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Friday Fun Thread for November 25, 2022

Be advised; this thread is not for serious in depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

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My fellow solo and introverted men. What's your idea of fun during weekends?

I like to get some fresh air and a change of scenery on the weekends. Take a long walk at a park. I usually avoid shopping and restaurants on the weekends because they're always packed with people, so I like to do those things on weekdays. I prefer parks that are large enough to avoid too many people. If the weather isn't nice for walking, I'll take a long drive in my car.

Reading, watching movies, walking, blogging. Occasionally going to the range. Now that ski season is open, probably skiing too.

Making me feel guilty for not getting in a single range day all summer, damn it.

TMD - The Motte Majority Demographic. Mostly grey tribe, men, computer professionals, and engineers.

Off-topic, but I think certain cultural programming has psyoped a lot of TMD into thinking they are introverts. I have all the physical markers for "introverted nerd" but every time I do a big 5 test, I score around the 40-50th percentile in Extravertedness. And I do find all the introverted talk in "nerdy" subcultures unrelatable. And I suspect that my Extravertedness percentile in tests ends up being lower than it should be because of my low Agreeableness, I have a bitch of a time interpreting what the questions are actually asking and interpret them in a way where I might be prone to the "autists mistake".

The ideal weekend starts with having to do some extroverted activities before the weekend, preferably something I really don't want to do, like going to a very crowded event for a long period which has people I'm vaguely acquainted with and will likely have to make small-talk; like a wedding. Then a weekend with absolutely no plans. If the following few weeks also contain no plans or appointments, it makes my weekend even better, since my mind can be completely free from thinking about the future.

It doesn't matter what I do, as long as what I do is completely uninfluenced from my anxieties of socializing.

Recently, I’ve been working with LOGO, and really enjoying it. I’ve had to learn things about programming I haven’t yet learned.

It is an elegant and poetic language, and learning to think LOGO-istically (LOGOically?) instead of in C++ has sharpened my skills.

My mathematical specialty is circle graphs, a number theory topic dealing with modulo N. I’ve developed a rudimentary engine in FMSLogo for generating numerical sequences and then using them to connect the dots. So far, I’ve used it to discover something fascinating about the Fibonacci Sequence.

What’s your best party story?

Mine was back in freshman year of college, right after my best friend got a felony for getting caught with a 10 mg Adderall that he decided to throw in the bottom of the car instead of eat. He lost his financial aid so he was having to go home, and we decided to have one last blowout together. We weren’t even planning on going to a party, but we were trying to find some Molly and our dealer decided to invite us to a party out in the suburbs.

Turns out this place was a mansion, complete with a bouncer at the door. At this point neither of us had been to any sort of parties on the scale, so we were a bit blown away. We stumbled around after getting some drinks and eventually found our guy. He told us he actually didn’t have Molly and despite claiming to me through text that he did. Instead he had 4-FA, a research chemical that he claimed was better than Molly.

Being a responsible, nerdy drug abuser, I decided to pull out my phone and do some research then and there. Right as I was reading the first couple of articles, people started screaming that the cops were there. My friend looked at me, said “I guess we have to take them,” so we popped the pills, ran from the cops, drove back and stayed up all night reminiscing. (And rolling hard!)

For the record that gave me quite a scare, so my partying days toned down quite a bit afterward. I count myself extremely lucky to never have gotten into any issues with law enforcement despite my somewhat questionable actions. Also, this is the highlight of almost a decade of substance use, so my experience in the seedy underbelly hasn’t been all that glamorous. I certainly don’t want to try and put the drug use lifestyle on a pedestal, this story is an outlier.

I’m curious to hear similar stories from other Mottizens, substance related or not. Any wild nights in your past?

Hah, thanks for sharing! Sounds like y’all had a great time. I agree you’re a very lucky man! I’ve long extolled the virtues of yoga, seems like you’ve been able to get some firsthand lessons as well.

