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Small-Scale Question Sunday for November 12, 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.

Anyone have tips for the job hunt/writing a good resume? I have a fairly shit work experience (a couple tech internships, 3 years of an aborted SE degree, 1.5 years at a grocery store, 1.5 more years of college to turn it into a BA in Business Admin, another 1.5 years at a grocery store) but I live in the Dallas area where it seems like basically every field is hiring and I feel like I ought to find something netting me more than $40k annually. I'm not picky on the field, but I've spent a month now shotgun applying to any opening I see that's a pay raise and all I have to show for it is a dozen "thank you for your interest but we've moved on with other candidates" emails (that's about a 10:1 application:any response at all ratio). Clearly I'm doing something wrong, or at least I hope I'm doing something wrong - the alternative is that to get a new job the realistic target for applications is about 1000 and that's a nightmarish prospect. Any obvious tips?

What kind of job/industry are you looking in?

The entire point of the resume is to get an interview, and many companies filter resumes through programs that parse for specific keywords/skills. So you'd have to tailor your resume for a specific industry.

You can put whatever you want on your resume, by the way, I wouldn't put outright lies such as saying you worked at Facebook but you can certainly embellish any projects/tasks you did. Just be prepared to talk about it if you get asked once you get to the interview stage.

What kind of job/industry are you looking in?

Mostly retail management, for the pay raise. I'm also applying to some entry level technical positions (maintenance technician type stuff) that pays comparable or slightly less than what I make because right now I do not find my work fulfilling and I have the financial leeway to experiment with my career.

you can certainly embellish any projects/tasks you did.

So most of what I have on there is my day-to-day tasks in keyword type format (i.e. perishable inventory management). Should I include some of the improvements I made, like beating the previous year's holiday sales goals in my department, or getting the perishable display sales trending upward over a 6 month period? Both of these things happened and I can explain how they happened but I never put them on my resume because I was trying to hit keywords.

I don't have any experience in retail management, so I'm not sure I can give any real, tangible advice here. When in doubt, I look at the job description and try to match specific tasks/keywords from the job requisition posting.

I would personally add any tasks you did that had a tangible, positive benefit effect to the company you previously have worked at as long as that contribution is related to the role. I imagine that if I was hiring for retail management, those improvements are things that could make you standout over someone that just lists the tasks and responsibilities they had on their resume. You don't have to put the entire story in the resume just a single bullet point indicating what you did. You tell the story during the interview stage, usually the interviewer will use the resume as a starting point of discussion. You have at least an entire page for a resume, you can definitely add keywords and examples of your successes. A skills section is an easy way to dump in keywords if you need to fill up your resume. That advice is probably more relevant in tech industry, where you can list a bunch of programming languages (e.g. Python, C++, JavaScript), not sure how relevant this is to retail management. Depending on the company, they may have stuff like "Excel" and "PowerPoint" as keyword filters, those are stuff you can dump into a skills section.

Don't be humble in your resume, make yourself look as outstanding as you can. Your competition is most likely embellishing and even lying about their accomplishments on their resumes, you only hurt yourself being humble and honest. There are a lot of people getting to the interview stage who shouldn't even have gotten their because they're lying about their skills an experience, but at least they're getting to the interview stage, while it sounds like you aren't even getting there. As long as you get to the interview stage and haven't made any obvious, egregious lies that should greatly increase your chances of getting the job.

The best way to get your resume improved is to just post it online for people to improve. There are plenty of places online where people will critique and improve each others' resume.

Also it sounds like you have a college degree, if your school had any sort of alumni network you should leverage that. It's so much easier getting an interview if someone can vouch for you, or at least bring up your name. A lot of companies have referral bonuses for hiring so people are incentivized to try to refer someone, so even someone you never met personally is incentivized to help you if you reach out via some kind of alumni network.

Anybody has a good take on what just happened with OpenAI / Sam Altman (and also immediately after another board member and founder, Greg Brockman)? It was pretty much out of the blue and formulations - such as "board no longer has confidence" - are pretty harsh for a regular business disagreement. Something big seems to have happened, and it happened fast. Suggestions?

I was watching a recent debate between Destiny and Actual Justice Warrior (AJW) and around 1 hour 24 minutes Destiny fact checks a claim from AJW on the federal budget/spending in Kentucky.

Here is the fact check from Destiny on federal spending in Kentucky:

Destiny: Department of Defense was number 3 at 8.3 billion 2 is the social security administration at 19 billion at and 1 is the department health and human services at a 116 billion dollars.

I'm not going into the argument between Destiny and AJW since my question is more on Kentucky federal spending data and fact checking. I believe the data Destiny mentioned comes from which by all accounts is a reputable and reliable source, that provides information and transparency on federal spending in the United States. But where I start running into issues with this data is that this numbers here don't necessarily match up with numbers I see in other sources: says Kentucky received $3576.43 per capita in federal assistances in 2020, their source is the US Census Bureau.

According to the urban institute, which seems to be a pretty reputable nonpartisan thinktank:

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Kentucky’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2022 were $45.4 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds.

Per the US Census Bureau, Kentucky’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $46.0 billion in FY 2021 (the most recent year census data were available), or $10,203 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $11,087.

If you take 32.20% (the percentage of state revenue that is federal funds of Kentucky in 2020) and multiply that against the $10,203 per capita number from 2021 (yes I know 2021 and 2020 is not the same but there shouldn't be that large of a gap between the two years) you get $3570.014 per capita, which closely matches up. Other articles on Kentucky state funding seems to match this value much more than the value that you see on

So I looked more at the data from and I start to see data that seems to bring up more questions. The data suggests that per capita, Kentucky people receive $34,552 YEARLY in federal assistance. This is an absurdly high value! Most of that amount comes from the Department of Health and Human Services. I looked at other state's data that rank high in terms of federal assistance:

State Total Amount Per Capita
Kentucky $153.9 Billion $34,552
West Virginia $21.2 Billion $11,661
New Mexico $35.7 Billion $17,090
Mississippi $33.8 Billion $11,343
Alaska $14.7 Billion $19,820
Vermont $7.4 Billion $11,907
Montana $12.3 Billion $11,736
Arizona $102.5 Billion $14,614
Montana $12.3 Billion $11,736
Maine $18.7 Billion $13,966
Alabama $58.0 Billion $11,892

I only looked at the top 10 states based on their dependency on the federal government and Kentucky is a clear outlier. On the dependency ranking Kentucky ranks 5th, which is pretty high, but based on the numbers here I'd imagine it should be even higher.

