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Small-Scale Question Sunday for October 16, 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.

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Has someone generated ML sets of pictures to play Dixit/Imaginaium, or something in that direction?

Btw, the meatspace game is unnecessarily long with operating cards.

What happened to /r/CultureWarRoundup? The weekly threads just stopped in December 2020, and the last posts there don't shed any light on the situation.

Did AHS succeed in scaring everybody away?

I have no idea what you're seeing. There is a weekly thread for this week pinned at the top of that sub right now, and it has 87 comments.

That's weird - for me, whether I sort by Hot or New, the top thread is Free Will, Personal Responsibility, & Privilege, followed by "does this group lean one way or another politically"; the weekly threads don't show up until position 7, which is the 12/14/2020 thread.

So I need to ship a package from the US to China, and a quick search leaves it unclear which if any services do so at present, what with the COVID policy shenanigans. And distinguishing shady from legit on the first page of results seems... like the sort of thing I should seek another opinion on.

So, what should I do to get this package sent?

Is there a scientific best care regimen for scrapes/wounds? I got an annoying scrape on my knee while drunk last week and I've pretty much left it alone. The scab gets loosened up by showers then tightens up and pulls on the skin near it, and direct pressure on the wound is currently uncomfortable but managable. Is there a literature on what makes scrapes heal faster or not? Is there a point in applying and reapplying a bandaid past the point where it has stopped bleeding?

As a follow up to this question, considering how long some wounds takes to heal after 30+ is there a helpful solution to calm myself and not to try and scratch it every other day? Stupid ingrown hairs.....

How would you maximize for annoyingness as a writer without revealing intent.

My proposal is to get idioms and phrases 'wrong' without compromising the meaning. Instead of using "apples and oranges" use "bananas and mangoes". "Its a cat eat cat world". "The earliest rabbit gets the carrot".

Maximize weirdness with no loss of weirdness points, is that even possible?

A full length text written in garden path sentences would be both impressive and infuriating.

So, German?

Please explain.

German writers are notorious for burying the lede in their awfully long run-on sentences with verb-last order. That, and the subclauses-within-subclauses-within-subclauses often mislead the reader. I am sorry, but our countrymen are not exactly known for the clarity of their writing.

I presume it's a bit of a linguistics joke. German is a head-final language, and if you're more used to a head-initial language like English, German sentences come off as having a "waiting for the resolution" effect that doesn't usually happen as often in English. German sentences can easily generate a garden-path effect just by choosing an unexpected primary verb. If you're fluent in both, but started with German fluency, I imagine the effect is less noticeable.

That's probably the case. Thanks for explaining!

It might depend who you are trying to annoy. I think I'd find that kind of charming, honestly.

On the other hand, if you were to, say, use "phased" instead of "fazed" ... ooh, how about using "could care less" in one place and "couldn't care less" in another place? That should catch everybody.

I'm thinking an otherwise well written text both syntactically and semantically but with wrong idioms would throw some people for a loop. But it might to be a bit jarring, I suppose mixing up wrong and correct versions of the same idiot will keep them guessing further.

While I could care less, I think using commonly misunderstood idioms would work best for all intensive purposes.

Why is the average (and above average) persons "disagreement stamina" so low?

There have been many a cases where I push back against a comment someone made in reddit; And one or two comments down they just devolve into using personal insult laden screeches. And these are otherwise "smart" sounding posters who had well argued OP's or a well argued first disagreement with me.

The weirdness I am pointing at is not that people don't know how to argue, that's the default. It's that people who look like they could argue become unhinged with after a bit of pushback. It's like how can you just do a 180 like that?

I would wager that it's largely because of the forum culture/subreddit culture. People don't usually expect their interlocutors to be acting in good faith, and are thus more defensive/less interested in a dialogue than they are in TheMotte and other rat-adjacent fora.

For example, a poorly phrased/apparently snide question would get a much more considered response around these parts due to the extension of charity and reward for good faith interactions, as opposed to likely being ignored or responded to with worse elsewhere.

Also, even if people are arguing in good faith you don't really have any good way to tell if they are very young, crazy or stupid from one/a few interactions. Sometimes it's obvious of course but plenty of people are relatively good at following narrative handbooks and deconstructing those just to find a teenager or a moron disabuses you of further in-depth interactions with people just as much as the bad faith stuff.

I expect that a cultural emphasis on validation, everyone-gets-a-trophy style, leads to a poor tolerance for sustained disagreement.

Anybody else here have pretty bad concentration issues? I'm near the end of a coding camp and will be looking for a job in tech soon (timing couldn't be worse, with the tech job market as it is).

I've been messing with various stimulants. I used to take Dexedrine or Adderall, but I don't tolerate amphetamine well. Currently I use coffee, but I'm also sensitive to caffeine so I can only handle about half a cup currently. I sometimes use provigil, I used to take a full 200mg pill, but that made sleep too difficult. I switched to half a pill, 100mg, and that seems to work. But it isn't something I can take daily, again because of sleep. I still need to experiment more with a quarter of a pill, 50 mg. I've only done that a handful of times, but it seems like it might be low enough that I'm thrust into the comedown after two or three hours, which would be a problem.

I used to smoke, and vape, and use snus. Nicotine seems to work well for me, but I don't want to mess up my lungs, get gum disease, or obviously cancer. So I've been using tobacco free nicotine pouches, a ten pack of 15mg nicotine pouches will arrive today. I don't have a comedown or anxiety with nicotine, so that seems to be the winner so far.

Does anyone have advice for managing this stuff? I'm so much more productive with it, but I'm so sensitive to anxiety and sleep disturbances that it's hard to imagine that I could do it long term. Maybe a day with 100mg provigil, then a day without, repeat? Provigil's half life is so long that daily doesn't seem possible, at least not long term.

Edit: Does anyone have experience with khat?

As some people have said, the correct answer is that you should ditch the drugs, work on yourself deeply, and build up a new personality based on healthier habits. But that's unrealistic advice in general, and especially near the end of a coding camp. If it's a good one, you probably don't have much time for anything besides the course work. And when it does end, you need to dive into job apps hard.

(timing couldn't be worse, with the tech job market as it is).

There's still a fair amount of hiring right now. You're probably right that it will get worse if the recession gets more apparent, but you should still have some time.

Your main question is about managing stimulants.

You find nicotine useful but you've already found a solution for that by buying nicotine pouches. You also can get nicotine gum at any pharmacy. So if you find that works for you then great.

If you're looking an easy way out of concentration issues (and again obviously this is the unhealthy approach) then amphetamine is the only real option. I think that caffiene, provigil, nicotine, methylphenidate are all way inferior in terms of the motivation:side-effects ratio.

I used to take Dexedrine or Adderall, but I don't tolerate amphetamine well.

That sucks. What do you mean you don't tolerate it well? Very low doses at times that don't interfere with sleep can work really well. But that's obvious advice, so maybe you're already tried that.

I have issues as well, but then I also grew to hate programming.

You can use nicotine in plaster form ah I see you already have a solution.

Delete (yes -- delete) all distractions. Mute everything. Lock your phone in a safe. Ensure that the only kind of rest you're permitted is passing out on the floor from exhaustion.

Hire a supervisor with a whip who would oversee your work.

In my experience, there's great value to be gained from going completely offline (preferably by disabling your router and physically moving it to another room). But good luck doing that while having a coding job.

You can print source code on paper. Some programming contests allow it (those where team of 3 has only 1 computer but can use printer).

Depends what kind of concentration issues you're talking about. I don't use stimulants, but I have a number of coping mechanisms, myself. Listening to music helps if I am becoming distracted due to boredom because I'm at a stage that doesn't require much thought. Breaking the task down so far that every step is stupidly easy helps if I need to reach a stage that doesn't require much thought. Shortcuts are useful for getting between tasks -- I miss having an "Open Terminal Here" extension on my code editor because I do sometimes get distracted on the way to navigating to the right folder; I should probably put that back in on my new machine. Writing down my thoughts helps stop me from forgetting what I was doing in the middle of it.

