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Small-Scale Question Sunday for April 9, 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.

Did the Youtube homepage recommendations get better a couple weeks ago, then worse than they had been previously a week later? The only things it's showing me now are the very most basic MsMojo fluff, despite that not being really what I watch. Something about an armless ballerina: inspiring! A lot of vlisticles.

Is there a better way to find interesting (but rather light) videos?

Idk if I hit the wrong button at one point but how do I get my notification screen to only show the most recent comment below only one parent comment (or none) on mobile? It’s a pain to go through a whole multilevel thread to see which comment is newest

Does anybody have a motte-adjacent forum for discussing current geopolitical events? For instance: NK just fired another missile over Japan.

Back in ancient times, there would be a Reddit thread about this within a few seconds of it happening.

Those days are obviously long gone.

For a while, chans were actually unbelievable for this. Within seconds they would have had the missile, it’s trajectory, it’s make and model, potential warheads, etc. For the people that never experienced that era, it’s seriously indescribable how fast those people would gather intel.

Where has all of that gone? Chans have got eternal September and now seem to be legitimately horrible brain poisoned places.

Within seconds they would have had the missile, it’s trajectory, it’s make and model, potential warheads, etc. For the people that never experienced that era, it’s seriously indescribable how fast those people would gather intel.

This level of intel sounds like it requires literal autism with an obsession on missiles. I'd guess those people have probably spread to even more hyperspecialized discords for their interests?

What does everyone think Trump’s IQ is? I feel like you need to be pretty smart to be a billionaire/POTUS even if he had rich parents but speaking as someone who loves the guy he is so inarticulate and has such weird speech patterns that it’s really hard to gauge what’s going on under the hood so to speak. I think probably like 125 with +3 sigma charisma & will-to-power

125ish sounds reasonable to me. I'd estimate U.S. Presidential IQ to fall within a 120-140 band, with rare exceptions above and below. I'd put Trump below the median, but not by a lot. Joe Biden might be an exception a bit below 120, and Bill Clinton is probably the highest-IQ recent President, though not above 140. For the highest-IQ Presidents, I'd look at John Quincy Adams and maybe a couple other not-recent candidates.

I won't pretend to any special expertise here, but will note that many of those who do are very often hilarously wrong with political bias swamping any actual signal, especially with recent Presidents. Neither Trump nor GWB is a drooling idiot, and Obama is far from an unparalleled genius, to take the most obvious examples. All three are...pretty average, as Presidential intelligence goes, and markedly above average compared to the general population.

Trump's expertise is so domain specific and doable by a range range of IQs, that it's impossible try to extrapolate a specific IQ from it. If his specialty was theoretical physics, fine ,we could estimate 140+. But real estate is something doable by a much wider range of IQs. HIs IQ could be as low as 110 but possibly as high as 140+. Also, no proxies for IQ like SATs. Speech patterns are not that useful either.

The intelligence researcher Emil Kirkegaard recently put out an informal poll among his followers asking people to estimate the IQs of various rationalists and other public figures, Trump among them. You can vote here or see the results here. Emil also discussed the results on his substack.

Out of 495 responses, the IQ estimate for Trump is a mean and mode of about 120 (SD 15.8).

But many of these estimates for seem hilariously off in either direction, probably depending on how liked or disliked the figure is.

I saw that, surprised nobody has made a post here about it. I think I had almost everyone on there about 10 pts higher than the average except for Spencer, varg, Kanye, Fuentes and Tate, which maybe is a point against my ability to estimate IQ

125 seems far too high, to be honest. I try to be cognizant of the fact that as someone with a high verbal IQ, I’m primed to overestimate the intelligence of people who are good at talking/writing, while underestimating the intelligence of those who are more numbers-oriented and less verbal. I’m also open to the possibility that Trump’s horribly-written, simplistic, juvenile tweeting and bizarre manner of speech is an affectation meant to appeal to a particular audience, and that behind the scenes he could be very different from what his public persona would suggest. All that being said, given that his business model and method of achieving success, at least as laid out in (the ghost-written) The Art Of The Deal, appears to have consisted of an elaborate series of bluffs and manipulations, I don’t know how much I should draw a connection between that and intelligence. While that certainly demonstrates a high level of interpersonal/social intelligence, and a sort of low animal cunning, I don’t know that it’s suggestive of a high cognitive processing capacity, nor any ability to effectively synthesize complex information and generate novel ideas as a result. I’m gonna say 110, but heavily weighted toward empathic forms of intelligence.

I feel like it’s pretty clear by now that he’s not playing a character, which is what makes him so interesting to me. I might’ve internalized the IQ-supremacy point of view where “street smart vs book smart” isn’t a real distinction of intelligence (just high IQ applied differently) too much, which is why I’m overestimating him. It just seems like you have to be pretty high IQ to take “street smarts” as far as he has despite coming across as not very intelligent. I also would be interested to know how difficult it was to get into UPenn back then even assuming a lot of nepotism involved, as that would be a good data point to try and estimate a floor for his IQ

I feel like it’s pretty clear by now that he’s not playing a character, which is what makes him so interesting to me.

