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Small-Scale Question Sunday for November 27, 2022

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

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

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

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

One last call for mini split data before wrapping up the post, specifically from Europeans:

What brand and type do you own, or what brand do you see most often?

For all the "Europe is so far ahead on mini splits" talk, it appears that in Finland they provide a tiny minority of heating (6%?), with the majority being either coal/gas/wood-byproducts district heating (in cities) or gas/wood (in the country). I'm starting to suspect it's another one of those cases where Americans are mostly just hearing from the kind of Europeans who have multiple vacation homes.

How to acclimate myself to working at a mid-sized corporation after working at small shops forever?

I recently joined as a software engineer a company whose employees number in the low thousands. I'm finding it hard to get used to it. Everything's pretty impersonal. Things move slowly--what would normally take me a week takes three instead--which extends feedback loops to a great extent. It's uncomfortable: I feel like I'm failing to deliver, even though my manager and onboarding buddy say I'm doing great.

(It's not completely a huge-boring corporation; my sense of contrast is likely tickled by it being a big change for me.)

A friend of mine recommended I think hard about what my manager's scoring function is and to optimize for that. (I would like stay with this gig for 2-4 years). He also recommended I read The Prince.

Has anyone else made this kind of move? Or, if someone here has spent considerable time at corporations, do you have any advice/reading material (preferably less theoretical and more practical)?

I made the same move two years ago and I still feel like you do at present. My teammates are fairly personable and the atmosphere is alright, but the product is a huge tangled mess with responsibilities all over the place and it feels impossible to do anything without first going to a dozen different people to ask for contextual information, which naturally takes forever. The veterans who've been at it for >10 years can do this quickly and instinctively, the adaptable newbies learn how to do it within a few years, but I just keep facepalming every time I see a ticket that consists of a title and nothing else.

Eh, maybe not quite the same situation as yours. The relevant point is that yes, it can take a long time to become productive in a large software company.

Thanks, my morale is boosted knowing I'm not the only one trying to make headway in a situation like this.

I moved from a mid-sized corporation (with an IT department under 1000) to a huge-boring one (with an IT department in the tens of thousands). It's been a year and I still feel like I'm failing to deliver. I am a manager, so it's more likely I am actually failing.

Get to know people in all three dimensions: up and down the data flow, up and down the process flow, up and down the reporting chain. Don't be a headache for your manager. If you're on top of your obligations, you're golden. If you promptly escalate any blockers to your manager, you're silver. If you use your relationships with people along the dimensions to unblock yourself, you're brilliant, make sure to let the manager know and they will blow you. Don't be afraid to toot your own horn a bit.

Thanks. It seems my main focus should be on building relationships very broadly.

Is it my imagination, or has the political balance tipped to the right since The Motte switched sites? There's still left-wing people here, obviously, but it feels more right-wing than before. It could be my imagination. The main reason I come here is to be challenged by people I disagree with who also happen to be smarter than me.

Definite swing, but not that severe on balance.

-- Several existing right wing regulars have taken off the gloves. You see a lot more out and out extremism. Some have deepened into self parody, probably for personal reasons unrelated to the move.

-- Before you got blow ins from /r/ssc, now they're from rdrama.

-- If you spend a lot of time online, your right wing sense starts tingling when you get certain signals and slurs. Those are being broadcast by some users, and even if they're a minority that ultimately gets largely downvotes and banned, while they burn they take up an undue amount of your attention.

-- Mods seem to have been gentle for a bit with trolls, probably for fear of choking off the new site from new users, and there are some really right wing trolls right now. Maybe I'll go make a left wing troll account to make some balance.

Maybe I'll go make a left wing troll account to make some balance.

Oh please don't. I'm dismayed by the right-wing Poe's Law problems here now, but doing the same to the left wouldn't fix the problem, it would double it.

Oh have a sense of fun! I want @RabbiSchlomo telling us the answer to the JQ is that yes Jews run everything, and here's why that's a good thing...

That doesn't read like a left wing troll account to me, it reads like a right wing troll account rather blatantly strawmanning jews.

I think the balance has always been a bit to the right, but I haven’t seen nearly as much far left posts from the trans humanists or similar topics.

It does seem like the election and trans issues have been dominating conversations recently.

There were a number of polls on the old site, showing consistent left wing self identification among readers and posters. This has probably tipped over now and others might make different assessments than the users themselves.

Furthermore, this of course depends on what one means by "left". There has been an overwhelmingly strong "anti-sjw" bias since the beginning.

The Reddit trolls didn't come to the new site, so there's a huge reduction in drive by "how dare you!" comments. I'm not sure the balance of commenters has changed much, although it's safer to say certain things away from the eye of sauron Saruman of Many Colours.

Should the United States just double or triple the size of its legal infrastructure (courts, judges, etc.)?

Even if you're not libertarian/minarchist minded, you probably agree that running a legal system is one of the most important things the government should be doing. Yet it seems like so many of the problems of the legal system are simple supply problems. Issues like bail, the costs of litigation, the difficulty of executions (as mentioned by a poster below), the inconvenience of every single legal encounter, etc. would be solved or greatly lessened by expanding legal resources. And relative to the vast majority of things the government does, courts are not expensive. I'm guessing the U.S. could double the entire legal system for less than 1% of the budget.

