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Small-Scale Question Sunday for February 5, 2023

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.

Any thoughts on the "Chinese spy balloons"? I just did a search for "balloon" on here and couldn't find any discussion of it. Was wondering if anyone had any theories or points to share on the situation

Balloon is a funny word for a funny thing. The theory I heard is that no one among the deciders cared the other times it happened. When some civilian spotted it, the populace started hyperventilating and demanded that Something Be Done about the balloons.

In the end, the balloon will always get through. Blow up a balloon, watch it fly away.

Highly symbolic of the rest of the Choyna Threat: inflated.

F-22 shooting down a fucking unguided balloon to the tune of mass hysterics about the violation of American sovereign space is just about how I expect the US-China competition to unfold. That said, maybe it is part of a fancy «spy balloon fleet».

It's been a few months since ChatGPT was released. Since then, there have been several culture war discussions related to ChatGPT but I am still unclear on why this is relevant to the culture war at all. Can someone help me understand the relevance?

From my understanding, at the end of the day ChatGPT is just some fancy AI model predicting a likely output based on the input prompt and the training data. It's not AGI--additionally I have my own thoughts and opinions about AGI in general. Sure, I can understand why "banned" topics are culture war relevant, but that's more about policy from the "owners" of ChatGPT rather than about the AI itself.

Sidenote, but @Alchemist, I swear my username isn't a targeted attack against you; it's purely a coincidence.

What books/papers would you recommend on modern AI research and machine learning techniques for someone who has approximately a CS bachelor's knowledge of computer science? (ie Programming, Algorithms, CLO, OS, Discrete Math, and AI on the level of Game Trees, etc)

I have an opportunity I'll likely have to fake in until I make in. I know the basic concepts of neural networks and deep learning but want a more rigorous background.

I would like to write a letter or an email to Mike Pence. I can't find any contact information for his offices online. Does anyone have any ideas how I might go about contacting his office? If there is no way to contact his office I will just message one of his social media accounts.

Social media might be the best way, he probably has managers who check that. Not to mention it's faster.


I suspect you're correct.

I've had a number of friends who have interned with congressmen and the like, and a common report of the experience is returning constituent mail, with the common theme being the general thanklessness of it, and how it was basically useless work pawned off on interns.

Earlier this year I read Path to Power, the first book in Robert Caro's series about LBJ.

I guess LBJ became a congressional staffer pretty shortly after college.

Apparently he attacked constituent mail with particularly uncommon zeal.

If you were writing your congressman about veteran's benefits, or something, and your letter happened to show up on LBJ's desk, you were in luck, he made a point to figure out who the best person to talk to cut through the government bureaucracy help you out.

The book is modestly handwavy about the exact mechanics of it, but I guess in the fanaticism he showed handling constituent mail, he was able to build a reputation as a helpful person in Washington to take your problems to, and various business people are always on the look out for people to take their problems to.

And those people wound up being the key supporters LBJ needed for his rise...

Anyway, I guess that's one of the big themes of Caro's book, that LBJ had something of a gift for see the potential for power, where other people didn't.

Is he involved with any PACs/Charities/Churches publicly? Assuming you actually want to get into contact with him, rather than just hurling a letter to the editor into the ether, your best bet is to write a check to a cause he is involved in, and include a message indicating you'd like to get into contact with Mike. Probably won't work unless it's a considerable check, but even $50 gets your letter a lot more credibility than sending it to MPence@VP.Gov or whatever.

Does he even have an office?

I don't think he has any taxpayer provided staff. Realistically he's doing speaking gigs and consulting at this point, so he'll have a handful of permanent employees to organize that.

I doubt he has staff to respond to random letters from the general public.

Mottizens who have dated: what percentage of your partners would you say were Marriage Material? How many Marriage Material partners did you have a shot with?

I'll define Marriage Material here as any of: you would have wanted to marry them OR wish you would have married them OR you feel in an objective sense they "deserved" marriage even if you didn't really want to.

Partner and had a shot with I'll mostly leave to you. I'd say anyone after age 16 with whom you had a romantic relationship that lasted more than 5 dates or with whom you made love while in a romantic relationship. But I feel like that inquiry is more fact specific and context dependent.

For me: it's 5/25 I'd say could have or should have married, including my wife who I did actually marry. A rate of 20%, and five real opportunities across my youth. I could fiddle one or two either way, but after that it's a steep dropoff into people I couldn't imagine being with today.

Low sample size, but 2 out of 2…so 100%?

Not sure if I got very lucky or what.

1/12 for me with my current partner being the 1. I’m lucky(?) in the sense that I’ve dated quite a bit but I have another regret about not marrying my previous partners. I do regret some of the ways I acted, but not that we didn’t end up together.

The one partner that may have qualified left me because I didn’t break a stated boundary, which I found stupid enough to disqualify her. Basically she told me the whole “I don’t want to do X my parents would never approve,” so I didn’t. Turns out that’s what she wanted the whole time.

