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Small-Scale Question Sunday for September 3, 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.

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So I've seen the recent news on Reddit that some shoplifting and pregnant black single mother of 2 was shot dead by police somewhere in Ohio after she tried running one of the officers on site over with her car in the mall's lot. I suppose this has great potential to turn into culture war fodder, but again, unlike in 2020, Trump isn't in office and Bernie's defeat at the Democrat primaries is also a thing of the past, so I'm not sure. Anyway, this instantly reminded me of the rather similar incident that sparked the recent outbreak of riots and vandalism in French urban zones. And then it occurred to me that I haven't actually heard of any similar culture war fodder incident from the past. Not one. Is this maybe some sort of bizarre new trend, or is my memory failing me, or is this just a weird coincidence?

The threat of vehicular manslaughter, a new trend?

If I’m parsing the incident right, you can find similar cases on police cam YouTube. Gun channels and the like. Cars are scary, especially when the driver is erratic. Very easy to cripple or kill with one. Very easy to make an officer awfully nervous.

So I have a class starting up tomorrow that's required for my major, he's the only teacher for it, and he has a frankly horrendous ratemyprofessors rating. 2/5 off of 45 reviews, so sample size sure not massive, but even the positive 4 and 5 star reviews come with caveats and fully half of the reviews are a 1/5. He's got some sort of crazy setup where he doesn't use either Canvas or my university's home-grown LMS system (for posting assignments, grades, everything) but rather a custom Moodle setup that's very difficult to navigate, and the syllabus is not only confusing in its requirements but apparently he's also having us literally do 70% of the grading for him (madatory peer grading that... seems to be worth MORE points than actually doing the assignment itself! What??). There are all sorts of other signs that he's a little scattered and/or lazy, like extremely long pre-class videos, the classroom is located in the top floor of the um, athletic building (mostly it's a pool and a indoor courts and dance studios), the fact he posted winter's class setup by mistake and left it for most of the day, and still buried in the syllabus there's a whole series of tech setup steps for the code-related portion of the class and comments suggesting it should be done before the first class even starts -- yet the only email he's sent out, other than one that again linked to the WRONG CLASS, was one saying it would be nice to fill out our "profiles" on the page. All the comments are about how he's basically a non-existent teacher and going to class is almost worthless.

Anyways those are in some ways not relevant details. Mostly, it's just the quantity of awful ratings that's a bit shocking, at least for my teaching-focused university. My question: Do you think it's acceptable to ask the professor directly, whether in class or privately, why he has such a dreadful rating and if he plans to do anything differently? I know ratings != reality, but surely there's some merit to a sample size like that even if it's self-selected. And I'm honestly very tempted to, though maybe I should give it a few classes as a benefit of the doubt kind of thing.

You need to go and (re)read Professor Quirrell's early lectures from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. In particular the points about not going around making enemies and keeping sight of your goals:

Chapter 16:

Professor Quirrell's lips turned up in a thin smile. "And that is the true reason why Draco Malfoy is dangerous. Had he selected any other, that child would more likely resent being singled out, and Mr. Malfoy would more probably make an enemy. And while Mr. Malfoy might have given some other justification for selecting her, that would have served him no purpose save to alienate some of you, while others are already cheering him whether he says anything or not. Which is to say that Mr. Malfoy is dangerous because he knows who to strike and who not to strike, how to make allies and avoid making enemies. Two more Quirrell points to you, Mr. Malfoy. And as you have demonstrated an exemplary virtue of Slytherin, I think that Salazar's House has earned a point as well. You may rejoin your friends."

Chapter 19:

"But no. The first item was, 'I will not go around provoking strong, vicious enemies.' The history of the world would be very different if Mornelithe Falconsbane or Hitler had grasped that elementary point. Now if, Mr. Potter - just if by some chance you harbor an ambition similar to the one I held as a young Slytherin - even so, I hope it is not your ambition to become a stupid Dark Lord."

Chapter 20:

Understand that the Dark Lord did not win that day. His goal was to learn martial arts, and yet he left without a single lesson.

Which is to say, this is a stupid idea. Your professor is predictably going to get offended. At best he will tell you to get out of his office; at worst, you insult him in public and he will go out of his way to retaliate against your grade. The possibility that anything good will come out of this, such as the professor deciding to improve his curriculum, is so small as to be laughable; that is not how human beings work.

Your goal is to get your graduation requirement. Do not antagonize your professor for no good reason.

Does he have tenure? If he does, he probably doesn't give a fuck about teaching his subject to a bunch of losers and you won't be able to do anything.

Make sure you break the ice by asking him if he’s stopped beating his wife first. You don’t want to come off to adversarial.

Yeah, don’t ask him. But

He's got some sort of crazy setup where he doesn't use either Canvas or my university's home-grown LMS system (for posting assignments, grades, everything) but rather a custom Moodle setup that's very difficult to navigate

How is this allowed by the administration? Your college lets professors just avoid the university’s LMS? Even when they’d refuse to put useful stuff up there they still had to use it for grades and stuff for us, and that was quite a while ago.

If the class is mandatory, asking him that risks him retaliating against you if he gets offended.

Am I wrong and maybe sort of paranoid, or is there a concentrated and obvious effort in the Western public discourse by Zelensky's foreign supporters to retcon (if that's the correct expression) their own past narrative about the Russian military and Ukraine's prospects? My memory isn't that great and I can't be arsed to start digging up social media rubbish from months ago, but I distinctly remember the narrative of Atlanticist culture warriors, which was practically flooding both legacy media and social media for months, especially after the much-publicised counteroffensives in the Kharkov and Kherson regions. It was basically all the same: the orcs are looting local stores because they have no food, they have no vests and other basic infantry equipment, they have no ammunition nor warm uniforms for the winter, abandoning their vehicles and fleeing en masse, freezing to death, Putler has run out of guided missiles, tanks, artillery shells, aircraft etc., the Moskal never had an effective military antd their shitty state was always a paper tiger etc. To reiterate, I distinctly remember countless Twitter/Facebook/Substack posts, YT videos etc. pushing this.

