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Small-Scale Question Sunday for March 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.

I think my fundamental problem is that I have a pathological fear of being accused of sexual harassment, or of being sexual in general. Approaching women as a form of exposure therapy has not helped, because I'm still waiting in fear of "The Day". Therefore, I wonder if it's possible to preemptively me-too myself? Maybe I can announce (with my real name) "I'm a horrible horrible person who has a sex drive, please stay away from me," in an absurd enough way to get noticed, and then my name will forever be associated with that. My hope is that from that point on, I can live in peace, no longer afraid of me-too nonsense.

Are foster home really that superior compared with orphanage?

Some months ago I came across a long, well cited article series here from a criminologist (?) dissenting from academic opinion and clearly charting the presence of higher antisocial violence among American descendants of slaves than class peers, its introduction to northern cities in the great migration, and the subsequent white flight. Does anyone remember this one or have it on hand?

You’re looking for Devin Helton’s blog.

I've just learned that the sixth(!) Scream movie is due to be released shortly. This made me wonder: how is it possible that the slasher horror film genre, of all film genres, is apparently enjoying a second revival/renaissance in the span of roughly 20 years? How does this make any sense?

how is it possible that the slasher horror film genre, of all film genres, is apparently enjoying a second revival/renaissance

I'd wait until the movie is a success before declaring it a "revival".

The setting of the slasher film of the 80s-90s (Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer were already semi ironic works) are built around groups of high school friends, who are close, who explore the world together, who are normally in love or in sexual relationships to each other, who share secrets and mysteries, who have third spaces outside the view of parents or schools where they get into hijinks. These are exactly the aspects of life that we currently feel we have lost significantly, that the youth of today have nostalgia for, and middle aged of today (hi) feel the loss of distinctly.

In the same way Westerns peaked at the moment in the 50-60s when my dad's generation keenly felt the loss of any new lands to explore or conquer, the end of any frontier; the slasher is still relevant because today's kids keenly feel the loss of the kind of adventures that slasher film victims get themselves into.

The first season of Stranger Things and the first season of the Serial podcast are great examples. They're nominally about murders, real or fake, they're really about teenage friendships in an era before cellphones. About times when suburban teenagers had their own shitbird geography, forts or hookup spots or smoking dens in empty woodlands, stuff I've been told has become much less common in the modern digital panopticon. The idea of losing touch with friends when you're with your parents, and of parents when you're with your friends, is the nostalgia.

they cost next to nothing to make and have built in audience and viralness from people talking about it, like we're doing now

of all film genres

They're really, really cheap to make relatively.

Teenagers trying to make their own campy shoestring parody of Indiana Jones or Lord of the Rings will go over the budget of a slasher film on hats or swords or cost of bandwidth pirating editing software.

I'm looking for an article from a blog that is vaguely in the rationalist diaspora.

The topic is the Eurovision song contest, and how it succeeds as a modern tradition (it happens once a year, winning means a country can host it next year, Eurovision parties are a time to see your friends etc).

Does anyone know the one I mean?

Is Jacobin rat-adjacent?

I watched Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's US senate testimony this morning since I had some time before work.

One thing that struck me was about half the senators asking actual relevant questions, and half just partisan sniping about tangentially related topics.

Anyone who watches more of these than I do, is this pretty standard? Are these hearings actually worth watching, or are all the questions being asked basically already answered and this is just fishing for soundbites?

It varies with how likely the topic is to make the news. Asking a question that's really just a pretext for getting a sound bite and your mug on the news increases dramatically when the debate/testimony is more likely to be on the news or the asker is closer to an election.

Some testimony by the undersecretary of the interior about riparian watersheds is gonna be more like 90% serious questions while an Ollie North hearing is gonna have a sound bite statement before each question.

Anyone bought/considering Tim Urban's new book "What's our problem?: A self-help book for societies"?

Tim Urban was the first rationalist-ish authors blog that I read. Around 8 years ago while I was still a teenager. His writing looks simple and obvious/sometimes oblivious to me now, but was a big eye-opener for me back then and significantly influenced the way I think. Nonetheless, I think his work should be signal boosted in the mainstream given he comes in from a rationalist angle but isn't neurotic/"neurodivergent"/cynical/ugly/egoistic/{personality failure mode of rationalists}.

Here's a birdseye view of the books pages. It looks like we made an appearance in row 4, column 9 ([3][8] for programmers) /s. I see lots of "mental models" and bell curves. Just taking a glance, I think it might be an excellent read for someone who is on the edge of dropping their wokeness but just can't quite make the leap because they lack the requisite mental models, something easily digestible might just close the inferential distance.

I'm going to buy it, there isn't a print version which sucks, but I'll manage.

Scott Alexander posted a review of it a little while back. His basic summary iirc is that everything in it feels pretty obvious, but is probably a really good introduction to centrism for people who're excessively partisian.

Scott might just be under the curse of knowledge. I might have 1/10th the rational toolset or theory as Scott but I still find myself having a tremendous inferential distance with the above average person. Try explaining HBD to a non believer.

Here's a birdseye view of the books pages. It looks like we made an appearance in row 4, column 9 ([3][8] for programmers) /s. I see lots of "mental models" and bell curves. Just taking a glance, I think it might be an excellent read for someone who is on the edge of dropping their wokeness but just can't quite make the leap because they lack the requisite mental models, something easily digestible might just close the inferential distance.

that looks really cool, but cannot assess its content as I have not read it

there isn't a print version which sucks, but I'll manage.

good luck making an affordable print book with such nice color illustrations at scale

I don't think printing books in colour is particularly expensive nowadays.

printing books in colour

it's 44% more expensive for low quality color,

This can make all the difference at the margins.

Does your significant other know about your use of The motte, and if so, what do they think about it?

Don’t care, and if they read through would probably find it vaguely amusing. I don’t feel any need to volunteer the details, if only because it makes no difference.

No significant other but ill express my onion.

