site banner

Small-Scale Question Sunday for September 10, 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.

Why do so many Substack writers paywall their articles. This makes no business sense. Nothing should be paywalled except for inside baseball stuff, or things that have no general appeal or viral potential. Almost 100% of of people who subscribe, if I had to estimate, do so out of support for the author and the values he or she represents, not for gated or exclusive content. Paywalling content limits viral potential and new readers. Removing the paywall will maybe only cause 1% of people to unsubscribe. It will not slow down the acquisition of subs either. It would be the opposite. There are times when I wanted to share a substack article but cannot because it has a paywall half way through just as it is building up, which will obviously annoy the reader.

I think your estimate is wrong, and many subscribers do so because they want to read the private pieces. Just intuitively, you'll want to see pieces from an author you like that you can't see, and that'll push you to subscribe. My general impression from web content creators is that support from the goodness of consumers' hearts pays much less well than tangible benefits for paying. I guess if you're thinking about ACX, there are't that many ACX private pieces and they're not particularly important, and scott still makes money. But he's kind of an outlier there - most (eg freddie) have significant parts of their output private, and some (e.g. matthew yglesias) have most posts private. Some business/finance substacks are entirely private. Sure, failures of whole marketplaces to do obvious things aren't unprecedented, but I think the simple explanation is better.

It's likely that your best content shouldn't be paywalled, so people can share it and bring you new readers (and the company agrees). But I'm pretty confident having some posts paywalled is good for subscription numbers - intuitively, based on substack's promotion of the paywall, and based on how many creators use the paywall.

Why are phones getting so powerful?

The processor in the newest Iphone is vaguely comparable to the powerful, expensive CPU I bought for my PC this year! In multi-core processing mine is still far superior... but why do phones need such powerful processors? What are people doing on their phones that needs these cores? Phone games cater to the lowest common denominator with cheap, crappy phones. Are people seriously doing proper computing work on their phones?

Or are Iphone engineers just constantly trying to one-up themselves?

"What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away"

Having ultrapowerful processors, high-speed unlimited data plans, and expansive storage saves programmers from the horrors of optimization.

(As an aside, I've installed Linux on my Android phone. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but it should be a perfectly capable computer nonetheless.)

Combined with an average boot-time image of over 500MB for just the base Windows Vista code base, it seems clear that any system configuration that specifies less than 1GB of RAM is a non-starter with this version.

Today, systems with less than 4GB RAM are unworkable and 8 GB is just about the minimum... What a mess.

i just learned you can change the style of the site in the profile settings

i also found out there is a bug/feature where the lines on the side of the comments, that you can use to collapse the comments, is invisible on every style besides the default

i fixed it by adding this to my custom css

.comment .comment-collapse-bar {
	border-right: solid;
.comment .comment-collapse-bar-click:hover .comment-collapse-bar {
	border-right: solid;

but since i also found out there is custom css, anyone using this feature? id like to check out some user created styles

Extra line to stop this site's buggy Markdown parser from erroneously deleting the leading spaces in my comment

body{font-family:sans-serif;}/*Removes custom font*/

.mt-3,.comment{margin-top:0!important;}/*Removes extra margin*/

spoiler{color:white!important;}/*Makes spoilers always legible (I don't care about them)*/

pre,code{color:inherit!important;}/*Makes monospaced text black rather than blue*/

:root{--black:#000000!important;}/*Makes text black rather than gray*/

The what now?

Does school suck now? Why does it suck? Has it always sucked? Is it like this everywhere?

In 4th grade in the '80's at a public school in Sacramento, CA we had a divided start, homework 4 days a week, tilt top desks with integrated swivel chairs in rows. Good posture was encouraged by being mandatory. In classroom work was handwritten, questions were copied from the book. Math was half the problems in class half at home, any incorrect answers were expected to be corrected and resubmitted. In class there were many opportunities for reading aloud. We're were expected to have memorized multiplication tables to 12 x 12. We read 'Brighty of the Grand Canyon', I had reading in the afternoon, I don't know what the kids in the morning read. Lynne Reid Banks came to the school for Author Day, there was an assembly in the MP room.

I had poor penmenship and failed to apply myself, but there seemed to be more rigor. I wouldn't have guessed 4th grade was so different now. 4th grade was also the year you could work in the cafeteria, I liked working milk sales.

I've found with my children I have to demand they supply more effort and often apply considerable pressure to see improvement in the production of their work, especially in a non-preferred subject. Many of the traditional pressures of written corrections, writing lines, poor grades, deficiency notices, summer school, repeating the year have been eschewed in favor of what? The expected standard seems low, the quality of work produced by my recent 4th grader is below the quality of 4th grade @AvocadoPanic, but the school isn't really demanding excellence.

