totem pole. And in fact things like Azov are the polar opposite.

I don't disagree with you, but I do want to play devil's advocate and raise a counterpoint of Israel and Palestine. While Palestinian are marginalized by Israel, Palestinians are mostly what the woke stand against. Mostly Islamic, heavily anti-LGBT. If the woke were purely concerned with this point, they would support Israel which is broadly way more LGBT friendly than Palestine is. But I think the real reason the woke support Palestine is not because they're really concerned proPalestine, who they would see as oppressors in most other circumstances, but really anti-Israel insofar as Israel represents American imperialism/hegemony in the Middle East.

I think there might be a similar thing, where, yes, the woke support for Ukraine is not actually motivated by Ukraine itself as you say, but it is still politically motived by being anti-Russia, with Russia kind of being a woke boogeyman.

Russia's behavior was norm violating and did result in some sanctions (causing Russia to retaliate in various ways, including US election interference) but my read is that Crimea was mostly not in favor of the Ukrainian revolution. It's one thing to annex a place that hates you and is keeping you by force. Another entirely if the people welcome you.

It was before the convergence of power of the ruling elites on the media landscape, and before the awokening. If you tried pulling it off back then, it would be seen as some clunky neocon plot.

Anyone do home power monitoring? I'm looking for an on-breaker meter to write up a performance report on that heat pump. Not sure what the best options are.

Has anyone else noticed how, well, schlubby other men in their 30s are?

I'm not particularly fit, nor was I exceptionally handsome in my 20s. But the amount of guys who are halfway to bald, wear a ratty t-shirt everywhere and have a beer belly you could sit an actual beer on is astounding. All of these things are controllable (there are those will who go bald completely even with the total minoxidil/rollers/finasteride, but those are smaller numbers than those who just don't bother), and yet the number of fat, underdressed, balding middle-class white-collar professional guys in their 30s - compared to the same for women - seems absurdly high.

I was attractive in my 20s because I hit the gym a lot. A nice face and a ripped body made it easy to meet women. Post a motorcycle accident big weights are risky for me, so I swim or use an exercise bike instead, keeping myself reasonably trim and fit. I use hair loss products which have slowed my hair loss to a crawl and restored some of what I initially lost, returning me to a 'slightly high widow's peak' situation. I spend a few hundred bucks a year to ensure my wardrobe is updated and I look okay when I leave the house.

I'm not looking for accolades, as I don't feel like I do much beyond the absolute bare minimum, but I'm curious if my experiences are more 'my corner of Australia' or whether they're more universal. It definitely feels like beyond the whole 'wall' meme for women, men are the ones hitting unattractiveness faster. Not intrinsically, but because they're doing nothing to slow or mitigate the signs of aging. I definitely feel like your average 35-year old man is less attractive than a 45-year old who has worked to keep his hair and stay in good shape.

Does this track with anyone else?

I think this depends a lot on your circle of acquaintances. Where I work there are maybe one or two fat men out of like... 50 people. And even then I wouldn't really considered them fat or out of shape, they can lift and carry as well as anyone else, so it's more like they're just big. On the other hand, ratty t-shirts are not unpopular and general standards of hygiene are low. Thinking about my own circle of friends, there are guys that have let themselves go, but most of the people I know engage in regular exercise.

I was attractive in my 20s because I hit the gym a lot.

Most people in the average gym, and most people who engage in regular exercise don't end up looking like fitness models. I know people who play tennis or squash regularly, or who go to the gym, or whatever, and they just look... normal. And when you consider spending what, 90 minutes in the gym every day plus travel time, yeah, that doesn't sound like that great a tradeoff for the below-average man to reach average.

I use hair loss products which have slowed my hair loss to a crawl and restored some of what I initially lost, returning me to a 'slightly high widow's peak' situation.

I've always been suspicious of finasteride since I was prescribed it to prevent morning wood.

Yes, "other" men ... (wince)

Welcome to the obesity epidemic. I'm definitely schlubby, it takes more and more willpower just to barely stay in the "normal" BMI range ... and in the USA that puts me at about the 25th percentile. Three quarters of my peers here are even worse.

I think "underdressed" is a real thing too. Though I can't quantify this one, I get the impression that the dot-com boom basically broke business attire standards for good and the fallout has spread into other contexts. At the low end of the totem pole you had companies having to hire and respect random kids in crude joke T-shirts just to keep their IT up to date, at the high end you had Apple going from circling the drain to a trillion dollar valuation thanks to a guy in jeans and a turtleneck. Great news if you hated wearing a colorful noose every day, not so great if you don't care about fashion and benefited from having a simple set of standards you could follow.

Hair, I haven't actually noticed getting worse in general.

RE: Business attire standards

Casual dress standards look better on fit people and do less to help cover up for out of shape guys. After all, T shirts were originally (circa Brando in Streetcar and Dean in Rebel) regarded as men's undergarments. A t shirt that fits shows muscular forearms, biceps, shoulders, chest; one that doesn't is just a baggy mess that makes you look pudgy or skinny regardless. A tailored structured suit jacket puts emphasis on the shoulders and slims the waist, creating a triangular figure where there might not be one. The weight of the fabric covers up a slight paunch, vests help too. Lapels and spread collars draw the eyes up to the face and frame it, while creating a visual look again of wider shoulders and narrower waist.

The further you are from the ideal male body type (think Michaelangelo's David or Bearded Hercules at the Met) the more you benefit from structured clothing that bulks up an emaciated frame or shapes a pudgy one.

Does this track with anyone else?

I see it a lot, and I think it's getting worse over time, though I can't prove it.

For clothing and aesthetics in general I'll blame; the rarity of work dress codes, working at home (The Pandemic; undefeated OmniExcuse), the cheapness of clothing (both price and quality) meaning it's not much of an investment so doesn't provoke thought and effort (it was a big deal before WTO tariff removals destroyed domestic textiles industries in western countries), and wives not dressing their husbands. Most dudes have no clue and no interest in aesthetics, and unless testosterone driven default to DGAF if they can get away with it. 30's are when you're either giving up on a long term relationship or are newly locked into a long train ride with young family, either way there's not a big marginal benefit in looking sharp any given day unless your vocation demands it.