Funnily enough, I got her into yoga, dragged her to a free class her first time. Turned out to be something she really loved, became an instructor. Same thing with my best friend and Spartan races, I'd done a couple on a whim, my brother in law wanted to run one with me in my hometown, I dragged my best man along kicking and screaming because I didn't want to spend all day with my brother in law and no designated driver. I had to drag him over most of the obstacles, he was kinda fat then. My best man wound up loving it so much, he now runs 20+ a year, lost 90lbs, and sometimes even wins them.

So if I ever try to get you to try something, do it, it might just be your calling. On the other hand my wife and I are a combined 0/19 on "Will they last?" Questions. So... Don't listen to me on that, do the opposite.

I'm studying Physics but I want to appreciate programming and Computer Science more. I must admit that the two programming courses I've taken were quite boring and deluding, and I don't know if it is because they sucked or because I find programming boring in itself. My problem is that I do not really know what a programmer and computer scientist should be able to do, both in an academic and marketability sense[1], in other words how do I create a self-study curriculum to follow?

[1]like: What are jobs that programmers do? What are some beginner to advanced projects that I could implement on my laptop?

Depending on where you are in your major and if it overlaps well with your major you might consider minoring in CS. I majored in geophysics but minored in CS which forced me to take formal computer science courses up to data structures. All of these courses (at my school) were taught in C and this background (which I wouldn’t have ever gotten without it being hammered in) has been enormously valuable to my subsequent scientific work.

Programming is about making your problems into machine-legible ones. There are a few reasons this could come up.

First, automation. If you have a task which needs lots of repetition, consider automating it. Python is very handy for this.

Second, math. Computers are very good at reading tables, applying equations, and keeping all those in their memory.

Third, professional display of information. They are good at consistency in graphing, which adds a lot to any technical communication. Data visualization in general can be really useful. Learning how to use matplotlib will make you never want to open Excel again.

A lot of professional programming involves setting up systems like websites which will let others do repeatable tasks and store numbers without any skill of their own. If you are pursuing a physics career, don’t bother with this.

For these reasons, I used to suggest downloading Anaconda Python to start. You get a “read-execute-print loop” via Spyder, and you dodge most of the build-system stuff that plagues web or embedded development. The catch is python is too flexible, and I’ve seen way too many engineers who need a more solid foundation in data structures. I don’t have a great alternative. Recommending Learn You a Haskell is probably a bit much.

Learning how to use matplotlib Pandas will make you never want to open Excel again.

FTFY

See, I don't actually know pandas. So it must suck.

Jokes aside, there are all sorts of reasons why one cheerfully ditch Excel.

I mean matplotlib is a plotting package so pandas is the better comparison against Excel. Sorry for the pedantry. Anyways,

Pandas is THE tabular data manipulator of all tabular data manipulators. R enthusiasts would sing praises of dplyr but.. Idgaf what they think, and no one else does either. Seriously learn pandas you won't regret it.

But yes you won't see me disagree against Excel slander. I have been on the NumPy, Pandas and Matplotlib train for a while and never plan on getting off it. Getting shit done WEEKS in advance compared to Excel folk hits different for sure.

Althought I do have somewhat of a softspot for Excel for personal reasons, Its a good software to be used at home, not in industry.

My problem is that I do not really know what a programmer and computer scientist should be able to do

Obviously, some subset of 'make anything that existing computers do' for one. Develop a game, create a nice UI for something, simulate (at any level of detail - from 'very simple model' to 'the quantum-mechanical interactions of some chemical') some physical process, cause some physical process in a manufacturing process or robot, compute some property of a mathematical system (wondering of some weird arithmetic statement is true? Check it for the first 10^15 positive integers - at 1B/second, that'll only take a week or two!). There's also lots of complex problems required to implement programming - 'datastructures and algorithms' is quite math-ish and complicated, but every technical field has depth to it - implementing distributed systems is hard, writing very fast specialized algorithms that depend on the details of hardware features is complex, designing programming languages and compilers is hard, graphics is hard, 3D rendering is hard, ML is hard, all of these have a ton of intellectually complex depth to them.