I've 5th, 3rd, 1st and pre-k. Our district is in the top 10% in Massachusetts.

Are there any old teachers here, did you complain in the 80's about children in the 40's having better penmenship?

I think there might be more variation now by school, though I can't really support that with data.

I graduated from a dirt poor Rustbelt school system near Cleveland in '96. There wasn't too much pressure on the kids even then but they also still held kids back and discipline for conduct issues was certain and fairly severe. In school suspension was very common as the offending kids would be loose on the streets if they were fully expelled/suspended and send "home" and the cops weren't having it. As far as academic rigor, as long as you reached a baseline that was all they asked. There was no advanced material for the smarter/faster kids. I heard the term "AP Class" for the first time as a freshman in college in '97. Starting in 10th grade the smarter kids could test to attend some classes at the local Kent State branch with all the advanced kids from the entire county.

We had very little homework as kids couldn't take the textbooks home; there weren't enough to go around so we had to put them back on the shelf when we were done with them in the class room. The district couldn't risk the kids losing/destroying them. I remember having to double up with the kids beside me for science as there were only about 20 books for a class of 40 kids. No money for art or shop class at all. In HS the kids could at least go to the vocational school at the county level which had some budget. Our HS had a shop class area but it had been shuttered around '91 for no budget. There was a band, but much like the textbooks kids had to share instruments. Very few parents could afford to actually buy their kids a personal instrument. HS chemistry had "labs" but they were largely theoretical unless the supplies could be scrounged from household goods. We had to wear our coats during class in the winter.

Compared to that, the same district is doing much better now. The state changed funding schemes and some clever local politician trickery secured some new buildings, money for more staff, and a baseline budget pulling it up to about average for the state. Shop and art are back etc. For me the 80's and early 90's were a distinctly terrible time to be in my school at least. I graduated #2 in my class and was moderately unprepared for college though I pulled it out eventually.

This might be the first time I’ve heard writing lines described as “pressure to see improvement.” I always thought it was strictly disciplinary.

Going down your list, in the 2000s, I…

  • used such swivel/fixed desks, sometimes in rows, sometimes clustered into 4s.
  • was not particularly aware of posture.
  • did all class work handwritten. Most homework, too, though reports and essays were typeset as I got older.
  • had plenty of math homework, copying from the book. Class was usually lecture and worked examples.
  • read aloud for prose, poetry, and plays.
  • definitely, vividly, memorized and was (timed!) tested for multiplication tables.
  • had no idea who Brighty was; the earliest assigned book I can recall was about Sitting Bull.
  • was not visited by any famous authors. Though Charles Townes did stop by, once…
  • did not, as far as I recall, have work-like activities such as the cafeteria.

In addition, I…

  • had to learn the recorder starting in 3rd grade, and a real instrument in 4th or 5th, continuing through high school. Actually, in 2nd grade there were melodicas, but I’m not sure I wasn’t just hallucinating. I’ve never seen one since.
  • was taught extensive state history/geography from a textbook which contained the legendary barbecue regions map.
  • was required to participate in the elementary school production of Macbeth.
  • experienced various introductions to sports and “presidential” fitness testing.
  • learned Spanish starting in 5th or 6th grade.
  • was disciplined mostly by being kept in during recess, or occasionally assigned extra work.
  • had a battery of standardized tests once or twice a year.

Make of this what you will. I do think there has been a transition away from strict line-writing and penmanship; this is probably appropriate, judging by the amount of handwriting I’ve had to do since leaving grad school. Reading and ‘rithmetic don’t seem to have changed as much.

There may also be reduced discipline. Or, at least, it’s shifted away from repetitive punishments and more towards “make up work” or additional projects. The higher disciplinary system of detention/suspension/expulsion is still, I am told, in full force; it was most famously applied as Zero Tolerance, but I think that’s been dialed back.

Of course, I went to some weird schools, but I don’t think my experience is too unfamiliar to yours. Or to your kids. The parts we remember, years down the road, are skewed and blurry. I have a feeling that your kids will be left with similar impressions once they’re out in the world.

Schools do not appear to suck, relative to the 1980s

there are a considerable number of variables that need to be accounted for

Which is why I said, "do not appear" to suck, relative to the 1980s.

Are you sure the standards by which math and reading ability were judged remained constant over these decades?

Well, it is the same, very well known, test, the NAEP. it is easy enough to do some research on its history. Feel free to do so.