For lack of exercise I'll blame; a super sedentary lifestyle for most (Pandemic, again!), and the lack of immediate returns on effort in an immediate gratification culture. There are a good reasons to get regular exercise and eat well that everyone knows but the effort sucks in the moment when you're starting and real benefits for over 30's (particularly if you've already let yourself go) can take months to show. Alternatively, there's a bag of Doritos right here, and always will be. Bridging what you know you should do with what you do is tough, and the idea of struggling for months to get back to what was probably effortless in your 20's is grim.

I'm rather older, and the ROI increases monotonically AFAICT on the basics dressing ok, getting a good hair cut, weights and exercise. I figure it gives me at least a +2 on charisma rolls, I feel better and (barely) managed to keep up with my 22 yo nephew moving my daughter to the third floor of a building on a hot day this summer. But that's the result of months of daily effort, bootstrapping it is a bitch, and maintaining it is an ongoing effort.

My hair was thinning badly in my 20s so I just started shaving bald. Otherwise I lift and run and follow a diet and select form fitting clothes.

Not that worried about not having hair. A lot of Hollywood actors pull it off just fine.

I do feel that most of the men I know personally have let themselves go, though. Not sure what to make of that. I wouldn't say I'm doing the bare minimum but I do find the general succumbing to decrepitude and laziness mildly alarming.

Definitely true for the professional classes. It's weird how among workers far more women are sloppy and obese, whereas as soon as you make over a hundred k a year it reverses.

I'm tempted to blame booze; I know a lot of fat, balding professional class alcoholics who don't think hammering IPAs while watching Game of Star Capeshit: Infinity Bore all day counts as binge drinking. Whereas most of the working men I know are either ridiculously active or on a slimming meth-based diet.

People who stand up to work have trouble getting fat(as opposed to a few pounds over) before 40. Working class women are far more likely to sit down at work than men, while professional class women have the reverse(even secretaries are up and running errands pretty regularly).

It's weird how among workers far more women are sloppy and obese, whereas as soon as you make over a hundred k a year it reverses.

I wonder which way the causality goes with that...

What's going on between Democrats and Saudi Arabia? Are the Dems trying to warm relations with Iran? Where does that leave Israel?

What's going on between Democrats and Saudi Arabia?

Middle East foreign policy is one of the many topics where Republicans and Democrats favor different strategies. One of the central differences for the past several years has been the US approach to Iran--Republicans are opposed to the current Iranian regime, and want to contain it/promote a counterbalancing partnership of sorts (Abraham Accords--Trump), while Democrats would prefer to normalize relations with Iran (Iranian Nuclear deals--Obama and Biden).

Saudi Arabia fears the potential of Iranian aggression, as Iraq is no longer a meaningful buffer, so there is a certain tension between the agendas of the Saudis and the Democrats.

Are the Dems trying to warm relations with Iran?


Where does that leave Israel?

Very much opposed to the Middle Eastern foreign policy of the Biden Administration, willing to make deals with any Arab state that will take their calls, and inclined to solve their own problems with Iran in the absence of US support.

Why are the Democrats normalizing relations with Iran? Do they think Iran getting nukes is a foregone conclusion? Or is Iran somehow a more reliable business partner? Or is a potential conflict with Iran too risky or costly to Democratic leadership? I guess, what changed, going back to Obama? Iran give more money to the Democrats? I remember the Netanyahu stunt in Congress. What triggered the animosity?

  1. The best way to liberalize a country isn't to ostracize it. Iran isn't going to improve its regime behavior if it is so isolated from Western finance, trade, and culture that it runs to Russia and China for friendship. Compare North Korea and Vietnam. Both fought bloody wars of independence against the USA, one was welcomed back into the liberal international order the other was not. Vietnam is a great place to vacation, and edging towards becoming a US ally, despite being run by a regime that did things to its people that make the mullahs look like pussycats. China might be taking an illiberal and adversarial turn, but man is it better than it was under Mao.

  2. There are significant costs associated with Iran's current posture vis a vis the West. They're a funding source for enemies of Israel and the United States. They're not going to stop doing that because we tell them we don't like it. They will likely eventually stop doing that if the USA/EU is their most important trading partner, and they face economic ruin if they fund Hezbollah. Democrats view it as in Israel (the country's) long term interest to have a netural-friendly Iran than thinking it can keep Iran permanently impoverished, isolated, and weak.

  3. Iran's Mullahs, Israel's Likudniks, and US Republicans would all prefer to fight each other than to cooperate; it is in their domestic political interests to see conflict. Peace breaking out would be an electoral disaster for all three.

For this set of questions, I can only speculate. I think that there's a general sense that Iranian "Great Satan" rhetoric is mostly posturing, and that responding with hostility is counterproductive. The Republicans, Israelis, and Saudis all take a very different view, and a much harder line.

Another factor is Israel. Traditionally, there have been some loose ties between Republicans and major foreign right-aligned parties (Tories in the UK; Likud in Israel) and similarly with the Democrats and major foreign left-aligned parties (Labour in the UK; [it's complicated] in Israel). But the trendline for the international Left has been more and more sharply hostile to Israel (see the BDS movement generally), and while I think this effect has been more muted in the US than other places, it still exists and is accelerating. Younger Democrats like AOC and her Squad have been sharply critical of Israel to a degree that older Democrats would find shocking.

Younger republicans have turned even more sharply against Israel, considering the baseline. Israel losing its golden boy status is a generational thing at this point and not really something tied to party specific trends. Although, to be fair, republicans have been moving away from likud and tories and towards harder nosed and less interventionist nationalist parties like Fidesz, which might affect the relationship to Israel, while democrats have been getting further in bed with centrist neoliberal parties that usually want the middle eastern Cold War to end.