Overall most people I’ve dated have been highly depressed and/or anxious, like myself. Even my current partner. I hate the modern medical distinctions and think they’re full of holes, but I do think it takes a neurodivergent person to truly bond with another one.

Realistically, yup, I was always going to get married young. Too much of a puppy dog. Just lucky I was picked up by the right one, in the end.

My first impulse is always to avoid these sorts of threads but it occurs to me that I might be remiss in doing so. Hopefully something in here might help out the younger guys.

I'm a middle aged male married with kids. I've had maybe half a dozen or so one night stands and random summer flings in addition to 3 relationships before my current partner that I would consider "serious". Of those the first was absolutely marriage material. We knew each other in High-school but didn't start dating until after we had both graduated. Relationship ended because we were both young and dumb. She'd shipped off to college, I'd shipped off to the military and neither of us was really interested in putting in the effort to make the long distance thing work, we parted amicably and remain close friends, but with the benefit of hindsight she is "the one that got away".

The second is one that I thought was marriage material but all my friends (including the girl described above) kept telling me was a evil psychotic bitch that I should get the fuck away from. I ignored them because she was hot and the sex was amazing. At the end of the day it turns out that I was thinking with the wrong head. She is now my "psycho stalker ex wife".

The third is one that I find hard to classify because while I really liked her, we were both coming out of pretty abusive relationships (in my case the previously mentioned "psycho stalker ex" and in her case a guy that used to beat on her) and were both each others "rebound". She was sweet and there are a lot of things about that relationship that I wish I had handled differently but in the end she cheated on me and in response I cut and run.

Current partner/waifu was the room-mate/bestie of one of my friend's GF, and the two of them basically conspired to get us together. She wasn't exactly "my type" being bubbly perky and petite as opposed to the "leggy femme fatale" sort I usually go for. But we got along well and became friends with benefits. After about a year I was looking at relocating for a job and called her with the intention of cutting things off, only for her to reply with "I've got something I need to talk to you about to". We met for coffee, I told her that I was leaving town, and she told me she was pregnant. After a brief moment of panic I asked her if she would like to come with me.

Edit to add: that was about 9 years ago now, and we've been together since.

That's sweet. Nice to hear there are still decent people out there.

This post made me appreciate why you have such a strong brand on here that you get brought up in conversations you aren't even involved in all the time.

Please don't take this as fishing or trying to undermine because I'm actually kind of curious, how so? what was it that stuck out?

Quite distinctly different than all the other stories here. A very distinct voice and character to it. Read the other replies, just focusing on content you're the only guy with an ill considered marriage and a psycho ex wife to show for it, or a shotgun wedding from knocking a girl up. I don't mean any judgment, but you have different sins than most of the other posters. Different sins than me, mine are mostly of the "timing" variety of your first relationship.

0 out of 5

what percentage of your partners would you say were Marriage Material?

If you're asking if they were MM for me personally, I'd say about 50% of the guys I dated were. (that's about 7 out of 14.) I think the other half weren't unmarriable for someone else but they weren't compatible with me.

How many Marriage Material partners did you have a shot with?

Mmmm, ten years ago, I didn't have a shot with any of them, but these days I think I have a good shot with almost all of them. (I attribute this to being more experienced, more confident, and more honest with myself about what I'm looking for)

1/2, with my husband being the 1.

As a serial dater/fling-haver, unmarried at 33, the real question is whether I myself am marriage material, lol.

Very rough count I would say 1 of 13, based on your standard. There are certainly a couple of others where I think I could have made a reasonably happy married life if I had to; but only the one that I feel quite certain about.

I would say most of them are probably Marriage Material for someone else; that is, they are marriageable people. Just not for me. Oddly I think only 2 of them are in fact married currently. (Including the one I really missed out on.)

I feel like my values and lifestyle have changed a great deal since I was a teenager and even since my mid-20s; so maybe it's for the best that I didn't marry those women of my past. But then, if I had, I'm sure I would have grown into a different person in some way anyway.

I think it's about ~3/20 for me. Some of the women in the Not Marriage Material category are very nice people that I have nothing but fond memories of, but they just weren't smart enough to be someone that I'd want to spend my remaining years with. A couple of them were actually pretty terrible people, but came around at times that I needed an ego boost, or that I was desperate enough to tolerate terribleness. The three that were in the Marriage Material group:

  • Girlfriend that I was with for nearly three years during grad school and the beginning of my postdoc. Foreign, very religious, sweet demeanor, very attractive. She's probably a fantastic wife and mother. We eventually had too many conflicts - language, religion, her dislike of my hobbies, me generally being an asshole for no good reason at that age, and more. If we'd met at a different time, I probably would have figured it out, although I suspect I wouldn't have been happy. She deserved to be treated better and I hope she has been.