None of these is foolproof. I take it for granted that there will be good days and bad days, and that I do better when I've had some warm-up time to get my head in the right space. But I also think it's okay to just bring my own unmedicated human capabilities to the job. I do what I can; sometimes that turns out to be quite a lot.

I have been working in software for a long time and I find it extremely difficult to concentrate on mental tasks consistently over hours unless they are deeply creatively rewarding. Working on the boring and unnecessarily difficult tasks (eg. refactoring code someone else wrote on very little sleep) are difficult to force yourself to do. I'm not sure how a coding bootcamp would compare, but if you know deep down inside that the given task isn't actually worthwhile it might be hard for you to concentrate on it. I'm projecting, but that's how I feel.

The greatest weapon I have against the forces of distraction is pair programming because it turns programming into a social activity where your mind is held in place by someone else who is presumably also interested in getting the task finished.

I believe that many of the tasks we're asked to get through in a day are mostly meaningless and in-human. We're not meant to sit at desks staring out the window all day. If you can feed your soul with hobbies and social activity and the other things that make us human it's easier to treat intellectual work as a retreat and relax in to it. Nothing makes me more antsy than staring at my editor avoiding writing annoying code when what I really want is to get out on my bike.

Drugs sound like a great time if you have a project you actually care about, but don't waste drugs on an overall meaningless job for Uber But For Accountants 2.0 - The Revenge Co.

Fair enough, I do find pair programming the best way to learn. It does help me to concentrate quite a bit. I haven't had as much of a chance to do that as I'd like, but when I can, I do.

Can you find a local coding group? When you're looking for work mention that you have got a lot of value out of pair programming and maybe you can find a place who practices it well. I miss it at my current employer.

I'd practice concentration by 1) mindfullness meditation and 2) reading things you enjoy. When you can read a book you enjoy for 3 or 4 hours at a stretch, you'll find it a lot easier to focus on work for an hour at a time.

Have you considered cultivating mindfulness and refining your ability to concentrate absent chemical stimulation, so that you needn't worry about health complications and anxiety issues? You mention a lot of issues with drugs and all your solutions seem to be some form of "more and different drugs".

Agreed here. I don't know what exactly OP's issues are, but in my IRL experience nonstop experimentation with every drug under the sun is a shit strategy and universally worsens the situation.

Cut the drugs, entirely. If you can't find a nonpharmaceutical way to concentrate, then consider a career in which you can make do with what you have.

Split from my prior comment in the CW thread to consolidate among the people I want to ask this question: What is a hero? How do we define heroism?

Particularly, asking @minotaur @daseindustriesltd @octopus_eats_platypus @sliders1234 who all seemed to object something like "Zelensky was maybe brave but not heroic because..."

Merriam Webster gives us:

Heroic: : of or relating to courageous people or the mythological or legendary figures of antiquity : of, relating to, resembling, or suggesting heroes especially of antiquity

2a: exhibiting or marked by courage and daring

b: supremely noble or self-sacrificing

Heroism: heroic conduct especially as exhibited in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end

I'd define heroism as "Extraordinary bravery in service of a goal or cause, without undue thought to the risk of personal loss or death." It does not matter if the goal or cause is moral, or beneficial to humanity as a whole in the observer's view, the goal merely has to be noble to the hero. Even if, as @minotaur hilariously claims, Zelensky was doing it for the pussy that would still be heroic! How many other men have done that much at risk to life and limb just to get laid?

Or perhaps Hemingway describing his self-insert in For Whom the Bell Tolls says it better:

This was the greatest gift that he had, the talent that fitted him for war; that ability not to ignore but to despise whatever bad ending there could be.

I will not keep it from you then. The Pilar told me that we would all die tomouow and that you know it as well aJ she does and that you give it no importance. She said this not in criticism but in admiration.

That is heroism to me, taking the risks and consequences of one's actions as mere facts, unworthy of being invested with emotional weight. It is irrelevant that the mission they are on (blowing the bridge) ultimately was in service to a cause (Communist forces in Spain) that I might not agree with, or even that it was ultimately pointless (because the attack the mission was in support of was doomed to failure).

Funny. I had this same discussion with a friend two days ago. We mostly argued about whether the death of the hero necessarily strengthened a narrative and that thus the strongest narratives must kill the hero. I argued that it was the case, my friend disagreed. In the course of this we needed to agree on the definition of a hero. My friend tried to argue that heroes are defined by their morality and that the best narrative is the one that is the most educational or entertaining. My definition of a hero follows below, and I argued that the best narrative is the one with the most memetic staying power, prevalence and influence.

Now, here's the definition of hero that I came up with:

  1. The hero must have a key quality that elevates him above common people or characters. Whether this quality is intrinsic or not does not matter; dedication to a cause counts as well a great intelligence or courage.

  2. The hero must develop this quality to the greatest degree possible. This needs to be an active pursuit, a hero who is merely granted such powers by others is of lesser quality.

  3. The hero will only prove to have truly given everything in pursuit of that quality by dying in that pursuit. An accidental or unrelated death disqualifies, as does dying of old age.

It's a little circular in the context of the debate mentioned above, but I think it bears out. Perhaps characters can be heroic who do not fulfill these three points, but they will always be lesser heroes next to those who do. We applied these metrics to a large number of known fictional and historical figures and the following are some of the results:

Achilles: Prototypic hero, full match.

Hector: Same.

Ajax: Killed himself when he lost a bet, nope.

Diomedes: His powers were externally granted. He survived. Nope.

Odysseus: Too lazy. Survived. Nope.

Herakles: A cheap, lower class of hero, partial match at best.

Alexander the Great: Mostly heroic in life, certainly heroic in later narratives.

Hannibal: Sort of, depends a lot on unknown details.

Caesar: Depends entirely on the narrative.

Emperor Frederick Barbarossa: Neither in life nor in narrative.

Hitler: Depends on how you evaluate his suicide.

Darth Vader: Probably a hero.

Superman: Not a hero.

Harry Flashman: Not a hero.

Rick Deckard: Possibly heroic, but also possibly just doing his job. Dangerous job though. Actual dedication is hard to determine.

Roy Batty: More heroic than Deckard.

Gordon Freeman: Not a hero.

We didn't discuss the War in the Ukraine, but if I were to attempt to apply these metrics without the tempering effects of someone who disagrees:

Selenski: Did not abandon his post, did not sell out his country to the enemy, but it's entirely unclear whether he is doing so out of actual heroic qualities or simply out of fear of the consequences or out of hopes for some reward. It will probably depend on far he will go, and how he is to die, and what dirty secrets about him we know or will know.

Putin: Actually started the war himself, seemingly to pursue his stated goals, which earns him points. Withstands the vilifications of the western world and is seemingly unswayed by adversity. Unclear whether it really is all by his design or just a comedy of errors. There is heroic potential, but the man is still alive and there is much that may spoil it.

I'm realizing that I made a mistake using the verb form. Everyone seems to be seeing "Hero" as an identity, a lifelong one in your case. You simply can't be a hero without being a hero all of the time. I find that rather unrealistic. I probably should have used language more like "acting heroically" or "capable of heroism."

Probably, yeah. But then again, I probably would've used any phrasing as an excuse to write down my recent thoughts.

To come back to your original question, I think the apple of discord here is that it's too easy to see Selenski as someone who's merely putting on an act since he's an actor or as someone acting out of base motives because he's president of a famously corrupt country or out of a greed for glory and recognition that's mostly regarded as outmoded. Perhaps none of those are true and he's really doing it for his country, maybe all of those are true and he's also doing it for his country while he's at it, it's just potentially very complicated and people generally like their heroes spotless, shiny and clean.