Isn't sharing what forum you pseudonomously post on playing with fire? Unless you are a "open book", Id guess writing such that I dont potentially incriminate myself as an uber bigot, in the motte! Would feel very restrictive. If your partner is nosy they will easily find your account, no snooping required. And no its not all that fun explaining why " you think blacks are dumb".

Why would you have any interest in trusting someone with your heart, if you can't trust them with your political views?

Because of

For example, I have spoken about how I think the status of women in societies that place much status on a college degree is inflated because of subsidizing universities and job title inflation. 2 of the literal 3 self-identified women on the motte went did not take to it kindly, even though the proposals explicitly stated no rights would be taken away, but instead changes made to culture. That kind of shit would "scare the hoes."

I hate read /r/readscarepod sometimes, and there are gender war discussions there but as opposed to the motte, the majority is in favor of women. The men there who bring up even marginally "red pill" talking points get met with extreme prejudice. So my mental model is that men showing any sort of dissatisfaction or cynicism about the other gender is taken as a tremendous red flag, independent of how true or understandable their cynicism might be (shitting on men is tolerated btw).

That for example would immediately raise a red alert on my current account with a potential partner.

To quote Bennett: If she's still a feminist, you're not the guy. Read the whole thing, but a relevant quote that follows a discussion of what women are looking for in men:

And this is perfectly understandable: if she’s going to surrender, it should be to someone worthy, who will take her somewhere worth going. It would be humiliating to do this for some pothead, some clown who just wants her to scrub his unrinsed dishes. There’s dignity (for men & women) in swearing fealty to a righteous King, but not a petty bureaucrat.

This phenomenon sometimes get oversold by guys who are mad about it - you don’t have to tick all the boxes - but you will find that as you tick more & more boxes, the world becomes less & less feminist & postmodern in a 20-foot sphere around your person.

This is my personal experience, and I want you and all my friends to have that in your lives, not a pale imitation where you're constantly on eggshells or hiding parts of yourself. When you're in a genuine relationship of Eros/Compassion/Care/Empathy with someone, when your partner is really into you physically/romantically/emotionally/spiritually, their/your political views become much less important. You'll probably change each other at the margins anyway, but you'll interact on a level where political controversy is simply unimportant. When you meet the right girl, it won't matter if you're Right or she's Left, you'll be right for each other. Concealing your power level* is either unnecessary or actively harmful to you finding a mate; either she would accept it if you told her and it is unnecessary, or she wouldn't and you shouldn't be with her anyway.

So in a sense, all your prior interactions mean is, 2/3 women** on themotte aren't actively in capital-L Love with you. I would have bet on that regardless of what you post!

NB: Possibly my ideas are more mainstream/"ho friendly"/feminist than yours, but I've also had love affairs with women who are/were far to the left of mainstream (and wayyyy left of anything you'd even consider) and it's held up, so shift you an inch to the Right of me and if you shift your potential lovers an inch to the right you'll still have plenty of options.

*In a long term relationship. Don't bring it up on a first date, or in a Tinder profile, but if you're still pretending to be someone else months into it then you're making a mistake.

**I wouldn't bet on the third one either.

*In a long term relationship. Don't bring it up on a first date, or in a Tinder profile, but if you're still pretending to be someone else months into it then you're making a mistake.

I think you might be misunderstanding me to a certain extent.

The core reason I personally would not share my pseudonymous account is primarily because of the inferential distance, not the spiciness of the beliefs themselves. You propose that no belief is too spicy for True Love/Attraction, I agree, but with terms and conditions. I will come back to this later.

A secondary motivator for me is mere, "I don't want to", or "I don't feel the need to", because it can potentially bring downsides (yes yes I know you think otherwise) but little upsides, and I minimax upsides/downsides in just about everything because the math checks out, even if its sharing beliefs. I am not guided by an excel sheet here, but just intuition. It's more along the lines of how you don't call your wife fat even if she gained weight and is technically fat in your mental model, you sugarcoat it.

Similarly, I would want a potential partner to see my views come out of my mouth in a way that is designed for her to digest, understand and accept. Not in the way I express them to a bunch of degenerates on an online forum in specific lingo and with layers of irony and much-shared context and conversational history (the motte by all definitions is a very high-context culture that pretends to be low context).Think of it this way, if my wife was fat, I would just state as much when I make a pseudonymous most asking for hypothetical advice, but in real life, I would probably invite my hypothetical wife to go on cycling rides with me, and slowly drip feed her the information that she is getting fat.

I also have buckets of thoughts and ideas that I only share with specific people or no people at all and these boundaries are hard boundaries, a violation of this is a violation of privacy in my eyes. My sexual partner and my sexual partner is the only person who will know about all my kinks and fetishes, and this won't change no matter how friendly the half-drunk conversation at a dinner party is. Similarly what I write through a pseudonymous account is only for me and the readers, if I wanted otherwise I would have written it through a real name, why wouldn't I associate thousands of words and potential insight to my real name for free?

This is my personal experience, and I want you and all my friends to have that in your lives

I have experienced this. I eventually turned a girl from covid sympathetic to full-blown covid skeptic through the power of ranting about it nonstop. She did not actually understand the arguments I was making but she adopted them anyways. (our overton windows diverged in many other areas as well)

I did not see this as a sign of true love or admiration. I know it's a fairly common feature of women to eventually mold into their partner's attributes, but I don't think this is a feature of a strong mind rather just something that is. In its extreme circumstances, it's called Borderline Personality Disorder. The Last Psychiatrist talk where he touches on this line of thinking.

So being able to experience that is nice for you ego in the sense that "oh I have the power to do that, nice", but it's not something that you should try to do or even optimize for, it's a proxy, optimize for the things that produce that result, fortunately there are a thousand other proxies to know if you can actually do that. I hate to be condescending/ungrateful but I think wordcels like the guy who wrote that substacks source material are prone to fall for failures of pattern matching such as this one.

Finally back to why I think there are downsides.