He definitely exaggerates and plays himself up. He's admitted as much. But it's just an exaggeration of his own traits, not making up a personality wholesale Colbert Report style. Trump is similar to Andrew Tate imo, where he'll purposefully say outrageous things he doesn't actually believe, but he does believe a more moderate version that's not quite so outrageous, but still firmly right-wing. Like Trump didn't literally want all Muslims banned from entering the USA- but he did have a temporary ban for entry from seven Muslim states and greatly reduced refugee resettlement.

Are large chunks of AI text valuable to this community?

I’m not talking about commentary on specific snippets (like Scott’s Alex Rider post) or about AI text passed off as human input. I mean posts where the big block of text, and maybe its prompt, is the focus. Examples: rewording other comments, comparative philosophy, whatever this is.

I realize it is rude to call these out rather than just minimizing them. My gut reaction is that they are not interesting. I can rationalize this by noting 1) they are dead-ends which discourage user interaction, and 2) they have a high ratio of volume to effort, like image macros. As such, I feel justified in arguing against them rather than merely opting out.

Tyler Cowen linked Katja Grace’s “date me” doc on MarginalRevolution. Seems like an odd thing to post on an economics blog. I see three possible explanations:

  1. This is just quokkas being quokkas. There is no subtext. Everything in the links can be taken at face value because it was written by aggressively honest and straightforward people.

  2. Tyler is being an asshole and posting her info without permission. This seems the most unlikely to me. That would be a real dick move, but Tyler’s preemptive, “not interested in comments mocking Katja, put them somewhere else, I will delete them,” seems almost insulting, like he thinks she will definitely be mocked despite being a reasonably nice and attractive woman.

  3. Katja specifically asked Tyler to post it. Seems the most likely from an, “all of these people know each other” perspective, but I’m curious what she gains from this. I can’t imagine the MarginalRevolution readership will do anything but water-down her dating pool. Maybe women really do love attention that much?

Thoughts? What do you guys think happened here?

Tyler is being an asshole and posting her info without permission. This seems the most unlikely to me. That would be a real dick move, but Tyler’s preemptive, “not interested in comments mocking Katja, put them somewhere else, I will delete them,” seems almost insulting, like he thinks she will definitely be mocked despite being a reasonably nice and attractive woman.

He knows her so presumably he had her permission.

Probably the first, but if she is 36, interested in having children, smart, looks fairly normal, and has famous people in her friendship circle... why is she getting dates this way? Something seems to have gone wrong/weirdly here. Also, kind of wants children, but doesn't seem very serious still at 36 -- kind of poly, wants to sit in bed on her laptop a lot... thinks that's a reasonable combination of things to advertise upfront?

Edit -- which is to say that if Tyler is being helpful, this doesn't seem like a great way to go about doing that, but he might still be, since exposure is something anyway.

Probably mostly "discussing the general concept of date-me docs, which are popular among rats/EAs" with a hint of "she's a friend so more people seeing her doc = good"

Everything in the links can be taken at face value because it was written by aggressively honest and straightforward people.

This is consistent with my general impression of Tyler. The Conversations with Tyler podcast is the most straightforward interview style I've ever heard in my life.

That would be a real dick move, but Tyler’s preemptive, “not interested in comments mocking Katja, put them somewhere else, I will delete them,” seems almost insulting, like he thinks she will definitely be mocked despite being a reasonably nice and attractive woman.

I would not consider her an attractive woman. Some of the specifics of the date me doc are definitely mockable. I still think Tyler's statement is meant literally, that she's a friend and that he will not tolerate insults.

That all screams quokka to me, Tyler has always posted stuff his students/friends have done later even stuff that has nothing to do with Economics (like Megan McArdle's kitchen gift guide).

Turns out Katja tweeted that anyone can share it. That’s what I get for posting on mobile.

Have we talked about the Adderall shortage? Going through top Twitter posts on Adderall recently is a wild ride:

Doc need to either up the dose on my adderall or get me a higher quantity . 😒 ASAP .


I got two really confusing business emails from someone who is normally perfectly coherent.

Then I read about the Adderall shortage.


Its been said but the Adderall shortage in the US is so fucked up. I hate feeling like I have to guard myself against the "Adderall is meth" crew to even acknowledge it but it feels so insane that it's just accepted as normal by those in power. Let alone intentionally engineered


The current manufactured inaccessibility of adderall is a catastrophic crisis that @POTUS should be directing @HHSGov to address, immediately. People’s lives are being ruined, totally unnecessarily.


You can tell, also, when someone's cognitive output is the result of adderall - be it essays, code, or just talking to them. It churns out the CalArts style of thought.

We have ourselves a scissor-crisis! This situation lends itself to many people believing that there is a deliberate government effort to sabotage people afflicted with ADHD by the DEA controlling the supply of a necessary and important drug. Meanwhile, it leads to others being pretty concerned that the DEA limiting the supply of amphetamines results in people freaking out and declaring that they can't function without it, and what that says about the overall mental health of the country. Both of these stories are largely consistent with observable facts.

I wonder how many other stimulants are effected? There are many adderall substitutes on the market. I take vyvanse and haven’t had any issues filling it throughout this crisis.

This shows just how prevalent drugs are, like for weight loss, performance, or other things. Especially off-label use.