Should the United States just double or triple the size of its legal infrastructure (courts, judges, etc.)?

Yes, by 1-2 oders of magnitude, if you want at least pretend that sixth amendment means something. Currently, 90-95% of cases are solved with plea bargaining, and for good reason - currently existing courts are clogged even with the small percentage of cases they deal with.

If you want to keep jury system, you would also need large military police force dedicated to rounding up massive numbers of necessary jurors (I do not insult you by suggesting something as unamerican as actually paying jurors living wage).

Why don’t US cities have pickpockets? I’ve always heard (in the US) that if you’re traveling to a major city in Europe to be on the lookout for pickpockets, and I’ve heard stories from a few people who have had wallets/passports/phones stolen there. But despite the US having more crime in general I’ve never heard of this happening in any US city. You hear that there are certain parts of US cities to avoid, and I’ve heard stories of muggings or bikes being stolen, but nothing about pickpockets. Does anyone have a theory about why this is?

I have no data, but I have to imagine pickpocketing is much riskier in the US, given some fraction of the victims may be armed.

This seems like an implausible, if flattering to the firearms crowd, explanation. In many European cities pickpockets basically only target tourists (preferably East Asian ones), of whom there are even more in the US and who I'd expect to basically never be armed; pickpockets everywhere are known to be discerning about their marks/good at identifying easy targets anywhere; and even if some pickpocket's mark turned out to have a concealed firearm, how would that endanger the thief? As far as I understand, shooting at someone running away with your wallet doesn't normally count as self-defense, and most parts of the US are probably not far enough down the Somalia spectrum that the shooter would risk it in the expectation of getting away with it.

(Are you perhaps confusing pickpocketing for mugging of the "dragged into a dark alley and threatened with a knife" kind? I'm not aware of that being common in absolute terms in Europe, or more common than in the US. If anything my priors would be to be more worried about it in the US, because I'd expect more potential robbers to have access to guns, whereas as a tourist/visitor in the US I may not be legally allowed even if I were a firearm-carrier in my homecountry, and tourists are probably the juiciest target everywhere.)

In Texas and a few other red states it is legal to shoot a man running off with your wallet and this fact is taught in concealed carry license classes.

I do think that much laxer self defense laws play a role- almost everywhere in the US allows you to beat your pickpocketer even if you can’t shoot them, at least in practice.

No I'd expect mugging to be relatively more common in the US where weapons are more available.

Don’t we see the opposite, if anything, where mugging is mostly associated in the US with places that have strict gun control regimes(eg New York) and not with places that have lax ones(eg Houston), despite the often higher murder rate in the latter?

It’s reasonable to attribute this to fear of armed victims by potential muggers in Texas(where lethal violence is allowed in more or less any defense of property… or in immediate attempts to recover property), but not in NYC.

Other posters point to the Roma, but let's explore the difference between the Roma and the stereotype American underclass. The Roma are defined by tribalism, an absolute devotion to preserving their own traditions and family. The American underclass is defined by a near total lack of parental involvement, a sky high rate of fatherlessness, kids getting "lost in the system" after cps takes them away, foster care, raised by grandparents, etc. If you're born into a two parent household in America you are wildly likely to escape absolute poverty and crime, while efforts to break Roma gangs have historically relied on getting the children away from criminal parents.

Pickpocketing, done right, is a skill one must learn. It requires coaching, practice, dexterity, memorization of plays, teamwork. It's the kind of thing that will be passed down within a family, not the kind of thing 5 fatherless boys on a block will invent for themselves. If one was born into a criminal family in America, odds are the father is gonna get three strikes and 20 years before he can teach the kids anyway.

It does not necessarily have to be some high-skill job of slicing the purse and removing the wallet silently. My "pickpocketing" experience from Barcelona with my friends was once somebody attempted to steal a phone from the restaurant table, the other time somebody wanted to take my backpack in similar situation. It is apparently so prevalent that all waiters politely reminded us to safeguard all our belongings - and supposedly the situation got worse after COVID. In Latin America it is "popular" to have people on motorcycle running around and stealing shit from people on the sidewalk. This type of crime is not exactly something that requires high skill.

See, not to play no true Scotsman, but that's not really a pickpocket, that's just a purse snatcher. The warning to American tourists from your uncle who tells you bring a moneybelt is something like "and I didn't even realize the money was gone until I went to pay for a drink that night!" Purse snatchers and phone grabbers exist in America just as well, what we don't typically have is the high skill "And I didn't even know it happened!" stuff. But maybe this is all my great aunt's generation warning us about stuff that never happened in our years anyway?

Given, I didn't get pickpocketed when I was in Barcelona. But then, I've also never been mugged in Flatbush, beat up in the Bronx, shot in Chicago, or carjacked in Oakland {though I have been to Boston in the fall.} Despite being drunk, white, out of place, overdressed, and a pussy in all those places. So for whatever reason my luck seems to run well there.