And then, in the last few months, when, according to this narrative, the glorious great counteroffensive should have already brought about a decisive victory, these same people are stating, as if they were all seasoned military historians, with a straight face that duh, of course it's terribly difficult to break through prepared defensive lines and fortifications (even those put together by the fucking orcs, it seems), of course it'd be vitally important to have air superiority (even agains dumbass orcs, I guess, that are even capable of losing a cruiser against people without a navy), of course combat drones have, like, completely revolutionised modern warfare (as if that weren't clear as day to anyone involvind in planning the counteroffensive), of course it's just all so damn hard!

As a dissident rightist, my view is that all this gaslighting has the obvious purpose of preparing the masses for the next narrative down the line, namely that it all could have actually worked out well, if not for the evil appeasers, wreckers, saboteurs, demagogues, opportunists, deplorables and toxic shitheads who've sadly infiltrated important positions in the political affairs of NATO member nations, and prevented all efforts to give all the resources and equipment necessary for the final and total Ukrainian victory. And this is just a variant of the narrative pushed by the Kiev government to their people, namely that, in a nutshell, "NATO promised to help/intervene, but betrayed us, especially in the end".

So I think I understand why this narrative is being pushed, and how it makes sense, from their own point of view. But still, the brazenness of it all is still a bit surprising. Is my observation correct, or should I not believe my own eyes and ears?

The narrative uniformness and changes might seem like there is a complotist illuminati-like scheme that would dictate covertly what can medias says. This is obviously not a thing actually. I mean some investigative journalists have been killed or jailed either by Ukraine or by the West because they were too contra-narrative (e.g. covering IRL the referendum in occupied ukraine or the ukraine war crimes on dombas civilians). Despite this fact, those are annecdotal in the greater POV) Medias are also mostly controlled by a very limited oligarchy, however there exist outliers to this rule. But the main explanation is that those narrative uniformness and changes, are simply due to the extreme and universal mediocrity of journalists as human beings. They are expert in nothing and haven't even been trained for cognivive debiasing/rationality. Add to this, that very few people on earth (so few we don't see them online, if they exist at all (aside me) understand modern warfare. And no, historians are non-credible. But for the most things you report, e.g. the orc dehumanization or turning russia capabilities in ridicule, were not, I believe mostly reported by "serious" media (wapo, forbes, etc). Of course /r/worldnews is not an accurate representation of the world news and is a cringey echo chamber. The "serious" medias such as forbes have although built a narrative of western superiority and wunderwaffe which stem from many biases but most importantly come from a failure of understanding what matters in modern warfare. Currently Ukraine is inflicting 2 times the equipment losses on russia and still has large amounts of ex-soviet equipment, however the balance will quickly shift as lancet production scales up and it is a fact that ukraine will have lost 100% of its artillery in less than 8 months

I don't think this retconning is something new. Even before the counteroffensives you had pundits that switched from "of course Ukraine is going to collapse" to "of course Ukraine wasn't going to collapse" without missing a beat. Before that you had "of course masking is useless, we shouldn't shun Asians" and "of course masking is essential, we should shelter in place", "of course Trump will never win" and "of course Trump was going to win" and so on all the way to the beginning of written history.

Richard Hanania and Anatoly Karlin were two prominent people on the dissident right who switched from "of course Ukraine is going to collapse" to "of course Ukraine wasn't going to collapse". As far as I know (I largely stopped following them after that) they still think that Ukraine, NATO, and the GAE have a bright future.

GAE?

Globalist American Empire https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=GAE - pronounced exactly as it looks. Globohomo (for global homogenization) is a related epithet.

Whenever I read the "20xx predictions: Calibration results" that Scott Alexander publishes, I'm always struck by how hard it would be to fairly compare differing pundits' prediction results, when any two people are naturally interested in two different sets of questions and yet some questions are much harder than others.

Then I remember that the status quo is not "pundits' predictions are published along with epistemic uncertainty levels but their annual calibration records aren't easy to compare", it's "the 'best' pundits express uncertainty qualitatively and clam up when they're proven wrong, the worst pundits make binary predictions and don't always even change their minds when they're proven wrong".

It's a shame that nobody's publishing calibration records for them. I guess that would be a public good in both the "good for the public" and "economically undersupplied" senses of the phrase. We can't even make it into a club good, since facts aren't copyrightable. Maybe this sort of thing could be supplied by harnessing culture-war-hatred? I'm imagining each pundit's supporters/detractors assiduously adding successful/failed predictions to a shared database, incentivized because they don't want that pundit's evil detractors/supporters to bias the score by only adding the opposite.

But still, the brazenness of it all is still a bit surprising. Is my observation correct, or should I not believe my own eyes and ears?

I think we should think back to previous military adventures, which have been nearly uniformly disastrous and strewn with lies for at least the last 20 years. Iraq. Afghanistan. Trillions down the drain, a media machine which existed in a parallel universe to reality... Part of it is that they can only call for 'experts' from a captured industry. The interventionist lobby, LMT, Raytheon, BAE have all the money, most of the influence and all the power to offer cushy board seats to retired generals or officials. They have an innate advantage.

However dubious news media is, defence-related should be treated extra-cautiously.

To be clear, you’re talking about American adventurism? Not the Russians, who have actual boots on the ground, and appear to be dreaming of conquest?

Yes!

My claim is that our media lies, misleads and deludes on our military adventures.

At no point did I claim that Russian media is a bastion of truth and reasonableness about Russia's military adventures.