As I examined Kentucky's data, I start to see other things that seem off. Jefferson county received $110.40B, or 71.73% of the entire state's funding. The next highest was Fayette county, at $2.61B. Jefferson county has a population of around 770,000, while Fayette has around 320,000. So I should expect to see a roughly 2:1 ratio, but here we see a 42:1 ratio instead. That means people in Jefferson county are getting roughly $152,857 per capita. The occum's razor answer would be that there is missing data, somehow the award counts got misattributed 100% to Jefferson county rather than being allocated properly, but in light of the extremely high $34,552 value I'm wondering if the data is correct at all. I did a quick spot check on the other states and their county percentage to population ratios seemed to match up.

So what am I missing exactly? Why are the numbers in so high compared to other numbers that I've seen? Why is Kentucky's numbers so high? There must be something obvious I'm missing but I don't know what that something is. Is the US Government really spending that much money on Kentucky, and specifically Jefferson county?

Jefferson County is basically Louisville, and it's a major transportation nexus in a particularly fucked-up bit of geography, so it's not surprising for it to be a bit higher, plus I think there's a couple big companies like Humana that show up under Louisville but aren't really spent in or on that location. Even with that, these numbers look jank, as does the extent it's all set as "multiple recipients" under mostly HHS funding -- there's reasons to suspect older and unhealthier populace there, but not that unusually so.

Sorting awards by Direct Payment in Jefferson County for FY2023 and 2024 shows a lot of Medicaid awards in the 1b-9.5b range, nearly 90b of them. By place of performance, Jefferson County (112.2b) is literally orders of magnitude higher than any other county (and an order of magnitude higher by congressional district), in the state. The only nearby comparable countries in total spending are Marion County Illinois (ok, Chicago I can believe), Cumberland County, Pennsylvania (wtf?), and Richmond County, South Carolina (Prisma and Blue Cross / Blue Shield), which points away from a particularly sick local population.

My guess is that there's a number of companies headquartered or having technical place-of-performance in those counties, but with the effects of that spending (and likely the actual anything-but-paper spending) occurring in a far more distributed manner.

Has anyone solved chat notifications yet?

Especially in small-medium group chats, I often do want to keep apprised of new messages in real time, but don't want to be notified of every trivial thing. I'll hear a whatsapp/discord chirp, only to check it, find an animated gif and think You made me task switch for THIS? grr.. Switch back to whatever I'm doing. Blerp! New message! Check the chat: "ikr? lol". Oh my god SHUT UP! <Mute notifications for 8 hours>.

8 hours later: Blerp!. Check chat. Find I've missed a whole real conversation.

There's gotta be a better way, right? Exponential backoff algorithm? AI parsing to determine importance? No more than N notifications per alert window + summary?

The best way is to overcome your FOMO and treat Discord as ephemeral. Back when we used IRC we had no chat history. So repeat after me: anything that happens when you're not actively participating doesn't count. Just mark everything as read.

Back then when I've been using IRC I've been running a log server with back history and notifications for my name. And people I conversed with (admittedly, as geeky and more geeky than myself) did so too.

IRC had /log and there were bots who recorded channels. Some are public, for Freenode before it died. I still have logs from decades ago.

Discord has an experimental chat summarization feature using LLMs that keeps you abreast of lengthy threads if you join in later.

I think eventually we'll have an equivalent on other chat apps, especially one capable of notifying you only when something of note happens. Sadly I don't think anything actually exists along those lines right now.

Hmm you could build this today. AI categorization for every chat message. Opt out of notifications for jokes and low-effort.

Keyword notification. Only some people or some topics, or combination, are worth my attention.

I think the standard advice is to make separate on-topic/important and off-topic/casual channels.

This doesn't work very well in my experience. Even when such channels exist, conversation naturally drifts from unserious to serious, from topic to topic, and no one wants to stop and move elsewhere. That kills the vibe, breaks the scroll history. Also, no one wants to be the one to pipe up and ask people to move either.

Has this forum already discussed the Scala drama involving John de Goes? Can anyone point me to a summary. Much appreciated fellas!

Scala drama involving John de Goes

This is from seven months ago.

Probably late for it, but a truly small scale question- there’s lots of youth organizations in the USA which either imply conservatism or are conservative coded(Boy Scouts, 4H, etc) and which are household names, but are there progressive equivalents? I can’t think of any- ‘youth group’, unmodified, seems to imply church contexts to me, and ‘youth sports’ seem apolitical to possibly mildly conservative. The liberal version of whatever is usually not a household name, either.

Is this just a difference in TFR playing out, or is it an example of Cthulhu swimming right?

I think I would propose Camp Fire as the, at lease progressive leaning, equivalent.

Notable alumni:

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren (D Mass.)
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar (D Minn.)
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D Calif.)
  • Gov. Kate Brown (D Oregon.)

A few left or progressive leaning celebrities and semi-notables in there as well. A couple of (R)'s too, to be fair.

Isn't it the case that a lot of the legacy youth orgs have, whatever their past reputation, themselves been drifting left over time? The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in particular are no longer considered safe by a lot of more conservative religious people (and it's not just about allowing gay scouts) and several more explicitly conservative Christian (Protestant, of course...) versions are, at least judging from some families I know, gaining in popularity because of this.

Yeah, they're also basically dead at this point. The BSA is less than half the size it was 5 years ago.

The Girl Scouts have their own issues relating to being a giant train wreck that doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing. The Boy Scouts have gotten more liberal compared to where they were in 2000, but more conservative relative to the culture as a whole- or so it seems.

A lot of that was because of the Mormons but they cut ties a few years ago and made their own youth organization. I haven't followed it closely since then but I suspect it's going to accelerate the BSA's move to the left.

Is it possible to make more clear/transparent what the process for getting your account past the "new user filter" is? I figured nobody was interested in what I had to say but I checked the forums logged out and none of my comments are appearing, so I'm assuming nobody else would've been seeing my comments.