Younger republicans have turned even more sharply against Israel, considering the baseline.

Evidence? Yes, the baseline support for Israel in the Republican party is very high, but in terms of policy, Trump was a move towards Israel, not away, and I believe he's been reasonably popular among "younger Republicans." BDS isn't a party plank for the Democrats yet, but it has become a non-fringe (and growing) position within the party.

democrats have been getting further in bed with centrist neoliberal parties that usually want the middle eastern Cold War to end.

Wanting isn't having; policies matter. In any case, Democrats have also been getting further in bed with the Iranian regime, and while you could fairly say that the mullahs also want the Middle Eastern Cold War to end, they consider a glowing crater where Tel Aviv used to be as a valid means to that end.

Well, chants of "death to America!" have historically had a certain domestic appeal, since FHM brought up Vietnam...

Ah, the "crazy kids on campus" from back in the day that now run the State Department....

Basically the US is mad at Saudi Arabia for conspiring with Russia to raise oil prices. Democrats want to punish them for it because, well, they’re the patty in power and thus the one that will suffer from it. Republicans are less enthusiastic about punishing Saudi because it distracts from grandstanding about domestic oil production. There’s also a bluecheck conspiracy theory tying trump into the Saudi decision to cut production but I don’t think anyone actually calling the shots believes it.

Edit: from the response I'm getting I understand that this site had undergone a "normiefication" of sorts. Time to log out forever and never visit it again. Hope you well.

Edit: from the response I'm getting I understand that this site had undergone a "normiefication" of sorts. Time to log out forever and never visit it again. Hope you well.

How about you do the non "normie" thing and explain why you feel as such as opposed to this performative "time to log out forever" shit.

Edit: from the response I'm getting I understand that this site had undergone a "normiefication" of sorts. Time to log out forever and never visit it again. Hope you well.

Ball collected. Home returned to.

Because no amount of genetics can sidetsep the laws of physics.

Well, one major reason is that obesity is almost entirely a phenomenon of the last 50 years or so. People in past generations maintained a healthy weight regardless of nature. That doesn't entirely rule out the role of nature - perhaps something in the environment has changed in the last 50 years that people with certain genetic predispositions are especially susceptible to. But my impression is that all that's changed is food is so much more delicious and ubiquitous. And in that case, it really does just start to look like a failure of will (except for people who are fat, know they're fat, and accept the health and aesthetic tradeoffs because they just love food so much. All the power to 'em!).

Now, you could be reductive and claim that this failure of will is largely nature too. People's ability to abstain from overeating is surely partly nature like everything else about our behavior is. And as someone who doesn't even believe in free will, I'm certainly on board with that at a certain extremely abstract level of analysis. But outside of philosophical musing, I assess someone who can't resist overeating the same way I assess someone who can't resist reckless driving, drug use, risky casual sex, and lashing out in anger: I hold them responsible, regardless of the contribution of their genes to their behavior.

People in past generations maintained a healthy weight regardless of nature.

I don't believe this is correct. Was gross obesity vastly less common in the past? Yes, definitely. But malnourishment and starvation were considerably more common, to a degree that exceeded the rate of modern obesity at least in some times and places.

You're right! I suppose I meant to write "were able to avoid obesity". And I'm thinking less pre-modern times and more 50-100 years ago.

Well, because while legit differences in hunger levels, energy to do sport, conscientiousness and so on exist, they aren't major enough to prevent someone from becoming fit. Not Mister Olympia fit, not even "look at my serratus anterior" fit, but in shape.

Jamal Brown being an ADoS from the hood means we shouldn't really expect him to win a Nobel Prize or even graduate from an Ivy, but this doesn't mean he's unable to graduate from high school and get into a community college. Yes, it will require a lot of additional effort, yes, he won't intuitively grasp or enjoy algebra the way other kids do, but in this rather broad band of "average performance" his disadvantageous traits aren't an insurmountable barrier.

Chip McBurger being a soda-chugging kid from a family of land whales means we shouldn't expect him to obtain the body of a Greek god, but this doesn't mean he's unable to maintain a healthy BMI. Yes, it will require additional effort, yes, he won't enjoy running and jumping and playing ball the way other kids do, but in this rather broad band of "average performance" his disadvantageous traits aren't an insurmountable barrier.

Do you have any examples? I have not seen people arguing that people do not have natural differences in conscientiousness etc.

I'm locked into starting a career in tech, in one of the wokest cities in the nation.

I need to make money. I'm hoping to start a family in the next few years, and if I'm lucky, I can make enough money that my wife won't have to work full time.

But I've heard a lot of horror stories. And while I was antiwoke in the past, I'm even more so today.

How can I survive in this field while minimizing the amount of "evil" that I have to be accomplice to? I'm not a great liar, and I do see this stuff as a form of mundane evil.

I'll second most everything nara is saying.

Rumors of corporate capture in tech have been greatly exaggerated. Grumbling about mandatory stuff that takes away from actual work is a bonding force that transcends politics. If you can be tactful in your day-to-day, the most "evil" to which you will be subjected is poorly-executed sexual harassment training. Our corporate ancestors have complained about, but survived, that for decades--we can do the same.

This may be somewhat reasonable in direction, but I think it still has an incomplete threat model. One could reasonably exclude Brendan Eich or Gina Carano as outside of normal roles, or Damore as having brought his politics to work or at least to a public forum under his real name; the same exceptions do not really apply to James Garfield. There are very clear examples where being tactful and polite and toeing the party line in public isn't actually enough. Even on top of the limitations inherent to Kolomogrov Complicity themselves -- what's going to become taboo in a year, or two years, and what mandatory to publicly support? -- there's also the simpler failure mode where someone lifts up the rock you've been hiding under, takes a picture, and shows it to your boss. Or, in certain especially 'woke' areas in especially 'woke' businesses, where the discrimination is just addressed "to who may be concerned", since an honest non-woke person should object to it even if they aren't affected.