I don't think that's the most likely explanation. The easier one is more factual: no matter how incompetent a military starts out, after about six months or more of war, certainly a year, even bad militaries get better at war. In terms of the troops doing the actual front line fighting. There's no inherent contradiction of a "Russia has a shit military" type narrative and "it's very hard to retake ground" one. As an aside, I watch the news very carefully and I don't agree at all that the prevailing current narrative is one of "it's NATO's fault Ukraine isn't doing better". There are ammo shortages on both sides of the war, a lot of Western reserves are pretty strained for certain types of ammo and equipment (at least, they want to keep some in reserve for themselves and not totally empty out the shed), and Ukraine has of course found that acting like a petulant child who wants more more more, kinda sorta works? They have always danced a fine line between expressing a desire for more stuff and greater quality stuff, and avoiding acting too ungrateful, and I don't think that's changed very much other than they've finally gotten most of their (realistic) high quality wish list.

In short, I disagree that there is any substantive or coordinated gaslighting going on, in fact (Occam's Razor style) there is a much simpler explanation that requires very little intentional and complex deceit.

There's also, I should add, the element of how surprises are more newsworthy than boring updates. We were almost all certainly surprised that Russia was that awful at a lot of things especially early in the war. Then there was basically a repeat of the original stories but with the Wagner Group as the main character. The need for surprise also twists what kind of news stories are produced especially as the conflict becomes more, might I even say, boring.

This wouldn’t shock me. We’re almost 2 generations since the last major full scale war (Vietnam) and haven’t had a draft since then. Less than 2% of Americans have served in the armed forces even in peacetime, and most of the opinion makers know very very little about war, how it’s fought and what it takes to win.

Looting stores might well have happened. Sherman’s March did something similar in the American Civil War, in that they lived off of what food was available in their path as a way to demoralize the south. And the Russians might well have planted story of ill-equipped troops or running out of equipment for similar reasons — if your army is losing to “orcs” with no food or equipment, then you are in really bad shape.

Am I wrong and maybe sort of paranoid, or is there a concentrated and obvious effort in the Western public

It is a difficult question to settle without any citations to primary evidence than recollections. I have not kept a detailed diary neither, but I thought that looting, poor equipment and logistics were mostly discussed in spring 2022 (when the initial invasion had started showing ever increasing cracks and subsequently Kiev invasion was given up). Russian Kharkov front collapse / retreat, later in the autumn, sounds quite much like poorly trained and equipped soldiers running away ("fleeing in masse"). Retreat from Kherson, muddled picture. Then much debate whether the fight for Bakhmut made sense and was the loss ratio favorable to Ukrainians or Russians. I forget when the Iranian drones entered the picture. Since then there has been much waiting for the grand counter-offensive to yield noticeable results on the map and hand-wringing why is that (all of it keeps reminding me of reading about WW1 trench warfare period after Marne and Race to the Sea, massive battles that result only in small visible changes in the overall picture as civilians reading the news can see); only recently, since August or so, there has been reported changes in lines near Robotyne, which may or may not be a breakthrough (my general feeling is of pro-Ukrainian pundits appearing cautiously optimistic but noncommittal about relevance its success: though that describes the attitude of some pundits already back in May, so no change there).

The world in general and wars in particular are chaotic. I believe pundits often attempt to tell more consistent stories than the reality warrants. Low-quality pundits will reiterate soundbites. It would be quite expected that reported bits of information have changed because the relevant facts on the ground keep changing, may have shifted multiple times, with different information coming from different units with variable experiences. Let's consider the equipment situation of the Russians. It is not uncommon that troops in retreat or soon to start retreating have bad material situation (which necessitates the retreat); this explains reports of very poorly equipped Russians retreating. Yet, one purpose of strategic retreat is to improve the strategical situation, including logistics; who knows, possibly Russians succeeded in improving the situation, explaining there are reports compatible better equipped Russian troops (after the retreat). Likewise, which side has better drone tech and doctrine and relevant parties' perception of their relative strength may have changed several times over.

It is difficult to discuss this kind of question ("am I wrong ... or is there a concentrated and obvious effort ... to retcon") without specific articles and events to discuss. Attempts to litigate is such retcon attempt "obvious"? Even more difficult without such references of who said what and when. Maybe the "Narrative" has switched, or maybe the different voices are more prominent then previously; maybe the overall atmosphere among the audience reading the mostly similar information content has changed, or maybe it is not the overall atmosphere but individual perception.

@DuplexFields how does the FairTax proposal work?

Epistemic status: Not DuplexFields.

(I read the Neil Boortz book over a decade ago and briefly looked at the FairTax website just now.)

In a nutshell: If we adopt the FairTax, many taxes are gone, replaced by a 23% sales tax on new products and services. Taxes that no longer exist include income and payroll. As a side effect, the IRS is abolished and the 4 million word tax code is shredded, which warms my directionally-libertarian heart.

Also, everyone gets a monthly prebate (pre-rebate). Everyone gets the same amount. Not sure what the exact figure is, but I'm fairly certain it was 4 digits It's just under $300, thanks Duplex. Basically, that's to keep the tax progressive. A poor family that spends responsibly might end up making money off of taxes due to the prebate. A mega-rich guy throwing a big-ass cocktail party pays taxes on all of it, and gets the exact same monthly prebate.

Another term for the prebate is "Universal Basic Income," now that I think of it.

Excellent recap! Thanks for taking the initiative with a clean and sound summary. The prebate was calculated at just under $300, last time I checked, which is 23% of Federal poverty-level income (the point at which someone must spend all their income in order to just survive). However, it does lay the groundwork for a potential universal basic income which can be reached by total “universal welfare” reform, the semi-libertarian idea of removing all bureaucrats from welfare decisions, and rolling their salaries into automatic universal flat welfare. I believe with current spending levels, universal flat welfare + prebate would be around $1000 a month.

One of the things I’ve recently learned has a name is tax pyramiding, where business-to-business gross-receipts taxes boost the retail prices of some products because of how many stages of production are taxed. Subtly, all products and services currently are tax pyramided by income tax.

In a nutshell: If we adopt the FairTax, many taxes are gone, replaced by a 23% sales tax on new products and services.

It's actually defined such that the tax is 23% of the total amount you pay, including tax. So if the total price is $100, $23 goes to the tax and $77 to the seller. It's more like a 30% tax.