I want to get a new PC for gaming - not necessarily the newest or most expensive, but something that can run Elden Ring, Starfield, etc and not lag out like crazy on 1080p.

Tried going back to reddit, but it feels like it's all just bots and spammers now when it comes to prebuilt. Now I would prefer a prebuilt, although I am open to building a PC. Main frustration is just that it takes time, and there are risks with it. I've built a PC before but willing to spend the extra $200-300 for convenience.

I've found a couple and I want to get the Motte's opinion. Or feel free to just send me a link to one you like. My budget is around $1400 max but I'd like to spend less. Here are the ones I'm looking at rn:

Please help me out fellow Mottizens!

@self_made_human @official_techsupport

EDIT: ended up going with the Yeiyan -

All told if you add up the parts it's only an extra $100 or so for the whole rig. Plus a keyboard and windows 11 license. Seems like a great deal.

If anyone is curious PM me next week and I'll let you know if there are any issues with it.

I'm a bit late to the party, but the best way to get a prebuilt PC is to get one off your local Craigslist equivalent. You usually can get a good deal on a two-year-old PC with top-of-the-line $CURRENT_YEAR-2 components from a hardcore gamer that has just migrated to a new box with top-of-the-line $CURRENT_YEAR components.

The second best is finding a local gamer friend with more time than money, like a high schooler or a college student, and paying them the extra $100-200 for convenience.

Yeiyan Yippie looks alright tbh. Noticed they harvested good reviews from a $900 budget model before switching to this more expensive one. The "premade Yeyian windows account" sounds sketchy as fuck though.
Also check if there's a single 16GB ram stick, or 2x8. If it's a single you can get another one for dual channel, and 16 to 32 is a decent upgrade if you do a lot of ram intensive stuff.

The 2nd one, maybe. It lacks important information about the hard drive. The current bottleneck in PC gaming is data speeds of the HDD. M2 is the way to go but there is incredible variation. Current gen is pcie4 with read/writes of at least 4000, with 6000+ being preferred. I'm not a fan of AMD GPUs but I'm sure they are fine. I had multiple bad experienced with anything AMD in the past and will never buy one again. 16mb of RAM really doesn't cut it for a modern gaming PC either, but thats not a terribly expensive upgrade. Not clearly listing the MB specs is also concerning.

I'd echo the advice of using Partpicker. If you have an IRL contact who build their own or is up to date on what the current value parts are I'd try to pester them about it. All those prebuilds are terrible low-info on their specs which is a red flag to me. You can build an absolutely slamming gaming PC for 1400 np. I'd look for a good deal on a MB/CPU bundle and build from there. Its only slightly more difficult than Lego to put them together. Seating the CPU is the only real "danger" moment of breaking something costly, a bundle will solve for that.

My last build was 3 years ago. GPU: GeForce RTX 2070 CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-8600K This MB: 32gb of DDR4 RAM - Crucial Samsung 970evo pcie m.2 SSD 2tb

The whole thing was about $800. It still crushes every game I've ever thrown at it at high graphics.

I'm probably too late but here's my suggestions:

For pc building try They have prebuilds as well as pricing data mining to ensure you're getting the best price for whatever parts you want.

GPUs are really expensive for no reason, the 2nd hand market might not be as awful as you think it is - especially for GPUs. I wouldn't use 2nd hand mobos or psus.

If you aren't doing any video editing or productivity an AMD gpu might be better - be aware that their drivers aren't as good.

Are you sure you're sticking to 1080p? Because if you are, 8gb of vram is probably enough. If you're going to be using 1440p or 2160p though, definitely get 12+gb.

ya I don't need crazy graphics

I personally like the first build with the 3070 more, though the people pointing out that 8gb of vram isn't future proof have a fair point.

It's a significant step up over a 3060, though against the 6750 XT it's quite close.

I own a 3070 and it's still a good card at 1440p, so it should handle 1080p just peachy.

I also prefer the Nvidia software ecosystem, not that I ever use raytracing. DLSS is great, and most modern AAA games have that or FSR, which AMD supports.

IMO, see if you can afford the step up to the latest Ryzen 5 series processors or a current gen gpu. I'd wait for the RX midrangers like the 7700 XT myself, they just launched and seem like decent value.

If not, then option 1 has my vote!

IMO, see if you can afford the step up to the latest Ryzen 5 series processors or a current gen gpu. I'd wait for the RX midrangers like the 7700 XT myself, they just launched and seem like decent value.

I mean I definitely can afford it, I'm just generally allergic to spending more money than I have to on stuff like this. It's a fun purchase for me basically.