I already said that different views are phrased differently for different audiences, but there is more to it. Views are signals.

In the simplest of cases, not having mainstream views classifies you as an outcast in some shape/capacity, this is hardly harmful in a majority of the cases.

What does all my gender war talk imply? That at one point in my life I was pissed off with girls enough to actually study about it! Who do you think is out there discussing the gender war without a horse in the race? I DONT WANT to potentially reveal that part of my intellectual history. I literally cannot see a single upside to doing that

Or what about HBD? That I was jobless enough at one point in my life to read about skull sizes? What is the connotation of someone who discusses HBD online?

In simple words, I don't want my views to slap the person in the face, I can drip-feed them over time as I see fit, if I do at all.

On a similar note, I actually don't care about the body count of my potential partner if there is a reasonable guarantee that number won't go up while we are together. I won't like hearing about that number, so whats my solution "Don't tell me, I don't care". The process that led to me having certain non PC cynical views is the same, it's my history and I don't want to know or tell. I will forfeit knowledge for privacy.

Good post, I agree with you.

Potential is there word here, you’re worried about hypothetical women when you should concern yourself with the individual ones you meet. My SO knows and agrees with my views on women, but then again she herself mocks the concept of human rights.

I can't keep on narrowing the search space indefinitely.

If I have to start worrying about opsec around my wife, someone has made a wrong turn somewhere. Even back when she was hanging out with the woke crowd, and giving me the side-eye for disagreeing with the latest progressive push, she always respected my space to have my own thoughts.

Not sure if I could stand a long term relationship with someone I would have to hide so much from, and I don't consider myself an "open book".

She knows I use Reddit (we occasionally share things from there) but I haven't mentioned this place. I imagine she just thinks I'm on Reddit when she sees a wall of text on my phone.

He knows I waste time reading and participating in internet arguments. He’ll sometimes politely feign enough interest to ask, “Are you winning?” to which the answer is, “The only winning move is not to play.”

More in the abstract than in the specifics. I'll occasionally talk with her about something that was discussed here and she has her own opinions, but she doesn't particularly care where I have these topics from. It helps though that she is pretty anti-woke, generally anti-mainstream and frankly at times sounds like a misogynist (you don't want to hear her opinion of women drivers, lol).

my partner is a Jewish tree-hugger who works for a global-elite consensus building organization that people write conspiracy theories about.

Very very open minded, but I don't want to have to explain how tolerating people who literally hate her guts is in the interest of steel manned good faith conversations.

I keep it to occasionally sending ACX articles which I don't think she ever reads. But she knows I have my special places.

Don't think so, mostly because she doesn't care - where exactly I go to argue on the internet is not something that would have any interest to her I think. If she asked, I'd tell her but tbh I'd be surprised she cares about this.

No, he's entirely uninterested in politics. Talking about this place would bore him to tears and he'd forget about it overnight anyway because it just wouldn't be important.

She knows I ramble around arguing on the internet, and I know she does (she had a semi prolific career trolling a certain corner of Twitter) but we never share accounts or websites specifically. I'll often bring up a topic discussed here, whether because I want her opinion or to give her a play by play of a highlight, and her thoughts are interesting; but we both believe in zones of privacy in a relationship.

Yeah, basic Opsec would suggest you shouldn't even give your pseudonym to your SO.

Similar to how they shouldn't need to have a recording device listening in to all your daily conversations just in case.

If they're worried about you sneaking around talking to other romantic/sexual partners behind their back that's another thing altogether.

you shouldn't even give your pseudonym to your SO

You should. Have 2 accounts.

  • The supposedly pseudo account you use to comment about anything within the overton window.

  • And the another one that she never suspects exists because she already knows your pseudo-anonymous account.

Social engineering & ML is going to make hiding accounts very hard if someone is motivated enough. The key is to satiate their curiosity, not make them extra suspicious by pretending you don't have a presence.

Wait are we still talking about hiding this from your gf/wife or have we taken a left turn somewhere?

If your SO is that snoopy, dtmfa and move on. My wife doesn't know my accounts and doesn't look for them, simple as.

If you hold relatively extreme views, hiding them from your SO, or anyone else IRL, might be a pragmatic move. Like, if you're a literal nazi (although things similarly-extreme, not necessarily in a similar direction, to "literal naziism" are probably true *, so it's not just evil people who have this motive). Even if your SO is also a nazi, separating IRL and online pseudonyms is still a good move - your SO's probably less privacy-conscious than you are, and little bits of info slipping out here and there are very dangerous if random antifa people want to dox you.

* and you can see this by historical analogy - take a person from 1500 or 2k BC and our views are closer to literal naziism than that - so looking today's technological and societal rate of change, beliefs, or whatever the AIs do, 2k years from now will be weird

Hiding your views from your SO is probably not a good base for a relationship, at least not in the long term. I mean, if you just have somebody to chat and occasionally tumble under the sheets, who cares, but if you are building life together, at least in terms of years, it's not gonna work. OpSec may be good to not share accounts, have separate computers, etc., maybe not even show up at the same forums if they are of a variety where participation can lead to bad consequences - but there's difference between OpSec and hiding your views.

Yeah, but revealing you're a nazi, or something as 'bad' as a nazi but in a different direction, is also rather bad for a relationship - in most cases worse than hiding views. I think one could somewhat-honestly claim to be a traditional conservative (or equivalent)

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Nope. My wife doesn't know about my activities on the motte but she doesn't care. If sees me and asks, I tell her posting on some internet forum and that's the end of it (cause again it's no big deal).

If they're worried about you sneaking around talking to other romantic/sexual partners behind their back that's another thing altogether.

I've gotten laid in some weird places, but the day people start getting laid on theMotte, boy, I don't know.

Anything's possible.

One of these days the Friday Fun threads may just get out of hand.

Oh lord, I can’t even imagine a real life Friday fun meetup. The possibility is simultaneously horrifying and maybe slightly interesting….