One reason it’s calculated that way is to point out income tax is also calculated that way: a tax percent out of an amount instead of a tax on top of an amount.

Yeah. The math is a bit counterintuitive if you're used to thinking about income taxes. For example, a 100% sales tax only creates a tax wedge of 50%, and a sales tax can go over 100%. To create the 95% tax wedge that inspired the song "Taxman," you'd need a 1,900% sales tax.

So... are they planning on ignoring for example all the taxes and rules about stocks? Because those rules, sadly, are complicated and hard to get rid of for a reason, only half of which is the rich like it that way (the other half is an unfortunate truth that some of the rules actually make sense to have).

Capital gains taxes indeed would go away, allowing the hoi polloi to speculate on stocks like any rich douche, with only their money at stake. “Rules” would presumably remain in place.

It's hard not to like this tax in the current environment.

Before the current epoch, the knock on a Fair Texas was that it would encourage excess saving and reduce consumption, thereby stalling out the economy. This no longer makes sense. With a massive labor shortage that only looks to get worse over time, it makes sense to increase taxes on consumption (while decreasing them on labor).

It'll never happen because of the socialist tendencies of the powers that be, but I think the Fair Tax would a massive win.

Before the current epoch, the knock on a Fair Texas was that it would encourage excess saving and reduce consumption, thereby stalling out the economy. This no longer makes sense.

It never made sense. The income tax system discourages savings and encourages excessive present consumption at the expense of investment in future consumption. A consumption tax is neutral with respect to the trade-off between present and future consumption. It results in a ratio of present to future consumption that is appropriate, given the time preference of consumers.

In the long run, the economy is perfectly capable of adjusting to less demand for present consumption and more demand for investments. And the whole point of central banks is to make the adjustment smooth. We should not try to use an inefficient tax system to do what central banks can do efficiently.

In the long run, a tax system that encourages an excessive baseline level of present consumption will not prevent recessions, and it will result in slower growth due to less investment.

I'm inclined to agree, but wouldn't China be a counterexample?

With a lack of productive investments, excess Chinese savings were dumped into unproductive real estate speculation. This is going badly for them.

Here in the U.S., we also have a lack of productive investments. Witness the explosion in meme stocks, crypto, property values, and the price of random shit like collectible cards during the pandemic. This was exacerbated by the extreme level of excess savings during the pandemic (now being helpfully unwound by inflation). But, as you point out, the Federal Reserve can fix this.

Ultimately, we'd never know until it was tried. Odds are, it's very unlikely to be worse than our current corrupt and Byzantine system.

It’s happening!

Omg.

Anyone want to help me test a thing? Just reply here!

I will not be telling you what you're testing; part of the test is to see whether you notice it quickly or not. Please don't tell people until the test is done (but there's nothing secret about it, feel free to talk about it afterwards.)

(no it is not terribly exciting)

(note: testing still open, need multiple people :V)

(edit: everyone through netstack has been added, hoping to get a bit more feedback before I shut this part down for a while)

Alright, probably not adding anyone more after this, and I'll be turning it off when I wake up anyway. Thanks everyone! More news soon.

Test test 123

If the thing being tested is the thing I think it is, I think it's pretty exciting.

Honestly, unless you're been hanging out in the dev channel lately, it probably isn't :V Though I'm curious what you're thinking of!

It was what I expected, based on recent gh activity. I briefly thought it wasn't, based on the title of the new thing, and then I looked at the location.

Testing, testing, testing. Unless it's too late, that is?

Okay

When you said “notice it quickly,” I felt obligated to double check for “the the”.

What's he building in there?

the squigglies?

Test me.

Sure!

Hmm, what's going on here...

I feel like a cat cautiously exploring a new object in the environment, ready to startle-jump straight upwards at the slightest sign of a potential threat. But I'm just so damn curious that I can't help it.

Honestly, if you don't notice it quickly, something's gone wrong. But so far I don't have much feedback :V

Test(tickles)

Here you go.

Testing 1 2 3 testing

Testing...

Test passed, no doubt.

Ok

Speaking purely about what I know, the Kyoto School is one of the most impressive philosophical movements of the 20th Century. Probably top ten rather than top five, but still great and largely unheard of in the West - for instance, I find Religion and Nothingness to deal with some Kantian problems in a way which both prefigured and exceeded modern Western Kant scholarship. Of course, they highly are influenced by Heidegger, who is sometimes called an existentialist, but at the least it's very expensive existentialism.

It seems like you're talking more about the humanities side of things than the STEM side of things.

I don't think someone could have written Umineko or End of Evangelion or Angel's Egg unless they were a distinctly intelligent and sensitive person. Or any of Basho's poetry, which is quite remarkable:

Even in Kyoto—

hearing the cuckoo's cry—

I long for Kyoto.

But perhaps all that is still swill for the masses. To each their own.

I do believe that there was a certain hypertrophy in the development of art and philosophy that occurred in the West that didn't occur anywhere else, although the Japanese are arguably in second place. Maybe that's because Europeans are just more creative than everyone else. Or maybe it's because the idea of "heavy intellectual content" outside the domain of STEM is an ill-defined and arbitrary social construct, and we can't expect other civilizations to have adopted the same arbitrary social constructs that we did. It's worth thinking about.

As for Japanese achievements in STEM, I dunno. Seems like the Mochizuki stuff didn't go anywhere. I would just refer you to the relevant publication metrics for whatever field you're interested in.

The way any nationality or ethnicity's intellectual powers are directed is in large part culturally mediated and orthogonal to their measured intelligence. Imagine all the collective brainpower that has been spent (or wasted, you might argue) by Ashkenazi Jews in debating the finer points of Talmudical hermeneutics or by Indian Brahmins in memorizing and reciting the Vedas for thousands of years. However high IQ those populations were or are, there isn't much there for you to read if you aren't into esoteric religious literature or have some personal connection to that culture. If your interest is as specific as modern science fiction novels for example, then you're probably going to get more out of a random western or western-adjacent country like Poland or Finland than anywhere in Asia simply for contingent historical reasons.