Look, in my eyes it is the same. Pickpocket gangs are basically organized as snatchers. If you detect a pickpocket suddenly 4 people around you turn aggressive and it turns to snatching/attempted snatching.

So my argument is that pickpocketing is just a developed version of snatching. But no worries, we are going to get there at least in Europe.

I would delineate between bag snatching and pickpocketing. Both are probably more common in Europe.

Pickpocketing is done almost exclusively by Roma people and there are barely any Roma in the US.

there are lots of Roma in the US, they just integrated rather than forming societal enclaves

There’s plenty of Roma societal enclaves in the USA, they just run scams of varying description(I’ve run into ones doing fraudulent auto work in the past, and I’ll eat a hat if they weren’t up to their eyeballs in some kind of tax fraud scheme. I’ve also heard of them being fences.) rather than pickpocketing.

Pickpocketing is also a huge problem in South America, I don’t think you can just blame the Roma for all of it.

While I agree with the other commenter that living and travelling in Europe i literally never felt at any danger of being pickpocketed, if there is a real difference in risk I think the reason is pretty self obvious. Especially if you have spent some time in Eastern Europe or Balkans. How many gypsies are there in the US?

I have lived in various European cities throughout my life and travelled through countless more.

I have personally never been pickpocketed, and neither is it something I ever think about. I think the answer, unless someone presents evidence to the contrary, is that people's perception of European pickpocketing is vastly overinflated.

NYC has pickpockets, especially on the subway. has something that can explain why:

Pick pocketing, purse snatching and violent robberies are very common especially where thousands of local commuters and unsuspecting tourists from all over the world gather, sticking out like ATM machines. Pick pocketing mostly happens on busier stations where there is a crowd, while robberies are more common late at night where there are less passengers around.

You need large numbers of people using public transportation or walking around for pick pocketing to work. I tried to test this theory by googling for pickpocketing news and it looks like the usual suspects like San Francisco with its walkable streets and Muni do have pick pockets as well.

It's very possible that lax US self-defense laws change the pattern of crime committed- you're more likely to either carry a weapon(mugging) or target unattended goods(bike theft) when victims are allowed to beat pickpockets with impunity.

The last I heard about this was years ago and don't currently have any cites, but apparently the US broke up pickpocketing rings in their cities while the Europeans didn't. This was part policy, part sentence length, and partly because European pickpocketing rings are ensconced in difficult to police ethnic communities the way US drug gangs are.

There's a lot of institutional knowledge and organization involved in running pickpocketing scams rather than the customary beating-people-over-the-head-with-a-tire-iron, and putting away the leaders/teachers broke the cycle.

This is now considered "discredited" as it suggests that policing rather than police abolition can reduce crime, but even Slate acknowledged it at one point (along with "lazy millennials don't want to learn an honest trade any more" lol)

Edit: have to give the slate article credit: "professionals from countries like Bulgaria and Romania, each with storied traditions of pickpocketing" is a wonderfully polite way to say "fucking gyppos took my wallet!"

A few possibilities occur:

  1. Pickpocketing takes a certain level of skill. If you're criminally inclined, strong arm robbery or purse snatching are much easier.

  2. Maybe it does occur, but isn't reported to police (either because people assume they just lost their wallet or the amount lost isn't worth the trouble).

  3. Maybe it's reported to police, but isn't considered newsworthy.

Does anyone have a theory about why this is?

Well, in most major US cities, you're going to be transiting it by car. There are a few exceptions to that, of course (New York, parts of southern California, Vegas), but when everyone's in a car the number of potential marks would be abysmal compared to Europe, where because most people are on foot you both have a much wider selection of targets and crowd cover to help you get away.

Of course, there's probably a substitution effect going on; the equivalent crime in the US is probably carjacking. But then again, stolen cars are a bit more difficult to fence (unless parted out) and get away with if the police are pursuing you, so all else being equal I'd expect there to be proportionally less of those.

I see these articles from time to time about how difficult it is for the USA to execute people - not talking about appeals or courts, but literally the physical process of execution via lethal injection consistently fails. Elizabeth Bruenig has been on this beat for a while - Kenneth Smith, Alan Eugene Miller, Joe Nathan James Jr - 3 pieces she's written about at least that discuss doctors/executioners unable to find a vein, or something, and unable to carry out the execution.

What I can't figure out is, why is this so difficult? This came up for me specifically because of all the recent articles in Canada about MAiD (aptly named? dystopian?) Medical Assistance in Dying - I'm not hearing tons of articles about Doctors struggling to administer euthanasia, people dying horrifically painful deaths as they have reactions to the chemicals, etc. etc. - Why is MAiD so seemingly easy to administer, but execution not? It seems like they both involve sticking a needle in someone and injecting a substance. I hope this isn't a stupid question - I'm not looking to debate morality of either of these items but just explore actual logistics and mechanics. What am I missing?