  • Brief fling with a girl that worked in my lab for the summer. Genuinely amazing person, absolutely hilarious, very kind. I have nothing but positive things to say about her, but she went back to Scotland after summer and we didn't try to make that work.

  • My wife. Marrying her was among the easiest decisions I've ever made in my life. We've been together over a decade and have never had an actual argument. I think I could reroll life many times and never find someone that I fit with more easily.

@FiveHourMarathon, at what age did you notice "marriage material" becoming the majority?

Having dated at ages 23/24 it felt as though the women I saw had a lot of growing up to do.

I wish I could offer some optimism to you, but honestly if anything it's.the opposite. Thinking through the list, the temporal edge cases were nice girls I knew when they were 18 who had problems at 25 or 30, do I count them because they might not have married that Schmuck or gotten into drugs if they had married me at 18? (I leaned No) I can't actually think of anyone who I dated at 22 who "grew up" into a good partner. I'd say things like maturity, chastity, employability improve; but a girl that will help you clean up after a party at 18 is still a girl who will help you with the dishes at 30, while the spoiled princess at 18 is probably worse at 30. Just anecdotes.

I think the best thing you can do is marry young and grow together. But that's just one opinion, at the same time my parents married when they were older and have had a fantastic marriage (pending opinions on their weirdo son).

I'd say things like maturity, chastity, employability improve; but a girl that will help you clean up after a party at 18 is still a girl who will help you with the dishes at 30, while the spoiled princess at 18 is probably worse at 30. Just anecdotes.

This matches my experience. The other thing I'd note is that I'm in my late 30s now and I always find it odd when people my age say things like, "I could never date a woman that young" with regard to some cute twentysomething that's just out of college. I met my wife when she was that age and I suspect that I'd have just as high of an opinion of her if we'd met when I was ten years older than I was at the time. People kind of are who they are by that age with only incremental improvements or decline to be had.

I don't think it has to do with the personality, or values, of a young person. It's more about the probable lifestyle mismatch with that much of an age gap. I once had a college buddy observe that at 21 he would be out drinking late, wake up early to go play rugby, go to classes, and just generally have a full day (and then stay up late drinking and repeat for the next day). But at 31 he would sleep in, spend time working quietly at his doctoral studies, and have a glass of wine by the fire before going to bed early (and felt that to be an excellent day). He was still the same person, but his lifestyle dramatically changed from his 20s to his 30s. And I have found that generally to be the case for most people.

I'm married now, but when I was dating my wife in my early 30s I wouldn't have wanted to date a woman in her early 20s. Not because they were bad people or anything, but because we would've likely been in totally different places in life and had a hard time relating to each other's activities.

The other thing I'd note is that I'm in my late 30s now and I always find it odd when people my age say things like, "I could never date a woman that young" with regard to some cute twentysomething that's just out of college. I met my wife when she was that age and I suspect that I'd have just as high of an opinion of her if we'd met when I was ten years older than I was at the time. People kind of are who they are by that age with only incremental improvements or decline to be had.

Getting old sucks. People have to believe there's some upside to being uglier, having less energy, and losing the wide blue ocean potential of youth. Some people get better with age. Others get worse. As a rule, you accrue status, skills, and capital while otherwise degrading, and your human qualities remain the same.

And then eventually you're writing a letter Ndugu, like...

5 of 6? I feel like I don't understand the question, or my dating was way out of the norm even here.

I'm not sure I understand why would one accept a date with someone who didn't meet that third criteria even if they found they weren't compatible.


One out of one.

Yeah same. I was both very unlucky in that it took me forever to be able to actually get a girlfriend, but also very lucky in that the first one was a keeper and I married her.

I'm surprised at the number of romantic snipers out here.

Less charitably, there's probably a larger than usual proportion of nerds here, people who are morbidly terrified of the world of dating and are both less willing to date casually and more willing to settle down with the first romantic success.

Or that the question is worded wierdly. I had a number of sexual liaisons before I met my wife but I didn't ever really date.

What usually happened was that I met someone at a party -> we hit it off and went home together -> spend the night/weekend together -> possibly meet up at later weekend to do much the same -> not pursue things further.

Having a number of essentially ONS i understand (novelty and trying things out with someone) but serially dating/marrying? I could understand someone staying with their first partner out of fear of not getting another (and learning how it's like and how to be in a relationship) but people that have dated like 5 people for multiple years by 30 without locking things down? That seems so insecure/dysfunctional if there isn't very good reasons for the breakups.

How would you phrase it? Sexual partners seems odd to me, many of mine I have no idea whether they would have made good wives or not. From what you said, I don't think your one or two night stands would have given you much insight either. Sex isn't a good indicator of seriousness. I tried to leave that to each person up determine when they'd have that judgment.

I would phrase it as how many of the people you had a shot with did you consider to be marriage material. Id also define what "marriage material" constitutes and from whose perspective.

The way you qualified things now can make people seem like puritans or losers even if they are the opposite.