As far as the Japanese go, I'd say from my limited experience that their technical expertise in many areas of manufacturing seems indisputable, that they have made major advances in science above and beyond their neighbors in East Asia, and are pretty much the number 2 country in the world after the United States in terms of unique cultural exports (anime, manga, video games, movies, etc. that don't simply ape American forms like European or even Korean producers often do). The fact that they developed a vernacular literature and achieved nearly complete literacy before even most western nations also ranks them pretty highly in my book.

What about film? You have Miyazaki of course, you have Kurosawa, a few other pretty well regarded film makers, or even a few lesser known ones that are quite thoughtful (e.g. my brother speaks highly of Hirokazu Kore-eda). Nintendo is an insanely inventive and productive company with stellar quality. Plenty of other examples... but if you don't speak Japanese, I think almost by definition it's unfair to attempt to judge the quality of the output of a country's intelligentsia. That's an absolutely massive selection and discovery bias, among many others. Certainly, if you are using Twitter as your tool of choice, that says a lot more about you than it does about a whole country.

I mean, all I can say is that the works that really make you (as an individual) think might not do anything for anyone else and vice versa. The impression I received from nearly everyone I talked to last year was that watching the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once would trigger some mixture of existential crisis and spiritual awakening in me and I just came away from it disappointed wondering "did you people not all think through and resolve these particular issues when you were in elementary school like I did?"

I find generalizations of the form "group X is stupid because it doesn't do Y exactly in a way I'd like people to do Y" more a failure of imagination and evidence of the narrow-mindedness than anything else. Maybe they don't have something like Three Body, or maybe they do - but making an impression on the whole culture by such a narrow measure sounds pointless.

they commonly come across as substantially and consistently dumber than other ESLs.

When I cooperated with Japanese people at my work (was some years ago) I (eventually) found out several of them did not speak English, and the English emails they regularly sent me are a product of an automatic translation. That explained a lot actually. It would be nice if they told me about it upfront, but I understand it may be harder for them to admit something like that. But none of those people were dumb - or dumber than any other very smart people I worked with, despite the occasional communication problems. Maybe if you understood Japanese you'd have a different impression?

On the other hand, if I would evaluate people by the content I find on the social media, I'd be forced to conclude that the vast majority of humanity are complete utter morons. I don't think it's actually true though, I think it's just how the social media works, unfortunately.

It's amusing in a post talking about translation and language prowess that you've actually made a (very common with Americans) grammatical error.

if I would evaluate people by the content I find on the social media, I'd be forced to conclude that the vast majority of humanity are complete utter morons.

This should be either "if I evaluated" or "if I were to evaluate", since it forms a subordinate clause to the second conditional, if you're interested. Mistakes of this form are nearly guaranteed with Dutchmen, which I always find interesting because their English is otherwise near-perfect, and typically more orthodox than the average, say, Brit.

I am not a Dutchman (not that there's anything wrong with that ;), neither I am a native English speaker, so I make such mistakes regularly, especially when I tweak the phrase several times before posting and forget to re-read the whole thing and see if it still sounds like a coherent and correct phrase. I do know about that rule, in fact, by a weird coincidence, I was reading an article about it just yesterday (even though I knew it before that), but of course that means nothing. I sometimes make such mistakes even in my native language. I appreciate you pointing it out, which reminds me of the necessity of paying more attention.

Describing the Japanese (at least the Yamato) as a distinct ethnic group isn’t really correct, is it? All the relevant DNA analysis suggests they’re well over 90% ethnically Korean in terms of ancestry. There hasn’t been the same ethnogenesis one sees in some Western European populations because there really wasn’t much mixing. They’re pretty much Koreans.

As regards cultural production I think Japanese film and literature has been in a dark age since at least 1970, for whatever reason. And as other users have said, the Japanese have a reputation for being more parochial and inward-focused than other East Asians.

Koreans, Japanese and Chinese find it relatively easy to differentiate one another just by looking at main physical features like the nose, jaw etc., or so I've heard.

As a white American they look very different to my eyes. Give me a large group of Chinese, Koreans and Japanese and I'll (almost entirely correctly) sort them. Koreans and Japanese look different, despite very recent common ancestry.

Koreans and Japanese do not look the same

Koreans tend to be more attractive, but in the same way Anglo-Utahns of 100% English descent look more attractive than most actual English people. All the stuff about eye tilt direction is pure weeb/koreaboo fiction. One even sees this in DNA tests where many Koreans and Japanese are shocked to find their results come back “40% Korean” (search Reddit) despite no Zainichi or colonial ancestry etc, and it’s because the markers are indistinguishable between Yamato and ethnic Koreans. Increasingly DNA testing sites are just merging the categories entirely since markers are so heavily overlapped.

Some Koreans have additional Siberian admixture, some Japanese have Ainu or otherwise indigenous ancestry. But yes, they’re the same race.

Koreans are more attractive because the beauty standards of Korea are more strict and conformist than Japanese beauty standards. Korean men aim for a butch/masculine military inspired appearance with short hairstyles and Korean women keep their hair black and makeup and clothes very simple. Japanese men and women are far more likely to use hair bleach and have ridiculous hairstyles as well as adopt more Western inspired individualistic fashions. Korea is much more conformist, in Seoul everyone on the train wears the same 3 colors (black, beige and gray) whereas in Japan everyone wears some random bullshit that they believe suits their personality. When I was in Seoul for a few months I would see really handsome Korean men just about every day whereas I would see a really handsome Japanese man in Japan much less frequently, maybe once a week or less. Likewise I would see an extremely beautiful Korean girl just about every day in Korea whereas extremely beautiful women in Japan are harder to find (I also attribute this to Japanese modesty and, possibly, covid malaise because I somewhat remember more beautiful Japanese women when I was there in 2017 but this could be a change in my personal perception)

Also mainstream Japanese are like 10 percent Jomon and 90 percent Yayoi, I don't think Koreans have Jomon ancestry but I'm too lazy to look up the stats right now so I could be wrong

Also, Japanese people have really a diverse range of skin tones and body hairiness levels from very pale to quite dark and completely hairless to fairly hairy. Koreans are broadly much paler and almost entirely hairless.