I suppose it's an investment in the future, but it's like hmm do I really want to spend an extra $300 or so just to get some slightly fancier hardware?

There's also the sunk cost of if the rig breaks before the end of it's usefulness, which IME is likely, it ceases to be a good investment to get better hardware. (Well not actually with modular parts but I'm lazy and hate to fix things)

The second one with the 6750xt. 50% more vram than the 3070 - PC games are just console games that are ported over these days. Consoles have about 12GB of addressable vram. Developers are targeting higher vram requirements.

For gaming get the best GPU you can afford[1], 16GB RAM, and a decent SSD. You can skimp on the CPU a bit as long as you get a 6-core at least.

[1] check benchmarks, focusing on raster performance. I wouldn't worry about ray tracing at this budget level.

Especially if you live anywhere with a microcenter, your best bet is to pick up a CPU+RAM+Mobo on sale and slap it in your old case with a generously sized power supply, then find a GPU on sale. Buildapcsales on reddit still has some decent deals despite the bot activity. There are still some good sales on 12th gen intel CPUs and boards that everyone is trying to get rid of.

Get a 2TB NVME and you won't need any other storage except a backup HDD.

Interesting. If I go to a microcenter will they take my old PC and put new parts in? I thought they only built new PCs for ya.

Edit: Don't have a microcenter near me anyway. RIP.

something that can run Elden Ring, Starfield, etc. and not lag out like crazy on 1080p

I am open to building a PC

Anything at or above the "very good" tier (914 $) on Logical Increments should fit your criteria.

8 gigs of ram in a $1000 dollar PC with a $100 case makes me wonder about that site, tbh.

Amazing how you choose pcs get that worse gpus the more expensive they get. Get the one with the 3070. It will be more than enough for 1080p, its actually a good deal.

Spend the rest of tbe budget on a good monitor or two and good peripherals. They are just as important for the gaming experience as the PC.

Hah don't worry I have a 60 inch TV that and controllers etc. I can't go back to gaming on a tiny desk monitor anymore I'm too spoiled.

Whats your opinion on videos like this?

For lack of better terms, it got all my dopamine receptors firing, it felt good and indulgent?

  • Attractive girl, check.
  • Cold sparkly beer, check.
  • Red mayo based hot sauce, check.
  • Crispy food check.
  • Crispy sounds
  • Deep frying to golden brown
  • Knife sounds
  • Sexy glove pull and smack

No wonder the kids are addicted to TikTok, this is a superstimuli

It is quite powerful yes. And it gets worse when the algo gets involved. TikTok know what videos you lingered more on, so it knows what to serve you more of, even without giving it any explicit sign that you like it, and it hones in on superstimuli that tickles YOU specifically very quickly.

The ASMR style stethoscopic mic'ing reminds me of the exaggerated grotesque Foley effects in Ren & Stimpy.

I found it very off-putting, annyoing, and uninteresting.

The sound really irritates me, I'm gay and she's not that pretty so I'm not that interested, I really really want to eat the sandwich, the glove pull and smack weren't really satisfying to me, I don't like how the tall skinny rectangle looks on my fat wide computer screen, I don't drink alcohol so the beer doesn't do it for me but I really want the sandwich (still)

Amen, youtube shorts is an abomination. Landscape video supremacy!

Mukbang or whatever it is, not my thing

This video just made me go "Ew".

Yeah I find this video really off-putting, like the other commenters. I'm always surprised these videos get so many views, maybe it's a generational thing?

If anything I find it way too stimulating, and I want to look away from the constant smash cuts.

Note that my personal tastes for entertainment are quite low on the stimulus level. I like board games, roguelikes with basic graphics^, and episodes of Mad Men where nothing much happens.


I picked up RW a while back, and I'm just terrible at it. Never quite managed to make it to Mordred. But it's such a good concept. Any tips?

The game space in RW is so vast that I haven't really come close to exploring it (I've beaten it about five or six times), and I think it rather defeats the point of the game to recommend a specific build, but broadly speaking, the strategy is to get some decent damage spells online, then try and develop a good way to disrupt bigger groups of enemies, whether with summons or something else, then round yourself out with utility spells to deal with specific problems. Some specific highlight spells are Silver Spear (amazing damage and high number of uses), Blink, Word of Beauty (fully heals you, stuns arcane enemies). I reckon Blinding Light is the single best spell in the game.