My understanding is that various drug manufacturers have taken steps to avoid their drugs being used for executions (believe this happened for both pentobarbital and sodium thiopental), which has led to prisons needing to use compounding pharmacies to make the drugs for them, with varied quality.

I've also read that many doctors don't want to be involved in the testing or administering of lethal injection cocktails, so the state kind of has to take who it can get, leading to more varied quality there.

I'm guessing MAiD hasn't yet had the same degree of pushback from those groups, at least so far (though I would be very surprised if it hasn't had any). That could certainly change in the future.

Also, frankly- I think comfort is a much higher priority for doctor assisted suicide than it is for execution by lethal injection. I think screaming pain moves the popular support needle away from euthanasia much faster than from execution.

This raises the question of why the US is insistent on using lethal injection when other parts of the developed world, when they have the death penalty, mostly use hanging.

I'd guess it's the same reason we don't use corporal punishment (painful just to watch, incredibly painful to endure, but low-time-preference offenders get maximally deterred by it and potentially-rehabilitated offenders can still go back to family and work the next day) but we do use long prison terms (no instant of which is super awful, except maybe the one where the offender is fired and the one where their SO leaves them, but which adds up to more suffering over years).

At least subconsciously, we want to be cruel but we don't want to feel like we're cruel, so the cruelty has to be slow and calm and quiet.

And as for why the US in particular? My guess here is that it's because we're aware that when we were routinely cruel, we were just too awful at it. Corporal punishment reminds us of Puritan pillories for skipping church in the best case, or of whipped slaves in the worst. Hanging reminds us of lynch mobs. The one good thing you can say for long prison terms (including our ever-longer waits on Death Row) is that they provide lots of time to rectify an unjust miscarriage of justice. (not that we will, in general, but at least the possibility remains open)

Does anyone think that Japanese or Singaporean long drop hanging is any crueler than lethal injection? I mean, sure, public hanging from a construction crane, Iran-style, is outside the Overton window due to perceived cruelty. But that’s not what’s being discussed. There’s some movement in the us away from lethal injection because, as noted, it doesn’t work very well, but usually to firing squad or inert gas asphyxiation.

Honestly kinda seems like a fixation with being modern and technocratic more than anything else.

I get the sense that among the proponents of the death penalty in the US, there is a certain ritual component to the act; it's not just about killing criminals, but rather there is a specific vision of the appropriate way(s) to kill the most heinous criminals so that justice may be served in a proper American way. Hanging is not part of any such vision, and instead evokes a sense of foreign countries and brutal episodes of history that definitively are out of place now that history has ended, almost as if the proposal were to enact the death penalty by public guillotine.

(You might imagine an opponent of the religion restricting access to white flour to disrupt Catholic/Orthodox Christian communion, and then asking why they don't just do it with slices of whole grain rye bread instead.)

Thank you this makes sense - it comes down to the actual chemical composition, and the difficulty obtaining it.

Is there any way to do single line spacing on here, or are we forced to reddit-space in shame?


two spaces


reverse slash

test: HTML

br element

All three of the methods listed in the specification seem to be broken at the moment.

Thanks, I thought it might just be my old browser or potato phone causing it. Markdown is a pain.

Listening to a podcast about "Mcnamara's Morons"; guys who couldn't pass the exams to serve in the military who were shuffled in to bulk up the ranks. The host talked about guys who couldn't learn how to tie their shoes, who died in combat. Then a tangent began about draft dodgers in the Vietnam era. Are there any good comparative studies of whether the Vietnam era draft was dodged more than other comparable drafts?

I know that in the Civil War one could simply pay a substitute to fight for you. I've heard a few less credible stories of draft dodging in the World Wars, stuff like Lucky Luciano intentionally getting Syphilis to avoid service. But I'm wondering what the scale was like, and if anyone knows of a good comparison.

Gwern wrote a good review of the book.

This is a personal anecdote. I always hear that teacher are very underpaid in relation to the value they bring but having worked as one for some years and knowing personally some teachers, that doesn't seem true. Most are quite lazy and relaxed on the job and mostly they seem unfirable, and they use the relative low hours to get a second job, generally private tutoring. Now, there's a disconnect between my lived experience(TM) and the rhetoric. Was I just unlucky in my encounter? I would like to research and read more regarding this but all I find is article about how teachers deserve the highest pay.

In Alberta, they make around 90k a year after 10 years of experience, 100k typically if they have 6 years of university. I know that it's pretty busy at first with lesson plans and marking, but my understanding is that many teachers eventually optimize tests/plans/etc. and manage to reduce that time quite a bit as they get more experienced (Scantron for the win?). This combined with an excellent pension, weekends off, summer off, 2 weeks for christmas, etc. etc. It's also very difficult to be fired, and your job is pretty much secure as long as there are kids to fill classrooms.

Attached some stats from Calgary Public School district (though salaries are set by the province IIRC)

low hours

Do teachers work low hours during the school year? AFAICT, they do not:

Teachers look underpaid if you compare 180 day a year teachers to jobs working more like 250 days a year. If they use the 70 extra days a year to earn money at something close to their teaching wage, they seem pretty competitive in most areas. They'd look pretty highly compensated if they earned a competitive 250 day/ye wage in 180 days.