The Korean diet is also significantly healthier than the Japanese diet which I suspect contributes to the difference in health/general appearance between the two countries. (People I talk to often don't believe me when I say this but I have spent time in like 20 countries at this point and Japan is by far the most difficult country to eat healthy in, meat and vegetables are still expensive and hard to come by and usually deep fried and battered and very fatty cuts, it's also the only country I can't find a rotisserie chicken in and many of the food standards in the country seem weirdly stuck in the showa era)

Koreans tend to be more attractive

isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder (or attractiveness in this case)?

Is it fair to compare the culture of middle Japan to the highest culture of the West? No doubt, their high brow intellectuals also sneer at American superhero movies. Indeed, even that comparison flatters the Japanese, since anime, low or highbrow, at least has some sense of creative energy to it, in comparison to Western capeshit which is utterly bankrupt creatively.

What I'm trying to scratch at is why a big country of ostensibly smart people who are industrious and diligent in everything they pursue, with a large publishing market and average age of 48, so easily satiated with low ceiling entertainment?

I mean, what percentage of American readers regularly read high quality literary fiction (modern or classical)? 2%? It doesn’t seem like we’re much more advanced than the Japanese, a Colleen Hoover, Stephanie Meyer, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, Clive Cussler doesn’t seem more highbrow than most anime, and I say that as someone who doesn’t watch any anime (or read any of the above), so it’s not a defense per se.

A collection of somewhat disassociated thoughts in the matter:

Fate these days is a waifu gacha game before all else.

it's between a gacha game and a visual novel (as was the original). Being a gacha game doesn't preclude it from good writing either, even though I must admit the first part of the story is rough (explained I think by being a project that wasn't expected to be as successful as it was). Shimousa, Camelot, Babylonia and the lostbelts are worth it to slog through the Orleans (even if it had the Mozart speech to Mash) and Oceanus of the game.

As for Eva, yeah, it's a shame that the movies weren't as iconic as the original works, but considering the story, it would be difficult to follow up on it after EoE. It would be difficult to gauge the interest of the fandom in side stories in the same universe, considering the apparent totality of Seele.

And something more appropriate to compare 40K or MTG to, would be to gundam, where there is a physical and collecting aspect to it.

On the topic of western franchises for every Eva over there, we have to contend with our own star wars and Marvel/DC shenanigans. It's a fact of life that greed seeps in and properties can be mismanaged (the Final A Song of Fire and Ice book will have Sanderson in the cover, mark my words) or corpos can Virtue Signal and toss under the bus iconic artists that worked for them.

(the Final A Song of Fire and Ice book will have Sanderson in the cover, mark my words)

There's NO WAY. ASOIAF fans would revolt. Sanderson's style is just too different, not to mention he has his own empire to build now.

Is that or no final book (and the publisher won't leave money in the table, I bet they already have the eulogy written and the contract with Sanderson drafted). Your choice nerds.

I think they'd just pick someone else. It does seem pretty unlikely Martin finishes at this point, but I'll bet he has quite a lot of notes written, enough that somebody could string together a pretty good book without too much work.

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You sound weirdly confident for someone that just admitted to not knowing about the franchise. But to each their own I guess.

Gundam is about the psychic Newtypes, and the fate of empathy which transcends the factions of war.

If you're short on time, Char's Counterattack is the quickest way to get the flavour of it, however, you will be spoiling the original series. I don't know if it would meet your standards of intellectual, anyways.

I feel somerhing similar with white people. Not in writing but speaking. I cant "connect" with them, as if they are automatons.

When I travelled through the Eaat Coast of the US, I felt like I had no issues jiving with blacks, latinos or asians but for some reason there was some kind of filter between me and whites, kind of as if only half of what I was saying was reaching them. Wasnt the case with the Amish though, lol.

Im brown and speak fluent english with no accent fwiw.

That's super interesting, have you ever been to Europe? There's a lot that's distinct about White Americans (the capitalisation makes sense here to draw attention to the group, they're not just Americans who happen to be white) compared to other Euro nations. If I'm to trade in unkind European characterisations, White Americans can be a bit insincere, plastic and not-quite-there. Maybe "hollow" would be a better term than "plastic", actually.

I wonder if these traits are what you noticed; "automaton-like" is not a bad match for this set of traits

Have you noticed any difference between cishajnals and transhajnals?

Yeah I have less of this issue with Eastern europeans and Scandinavians. Its mostly anglos that I experience this with.

Depending on where you travelled in the US on the East Coast, it's probable only a modest minority of the white people you encountered were Anglos (or substantially Anglos).

They certainly pull their weight in number theory.

This hasn't been my experience, but you could be experiencing selection bias.

Chinese, Indian, or Nigerian immigrants to the US tend to be some of the best and brightest from their respective countries. On the other hand, few Japanese tend to want to leave Japan since Japan is already the best country (kidding, sort of).

Thank you everyone who gave me their advice regarding my pernicious PC crashing. I bought the cheapest decent 650w PSU I could, and after wrestling with the cables, and tugging on cables so hard you'd think they owed me money, it's all set up, and after a quick trial of a game that consistently crashed things after 5 minutes of gameplay, it seems the problem is gone, and thus my old PSU was culpable!

That thing was almost old enough to vote, and the braided cables had been through so much that it was shedding fibers like hair from a shaggy dog. I'll put it out to pasture, since nobody is going to pay for the thing.

I appreciate all the advice!

Old power supplies can still be useful as spare benchtop equipment, if you do any electrical engineering or 3d printing. They can't be trusted for their rated amperage at that age, but there's a lot of applications where you just need 10~20 amps at 12v and don't really care if it's a little noisy. To turn on without a motherboard, simply disconnect the power wire, short the 24-pin green wire to any black wire, and check that no other wires are shorted, and reconnect power.