Honestly it hypothetically wont be soo bad, communities centered around doing things, in the mottes case discussing ideas are infinitely less cringe than ones centered around being things, those optimize for attention seekers who really tune up their characters to comedic levels.

She does.

It's usually not noteworthy, though there were a couple exceptions.

I remember complaining about some of the really edgy usernames when we first made the site move. It was clearly inflammatory-without-evidence, if I had to fit it into the posting rules, and more broadly, it spoke to an interest in trolling rather than discussion. That account ended up earning one of the first bans on the new site. But at the time I felt like I was supposed to be okay with it. Like a good classical liberal, I should turn my nose up and ignore the defectors; objecting meant I was too thin-skinned. When I mentioned this conflict to her, she responded:

"Why do you hang out with these people?"

So I think she's aware that it's incredibly witch-friendly, and has no interest in engaging with that.

Yes, we call it "the place of civilized shit-slinging".

She does, and she proofreads my posts sometimes. She's also pretty anti-woke and libertarian leaning so it works out well.

Getting a proofreader for forum posts is really putting the effort in effort posting I suppose. I don't even put mine through a spell checker, it feels wrong.

My thought process is kind of like if you are trying that hard for forum posts, you must be working yourself to the bone in your real work. A faulty mental model of effort allocation ratio? Maybe.

Yeah no I just am weirdly neurotic about writing quality. I also hope to launch a blog, so I guess this is practice for that eventuality. If it happens.

Did you try grammarly premium?

Relationship goals!

Hah, we've got our own issues but we're intellectually on the same level, thank God. Every other person I've dated has been... unable to grasp a lot of things I care about, or they just didn't care enough to. Makes intimacy difficult.

She does, and I half-wooed her in the first place by waxing eloquent about my feelings for her a while back, then showed it to her the next time we met. I believe she thinks it's just a particularly nerdy version of Reddit.

She does. I don't think she thinks anything specific about it, other than asking "and what do these people think about X" whenever an adjacent topic comes up. We do shit-talk y'all with some frequency.

There's something I wanted to talk about for a while. Desserts.

No, not the arid terrains with sand dunes and camels. The sweet things people sometimes eat at the end of the meal. Those ones.

So, when I came to live in the US (a while ago), I found the dessert game in the most restaurants - even upscale ones (not the Michelin level - I am not rich enough to go to those) - is pitifully bad. In general, in the States, you can have a good meal in many places, serving wide variety of cuisines. I have had hundreds of excellent meals. Finding an excellent dessert was much harder.

Most places have chocolate cake, maybe a cheesecake, maybe ice cream. Crème brûlée if they are fancy (over half of them won't make it right though). Maybe couple more options, but that's it. Nothing to write home about.

Cafés are even worse. Unless it's one of those rare specialized shops, you get muffins, croissants, maybe lemon loafs, and those enormous cookies whose point I still can't get. If they feel fancy, maybe some French macarons. But usually that's it. For any real variety - and the world of pastry and patisserie is no less varied than the world of main dishes - you need to go to a specialized shop. Which are quite rare. I have probably a dozen of cake shops around - but I don't need a whole frickin wedding cake! I just want something small and nice to have with my coffee. But within at least 20 minute drive of my place, I see maybe one place with decent variety (which is also closed half of the week - probably because lack of patrons?). Despite over half a million people living around. Back when I lived in Silicon Valley (~3 mln people?), I knew some decent places, but also not too many, especially outside of SF.

So why is this happening? Do Americans hate desserts? Do they just not care? Or am I just not looking at the right places and it is my ignorance that is causing me to suffer (as usual)?

I remember when I first visited the US (even longer while ago, over 20 years now) it was nearly the same situation with beer. It's not that you couldn't get a decent beer at all. It's that you can't expect a random or even upscale place to have even a half decent beer game, and you needed to go to special places for weird people to get a good beer. Now the situation has been, thankfully, greatly changed. Even in a random pub you can have one-two decent beers on draft, more in cans/bottles, any self-respecting restaurant would have some local crafts and some nationally popular choices, a good pub would have dozens, and it's not unheard of to encounter a multi-page beer menu in a non-specialized place. And even the most mundane supermarkets would bother to present a respectable selection.

Could this happen to the sweets too? I understand the complexities (beer is much easier to pack and preserve than sweets), but maybe there's still hope?

I remember listening to an econ podcast (I want to say either Freakonomics or Planet Money) that was exploring some things about how restaurant menus and pricing work, probably centered around how they work in the US. The big question was "what's up with free bread or chips and salsa? Why are restaurants giving away free product that just fills you up and keeps you from spending more money?" The answer was "so you don't order dessert". What restaurants (particularly large American restaurant chains) want is to turn tables over as fast as possible. They really don't want you spending two hours at a table ordering an appetizer and an entree and a dessert (which is kind of a stark contrast with my personal experience of dining in the UK, where restaurant table reservations are for fixed time spans, usually 90 minutes, and they seem to get offended if each person doesn't order three courses). Most restaurants really can't make desserts profitable, they can't sell them for what it costs to make them and keep them around, plus you're occupying the table that could instead by used by people who are going to order a main course that they can charge 3-4 times as much for but ultimately probably costs the same to make and serve. However, most sit-down restaurants feel like they have to have desserts on the menu because it's just expected of them. They just don't feel any real incentive to make them spectacular.

A few other things that could be at play, just off the top of my head:

  1. Sugar and fat could just be so great at being superstimuli that you don't really need to make them all that great to satisfy most people.

  2. Regarding the lack of variety, I can at least personally attest that on the rare occasions that I do decide to order dessert at a restaurant, I want to make sure I'm going to actually like it, so I'm less likely to go for something I don't recognize.

so you don't order dessert

The economcs (or maybe just proprieter preference) must have reqlly shifted since the days of the dessert cart/front of restaurant dessert display, then.

Depends on the place, I guess.

The better cafes around here definitely put their fancy cakes on prominent display. Mexican restaurants, not so much.