The people who say teachers are "underpaid (they are paid slightly lower than the highest paid countries if you take GDPc into account., But they are not underpaid by any reasonable comparison)" in the US, are not making a quantifiable argument. They are making a vibes-based argument.

These same people think education is that which turns beast into man, incompetent into competent, and savages into civilized. There's also a grand narrative aspect to it; teachers shape the minds of the owners of the future. In their world, teachers getting paid anything less than infinite (or engineers or worse programmers or even worse businessmen) is a tragedy. Because ____________{uncharitably they are growing their [very very valuable!] tribe because the ideology that puts formal education above all else is perpetuated by... educators}.

A similar argument is people who argue doctors are underpaid because "they save lives". Unfortunately, economics doesn't work that way, water keeps you alive but it costs less than an iPhone.

How do you (personal or impersonal, your choice) find the time and energy to ever add to discussions, here or elsewhere? I enjoy reading other peoples posts here and seeing the discussions that form. I could read for hours. But I find it hard to sit down and write out my thoughts on anything just because of how long it takes. I want to pay my debts to the community in the local currency, but it's just so draining to write anything more than one or two sentence replies (which is probably why I'm more lively in real time conversations). Reading and lurking just feel like an infinitely more productive use of my time, even for topics I claim to be passionate about.

Is it just a matter of exercising my writers-muscles? Is it my method of commenting, is there some more efficient way to comment? Do other people put hours into posts with any amount of substance? How do I avoid the feeling that my time on any corner of the internet is pissing into an ocean? Is most everything on here peoples' first edit? (I find myself going back and forth, writing and re-writing a lot of what I have to say). Maybe participating just isn't made for me.

This is generally a question of "Why is commenting so hard and how do I stop lurking?".

(This comment took somewhere between thirty and forty minutes to make as a point of comparison. I have no idea if that is a lot or a little. It feels like it is so much more than it should be).

You should consider if writing long chunks of text is actually paying your debt to the community. People waste a lot of volume here speculating (in detail) about things that could be pruned to 1 paragraph if they just looked things up, or tried to ground their idea with a fact that could quickly "sanity check" it.

I lurked themotte for a long time. One day, not too long ago, I decided I want to get more serious about participating. I can think of a few pull factors that motivated me:

  • I have something valuable to share, either because of my unique perspective/experience or because I've picked up something that not many do.

  • I'm curious to be proven wrong. It's happened at least twice that I got feedback that shook me on a deep level because I realized that I overestimated my understanding of a topic.

On the technical side, some answers to your questions:

  • I've grown to like writing, so each post or comment that I write is a little fun exercise.

  • Some posts of mine were first drafts while others took a week or two to draft and redraft until I was satisfied with the level of clarity.

    • This was a major hangup of mine in the beginning. I was nervous about how people would perceive my writing. It turned out that most are curious and I feel like every time I post is a chance to get sucked into a scintillating discussion. This realization really helped alleviate part of my perfectionism and bring my perception more in line with reality--in other words, I worry less and post more.

    • The times when I post the first draft, I've usually turned the idea around in my head for a while or talked it through with friends. The times I need more drafts are usually because the idea is vague and I don't know how to structure before transmitting it in words.

  • The quality of comments my writing gets here is astounding. I do not feel like I'm yelling into the void.

(This comment took somewhere between thirty and forty minutes to make as a point of comparison. I have no idea if that is a lot or a little. It feels like it is so much more than it should be).

There's a lot to unpack here probably, if you're willing to bear the discomfort.

I'm not as active as I used to be, given the additional friction from having the Motte move off Reddit, and IRL engagements. That said, when I do write, it's because-

  1. I feel like I have something interesting to say

  2. I have domain expertise regarding something someone else said, for example I might chip in with medical advice once in a while.

  3. I'm proctrasturbating instead of doing something more important (ding ding!)

Roughly in diminishing order of frequency.

While writing a comment worthy of being dissected here is a task and a half, I take pride in my writing, and the idea of an unusually astute audience reading it is always a bonus!

Frankly speaking, unless you're making a gigantic essay on a topic needing citations and framing, just let it rip.

Or wait till some, gasp, is being wrong on the internet, that usually gets the writing juices flowing ;)

Don't worry, it's not just you. I'm finishing up some graphs for a big post, and it definitely feels like pissing away time for no real benefit.

Beats playing video games though.

Do other people put hours into posts with any amount of substance? Is most everything on here peoples' first edit?

Just to answer the direct question, most posts I personally write that are shorter than say, two paragraphs get minimal rereads. I post in a kind of edited stream of consciousness, one sentence at a time that I pick apart words and structure to keep it flowing from the previous sentence and prepare for the following sentence. I pick some portion of a post that I'd like to address, respond to or critique and then state up front the point/objection/tangent and just keep writing until I think I've made the point. And then I hit go.