That said, it's competing against a 20-buck Amazon buy, so if you don't have a use case, probably not worth your time to sell.

Glad you got it fixed!

If you are in some city away from home, and you have a free afternoon and want some entertainment, what do you usually do? Due to certain circumstances, I have been traveling a bit lately, and sometimes I have some free time that I wanted to occupy by e.g. seeing some performances or listening to live music or something like that. So far what I did has been occasionally successful (seen a good play) and occasionally failed (couldn't find anything worthy). Complicating condition I don't want to see (or, consequently, help with my money) anything related to agenda-pushing or wokeness. Several times just opening the site for some local theaters was basically a huge turn-off because it was so full with woke jargon that I couldn't trust them enough to go for anything. Other cases, I am not sure how to evaluate e.g. local bands - there are a lot of them and I have no idea if any of them would interest me. I would like to improve my search quality if possible.
So, what would you do in such situation (beyond the obvious like google, reddit, etc. searches)?

Atlas Obscura has lists of "cool, hidden, and unusual" things to do in cities. Just google "Atlas Obscura [city name]" for the link.

Food tours are a good way of testing out the city's gastronomy while learning some history along the way.

There is also the excellent french yt channel Axolotl

Atlas Obscura

Very interesting site, of which somehow I never heard before. Thank you!

Food toors would be awesome, unfortunately I have some dietary restrictions that usually aren't a problem in a regular restaurant but frequently make me unable to enjoy things like food tours since I can't eat a lot of what they offer, or have to very annoyingly interrogate about what each thing is made of.

I walk around in the park and avoid people while scrolling on my phone

I love parks, and usually always spend some time walking if there's one nearby. On an occasion, though, I feel ready for more active entertainment.

I usually walk around the city center and check out local churches and museums, but I guess this won't work in the USA.

In Europe, it has been a very successful method indeed. However, as you noted, in the US not many cities have centers that work that way. Maybe some East-Coast ones like Boston would be, but most won't I'm afraid.

The US actually has a lot of local culture, and particularly if you’re willing to drive every two bit town declares itself the world capital of some stupid thing or other with an interestingly kitschy museum to match.

I had the "walking" part, not the "culture" part in mind.

I'd say most American cities east of the Mississippi have some sort of historic downtown area that's nice and walkable.

Honestly, I love those. They've got a lot more personality than the twenty-third generic Classical Art Museum.

Generic Classical Art Museum, in my book, is still way better than a generic Modern Art Museum, the latter is almost guaranteed to push a political agenda and have a lot of works whose only merit is that their creators check the necessary boxes. And, they usually have "modern art", which, despite listening for hours of lectures on how to properly understand it, still looks very much like garbage to me. I am not allergic to all modern art, just to about 80% of it, and it's mostly what consists the majority of the collection of a generic museum. But yes, excepting major cities and some special cases, a street walk would probably be more interesting than a generic art museum, even the classic one.

You can probably assess whether you'd like a band with 1-3 15 second clips of their music.

Start a blog reviewing the music and plays you like and offer better posts as freelancer content to the small remaining local outlets, get press access to events you could possibly be interested in and interview people?

Go to conventions for things that interest you and try to have friendly acquaintances within an hour of a given metro area, treat them to dinner and figure out the local situation from them?

I'm very quick to judge music based on, like, the first minute. I don't think that's unreasonable as a song's beginning sets the tone for pretty much the whole thing.

try to have friendly acquaintances within an hour of a given metro

That likely won't happen. I'm the introvert's introvert. I mean, I feel more exhausted after a 15-minute conversation with a stranger than I do after a good heavy lifting session. It's not that I can not make a dinner with a stranger, and be pleasant and funny and all around enjoyable person. I can, and I did. It's that for me it'd be the diametrical opposite of rest and relaxing. I'd have to recharge for like a week after that effort. To really enjoy somebody's company and relax, I have to know the person preferably for a couple of years, maybe more. But I feel perfectly fine in my own's company too, and in fact in most cases prefer it to the company of anybody, except maybe my wife and a select few other people.

A little pointless thing: I found a fairly benign, non-political, scissor statement. I was watching the Sixth Sense and wondered whether Cole knew Malcom was a ghost all along. My wife thought differently than me, fairly matter of factly. I took to the internet to see what others think. Everyone seems to have their own answer, with their own strong convictions, and they think everyone else is a moron for not seeing it their way. I personally could see it either way. I guess I always wanted to believe that Cole knew Malcom was dead, but also didn't think there was enough supporting evidence from the film to justify it. So I'm strangely more on the "he didn't know," side , even though I would rather the movie had convinced me that he did know. What do you think?

Cole knew, Malcolm himself did not. Thus the whole narrative structure upon which the film is based, the "gotcha" moment at the end, etc. For Cole to have announced it to him (and thus revealed to us all his prescience) would have ended the film before it started. Even at the end he tells Malcolm ghosts only see what they want to see and sometimes don't know they're dead. Cole is and has always been aware of all this. I agree with Raiders in that I cannot fathom anyone not thinking this.

The movie still works if both Malcom and Cole don't know he's dead. I don't see why the movie should hinge on Cole knowing anything about Malcom being dead or not.

Well there's obviously nuance or we wouldn't disagree. I'd argue the following support Cole knowing all along: The title itself; the repeated interactions where Cole is never once confused or unaware that he is interacting with a spirit; his repeated glances at his mother to see how/if she sees Malcolm (which I believe is why many viewed the film more than once, to check if Malcolm ever interacted with the mother as they had assumed); and finally their last interaction ("I'm not going to see you anymore, am I?") which suggests that now that Malcolm has made his peace, he will "move on" in a way that Cole has always expected him to do, but now knows is upon them.

Reading arguments for both sides, I kinda see the merit of both, and yet I can't see either of them winning and I am fine not knowing which of them is true - in fact, I prefer it as an open question. In general, I am completely fine with literature leaving questions open and undecidable - you are not nearly omniscient in the real world, nobody promised you'd be in the imaginary one either.