I remember when I first visited the US (even longer while ago, over 20 years now) it was nearly the same situation with beer. (...) Now the situation has been, thankfully, greatly changed.

Not it hasn't. You get to choose between an overhopped hipster ale and an overly sweet lager. It's supposed to be the other way around, you heathens!

I certainly see where you're going there - overhopping is a thing, and even I, who actually loves bitter beers, need to watch out. But many places helpfully publish IBUs, and for those that don't there are the wonders of Internet (like Untappd) and even when I do regular shopping between Costco, Whole Foods and couple of smaller local stores, I can pick up something decent that doesn't go over the deep end. And it become common for restaurants to have actual beer menu where the choice isn't just "Guinness or lager?" - so while the phenomena you mention are real, it's possible to avoid them and still have a good choice in beer.

The trouble is when you go a hip place and look at the (helpful) IBU ratings on the 20 beer menu -- only to find that there are 19 overhopped lager/IPA choices, plus one boring lager.

So why is this happening? Do Americans hate desserts? Do they just not care? Or am I just not looking at the right places and it is my ignorance that is causing me to suffer (as usual)?

I mostly hate desserts, yeah. Not quite literally, they're obviously delicious, but the tradeoff between calories and enjoyability for me is very low relative to other options. I would pretty much always have more fries, more chips, more meat, more cheese curds, or some other savory morsel than switch over to sweet stuff. I eat about 3,000 calories per day, so it's not like I'm really restricted here, I just always prefer savory things, unless my wife baked something and it's already in front of me. I have no idea about the broader scene, just providing a single anecdata point as someone that genuinely could not possibly care less what's on the dessert menu.

US portion sizes are so huge that non-fat people can’t usually have dessert.

That said, the major cities now have high end cafes with decent Viennoiserie, but you have to look for it, like good espresso in the ‘90s (or so I’m told).

What would you consider a good selection of desserts? I took a look at a fancy Moscow restaurant's dessert menu (it specializes in fish, so its selection of desserts should be good, but not stellar), here's what they offer:

  • Basque cheesecake

  • Crème brûlée

  • Something weird

  • Pistachio strudel

  • Pavlova

  • Mochi

  • Choux

  • Lemon tart

  • Baba au rhum

  • Ice cream

I assume you mean Moscow, Russia, not Moscow, Idaho? ;) I've not been to Moscow (the former) for a couple of decades, and probably won't ever be again until a certain guy who will remain nameless in this topic will meet the fires of hell awaiting for him, but I remember the food quality there was pretty decent, including the dessert game. Of this menu, I'd say a good start. For myself, I'd add a couple of cake types, maybe some eclair, some flan or maybe pana cotta, maybe a mousse. The main thing though for me I won't ask a lot from any single restaurant - just as I won't ask a single restaurant to have all the variety of cuisines at once. I'm rather looking at the aggregate choice among the various restaurants. So, I'd rate the selection for a restaurant above as decent - and provided there are a dozen restaurants around each providing 10 dessert options, which are not all the same among them - I'd say I'm pretty good on that. But on my observation, that's not what is happening - at least not in my experience.

P.S. BTW, coincidentally that reminded me of a local Russian restaurant within 10 minutes drive of me. Their selections: honey cake, pavlova, chocolate ganache cake, lemon mousse, cookie platter. Not too bad, actually. 5 options, and neither of them repeats what other restaurants offer. I rate it as a good contribution to the cause.

I've heard Moscow, Idaho is a QAnon stronghold these days.

The semi-cult with Doug Wilson? Yeah that isn't Q-anon. It also isn't much more cultish than your average megachurch.

That’s Langley.

I didn't think QAnon is a geographically localized phenomenon. Also, Moscow ID is a college town, in 2020 the majority voted for Biden, while Idaho went 2x to Trump. So I'd rather expect to find BlueAnon than QAnon there.

All I can recommend is try flourless chocolate cake at restraunts for the good dessert opinion.

I've been meaning to make a long post about why it's not possible to get a good cake (at a reasonable price) for a while.

Sounds like an interesting topic, as someone who not good at baking I'm curious to learn more.

Here is an amazing chocolate cake mix, if you're looking for something you can make at home. I have high standards for chocolate cake and am happy to make one from scratch, but this mix does a darn good job. You'll still need to make the frosting yourself - I'd recommend a swiss meringue buttercream.

IMO box mixes are never worth it. They aren't actually any easier, since making a basic cake is already super duper easy. Dump ingredients in a bowl, mix, pour batter and bake. The only thing that a box mix saves you is measuring out dry ingredients. And more often than not, you're going to have a better cake if you make it from scratch! Box mixes are truly a ripoff which doesn't add value and only preys on novices who don't know better, imo.

That was certainly my belief in the past. This mix changed my mind.

Here is the recipe I use when I'm making a cake from scratch. It takes me about a half hour to put together (not counting baking time). The mix I linked to takes 5 minutes. Very little difference in the final result.

Now I'm hungry for chocolate cake.

I've made that recipe, actually. It took me almost no effort to put together, lol. Like I said, with a basic cake there's no need to follow the instructions about "do this, then this, then this". Just dump all the ingredients in your bowl, mix, and you're done. That's why I think box mixes are a ripoff, because making a cake from scratch is every bit as easy (unless you're trying to make a more advanced recipe like genoise or something, but a box mix isn't going to help you there).

It's not necessarily about ease of use. This video explains that mix cakes contain emulsifiers that allow for textures that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve. And since these emulsifiers coat the flour at the particulate level, it's not the kind of thing you can do outside of an industrial process. Whether or not you actually like this effect is a matter of personal taste, but mix cakes and scratch cakes are decidedly not the exact same thing.

The mix @janeerie linked to doesn't have any emulsifiers on the ingredients list.

TIL, fair enough.

Non american here so take what I say with a grain of salt.