There are arguments that this sort of attack isn't specific to tech, which is true! But not especially calming. Especially as many of the strongest activists and corporate movements here are in tech, and just as someone making the same concerns for politics or public service or social work or academia or certain parts of the military (!) would not be calmed by hearing tech is nearly as bad.

There are separate arguments that this sort of attack isn't common. That's difficult in part because there are so few clear attempts at broad statistic analysis, and even fewer trustworthy ones; this is not, very clearly, a place you can ask the EEOC or NLRB for numbers, and it's fairly rare for the effects of corporate capture to explicitly state that they are doing things because of your bad tweets. The majority of this stuff . Instead we mostly are relying on what makes it into publicity, which by definition will only cover high-profile cases, or ugliness like tumblrs and twitters focused on getting people fired, which tend to not be greatly focused on specific fields of employment anyway.

But I think to many people, the rate of incidence isn't particularly what concerns them: they wear seatbelts even though they haven't gotten in crashes, and don't stand under the biggest tree in a forest during a thunderstorm even if they've never been struck by lightning. I'm skeptical that this is genuinely a 1-in-a-million thing, but a 1-in-a-million-lifetime risk of getting fired in a high-profile way which ends with the intentionally-vague 'racial or sexual misconduct' on your pink slip and any reference calls is actually something I'm willing to jump through a lot of hoops to avoid even outside of the realm of politics.

Now, some of the resulting philosophy remains the same, regardless of your take on this position. A First Commandment of Working While Not Out, regardless of your beliefs about how common, will probably start with something like :

  • You shall have no personal political beliefs, do not have a sense of humor that you are aware of, do not recognize the names of anyone not a direct employee.

But if you have the above concerns, it goes further:

  • You don't know anything about local sports team (is it required or objectionable to take a knee?). Your hobbies do not exist at your work place, since they're both an increased attack surface, a potential fault space, and an OpSec failure waiting to happen. Things as simple as traffic, or graffiti, or housing prices, are all land mines. You will volunteer or be volunteered to tasks that are morally objectionable to you, and you will need to smile as you do them. Not because any one of these matters will individually end up with your leading a failed lawsuit and a poorly-designed fired4truth website, but because you wouldn't know whether you're 'not a team player' or 'not a 'team' player' at your performance review or after an HR complaint.

This is, to some extent, a thing that happens in any field, outside of 'woke' influences. This is, to some extent, a thing that won't necessarily impact you.

But a serious engagement with what has happened in the past, makes for a drastically different threat model.

If you have the above concerns, it goes further.

Right, and that’s where i think it diverges from the thunderstorm. (Maybe even the seatbelts, though I’m inclined to think the expected value there is way higher.)

I see people who are terrified of cancel culture, of getting outed and fired for bullshit reasons. They’re not wrong that the consequences can be severe! Compare, though, a driver who not only wears the seatbelt, but refuses to drive at night. This objectively makes him safer, and also constraints his actions far more. There is a point of diminishing returns to caution.

I’m of the opinion that the point is pretty low. That people can keep the sports team and the hobbies, can try to relate to their coworkers, and still mitigate the bulk of any career risk. It’s worth cultivating a sense of tact and unsafe topics; it is less useful, and perhaps even harmful, to act without any personality.

It’s possible that I’m too credulous. There’s definitely a subset of companies which crank the risk factor much higher. They are rare. Without knowing the OP’s city, my prior is that his particular company is not one of them.

I'm locked into starting a career in tech, in one of the wokest cities in the nation.

At the risk of fighting the hypothetical--why? Assuming the nation you're talking about is the United States, you're always free to just go get a different job.

I don't know what specifically you do for a living, but if it can be done remotely, remote work is pretty hot right now! Then you can live wherever you like, modulo stable internet access. And even if you can't or won't do remote stuff, there is no shortage of tech jobs in non-woke or less-woke cities. Chances are good that whoever you work for will have some amount of "diversity" stuff going on, but like, even Silicon Valley gets slammed for being insufficiently woke all the time.

Still, if you insist on going forward with this thing that you're apparently afraid to go forward with, I expect you'll find it, most of the time, a lot better than you fear. Even at exceedingly "woke" corporations, there's a lot of real, actual work to be done that just isn't impacted in any discernible way by hyper-obsession with race or gender or whatever. In most circumstances you can literally just ignore it. Some companies do go so far as to "discipline" people who, say, don't add pronouns to their signature block, but the vast majority will never notice or care. When someone passes the plate for Black Lives Matter or Habitat for Humanity or whatever, you just... don't give!

Yes, you'll probably need to bite your tongue from time to time. But that's always true everywhere you're thrown into dealing with people. If you think you have it bad in that department, try working customer service! You'd be amazed how far you can get by allowing people to draw their own conclusions, instead of spelling your beliefs out in excruciating detail at every opportunity. And if you're forced into a mandatory diversity training where an outside contractor with primary-colored hair tells you why you're the oppressor, sit through it, ask annoying questions if you dare, and fill out all the anonymous feedback follow-up paperwork with "this was a huge waste of everyone's time and money and it makes me ashamed to be employed here."

In the vast majority of employment cases you're going to be fine being honest, as long as you're not an asshole about it. "Thanks for the input, I'll take it under advisement" is wonderfully noncommittal. "Is there any specific thing you would like me to do at this time?" is also a great way to scatter vacuous calls for increased wokism, which often never make it past the "raise awareness" stage of organizational activism. I do this with my own superiors every year: "Is there anything I am doing that you would like me to stop doing, or anything I am not doing that you would like me to start doing?" They have rarely considered my performance in those terms, and so they have nothing to say, and so I am free to continue doing as I please. Of course, you might get specific feedback ("add some damn pronouns to your signature block!") and then you'll want to follow it (or start sending out resumes, depending on your value to the company), but extracting specific feedback also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate compliance, which is itself a form of currency in employment negotiations.