That's weighted for 'interestingness', of course, 'make a boring web app' has a lot more job openings than 'distributed systems'

Not everyone can do most of these, ofc. But people specialize, although not necessarily for a whole career! A good programmer should be able to learn the very basic basics of any subarea of one of those within a few weeks, and dive deep into some technical part of any of that and do something interesting and tough in a few months - a year. If any of that sounds interesting, (once you can, like, write a program that 'takes a list and sorts' it), just try it! Write a game, even if it starts as simple as 'square moves around a 2d area and shoots circles at other squares' - make simulator + 3D renderer of some physics thing, even if the first version is "compute the trapezoid method approximation of an integral and graph it" - figure out what 'type theory' is, scrape all the text on 'themotte' and make a https://hn.algolia.com tier search for it, up to you.

Project Euler is basically abstract math problems that also require programming to solve, that might be fun once you know a bit.

+1 for advent of code. Check out some datastructures/algorithms stuff, like MIT intro algs. This is also what you need to grind leetcode/pass interviews. It's really cool stuff if you've never seen it before. It gets tedious if you have to do it to prep for interviews, but it's genuinely cool the first time around.

What do programmers do? On some level, it's mostly CRUD apps. Automate, organize, and codify information flow. Any business needs this. With a physicist's math background, you could also do e.g. computational antennae design or quantitative finance.

You might also enjoy learning about operating systems or how processors work. I found the latter particularly edifying as a physics major, since you can have an understanding of computers starting from "Schrodinger's equation and Bloch's theorem" all the way up

Since you are a physics student I will make you a suggestion that should be close to home. Lofty demonstrations of algorithmic beauty won't faze someone who doesn't naturally find programming and CS interesting.

Ever thought solving long equations were a bitch (lol)? Play around with SymPy. It's a python package for symbolic manipulation. Check out the link to the video above, it's by a physics student showing you how to use SymPy to solve common physics equations and some of them are extremely difficult if not impossible to solve by hand. The sheer usefulness of it speaks for itself. You can solve the equation, plot it, solve a 1000 different variations of it, generate LaTeX renderings of it, "lambdify" it and put it into production, and so much more with TRIVIAL amounts of effort.

And don't get spooked by syntax/idioms you don't understand quite yet. As an Electrical Engineer who had to hand solve his fair share of Maxwells Equations, Take Fourier/Laplace transforms and solve some retardedly long control systems problems, letting the computer do all the hard work so that you can focus on the larger task at hand is a blessing of the likes a student might not even appreciate yet. Ain't nobody got time to hand solve shit, we have computers for a reason. Programming is not harder than Physics, do not be scared.

In an ideal world you should probably be a decent enough python programmer or programmer in general before using specialized packages because otherwise, you will stumble against the language itself. But in your case let's hope the reverse works out. You might find SymPy so useful that you venture out into other programming use cases.


For those wondering, why not just recommend MATLAB since it comes "built-in" with symbolic manipulation and a whole host of other things a physicist might find useful? Well... FUCK MATLAB that's why.


And what do programmers do? Come on man, you are typing this out on a fucking website, which didn't appear out of thin air. Just look around you.

Well... FUCK MATLAB that's why.

I've been trying to get this point across to some of my coworkers. A few don't get it.

I had a PhD advisor who used to make me prototype things I wanted to do with python (which I am very good at) in Matlab so he could understand what I was doing. One of the most frustrating months of my life (and part of the reason I quit!).

Also fuck matlab

What have you been saying exactly?

We aren't real software devs. We are engineers who need to process a lot of simulated and measured data. Half of us use python and half use matlab.

I try to say that python is in every way more capable than matlab and not locked behind a paid license. If you had to extend a script to include automation or something, python is ready for you. It is also free so if you had to put your scripts on one of the off network Linux machines in the lab, python would work just fine.

Using python in Spyder has all the benefits of matlab, for people who love that UI. Which I actually really do. But now I have a free portable version of my code that isn't locked behind a matlab license. Why are we paying them and locking our code out of the lab computers when the free and more capable alternative exists? It isn't like we are using LabView or some other matlab specific tool.

But these people are used to matlab and so half the time when I get someone else's code it is matlab. And so half the time I get to code in matlab. And the other teams use python almost exclusively, so it is just us leaning hard on matlab for no reason.