The US has good desserts. The ones that stood out to me when I visited;

  • New York Cheesecake. This shit was absolute crack for me, even the 9 usd Walmart ones. I hardly know anyone who doesnt like cheesecake. Even Pakistani villagers who turn their noses at most Western foods lost their minds having cheese cake for the first time.

  • Pies. Personally not a big fan of the supposedly very American Apple pie, but good blueberry, pecan and sweet potato are worth seeking out imo. There are more and more variations the more south you go.

  • Brownies.

  • Cannolis, youd find good ones in NYC

  • Donuts, the good yeast ones not Dunkins and god forbid not Tim Hortons.

  • Pancakes and waffles drowned in butter and maple syrup. Sorry not breakfast, these are desserts. Just dont be a barbarian and have it with scrambled eggs in the same plate like a lot of Americans do.

I know Americans have a tendency towards excess but the deserts are good if you go for a reasonable portion size without drowning it in ice cream and chocolate syrup.

The best US food I had overall was in the state of Georgia, the south knows how to cook.

Don't forget custard stands and ice cream shoppes, which should be considered desserts under any definition.

Personally not a big ice cream guy, i can tolerate a scoop max if the conditions are ideal such as the ideal oce cream weather and its high quality and not a sugar bomb.

TBH I hate donuts - way too sweet, way too much fat. Same for American type pancakes - though crepes are good, one of my favorites, with the right filling (no Nutella, please!) Brownies - well, if you don't oversugar it and give it a good balance, it's a good one, but common mainstream brownie is not very good either. Cheesecakes - yes, sure, I've had excellent ones. Good, solid contender - but it's like having Heineken beer. Nothing bad about it as an option, just doesn't make the beer game alone.

Pies I'm kinda ambivalent about. Some pies are very good, but most common ones I find average at best. I know "The American Pie" is kinda cultural foundation, but I personally do not worship at its altar. A good one is a nice complement to a home meal, but in a fancy restaurant I'd expect something more. Unless it's some kind of spectacular once-a-lifetime one, but I never had any of those.

Cannolis - I didn't try many, I've had some pretty good ones, which I liked, but I think I need to go to New York to taste really good ones. I'll add it to the list of things do to in New York.

Even Pakistani villagers who turn their noses at most Western foods lost their minds having cheese cake for the first time.

I remember an episode from King's Dark Tower series, when the Gunslinger gets into our universe and tastes Coca-Cola for the first time. He is so completely overwhelmed by the sugary taste that he asks - given there's this thing is so widely available, why people would need any other drugs? Unfortunately, to my palate it feels kinda gross now... Not the cake, the sugar bombing.

I would say that American desserts fall into that category of foods where the median sample is alright/mediocre but the good one is extraordinary. While youre in NYC visit Clinton Street Baking Co. I think their pancakes might change your mind, Not the typical sugar bomb. Ive been years ago not sure if it survived covid though.

The afformentioned quality especially applies to donuts. A good donut and a bad one lets say from dunkin isnt even the same food.

Ultimately you might have to just accept that American desserts won't be that good. I rate East Asian cuisines savory dishes as the best around, but neither the Chinese, Koreans or Thais can come up with a good dessert, Chinese desserts range from mediocre to horrific ( "Sweet fungus soup", yes literal mushrooms in sugar water). And seriously wtf is with the hype behind Mochis. Even though Youtube tells me Koreans and Japanese are quite good at recreating Western desserts.

I think sweet fungus soup is something where the translation makes it sound worse than it actually is. People probably imagine a portobello mushroom in sugar syrup or something, but in reality the fungus is a crunchy/chewy, translucent thing that pairs reasonably well with a (mildly, by US standards) sweet soup that also usually contains stuff like lotus seeds. I wouldn’t really describe it as a mushroom at all. I’m not saying it’s amazing, but it can be a positive addition to a meal.

As far as East Asian desserts go, I think Taiwan makes a decent showing. They just tend to be sold at specialized shops and not as the last course in a regular restaurant.

I happen to like Mochis btw. But I tasted actual hand-made mochis (and I mean the traditional way, with wooden mallets and all) and mochis from Japanese shops that specialize in making mochis - this is completely different business from what you could get in the supermarket or even average restaurant. It's not my most favorite dessert, but it's alright if you know where to get it. But yes, when I go to Korean or Japanese restaurant, or Thai, I don't expect too much on the dessert side, and it's ok, I understand their approach may be different and their "sweet fungus" may be weird for me. But the West has a very rich dessert tradition that I am completely in tune with, so from a Western-type restaurant I certainly would have much higher expectations.

No, not the arid terrains with sand dunes and camels.

That's deserts, not desserts.

Pedantry aside, I've certainly never found desserts at restaurants particularly lacking. Yeah if you go to Chilis or something you're going to get nothing special. But that's because as a restaurant it's nothing special. On the other hand if I go to a really nice restaurant, I get really nice desserts that knock my socks off.

One thing which may be contributing to what you have experienced is that cooking savory dishes and making desserts are two somewhat different skill sets. Someone who can make good main dishes hasn't necessarily practiced making good desserts.

Americans certainly don't hate desserts though, why the heck do you think we're so fat? It's not because we're eating too much savory food, I tell you that much.

One thing which may be contributing to what you have experienced is that cooking savory dishes and making desserts are two somewhat different skill sets.

Oh I know. But I'm not talking about Chili's. I'm talking about restaurants with $100+ steaks. It's not that I go to those every week, but I've been to some. Their dessert game is slightly better, but not by much. It's not that they can't afford a pastry chef that can bring it to the next level. It's that they don't think they need to.

why the heck do you think we're so fat?

Cheeseburgers and hippo sized cola? ;)

BTW, my secondary complaint - which is overshadowed by the primary one, of course - is that those American desserts that I manage to get are almost always over-sugared. No, dude, "sweet" doesn't mean you should put as much sugar in it as you can without it being just called "a blob of sugar". You can make sweet things that have balanced taste not overwhelmed by sugar. If fact, that's how it should be done - but rarely how it is done. I mean, again, it's not universal - I've had very good ones, but the overall tendency is "it's supposed to be sweet - dump another sack of sugar into it, people love sugar!"