As for whether you can tell, I think you can from way earlier than 5 dates. Furthermore what I'm referring to are not tinder dates with completely unknown people. If I meet someone at a party, odds are that I'm at least somewhat familiar with who they are, at least indirectly, even if we haven't talked much at length previously. It isn't so much the sex itself that gives you information as the increased closeness, spending time in their home and learning a bit more about their personal familial and financial situation that does it.

If I go on a "tinder date" then maybe but even then I'd say you probably know before date 5. The issue is that (some)people don't want to think about this stuff, not that it's impossible to tell early. I've been able to tell from the first meeting with friends girlfriends whether things are going to last or not. The issue isn't figuring it out, the issue is whether you're lying to yourself or not.


Mrs FiveHour once described our dating process as I was like a rabbit running across a field, and she was like a hawk waiting for me to break cover before she swooped down on me and sunk her talons in.

Funny, I’m the exact opposite. I invited my partner out for coffee and she didn’t even know it was a date until I kissed her. Luckily it worked out.

1/1 given your criteria.

I think this is a dangerous topic to dwell on, at least because regrets are weird...

Agreed. Which is why I'm asking it on here rather than in person, for fear I'll never be able to talk to David and Melissa the same way again, or something like that. What brought the question up for me was watching an old episode of Sex and the City with my wife, where a character asserts that one only gets two "great loves" in one's life, so because she whiffed on the first she has to try harder on her second chance; the naughty implication being that the protagonist has used up her two great loves and is still single, meaning she is doomed! Because I watch RomComs like a male autist, I became curious what the average number of good partners a person like me (a modal mottizen) has a shot with in their life.

This is an obvious corollary response to people asking "Where have all the good men/women gone?" Not just "Well I got married so I was able to find one, you can too" but "Across my twenties I had 3-5 opportunities to marry someone decent, you can expect to have about that many shots if you're conscientiously looking." On average, should I advise a 22 year old that they have three (3) bites at the apple? Seven (7)? One (1) so you better take it when you get it? Obviously it is one hundred percent incidental and individual, but I'm curious how the averages play.

I'd also note that for me, anyway, the regret aspect looks more like "Wow, I should have been more careful with A/J/S's hearts, they deserved better" than "I would be happier if I weren't with Mrs. FiveHour." I'm very confident I made the best choice for me, but trading life stories, I feel bad about some ex partners. And of course, my wife and I never tire of counterfactuals when we're stoned: what would my life be like if she had gone to Penn State and I had married that Black girl who has an MfA and teaches poetry now? What would her life be like if UVA had come through with a scholarship for me and she had married her best friend who spent our college years mooning over her? Would I be an evangelical if I had married A? Would she have converted to Greek Orthodoxy if she had married G? It's fascinating, especially because we married young, so subtracting each other from our lives means starting over at the character creation screen at 19.

By those criteria, 1/3, ie. my wife being the one.

I'm 1 for 1 so far. :)

Morally, consenting adults, anything goes. But in this fallen world, relatively high risk of scandal, loss of employment, and a vengeful ex keen to play those cards. Assess the future "victim"s emotional resilience and decide. From what I've seen, it's in short supply these days.

Seems obvious that one shouldn't have a relationship with a student when they're responsible for grading their performance in any fashion. Ethically this is too much conflict of interest, and incentivizes students to seduce professors.

How to prevent it? Don't really know.

Outside that, I have an extremely strong 'don't shit where you eat' rule that, were I a professor, would preclude me from pursuing a relationship before the other party graduated. Although I'd probably end up bending the rule if they were in their final semester and weren't taking any of my classes.

The 'rationalist' take is going to just be the pure utilitarian "do the benefits outweigh the harms, as far as can be predicted in advance?"

But that discussion could end up going a few different ways. The naive version is "as long as the relationship is kosher by the standard of any other romantic/sexual pairing, should be fine."

Not clear why the rationalist take would change much just because it's professor/student.

What's the rationalist take on romantic relationships between university professors and students? Never? Only after the teaching relationship has concluded? Only after the student has graduated? Only after the student has been out of school for [2, 5, 10] years? Only if the age separation doesn't exceed [5, 10, 15] years? Both adults so anything goes? Only if potentially permanent? Only as a series of fleeting flings?

I see it like workplace romance. Institutions have an incentive to crack down, but there's no moral crime being done. My advice is, like with workplace romance, to keep it a secret until one partner leaves.

As for age gaps, the taboo against 50yos dating 20yos is a relic of the version of our civilization that enforced monogamy. Widowers double dipping with fertile women is a form of polygamy that crimps the supply of wives of mediocre males. Now that society doesn't meaningfully enforce monogamy, that taboo is just an old, irrational prejudice.

As for age gaps, the taboo against 50yos dating 20yos is a relic of the version of our civilization that enforced monogamy. Widowers double dipping with fertile women is a form of polygamy that crimps the supply of wives of mediocre males. Now that society doesn't meaningfully enforce monogamy, that taboo is just an old, irrational prejudice.