I won't even bother complaining about matlab's actual flaws here. Indexing from 1. Running out of memory when dealing with moderately large data sets, requiring lots of needless clearing of variables or matlab specific workarounds to their memory limitation bullshit that has nothing to do with hardware limitations. Hiding basic functionality behind paid toolboxes that each need a different license. Etc. Etc.

Also I never figured out if Matlab even has a real debugger. Being able to just %debug is so ridiculously useful

You can set break points in functions and scripts. Just click to the left of a line of code by the line numbers. Run it and it will enter debugging mode. Variables usually hidden in functions will be displayed on the open variables plane.That works fine for debugging in my non-professional-software-dev experience.

The indexing from one thing aways pissed me off so much (what’s worse is that is trying to keep this straight when using Matlab to do signals processing since it’s obvious that Matlab Fourier transform functions are wrapped C or some other real language)

Sounds like gridlock to me. Matlab is well entrenched in engineering enough that you are going to have a tremendously difficult time convincing anyone to get off it unless some other tool does that same thing SIGNIFICANTLY better accounting for the preference for Matlab.

Your best course of action, even though it may be an underhanded move is if you can convince the higher-ups that there are significant cost savings by not paying for the license.

And unless you are using Simulink or doing some heavy control system modeling, I think that is going to be an easy case to make. The python scientific suite (NumPy, SciPy, SymPy, Matplotlib) APIs are all designed for people coming from Matlab. So adoption costs should be fairly minimal.

If you really want to be a sociopath, I would choose a project that would be impossible to do in Matlab but a cakewalk in python; think some combination of deep learning that interfaces with multiple web apps.

And what do programmers do? Come on man, you are typing this out on a fucking website, which didn't appear out of thin air. Just look around you.

I had this question when I was picking my university. "Looking around you" doesn't work if you want to know what programmers do on a day to day basis. I'd want to know what my average day at work would look like.

A lot of students suffer from a form of analysis paralysis about what a jobs day to day activities actually are. You can tell them straight in their face and show them exactly what's getting done, but that revelation doesn't materialize in their head.

I think with programmers it's the least opaque, they program! There are many large open-source projects out there, their daily job would amount to maintaining and expanding a similar codebase (with a lot of bureaucracy thrown in). I would have answered OP differently if he was picking his university, not having already done two programming courses.

I'm a programmer and my current job is only nominally programming, but in fact just badgering the people who give me tasks to explain what they actually mean because they can't write task descriptions for their lives, then asking a dozen people how the hell a given system ever even worked, then finding out what minimally invasive change gets the desired results without breaking anything, which usually only involves a single-digit lines of code or a few hundred of largely copy-pasted lines ported from different projects. Actual programming ability is the least relevant part of my job. It's also what they specifically requested and what I specifically offered during the hiring process. I have no idea why software companies hire the way they do.

I suppose they really want you to have the skill of programming during that 1% of time you're going to actually use it?

That's probably the notion, yeah, and I guess it makes sense. Still feelsbadman.jpg on most days though.

I see programming as ultimately a means to an end.

With the above in mind, you’re likely to find it easier to stay motivated if you’re working on a project in a domain that you’re personally invested. Instead of worrying about a curriculum, I’d suggest learning only what you need to get your project working - you can always fill in any knowledge gaps later.

However, if you want to do some fiddling about with brain teasers I’d suggest tackling the upcoming Advent of Code..

Am I the only one who just doesn't know how to answer "What are you hobbies, or what do you do?"

I usually respond with joke answers such as "I'm homeless, so mostly heroin" or "I research about Elephants". If they honour my advanced sense of humour by laughing at that I usually give the real answer, if they don't then they don't need to know my hobbies anyways.

It's not that I don't have hobbies, I do. But I just feel like there is no way to answer that question without sounding like a tool or that answer having no information value at all.