Cheeseburgers and hippo sized cola? ;)

The latter, for sure. Drinking sugar is a great way to get fat.

I share your complaints. Most desserts are far too sweet for me, and when I make recipes at home, I usually halve the sugar called for to no ill effect.

Oh I know. But I'm not talking about Chili's. I'm talking about restaurants with $100+ steaks. It's not that I go to those every week, but I've been to some. Their dessert game is slightly better, but not by much. It's not that they can't afford a pastry chef that can bring it to the next level. It's that they don't think they need to.

Fair enough, so we're talking nice restaurants. But in that case I honestly don't know what to tell you. I've never had bad or even just OK desserts at a restaurant like that. They're always quite good in my experience.

Maybe it's because you're going to steakhouses?

Steakhouses both seem highly formulaic and the food is so heavy and the portions so large that people usually don't really want a dessert, so it becomes a bit of an afterthought.

Not only steakhouses, I just used steaks as an example because it's very comparable - one would know how much steaks costs in various kinds of restaurants. If I used some specialty dish it'd be harder to compare how fancy the restaurant is. But, tbh, I can do a dessert after a steak - I usually go for a smaller but tastier steak rather than a slab of meat that would put me in a coma for the rest of the day. That of course unless it's a Brazilian restaurant where all hope is lost and there I don't even dream of eating anything but meat (and a bit of veggies of course).

Honestly not being able to get good pain au chocolat in this country is the only reason I'm not obese, so maybe it's for the best.

Anyone here done restaurant work? Don't remember most people I ate with ordering dessert, other than kids having an ice cream or something while the adults had coffee or another few drinks. I certainly never had room for anything after the portion size of a typical us restaurant meal.

Yes, I have worked as a waiter. The vast majority don’t order desserts, either due to portion sizes or because a typical dessert menu can be replicated at home for much cheaper(brownies, cookies, and ice cream are readily available at grocery stores and dirt cheap).

I certainly never had room for anything after the portion size of a typical us restaurant meal.

That could be a problem, US portions tend to be humongous. But if I knew there's a good dessert available, I could probably pass the marshmallow test on that. As it is, there's not much point anyway...

I'll be attending a Jewish funeral in NYC in the near future related to my children's other side of the family. Not really practicing, generally middle-class blue tribe types, but there will be more high-achieving and high-believing great-aunts/uncles in attendance. Any customs or issue to potentially be aware of?

I'm assuming I need to force the boy into slacks and a dress shirt, but I am sure there are elements and expectations there that I am totally clueless about.

Most middle class blue tribe Jews aren't super knowledgeable about Judaism, unfortunately, and Rabbis are well aware of it. So when you'd have to do something, you'll be told. And if you don't do it exactly right, it's no big deal either. Otherwise, just general stuff appropriate for the occasion - modest somber dress, head covering for males (if you forget one, there's a chance the Rabbi will have some spares), common sense behavior. I don't think there would be any other expectations from you.

Assuming American Jews will do a traditional Jewish funeral:

  1. Heads up, there’s no casket. The body goes in the ground in wraps.

  2. The ceremony is mostly just a Rabbi saying stuff and some prayers. It’s not long. In some parts other people will join in, but it’s not expected of you if you’re not Jewish - you’re not excluded, it’s just not an issue either way.

  3. Men and boys should have a kippa (yamaka) on, even if they’re not Jewish. A hat will do as well. Women and girls don’t wear kippas.

Men and boys should have a kippa (yamaka) on, even if they’re not Jewish. A hat will do as well. Women and girls don’t wear kippas.

Silly question: to what degree have the inverse traditions of removing/not removing one's hat among Christians and Jews evolved due to a need of signalling one does not belong to the other group?

That’s a great question, I’ve noticed it as well. I read up a tiny bit on the origins of the Kippa, and it looks a part of it is being forced to wear identifying dress after around 1215. So the answer would be “yes, but originally not voluntary signaling“.

The opposition to Christians reasoning is likely post-dated. The tradition of wearing head covering goes back a while and likely if not predates Christianity then at least contemporary with very early years of it:

I'm not sure if a similar thought experiment exists but I suppose I'll lay it out. A lady was letting out some blood-curdling screams outside my apartment as if she was getting stabbed or something. I looked out my window, but couldn't identify the source of the screams, the screams stopped and I went back to work. I would have probably gone down and tried to intervene or do whatever if she was within my line of sight, but she was out of sight, out of mind. (I probably wouldn't have gone if the screams were coming from a mile away because I live in a city and others would get there before me anyways, yes I am a bystander.)

So imagine this ;

You are informed that a stranger is about to get murdered in their home. The murderer will absentmindedly drop his pistol before entering the residence of his victim, which you can use to save the potential victim's life by shooting the murderer. There is absolutely no way you can call the cops because you have been informed about this event that is yet to perspire by a demon who would kill your entire bloodline if you choose any but two of the options. Either intervene by yourself or not. The demon won't harm you for choosing not to do anything. Given we are dealing with a demon who can see the future, he will inform you with more than enough time to prepare and travel to the potential crime scene and he will make sure you don't mistakenly harm the victim. No one but you can save the victim. You and only you are informed about this. The demon will also make sure you won't be trialed as guilty or that this has any reputational effect on your life at all. You won't get any form of recognition of heroism or compensation. The demon knows that you will lose both time and money but that's not his problem. The demon will ensure you can't smartass your way around the spirit of the thought experiment.

How far would the murder have to take place before you chose to not do anything about it?

I think the thought experiment makes the abstract notion of paying charity and the resultant Newtonian ethics more quantifiable. But I am sure there are quite a few logical and inferential holes in my formulation of the experiment.

he will inform you with more than enough time to prepare and travel to the potential crime scene and he will make sure you don't mistakenly harm the victim. The demon will also make sure you won't be trialed as guilty or that this has any reputational effect on your life at all.