I come from a polygamous society. There is criticism of it there too - mainly from women, actually. It's just that it's so patriarchal it doesn't matter. not that way so that criticism does matter.

Yes, there is a motive for weak or young (a lot of men look mediocre compared to a man further into the labour market to a woman of their own age) men to limit competition, but I don't think it's what's meaningfully driving the taboo in the West at this point.

I think it's actually driven by intrasexual competition amongst women who really don't want to compete with younger women for older men. The situation is asymmetrical: men value youth more than women, so women feel like they're losing out on "their" men (a similar thing happens with black men vs black women ; men marry out more. It's reversed for Asians). There's nothing more rational than trying to hobble your sexual competition (in this case while acting like you're concerned for them! Great example of covert social combat)

This is why the whining about age gaps is almost always about an older man, e.g. Leo DiCaprio (when it involves a woman it's driven by a desire to be consistent or to mark feminists as hypocrites*)

If your theory is right, this should fade as the old norms are torn down. If mine is right, it shouldn't (because intrasexual competition is eternal).

Obviously I'm biased, but my experience is (looking at the Leo thing) that the taboo continues and may even be intensifying. It's just that feminists - being handcuffed by blank-slateism - need to come up with some new justification beyond "it hurts our nonmoral interests" or "men and women are different" have had to lean on the argument that it's "abusive". Which has now become the canon explanation.

* See also: prison rape jokes.

Yeah, I totally agree that monogamy enforcing / age gap shaming is propped up by mostly female interests these days. The reaction of men to Leo is usually, damn, what a lucky bastard. (I didn't think of it while writing my comment because I have a biased viewpoint.) DiCaprio as a model for successful males is the archenemy of unmarried women from the mid-thirties and up.

However, I do think the taboo is a historical feature of our society, not an eternal dynamic of sexual competition. Other civs have had different norms — I don't get the impression that Afghanistan, say, makes any bones about age gaps even for totally monstrous child marriages; and there are actually tribes where the sexual norms are that old men get all the young wives. Past the level of city-state, things tend to converge into a few sexual regimes that work. The legacy package of Western monogamy (no premarital sex, til death we part, no widowers chasing young wives) was selected and conquered the world because of how it changed the behavior of males. This is my background paradigm which I abbreviated in my reply.

In practice, females enforce the norms.

It's just that feminists - being handcuffed by blank-slateism - need to come up with some new justification beyond "it hurts our nonmoral interests" or "men and women are different" have had to lean on the argument that it's "abusive". Which has now become the canon explanation. **

Yup, that's what it boils down to. According to consent theory, there shouldn't be a problem with age gaps between adults. If you can sign a contract transferring $100k of your money to a college, you are definitely equipped to decide whose bits you want inside you. But people have to find some moral justification for their gut reaction, which is still rooted in values older than consent theory. This is what I mean when I say the taboo is irrational. (Not to say you couldn't justify age gap restrictions rationally)

However, I do think the taboo is a historical feature of our society, not an eternal dynamic of sexual competition.

The taboo? Yes. I guess the better way to put my position is that the impulse is natural but whether there's an enforced taboo varies by culture. Same with homosexuality and all sorts of other things.

Women I know loathe the idea of a younger second wife (enough that my mom warned me against it lol) and probably always have* but there's no strong taboo yet, since there's a counter-vailing norm for polygamy and many men aren't really inclined to care about the complaints of women.

The legacy package of Western monogamy (no premarital sex, til death we part, no widowers chasing young wives) was selected and conquered the world because of how it changed the behavior of males.

I don't know if I would go that far in establishing a causal link between this and Western dominance** but I know that there are at least scholars I respect that do (e.g. Joseph Henrich)

* Cross-pollination with the West in the colonial era muddies the waters but I don't think the British invented the sense of grievance I've seen.

** One could argue that Western dominance led to replacing old norms with Western-flavored ones (e.g. like with Christianity)

Only after the student has graduated. There's too much potential for corruption or exploitation to go on for it to be anything otherwise. I don't have an inherent objection to even an 18 yo student dating a 60 year old professor from another though. But in that case I would want to keep a close eye on things to make sure no one was being taken advantage of if I was a friend or family of either.

My view? Either adults are adults, or they're not. Our society says eighteen is the cutoff.

I'm more than happy for there to be social norms against these sorts of relationships, but I don't think there's anything inherently exploitative, even if the odds are better.

Campsite Rule. Leave your casual partner better than you found them. That means no pregnancy, disease, heartbreak, missed opportunities, destroyed friends/family relationships. If you succeed in threading that needle it's fine, if you fail then you're a shitheel.

With the big exception being that if you get married (and stay married for ten years) the rest is irrelevant. Justifies anything.