Yes, I want to signal that I am a special snowflake. I don't merely go on walks, go to the gym, cook, program, I do those things better than everyone else. I go on walks to unknown areas without a GPS in remote places far from home I have never been to, I kill myself at the gym everyday only doing compound movements, I cook with the rarest ingredients, I program with PEP8 in mind. Only Half joking here.

Of course the main mistake I could be making is that I am assuming this question holds a lot of weight in the first impression, and that its just not small-talk. However, I do tend to be somewhat judgy with peoples responses, maybe I shouldn't extrapolate that expectation reversed onto others? And drop the "judginess", I should know by now that words coming out of someones mouth has (informational) little value being the norm.

I went on a date with an American girl once and that was the only time I was asked “what are your hobbies” straight out in a regular conversation. Really weirded me out. Is it a normal thing over there?

Not from the US. But it's a fairly common question where I live. Asked more along the lines of "what do you do?" But the subtext is hobbies not career.

I'd disagree with suy as taking the answer you provide as insulting. Most people don't actually give a shit. Even more than that, they don't want to hear you talk - they want to talk to you about their hobbies.

That being said, discussing many of the things you do at a higher level is generally appreciated. For instance Instead of:

go on walks to unknown areas without a GPS in remote places far from home I have never been to

I would phrase it as:

I actually like exploring when I get a chance. I'll head out with some water, stop my car at the last recognizable place I can see, and just wander around. It's fun letting go of the phone and GPS for a bit, though it occasionally leads to interesting situations.

Just give yourself a timeclock of 3 sentences each time to see if the person wants to iterate. Give them openings to abandon the thread and push the conversation back on themselves. Don't mention how good you are at things - constant self-depreciation or discussing how good other people are at your hobbies is a way to deflect.

I have a similarly broad set of interests, so if I actually talked about what I do in detail at parties nobody would ever get a word in. Doesn't make sense.

As someone with too many weird hobbies, I say my hobby is cooking because food talk is a good icebreaker for conversation and it makes me seem like an interesting and responsible person.

Anyone can talk about food.

If I heard someone answering with a flippant answer like yours I would avoid them because they lack self consciousness. Being fake or superficial to strangers is not a bad thing.

Given that you post on the Motte, you might as well throw in that you’re an amateur writer, or you study philosophy, or something. If anyone asks you to show something you’ve written just tell them you’re far too embarrassed to share.

If it really bothers you you can always learn to dance. Even though I don’t dance nearly as much anymore, I usually lead with that as a hobby and you get a pretty great reaction across the board. Plus it’s not super tribally coded.

Given that you post on the Motte, you might as well throw in that you’re an amateur writer

I know it's a joke and all but still, a long way to go on that front.

The act of writing itself, I don't find as satisfying as coding where the highs are higher. I think if I was as driven to write as I am to code, I could have produced a few actually useful pieces. It doesn't come naturally to me, I can only write if it's a proxy for a monologue or a conversation.

If it really bothers you you can always learn to dance.

Hmmmm. I will refrain from commenting on this specific topic for now.

Hah I forgot we discussed dance. To each their own.

Coding is probably a more useful hobby than writing at any rate. Just doesn’t have the same status associated.

It depends on context, but I'm going to throw out some somewhat unrelated thoughts.

-- On resumes and in interviews, when one is trying to show value, specificity is key, and people think in stories. So when you're trying to show that you do things better than anyone, be specific, and have a story to it. Not "I go to the gym" which is non-specific or "I go to the gym and work really hard doing compound movements" which has no narrative; "I'm trying to hit a 440lb back squat by this spring, I'm doing this crazy program Smolov my friend the powerlifter recommended to me, man it is BRUTAL let me tell you about the other day..." Everyone in the world goes for walks, I'm not even sure what your explanation of your walking means, everyone knows what the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails are or what summiting a 14er means and most wish they did that and will ask about it. Reading is boring, I'm working my way through all of Proust's In Search of Lost Time is better, "You know, I just read the strangest thing in Kings 12:10 and it was so weird I went and looked up scholarship on it to make sure I was reading it right, Rehoboam really was saying his dick was bigger flaccid than his dad's was hard!" is a story people might remember.