I often wonder about what percent of my peers are taking PEDs like Adderall. (If it enhances performance, it enhances performance. Not going to be too pedantic about the context in which that exact term is usually used). It seems like everyone in tech has ADHD or uses ADHD medication , and the productivity of certain people does make me feel like something is amiss.

It is extra ironic because I haven't met a more ADHD-esque person than me (I'm diagnosed), but I am too scared of the unknown impacts of the prescription, so I have held off on medication personally.

I click the twitter link and half of it seems to be people shitting on Trump for some reason (his truth social stuff being less coherent than usual?), accusing him of being an Adderall addict, of somehow being responsible for the shortage. I live in a very different twitter bubble to these people, clearly.

I feel like we've trained a generation of morons that if they want social approval all they have to do is say something mean about Trump. It's all so tiresome.

Was it ever this bad before? Like, even in Nazi Germany, did people in casual conversation just say "of course the Jews are to blame" every other sentence. Somehow I doubt it. Trump is the word that kills all intelligent thought in at least half the population. It's especially disappointing when it's people who should know better.

Was it ever this bad before?

Worse, if accounts from Mao's China are to be believed. People were bookending their verbal interactions with quotations from Mao, even for things like ordering from a shop. If you haven't read the account of Mao's mangoes, you really ought to.

On 5 August 1968, Mao received the Pakistani foreign minister Mian Arshad Hussain, who brought with him a basket of golden mangoes as gifts for the Chairman. Instead of eating the mangoes, Mao decided to give them to the Capital Worker and Peasant Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Team … that had earlier been sent to the Qinghua University in Beijing to rein in the rival Red Guard gangs. Two days later, on 7 August, the People’s Daily, the official news organ of the Communist Party-state, carried a report on the mango gift that included the following extra-long headline in extra-large font: ‘The greatest concern, the greatest trust, the greatest support, the greatest encouragement; our great leader Chairman Mao’s heart is always linked with the hearts of the masses; Chairman Mao gave the precious gifts given by a foreign friend to the Capital Worker and Peasant Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Team’.

Yuet Chau then quotes an eyewitness:

Mao gave the mangoes to Wang Dongxing, who divided them up, distributing one mango each to a number of leading factories in Beijing, including Beijing Textile Factory, where I was then living. The workers at the factory held a huge ceremony, rich in the recitation of Mao’s words, to welcome the arrival of the mango, then sealed the fruit in wax, hoping to preserve it for posterity. The mangoes became sacred relics, objects of veneration. The wax-covered fruit was placed on an altar in the factory auditorium, and workers lined up to file past it, solemnly bowing as they walked by. No one had thought to sterilize the mango before sealing it, however, and after a few days on display, it began to show signs of rot. The revolutionary committee of the factory retrieved the rotting mango, peeled it, then boiled the flesh in a huge pot of water. Mao again was greatly venerated, and the gift of the mango was lauded as evidence of the Chairman's deep concern for the workers. Then everyone in the factory filed by and each worker drank a spoonful of the water in which the sacred mango had been boiled. After that, the revolutionary committee ordered a wax model of the original mango. The replica was duly made and placed on the altar to replace the real fruit, and workers continued to file by, their veneration for the sacred object in no apparent way diminished.

...via this classic post.

Your post reminded me of the time that Trump supporters staged a violent coup in the Capital. Except the opposite. Because I thought your post was top notch. Unlike the time that Trump said he wanted to kill all the Muslims and gays.

Now you're just repeating your theme in a low-effort way.

I was riffing off the parent's comment that routine interactions were sandwiched between salutes to Mao. Also, this is small-question Sunday. Hard to figure out where it's allowed to be funny here (or attempt to be at least).

To be fair, before Trump there were a ton of people who blamed Obama for every single thing under the sun. It wasn't quite as bad as the Trump situation but it was pretty damn close. This isn't a new phenomenon for our society, unfortunately.

Yeah, there's a reason "Thanks, Obama" became a meme.

Quite possibly. I guess I'm just not exposed to those people, not having any working class friends or family. I also don't need to care about what they think as they have virtually no influence over my life.

It was more ‘conservatives’ than ‘working class people’ who blamed Obama for everything. Granted that Obama presided over the white working class near-continually shifting right, but these are not quite the same things and the most intense partisanship is usually a college educated game.

As Adderall is in some degree effective because of the placebo effect, the meme that the pill’s potency has been artificially reduced by the government does a lot of damage just by being a meme existing. Almost something I would do if I were the psy-op division of another country. “Our foreign enemies are artificially reducing the potency of our placebo’s effects potency with claims of non-placebo substance impotency”, I would tweet.

I stand by my opinion once commented here that saffron is a viable and superior alternative to ADHD medication, while smelling better and adding a greater flavor to paella than the leading ADHD medication brands.

(Whoever came up with adderall must have gotten a huge bonus. Starts with ADD, ends in all implying comprehensive benefit, and sounds like what your rural mom complains about to the doctor: “my boy just can’t add ‘er all up in the math classes like those Chinese kids”.)