Basically: you'll be fine, don't worry. But if you can't help but worry, you should keep in mind that you may be better off looking for a different job.

Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Especially the specific responses/tactics you used, that makes me feel somewhat armed for when I deal with this stuff.

In The announcement that we would migrate from reddit, ZorbaTHut said:

Alright, so the admins are paying attention to us now. Not going into details, they aren't relevant and I don't want to draw their attention more; ask me again once this is done and I'll vent.

Did he ever share the details of what forced us off of reddit? If so, where can I find it?

I think it's discussed in this thread

I've been reading this blog. Every two weeks, the person behind it (David Ownby) posts a set of 2-5 translations of Chinese-language articles, typically about or adjacent to politics. It's a nice little window into a world of political thought from which I'm otherwise separated by a pretty serious linguistic barrier. I suspect that I get a much better view of what Chinese public intellectuals are thinking by reading these articles, unrepresentative though they may be (since they're just chosen based Ownby's interests), than I would by reading articles about China in $NewsOutlet. (Also, it's just fun to read, somehow.)

Do people here know of other, similar resources, whether for China or other countries? Obviously the ideal thing would be to just be fluent in whatever languages, but realistically that ain't gonna happen, and also it can be difficult for an outsider to determine who the right people to read are. Ownby's site provides both the translation and some light context.

The ChinaTalk substack is a pretty big one for Chinese news

It's more of a general China politics/culture substack than just translations, but it does contain plenty of translated articles and interviews as well

also, while the language stuff probably isn't of interest, you may enjoy Slow Chinese. It's an advanced Mandarin blog, but perfectly readable for English readers who just want insights into current events

Any thoughts on hydrogen powered cars? EU and German car industry seem to be quite serious about pivoting to it in the future. Which makes me doubt it has any real future. But difficult to find honest arguments for or against.

I am far from an expert on cars. However, my general impression is that hydrogen powered cars overcome many of the individual downsides of EVs--at the cost of reinstantiating many of the broader downsides of fossil fuel vehicles.

For example, you can fully "charge" a hydrogen car in 5 minutes, and its range will be close to that of many fossil fuel vehicles. Even with a "fast" charge, an EV is going to take 15+ minutes to get 200 miles of range, and more often you'll be charging it overnight (and never taking it on road trips). If you have the ill fortune to get caught in a blizzard, a hydrogen vehicle will be much safer than an EV, both in terms of staying functional and keeping you warm. But the technology is costly, charging stations are uncommon, and every new advance in battery technology brings EVs closer to parity with hydrogen performance.

The big picture, though, is that the charging infrastructure overhead for hydrogen (producing, transporting, and storing it) is basically the same as fossil fuels, minus the more complicated stuff that happens in refineries. Most current methods of hydrogen production are energy-intensive and carbon-positive. At best, you get the same problem as with EVs charging off coal; at worst, you're essentially selling EVs with an even higher carbon footprint (and increased thermodynamic waste along the way).

So, basically, in an alternate universe where we already built out a bunch of hydrogen charging stations and brought the cost of production on hydrogen fuel cells down through mass production, people might be wondering why anyone would want a slow-charging, short range EV! But I suppose it's possible the EU intends to subsidize that world into existence, and is counting on fusion or renewables to make electrolysis a more economical approach to hydrogen production. There are definitely possible futures where hydrogen cars are far better than EVs, but I'm skeptical that we'll bring any such future to pass.

It should be feasible to directly produce hydrogen with reactors soon, but the stuff is such an everloving bitch to store and use that even rockets are moving away from it, despite its incredibly high specific impulse. The idea of hydrogen tanks at gas stations just seems ridiculous.

I think any realistic use of hydrogen will involve turning it into synthetic natural gas (or ammonia). Although short term storage of nuclear-produced hydrogen for daily peaking power would be amazing.

I understand hydrogen is more difficult to store than regular gas but is it difficult enough that it's ridiculous to store at gas stations? FWIW, there are already some gas stations with hydrogen in Europe Here's a map and I know there are some hydrogen buses being used as well in public transportation. Maybe it will turn out to be too impractical or to expensive to scale it up to the point where everybody rides hydrogen cars or something. I don't know enough about it to tell you how successful these initiatives have been so far, but there are some serious initiatives which currently implement hydrogen as fuel for motor vehicles, both public transport and for private use.

It requires either extremely high pressures or extremely low temperatures to store an appreciable amount of energy per volume. That's why rockets use super-cryogenic liquid hydrogen and vehicles use expensive COPV vessels capable of containing thousands of PSI. These problems in themselves are not deal-breakers, but the other hydrogen fuel cells needed to utilize it effectively have stubbornly refused to come down in price, namely I think due to the inability to find a suitable replacement for the platinum catalyst.

Does anyone have a recommendation on voice controls for smarthome things (e.g. Alexa, Google Home, etc) that are not designed to try to advertise to you? Currently I have a couple of Echo devices, but Amazon has been making Alexa steadily worse and worse. The app has ads inserted into your shopping list, and at least half the time the device will respond to a command with a "by the way, did you know about (other feature)" line.

Needless to say I want to replace my Echo devices since it's clear Amazon is more interested in advertising (to paying customers, no less) than it is in providing a user friendly service. But I'm also not sure if any of the competitors will be any better. So I'm hoping others here have experience and can make recommendations.

I used to work at a company that made voice assistants that didn't talk to the cloud and they worked better than Alexa et al believe it or not.

But unfortunately, the company got bought by Sonos for the tech and theirs does spy on you iirc.

All I can tell you is that what you're looking for is possible, but I don't know if anybody picked up the flag once we put it down.

I do know voice commands for local Home Assistant installs are lagging behind the rest of the system. If I'm up to date there are only a few prototypes with limited features: almond and the built-in "conversation". Great if you enjoy editing config files.