Longer posts and posts with larger scopes need much more forethought but for little responses to direction questions it doesn't take much. It's kind of like hacking together something to get the job done rather than formally engineering it. Most posts are fine living in the housing equivalent of a shack you built from garbage on hand. Others can't possibly be accommodated by anything less than four star treatment.

It is no different for me than talking.

I rarely make "effort posts" in that the posts take effort. They are often long but always effortless. Ideas come into my head, I blurt them out into the keyboard. Then arrange them around and press 'Comment'. Most of the comments I make take me no more than 3-4 minutes to write. You shouldn't be writing at your speed limit, write at 70% and maintain that for long enough that your 70% of the future is your >70% of today.

You are probably overthinking it. It doesn't need to be perfect. Just put it out there and see what happens for now.

I personally tend not to comment unless there is a topic I'm passionate about , I've encountered a 'someone is wrong on the internet' issue, or a topic comes up that I feel uniquely able to address.

So if there is a topic you are passionate about or something you think you have unique knowledge about, then write! Make getting down your exact thoughts on a topic its own satisfaction. Take pleasure in manipulating the rhetoric to try and hit just the right note for what you're going for. Focus on the act of writing itself as whats enjoyable.

Bonus points if at any point you edit your comment to be more in line with the sentiment of charity and exactness. Shoot for that Actually A Quality Contribution Ribbon! Or, alternatively, make it clear to yourself that you just have a simple comment or idea and stop yourself from overthinking about the issue. Easier said than done, but I think either approach is reasonable.

And keep in mind that a lot of comments here are Pareto's of Pareto's. Once the blur of names start to become more clear you'll notice the same names over and over. These are people who are extremely comfortable with posting. By the mere fact of post regularly they are unusual people. So your case is likely far more normal.

I cut back on the amount of time I spend arguing here because I noticed I wasted hours writing and constantly refreshing the page. And sometimes, while reading, I get sucked into this spiral of trying to parse vague comments together to figure out what each poster is arguing. It's almost involuntary and is sort of unpleasant, but if I don't piece it together I will spend the rest of the afternoon thinking about it trying to figure it out. When I do comment now, I try to make it a little closer to stream of consciousness, and when I read I try to avoid comment threads that don't have arguments I am interested in, which greatly cuts down on writing and reading time. But sometimes that means the arguments are poorly composed and my points are not as strong as they should be. I suspect practice, more than anything, would help write argumentative comments faster.

Sometimes the time feels like nothing, there's little or no cost to writing on something I care about. I definitely put many hours into substantial posts on the old site.

“it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to talk and remove all doubt.” -- Mark Twain

I can't stop myself from commenting on anything. Sometimes I've signed up for forums/subreddits specifically to lurk, and I still can't stop commenting. Maybe it's arrogance, most of my posts are shit. Sometimes after all the objections come in I don't even agree with them anymore.

There's an old story I remember being told in Fed Courts class about a judge who kept trying to write his decision one way, found that as hard as he tried he just couldn't write it, and realized he should reverse his decision and write it the other way and found it flowed right out of him. When you believe in what you're writing, or at least when you enjoy what you're writing, it will happen on its own. What do I/we/theMotte/theMedia/theWorld get wrong that you know about that makes you mad? Ok, now work outward from there.

I comment very sporadically for this reason — effortposting takes too much time and, well, effort! Even when I do comment, it's usually just a brief thought. The Motte is an entertainment + procrastination venue for me, and my substantive effort is reserved for things like my actual job or personal creative projects. I do try to contribute by promoting the community elsewhere on occasion.

Is it just a matter of exercising my writers-muscles?

In general yes, the way to get better at anything is to practice. I work as a writer and I've gotten a lot faster over the years (though I'm still not particularly fast, nor prolific, in the overall distribution of writers).

Is it my method of commenting, is there some more efficient way to comment? Do other people put hours into posts with any amount of substance? [...] Is most everything on here peoples' first edit?

It varies. Some people are indeed investing hours into their posts and going through multiple rounds of edits. Others have the enviable combination of logorrhea and natural eloquence.

Can anyone direct me to some useful writings about the experience of psilocybin? Effects of persistent use, personality changes, therapeutic stuff. I find myself frustrated that clinical discussions are too clinical to convey much actual insight, while most other writings about shrooms are Wellness gibberish about auras. The most useful text I've found on Shrooms has so far been Dune, which says more about me than it does about hippies.

Examples: I've found myself accidentally rattling people by inferring personal details in conversations with them. I've started to experience what I can only call "visceral intellectual distaste" towards lots of specific things, but a common theme is people having their social instincts exploited. Slot machines, chatbots, any automated voice that "pretends" to be human, (which has now spread to include actual human people who speak in slogans, talking-points, or cliches.)

I'm not sure how much of this is specific to me, and how much is just what happens to Melange users.

Shower thought: I live in an area that has 100% green electric power generation. If I use more power than necessary, does this increase or decrease my net carbon footprint? Say I pay out of my pocket to run 1 MJ of green power through a resistor. What effect does this have on my carbon footprint, as defined by the difference in overall emissions compared to the counterfactual world in which I didn't do this?