You must nearly always develop some kind of damage mix since immunities and resists are everywhere later on. Holy and Physical damage are the most versatile types and Dark is the least. Poison builds can get away without it so long as you don't mind hiding in a hole for hundreds of turns on late game maps. Every build also wants some kind of blindsight option. This doesn't mean you can't have a build focused on a particular element, but you need to have some kind of alternative as well.

Spell and HP economy matters a little bit less that they initially seem. Always choose the rift that you have tools to deal with. Often the rift layout matters as much as enemy composition. Prioritise Gates and enemy summoners.

Mordred is himself a very long, tough fight. Blink or the chasm teleport is absolutely necessary.

As a final note I think Rift Wizard is actually fairly easy in that there are many effective ways to build the Wizard. The challenge comes from navigating the insane number of options available and dealing with the huge amount of variation in levels. In that sense I think it's better than any other roguelike I've played. More than that, I think it has an incredible atmosphere. Most true roguelikes have a sense of 'descent into hell', but Rift Wizard develops it so strongly. You really are a lone wanderer in a surreal, hostile, and shattered world, battling teeming hordes of bizarre monsters in the service of nothing.

I hated the constant smash cuts and the ASMR-like sounds trying to get into my head.

Has anyone here ever been terrible at remembering names and then solved that problem? I'm thinking of just writing every new acquaintance's name into a notebook or something.

I literally make (digital) flashcards and just drill names with faces.

Yes you can just write down the names after the meetup and review later. It doesn't take that many spaced repetitions for a name to stick. I've also considered using a personal CRM to keep track of friends and acquaintances. I think this kind of thing is underrated.

I've read about people using Notion as a personal CRM.

I haven't solved that problem, but one mitigation strategy: I never ever say "Nice to meet you" I say "Good to see you" or "great to see you out here" or "thanks for coming out." Even if I think it's the first time I'm meeting the person.

The penalty for saying good to see you to someone you're meeting the first time is small, the penalty for saying nice to meet you the second time you see someone is huge.

I find it's a lot easier for me if I can see their name written beside their photo. Facebook was super helpful when people used it. I've had jobs where the HR solution has a photo directory.

Try imagining an emotionally salient “story image” for the name. Barbara = imagine the person as a Barbarian. Tom = imagine the passion as Tom the Cat, or with a tommy gun.

Has anyone here ever ran a Petrov Day celebration before?

I've no connection with the actual rat community, but I found the idea to be interesting. Held my first one last year (a small edit of the Jim Babcock version). It had rough patches but overall felt like there was a kernel of something there and I'd like to smooth it into something more satisfying. I'm curious if anyone else has ran one before and, if so, did you edit the program at all?

Also if anyone is in the Greater Philadelphia area and would be interested experiencing a cringe yet sincere rationalist ceremony I'd be happy to have guests.

I have done one partnering with the local rat group as an EA organizer. We did all the cards and candles and shit. It was awful and incredibly cringey and none of the EA group members that attended (over five people) ever came back or responded to my messages after that.

So…. I’m skeptical. To put it mildly.

Do you think that surviving life and death struggle will make me less neurotic and more attractive? I'm seriously training for the Hock, and it's making me look at life a little differently. The idea that I might wind up dead in six months or so certainly makes me evaluate what is important in my life, and the act of training causes me to look at my faults and my strengths in a new light. Perhaps the pale sun of the tundra shines a powerful light indeed on us...

I'm seriously training for the Hock,

By this, do you mean that vague idea about air-dropping people into the middle of the Alaskan wilderness and seeing who makes it back to civilization alive?

If so, as an Alaskan, I'm asking you to please reconsider. We do not need more outsiders coming in and freezing to death, getting themselves eaten by bears, starting a forest fire, et cetera.

I have heard it said that Alaska Natives respected the deeds of one Christopher McCandless, for his attempt to live with the land. Arguably he was a dumbass, but he put his money where his mouth was. The pointlessness of the Hock is itself the point. It's a feature, not a bug.

Freezing to death is a possibility. Eaten by bears is unlikely and if I manage to start a forest fire with a foot of snow on the ground I should be dubbed the Human Torch.

Son, if you want confidence with women, it seems like you should practice confidence with women instead of this other thing that you think might be correlated.

If you struggle, I suggest going to a social dance put on by a hobbyist dance group and assigning yourself the goal of ask a woman to dance. The culture assumes men ask women, it’s low stakes and beginner friendly, and most of them women there are there because they like dancing and not to meet chad so if you’re bad with women, it doesn’t matter too much. There’s undoubtedly alternatives, of course. That’s just what I can suggest off the top of my head.

Unironically, I have a lot of female friends. I am reasonably sure that most women would be OK dancing with Quasimodo but not going on a date with him...