Note that both these are retrospective rather than prospective. Focusing on how relationships are formed rather than their results is the disease of consent-only sexual ethics. It's not just about the professor or student making the right decision to start a relationship, it's making the right decisions throughout to keep the relationship in bounds.

This is a long shot. I am trying to track down the source of a half-remembered quote I saw on twitter, I believe a screenshot from a book. It went something like this.

Imagine a man who devotes himself to potatoes. He lives his entire life in a room made of potatoes, he sleeps in bed made of potatoes, he eats only potatoes, etc. Now imagine another man who lives a more varied life, who knows a potato, but also knows turnips, onions, cabbage, etc. Which of these men has a greater understanding of the nature of potatoes?

The point being that the first man has no point of reference. Although he has spent far longer with potatoes, he lacks the framing and context that the generalist has. Appreciate any leads on this one!

My instinct is that if I had a question that pertains entirely to potatoes, the nature and properties of potatoes, the potential uses of potatoes, then the first guy is the obvious choice. If I had a question about how potatoes fit into the larger world, or interact with other vegetables, or (obviously) comparing them to similar vegetables, then the second guy wins.

I never saw that specific tweet but I saw a similar one that continued "So this is my essay on why to be truly straight, you need to have sucked a dick..."

I wrote a long post for this before realizing it was basically stupid.

What is Sam Hyde?

My read on him is that he is basically a very far-right person who sort of realizes you can't be openly far-right even ironically without choosing to sacrifice basically all the benefits of participating in mainstream society. So because his political beliefs, aka, what he thinks is true about the world, need to buried under many, many layers of irony in order to allow him to semi-exist in and benefit from the mainstream, everything he says or does ends up being buried under many layers of irony.

But at a certain point I don't even know. Apparently he was dating a transgender person a few years ago. Not that you can't be far-right politically and do this. But it throws me for a loop. This is also something that Hyde might just make up about himself as a rumor to spread around. Not exactly sure why he would, but I'm not exactly sure why he does much of what he does.

Is he smart? He bragged about being admitted to Mensa on twitter, which strikes me as actually not something that a smart person would do, but also something he would absolutely do ironically. But that aside, he actually did join mensa, meaning he has at least 98th percentile IQ, regardless of how 'smart' that makes him.

Is he a sociopath? His acting ability is extremely good and he's able to avoid dropping character for really long periods of time, to the point if I question whether or not a typical (non-sociopath) person would even be capable of doing the kinds of acts he does.

What's anyone's best read they think they have on him as a person? He's stumps me in a way few other people who nominally don elaborate public-facing facades still don't.

He’s a modern version of Andy Kaufman. The rules have changed since the 60’s so Hyde’s transgressions are more provocative, but it’s basically the same act.

He's responsible for every single mass shooting known to man


Yes, he is a comedian first and foremost. If he thinks something is funny, he'll say/do it. That's the main driving force. Most of the time he is mocking people he believes deserve to be mocked, or putting people into uncomfortable situations. He will make racist jokes. I don't believe him to actually be a virulent racist or antisemite or whatever. I don't even think he is a particularly political person.

Is he smart?

98th percentile sounds right. I think he's currently running his own company with a few employees. He is not a moron.

Is he a sociopath?

No, not for my understanding of 'sociopath'. But he is willing to commit to the bit and put on a production, like what he did to idubz. Again, in the name of comedy, and in that specific case, because Sam thought idubz was going to negatively portray him.

I don't believe him to actually be a virulent racist or antisemite or whatever. I don't even think he is a particularly political person.

Can you explain your thoughts on this?

Haha I guess it is a contrarian take. Most/all of his content isn't political, not in the way that people like John Oliver, John Stewart, Glenn Beck, etc, are. If you watch World Peace, the sketches are things like a parody of a /fit/ guy, or a wife who cucks her husband with an IVF sperm donor, or a pickup artist helping a disabled guy get laid.

I mean, a lot of the comedy is subversive. It's funny precisely because you can't say it, e.g. MDE released a book titled 'How to bomb the US government'. So in a world where you're not supposed to quote crime statistics, standing up in front of a crowd and quoting crime statistics becomes funny, but also gets you labelled as all kinds of things. Or, after getting your show on adult swim, wouldn't it be funny to sing "Jews rock!", and include footage of producers looking uncomfortable?

I don't see Sam as a culture warrior, like Nick Fuentes or Milo. During the BLM protests a couple years ago, he was telling people not to protest/counter-protest, not to get arrested, it's not worth it, just be cool, etc. I feel like he's generally sceptical of politics, he doesn't have an agenda, he's not trying to enact change. He has anti-establishment views, and satirizes the PMC, the Davos elite, etc, but I feel like it comes from a position of accepted powerlessness.

As for 'virulent racist', that's just not the vibe I get after watching him. I mean, Sam invited Harley Morenstein (Epic Meal Time guy, and jew) to come and train with him. Sam made holocaust denial jokes and they both laughed. It feels more like a "I don't care what race you are as long as you're racist" type thing.