The bravery Zelensky shows is less than the bravery of every normal Russian and Ukrainian soldier. The nobility of Zelensky's actions is less than the nobility of their actions. The self-sacrificial aspect is wholly absent in Zelensky's case, but ample in the soldiers.

Now, you want bravery, we have Vladimir Putin bravely resisting the combined might of the western world rising in defense of an anti-democratic and highly corrupt government defying the will of no small portion of its people, despite the immense cost it's exacting on his people and the stability of his regime.

You want nobility, we have a man striving to recreate a golden empire of old, of striking down an anti-Semitic enemy of old, of reuniting a separated people. Such nobility!

All that applies doubly so for heroism -- what high purpose Putin seeks! All Zelensky wants to do, in comparison, is maintain the unimpressive sovereignty of the Ukraine.

Now, I don't think Putin is brave, noble, or a hero. I also don't think Zelensky is. I could be swayed on the average soldier. But I do insist we be fair and even in our evaluation -- if Zelensky is a hero, then by all measures Putin is.

Also don't be a prick and misquote me. I didn't say Zelensky did it for the pussy. I included that as a perk, but my actual claim is that Zelensky is capitalizing on a tragedy to consolidate political power, purge domestic rivals, and set himself up for a long and illustrious career as either honorary President-for-life or local hero coasting on speaking fees and global patronage.

Also don't be a prick and misquote me. I didn't say Zelensky did it for the pussy. I included that as a perk

Man I haven't seen someone that offended I said their joke was funny in a while.

But I do insist we be fair and even in our evaluation -- if Zelensky is a hero, then by all measures Putin is.

Yes. He is. Putin is highly heroic. My dad constantly wonders why Putin doesn't just choose to retire to China/Venzuela/Switzerland with his money and his women and leave the whole mess behind. That's heroism, dedication to a cause. Which points to some of the problems with heroic leadership, versus a "nation of shopkeepers" where your leaders aren't constantly getting mixed up in bullshit. But that's not really all that interesting, Putin is expected to act heroically, he was invading countries while NATO wrung their hands about it when Zelensky was still singing songs on Russian late night TV. He's an ex KGB officer whose been a militaristic president for decades, you aren't confused when he acts like one, it's Tom Brady playing well in a big game versus Nick Foles outplaying him in the big game. And yes, ordinary soldiers do engage in acts of heroism, the difference being that their acts are individually less consequential, and their freedom of action is smaller.

But you have yet to offer any definition or example of heroism of your own, which was the question asked, once again.

Well, if you're going to fairly call basically everyone involved heroes, fair enough.

My definition of a hero is someone who goes above and beyond the expectations of their station to achieve some pro-social outcome even if the cost to them is likely to be catastrophically high. This would put the glory of heroism firmly on the people, not the leadership, which aligns with my moral intuitions.

Some examples of heroes:

Medal of Honor and similar "super-soldiery" commendations, but not the average voluntary soldier;

Non-firemen who rush into burning buildings to help people;

A good Samaritan who confronts an active shooter, especially one who successfully kills them;

A whistleblower who exposes corruption even if it destroys their own career prospects;

I think that an important aspect of heroism is that it needs to be extraordinary. For example, I disagree with the popular sentiment that firemen are heroes. What they do would probably be heroic if someone else did it, but for a fireman that's his job. Your ordinary and expected job duties don't qualify as heroics, in my opinion, no matter how hazardous they may be to your person.

In addition to earlier objections: it is not, in fact, expected of a national leader to run away in case of his nation suffering a (survivable) attack.

Russians wanted to force Zelensky into this Ghani role of an opportunistic Western puppet (the way Yanukovych turned out to be, with sides reversed), Westerners seemed ready to accept that, but he was a normal president doing his duty.

And heroes are those who do the exceptional.

it is not, in fact, expected of a national leader to run away

Is it unexpected because it's not common, or just because inductive reasoning is tricky? You mention Ghani but Wikipedia lists a couple dozen more living examples among the hundreds of historical examples.

This time it was literally expected, if not by everyone then at least by the President of the USA. "I need ammunition, not a ride!" is not how one phrases the expected polite refusal of a pro forma offer.

in case of his nation suffering a (survivable) attack.

There's no such thing as a known survivable attack, before the fact. There's only a fog of war, in which you can never be sure whether any risk you take will be seen as a heroic turning point or as a stupid doomed suicide in the name of a lost cause. "That tank convoy twenty klicks away can't get me!" is not something you can ever claim with confidence. You could even rationalize fleeing as the dutiful option, to ensure that morale isn't broken by your capture and execution of course. Performative leadership from the front used to be a sine qua non of military leadership, but at some point during the gunpowder era that changed. (maybe John Sedgewick was the last straw? "I am ashamed of you. They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..." are the sort of last words that make one reconsider what tactics are shameful)

doing his duty.

The same is true of any "man runs into burning building to save a family member" story, but I'd still be comfortable with the word "hero" in those. I'm happy even using the word for a firefighter in a similar situation, despite "this is your duty" being even more explicit when you're handed bunker gear and an axe rather than a wedding band. Even in such a clearly-defined case there's still a difference between "you might someday have to take a large risk of death for an unknown uncertain possibility of saving others" and "it's now or never".

I split this off particularly to get away from nitpicking Zelensky/Putin/Ukraine, and talk about heroism more broadly.

Which residential electrical system do people think is better: 240V, or split-phase 120? The latter seems like such a clever idea to get extra safety for only 33% more copper, but in practice it causes so many headaches.

Loose neutral in Europe? Easy: your lights go out, fix it.

Loose neutral in the US? Congratulations: your house is now possessed by a fucking poltergeist.

On the other hand, UK electrical circuits with 230V and 32amp breakers will cook an elephant if he sticks a fork in the socket.

On balance I think I prefer the American system, especially as a DIYer. Not least because the UK barely allows you to change your own lightbulbs...

3 phase 120.

If anything’s loose in my breaker box, I want to know about before the fires start.

Also, I spent enough time learning about deltas and wyes in college that I feel obligated.

230V with three phases is great. Balancing the load between three phases is harder than doing the same with two, like in the US, but it's not rocket surgery. In return you get lots of power and simple circuits.

Wow, I didn't know there were places that did three phase residential. That must be fun to deal with.

Yeah, it's not as simple as routing single phase, but at least your incoming wires are of manageable gauge.

Not least because the UK barely allows you to change your own lightbulbs...

The UK is notorious for its health and safety nannying (even though they left the EU). In the Netherlands everything beyond the meter is in principle yours to fuck with as you please, though if it's not up to code and your house burns down, the insurance won't pay out.

That said, the UK is special in another way, because it uses ring circuits. Instead of running individual wires from the boxes to the outlets, they run a wire from outlet to outlet and back to the breaker again in the end. Because in that way, every socket is principally wired twice, letting them get away with pretty much doubling the load. This is why the UK has 32-amp breakers instead of the 16-amp ones on the continent. You can put more sockets on the same wires.

Of course, with a radial circuit, if the wire breaks or comes loose the power goes out and you'll notice. With a ring circuit, if the wire breaks on one end, the other end is now theoretically overloaded, but everything will keep working until you actually put a big load on it, and then it'll catch fire. And the breaker won't trip because it's sized for two wires. DIY Dad is going to have a much worse time if he fucks up.

I was at a beach in the Northeast this weekend, and I'm a basic bitch who listens to Huberman Lab, so I'm getting into cold water immersion. It genuinely seems to up my mood and energy level all day. For home, I want to make an outdoor ice bath. Conceptual inspo here but 1) A tiny bit less stupid and 2) not $1,200 plus shipping.

I'm thinking of starting with something like this from a local feed store, building a little wood frame around it out of pressure treated lumber, then insulating around it and building a little wood-and-foam lid to keep it clean. Fill it from the hose, add a couple bags of ice, and hop in every morning or after a workout.