I doubt you’re as ugly as you say you are. Try having more confidence.

What sorts of people are your female friends? Do they not invite you to events with their other female friends?

Risking your life is a great way to gain respect... from men. In which case it might work, if what he needs is more self-respect

I've heard it said that if Hocks worked, Hocking would be normal. I believe instead that Hocks work...but that the cost of Hocks, in blood and treasure, is too damn high. Hocks are like a yacht: if you have to ask, you can't afford it. I've seen drug-addicted combat veterans dying of liver failure that had girlfriends; I haven't seen non-veterans with those kinds of medical conditions and girlfriends. The Hock is an imperfect, poor man's substitute for war.

Have you considered enlisting instead?

Uncle Sam doesn't take autists.

This is untrue - or at least was ~20 years ago. I know a former Marine who is very obviously on the spectrum.

I am betting that he lacked a formal diagnosis.

You’d be surprised at how much recruiters are happy to overlook if you don’t announce it and your ASVAB is nearly maxed.

Man, I sympathize with your struggle, I also used to have difficulties with women, but this really isn't healthy. Some nature living vacation with hard physical labor and no internet access might help you get a clear head and make you less neurotic, but risking your life is just plain stupid. I'd certainly consider it entertaining, though.

I'll post a longer reply later: but the unhealthiness is a feature, not a bug. The point is to endure great suffering for no good reason and, if you survive, know for the rest of your life that you are a conscientious and determined individual. Lazy, weak willed chumps do not survive the Hock.

I'll post a longer reply later: but the unhealthiness is a feature, not a bug. The point is to endure great suffering for no good reason and, if you survive, know for the rest of your life that you are a conscientious and determined individual. Lazy, weak willed chumps do not survive the Hock.


Sooo, are you willing to entertain the idea that seeing unhealthiness "as a feature" is not what you should be doing? You are literally living the meme of "men would rather [blank] than go to therapy." In this case, I guess the blank is "die."

But the "therapy" also doesn't have to be therapy. I like what /u/hydroacetylene said, which is just go take some dancing classes and ask women to dance. I get the distinct sense doing that would be harder for you anyway. Training alone to climb a mountain (???) is probably the easier option for you, an introvert.

I second this. Touching grass while completely disconnected from tech (ideally with social interaction) is a great way to deal with neuroticism.

I looked up "hock" and only see results about horses.

It doesn't look like anyone will answer so my best guess is Hock Mountain.

No one corrected you, so you must be right.

I'm curious what ST means too. Hock Mountain looks like it's a 16 mile in and out hike with a class 2 scramble to the summit. That's not a hike to take on a lark, but it's not really something to train for and equate with war.

I'm doing a fun little assignment where we're supposed to find a few misleading graphs, infographics, or other data visualization and talk about how it could be misleading. For example, I remember this fun one from the CBC in Canada that deliberately misstated the proportion of public funding. Anyone have any other good examples that spring to mind? (Not that I'm trying to freeload, it's not that kind of difficult assignment, but I'm curious if there are any that have just stuck in your head like that one did for months or years?

As might be expected, Soviet ingenuity has come up with some good ones. This lives rent-free in my head.

Occasionally I'd browse Defense Charts. Behold! Axis scaling is for chumps! There's also this gem.

There's also its more bitter cousin, Lib Dem Graphs, which I found was walled off by Twitter.

At least the original source of the CBC graph has been banished.

The FSM graph about pirates and global warming.

The Enliven Project false rape accusation infographic. Even Amanda Marcotte found problems with it. But the thing she didn't point out, which makes it obviously an intentional lie: the figures get smaller from the left side of the graph to the right side.

What the hell? What narrative were they expecting to sell with that trick?

The irony is that the data kind of does say what they want it to, in that the numbers seem to rise after the stand your ground law, but they just built an utterly ridiculous chart to show it.

I'll always point to ProPublica's Machine Bias as the example of lying with statistics and stories. Compare their pair of graphs "Black Defendants’ Risk Scores" and "White Defendants’ Risk Scores" to the Washington Post's article's graph "Recidivism Rates by Risk Score".

Maybe don't include that example in your assignment, though.

Could you share this instead as pictures or whatever? Wapo has a paywall, and the wayback machine does not include images.

If I’m reading this right, it looks like the risk scores are pretty well calibrated.

I assume ProPublica was using their graphs to argue the difference in histograms was a systemic bias?

Nothing nearly that sophisticated I'm afraid. Here is one of Propublica's senior writers accusing crime prediction algorithms of being racially biased for predicting more crime in black neighborhoods.