I'm curious what you mean by 'some degree effective because of the placebo effect'? If you mean it's just a weak drug generally, and that at least 50% of its effect comes from a standard placebo effect, I don't think that holds up. Both because its chemical structure and pharmacology is mostly the same as methamphetamine, just at a much lower dose, and meth's effects are well known, and accounts of Adderall use as well as directly observing behavioral differences of Adderall users don't at all look like accounts of placebos. Generally, while there are things wrong with modern medicine, and IMO adderall bad, it's very easy to not be careful criticizing it and say things that are untrue, and doing so, in the long run, doesn't help your case or cause. (for an extreme example, see the far-right embracing ray peat).

The only thing that comes to mind as placebo-ish is that you need some desire to be productive for it to work, as Adderall will make you focus on something you're already interested in, not magically pick 'productivity' out of the sea of possible actions. So it still depends on user intent, and one could take it and sit down to play video games for ten hours. I don't think the government announcing adderall doesn't work well matters for this - many people have a ton of personal experience with adderall making them more productive that it wouldn't overcome.

To be more specific, that there is a placebo effect for all pills, and pills considered efficacious have the largest placebo effect, so the efficacy of adderall in aided by the placebo effect.

This placebo effect is increased also because of the intentionality imbued in the object. You go to the socially prescribed expert/authority on disease because you can’t study well and he tells you that this will cure your issues. He tells you the name of the drug, maybe gives you a pamphlet, and then you pick it up. You take it with the intentionality that this cures your issues, while remembering the problem for which you requested help.

So cutting into the placebo effect will hurt. Patients are no longer thinking “this is the cure for my inattention”, but “this is an unreliable thing they may not be effective” — you’re now looking for evidence that it is ineffective rather than evidence of desired changes

The situation is worse in that ADHD by its very nature can’t be diagnosed objectively(it’s just ‘difficulty paying attention to the point of impacting your life’) and has had a recent overdiagnosis crisis.

I want to applaud your accurate use of the term scissor-x. As opposed to using it to merely mean controversial.

I realized it as I was scrolling people's thoughts and simultaneously thinking, "what a moron" while also realizing that I couldn't actually prove that they're wrong and didn't actually disagree with the facts they were laying out. That's probably a pretty good test for whether something is a scissor-x or if it's just controversial.

Now that references to periods are considered acceptable in children's media, why weren't they before? Everything Disney has done so far on this subject has been pretty tactful. (Turning Red, the Baymax short, the Molly McGee episode)

My best guess is that it's because periods are associated with sexual maturity, making it a casualty of the larger taboo of references to sex in children's media (which is a perfectly understandable taboo). But my mental models of how other people think are usually wrong, especially in regards to Culture War topics, so I figured I'd ask you guys.

I don't think most people like being made to think about other people's bodily fluids, especially people whom they're not extremely close with. This likely comes from evolutionary drives regarding purity and pathogens. Sexual maturity and sex taboos probably has something to do with it as well.

I think the only reason feminists are interested in making periods non-taboo is because it's a hobby horse that they can ride which allows them to be loud and obnoxious and in your face and make men uncomfortable, which they can point to as evidence the patriarchy is putting them down.

But really, how would they or larger society feel about such standards being applied to semen as well as period blood. Does anyone want to watch Turning White? Does anyone really want to think about pubescent boys ejaculating?

I think the reason feminists are interested in making periods non-taboo is because it's something we have to deal with regularly and need to make accommodations to our lifestyle to do so. It shouldn't be mortifying to buy tampons at the store or have an accident in public.

I don't think we need to go running around yelling "yay, periods!" but it would be nice if it weren't an unmentionable thing. We have no problem making jokes about poop in public, and that's just another bodily function.

Well, how do you feel about what I said about comparable things for men? Do you think men should feel comfortable talking about their ejaculations and semen in more public situations? Do you think that men should not feel embarrassed or shameful about having visible erections? Those are just bodily functions.

Also, not everyone is keen on talking/joking about poop. I know I'm not.

Does anyone want to watch Turning White?

If box office and game sales are any indication, they do; Spider-Man is still a major franchise.

There are often strong period taboos in other cultures. For instance see period huts.

Menstruation blood is thought to be impure as Jewish Ethiopians believe the failure to give birth is manifested in the blood. If anyone were to come into contact with the woman during their menstruation, they would too have to stay in the hut.[3] Therefore to avoid contact, the family of the women in the margam gojos will leave food outside the door. If her blood is to touch food or drink, it would be thrown out. This is why women wear leather belts under their shirts with fabric tied to them to prevent any dripping. The same idea is conveyed in that a Jewish woman cannot go to or cross rivers during menstruation lest she drip and contaminate the river

The use of menstrual huts continues to be a cause of death, from exposure, dehydration, snake bite, smoke inhalation, and so on

The relationship to womens' sexual maturity, and the blood (ew) coming out of the vagina (taboo!), means it makes sense as a taboo i guess. I don't think 'not mentioning it in media' has any particular value

and the blood (ew) coming out of the vagina (taboo!)

It's also just inherently difficult to make jokes about it- vaginas aren't universal, periods less so, and also have a "this isn't funny, this is kind of a curse and sucks ass" effect to them. So women don't really like to talk about them.