My question is, to what extent and how can I keep the water over days without it becoming scuzzy and unusable. Obviously over time it will become actually dirty from the sweat and grime of my body, but I'm talking how do I keep stuff from growing in it? Do I use some pool chemicals in low doses? Salt? I don't want to open it up to find Algae everywhere, and I don't want to have to use up 50-60 gallons of water to do it every day.

If you want to keep water in there at cool/cold temps for a while, perhaps a swimming pool strategy would work. Simplest version would be to refill it every week or so, put a cap of bleach in and cover it. If you want to go longer get a full pool kit, test and adjust chemistry periodically. Maybe an aquarium bubbler so it doesn't stratify, cover so no leaves or animals get into, insulation to keep it colder, install a drain/fill valve at the bottom. Unfortunately the chlorine will corrode galvanized steel so a lining of some sort would be necessary.

Cold showers are probably easier, depending on cold water temperature in your area the cold water gets down near zero here in the winter, didn't bury the pipes deep enough. On particularly cold winters we get a letter in January/Feb to leave a tap running slightly to stop the city pipes from freezing.

I love cold water swimming, static cold immersion is a very different experience to exercising in it. The exercise seems to stave off thermogenic shivering and leads to a very different feeling metabolic state. I took a Wim Hof class a while ago, cold immersion was ok but they make a big deal of it. Slightly euphoric effect but it was brief so I didn't get much core cooling.

I can't advise on pool chemicals or salt but what did occur to me is freshening the water. You don't want to use 50-60 gallons daily, but could you partly drain the water and top it up daily? That may let some of the muck out and/or dilute the remaining muck.

Not many posts about Ukraine latter days. Ukraine fatigue?

I'm working on one right now, but I think a lot of people have unrealistic expectations for how fast a fact like "Ukraine cannot stop the Russians" or "The Russian army is in a state of collapse" will play out in real time. Blame Napoleon. It's not football where your hot take on Tuesday will go right or wrong by Sunday afternoon. There aren't a lot of blowhards every day as the same things happen.

The retaliation for Crimean Bridge attack was pretty significant, imo

Assuming it is ongoing it will be significant, but if they stop any time soon then it doesn't amount to much retaliation for that massive piece of terrorism (hiring an innocent Russian truck driver and blowing him up with a proxy bomb is pretty bad, and adds to the fear of Russians interacting with Crimea).

Put together a post on it, I'd love to read some more educated takes.

Does anyone have recommendations for an automatic trash can that is easy to keep clean?

You can hose down a normal trash can, but an automatic trash can has seams and electronics that are not compatible with hosing.

If by "automatic" you necessarily mean electric, then no. If you mean "I can drop things in without touching it and then it closes without me touching it" I recommend an industrial can like this: https://www.webstaurantstore.com/lavex-janitorial-23-gallon-black-slim-trash-can-and-black-swing-lid/475WH23BKKT.html

No batteries, unbreakable, dozens of color options, holds very large bags, lid stays closed all the time until you drop something into it, can be hit with industrial cleaner and a pressure washer if needed.

Isn't that what trash bags are for, to keep the inside of your trash can from getting trash on it? Am I missing something important about wi-fi enabled AI trash can design philosophy?

It is the underside of the lid of the trashcan that I care about. My current trash can has a layer of disgusting grime around the door to the battery compartment.

I have never owned a trash can and not needed to hose it down at least once every few years. No bag is sturdy enough to never get small holes in it when you throw in a whole turkey carcass or a random piece of metal from a DIY job. Hoseability is a pretty key feature, though I have never bought an electronic one, I just use a foot pedal.

I ponied up for a SimpleHuman trash can — though not an automated one — which felt outrageously expensive at like $150 but the mess-limiting design and build quality turned out to be soooooo worth it. I assume the automatic-lid cans are also good.

How "automatic" are we talking? Most I'm familiar with have automatic lids with proximity sensors, and the lid piece is completely removable from the can itself. While cleaning the lids can be annoying, it's a small wipe-down; the can itself can be removed and hosed off without danger to the electronics in the lid.

It is the lid I am talking about. The ones I have seen are not a solid piece of plastic (from the underside, at least, where I need it) and are full of seams and nooks and crannies.

Maybe it could be made with a peelable liner or something.

Can anyone else straight up not open last week's culture thread now? Server hangs, even if you drop the context# way down.

Does anyone have a good sense of how African Americans living in smaller towns compare culturally to those in large cities, or how they compare to their non-black neighbors in town? I'm thinking more along the lines of places that are 5-20k population and aren't super close to a metro area such that the metro's culture seeps into the town by osmosis. I also have in mind places that aren't the deep South, so, where the black population in the town may only be 5-10%.

By culture, I mean the sort of behavior that, in my opinion, drives segregation in cities and makes predominantly black neighborhoods less desirable places to live. I'll give a few examples that I hope outlines roughly what I'm talking about. For instance, a general sense that they don't need to follow the tacit expectations of society in regards to dress, politeness, language, obeying what seem like trivial rules, and dozens of little things like that; the glorification of criminality; a disinterest in the traditional family unit (e.g., no real sense that they're "expected" to settle down with a wife and kids; having children and more or less abandoning them and not seeing that as particularly shameful); an intense culture of honor, where slights by strangers must be met with a verbal or physical altercation.

Now, even though this is The Motte and I shouldn't have to, I'll go ahead and state the obvious: those things apply to a lot of white people, and they apply not the slightest bit to a lot of black people, even in the cities. Still, I hope it's not controversial that there are average cultural differences between the races in the US, even if just as the result of a cascade of historical misfortunes that are in some sense no fault of their own.

I feel like I have a good sense of what small town white people are like, but I feel like small town black people in the non-South is a complete blind spot for me, culturally. Like, I almost can't picture it.

Has anyone lived in small towns outside the south like this? How did the culture of whites and blacks in town differ, if at all?

My comment doesn't really address your question, and is more about the weird bubble that Americans seem to live in. The white people who live in all the apartment buildings near me make me think of The Wire more than any non-white racial group I've encountered in the country.

In my midsized Canadian hometown, Hamilton, Ontario, we don't really see a lot of direct racial segregation, so poor people are just whoever was here 100 years ago and gradually got dragged down to the bottom rungs of the ladder. The kinds of behaviours that people tend to apply to poor black people in the US so obviously apply to mostly white people in Canada because our cities don't seem to have a group of people who were herded in to specific areas and then continually oppressed with real estate and zoning. (Very much with the exception of indigenous Canadians who were royally screwed and herded in to small areas and continually screwed with by locals the government). I'm not an expert, but our "bad parts of town" tend to just be the old industrial areas that got wiped out thanks to globalization, rather than an area with any kind of racial homogeneity beyond "generic white Canadian"

I feel (I don't have good data to base this off of) that many of the Americanisms like racial segregation, long term outcomes of segregation, or your strange healthcare system are like water to fishes; it's impossible to see that you're wet and that there might be a world outside. This makes a lot of racial politics that get exported from the US feel strange here.

Why does my perspective matter? Hmm... I think there is a tendency for conversations about race to want to make sweeping claims about people with the DNA for darker skin, when my experiences in my hometown, and bigger and smaller cities in Canada are so tilted away from the idea that a single genetic population displays meaningful differences.

Also, I want to push back a bit on the idea that any meaningful universal things about people with dark skin can be acquired by looking at the population of black people in the US... but also, I don't want this to come across as pandering anti-racism or something...

For what it's worth, I (the OP) am Canadian as well and live within an hour of Hamilton (not the Greater Toronto Area, though). And also for what it's worth, I definitely do notice in my home city a racial difference in the sort of behavior I mentioned. It's probably not as stark as might be observed in the US, but it's certainly obvious to me.

