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Small-Scale Question Sunday for January 21, 2024

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.

How is the situations with visits, utents and growth on the Motte?

I have the impression that this place is becoming, month by month, emptier. There is some kind of plan of expansion, or we will continue to tender at the same population?

Does anyone mention or link to the Themotte in the comments of ACX? Either in Open threads or elsewhere. Given how much of the community came from slatestarcodex originally, it would seem obvious to try and bring more over from substack. I doubt many of the current readers of ACX have ever gone back and looked at Scott's old post talking about the creation of the motte.

I've had a couple times when I wanted to share something with someone, but didn't want them to have to dive fully into the thread. Was saddened to see that The Vault hasn't been updated in a year and a half. No blame, because I'm sure it takes a ton of time, and I'm not out volunteering my own time, just sad.

Apparently the traffic figures are pretty flat. I agree the CW thread has been anaemic for a while, but most of these issues are longer term, the culture war is in a comparative lull compared to the 2015-2021 period.

Can you think of a case of a “repeated behavior” inducing learning where the repeated behavior is not tied to a reward?

What I mean is: a piano student might practice a scale because of a desired goal, or to not be punished by their teacher; both are driven by a desire for preferred state (obvious). A student even in a very boring class that he doesn’t care about will remember some information because there is still a reward for the behavior (competing over peers, not having a bad grade). In these cases, the student may repeat a behavior (practicing) which induces learning, and this is driven by a reward, but what if the repetition occurs without a reward drive?

The reason for this question is that I find it interesting how reading a book results in a fraction of the information retention of using flash cards. You can read a passage repeatedly (repeating a behavior) yet not retain much information. But when you repeat with flash cards, your comprehension of the material is self-judged, which taps into the reward drive and results in more retention. There is also a “testing effect” phenomenon where doing tests somehow increases retention despite not having much repetition involved (the “somehow” is the reward drive, activated upon salient judgment).

So, if the desire for reward is a huge variable in learning, it’s interesting to think of a case where repetition results in negligible learning because of negligible reward-drive. However I’m at a loss of thinking of an example of this behavior. Maybe the phenomenon of highly autistic people never learning a social etiquette despite observing many repetitions and consequences? There are definitely cases where a behavior with zero repetition can result in great retention (you are not going to forget the accident that led to a broken leg, or the appearance of the most beautiful girl you’ve seen if only once, or the location of the largest pile of gold in a video game).

If you're sufficiently loose with your criteria for a scenario where reward is involved, such as a desired endgoal or outcome, then literally all rational behavior is driven by reward, because that's the definition of rationality. And not in the broad logical scale of rationalism, but in the colloquial someone acting with no goal is being purposeless and irrational. Why would you do anything at all if there wasn't some point? And then you can consider that point to be a "reward".

So unless you have a narrower definition of reward in mind, then regardless of whether learning is involved or not, the only case of behavior I can think of which is not tied to a reward is irrational behavior, and people with involuntary tics, and stuff like that.

I don't think the reward is actually causing the learning, but maybe you're not saying that. The reason flash cards are better than plan reading is because they require recall while reading (mostly) does not. A student who doesn't care about getting improving their flash card score will still benefit as long as they genuinely try to answer correctly.

But our willing to recall is likely predicated on a reward being pursued. A student makes an effort to recall and is either successful (rewarded) or unsuccessful (punished) and the strength of these are based on their desire for some contingent reward tied to the material.

"the strength of these" : these=the efforts?

It seems like this collapses into saying that learning requires effort/strategy and that people only expend effort on things they want to do. Do you intend to make a stronger claim?

The strength of learning is more tied to the salience of reward and punishment than mere quantity of repeated behavior. That is the most interesting variation of the thesis I suppose. Per my OP, we have cases of strong learning that do not involve repetition or effortful recall.

That’s probably not to absolve their sins unless their priest specifically told them to nail themselves to a cross as an act of penance after confession (which is unlikely). Instead this seems like a purely devotional act.

Don't Catholics always have sins to absolve because of original sin?

No, not at all. The act of baptism purifies from all sins, including the original sin. Even on Wikipedia you can read:

In the Catholic Church by baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins.

After you have sinned, you can be forgiven from your sins by attending the sacrament of penance. If you have satisfied the conditions of good penance, you are free from all sins.

In The Philippines, highly devout Roman Catholics will literally nail themselves to crosses during Good Friday to absolve themselves of sin and demonstrate their true devotion to the faith.

Does there exist a secular analogue to this tradition? Where can I be publicly crucified to profess my undying love for the prevailing secular orthodoxy?

Numerous atheist/secular/nonreligious people sacrificed their lives for causes they believed in.

For some current non-lethal example of extreme dedication, see, for example, various performative environmentalist actions.

I was discussing US politics with my wife, as one does, and immigration laws came up. I briefly told her about sanctuary cities, and in response she asked why anyone would support that. I had no answer.

I googled a bit and got some very bad answers, so I’m turning to the motte.

Can the motte provide some pro-sanctuary arguments, and some pro-illegal immigration arguments in general? Consider that you’re giving these answers to a none-American from an ethno-state that enforces its immigration laws, and generally frowns on immigration to it from different ethnicities.