A portrayal of someone shitting, on the other hand, is both universal (as in, everyone has done this) in feeling, body movement, and otherwise; it's also temporary (instances of digestive or urinary distress are also universal) and failing to deal with it in time won't break you for a week (though it certainly will make you stink and require a wash and a change of clothes).

That isn't to say that you can't make period jokes; I seem to remember at least one comic about high-pressure period blood spraying everywhere, but they're just comparatively rare and harder to pull off.

Therefore to avoid contact, the family of the women in the margam gojos will leave food outside the door.

Otherwise known as "standard operating procedure for women in the age before Midol"; it was probably the women that insisted on some of this in the first place. A week with far less expectation of making house when you're cramped up sounds like a decent ritual for a society to have... provided your culture is not being stupid about it in other ways, that is (i.e. failing to deliver food to the hut).

I seem to remember at least one comic about high-pressure period blood spraying everywhere,

Women need live performers of the caliber Till and Rammstein. Spraying down a screaming crowd is the way forward.

Not sure. Penises are as nonuniversal as vaginas (and most people with vaginas have periods at some point), but jokes about penises are very common! And "this isn't funny, this is kind of a curse and sucks ass" isn't a universal impediment to humor, see soviet humor.

Periods have long been taboo across many cultures, with many having menstruating women seen as impure or needing to isolate. So I think it makes perfect sense that it was taboo to be in children's media. A more complicated question is, why were periods taboo but not stuff like sneezing or pooping or vomiting? I think the answer to that is that periods were possible to hide. You can't hide sneezing or pooping or vomiting from a 5 year old, so they'll inevitably make jokes about it. You can hide menstruation, so adults did.

There’s no reason to glorify it or celebrate it in popular media, and is something mothers teach their daughters about. For this same reason, we don’t have cartoons about people taking a shit on the toilet. I imagine once we have such a cartoon of lauding someone dropping a load, some will be out cheering about the destruction of another taboo. It’s a gross facet of the human body, hence why it can only be represented implicitly.

The more interesting question is what the Disney psychologists are trying to engineer when they portrayal the development of sexuality. What kind of relationships are they promoting, what kind of love interests, is this “equitable” etc? Because you can engineer someone to develop a preference or fetish based on what shows you shill them when they are young. But I haven’t watched Turning Red so I can’t dive into that. But I wonder, if most fathers knew that their daughter’s media exposure in youth informs their preferences when they are older, whether they would not take greater control over media exposure.

For this same reason, we don’t have cartoons about people taking a shit on the toilet.

I imagine once we have such a cartoon of lauding someone dropping a load, some will be out cheering about the destruction of another taboo.

South Park has a few episodes like this, but doesn't get credit from the people who would normally be cheering that for what should be obvious reasons.

Because you can engineer someone to develop a preference or fetish based on what shows you shill them when they are young.

Indeed; the furry fandom is relatively new since the medium over which that fetish propagates is similarly recent. That said, the protagonist from Turning Red (and indeed, all the pandas) was a fat CalArts blob and not Lola Bunny, so it's not likely to have much of a seductive effect on the men or women who watch it.

whether they would not take greater control over media exposure

"Mom good dad bad" (or its related "mom good dad missing") has been room temperature in media for the past 20+ years for a bunch of reasons, and that's not generally something the parents who want that control are going to base their criteria on- their objections tend to be more short-term about "it encourages kids to be more hyper or selfish" (or the general "it seems today that all you see is violence in movies and sex on TV") rather than the background temperature.

Now, you could conceivably get away with this if you carefully curated the media selection they had access to ensure they don't grow up assuming that men are all as stupid and shallow as the TV suggests they are, but the problem is that, like escaping any gravity well, you need some serious effort to pull that off and not end up doing the equivalent of (topically) intentionally failing to deliver food to the menstrual hut (and through those actions prove the TV is right).

For this same reason, we don’t have cartoons about people taking a shit on the toilet.

Aren't bathrooms / toilets / urine and feces common sources of the crude humor often found in cartoons?

The more interesting question is what the Disney psychologists are trying to engineer when they portrayal the development of sexuality

From their perspective, not discussing periods is just an example of conservative sexism and body-shaming, and keeps important information away from girls and women?

Potty humour appears endlessly in children's media. I'd say you'd probably have a harder time finding a cartoon that doesn't mark poop/fart jokes than finding one that does. No one's going to laud a cartoon about dropping a load because it's already common place.

Which cartoon do you have in mind whose plot is about taking a poop (versus a poop joke)?

Captain Underpants has a major antagonist who's a giant toilet. Silent Butt Deadly is an episode of the cartoon 6teen that revolves around a character trying to poop.

Feces is referenced in cartoons all the time. It's almost never showed on screen because of S&P stuff, but it's talked about.

You say that "you can engineer someone to develop a preference or fetish based on what shows you shill them when they are young", but isn't that anecdotal? I'm not disagreeing with you, I'd just love to see research on people who watched Willy Wonka as a kid and developed inflation fetishes.

The implicit view our media-makers seem to take is that taboo-breaking is intrinsically good. Turning Red, whatever it did, was sold as a boundary-pushing film with scatological subject matter discussed frankly. But is that itself venerable? Why are we celebrating that as an unmitigated good?