Ok that's fair :) I think I'm confusing the magnitude. There are no other racial tendencies I do see, just not as stark as the US.

First and obviously, just to do the ritual throat-clearing before we all inevitably get called "racist", there are all sorts of differences between individuals and communities, Not All Black People etc. but I may have a bit of insight.

I went to HS in a small rural midwestern town, about 35k population. My graduating class was under fifty people, and there were only a dozen or so black kids in our school. Frankly, they really didn't stick out in culture, accent or behavior at all. None were athletic either, which was a big disappointment to our basketball coach, who had to play people like me. To the teenaged me, they clocked as completely normal small town midwesterners, with black skin.

In contrast, there was another smaller town maybe twenty miles away that for historical reasons had a small but cohesive and very poor black community. A few hundred people out of twenty thousand or so. But they all lived in the same part of town, in small section 8 apartment buildings, very squalid, high crime, etc. All the dysfunction we associate with underclass areas, be they trailer parks, reservations, ghettos or barrios. It's where you had to go to buy weed, but it was sketchy as shit. We would play their schools in sports quite regularly, so we got a sense of the school. The black kids there were far more in touch with wider black culture, spoke with a slight southern accent and all the latest slang, wore fashions wildly out of place with the Amish chic of the area and were generally much more stereotypically part of black culture. Their school was also much more socially segregated than ours, possibly because there weren't enough black people in our school to form their own subculture.

To answer your question in the most unsatisfying way possible: It depends very much on the individuals, the history, the social class etc. I do think there's a critical mass that any minority can hit that results in a distinct subculture. I think the main reason the black kids in my school were better integrated is that there weren't enough of them to form their own clique. When there's ten other black kids and two of them are your younger siblings, you're gonna need a wider friend group and dating pool.

The culture you describe is that of a small pct of African-Americans even in urban areas; just yesterday, my doorman, who is African American, was telling me about some crazy person on the subway who was staring at him because of a perceived slight. My doorman certainly did not think that was normal behavior among his peers. I also taught high school for many years at an urban high school and can tell you that the attitudes you describe were very rare (note that they can be both very rare and more common than in other groups). And, speaking of high school, the attitudes you discuss tend to be those of young people. Given that rather few African-Americans live in small towns outside the South, you are going to have a hard time getting good data.

a small pct of African-Americans even in urban areas

Maybe. I live in a majority-minority, plurality black town and that sort of behavior is more or less the norm that I see. Lots of exceptions, of course, but definitely the majority of black people around here have a noticeably distinct set of behaviors, accent, slang etc. The more violent and criminal aspect is a small minority, but the larger "ghetto" or "urban" culture is the dominant one. There's a wide scale of underclass behavior, and there's nothing inherently wrong about being louder or touchier than normal for a given culture, but it is noticeable and isn't a fantasy or conspiracy theory. I'm sure there are places where the black underclass is a small minority of black people in the area, but it isn't my town. The underclass is "average" here.

Of course, we're pretty poor in these parts, so the same holds for whites and the hispanic population as well. The white people who live in town are a lot trashier than the ones who live out in the township, and dress, talk and act distinctively. The black people from the township tend to be much more conventional and middle class than the town residents, but there's just a lot less of them. The city is around 45% black and ~20% hispanic, the county is 75% white. So, the middle class suburbs are disproportionately white, while the poor city is disproportionately nonwhite. But middle class people tend to act like middle class people, and underclass like underclass, no matter the race or specific flavor of subculture.

Well, the OP was not referring simply to slang, or accent, nor merely being "louder or touchier" -- my doorman can be a bit touchy. And, as mentioned, I taught in an urban public school for many years,so I am well aware that a subculture exists. But OP specified some particular, anti-social behaviors which are not common. If they were, my doorman would not have thought it worthy of note, and I would have seen it much more often.

As I said, there's a range of behavior native to the subculture, some of which is anti-social, some of which isn't, just like any subculture. Some people just talk the talk, some of them walk the walk.

I would like to very gently point you to the key word to all your commentary that jumps out to me. "Doorman". You live in a building with on-site staff. There's not a single residential place like that in the whole county where I live. A nursing home would be the closest thing we have to that. I would expect that people who live in a place with staff whose whole purpose is to control who can get into the building will have a lot fewer interactions with the seedier side of the tracks.

I would expect that people who live in a place with staff whose whole purpose is to control who can get into the building will have a lot fewer interactions with the seedier side of the tracks.

Because most people's interactions with other people are inside their building, rather than outside? I am going to gently point out that someone who lives in the community you describe living in might well have fewer interactions with people from the seedier side of the tracks than someone who is on the NYC subway every day.

I also want to point out that I mentioned, twice, my extensive experience teaching in an urban public school -- I taught there longer than I have lived in a building with a doorman. So the intimation that somehow I have no idea what the "underclass" is like is mistaken.

I would also like to point out that it seems a bit odd that you are suddenly conflating urban African Americans with "the seedier side of the tracks."

Anyhow, let's not forget the actual claim that the OP made: That 'African Americans . . .in large cities" exhibit "a general sense that they don't need to follow the tacit expectations of society in regards to dress, politeness, language, obeying what seem like trivial rules, and dozens of little things like that; the glorification of criminality; a disinterest in the traditional family unit (e.g., no real sense that they're "expected" to settle down with a wife and kids; having children and more or less abandoning them and not seeing that as particularly shameful); an intense culture of honor, where slights by strangers must be met with a verbal or physical altercation."

My point is simply that that description -- especially glorifying criminality and responding to slights by strangers with verbal or physical altercations -- applies only a to small minority of African Americans in large cities, and I stated the evidence on which I based that assumption. And you actually haven't even refuted that! All you have said is that an urban subculture exists, but your description of that subculture -- that people are louder and touchier, and have a particular mode of speaking -- is far milder than that described by the OP, and one which I agreed with.

Moreover, if indeed the African Americans in your town indeed generally have the attitudes and behaviors that the OP describes, then perhaps that answers OP's question: African Americans in towns like yours are worse than those in urban areas, because the African Americans in NYC and Oakland do not generally have those attitudes and behaviors.

Finally, a note on doormen: The reason that many buildings in my area have doormen is that, 30 years ago, the area was in fact quite seedy -- prostitutes and drug dealers were quite common. So, the presence of a doorman can indicate not that the residents of the building never interact with the seedier side of life, but rather quite the opposite. Moreover, the job of a doorman in NYC is not so much to keep people out as it is to provide services to the residents, especially dealing with deliveries, a major issue in a city where many people do not have cars. And, it is not as if buildings without doormen, including those in your town, must of necessity allow unfettered access to the building: There are such things as buzzers, after all.

I would also like to point out that it seems a bit odd that you are suddenly conflating urban African Americans with "the seedier side of the tracks."

There we go, thanks for playing.

Does anyone have a good sense of how African Americans living in smaller towns compare culturally to those in large cities,

I live in a town of roughly ~19,500 people, of which less than 3% of which is black, from my memories of the last census I checked. 95% White with a smattering of minorities. I've lived here for sixteen years or so, and in that time I've lived in the poorer projects areas as a kid, and nicer places as an adult.

There's minimal crime here, and when it does happen it's usually drug related. There was a drug bust a street or two over last week for fentanyl with five arrests, and three of the five were young black men (there was also a White man and woman who I assume were a couple, but fuck if I know from mugshots). Very little violence, no gangs, nada.

There's a small neighborhood I walk through sometimes I've noticed is disproportionately black. They host more outdoors events in their yards during the summer than the other people I see, but other than loud music it's harmless.

My sense, as a White outsider, is that there's not really enough blacks here for any sort of black community to thrive. Yeah, okay, some black families live in the same area, maybe even most of them given the small absolute number, but even those areas are still White.