I understand the need to filter out trolls/bots and nobody is obligated to respond to your thoughts/messages but frankly speaking it is discouraging to ask questions/comment and to be met with complete silence. A simple message to new accounts saying "hey, as a new user you may need to be manually approved" or something would've been nice to have. Was there an obvious message/process that I just didn't see?

I fished out all your comments from the filter. They seemed like good comments, keep it up.

There probably should be some message to new users about things not appearing. Might be a good item for the backlog @ZorbaTHut

Typically I read all the comments by a particular user. Trolling stuff never gets out. If we have recently banned or perma banned users I have to be on the lookout for similarish commenting.

There are certain thresholds you have to hit before your posts and comments get auto-approved.

Spam and bots are not serious problems. But trolls and ban-evaders are major problems. The time delay of a moderator reading the comments and approving them helps lower the effectiveness of trolling, and makes bans actually costly (unlike on reddit, where they were trivially easy to dodge as long as you didn't piss off the admins).

We try to lean heavily towards approving new comments and posts. So all of your comments will eventually get approved.

Approving a comment "eventually" doesn't mean much when it doesn't appear as a new comment. It just hides the fact that the comment was hidden.

I think you are already out of the new user filter.

Can you speak plainly? Are you saying that only people currently in the filter should comment on it?

If I don't have a red highlight on my name I'm not giving a warning or speaking about breaking the rules. Any mod warnings to not do something should be as clear as possible. I will often say something obvious like "don't do this" or "this is just a warning".

I was giving you information you might find useful.

We just recently added new moderators, so comments are far less likely to sit in the filter for a long time.

Will we ever remove the new user filter? Absolutely not. It's one of our only ways to enforce bans. And it's one of the best ways to prevent low effort trolling. Otherwise banned users can just create new accounts.

I see. I appreciate the insight into process. The level of discourse and communication is superior to many communications on Reddit, so I guess its working.

Are there any rules to reposting previously asked questions/posts? I'd like to have another go at my question on the publicly available federal spending data, since by the time that comment got approved we already had another Sunday thread. I'd probably split that up into 2 or 3 comments since I was rambling near the end into completely unrelated questions.

In this specific case feel free to repost what you previously had.

As a general rule, reposting from a previous week's thread is ok.

Intentionally reposting from something that is already in the thread is frowned upon.

The rule of thumb I use when modding: is there already a live discussion on this topic, if so, just join that. The deader the previous discussion the more ok it is to repost it and start it up again.

Am I imagining it or are spelling, punctuation, and grammar rapidly getting worse? For example, it's become very common to put question marks at the ends of statements to indicate uncertainty. No one seems to know how to spell led, no one, all right, or its (my phone autocorrects it to it's every time, which may be the reason). And the past participle seems to be going extinct. People are saying things that sound, to my ear, utterly retarded, like "should have went". The only one I haven't heard yet is was instead of been. But I'm sure that's coming soon.

Is this just normal language evolution or is it an actual degradation? I think it's actual degradation because I actually am finding it increasingly difficult to parse these grammatically off sentences. For example, the situations in which you can use singular 'they' have expanded to include specific known people and I usually have to take a second to figure out that the speaker isn't referring to multiple people.

Spelling has been stable for a long time, but now people are pushing up against the limits of what their autocorrect will allow them to get away with. If an incorrect spelling is the correct spelling for a different word, it's going to be used and frequently. Are people just spelling at the level of third graders and their phones are saving them from looking like complete imbeciles?

But it seems to be getting worse. Is it because the average intelligence online is falling as it gets easier to use the internet? I don't think so, because I see otherwise intelligent people make a lot of these mistakes. Maybe it's because it used to be that most of what we read had been written (had was wrote for my future audience) by professional writers instead of average people.

There also seems to be a general decades long decline in the quality of even professional writing of unknown cause. Compare a newspaper article or even worse a scientific journal article from today versus 70 years. The fact that even proofreading for missing words, spelling mistakes, or the terrible grammar of a Chinese scientist seems to be a thing of the past, suggests that the problem is partly one of demand. We just don't care that what we read is well written anymore. Why is that?

For example, it's become very common to put question marks at the ends of statements to indicate uncertainty.

But that's not a bad thing? I've picked up that habit from 2000s internet culture and I honestly like it.

The rest just seems like Eternal September. Once smartphones allowed any asshole with a pulse to use the internet, we got to see what a 530 SAT Verbal score looks like first-hand.

I have an enormous list of pet peeves about this issue, from things I see way too often online. Like my ever-growing list of words I see commonly confused — like "wary" vs. "weary" (which aren't even homophones!), or "cue" vs. "queue" (where too many end up deciding on "que" which isn't even an English word!), or "prosecute" vs. "persecute". (I think the worst I ever saw, though, was someone who consistently used "hieratic" when they meant "heretic.") There's the increasing neglect of the vocative comma (or as one member of a writing group I attended for a time colorfully called it, the "let's eat Grandma" comma). The serious misunderstandings of the paragraph-placement-in-dialogue rule (likely driven at least partially by the way they, IME, tend to teach it in school). Increasing usage of "sat" in contexts calling for "sitting" or "seated" (i.e. something like "John was sat in the chair").

That said, I'll confess to an unfortunate tendency, particularly when typing quickly, to mixing up the possessive determiner "its" and the contraction "it's."

Que is just ridiculous. I don't know of any language where that combination of letters would be pronounced the same as cue.

Another, one I've been seeing lately is disinterested instead of uninterested. Disinterested means something else.

On a related topic, I get really annoyed by some very common mispronunciations like processes pronounced like processeese as though it were the plural of processis or biases pronounced as though it were the plural of biasis. This is extremely common among supposedly educated people.

Disinterested means something else.

Please explain.

Uninterested means not interested. Disinterested means not having a stake in something. For example, the judge should be disinterested, but not uninterested in the case.