Interesting perspective, thanks for the response.

He definitely is far-right in some genuine way (see the censored 'stay tuned shooters! 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 H8' at the end of the 'jews rock' video, or the lectures about art degenerating). He also, though, has a deep interest in weird humor, and it's also his job, which is what you are noticing. There are plenty of far-right people who are gay/trans/date trans people, just like there are people who are white-nationalist adjacent but indian, 'ideologies' aren't unified wholes but groups of related tendencies one can hold some but not all of. My guess is he wasn't dating a trans person and that's either a bit he did or a false rumor though.

The bragging about being admitted to mensa was a joke. As part of the "pretending to do dumb things" bit.

He's a comedian first and foremost, and I think the reason he seems so hard to pin down is that he's doing more than dressing up an ideology in plausibly deniable terms.

He reminds me most of Andy Kaufman. One of the few bright parts of a mass shooting is when some media firm falls for the viral reports that the killer was Sam Hyde.

Given the level of competition aimed at fame, I tend to believe the error is more often under estimating the intelligence of people who sustain fame, even the ones who seem pretty dumb.

Does anyone have any experience with bird feeder cameras? I was considering a Birdsy, but the reviews arent great, and there doesnt seem to be that much else on the market that's looks legit.

So, what are you reading?

Still on Watts' The Way of Zen. Also reading some essays on here critical of Zen. I'm a bit surprised at how recent the discussion is. For some reason I thought that all the robe-wearing men had their sex scandals long ago. It does appear that it was talked about in the 70s, though few consequences came from it.

Just started Masters and Mages by Miles Cameron. Excellent so far, seems a pretty standard high fantasy trilogy.

His other series, The Traitor Son Cycle, is a breathtaking masterpiece of high fantasy that even manages to be relatively historically accurate. If anyone is looking for a new fantasy series I’d highly recommend it.

Following Scott's recommendation, I'm about a quarter of the way through Samuel Shem's The House of God. The comparisons to Catch-22 are apt, although so far I don't find it quite as satirical/farcical as that book, and a lot of it feels more like straight memoir than magical realism. It's interesting that I'm not a big TV person, and tend to watch the same handful of TV shows over and over again (mostly shows I first watched when I was in secondary school), one of which is Scrubs. I was dimly aware that Scrubs was partly inspired by The House of God, but having read a chunk of it, Scrubs might be better thought of as an unofficial adaptation.

Just reading the summaries on that page, almost all of them seem to be some form of "Zen practitioner did a bad thing". To me, that's not the same as being critical of Zen.

  • "Bell briefly outlines two well-known scandals that have hit two Buddhist centers"
  • "the Sõtõ Zen school has become embroiled in controversies over traditional institutional practices that foster prejudicial attitudes and social discrimination."
  • "this article explores how Eido Shimano, abbot of the New York baseed Zen Studies Society, has been accused of sexual misadventures for over 30 years"
  • "Victoria explores the question '...what is the relationship, if any, of the Buddhadharma with nationalism? ' "

.. and so on. Naively, I would expect criticism to be more like "Zen teachings are incorrect because <indecipherable jargon re: the Way>", or perhaps, "study finds students struck in the face by Zen Masters achieve enlightenment no better than chance", or similar.

In the few I've read there's a fair amount of what I would call "essentialist" views, which argue that the scandals were in some ways directly related to the teachings of Zen. For example, one monk in particular reportedly claimed that since the incident took place in a private room, whether she says he touched her, or he says that she took his hand and made him touch her, are both just subjective views, and the paper (Zen Has No Morals) argued that this was encouraged by the Zen framework.

I'm typically skeptical of essentialist arguments related to bad behaviour, because religion is often just incomprehensibly crazy, but there it is.

Others have argued that Western Zen in particular has some unique issues in D. T. Suzuki's influence (something about far right sympathies), and of course there's talk about Zen during WWII. Another made an interesting claim that Western Zen has a debt to a non-mainstream form of Zen (Sanbokyodan) which did not have a proportional strength in Japan, though I haven't read far enough to know if this is considered a bad thing or just something that muddies the scholarship. The use of the term "new religion" which is often related to "cults" might set the tone, or it might not.

Is there a way to view your overall "karma" here the way there is on Reddit. Yes "internet points" don't really matter, but still it can be mildly interesting to see.

The feature you're talking about is called "truescore" in the codebase this site was built off of; it appears to be disabled on profiles but does already exist in the code.

Not sure whether it would need to be retooled; by default it counts both upvotes AND downvotes as +1 truescore unless this has already been patched over.

Whether it should actually be enabled? I dunno, I could see arguments from either direction.

If this is added can we include an option to hide it? I like upvoting the things I like and feel it has its uses on the backend but the inherent potential for pandering to the implicit popularity contests of having directly viewable counters has always rubbed me the wrong way, so it would be nice to have an opt out.