The key to integration has always been to spread minorities out and not let them form into ethnic collectives. These blacks might still be disproportionately involved in the crime we do have, but they're not a blight. They're just black-flavored poor Whites.

To be clear, poor southern whites have barely better outcomes than blacks.

Except when it comes to crime

The White underclass is nothing to envy, certainly.

So, what are you reading? (Another thread with this question was in here in the Fun Thread)

I'm still on Gray's Postmodern War. So far it's an interesting blend of history, analysis of the ideas behind military programs, and meditations on the nuances of war. Very quotable.

War explodes around the planet, relentlessly seeking expression in the face of widespread moral, political, and even military censorship, since the old stories of ancient tribal grievances and of the supremacy of male courage, and therefore war, don't sell everywhere.

Michael Allen Gillespie - The Theological Origins of Modernity. The argument is that there is far less of a break between Medieval theology and modern philosophy than we think, and that modernity owes its origins to the Scholastic realism vs Nominalism break that occupied the minds of the 13th century. Or as Gillespie puts it:

To understand the shape of modernity as it has come down to us, we thus need to examine carefully the origins of modernity, to look behind the veil that modernity itself has drawn to conceal its origins. The origins of modernity therefore lie not in human self-assertion or in reason but in the great metaphysical and theological struggle that marked the end of the medieval world and that transformed Europe in the three hundred years that separate the medieval and the modern worlds. This book is the account of the hidden origins of modernity in those forgotten centuries.

What are Scholastic Realism and Nominalism?

Scholastics in the High Middle Ages were ontologically realist, that is to say, they believed in the real existence of universals, or to put the matter another way, they experienced the world as the instantiation of the categories of divine reason. They experienced, believed in, and asserted the ultimate reality not of particular things but of universals, and they articulated this experience in a syllogistic logic that was perceived to correspond to or reflect divine reason. Creation itself was the embodiment of this reason, and man, as the rational animal and imago dei, stood at the pinnacle of this creation, guided by a natural telos and a divinely revealed supernatural goal.

Nominalism turned this world on its head. For the nominalists, all real being was individual or particular and universals were thus mere fictions. Words did not point to real universal entities but were merely signs useful for human understanding. Creation was radically particular and thus not teleological. As a result, God could not be understood by human reason but only by biblical revelation or mystical experience. Human beings thus had no natural or supernatural end or telos.

One interesting thing mentioned is that Ockham's Razor owes its origin to this debate:

This notion of divine omnipotence was responsible for the demise of realism. God, Ockham argued, could not create universals because to do so would constrain his omnipotence. If a universal did exist, God would be unable to destroy any instance of it without destroying the universal itself. Thus, for example, God could not damn any one human being without damning all of humanity. If there are no real universals, every being must be radically individual, a unique creation of God himself, called forth out of nothing by his infinite power and sustained by that power alone. To be sure, God might employ secondary causes to produce or sustain an entity, but they were not necessary and were not ultimately responsible for the creation or the continued existence of the entity in question. The only necessary being for Ockham was God himself. All other beings were contingent creations of his will. In a technical sense, the things God chooses to bring into existence already have a nature, but these natures are not themselves universal but apply only to each individual thing. Moreover, they are infinite in number and chosen freely by divine will.

These “natures” thus do not in any real sense constrain divine will except insofar as they exclude the impossible, that is, the logically contradictory. They are neither implied by nor are they the presupposition of anything else. In this way, Ockham’s assertion of ontological individualism undermines not only ontological realism but also syllogistic logic and science, for in the absence of real universals, names become mere signs or signs of signs. Language thus does not reveal being but in practice often conceals the truth about being by fostering a belief in the reality of universals. In fact, all so-called universals are merely second or higher order signs that we as finite beings use to aggregate individual beings into categories. These categories, however, do not denote real things. They are only useful fictions that help us make sense out of the radically individualized world. However, they also distort reality. Thus, the guiding principle of nominalist logic for Ockham was his famous razor: do not multiply universals needlessly. While we cannot, as finite beings, make sense of the world without universals, every generalization takes us one more step away from the real. Hence, the fewer we employ the closer we remain to the truth.

Nominalism vs realism sounds like ... a strange philosophical debate. "Universals are real, particulars aren't" vs "particulars are real, universals aren't" - what does this even mean? It reminds one of plato, and the right response is - https://www.unqualified-reservations.org/archive/stove/

what does this even mean

Well a lot according to the book. Has God created a rationally ordered world (realism) or does it all exist at his whim (nominalism)? Given a rational order can we deduce the laws of nature logically or can we only gain knowledge about what God has created through observation of his seemingly arbitrary choices? Is each human simply an imperfect expression of the universal man imbued with the same telos, or is there some divine significance to the expression of individual will?

Secularise these concepts and you derive a lot of the same ideas we believe in today.

I'm reading Cathy O'Neill's Weapons of Math Destruction. It has been on my TBR pile for... too many years, now, which makes some of her case studies particularly interesting, in retrospect. I'm a little over halfway through, however, and so far she seems to not appreciate the difference between these two positions:

  • Automated, opaque data aggregation and processing is, by its nature, damaging to something important (e.g. rights, economies, society, mental health, whatever)

  • Automated, opaque data aggregation and processing should be used only to advance my political goals

It's not a bad book, exactly, but I'm concerned that by the time I finish reading it, I will just feel annoyed that it came so highly recommended. A lot of what she says seems basically right, but she essentially telegraphs the eventual capture of so-called "AI alignment" by progressives ideologues. Her hope does not appear (as, I think, advertised) to understand how the application of algorithms to human existence might be objectionable per se, but to find a way to make sure that algorithms apply to human existence only in ways that progressives like.

But in one sense O'Neill accomplished something interesting, at least: she successfully, if inadvertently, became the trendsetter for today. With art generators in the West being specially trained to not produce nudity or violence, while art generators in China are trained to not produce pictures of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, "AI aligment" "experts" the world over are chattering about how we will avoid building bias into our AI tools by, apparently... building the right bias into our AI tools. In so doing, they are apparently--it so far appears--channeling O'Neill.

Yeah, I recall being pretty disappointed in the book when I read it a few years ago, though I don’t recall why. I seem to recall her making a lot of dubious assumptions

tl;dr: progressivism-related arguments generally fallacious, but not exactly untreaded ground here - general anti-algorithm arguments certainly demonstrate 'algorithms can be components of bad things sometimes', but fail to put algorithms as a direct and only cause, or connect them to much large-scale harm. There were some interesting bits that hadn't occurred to me, like "for-profit colleges are significantly driven by generous student loans", but none of them had much to do with algorithms.

From the wiki article for the book:

Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his zip code), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.”

All of the 'systemic biases mean those who are worse off are made even worse off', and a 'vicious spiral (cycle?)', arguments are inaccurate (in the current year) for two reasons - their effects just aren't large enough, and they're made up for by compensatory progressive programs. The loan example's multiple 'if's each correspond to specific conditions - plenty of minorities live in not-disproportionately-minority zip codes, even given said algorithm some of the ones in the zip code will get loans, there are many local colleges that are incredibly cheap, there are plenty of self-study resources available, etc. And, of course, there are loan programs for poor people and affirmative action. So, even if that's somewhat true, you'd expect - if that was the only effect - incomes to even out over several generations - and, for some ethnic minorities, it does.

On the specific topic of 'automated, opaque data aggregation' - I guess i'll skim the book a bit ... I found the epub on libgen.is, then, wanting a more convenient experience than the native epub reader, searched hn.algolia.com for 'epub read' (the first google result was packed with ads and a premium subscription) and picked "https://app.lotareader.com" for no particular reason

reading a few pages, i'm reminded of why I don't read popular books that much. "weapons of math destruction" is an annoying, unhelpful term, and the book generally seems to be broad gestures towards 'algorithms bad' as opposed to coherently explaining why they are. Many complaints, but just a few:

In general there are a lot of extraneous sentences that don't really add anything - like this paragraph "Now, if they incorporated the cost of education into the formula, strange things might happen to the results. Cheap universities could barge into the excellence hierarchy. This could create surprises and sow doubts. The public might receive the U.S. News rankings as something less than the word of God. It was much safer to start with the venerable champions on top. Of course they cost a lot. But maybe that was the price of excellence". Half the clauses here are entirely useless, and the other half are just smugly restating her point. "as something less than the word of God."? really?