Old writing can be turgid at times. Modern writing is easier to read, but sometimes you can tell if it's written by AI or a freelancer, as there are quirks in the writing or it seems overly formal to the point or hurting readability, or it comes off as awkward. For example "the Bitcoin price fell today" instead of "the price of Bitcoin fell today". But overall , from the blogs and articles I have read, new writing is not bad. There are many bloggers and journalists who are competent writers, such as Freddie deBoer and James Altucher. Some of Freddie's recent stuff, in terms of the prose, organization, and the flow of the writing, is top tier. Individual skill varies greatly. Back in the 'old' days, it tended to only the most educated, in a formal sense, who wrote, but nowadays literacy is been commoditized, so there is more quantity and consequently variability of skill. But it's not worse, but more like needing to know where to look.

For example, it's become very common to put question marks at the ends of statements to indicate uncertainty

I do this in text conversations. It takes the place of a certain tone of voice, and is just useful. It's just language changing, 2000s english has a number of errors by the standards of 1900s english, which has errors by the standards of 1800s english, and so on and so on in an often continuous process until eventually it's mutually incomprehensible.

No one seems to know how to spell led, no one, all right, or its

I think people, especially dumber people, have made these sorts of mistakes for a long time, but 1) we see a lot more writing by average people than we did in the past due to the internet, and 2) typing is a lot faster and more casual than writing with a pen so people care less about little mistakes.

Also, though, english spelling conventions are dumb. Why not just have a simpler, understandable correspondence between phonemes and spelling? Like, chinese characters were horrendously complicated until they were Simplified, and there's still a lot more complexity there than is necessary, but it was a net benefit.

Compare a newspaper article or even worse a scientific journal article from today versus 70 years

Not sure about the news, but there is a lot more science being done today than there was 70 years ago, so the % that are high human capital necessarily decreases.

Also, though, english spelling conventions are dumb. Why not just have a simpler, understandable correspondence between phonemes and spelling? Like, chinese characters were horrendously complicated until they were Simplified, and there's still a lot more complexity there than is necessary, but it was a net benefit.

In law, at least, convention is important. The placement of commas can decide cases. I think this is where written English succeeds, because it's so precise, from the choice of words to the grammar.

There's a reason why there's a plethora of controlled versions of English.

I feel like putting all this together is mixing very different categories of errors.

There are errors more common with native speakers that stem from learning the language phonetically and unconsciously, without thinking about the logic or formal meaning of what you're saying, such as "should of", then/than mixups or "irregardless".

There are errors more common with ESL people that stem from English spelling and grammar being arbitrary nonsense. It is impossible to derive irregular verb forms of which there are many, and impossible to derive the spelling of a word from hearing it.

As a mix of both, many ESL people struggle with using the correct article because their language doesn't have an analogous concept of definite vs indefinite nouns.

And there are "errors" which are prescriptivist nonsense. By whose measure is "noone" not an acceptable compound but "someone" is? Why does the moronic norm that the comma and period at the end my second paragraph should be inside the quotation marks persist?

Why does the moronic norm that the comma and period at the end my second paragraph should be inside the quotation marks persist?

If the punctuation goes inside or outside is a matter of debate and taste. Having it inside looks nicer because it's adjacent to the quote and the letter, so it's somewhat hidden. .

Why does the moronic norm that the comma and period at the end my second paragraph should be inside the quotation marks persist?

As a programmer I just see that as stupid. I don't particularly mind punctuation inside quotation marks, but if you are going to have it then you must also have extra punctuation outside the quotation mark too, otherwise it's just like mismatched parentheses.

What gets me is when people call them the 60’s or the 90’s instead of the ‘60s or ‘90s.

Chuck Bednarik was number 60 for the Philadelphia Eagles, who won the super bowl in 1960. By convention, that means that the decade beginning in 1960 belongs to him, and is thus 60's.

Possible explanation: "Public writing" has a lower barrier to entry than it used to, both in terms of who can do it and how easy it is to write something for public consumption. This means more of that writing will be sloppy, which in turn lowers the expectations people have of themselves (people emulate what they see), so the standard amount of effort is lower and people who would in other circumstances have written carefully are sloppier too.

Putting question marks at the end of statements to indicate uncertainty is just a stylistic fad, though.

This is the most likely explanation for why writing seems dumb today compared to in the past . The second explanation: the rise of 'corpspeak', which is intended to be as inoffensive as possible, and politically-correct language.

I've noticed that people very seldom use the plural possessive apostrophe after s.

I've noticed that people very seldom use the plural possessive apostrophe after s.

Meanwhile, I've seen people using it in places where they shouldn't — that is, for nouns that aren't plural, but simply end in an "s." (I.e. writing something like "James' book" instead of the correct "James's book.")

I noticed this too, and I think it's common enough to the extent that now just adding on an apostrophe, with no "s" after, is a correct way to turn a singular noun that ends with an "s" into a plural. It's kinda like how "I could care less" is one correct way of conveying that "I care so little that it is physically impossible for me to care any less than I already do", or how putting the period or comma at the end of a quotation after the closing quotation mark, like I just did earlier in this sentence, is just as correct as putting it immediately before the quotation mark, because so many people kept doing the former despite what our English teachers taught us.

Possessive? And here I thought the apostrophe meant "here comes an 'S'"- but in fairness the concept that a kid's meal is a kids meal that could be the kids' meal is not something one needs to express on a daily basis.

I like to think that that, along with accurate usage of the semicolon, are the main signs of someone who can write somewhat acceptably.

They love to put apostrophe's into plural's where they don't belong though.

Use words is for take my idea, put in your head. If idea in your head, success. Why use many "proper" word when few "wrong" word do trick?

Grugg only make some linguist cry, not all linguist. Grugg say language like river. When river flows, take shape of land it flows through, change shape of land in turn. Prescriptivist tribe try to write shape of river on stone tablet, but tablet stay same even when land change and river change. Grugg think prescriptivist cry because know in heart of heart he try to do thing no can be done.

Grammar transmits information, but that information frequently (not always, but frequently) serves as an error-correcting code rather than a channel for additional information. Consider the following:

  • I bought some apples from Jenny, but they were rotten
  • They some from Jenny apples bought I rotten but were
  • Me buy some apple from Jenny, but them is rot

Even with pretty extreme destruction of information in the original sentence (e.g. randomly shuffling word order, or ignoring most grammatical rules while maintaining word order), you can still puzzle out what the sentence means. Minor errors on the level of using "then" instead of "than" every few sentences should have a pretty minimal effect on the reader's ability to determine what the author was trying to say.