Our culture, our art, tends toward this destructive impulse. Watch the language: we break taboos, smash sacred cows, subvert expectations, break stereotypes, and so on. Correspondingly, what is traditional, conservative, or restrictive to nearly any capacity is represented as backwards and fearful, rather than as healthy and signalling a robust community.

What movies have been made in our lifetimes wherein a character's negative snap-judgments on an outsider have proven correct? When has art made within the last fifty years even come close to endorsing a societal taboo as good and wholesome? When has "boundary-pushing" for its own sake ever been represented as the deeply lazy and pathological trait it often is in reality? Barely ever.

Mainstream superhero films.

It's a fundamentally conservative genre where heroes exist to defend the public from change. Obvious, stylized costumes signpost good and evil. Problems are not subtle, though occasionally, only the heroes can see through a villain's deception. Fortunately, they tend to be able to bring overwhelming force to bear. After the violence is over the heroes settle down to eat shawarma and wait for the next ideologue to threaten dramatic changes to their way of life.

Comics have been through a series of deconstruction/reconstruction cycles on the subject. Blockbuster movies haven't kept up with comic-book weirdness, and continue to play it straight. Marvel may play around with genre and storytelling, but they consistently remain in the bounds of heroic, straightforward narratives.

Frankly, I think you're wrong to identify the destructive impulse as foundational to our art. It's a trend that comes and goes, an ongoing Hegelian synthesis. Yeah, "subverting expectations" got a lot of mindshare in the wake of Game of Thrones' disastrous conclusion; when people talked about prestige TV, they had a ready-made catchphrase. But those catchphrases, those trends, exist on a substrate of quality art. They are attempts to differentiate in a market with higher production values than any time in history. They're working on you, right now, when you can bring examples to mind for one trope but not another.

And when audiences wise up and roll their eyes at "subversion," its edge will be lost, until some fresh-faced exec pitches an honest, refreshing show about interesting people doing interesting stuff.

My go-to for this is Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs - the technological improvement is a disaster, and the father is proven correct in his impulse to not partake nor support it. He never eats the food from the invention!

It's been a while since I've seen the film, but I do remember that.

Also, the Lego Movie. Its message is that sometimes "conformity" is good! Being a teamplayer means following some rules and sometimes curbing your impulse to be your own peculiar creature.

How did you spend your Easter?

The girl I like invited me to Easter dinner at her sister's house. It was a little bit awkward sitting around watching the golf with the men after dinner, so I went out back and played soccer with the kids, which was delightful. Someone needs to teach them all to defend without fouling though. Just because I'm 2.5 times their size doesn't mean they can kick me all over the yard smh.

With a ”fun” bout of norovirus. On the upside, it only struck on sunday evening and the views here at the summer cottage are much nicer than at home. On the downside, my sides and back hurt from all the vomiting.

Invited a friend to church for the service who actually came! Did a potluck after, then went to another event.

Came home and spent some time with my partner. I had quite a profound spiritual experience during the service, it has been nice rediscovering my love for spirituality and growth.

Assisting my parish in moving absolutely everything into a tent for holy week(our chapel is too small) and then back again.

There are quite a lot of moving parts in a Latin mass.

Saw my grandparents, who complained about the flamboyant organist in her church.

Listened to three pieces from Bach’s St Matthews Passion probably 30 times a piece in the week leading up to Easter. There is no greater Easter music or summation of the meaning of Easter which is the kernel of Christianity, really. My favorite two of the three:

behold!—Whom?—the Bridegroom!

Behold him!—how?—As a Lamb.

Behold!—what?—behold the patience, look!—where?—at our guilt.

See him, out of love and graciousness bear the wood for the Cross Himself. O innocent Lamb of God, slaughtered on the trunk of the Cross, patient at all times, however you were scorned. You have borne all sins, otherwise we would have to despair.

Make thyself clean, my heart, I will myself entomb Jesus. For he shall henceforth in me For ever and ever

Take his sweet rest. World, begone, let Jesus in.

The whole text of the Passion is a great beginner’s guide to, well, the Passion. Because it’s a combination of the original text, explanatory notes (the recitative), and then the intended affective and transcendent dimension (arias):

Worked. Not too bad, some heavy shit (including four metal urns that had to weigh 160kg each). Finished four hours early, with time enough to find a sports bar and watch the football. I'm not really into football but I still had a good time. Then went home and played eu4 Byzantium. I didn't go to the gym in the morning because I was feeling somewhat unwell.

Easter is next Sunday here, and I don't plan on doing anything beyond rejiggling my menu to fit in a slice or two of kulić while maintaining caloric deficit.

I spent my Easter falling down the rabbit hole of behaviour genetics and HBD after discovering Shaun's video purporting to debunk The Bell Curve.


That video is terrible, which is a shame because it is also a "good" video. It's such a firehose of information (some of which is actually worth knowing!).

nothing special

I'm Orthodox, and wanted to take the kids to a Lazarus Saturday egg hunt yesterday and Palm Sunday fish feast today, but we all had colds, and services are long and far away, so we stayed home.