[on a recidivism score taking birthplace into account] But even if we put aside, ever so briefly, the crucial issue of fairness, we find ourselves descending into a pernicious WMD feedback loop. A person who scores as “high risk” is likely to be unemployed and to come from a neighborhood where many of his friends and family have had run-ins with the law. Thanks in part to the resulting high score on the evaluation, he gets a longer sentence, locking him away for more years in a prison where he’s surrounded by fellow criminals—which raises the likelihood that he’ll return to prison.

Again, if you have a feedback loop that, say, increases risk by 5% - x * (1.05) is 1.05x. The 'vicious cycle' means that that .05 gets gets another 1.05 modifier added to it, so we get ... x + (.05) * (1.05)x. The series, sum 0 to inf of .05*n, converges to 1 / (1 - .05) ~= 1.0526. And when you combine 'in part', 'likely', 'more', 'raises the likelihood', 5% seems high! (the math is entirely tangential, "it should be obvious", i guess)

A key component of this suffering is the pernicious feedback loop. As we’ve seen, sentencing models that profile a person by his or her circumstances help to create the environment that justifies their assumptions. This destructive loop goes round and round, and in the process the model becomes more and more unfair.

But this is just stated, no evidence is provided...

The chapter on online advertising spends a lot of time outlining non-targeted-ad, human-driven recruiting methods for for-profit universities that are, afaict, just as 'awful' as the target ad-driven one. So, again - what exactly does the algorithm add here?

Also strange is the claim that making a model transparent improves it. Not super relevant, but the weights for stable diffusion and OPT175 are just ... right there, and nobody is really sure how they work. (It's plausible that stable diffusion and GPT are still 'relatively simple' and we don't understand them just because they're so big and there's a lot of slightly complex 'circuits' or something, but that doesn't mean we're more able to understand them!) She seems to just assume transparency means there will be awesome independent journalists inspecting the model and demanding social change to fix it or something. Especially bizzare is a claim that the 'opacity' of college 'admissions models' leaves applicants/parents "in the dark" but "creates a big business for consultants". A transparent algorithm wouldn't reduce the number of consultants, it's not like each rich parent would manually interpret regression coefficients and design their kid a plan instead of paying for a program. And it just claims 'admissions models are derived from the US news model and each is a WMD'. I guess this is supposed to add to the sense that 'wmd = bad = everywhere', but wouldn't admissions be tough in any case? How would a more holistic admissions model make parents compete less?

I'm not sure "the concept of a safety school is now largely extinct", as claimed, and the 'american college USNews' chapter seemed to just say that US News rankings exist, point to people gaming them and a ton of potential consequences, but never really connected the ranking system to any specific college issues in a coherent way.

That's already way too long and ranty, but the entire book read like that.

Other mostly-unrelated observations:

We had about fifty quants in total. In the early days, it was entirely men, except for me. Most of them were foreign born. Many of them had come from abstract math or physics; a few, like me, had come from number theory

I still don't get the 'all immigrants must be stopped bc they dont contribute to america' thing, at all, in large part because of a ton of observations like this.

Some of people I know would claim, after reading this, "wow, our elite are so stupid, but they believe stuff like this". But it shows the opposite - the author is clearly very smart - algebraic geometry, math professor, quant at hedge fund!

What are some good eccentric and evocative (but fairly tame) curses to pick up? There's always "Damn/blast your eyes" or "God's little fish in trousers" or "Blistering barnacles", but what are some other good ones?

Always liked Korgoth's "hairy balls of the gods!"

Good cursing relies mostly on the non-curse words to frame the curse itself for maximum impact.

"Shit fuck piss cunt" is profane, but not that evocative.

"Climb a wall of dicks" sticks in your head.