Personally I follow the "computers should be seen and not heard" rule, and wouldn't pay to have anyone's advertising bugs in my house. But I'm looking forward to having a local system I can yell "computer: do thing!" at.

In fact, I've been thinking about trying to start a home automation and security system thread here. Would anyone be interested? I'm putting a very basic camera setup in this winter.

I'd be interested. I'm thinking of putting in a camera system myself.

All the mice models on fluoridated water (in amounts comparable to artificially fluoridated drinking water) show negative behavioral results

In particular the effects seem to increase anxiety and depression, and reduce exploration.

Is this not highly significant when (1) all the fluoride human studies focus on IQ, not behavior, (2) it is absurdly easily to use more than the recommended amount of toothpaste? see

I only read the first one which was interesting, but it’s worth pointing out that they were using a 100x greater concentration than you would typically find in tap water (

And because this thread is for dumb questions: did the US government promote fluoride in order to “domesticate” the population, ie reducing the human version of mouse exploration?

Was this a known effect of fluoride when it was introduced to water supplies?

Not sure, but the Gov is big on secret programs of course

What is that quote about the British empire having such effective administrators because they had a broad education and so could draw on the lessons of ancient history to improvise a solution instead of floundering in the face of anything outside of their narrow expertise?

I found it! It's from Roger Scruton:

Moreover, the pursuit of irrelevant knowledge is, for that very reason, a mental discipline that can be adapted to the new and the unforeseeable. It is precisely the irrelevance of everything they knew that enabled a band of a thousand British civil servants, versed in Latin, Greek, and Ancient History, to govern the entire Indian sub-continent—not perfectly, but in many ways better than it had been governed in recent memory. It is the discipline of attending in depth to matters that were of no immediate use to them that made it possible for these civil servants to address situations that they had never imagined before they encountered them—strange languages, alphabets, religions, customs, and laws. It is no accident that it was a classical scholar—the judge Sir William Jones, founder of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1788—who did the most to rescue Sanskrit literature from oblivion, who introduced the world, the Indian world included, to the Vedas, and who launched his contemporaries on the search for the principles and repertoire of classical Indian music.

It is interesting Scruton calls the classics irrelevant information. I would call something like trivia and the accumulation of facts irrelevant, and I’d say the classics are filled with potentially relevant stories and solutions, and the learning of Ancient languages as taught created analytic and organized minds.

Our history today is largely filled with irrelevance, as there is no future applicability for knowing precise dates, names, and figures. The trivialization of learning is bad for brain snd soul and I think Jeopardy is the worst possible pastime. The Ancient histories contain inaccurate figures (60,000 perished… no, 100,000!), but the importance lies in the human stories and connections and the emphasis on faults and learning from human error. Great Man -styled history is nothing other than maximizing the utility of a history lesson for individual humans. Save the trivia for specialized excel workers, our leaders deserve Great Man theory!

In that article Scruton was arguing against an educational model focused on only teaching “relevant” things, as defined by the worldview of the teacher. So he was adopting their framework when saying that there is benefit to teach “irrelevant” things. I highly doubt he actually believes that those things are irrelevant in the broader sense.

It is interesting Scruton calls the classics irrelevant information. I would call something like trivia and the accumulation of facts irrelevant, and I’d say the classics are filled with potentially relevant stories and solutions, and the learning of Ancient languages as taught created analytic and organized minds.

Shamus Khan wrote a book - Privilege - exploring his education (both his own and the one he bestowed when he returned as a teacher) and he touches on the utility provided by such absurdly broad courses as "Western History"

His argument is that it's not so much teaching information as teaching ease: an ability to navigate a bunch of different cultural spheres and their products. Nobody ever really learns much about Western Civ in a high school class. But they learn how to navigate material and to not feel absolutely overwhelmed (or, less charitably: they learn how to bullshit according to the system's expectations)

We can apply the same logic to even more challenging endeavors like learning the classics or ancient Greek.

Of course, I think this misses a more obvious take: the "ease" being learned is about learning to fluently speak language of your fellow elites and civilization (hence the Iliad and not the Upanishads, which I don't doubt have meaningful human stories) but part of the book is about the changing character of the upper class so I guess it's not a bug.

Was there really a plan to nuke neutral countries in case of a full-on nuclear exchange between USSR and US?

Thanks. My concern is that, in a multipolar world where more and more countries nuclearize, and nuclear weapons get cheaper, every country gets the ability to nuke the world. Then, in a nuclear exchange between two countries, knowing they are doomed, they might strike ‘loose allies’ of the other out of spite (or even neutrals, “samson option”) , or to make sure they can’t be conquered by them afterwards. The loose allies in turn have to think about nuking them in case of a war they are not even a party to. If hit, they may retaliate in the same way, hitting other loose allies etc, and so in the end, even though there are no blocks, everybody nukes everybody.

There's always a plan. The US had a plan to invade Canada in 1930. The question is if it was the plan?

The answer is probably yes but we don't know. Some say that the declassified Warsaw Pact war plan of 1964 involves nuclear attacks on Sweden, but I can't find the original sources and confirm it. Even if the plan calls for such strikes, it's hard to know if this plan is the plan, but it seems like it. Then we can discuss if Sweden was truly neutral, or if it was an open secret that it was actually unofficially part of NATO. I would err on saying that Sweden was neutral.

I joined a gym 2 months ago when I quit smoking. I find the endorphin rush helps replace whatever cigarettes were doing in terms of stress relief. Also I am overweight and borderline obese. I have a few symptoms of pre diabetes and a family history of diabetes.

So far so good but, the honeymoon phase is coming to a close and I am stuck in a rut- arm day, curls, benchpress, tricep pushes. Alternate days with legs back and stomach. I generally workout 5 days a week, (about 45 minutes to an hour,) and run at least one mile each time I work out. 2 miles max so far.