Seconded. As childish as it sounds, the satisfaction of watching my karma go up was a reason I was far more active in the subreddit.

Yeah, I feel dirty saying this, but those meaningless pellets do 'drive engagement'

Miniscule level question of philosophical aesthetics: Is a television wall-mounting bracket more part of the wall, or part of the television?

I have a black TV set and a white wall, and I'm shopping for a bracket. The one I've chosen comes in black or white. In my mind the true-to-itself colour would be unpainted metal. I've flip-flopped a couple of times but I think I've made my choice. I'm interested to hear others' opinions and reasoning.

I hate hate hate semantical category games. "Dae hotdog or sandwich?!?!"

I don't know how philosophically rigorous it is, but when in doubt default to pragmatism. I would say it's part of the TV. If the TV moves, the TV rack moves with the TV. However a wall-mounted cloth hanger for example doesn't move with the clothes, so that would be a part of the wall.

Generally most mounts aren't visible once you put the TV on them, but anyway, it should be black, as the TV is. Making it the color of the wall would look weird and uncanny, as if the wall is reaching out. Like, I wouldn't mind having bionic walls that can grab stuff without me having to do anything, but I don't think our unconscious model of the world is ready for it yet.

Part of the television. Black is the way to go, especially as white-on-different-white will still clash. White brackets are for saturated walls, not light ones.

Agreed. Without the TV the bracket has no purpose and no business on the wall and so the colour makes more sense to match the purpose rather than the context.

Next question. Whether to swap out the power cable for a white one?

Don’t know about that, but I think televisions should be much further down on a wall than where people place them. The human gaze naturally looks down and it’s better for your eyes to look down at a tv as less of your eye is exposed to blue light.

This TV will be at roughly eye level when seated. It's not an issue here but a lot of TVs now are so big that often it's only elevated positions that are practical.

TBH it seems like white would be ugly no matter the color of the TV or the wall.

Why though? I think it would be okay if the TV was white too.

White TV on a white wall wouldn't look good I think. Unless you can make it absolutely seamless, like a window, but I think this would require special building, I only seen things like this in pictures of a very expensive houses.

Does anyone know of a good write-up on the “Patel motel cartel”? I saw a Charles Munger clip where he says they don’t pay income tax; are they taking advantage of loopholes or doing light cash business fraud?

From an accounting standpoint, depreciation expense would be the most likely way to offset income for an operation with multiple real properties, coupled of course with under-table cash deals and write offs of questionable "business" expenses. With an array of properties and investment backing, it's easy to grow the company, bring home plenty of dollars, and still be "zero income".

They keep most of the money in the business instead of paying it out to themselves as income. Most of the staff are their family members.

They live in the motel and charge as many living expenses as possible to the business.

Most anti-poverty programs are income tested instead of wealth tested. So they qualify for things like food stamps and Medicaid.

Also light cash fraud like you said.

I don't have a write-up on, or really even any knowledge about them. But often when a company isn't paying income tax its either because its not profitable or because it used to not be profitable and its using credit for it previous losses. Sometimes those losses are because of a huge amount of investment. So the company can have a lot of revenue and be expanding and look profitable on the surface if you don't have any of the financial data (maybe its a closely held private company that doesn't have to release the info, or maybe you just haven't look at the publicly available information).

I don't know if this applies to the motels your talking about. I had not heard of them until reading your post. I found a few articles about them one over 20 years old and some newer ones, but none that went in to details about their taxes. I'm not sure they are properly even considered a cartel, it seems to be different business owned by people from the same ethnic group from India, so there could be different answers for different companies. Presumably some of them do pay income tax.

Are you asking about motels run by Indian immigrants? The phrase "Patel motel cartel" smuggles in quite a few assumptions, and I'm not sure that I parsed them all.

If "they" share some tax advantage, I would expect it to be cash-business fraud rather than a loophole. A quick Google suggests that occupancy taxes are usually local or state, which suggests the feds aren't really in the business of regulating hotels/motels. I think that makes a nationwide loophole less likely.

Do you have a link to the Munger clip?

I’ll second the notion that if a specific ethnic group is avoiding taxes in a particular business at scale, it’s probably due to being good at fraud rather than having loopholes everyone else missed.

Even the phrase “tax loophole” seems unhelpful to me. I usually hear it used by non-accountants to refer to tax policy they dislike (eg the capital gains rate), not to true ambiguities or whoopsies in the law. Or people use it to mean cutesy prevarication on personal returns, because they mistake fraud for cleverness.

I’m very skeptical of claims that some person or group has discovered the secret to not paying income tax. If there’s anything here, it’s probably just businesses failing to report cash income.

It’s the phrase of choice for the topic at hand, having been used by the NYT and hospitality organizations since the 90s, and hundreds of other journals. although I came across it on Instagram.


I'd definitely run across the stereotype before. Somehow I hadn't seen the phrase attached, though.