I have an alternative hypothesis for why grammatical errors are aversive: flawless grammar demonstrates that either the author was smart and diligent enough to write the document correctly on the first try, or someone cared enough to edit the document. Either way, it serves as a costly signal of quality. Grammatical flaws demonstrate a conspicuous lack of that costly signal, and so readers develop a flinch response of "why am I even reading this, this is probably low value" whenever they hit a grammatical flaw.

Edit: Grugg had too much passion, use too many big word. Grug mean to say this. People tell Grugg "wrong words make hard understand". Grugg not believe people. Grugg think people see correlation, say causation.

Also you say is no prescriptivist linguist. Grugg agree now, but Grugg say that because prescriptivist tribe fight war but lose. Grugg point at Strunk and White.

A central tension within the concept of communication is between efficiency and precision. Larger lexicons and more complex signifier structures are less efficient to parse, but are better able to capture fine distinctions of meaning.

Even within a given language, this trade-off may be handled differently in different contexts. Jargon--properly used--is an example of domain-specific terms that are mostly not used outside that domain (something like an optional DLC for the base language), but have high precision within the native context. (It's the mark of a corrupted field of knowledge when the 'jargon' is used to obfuscate meaning, rather than identify a relevant concept precisely.)

The other end of the spectrum would be practically undefined interjections like "dude" for a Californian surfer. Tone, volume, affect, etc. carry all of the communicative weight, but this is acceptable because the intended expression is an emotive reaction to the given context--most people find it easy to distinguish between a cheerful greeting, a surprised reaction, dismayed disbelief, or judging censure--and the finer details are either not important or may be further clarified with additional words.

Valid. Still, most communication is not on the Pareto frontier of efficiency and precision. In my experience, grammatical issues are a thing that causes communication to move away from that frontier, but not the main thing (or even that substantial compared to muddled thinking on both ends of the communication, or anti-inductive dynamics).

Or as Grugg might say, "Few word move idea only ok, but many word for sake of many word still move idea only ok. Many word done badly, less ok than few word".

Because it takes more time to read something written this way.

Grugg ask, read few wrong word take more time per idea, or per word? Grugg say look at Motte before answer.

I actually don't understand this.

Grugg admit, Grugg concise to point of parody, parody obscure point Grugg try to make. Grugg try again in normal English.

When you say it takes more time to read something concise but flawed than something wordy but grammatically correct, are you counting that time per word, or per idea successfully communicated, or by some other metric? There is a pattern of people writing thousands of words to communicate something that could have been expressed equally well in dozens of words. This pattern has been noted many times in the past (e.g. "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."), but is particularly pronounced here on the Motte. Even if you have to spend 3 times as long per word to parse something with grammatical issues, you still may end up spending less time than you would have spent reading something that is grammatically flawless but ten times longer than it needs to be.

The metric would be per idea, but it's probably per word too, because it's rare that the problem is not enough words. There is a separate problem of people using too many words to express an idea, but my patience for that is short enough that I usually just stop reading.

This is a combination of Eternal September reducing the IQ of the average internet user from the potential >130 peak in the earliest days to being barely above average today, as well as the evolution of linguistic norms as well as a general acceptance of more casual conversational styles.

I'm a stickler for correct grammar myself, and it causes me psychic damage when other Indians butcher the language, even if I acknowledge there is no "objective" correctness in language, beyond being able to accurately convey meaning. English is a fucked up language, where words often don't sound like they're written, so I can hardly hold it against those who fuck it right back haha.

It drives me berserk when my smartphone's autocorrect fucks up a perfectly grammatical sentence, but then again it's how I wrote 200k words of my novel and most of my Motte posts, so I guess it's a net positive..

I notice what you're noticing, but apart from some extreme outliers, it never actually affects my ability to understand what the person writing is saying.

I think I have a different opinion on this depending on the day or the direction of the wind - one day I'm cringing to myself because a friend keeps using "than" when she means "then" in private text messages between the two of us that no one else will ever read, the next day I'm defending on principle that "ain't" as a replacement for both "isn't" and "am not" is perfectly reasonable, comprehensible, has long-since achieved its legitimacy, and that anyone who would judge someone negatively for using it is a nitpicking pedant.

At the edges of this, my instinct is to say that lots of the examples you brought up, on their own, seem minor to me and don't seem like signals of a linguistic descent into madness and incomprehensibility. I do the question mark thing sometimes, for example. There's a certain threshold for variation that I can tolerate just fine if the actual intent remains clear. But, like I said, I come from the viewpoint of someone who's almost always able to understand imperfect English writing without any fuss. Maybe a lot of these deviations would make the intent much less clear to someone who speaks English as a second language.

At the core of it though ... I'm with you. I wish people considered it more important to try to write well. I wish more people wanted to write well in text messages, facebook posts, youtube comments, magazine articles, newspaper columns, job cover letters, classified ads, yelp reviews, and birthday cards. I wish more young people, middle-aged people and older people wanted to write well, and I wish they wanted to do it without other people telling them they should want to. I think my standards for "writing well" are probably much lower than yours. I don't even write particularly well, from an objective standpoint. But I do have standards, and they do mean something to me.

At the end of the day, maybe it doesn't amount to more than just a strong aesthetic preference. I feel like I'll be able to easily comprehend any writing shifts, trends, degradation, or shortcuts for efficiency that may lie ahead. But is it enough to just be able to literally understand people?

Efficiency and comprehensibility are what are being lost. When you reduce the size of your vocabulary, mix up words, and misuse punctuation, it causes me to have to do a double take to understand. I can read much more efficiently when something is written properly. It's even making me read properly written text more slowly, because for example I'll read the word than and think they probably meant then and then I get to the end of the sentence and realize it makes no sense and they really did mean than. This additional post-processing of the sentence slows me down. It's very frustrating and I didn't use to do it.

Thinks I imagination use y’all.

Are we really doing worse at grammar than the AOL days? Than the cursed shorthands demanded by T9 phone keyboards? I’m skeptical, but I don’t know how this could be measured.

I think we're worse than just five years ago, but I'm not sure.