I started digging out a back yard pond and moved some paving stones around to make a path through the yard. It's finally feeling like true spring, so I got a lot of sun and took a long (for a three year old) walk with my daughter, by the local Catholic church, which was not in session at the time. Sometime I would like to visit for mass, since it's the center of an old Spanish colonial viliage and a comfortable walk from home, but never get around to it.

So, what are you reading?

I'm still on Condon's The Manchurian Candidate. The trope of suspecting some hidden, embarrassing failings in everything that looks outwardly competent and yet fails to adjust has always seemed strange to me. The writing didn't live up to my expectations, but the setup so far seems like it may pay off powerfully if he does it right. I wonder how seriously anyone took this kind of fictional brainwashing at the time this came out.

Will Durant's The Lessons of History.

Started The Power Broker by Robert Caro. RIP new books for the next three months.

How is it? I really enjoyed the path to power but got very bored during the means of ascent (maybe I should just skip to a later chapter? The early material spends a lot of time regurgitating things from path to power)

I'm reading Neven Sesardić's Making Sense Of Heritability (in conjunction with many other papers and blog posts). It's a book that addresses the arguments of anti-hereditarians who claim that heritability is not a good estimate of genetic contribution to variance in a trait because of interactions, gene-environment correlations and so on. Sesardić is incredibly critical of anti-hereditarians, and very good at pointing out the flaws in their reasoning. I'm currently at the part where he explains how the equal environments assumption is tested.

His writing is quite accessible for a newcomer to behaviour genetics, and the book is quite thorough in its scope. I actually think this is a book people who are in any way interested in the topic should read, if they haven't already.

I’m reading The Invisible Library by Genevieve Coleman(?). It’s a light fantasy romp about a secret library that collects books throughout the multiverse. It’s interesting, definitely a bit heavy on the female librarian fantasy, but not terrible.

Quick read, good for light junk fantasy.

I’ve also got Sacred Yoga about a Benedictine nun’s journey discovering yoga. Just started it but it’s interesting so far.

Ty! I’ll check it out.

"Female librarian fantasy" is one of those things that always felt like it should appeal to me but doesn't. Like nurses, or feet.

But lately I have had a hankering for the genre of 'dark academia' and don't know where to begin. Any recommendations?

Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead is dark law, strictly speaking, but necromantic law school is very important to the story.

That’s an amazing series as well! I loved The Craft Sequence as a whole, highly recommend. @Unsaying

I'm almost finished with the first one, so it was on my mind.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic in that genre although I haven’t read it. The Atlas Paradox is good but the series is unfinished which turns me off.

Otherwise I haven’t read too much in that vein. Invisible Library would probably fit though, there’s lots of mystery and politics and intrigue.

How a probable or improbable is it that humans had invented electronic devices before this modern era?

How far back?

I could see a good argument for Newton or his contemporaries getting a decent theory of electric potential 50-100 years ahead of schedule. Most of the early discoveries in electricity got their potential from voltaic piles rather than spinning generators. That means steam engines aren't a prerequisite. I'm less sure if the chemical and metallurgical developments of the Industrial Revolution were a bottleneck. Zinc wasn't readily available in Europe until the mid-1700s; that would make voltaic piles less likely. My understanding of battery chemistry is way too weak to tell what could be done without plentiful zinc.

Anyway, early-1700s Europe might have managed it. Maybe. What about going earlier? Take a look at the state of metallurgy in 1556. They are able to assay and extract a variety of elements, but not zinc or magnesium. There is not yet a functional theory of chemistry; just processes developed over decades. I don't think the Europeans of this era have much chance of developing electric potential, and without voltage, they won't discover electronic devices.

Does anyone here have a Tesla? If so how do you like it? What are the pros and cons in your view?

Thinking of upgrading in the next couple of years and want opinions.

I got my first Model S in 2015, a Model 3 for my wife when they came out, and replaced my S with another S in 2020.

The battery and power train are still the best in the market, still absurdly fast and fun to drive.

Autopilot / full self driving are not perfect but still sorely missed when driving rental cars.

Service has taken a massive dive. With my first Tesla the service center was so mildly loaded that when I had any issue they’d tell me to come in that day, no appointment. Now it can take weeks to get an appointment, and they’re stingy about some things. My headrest developed bubbles in its “vegan leather” and I had to pay $200 for a replacement, even as they told me this can be caused by scalp oil. They gave me a refund after I wrote my attorney general.

Build quality is also bad. I rejected three cars that all had various paint issues, mostly bubbles, before I accepted my current Model S. This one has some wind noise coming from the passenger side that is super obvious to me but that Tesla’s technician can’t hear.

Current struggle is that the infotainment inexplicably loses its connectivity. I live next to a cell tower and the car will sometimes have no signal until I drive for a couple of minutes. This is very annoying for cold days where I’d like to start warming my car with the app.

Oh, and a design flaw that is not covered under warranty keeps filling my wife’s trunk with rain water. Newer 3s have a lip on the rear windshield to work around this, I need to build one of my own.

About 18 months ago I rented a model Y for a few days to make up my mind about taking the plunge. Loved it. Picked up my own (but the sport model) about 10 months ago. Will definitely never look back.