And so PredPol continues to make crime predictions that are incredibly unevenly distributed by race. Take these two neighborhoods in Plainfield, N.J. – where 11 crimes were predicted in the White neighborhood and 1,940 in the Black & Brown neighborhood.

Try searching for "Misleading Liberal Democrat Bar Graphs" and you'll find a bunch of examples. It's become an internet meme.

To anyone who just thinks you’re injecting culture war, no, the Twitter account really is called

I like this one. The scale hides the 50% growth in private schools over the graphed period.

Is that from one of Tufte's books?

I found it online, in a discussion of Darrell Huff's How to Lie with Statistics, but which I don't have a copy of any longer. It wasn't sourced, so I'm not sure who the originator was.

So, what are you reading?

I'm going through Milton's Paradise Lost. Has been on the backlog for a while.

Paper I'm reading: Quandt's Dark Participation.

I finished reading The Mossad by Eisenberg Landau that I picked up in a used book store. I’m not entirely sure how accurate it was, but it gave the impression of spy agencies being more like TV than I was expecting- with lots of honey pot traps, kidnapping targets off the street into a tinted van, clever heists to steal blue prints over the course of a year, etc.

I’ve also been listening to The Hail Mary Project and it’s been really good

I'm reading a biography of Oliver Cromwell by John Buchan titled simply Cromwell. I don't really have the prerequisite knowledge of English History. Buchan drops names and I am like: who? But Wikipedia to the rescue. I type "Pym" into the search bar and navigating the disambiguation page to John Pym turns out to be easy.

Why am I reading about political turmoil and civil war? Because the book was only 50p in the Cat Protection League charity shop. Definitely nothing to do with contemporary resonances or grim forebodings.

I lack the prerequisites, too, so…what’s the resonance? Wasn’t this Revolution one of the Protestant schisms?

Speaking of Cromwells, last week I read through Hilary Mantel's trilogy about Oliver's distant ancestor, Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, The Mirror & the Light). Really enjoyed it. Historical fiction is often saddled when it deals with famous individuals but the incidents involved are simultaneously famous enough and factually unsure (like Anne Boleyn's fall) that it still finds itself with plenty of space to maneuver. Great prose too.

What are great examples of "X is your favorite Y's favorite Y." The idea being that while your favorite Y finds great mainstream success and produces palatable hits, X is the fountainhead from which the real genius flows, the inside baseball avant-garde or the raw authentic source material, that your favorite Y translates for the public.

For example, Howlin' Wolf is, for many classic rock fans, your favorite musicians favorite musician. His music wasn't nearly as big as the Stones or Zeppelin, but the Stones and Zeppelin were listening to his records and that's where their hits came from. A lot of Wolf's later career was shows cosigned by white rock artists who loved his stuff.

Who is your favorite writers' favorite writer? Our favorite lifting coach's favorite lifting coach? Favorite chef's favorite chef? Favorite politician's favorite politician?

Etho is your favorite Minecrafter's favorite Minecrafter. Even famous youtubers like Mr. Beast are watching Etho if they're watching Minecraft.

Although he currently has a lot of mainstream success, I think Bach is a historical example of your favourite composer's favourite composer. While he received a fair bit of recognition in his own time, after his death his works were regarded old fashioned as music went from Baroque to Classicism and then to Romanticism and he was a bit forgotten. In the 19th and 20th century people started getting more interested in historical music and Bach's reputation grew again to the point where he's now regarded as (one of) the greatest composer(s) ever. However among Bach enjoyers in the period where he wasn't very highly regarded, were Mozart and Beethoven. Both of them studied Bach's work, which inspired them to write more complex counterpoint. So in the second half of the 18th century Bach was probably the perfect example of your favourite composer's favourite composer.

Velvet Underground is always described as a "group no one listened to, but everyone who did founded a band." A lot of my favorite music (David Bowie, Jesus Mary and Chain, Sonic Youth, Strokes, La Femme) is pretty obviously influenced by them and there are a lot of others besides the ones I listed.

Kenji Lopez-Alt is every cooking YouTuber's favorite cooking YouTuber (he's also my favorite cooking YouTuber). In turn, Kenji's favorite chef seems to be Jacques Pépin.

Taking this somewhat literally: Raymond Carver is my favorite writer's favorite writer. (Haruki Murakami talks about his admiration for Carver in many of his nonfiction pieces.)

In another area: Agnieszka Radwanska played a style of tennis that connoisseurs really appreciated, despite her lack of success at the absolute highest level. See also Fabrice Santoro.