I don't think it's necessarily an intelligence issue as much as an ESL issue. Currently America is being overwhelmed with non-English speaking aliens ranging from South America to Africa to Somali to Eastern European. None of these people speak English at a high level or are particularly knowledgeable about proper English grammar. A large part of it is being out of practice as well; I know my own knowledge of grammar isn't particularly strong either especially when it comes to sentence structure. This leads to people passively learning 'well enough' communication where there's a general understanding of direction but no nuance.

Maybe this is the lesson of the tower of Babel. When a civilization has the means and resources to build a massive tower, economic opportunists who do not understand and have limited ability to communicate start crating stagnation through gridlock - no one can understand each other well enough to organize logistics.

You’re overselling it.

The English-only population grew by 54M between 1980 and 2019. Everyone else, including multilingual and no-English, grew by 45M. And apparently the multilingual population has gotten better at English, possibly due to high-education immigrants. Source.

What would you say is the threshold for being “overwhelmed”?

The absolute numbers were close but according to your chart the percentage of ESL people doubled because they started from a much smaller baseline. In terms of perception the high-education immigrants might actually make it more noticeable since the type of people who post here are more likely to interact with those than with a roofer or gardener who speaks only Spanish.

In the past four years (which is outside your dataset) there have been 10 million illegal border crossings. Even if the multilingual population is getting better at spoken and written English, they probably lack the formal education that is required to not bastardize a countries native language.

There may have been 10m illegal border crossings recorded but it’s very unlikely the total illegal population rose from ~14m to 24m in that time.

I agree that illegal population probably hasn't increased compared to the number of illiit border crossings, but Even the low end estimate of 2.4 million is significant enough to change the English lexicon, with the high end being about 3.8 million, larger than the population of most states.

That CBP dataset includes expulsions and repatriations. Last time I looked at it, they made up most of the total; people were getting caught and thrown out. The 2023 figures look similar. There must be some getting through, but it’s going to be significantly less than 10 million.

As for bastardizing, the census link says the percentage with “very good” English was what increased. Regardless of what illegals are doing to the bottom of the distribution, the upper part is apparently learning. Or immigrating with existing skill. Perks of a lingua franca.

Are you able to orally recite word for word any stories, poems, epics, etc.? Maybe you know a few by heart, but you probably wouldn't be able to match what the Greeks passed e.g. the Iliad or the Odyssey, and even if you somehow did, most people wouldn't. That doesn't mean our memories are worse, it's just that there is no need to memorize word for word entire stories because you can just pick up a book, or your phone, and read it.

Similarly, spelling and punctuation just seems to be a skillset that's not as important anymore. When it took months for your message to get across to someone across the planet, you better hope you wrote your message properly. Writing in ink also meant fixing mistakes would be a laborious and expensive exercise. Now you can just edit to fix your post later, or clarify in a follow up tweet/text.

I'm not surprised spelling and punctuation has gotten worse. I'm probably worse at it today than I was back in high school or college. That's because my phone or computer will autocorrect 90% of my errors, so I'm not as careful anymore. Why get good at spelling if your writing device will fix it for you? Focus on the content/message instead.

Edit: I remembered something quite humorous, one Timothy Dexter from the 18th century, who wrote a book filled with misspelling and no punctuations, and in the 2nd edition just put a page full of punctuation marks to "pepper and salt as you please." See Sam O'Nella's youtube video for an entertaining summary.

Despite his complete lack of knowledge (or care) for writing and penmanship, he set out to compose a work that would out-wit Shakespeare, and rival the learnedness of Milton. His working title (which, of course, made absolutely no sense): “A Pickle for the Knowing Ones, or Plain Truths in a Homespun Dress.” The book was atrociously misspelled, and entirely devoid of punctuation — there were no periods, no commas, no dashes or semicolons — it was merely a jumbled mess of nearly incomprehensible writing.

Clearly people were just as capable of making spelling and grammatical mistakes in the past, we are probably filtered to look at the works of the most intelligent and well-educated people, and there probably was a greater cultural emphasis on proof-reading and editing. Even 50 years ago it would be quite an effort to publish something for the world to see, you'd probably need to be educated and have connections, now any random Joe can just tweet his thoughts to the world.

Similarly, spelling and punctuation just seems to be a skillset that's not as important anymore.

My nephew is 23 and started his first year of medical school this semester. From kindergarten to present he has never had any formal instruction in spelling in school. Ever. His teachers say they stopped teaching spelling under the assumption the kids would just "pick it up" as they read. To be fair his entire pre-college education was ~99% concerned with passing standardized tests at an extremely poor rural school district. Things may well be different in schools with more resources. I can say with confidence he is entirely incapable of spelling the English language correctly without spellchecking software of some sort and accidentally uses the wrong homonym about 50% of the time. Than/then and there/their/they're are essentially the exact same word for him; the meaning of the word is only deduced from context, not spelling. He finished his undergrad with no issues.

My understanding is that several school districts across the country have periodically rolled out (and then revoked) what amounts to an "immersion" program for English grammar. It becomes popular, people try it and they realize it is crap, take it away....and then bring it back out years later. If you are raised during one of the fucking sucks.

Isn't spelling kind of important for a doctor? He could kill people with misspelled prescriptions.

Nah it was a historical problem back in the days of handwriting but these days communication is almost all by electronic medical records, sometimes people will give out hard prescriptions but it is easy for doctors to dial in and make it legible. More than spelling you used to have issues dosages and frequencies in the handwritten days though.

Incidentally many medications are either super easy to spell (often brand names) or absolutely fucking impossible without external help.

Considering your nephew is going to medical school he's clearly intelligent but it is shocking to hear that even intelligent individuals have that much issue with spelling, considering how often you'd come across someone complaining about bad grammar. People used to make songs/parodies about grammar and spelling, such as Weird Al's Word Crime or youtuber Jack film's Raping vs Rapping. I wonder if there is similar content being produced for entertainment nowadays poking fun at spelling/grammar, or if the next generation just don't care anymore.

I wondered if bad spelling or grammar can lead to a death, similar to how doctors' sloppy handwriting killed 7000 annually but I can't come up with a plausible scenario similar to the bad handwriting one, and there doesn't seem to be any such cases.