I have conflicting thoughts:

  1. Power is power. If I didn't use that power, it could have been used instead of coal-derived power by somebody else. And obviously, most people would prefer to use greener power rather than less green power, if given a choice - and this argument holds all the way down the chain to the person using the least green power available. So the net addition to my carbon footprint when wasting 1 MJ of energy is determined by whatever it takes to produce 1 MJ of power at the tail end (i.e. coal). Or a slightly refined version: By supply and demand, increasing demand on green power just drives up the price of green power, causing more people to use non-green power because of the price differential, thus leading to the same 1 MJ to be burned in coal plants to cover the waste.

  2. As a consumer of green power, I am essentially paying for the construction of green power plants. So all I'm doing is subsidizing the production of more green power, so my net carbon footprint is the sum of what it takes to build that infrastructure, minus whatever benefit will be derived from it after I'm done using it - so probably effectively neutral (or slightly negative).

"100% green power" is nonsense marketing, because electricity on a grid is the ultimate fungible commodity. During periods of high load, your marginal watts are being generated by a simple cycle gas turbine just like everywhere else, but you pay an extra indulgence fee to be told it was "net green."

Avoiding use (especially during high load periods) is the only way to do anything about that.

Do you all generally use a computer/keyboard to type your posts and comments? I use an iPhone for pretty much 100% of my Reddit browsing and can’t imagine typing out 2000 word essays on a smartphone.

I pretty much exclusively use my iPhone to do internet things, unless I need to upload or download files (and sometimes I'll just download those to a cloud service via my phone and get to them later).

Don't think I could stand to type so much without Braille Screen Input. And it has had versions where the problems rendered it nigh unusable. A bluetooth keyboard would probably be better, but IDFLI.

I browse on a phone in the AM on my commute, and very rarely use my computer for here or reddit.

Will actively avoid posting from phone, and instead prefer to just remember to comment later when I'm back at my desk. Sometimes it doesn't happen but oh well.

I almost never comment with phone, when I do it's short and I use voice to text.

50/50 PC and smartphone. You can tell which one I'm using by the length of my posts and the typo density.

I do small posts on the phone but anything more than a paragraph I just wait until I can get to my desktop.

I use both.

Desktop PC only. I'll scroll and browse from an iPad, but posting without a keyboard seems too tedious to bother.

iPhone only at the moment

Yes, I use a desktop PC or a laptop. Using a smartphone leads to me lurking more, as I can't be bothered to write a large comment.

I generally try to use a computer for all web browsing. Not all the time (sometimes I'm not at home), but most of the time. Computers are strictly superior to phones in every way except portability.

I have, when the inspiration has struck, written 4000 word comments on my phone. I don’t recommend it. My phone would occasionally reload the page, so I’ve probably lost 50,000+ words of navel gazing on the Reddit mobile site.

RiF has a feature to save drafts, which I've found very useful when writing long comments on mobile.

Keyboard, obviously - I could use a phone if it was the only thing available, and have written x000 words on one before. It's annoying, but doable - still better than a typewriter or handwriting! A laptop's much more portable, so I don't have to reach for phone as much

Both. Use phone to reply to comments on my posts.

Use PC to make posts. I'm not high on life enough to bother writing Markdown and HTML formatted comments on my phone.

I'm liable to use my phone, which is perhaps a mistake. The interface can be pretty laggy...though I have similar issues past a certain size in the notes app, so it's probably down to my phone's age. It's particularly bad for citing sources thanks to mobile links and no access to adblocking. Also, the modern web was a mistake.

But on the other hand? It's in my pocket and my desktop is not.

Almost exclusively.

So, what are you reading?

I'm still on Dorian Gray. The prose seems more to my liking this time around. Must be the influence of other books.

Still following Pale and not much else of note. It's a fairly interesting exploration of the struggle for justice and peace (along with the contradictions between the two) in a world where Right does make Might, but not quite all the way, if you don't mind the noticeably Blue Tribe author and themes. It's also a novel about magical girls.

Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East - David Stahel

1/2 through. Makes the case that Barbarossa started shitting the bed in the opening weeks, not just at the gates of Moscow. Casts a very harsh light on the Minsk and Smolensk pockets in the immediate opening stages of the war. Very critical of Halder & Guderian.

Money- Emile Zola

1/4th through. Realist fiction of the moneyed classes in mid 19th century Paris. Absolutely hilarious. The main character Saccard is a delight of failure & ambition. The audiobook for Zola's 'Germinal' was very good and made checking out Zola's other works seem worthwhile. - about how West's effort to "improve" "developing world" fail and why they do. About midway through it, sounds interesting, though there are some topics that get a bit repetitive (I do not necessarily disagree, just wish the same point would not be repeated too much).

The Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch — it's a little too comprehensive for my taste, and thus a bit of a slog, but interesting enough that I'm going to finish it. Broad theme: Once the universal hold of European Catholicism is broken, various polities discover through successive rounds of bloodshed that it's no longer practical to have One True State Religion.