My question is, how do I take it to the next level? I have lost roughly 10 pounds so far but I am starting to hit a wall. I don't need to become a body builder but I fear if I cannot get past this wall that I will see diminishing returns and slowly stop being consistent. (This has happened to me in the past.) What are new exercises, weight lifting exercises to try etc? I would live to try free squats but dont have a partner and dont want to hurt myself. Does anyone have an interesting program that works for them?

So far so good but, the honeymoon phase is coming to a close and I am stuck in a rut- arm day, curls, benchpress, tricep pushes. Alternate days with legs back and stomach. I generally workout 5 days a week, (about 45 minutes to an hour,) and run at least one mile each time I work out. 2 miles max so far.

Sounds like you've stumbled on the reason Crossfitters are so vocal and enthusiastic about Crossfit.

Changing up the actual exercises regularly + adding a social aspect seemingly helps avoid this feeling of utterly boring repetition.

Or you can pick up another social and fun exercise that isn’t basically a cult OP. Boxing would be my recommendation if you are into that sort of thing.

I've heard the "CrossFit is a cult" thing many times now. I don't know any CrossFit people and enjoy working out by myself, so I'll probably never get a chance to ask someone IRL. What is it about CrossFit that is cultlike?

I did CrossFit for a few years a long time ago and don't regret it, but there were cult-like aspects:

  • Weirdly culty social dynamics. Everyone gets a nickname and refers to others by that nickname. At the box (gym), you're not Jane or John. You're Wondergirl or JDogg and everyone is thrilled you just beat your Fran (a workout) time - like, uncannily happy for you. It's contagious. You're ecstatic that Seabiscuit just PR-ed his deadlift too.

  • Charismatic instructors preaching questionable doctrines (muscle confusion! paleo! kipping pull-ups!) to be taken on faith.

  • Scams and MLM fads swept through the gym population. It seemed like half the gym members totally lacked an immune system to them.

Any physical endeavor will have its ups and downs, maintaining consistency is the key. Yes, you can swap your workout type and that can help (though doing it too often robs you of many benefits). Personally, I need a motivation to work out and frankly, looking good/being healthy doesn't do it for me. I leverage my competitiveness, using various sports to keep me in the gym. I won't work out for fun, but I will work out because if I don't, my boys are gonna choke the shit out of me next week. I am also terrified of losing two decades of TEH GAINZ (moderate though they may be).

You're two months in. These things are measured in decades. Buckle up for the long haul and start figuring out how to motivate yourself to do this for years to come.

My recipe is competition, habit and fear. YMMV.

So far so good but, the honeymoon phase is coming to a close and I am stuck in a rut

I've been lifting for like ten years now (Jesus when I say that I realize how old/mediocre I am), that happens to me every three to six months. I change programs then. Sometimes just little nibbling around the edges, like switching rep schemes or from a front squat to a back squat focused program. Sometimes it is changing things entirely from barbells to kettlebells or climbing or rowing or whatever.

At some point 5 or 6 years ago I realized I was never going to make the Olympic team in anything, so my goal is to always be doing something I'm psyched about. I love the feeling of progress, of setting new PRs. You're NOT ready for this if you ever worry about injuries, but the Bulgarian Lite method is the platonic ideal here. It sounds like your goals are more general than specific, so changing to a new workout routine entirely is a good way to help with progression on your physique goals.

Further reading:

Really appreciate it man !This is exactly what I was hoping for. I'll look into these programs and see what works for me. This is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for.

None of those at the end are programs, just articles about when you should change programs. Bulgarian Lite is kinda a program, but I really don't recommend it at this point in your training, stick to stuff that isn't auto-regulating until you have years under your belt IMHO. "Listen boy it's good information from a man who's made mistakes"; I got addicted to the daily max stuff too early and probably spent a year of fuckarounditis. Stick to precise set and rep and exercise schemes from reputable trainers, I'd be happy to throw a bunch at you if you are looking for one.

Bulgarian lite sounds actually insane. I'll pass. I think squats will be big step.

We had spotters for squats but the rack was doing 99% of the spotting.

Deadlifts and power cleans are the two I'd consider adding. Both work a bunch of muscles, and cleans build explosiveness and coordination as well as strength.

I've never once done squats with a partner. A squat rack is really all you'd need, which most gyms have. I'd definitely recommend trying them out and incorporating them into your workouts, since they're a very useful compound lift that works on a lot of your muscle groups. The deadlift is another one that would be useful if you're not already doing it, for similar reasons. And a deadlift is safe without any equipment or partner. Just gotta get the form right to not hurt the back.

A squat rack or bumper plates, or I guess working out at a gym where you don't give a shit about the bars/weights/floors. Just drop the damn thing if you can't get up.

You're not likely to hurt yourself doing squats.

There's an infinite number of exercises out there and you should try any that sound interesting. Back squats, front squats, deadlifts, romanian deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, overhead press, the three hundred varieties of rows, incline bench press, etc etc.

As a newbie just about any program will work. Keep a lot of your workouts and try to beat the weight you did last time or the number of reps at the same weight.

You're not likely to hurt yourself doing squats.

This is very, very much not true. Bad form in heavy squats will print you a one-way ticket to pain city real quick.

A rank newbie is not performing heavy squats and has much more to fear from fear of injuries than bad form.

A few minutes of reading about technique is enough to begin squatting.

All squats are heavy when you're weak.

You can't even fully recruit your muscles as a rank novice.

Be more antifragile.

I personally know several people who have injured themselves at a "can't lift for 2-3 weeks" level squatting less than 250 lbs. I don't know what to tell you, there isn't some threshold under which it's impossible to hurt yourself.

Squatting in a rack is safer than doing a bench press if you have to do it alone. Just adjust the safety rails to the correct height.

Thanks for the feedback everyone! I want to try the rack but worried I might need a belt. It's the most used part of the gym so I'll just have to assert my place in line one day. Just worried I'll embarrass myself doing it the first time. But I need to take it to the next level. I think squats are a good way to do that.

If you think you need a belt you need to work on your core first.