-- If you're relying on people to get your "advanced sense of humor," what you're basically going to do is confirm people's prior judgments of you based on introductions/appearances. If I have a high opinion of you going in, I'll laugh at it. If I have a low opinion of you going in, I will give up on the interaction, not worth the effort if he's just going to troll. I'll leave it up to your own judgment whether you are consistently demonstrating high personal value in small talk encounters; it all depends on context. More than anything this applies with kids, drunks, and people seeking romantic partners.

-- As @naraburns points out, the goal is to find something in common much of the time, or at least something to talk about. I admire that you're a renaissance man, but you don't want to be too all-over-the-place to pin down. Stereotypes are nice, we can just slot new people right in next to the old people we already knew. If I see a guy at my rock climbing gym, and he looks like a classic rock climber with the hair and the patched Patagonia puffer jacket and the tattoos and the beat up Solutions I know exactly how to talk to him and what to talk about, I can probably guess his politics and his dating problems. He might also be a computer programmer or know As You Like It by heart, but I don't know how to slot those things in offhand. Ditto if I meet a guy at a church with mossy oak seat covers on his F150; he might also love poetry, but I don't know how to have that conversation with him right away, I'm more likely to talk to him about hunting. Leaning into a stereotype makes you more approachable, the more you insist on your snowflake status the more inscrutable you will be, which again is great if they really want to get to know you, less great if they're still making up their mind and think you might suck. Better to start with digestible chunks.

But I just feel like there is no way to answer that question without sounding like a tool or that answer having no information value at all.

Yes, I want to signal that I am a special snowflake. I don't merely go on walks, go to the gym, cook, program, I do those things better than everyone else.

This is not something I think a lot about, but it's something I happen to have been thinking about recently due to an exchange I had in the old SSC sub. The thought I had at the time was:

...hobbies don't exist for you to be good at them. Hobbies exist for you to enjoy. Being good at things can enhance their enjoyment! But not always. If you like any of those things, then do them and don't worry about getting good (you may find, eventually, that you get good anyway). If you don't like doing those things, then the desire to be good at them is more like generic envy than anything else. I certainly envy people who are great artists, at some level, but I don't actually enjoy making art enough that I am willing to sit around being bad at it for hours on end.

The idiomatic "what do you do?" is like, level 2 small talk. If level 0 is "I accidentally made eye contact with a stranger in the grocery store so I'm going to slightly nod my head with a flat smile," and level 1 is "some weather we're having, eh?" then "what do you do?" is an invitation to become acquainted, in the sense of becoming acquaintances. It's the first step to finding some connection or commonality beyond momentarily shared physical space. And yes, it is natural to wish to be impressive in such moments, especially if you're hoping to develop the relationship to level 3 small talk (friends relating recent but otherwise trivial experiences) or beyond (I don't know what level "married people small talk" is, but it's up there somewhere).

But jumping straight to "I program with PEP8 in mind" may actually discourage further conversation, if they don't know (or care) what PEP8 is. This is what might be called the autist's mistake--answering a question literally instead of using the opportunity to signal interest (or lack of interest) in further conversation. Level 2 small talk proceeds as a series of proffered openings. For example, "I'm a programmer" can be met with

  • "oh, I'm also a programmer, what do you program?" (meaning, "aha! we have something in common, it will be more interesting for us both to get a bit deeper than that")

or

  • "oh, I'm a banker myself, I don't know much about code" (meaning, "alas, I will not find that topic interesting, perhaps you will find this topic interesting?")

Whereas "I program with PEP8 in mind" offers a narrower choice:

  • "hey, PEP8, nice" (meaning, "I know what that is, are you now as impressed with me as you thought I would be impressed with you?")

or

  • "PEP8, huh?" (meaning, "oh, is this a dominance contest? I should either show off my superior knowledge of something else, or just find an excuse to talk to someone else")

That you recognize the possibility of "sounding like a tool" suggests you grasp the problem reasonably well, but I think you've been too quick to dismiss simpler answers as "having no information value at all." The information people are seeking first, when making small-talk, is not exactly the same as the information they have explicitly requested, but that doesn't mean there is no value in it. The first piece of information you have to establish with others is whether you are mutually interested in developing a relationship (even just as acquaintances). Delivering a low-resolution picture of yourself, initially, allows others to decide whether they want to know more. And once they want to know more, you can give them a higher-resolution picture without sounding like a tool.