Sometimes I wonder how it would feel to have the same attitude about the political scissor questions. Hadn't managed to achieve this yet though.

This is a good scissor because I can't possibly see how someone could think that Cole didn't know.

Cole has been around dead people his whole life. Same way people have "gaydar", or like I can pick out members of my church (LDS) very easily, my guess is Cole is extremely attuned to the "vibes" of a dead person. Additionally, wouldn't he notice that nobody ever interacted with malcolm? Maybe he even noticed the blood. I guess yeah, maybe the film never literally states it but I can't even see in HJOs acting that there's ever a sudden realization! He basically explains all the rules to malcolm at the beginning!

So, what are you reading?

I'm picking up the I-Ching, or the Book of Changes, Wilhelm-Baynes translation. I recently learned that it had a lot of philosophizing in it- not just the divination system.

Paper I'm reading: Simon's The Science of Design: Creating the Artificial.

Mother of Learning by Domagoj Kurmaic. Very good overall. This is the first time I get the appeal of rational fiction. The premise is recognizably Harry Potter, but with infinitely better worldbuilding, and Harry Potter is a useless jock so Hermione uses her looper watch to counter Voldermort instead.

Pro: The protagonist unravels a single fantasy mystery puzzle over thousands of pages, with each step being purely logical. Minimal asspulls. Despite the web novel origins, the author seems to have planned clockwork details from the start. Side characters are funny and have surprisingly heartwarming backstories.

Con: In the early chapters, the protagonist acts like a teenager. A real one. He's not as bad as the fandom warned, but you'll have to overcome a cringe curve here.

Neutral: There's an almost total lack of descriptive language. If a character pulls into a impressive train station, the author just says the character is impressed; he doesn't describe how the benches have Baroque Rococo gold-trimmed marble or whatever. To my surprise, the straightforward delivery doesn't bother me, and more paragraphs of scene-building would just distract. If you like buttery delicious prose, you won't find it here.

Super Supportive on royal road. It may be the best I’ve read on the site.

The story blurb, while accurate, doesn’t do it justice. The author excels at fleshing out characters, and making you really care for them. Just finished a major arc a couple weeks ago, so it is a great time to jump in.

The latest book in Charles Stross's Laundry Files universe, Season of Skulls.

For the uninitiated, in this setting, when mathematicians develop headaches from thinking about extremely tough theoretical maths, it's because their neural circuitry is inadvertently emulating a summoning circle and drawing flocks of microdemons that eat your brains and give you dementia.

Cocks gun Turing Machine's haunted.

In the initial novels, we have a every man computer programmer protagonist who is shanghaid into a reclusive and underfunded British department that handles the occult, the eponymous Laundry, based beneath an actual laundry in Soho. Then he gets thrown into the deep end, cults take over the United States, and everyone is fighting for their lives against a Techno-Lovecraftian Singularity.

It's really really good, and I diligently await every new release.

Wow, according to Wiki I'm way behind. There are thirteen novels now? I read the first four, (maybe the first three? I'm honestly not sure and that's heavily foreshadowing my next phrase...) and they seemed a little less interesting with each new entry, so I stopped paying attention. But I loved the first book. Does the series ever get that good again?

I personally think the series was at its best wit the initial protagonist, and got noticeably worse when the vampires showed up. Still worth reading IMO, but your mileage might vary

I grabbed the first couple from a used bookstore last month. Pretty excited to try them out.

I found the series less pleasant as it went on; the past few books left me cold.

I got to about the middle (about when the vampires show up) and there are certainly some signs of fatigue showing. I decided to take a break from it, and try to come back in a month or two and see if it goes better. I do like the worldbuilding aspects, though some jokes become a bit too forced, I mean I probably heard all the jokes about programmers and geeks that are possible already, I want something new already.

But the first Laundry ones I'd definitely recommend to somebody like me. Also, it's nice to have some British point of view on the world, having been reading so many American ones lately.

I agree the books before they switched POV characters were better, but the worldbuilding still keeps me coming back for more.

That sounds fantastic, will check it out.

Just started on Guy de Maupassant's Bel Ami. It's a surprisingly easy read and fun to get through as well.

We take politics pretty seriously in the main thread. Maybe too seriously. What are your political cocktail party ideas? (the link is a good piece). Maybe you haven't thought it through, maybe it's totally unimplementable, maybe it's in an area you know nothing about. They don't have to be dumb, just fun or pretty out there.

Two problems:

Pedophiles are out there, one of their common hobbies is collecting huge amounts of kiddie porn. We think this is bad, so we spend effort investigating it and jailing people we find processing it or producing it. When we find collectors, we lock them in jail for a while and probably mark them on a sex offender registry.

Moderating big social media sites is a headache. People post huge amounts of kiddie porn and gore and other such things, and they all employ moderators to review reported content. Many of those moderators end up mentally disturbed due to viewing huge amounts of this stuff in the course of their job. Many complain about needing therapy, never being the same again, etc.

Obvious and possibly stupid solution:

When we find people collecting kiddie porn, we make them be social media moderators (of that particular type). They shouldn't mind seeing the kiddie porn since they like it. We let them keep anything they find in their private collection as long as they never share it, in return they work at checking whether reported social media posts really are or aren't kiddie porn.

What could possibly go wrong?

Related is Aella's suggestion that we make AI generated kiddie porn (I think the original suggestion was 'old cp from adults who now consent', but AI is easier) available to people who want it. This way, there'll be no incentive to create or look for new kiddie porn.

While I think most negative reactions to this aren't well considered, I'm not sure how valuable it is. My sense is that some child abuse is actually caused by demand for images, but it's a very small percent of all abuse. And I strongly suspect the 'people see more child porn so they want to offend more' effect is either nonexistent or tiny, but now we're comparing two small things. Maybe some law enforcement agency should flood the dark web (more realistically, the twitter/reddit/facebook pages where people exchange ids for platforms with encrypted dms) with fake accounts selling AI stuff.