With these guarantees, I'd go anywhere in the world. I would even spend thousands of dollars and up to several months of time if not more. Explicitly saving someone's life, directly, with perfect knowledge and guarantees, and getting to shoot a murderer with no legal repercussions or safety issues, would be a huge self confidence booster. You can supposedly save a life for $X by donating to charity at whatnot, but it doesn't have the same psychological value as directly saving someone's life, and doesn't have the guarantees that whoever is computing that estimate and spending the money is actually doing it properly and isn't accidentally subsidizing dictators or something.

I'd go anywhere in the world if it's a one off. If the demon shows up every day I'd probably give up pretty soon.

The inconvenience itself might be too much, I for example can't skip more than 1-2 days of work without paying a huge price.

The demon will ensure you can't smartass your way around the spirit of the thought experiment.

I'm not sure how well this will work, actually. "I have private evidence that I, personally, have to murder someone to prevent something bad from happening, and that I cannot tell anyone about this or even worse things will happen" is how I would expect the onset of schizophrenia to feel. Given that I was convinced that the above was true and did not conclude that my mind had broken, I think it would matter very much exactly how I was convinced, because I really can't imagine a situation that looks like "a demon just threatened to kill my entire family and now is trying to bait me into killing someone, promising that nothing will go wrong" where my mind is fully intact and yet the situation looks like "oh I better go kill the future murderer then" and not "holy shit demons exist".

In the case where there's a single innocent person that I am certain can only be saved by me personally killing the future murderer, and I am somehow confident that there will be no unexpected repercussions, and I am somehow still confident in my own sanity, I don't think I pull the trigger. But I can't really be sure, because being that certain of the future effects of my actions is not something I've ever actually experienced, which is why I lean deontologist rather than consequentialist.

I am assuming I won't have to explain to anyone why I'm taking a mysterious trip I cannot tell anyone about, won't have to reschedule meetings and appointments, won't have to take holidays, hire a babysitter etc.? Because knowing myself, those are the kind of inconveniences that would very quickly push me over the edge. I am also ignoring the potential value of a holiday.

If it's purely about the monetary cost and inconvenience of travel, I would say that they are utterly dwarfed by a different type of cost: the guilty conscious of having killed someone and the possible trauma I might develop. To me, those are much more serious considerations.

If we are saying that the demon is absolutely trustworthy, the scale is very slightly in favour of intervening because I regard it as my duty to do so, but trivial inconveniences not directly related to travel will very rapidly provide me with an excuse not to.

I think personal inconveniences not being covered should be a part of the thought experiment. E.g what is a few days of missed work for saving a life? But if it puts your career on the line then it might not be worth saving a stranger's life. Maybe if the demon has you covered on those fronts, the experiment would be less noisy?

Maybe if the demon has you covered on those fronts, the experiment would be less noisy?

Yes, i think there are just way too many variables here to get at what you find interesting: inconvenience vs. duty to help. By the way, AFAIK Singer has a very similar example about a kid drowning in a pond. I'd have to look it up.

There are parts of the world I would not travel to for this due to personal risk, aversion to spending time in poverty-stricken areas, and discounted value of lives in those areas. Aside from that, I would certainly rescue the person across the bulk of places that I find reasonably accessible. If it happens to be somewhere like Korea or Germany that's pretty interesting anyway, I'll make a vacation out of it.

I don't think this moves the needle for my positions regarding charity because the demon is capable of providing a level of certainty that I find lacking in charitable contributions. I continue to maintain that I have no ethical obligation to charity beyond the enormous tax burden that I already meet - if a web of governments can't solve the problems with half of my money, I think they're probably not legible enough and solvable enough for me to throw even more money at. I'm happy to help out with personal labor on local projects where I can see the results though.

In your hypothetical scenario, I shoot and kill a home invading murderer with no repercussions? I would happily do this anywhere in my country, and probably abroad.

Given the extremely low likelihood of an actual murder occurring in your IRL situation where I live, I probably would have done the same as you.

How long of a flight are you willing to take? Im assuming money is no issue?

Hmm. A few days seems about right, maybe up to a few weeks. Money isn't an issue so long as this isn't a regular thing. This is assuming that I absolutely trust the demon is telling the truth. Even a little bit of uncertainty that I'm killing a murderer and saving someone's life by doing this changes my intuition.

I'd do nothing just on the principle that demons setting you up to do something are probably bad news. But in your screaming scenario I'd probably at least yell "are you ok out there?" and note the time in case the police want to know.

I already covered that edge case. "The demon won't harm you for choosing either".

As for the woman, I couldn't discern which direction the sound was coming from so yelling that out from a highrise window wouldn't have done much, I would have had to go down to meaningfully do anything.

Do you have foxes? Because some of their calls sound like someone is getting murdered. Really surprised me the first time I heard them.

I say don't shoot, it's a demon, he's probably lying. Why can you unload the gun after it's dropped?

No foxes or any wildlife would make those noises. I am extremely confident it was a woman, probably not getting stabbed but getting beaten up or mugged or just going insane (there have been more of those lately, crazy times so don't blame them).

The murderer can grab a kitchen knife and stab the victim to death. Or bash their head into a bedframe as many times as it takes. The demon doesn't lie.

I invite you to give the though experiment a genuine try or just find any holes in it.

Yesterday I obtained a new cat. She is ten months old and very precious.

In my house, she has opted to hide either in my closet, under my bed, or under my couch the entire time. I cannot be sure she has eaten or drunk anything, though she did use the litterbox well. I am always keeping food and water available to her.

Can you advise me on how to handle this situation? Or even offer reassurance? I feel very concerned for her.

If it's been less than a week this is normal and not concerning. Especially since she's 10 months which means she's old enough that she'll take time to warm up to you (under six months they have less fear). Make sure food and fresh water are easily accessible. If she's using the litter box then she's eating and drinking.