To go completely afield: the Red Devil 4050 is your favorite pry bar user's favorite pry bar. Possessing especially the original version of this is a mark of taste and distinction in certain building trades.

Where do you get an original version of these? Amazon has 4050 and 4050CL, the latter having a mill finish so there’s risk of rust. The former apparently manufactured in China.

Well, the real story behind this: the 4050CL that you can get online is as good as it gets these days, and it's a good pry bar that will meet any typical need.

But - my dad has been a glazier for right on 40 years, and I used to go help him on jobs sometimes, and when we'd meet other glaziers, builders, etc., it happened unusually frequently that they'd comment on his ancient RD4050 from before they discontinued it in the 2000s. And lots of times these old farts would pull out their own old banged-up 4050s, and start telling stories about how they'd bought this one in 1993, etc., etc. It was the damnedest thing. Old glaziers are like that about all kinds of tools, but the Red Devil 4050 is the one that stands out in my mind by name. Even now, I'll go back home and stand around in his workshop, and he'll pull out the 4050 and say, "Bet you ain't got one of these." I'll say, "Give me one then!" and he'll say, "I can't, you can't get 'em no more. The new ones ain't as good."

Harry Nilsson had this relationship with John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Has anyone done a correlational analysis of violence and stability in Middle Eastern region by rate of SS African admixture?

Most of MENA has much less sub-Saharan admixture than any Caribbean country or Brazil (which is where most of these studies are conducted). The primary viable country I can see for analysis would be Sudan, which has a large Arab and a large black population (even after South Sudanese secession).

That said, I also understand that in Sudan, the roaming janjaweed bands of semi-nomadic youths who rape, steal and kill in Darfur (and who now make up a substantial part of the RSF’s troops) are predominantly Arab, while their victims are predominantly black/indigenous pastoralists.

Has anyone done this for other regions?

I’ve seen some before for Brazil and American states / counties

That’s because there’s massive regional differences in America and Brazil. I don’t think the same is true of the Middle East.

Huh. I would expect a lot of regional variation. Mobility (physical or economic) seems really low compared to post-colonization Americas, but maybe I’m just generalizing from the 20th century?

Why don't you do it yourself? There are plenty of publicly available databases.

I recently read a comment on reddit:

There is a phenomenon called mood-dependent memory that everyone experiences. It's the facilitation of accessing memories when your mood at retrieval is the same as your mood was at encoding. I'm sure you have had different memories flood in when you are in heightened states of mood before. When you get angry, you have memories pop up from other times you are angry. When you are happy, you have memories come in from other times you were happy. The reason for that is that when you form memories, your brain is not only encoding the basal level visual and auditory data. It's also encoding the emotional data in other brain regions, like the insula, insular cortex, and amygdala. When memories are stored, these neuronal connections are a formed that connect these brain regions.

I also heard someone say something along the lines of:

When I’m high I listen to music. When I’m sober listening to that same music it can put me in a better mood than usual.

In the first quote a mood is helping retrieve memories encoded with the same mood. In the second quote the music is helping retrieve the mood of a different instance of listening to the same music.

Where can I read more about the concrete details behind this phenomenon?

Is there a way to reliably trigger recall of a specific memory that matches your current mood?

Could you use psychoactive mood boosting substances to generate positive memories where music is playing in the background then use that same music to retrieve the enhanced mood when sober?

Could you use psychoactive mood boosting substances to generate positive memories where music is playing in the background then use that same music to retrieve the enhanced mood when sober?

If you consistently listen to a certain album while on LSD, you can fairly reliably trigger flashbacks by playing it later on when sober (though the effect diminishes and needs "recharging" over time if it becomes too associated with being sober yet wanting to be on acid).

That's very interesting, and I suspect this effect is strongest with psychedelics. I was able to achieve this effect to a lesser extent with an anti-anxiety drug. Listening to the song can bring me closer to the anti-anxiety effect than I can normally reach sober.

2 other interesting observations I had about this effect:

  • Just thinking about the song can sometimes cause me to recall the anti-anxiety mood without needing to actually listen to the song.
  • One time I was able to imbue a song with a powerful realization when listening to that song on an anti-anxiety drug. Now every time I hear the song I also recall the realization:

The song was about deciding what paths in life to take and I happened to recall the HPMOR quote when listening to it:

You couldn't leave your home planet while it still contained a place like Azkaban.

You had to stay and fight.

Now the song and that quote are linked in my memory. It motivates me to fight against the salient injustices in today's world.

I had a math professor who advised us to study in a similar mood as we would be in during the exam. He joked that maybe we should be crying while we study.