You swine. You vulgar little maggot. You worthless bag of filth. I wager you couldn't empty a boot of excrement were the instructions on the heel. You are a canker. A sore that won't go away. I would rather kiss a lawyer than be seen with you. Try to edit your responses of unnecessary material before attempting to impress us with your insight. The evidence that you are a nincompoop will still be available to readers, but they will be able to access it more rapidly. You snail-skulled little rabbit. Would that a hawk pick you up, drive its beak into your brain, and upon finding it rancid set you loose to fly briefly before spattering the ocean rocks with the frothy pink shame of your ignoble blood. May you choke on the queasy, convulsing nausea of your own trite, foolish beliefs. You are weary, stale, flat and unprofitable. You are grimy, squalid, nasty and profane. You are foul and disgusting. You're a fool, an ignoramus. And what meaning do you expect your delusional self-important statements of unknowing, inexperienced opinion to have to us who think and reason? What fantasy do you hold that you would believe that your tiny-fisted tantrums would have more weight than that of a leprous desert rat, spinning rabidly in a circle, waiting for the bite of the snake? You are a waste of flesh. You have no rhythm. You are ridiculous and obnoxious. You are the moral equivalent of a leech. You are a living emptiness, a meaningless void. You are sour and senile. You are a disease, you puerile one-handed slack-jawed , drooling meatslapper. You smarmy lagerlout git. You bloody woofter sod. Bugger off, pillock. You grotty wanking oik artless base-court apple-john. You clouted boggish foot-licking twit. You dankish clack-dish plonker. You gormless crook-pated tosser. You churlish boil-brained clotpole ponce. You cockered bum-bailey poofter. You gob-kissing gleeking flap-mouthed coxcomb. You dread-bolted fobbing beef-witted clapper-clawed flirt-gill. You are a fiend and a coward, and you have bad breath. You are degenerate, noxious and depraved. I feel debased just for knowing you exist. I despise everything about you, and I wish you would go away. I cannot believe how incredibly stupid you are. I mean rock-hard stupid. Dehydrated-rock-hard stupid. Stupid so stupid that it goes way beyond the stupid we know into a whole different dimension of stupid. You are trans-stupid stupid. Meta-stupid. Some pure essence of a stupid so uncontaminated by anything else as to be beyond the laws of physics that we know. I'm sorry. I can't go on. This is an epiphany of stupid for me. After this, you may not hear from me again for a while. I don't have enough strength left to deride your ignorant questions and half-baked comments about unimportant trivia, or any of the rest of this drivel. Duh. I mean, really, stringing together a bunch of insults among a load of babbling was hardly effective. True, these are rudimentary skills that many of us 'normal' people take for granted that everyone has an easy time of mastering. But we sometimes forget that there are 'challenged' persons in this world who find these things more difficult. If I had known, that this was your case then I would have never read your post. It just wouldn't have been 'right'. Sort of like parking in a handicap space. I wish you the best of luck in the emotional, and social struggles that seem to be placing such a demand on you. You're an idiot. A moron of the highest order. You're so stupid it's a wonder and a pity you can remember to breath. Intelligent ideas bounce off your head as if it were coated with teflon. Creative thoughts take alternate transportation in order to avoid even being in the same state as you. If you had an original thought it would die of loneliness before the hour was out. On an intelligence scale of 1 to 10 (10 corresponding to the highest attainable IQ) you're rating is so far into negative numbers that one would need to travel into another quantum reality in order to even catch a distant glimpse of it. Your personality is that of a rabid Chihuahua intent on destroying its own tail. Your powers of observation are akin to those of the bird that keeps slamming into the picture window trying to get that other bird it keeps seeing. You are walking, talking proof that you don't have to be sentient to survive, and that Barnum was thinking of you when he uttered his immortal phrase regarding the birth of a sucker. You are, at varying times, tedious, boring, and even occasionally earth shatteringly hilarious in your idiocy, routinely childish, moronic, pathetic, wretched, disgusting and pitiful. You are wholly without any redeeming social grace or value. If God ever decides to give the planet an enema you'd better run like the wind because anywhere you stand is a suitable place for The Insertion. There is no animal so disgusting, so vile that it deserves comparison to you, for even the lowest, dirtiest, most parasitic member of the animal kingdom fills an ecological niche. You fill no niche. To call you a parasite would be injurious and defamatory to the thousands of honest parasitic species. You are worse than vermin, for vermin do not pretend to be what it is not. You are truly human garbage. You are a fraudulent, lying, predatory charlatan. You are of less worth than a burnt-out light bulb. You will forever live in shame. You have nothing to say, and Godwin's Law does not apply when writing about you. You are the anti-Midas, for all that you touch becomes valueless and unusable. Mothers gather their children close when you appear. You are an aberration, a corruption, and a boil that needs to be lanced. You are a poison in need of being vomited. You are a tooth so rotten it infects the whole body. You are sperm that should have been captured in a condom and flushed down a toilet. I don't like you. I don't like anybody who has as little respect for others as you do. Go away, you swine. You're a putrescent mass, a walking vomit. You are a spineless little worm deserving nothing but the profoundest contempt. You are a jerk, a cad, and a weasel. Your life is a monument to stupidity. You are a stench, a revulsion, a big suck on a sour lemon. You are a curdled staggering mutant dwarf smeared richly with the effluvia and offal accompanying your alleged birth into this world. Meaningful to no one, abandoned by the puke-drooling, giggling beasts that sired you and then killed themselves in recognition of what they had done. I will never get over the embarrassment of belonging to the same species as you. You are a monster, an ogre, a malformity. I wretch at the very thought of you. You have all the appeal of a paper cut. Lepers avoid you. You are vile, worthless, less than nothing. You are a weed, a fungus, and the dregs of this earth. And did I mention you smell? Monkeys look down on you. Even sheep won't have sex with you. You are unreservedly pathetic, starved for attention, and lost in a land that reality forgot. You are a waste of flesh. On a good day you're a halfwit. You are deficient in all that lends character. You have the personality of wallpaper. You are dank and filthy. You are asinine and benighted. You are the source of all unpleasantness. You spread misery and sorrow wherever you go. You are a fiend and a coward, and you have bad breath. You are degenerate, noxious and depraved. I feel debased just for knowing you exist. I despise everything about you, and I wish you would go away. I cannot believe how incredibly stupid you are. The only thing worse than your logic is your manners. Maybe later in life, after you have learned to read, write, study, spell, and count, you will have more success. True, these are rudimentary skills that many of us 'normal' people take for granted that everyone has an easy time of mastering. It just wouldn't have been 'right'. Sort of like parking in a handicap space. I wish you the best of luck in the emotional, and social struggles that seem to be placing such a demand on you. You are hypocritical, greedy, violent, malevolent, vengeful, cowardly, deadly, mendacious, meretricious, loathsome, despicable, belligerent, opportunistic, barratrous, contemptible, criminal, fascistic, bigoted, racist, sexist, avaricious, tasteless, idiotic, brain-damaged, imbecilic, insane, arrogant, deceitful, demented, lame, self-righteous, byzantine, conspiratorial, satanic, fraudulent, libellous, bilious, splenetic, spastic, ignorant, clueless, illegitimate, harmful, destructive, dumb, evasive, double-talking, devious, revisionist, narrow, manipulative, paternalistic, fundamentalist, dogmatic, idolatrous, unethical, cultic, diseased, suppressive, controlling, restrictive, malignant, deceptive, dim, crazy, weird, dystrophic, stifling, uncaring, plantigrade, grim, unsympathetic, jargon-spouting, censorious, secretive, aggressive, mind-numbing, abrasive, poisonous, flagrant, self-destructive, abusive, and socially-retarded. Shut up and go away lest you achieve the physical retribution your behaviour merits.

Is this Markov generated or did you compose that epic yourself?

Generated by the galxybrains in /r/copypasta

For that old school charm: Zounds! (corruption of God's wounds). See also; strewth (God's truth), blimey (God blind me), gadzooks (God's hooks (nails)), 'sblood (God's blood), crikey (Christ)

Personally I love but can't pull off Quebecois swearing, a lot of Roman Catholic imagery in there. The accent is key though

You might enjoy Câlisse moi là from Lisa LeBlanc.

I do, even though I don't understand more than about 1/3 of what she sings.

Hold...hold on. Do you pronounce “zounds” “zoonds”, or “zownds”? I’ve always read it as the latter, which is not how I say “wounds.”

The phonetic guide in the dictionary says it should be pronounced like sounds with a z...

Well, since it's literally just the s-wounds from "God'(s wounds)", you'd pronounce it the same way you pronounce wounds.

If you’re a Thief fan, I’ve always thought the Hammerites should have picked up some good swears. “Builder’s left nut!”

Does it make sense for a young person to get the latest covid vaccine?

That's what Moderna CEO thinks:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-11327615/Modernas-CEO-admits-vulnerable-need-Covid-booster-shot.html

Mr Bancel told a finance conference on Monday: 'I think it's going to be like the flu. If you're a 25-year-old, do you need an annual booster every year if you're healthy?

‘You might want to... but I think it's going to be similar to flu where it's going to be people at high-risk, people above 50 years of age, people with comorbidities, people with cancer and other conditions, people with transplants.’

Do we even have enough research to show they work or not work or what sort of side effects they might have? Last I have seen, they were tested on like a dozen mice and produced some antibodies and that was the whole extent of their testing.

Personally I’m in the same age group and I avoid it because it’s advertised benefits are personally pointless to me and I want the number of people who ignore government dictates on my body to be as high as possible so the bureaucrats think twice before issuing dictates the next time. The benefits of this is in my opinion larger than anything the vax could provide

I agree with the kebab here. The medical side of it is fishy and marginal, but politically there's a clear signal to be sent.

Doesn't matter either way. Risk of myocarditis from vaccine is tiny, and is plausibly lower than the risk of myocarditis from covid itself. On the other hand, the risk of death from covid for a 25yo person is significantly lower than that of the flu. And 'stopping transmission' doesn't matter because it's endemic anyway.

If it doesn't matter either way, then I shouldn't get it, because my time is worth something. I know many people who didn't feel well for a day because of it. On the other hand, the people I know who have got covid were usually sick for several days.

I know my risk of dying from covid is tiny. I'm more worried about the other symptoms.

I look at it similarly, but that I can schedule when I feel like dung.

At my job, there are certain weeks where unless I’ve been admitted to the hospital or the like, I’m not allowed time off. (This isn’t a huge imposition as these are scheduled well in advance.) So, I always get flu shots (and now COVID boosters) on Friday evenings of weekends I have open. Better for me to sacrifice a lazy Saturday if I can lower the likelihood of having to slog through a busy week while under the weather.

Not only should you not get it, but strictly from a health outcomes perspective the effort you've spent asking the question was not worth it.

I've been wondering the same thing. I'm not concerned about danger from either the infection or the vaccine, both of which seem fairly minimal. Instead I'm trying to figure out if I'm appreciably less likely to get sick this winter if I get it, which would make it worth it in my opinion. But it seems like I'll have to wait a while to find out whether that's the case.

Yes, if I could get a vaccine for the cold, I would, though I haven't had a cold in years.

No. It’s a trivial risk for you and the vaccine doesn’t even work that well these days.

This is the bivalent vaccine that is supposed to offer better protection from Omicron. It doesn't work that well?

None of the past vaccines have worked as well as they've been advertised. Personally I would expect this to be large