Or in other words--stop trying to impress everyone. Keeping yourself out of naked dominance contests will actually enable you to win dominance contests by default down the line.

(I myself have incredibly "basic"--in the most adolescent, pejorative sense--geek hobbies. Where I get to feel like a special snowflake is after I've established myself as fulfilling several low-value stereotypes, while showing great interest in the things others do. It helps them feel superior to me, which softens the blow and helps me to appear humble (I am not, in fact, humble) when they inevitably discover that my education, employment, family situation, etc. is actually quite enviable, in stark violation of the expectations they'd established of me. This is deliberate on my part--sociologists long ago found that the people we tend to like the most are people who we started out not liking, who later succeeded in changing our opinion of them. Conversely, the people we like the least are people who we started out liking, who later lost our good opinion. People who you like and merely continue liking, or who you dislike and continue disliking, will rarely be your most- or least-liked acquaintances, respectively. There is probably a name for the phenomenon but I no longer remember what it is. Anyway in my experience this also works with people's estimations of social value.)

The idiomatic "what do you do?"

I can intellectually understand that "what do you do?" is "low-level" communication by all reasonable ways to quantify that. Despite the fact that when I ask it, I actually mean the exact thing that is being asked. So it's not necessary that I am making the 'autist's mistake'. I might just as well be autistic. And not in the Tik-Tok cutesy, "I'm mentally ill" way but in the:

""" If communication as "low level" as this example is difficult for me to navigate with anything more than the bare minimum of mental processing, I might really be helpless in the face of more complex communication. And not only that but the best way I know to deal with it which is a highly decoupled analysis of the situation is just about the worst way to deal with it."""

It's not that I aim to communicate well enough, I want to communicate excellently, And the snake really rears its head when I think of that.

Or in other words--stop trying to impress everyone. Keeping yourself out of naked dominance contests will actually enable you to win dominance contests by default down the line.

Agreed. But I think mode of interaction, or more aptly, increasingly how my age group tends to socialize is making this harder. For example, In online dating, you have to impress at this instant, right now, or left swipe/unmatch. 'Oh, this one hangout was boring, yeah not happening ever again, we didn't talk that much in college anyways.'

I am not one to want to impress others, My OP might have painted a different picture, but I want to do it because I intuit that for the type of social interactions I wish to have (meeting women, networking events, casting a wide but not deep social net) long term considers might not apply. I want to do it because I think it's what I'd have to do to keep my head above water. I would employ a different strategy if I was looking for long term deep meaningful relationships.

Nonetheless optimizing small talk might be not worth the time compared to optimizing other things (net worth), in this domain.

It helps them feel superior to me

I too noticed that people who started off disliking me end up liking me more intensely if they do. Why this happens all is a total mystery to me. If it's a thing that happens in general and it's just not my mind playing tricks on me.

Is it an aspect of "I was wrong about them being not so bad/good about that one thing(s), what if there are many more like that?"(And the mind fills in the blanks) Or what, I don't know.

I’m interested in your codification of the levels of small talk. Was that spur-of-the-moment, or is it from somewhere?

Entirely inspired by @f3zinker's post, in fact, and completely original to me here.

Google suggests I'm far from the first to think along these lines, though at a glance most of the articles out there are "levels of conversation" or "levels of communication" that put "small talk" at the bottom--or they are lists about making "better" small talk. Analytically, talk is "small" when it is about "unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions" (via Oxford) but the Wikipedia article suggests there are scholars who have explored the subject more deeply (including some culture war inroads on gender and culture differences in small talk).

I may be breaking the analytic concept a little by suggesting attention to "small talk" at different levels of relationship, since most discussions of "small talk" frame it as taking place between strangers or acquaintances rather than between friends or intimates--as Wikipedia suggests that "small talk" especially "helps new acquaintances to explore and categorize each other's social position." But I do think something plausibly characterized as "small talk" occurs frequently between friends and intimates, so I felt like it was probably worth thinking about the matter more inclusively.