At first a few things bugged me in the spirit of "why would you even reinvent that perfectly-functional standard?" but over time it's all grown on me.

And in the meantime, man, there's nothing else quite like a tesla. The passing power, the software, just the overall experience is fantastic. And when I'm on long drives (a couple times per week) it's lovely to be able to hit the autopilot and look out the window. This shines even brighter during traffic jams, where suddenly the mental labor of stopping and going has been eliminated entirely, and I can often even read a book.

Two things I'll complain about, because in both cases I thought I'd accounted for them but was wrong.

First of all, I thought I'd be saving substantial money on fuel, and I guess there has been a slight edge, but not nearly as much as expected and not enough to offset the higher cost of the vehicle. Even so it was fun last summer to be able to say, "Jeez, do you know what gas costs now? (Sympathetic nod) ...Because I don't!" lmaooooo

But secondly, insurance is really very expensive. I got a quote for like $130 a month, which is still high, but then it quickly shot up to iirc $203 per month, which is just... kind of absurd. And I have a decades-long driving history with zero moving violations or at-fault accidents.

So at this point I'm paying something like $1200 a month for the vehicle and still quite a lot for fuel/energy.

One thing that doesn't bother me, but which reasonably could, is the supercharging dynamic. I have almost always found that chargers are available where and when I want them, though a couple of the stations do set moderately abusive rates. (The menu in the car will tell you where the chargers are and what they cost, so those are easily avoided). But also, gas stations are everywhere, and superchargers are not. A few weeks ago I was driving down the coast having a fine time when my car warned me that I was almost beyond range of any charger stations. This was a pretty big surprise -- turned out the one I'd been counting on was down for maintenance that day (or something). Turning back would have been very costly in time and so I decided to try just driving slower instead and use the next one. This worked fine and I was sure to let everyone by who wanted to pass. Still, not a pleasant situation in which to suddenly find oneself. Presumably it will be rapidly less-common anyway as chargers are going up all over.

Oh, one more thing -- a lot of the places I go still have free electric vehicle charging for parked cars. Nice to take advantage of from time to time.

Thanks for the feedback! That keeps me on track to get one in 3-5 years once I’ve got a more solid financial footing. I like the idea of renting one definitely going to do that soon.

From all accounts of both a) really hardcore car guys and b) really hard core industrial engineers I know, Tesla's a remarkable engineering achievement. And they're a blast to drive. The supercharger network isn't where it needs to be, but Tesla is doing everything it can to change that. It's a policy and investment hurdle at this point.

Personally, however, I just can't get over how boring they look. Tapioca soft flying wedge comes to my mind. "Sleek" has turned into a nonsense word for cars (much like "innovative" or "refined"). I kind of groove on the Rivian because it seems to at least take some classic "boxy" truck influence for its styling.

I wish we could bring back more daring styling in passenger cars. I've read elsewhere this is impossible due to 1) wind-tunnel tests that are used to partially extrapolate MPG and 2) safety requirements (old muscle car hoods are too aggressive - they would plow through a pedestrian like a spear. Slanted modern hoods will potentially make an impacted pedestrian "roll up" the front of the car? I doubt this matters past 40 mph, but maybe it saves lives between 30-40? unsure).

My disappointment with Tesla's, with Apple designed devices, with minimalist open-office floor plans is all the same; we're circling the lowest-common-denominator drain to all beige unisex one-sies. I want studden denim vests and steering wheel columns that would decapitate me in a fender bender.

Happy Easter.

Happy Easter! I don’t share your aesthetic tastes but I appreciate the depth of your sentiment.

I don't have one, but a friend of mine does, and I've gone on a few road trips with him. The SuperCharger network is pretty nice in the northeast US at least and makes road trips reasonably practical. But note that you'll have to plan around making the SuperCharger station on time. The built-in navigation software helps with the details, but it does mean you're somewhat constrained on routes. And charge stops will take around half an hour to an hour - a bit long even for a relatively slow lunch.

The touch-screen only controls may be annoying, as you can't fiddle with the radio or climate control settings by feel. I get the idea a lot of manufacturers are doing that now though. The auto-opening and closing doors seem a bit gimmicky to me, though they seem to do the job.

I don't own one, my parent does.

I think the complaints about poor build quality are probably accurate but overblown on the internet. The S versions are a riot, and the "autopilot" is fantastic for interstate trips.

Have you driven another electric car? My first experience was a Nissan Leaf, a crime against automobilia. This was a significant upgrade. I have heard that, generally, the mainstream automaker's electric cars are better cars and worse gadgets.

What are you cross shopping? What are you replacing?

This forum seems to almost never talk about cars which I find interesting. I have a strong interest in them.

I actually don’t have a car right now, sharing one with my partner. Haven’t cross shopped much in mainly interested in the autopilot. Any other good cars with similar quality autopilot?

Are you able to post substack links on twitter? Is there a warning popup when you click the link after posting it? Or how about like + retweet substack? It all works for me.

Twitter was temporarily imposing extra restrictions on links to Substack. Links: 1 2

Friday, I couldn't retweet or see replies to a tweet that had a substack link. Yesterday, I was able to do both to another tweet by the same person with the same substack link.