Regarding belts: you don't need them for safety. A belt gives your abs something to push against to stabalize your back, which can help you lift marginally heavier (the number I often see is 45 lbs more, or 20kg). If you start from a lower weight the belt will not really do much until you are maxxing your squat in the 300s, which can take a while. If you lift intelligently and with discipline then accessories will assist, but the only safety item you really need are the safety pins to catch you at failure.

Just worried I'll embarrass myself doing it the first time

That's a pretty common feeling. People are mostly just going to be focused on themselves unless you're doing something that looks dangerous.

So, what are you reading?

I'm reading Gray's Postmodern War. Don't remember how I stumbled onto it, but it looks like a colourful book that has had some influence, perhaps a hidden gem. Seems to be an investigation into the strange forms that modern wars take.

Just finished a book about W.B O'Carolan, advisor to Éamon De Valera. It's got an awful title (O'Machiavelli: Or How to Survive Irish Politics) but some funny stories:

I once made a promise to an old woman I met in the Comeraghs. She was dressed in an old coat and shawl and had a face etched out of granite. She appeared to have been waiting for a public representative for many years. I took immense pity on her.

"Are you the senator they sent from Dublin?"

"Yes, ma'am, I am a senator from Dublin, but this is not my constituency. I'm canvassing for a good local man called Dinnie McDermott.".

"Mr Dimmie Mac? My hearing is not that what God gave me."


"And what does he mean to me. Mr Senator?"

"He represents your interests in the national assembly which is part of our democratic system."

"He's never done anything for me, a leanbh. I ne'er set sight on him or his breed in these parts."

"Will you vote for him in next week's election?"

"How can I vote? I'm a poor widow woman without a pittance to my name."

"Have you not got a pension or medical card?"

"Ne'er the bit. No one looks after a poor widow woman."

"Have you heard of Mr de Valera?"



"What has happened to Mr Parnell? He passed this way the once and ne'er laid sight on him again."

I can arrange a pension, medical card and rent allowance for you, ma'am. Just sign here."

As it turned out, the woman was as rich as Croesus and had five houses, two bank accounts and a mechanically-propelled motor vehicle. The press got their hands on the story and ran it under the banner: Politician Grants Medical Card and Butter Vouchers to Rich Woman. It was the last promise I ever made (or kept).

There's also a bit in a letter to DeValera that makes me wonder how old the idea of the deep state is:

P.S. Did you know that Mac [Machiavelli] was a civil servant? The other Mac (MacEntee) says they're the permanent government!

A Chara,.

Ennis, Clare. 8-IV-36

I read Michael Zenko's Red Team and cannot recommend it at all unless you've never even heard of the concept of red teaming. I'm somewhat disappointed as I read it on the advice of a colleague who I thought had higher standards.

Unless, of course, the recommendation was a reflection of his assessment of me...

Recently began Apollo's Angels, a history of ballet. More sociological analysis than I expected! Enjoying it so far.

March Comes in like a Lion manga, and some Naipaul.

As a result of Scott's review I'm reading The Last Psychiatrist's book Sadly, Porn.

It's one of the most impenetrable books I've read in my life and is an absolute chore to get through.

Infinite Jest. Has been on my "to read" pile a long time but I've finally found some spare time.

The first time I tried it, I gave up about 30 pages in. The second time, I decided it was one of the greatest things I've ever read. It's worth sticking with it!

Omar McDoom, The Path to Genocide in Rwanda: Security, Opportunity, and Authority in an Ethnocratic State

Nominative determinism in action

ICwutUdidthar :P

Fiefs and vassals: the medieval experience reinterpreted. Sci with very little pop.

Has the motte astralcodexten'd itself? What's your impression of the off site CW threads so far? I myself check in less frequently than before, and when I do, it seems more... boring?

I vastly prefer this interface to Reddit, and the CW threads have not had as much "here's my dumbass manifesto" lately, so I'm happy overall.

When were you most checking in to the sub? There have been a couple periods where it was particularly frenzied vibrant.

It's literally the exact same people and content as before. The CWR thread currently has 2.2k comments, close enough to a random thread two months ago. It's probably just random.

I think it’s good, although I find cw boring lately just because it seems like a solved problem, ie there are X problems and Y solutions.

The forum would be better with more low effort content, so a high effort and a low effort thread. Annoying to have to write three paragraphs instead of a link with a title to generate discussion.

Mods could simply have said “we will take a harsher line on discussion around trans issues because of the admins”.

But this is one of the most interesting areas where the reddit party line is clearly illogical to the point of psychosis. Not being able to deeply discuss it before the recent child and sports lines really brought it to the front of the culture war was bad, and not being able to discuss it now as the hottest culture war item would suck.

I think the move off Reddit will come to be seen as a big mistake.

Why--because the forum will die? That's a possibility, however (1) the number of CW thread weekly posts hasn't noticeably dropped since the move and (2) Zorba was pretty explicit that "keep our commitment to open discourse and die" was a preferred outcome to "capitulate to limiting discourse on especially difficult topics and live." Plenty of people predicted we'd die after splitting of from the SSC sub, too. We frequently had users point out ways in which they regarded the sub as "dying." But several years later, well... maybe we're still dying? Very slowly?

the main thing that drew admin attention was a few trans activists reporting gender-critical posting

While there was certainly some of that, the co-founder of TheSchism explicitly owned up to drawing the Eye of Sauron to the sub in the first place, because he uncharitably interpreted some conflict theory posting as "calls to violence." And there were other things that AEO didn't like, for example (((parenthesis))). You may be right that radical trans advocates seeking to shut down open discourse were the main problem, but the list of problems was not short, either.

The main pipeline for new and interesting users is now cut off.

Eh. Striking the balance between Eternal September and Eternal Silence is tricky, ongoing, and probably not indefinitely maintainable regardless. I will continue to post our AAQCs in the subreddit until someone stops us, probably. The barrier to participation is a little higher, now, maybe, but in some ways that can be as much a feature as a bug.