The Bridge over the Drina

By far the best book I have ever come across for depicting the human side of Balkan/Ottoman history and just an incredible series of observations about the human nature, societies, change, continuity and modernization. Serves as a great account of an already complex and developed civilization's contact with the Western culture, which is a phenomenon often overlooked in modern narratives in spite confrontations in Africa/America/Australia where the civilization levels were much more mismatched and there is a clear dynamic of conquerer/conquered.

Also written wonderfully and doesn't bore one at all. Won its author a Nobel prize in literature and a seat in the (communist) Yugoslav parliament even though he wasn't really a communist at all. Throughly recommended.

Usagi Yojimbo, Homecoming. A long-anticipated compilation in the long-running manga, A samurai whose lord died in battle has been a wandering ronin doing good acts around Japan. He finally returns to his home province and home village wearing his dead master's sigil. He does not intend to spark an insurrection against the current lord, but when one happens... well, you'll have to read it to find out. Somewhat topical.

For the more biology inclined among you:

What is the principled difference between Epigenetics [legit science, considered an important new frontier of genetic science], Lamarckism [old-timey predecessor to Darwinian evolution, wrong but not evil], and Lysenkoism [Soviet fallacy that was the demonstration of political correctness in action, wrong and evil]? From 30,000ft it feels to me like the story goes something like Lamarck comes up with it before getting superseded by Darwin, Lysenko revives the idea before getting superseded by Stalin's death and subsequent de-Stalinization efforts under Khruschev, and now it's being revived by modern biologists (with race-grievance experts lurking the background seeking to hijack any actual research to prove their own ends).

The only apologia for Epigenetics on the "it's Lysenko/Lamarck popped in the microwave on thaw" objection has been that epigenetics is more limited in scope than Lysenkoism." But then I read other epigenetics papers and they make claims as wild as Lysenko any day, especially where humans are concerned or humans can be blamed in nature, and at best the field seems like a bit of a motte and bailey.

So what's the real deal? How broadly applicable is epigenetics, and how I do tell good epigenetics from bad epigenetics?

I think the difference between epigenetic and Lysenko is the difference between "I can program a computer to do many different things" and "I can take a computer apart and make a chicken salad, a bicycle or a live cat out of it". The step of taking an electronic scheme and making it flexible so you can make it do different things is a big one, but still you can see how you could get there. But making a live cat out of it is taking it way beyond reasonable.

The cool kids know that bioelectric signaling networks structure the pattern formation of organisms and form an even more important epigenetics.

So much so that you can take a flatworm, tweak the way it’s cells electrically communicate, and thus induce it to change the shape of its head and brain into that of a different flatworm species without altering its DNA.

The big difference is that Lamarckism claimed to be the only biological mechanism of heritable phenotypic changes transmission. And Lysenkoism denied the existence of immutable heritable traits altogether: with sufficiently advanced treatment you could take a zygote from a Sentinelese islander and force it to develop into an Ashkenazi Jew or even a rat.

How do "race-grievance experts" use epigenetics to support their "it's not their fault, it's our fault"? Is it "we need to coddle and pamper the disadvantaged groups for X generations to remove the epigenetic markers of trauma"?

Epigenetics - as a mechanism for inheriting traits, across generations - is severely exaggerated by media, pop science, etc. A number of reasons for this: it's an easy way to escape HBD / blame racism / avoid the impact of genetics, and it just sounds cool. The number of proven cases where 'epigenetic mechanisms' contribute to heritable phenotypic differences in humans is small - especially compared to how "normal" genetics creates every aspect of human biology. On the other hand, epigenetic changes like DNA methylation and histone modification, as well as others, have many, many important effects in biology, just not ones that involve a child inheriting trait from a parent.

Here's a criticism, found in a gwern newsletter, of epigenetic inheritance of trauma

How many of you have a blog?

I'm thinking of starting to collect my random Motte posts / ones from others that inspired me and editing them a bit to make articles. I know a few Mottizens have blogs like @TracingWoodgrains and @ymeskhout have blogs, but how common is this strategy?

Mine is more of a newsletter with a website — but I suppose most are these days. Here it is:

I like the hosting platform Ghost a lot, but Substack is probably better if you don't have an established audience yet.

Loved your brutality of life reading list. Now I have something to satisfy my pessimistic morbidity.

I've thrown a few longer-form posts up at clockworkthought, but I've not been as consistent about doing so as I should. It was originally at PMMeYourObsidian's request, but it's since been moderately useful as a way to repository drafts or hold longer-form pieces without having to depend on someone else's hosting services.

((On the downside, it's also turned into a holding spot for drafts that sometimes sit there for over a year.))

Not sure how common it is, even among our longer-form writers.

I have a blog, much of which consists of editing forum posts and snippets (not necessarily just here, but commonly here) into material.

What's your end goal? And what are you trying to optimize for?

Starting a blog is trivial nowadays, you don't even need a website, just get a Substack domain.

Eh, basically just to practice writing and get myself to do more research. I enjoy commenting here so figure a blog would be a more productive use of time but also scratch the same itch so to speak.