That pairs well with my understanding of friendship levels, and how they're all qualitatively different, not just differing in amount of friendship.

  1. Acquaintances have shared attributes,

  2. Friends have shared experiences, and

  3. Intimates (ohana, family and found family) have shared purpose.

This question is usually asked primarily to find some point of convergence with you where your interests overlap, but I'd say there's also some informational value to be obtained from even vague responses. Certain hobbies tend to correlate with certain personality traits, political views, etc, and it can be used as a proxy to easily (but imperfectly) predict what a person is actually like.

Incidentally, I'm always a bit wary of the question "what are your hobbies", since whenever I give an honest answer I think people often tend to form a profile of me that is absolutely nothing like how I actually am.

This question is usually asked primarily to find some point of convergence with you where your interests overlap, but I'd say there's also some informational value to be obtained from even vague responses. Certain hobbies tend to correlate with certain personality traits, political views, etc, and it can be used as a proxy to easily (but imperfectly) predict what a person is actually like.

Ideally my goal is to find as much convergence with someone as possible.

So I wonder what would be the optimal number of items to mention when asked that question that gives the other person a decent approximation of things you share in common without making your tribe too obvious. Even though I admit my "not curated" list very clearly paints me as Grey Tribe. (Obviously assuming the average person and marginal utility and balancing social norms and all that.)

Incidentally, I'm always a bit wary of the question "what are your hobbies", since whenever I give an honest answer I think people often tend to form a profile of me that is absolutely nothing like how I actually am.

This is one of my trepidations as well. Which is why I try to get the joke in first to soften the blow of having the wrong set of hobbies.

If they respond with something like "Okay where do the elephants fit into all of that?", I know we have a keeper.

So I wonder what would be the optimal number of items to mention when asked that question that gives the other person a decent approximation of things you share in common without making your tribe too obvious. Even though I admit my "not curated" list very clearly paints me as Grey Tribe.

For me, it's not so much a problem that my tribe is obvious, rather the issue is that my hobbies paint me as a member of the very opposite tribe. Many of the items I disclose would also make people think of me as an arty, subversive and sensitive person or something along those lines - which actively makes me shudder, since it's very much not how I view myself nor how I would like others to view me.

With regards to not giving them a sense of your tribe, though, I'd say that what's more important than the amount of items you mention is keeping people on their toes by consciously including a mix of hobbies that pull their perception of you in both directions (if you're able). This allows you to disclose a lot of hobbies and interests while not giving them information you don't want them to know.

For me, it's not so much a problem that my tribe is obvious, rather the issue is that my hobbies paint me as a member of the very opposite tribe. Many of the items I disclose would also make people think of me as an arty, subversive and sensitive person or something along those lines - which actively makes me shudder, since it's very much not how I view myself nor how I would like others to view me.

What set of hobbies are you disclosing?

And why would this happens despite you being conscious of this happening and being able to correct for that?

And why would this happens despite you being conscious of this happening and being able to correct for that?

I meant this would happen if I was 100% honest and transparent about what my hobbies actually are. My most visible and distinctive hobby that I do a lot, for example, is making electronic music (which is often fairly experimental). It's stuff like this that would almost certainly have me pigeonholed, with all the baggage that comes with it (probably Blue Tribe, probably goes to raves, might take drugs, higher than average chance of embracing "alternative lifestyles", etc). Having spent time in communities filled with these people, I'd say these are for the most part reasonable mental leaps that I would make myself because the stereotype has merit on the population level, but they sometimes fall apart on the individual level like in my case. And there's other stuff that strengthens the idea of me as an "artsy person", like my interest in writing fiction.

There's other stuff of course that I can use to answer this question if actually asked this in a real life setting (such as board games, hiking, research into certain STEM topics I find interesting). Though apart from the last one I'd say these are mostly quite bog-standard activities, it's like saying you like reading in response to the question of hobbies.

EDIT: clarity