Is this in the United States?

That seems so alien to my experience with school.

Is anyone familiar with the history of the TTRPG safety toolkit? /

I only learned about it yesterday and I'm afraid to think what kind of taboo content people that have created this include in their sessions.

I haven't done much TTRPG playing, but my youngest brother has a regular session and has DM'd frequently, and he's shared some stories/gripes over the years. Mostly, it's just been players thinking they're funnier than they really are, and doing stupid things for the lulz, or refusing to let go of a stupid running gag (the Shadowrun campaign derailed by crotch itch).

But to the extent there's been fairly blatant "magical realm" behavior in his group — and it's been thankfully few, but multiple, occasions — it's consistently taken the form of "I'm going to send my female character alone, under-armed, into that cave with the band of male goblins/orcs. Gee, I sure hope nothing bad happens to her…" And when called on it, the players in question have offered the same defense each time: how dare you accuse her of that sort of behavior, when that's something only guys do.

Yes, in my brother's experience, every time it's been a female player [edit: seeing how this is ambiguously phrased, I mean it wasn't always the same female player in each incident] engaging in this manner, and every time she insists that, as a girl, her actions are always pure, and that no matter that she consistently plays her character like Darkness from KonoSuba, any hint of sexual connotation is all just in your dirty male head, then spends the rest of the session in a pout because the group wouldn't play along with her fantasy while also providing the plausible deniability that it's not her fantasy, it's only just because of those sexist male players that her character was overpowered… and violated… and… [heavy breathing]…

because the group wouldn't play along with her fantasy while also providing the plausible deniability that it's not her fantasy

And now you know why FATAL exists: for when you need a TTRPG framework that's so full of kinky bullshit that it's going to happen even if you aren't actively steering your character towards it.

Someone gotta tell that woman about online erotic roleplay.

that woman

I see how my phrasing was unclear. We're talking more than one female player here, across different incidents.

I've never had to do a Session 0 with my groups because I've played with people smart enough to know that raping another player character is a terrible idea, but some tables have people with a charisma score of -3.

It drives me nuts that tabletop gaming has largely become the refuge of soyfacing idiots who demand everything be sanitized and cleaned for them.

There's not much of a TTRPG scene in India, but if I have the misfortune to run into the types who demand the kind of accomodations you've linked to, I'm either kicking them out or leaving the session.

Bloody hell, one of the documents in the tools and resources folders suggests that horror have a specific content warning.

On an unrelated note, what is your opinion on the BDSM scene?

I find it mildly confusing* and don't particularly see the appeal, but once again, to each their own.

*In a colloquial sense, I understand the potential evo-psych arguments for why men prefer to be dominant and women submissive in such regards, and the reverse is likely a benign misfiring.

I'm not inclined to punish them, and besides, what's the point? They might enjoy it if you spank them ;)

As far as I'm aware the autistic focus on boundaries and talking them over first thing is similar in BDSM and modern TTRPG.

It's a lot more reasonable to demand clear boundaries and communication in BDSM. You're combining acts that can cause strong negative feelings, physical restraints or intentionally caused pain that can cause permanent damage if you do it wrong, with roleplay where you intentionally ignore the usual ways of judging if something's gone wrong (ignoring physical resistance and asking to stop, enjoying pain, ...).

Whereas in a TTRPG it's literally just words.

Gosh, I can think of a few. Especially with Internet strangers, that can go from tactless to creepy real fast.

There's some Weird Stuff in fairly well-respected mainline TTRPGs. I've got the Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Exalted textual examples (aka "fuck this wolf or the earth will die"), but they're honestly pretty tame compared to what people came up with for Black Spiral Dancers, Malfeas, or the Neverborn to do, since they're all basically different flavors of corruptively invading your very soul. Unknown Armies was better-known for its magical bum fights, but one of its more serious mechanical advances was a system for measuring and applying how traumatized your character had become, and while some GMs were just got in the oceans-of-blood wackiness, there was a lot of space for really subtle attacks that could be really innovative and/or strike to the bone.

That said, the toolkit's not really meant for that purpose, as evidenced by the fairly conventional material in the topic checklist, so it's not a huge surprise a lot of the motivating incidents were less 'extreme' or 'taboo' and more the conventional array of cringe. The Far Verona scandal lines up with the release of that specific safety toolkit (though is almost certainly not the sole motivation), and it's less kinky than the classical Pissard's 'magical forest'; it's simply not something most players signed up for. X-cards were something people brought up in response to the 2019 UK Games Expo snafu (which is a little worse than the mainstream media coverage: the game was Tales from the Flood, and this means probably-mid-teens characters), and I'd heard about the cards back as early as 2015.

There's probably some acceleration due to the BlackhattMatt scandal from White Wolf and to a lesser extent Zak S, both early 2019, but that's more political realignment in general rather than their behaviors specifically.

That said, the toolkit's not really meant for that purpose, as evidenced by the fairly conventional material in the topic checklist, so it's not a huge surprise a lot of the motivating incidents were less 'extreme' or 'taboo' and more the conventional array of cringe.

I was completely puzzled by the vibes of the conversation this link pointed to until I realized it was and not

And thanks for the detailed reply.

Sorry if this is off-topic, but could I ask for a little courtesy with regards to Google Docs/Drive (and other sites that will automatically use an existing account)? Clicking on a shortened/obscured link and immediately seeing it going to Google and being opened on a personal, non-pseudonymous Google account was a bad surprise. I don't think right now Drive owners can see who has their drive opened on publically shared documents but that's the kind of thing that could change anytime from Google

Just asking to either not shorten/obscure Google Drive/Docs link, or to add a warning so people who don't want to risk associating real-names with pseudonyms know to open in Private Mode.

Sure, I just copied it from the rulebook I was reading and didn't think twice. I myself find it quite annoying when a link to a pornographic game walkthrough takes me to Google Docs.

I myself find it quite annoying when a link to a pornographic game walkthrough takes me to Google Docs.

Oh yeah, that is the worse! O... Or so I hear, of course it has never happened to me since I would never open such a document.

I'm afraid to think what kind of taboo content people that have created this include in their sessions.

I cannot speak to the history of it and I'm sure these are used in some campaigns that explore more extreme stuff, but the tables I've heard of where these are used are on the opposite end.

That is to say, they have these cards in case a player is uncomfortable with situations that are pretty bog-standard for fantasy settings (fantasy racism, religion being portrayed either positively or negatively, sexism, classism, etc)

Anybody feel like telling a few stories about how the housing market might get better over the next couple years? I'm having a hard time seeing it and most people are more inspired by predicting doom than imagining the subtle signs of what an improving market would look like. Was out for a walk earlier with the wife and she mentioned how this one neighborhood we both like sometimes just bums her out now that she's accepted we're not going to be able to buy anytime soon. We've managed to save enough but even on lower end stuff, the monthly payments are insane and 2-3x what we're paying.

Anybody feel like telling a few stories about how the housing market might get better over the next couple years? I'm having a hard time seeing it and most people are more inspired by predicting doom than imagining the subtle signs of what an improving market would look like.

It's interesting how this could refer to prices going in either direction. Like, it would mean the opposite if said in 2008. I guess good just means not too volatile in either direction?

Ultimately my heuristic for being quite certain the situation will improve is an extremely simplified model, I guess you could call it entitlement, but I think it's justified:

Right now I cannot afford to buy a decent home anywhere that people would want to live. There are millions of home where I live. My household income is upper middle class. If you distribute these homes starting at the top and working your way down there should be more than enough to reach me and others like me on the totem pole.

Whatever exact mechanisms will apply to get there, people in my salary situation are supposed to be able to own homes. The market will have to correct and make it possible for me to buy a home because a second home is not worth as much to people higher than me than my first home will be to me, and people below me will not have the means to beat me on the market.

tl;dr : There are homes all over the place, maybe not for everyone but at least for everyone from the upper to the middle-middle class. If I, in the upper-middle class, cannot afford to buy one now, who can? They're not gonna remain empty.

The market will have to correct and make it possible for me to buy a home

The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.

If I, in the upper-middle class, cannot afford to buy one now, who can? They're not gonna remain empty.

Why not?

The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.

That quote refers to situations where someone is spending money in the hope that a market correction is incoming. I'm not spending money, I'm accumulating it.

Why not?

Because that is in no one's interest.

This isn't sustainable over the long term, my guess would be that likely home prices will move in response to this, but it's likely to take time.

Mathematically the prices will go down. I’m glad it happened, this model of ‘pay almost no interest, just take on multi-generational debt you’ll unload onto the next buyer’ was getting really stupid. That sort of mortgage was really rent by another name, because they didn’t own the house and couldn’t pay it back. You dodged a bullet there, now you might actually get to own a house some day.

What are you talking about? It takes 30 years to pay off a 30-year mortgage. Low principal and high interest is no worse than high principal and low interest, if the monthly payment is the same.

And according to the chart linked by /u/atelier, the average monthly payment had been going down in real terms until last year.

Low principal and high interest is far better than high principal and low interest. With high interest rates you can slowly remortgage as rates fluctuate, while with low interest rates if they are going to change they are likely changing up, which means remortgaging doesn't work and also you really don't want to sell your current house that you got on at a lower rate to move to a new one (even though it would be good for you and the economy as well) that comes with a higher rate, thereby discouraging people moving to where it is economically best for them.

Why do prices have to go down?

Also, higher interest rates that push prices down make housing more expensive, because interest payments plus opportunity costs of downpayments initially stay the same, but what follows is a decline in housing investment that decreases the supply, pushing the total costs up.

That doesn't help him since he is complaining about monthly payments as well, which will likely stay the same. When the interest rates go down again then the prices will rise at the same time.

The housing market isn't "improving" unless you're sitting on a bunch of liquid capital, which it kind of sounds like he is but he is going to have to eat the higher monthly payments.

Interest rates going down will likely mean the economy is in a downturn. It's anyone's guess what that will mean for prices.

When the interest rates go down again then the prices will rise at the same time.

Not at the same time, with considerable delay. We are right now in such a delayed phase, where sticky prices have not caught up to interest rates (only it’s about prices going down instead of up). I’d prefer interest levels to stay mid permanently, to stop this rollercoaster. My second choice is permanently high interest rates. Low interest rates ownership is fake, and transforms banks into landlords.

The obsession with monthly payments just strengthens the analogy to rent. If someone selling you a car or TV kept talking about your low monthly payments, you would recognize it as sleazy, would you not?

Not only is there no delay, but prices reflect expected future interest rate changes.

You seem to be implying that back in the day people paid off their mortgages before the thirty year term was up. Is this actually true? If not, then holding the term constant, yeah I'd prefer the lower payments, thanks.

According to American Nightmare (Randal O'Toole): Six-year house loans (with down payment of 0.5 percent, no fixed payment schedule, and the possibility of refinancing at the end of the term) were popularized around year 1889, and 12-year mortgages from building-and-loan associations (with down payment of 25 percent) also were popular. Sears's famous mail-order house kits could be obtained with 15-year mortgages (with down payment of 25 percent) around 1911 (zero down payment from 1917 to 1921). Longer-term mortgages weren't mainstream until 1948, when the federal government authorized the Federal Housing Administration (created in 1934) to offer 30-year mortgages (with down payment of 5 percent, or zero for veterans).

In The Jungle, Jurgis' mortgage was 20% down ($300) and $12 a month for eight years and four months (plus interest at 7% per year which the agent never told them about).

To put it another way - 30 year mortgages have been mainstream longer than six year mortgages were. unless fuckduck thinks that price/income ratios are going down to 19th century levels, the 30 year mortgage is here to stay and yeah the monthly payment is the important question.

It won’t stay, the trend is constantly increasing mortgage duration. People are already counting on parental help to get a 30y these days, so it will go to 60, two generations. It won’t stop until every purchase becomes an infinite payday loan. You’ll own nothing, and be happy.

Maybe we can’t get the price/income ratios down to the 19th century, but we can stop them from going up even further by lying less to the financially incontinent, by calling their cheap debt rent.

30 year mortgages have had a remarkably long life and I don't see them going away any time soon.

33% of homeowners have paid off their mortgages. People are not going from mortgage to mortgage perpetually all their lives - this claim has no basis in reality.