One argument focuses on particular sub-classes of illegal immigrants. For example, I know a few people who are or were illegally present in the US, and most of their stories are more about some SNAFU with some arcane provision of immigration law (potentially with how it creates conflicts with the law of a foreign country). A math prof I had long ago, for example, had to deal with an awful bureaucratic mess, as she was here legally to teach at the university, but her infant son had no legal right to stay (they had to figure out creative ways to make things work; not sure if it was always legal). I know another person whose mother came over long ago for marriage; I don't actually know the details of what happened, the relationship fell apart. The child (now an adult) never had proper paperwork, but her mother just never took her back home; just kept her here. Eventually grew up to be an adult, and is now like, "Well shit, what am I supposed to do?" In that case, she managed to marry a US citizen and eventually jumped through enough hoops to become legal without being deported. I've heard a story about a student who came from Africa to a European country, and then to the US, which started off legal, but on some trip sometime didn't have whatever right stamp was necessary for whichever government (this was long before the internet, and holy shit, I can't imagine having to navigate the immigration bureaucracy as a young student back then without it), and basically just decided that his best choice among shitty choices was just to just stay in the US illegally.

Thankfully, the internet is making it vastly easier to understand what exactly you're supposed to do in order to check all the legal boxes, but even then it can sometimes be tough. My wife immigrated when we got married, and we almost ended up in a really shitty spot, because they changed one of the requirements mid-process for us, so we got a letter (that was somewhat novel due to it being a new change, so there wasn't a lot of clear existing advice anywhere) that was not that easy to parse for what exactly would satisfy their demand, with a deadline attached that very very very nearly could have been a literally impossible timeline. Thankfully, we were able to scramble like crazy (and pay some additional annoyingly hefty sums) to make it work.

None of these stories are southern-border-adjacent, but they are all real stories. If they were truly representative of the modal story, I could easily see someone thinking that since shit like this happens all the fucking time with USCIS, they should err on the side of protecting people from bureaucratic bullshit unless they really become a problem and start committing other crimes or something. It is genuinely true that the more laws we have regarding this situation and that situation and this requirement and that requirement and on and on, the more often you're going to have situations that are basically just screwed up by accident, be it the fault of the individual or an actual mistake made by USCIS.

(Obligatory, this is not at all relevant to any people who literally just walk across the border at night or whatever, with no paperwork and no reasonable attempt whatsoever to even try to do things legally.)

Thank you, that's a good argument. I can empathize, American bureaucracy really is bad. I assumed it's part of a trade-off, where you get a less organized government on hand, and in return it's also less powerful. Compare to e.g. Israel where the state knows pretty much everything about you, but then it's also very convenient that you don't need to do your own taxes, or a name change after marriage propagates automatically to everywhere.

If you lived in Venezuela, wouldn't you want to illegally immigrate to the United States?

That's the core steelman. If I were them, I would do it too.

I can give economic justifications and preferred policies and we can cite crime stats back and forth. But the emotional core is there but for the grace of God.

If I and all the other Americans lived in Venezuela it wouldn't be Venezuela. It's all the Venezuelans that make it Venezuela.

Absolutely. I used Venezuela as an example too, when saying who might want to illegally immigrate to the US even if they couldn't work legally. For more context, my family and I are currently staying in the US with a legal working visa, and we had to go through some hoops to get it (we'll be leaving soon, unfortunately). I can put myself in the shoes of the illegal immigrant very easily.

If I understand correctly, then, the pro-illegal immigration Americans are de-facto pro-open borders, or at least pro-open borders from the third world. I can understand the political hardship of changing federal laws to increase legal immigration, so I assume that un-enforcement is a way to achieve that end while side-stepping national politics. Does the pro-illegal immigration camp also campaign for increased legal immigration from the third world?

It's mostly wrong to judge and punish someone for something that I would do too, were I in their shoes.

One of the most mind-blowing things to me was reading a news story about afghan illegal immigrants to Iran: if I lived in Iran I would be seeing to emigrate the hell out of there.

I disagree with you, but I can understand where you come from. I think that one first sentence gives a pretty good answer for me, so thank you. It does imply open-borders from the worst-off countries, though.

some pro-sanctuary arguments

"sanctuary" is a basket of many different policies. Perhaps the easiest to support is that police who are interacting with illegal immigrants who witness and report crimes should be prohibited from assisting with those immigrants' deportation, because otherwise the incentive is for the witnesses to just not report the crimes, and thereby still not get deported, making it harder to catch criminals before they reoffend (including against citizens and legal residents).

some pro-illegal immigration arguments in general

I've long been amused by Milton Friedman's argument:

"...that Mexican immigration, over the border, is a good thing. It’s a good thing for the illegal immigrants. It’s a good thing for the United States. It’s a good thing for the citizens of the country. But, it’s only good so long as its illegal.

That's an interesting paradox to think about. Make it legal and it’s no good. Why? Because as long as it’s illegal the people who come in do not qualify for welfare, they don’t qualify for social security, they don’t qualify for the other myriad of benefits that we pour out from our left pocket to our right pocket. So long as they don’t qualify they migrate to jobs. They take jobs that most residents of this country are unwilling to take. They provide employers with the kind of workers that they cannot get. They’re hard workers, they’re good workers, and they are clearly better off." - Milton Friedman, "What is America" lecture

Though bear in mind, this was the late 70s. Perhaps "do not qualify for ... benefits" was a reasonable blanket claim then, and crime wasn't even worth mentioning because who's going to risk deportation for stepping even slightly out of line? In the 2020s, when illegal immigrants can get free schooling (and then in-state university tuition rates, in dozens of states) for their kids, and sanctuary policies may explicitly prevent deporting many arrestees, the cost-benefit calculations may have more net losers.

Huh, that's a pretty interesting argument.

It reminds of the idea of keyhole solutions that I ran across when reading Bryan Caplan: many objections to immigration can be remedied by allowing the immigration, but denying the government benefits: don't give them publicly funded things, the right to vote, etc., but still let them move and work here. This means you don't have to worry about costs to the welfare system, but still get the economic benefits (and, of course, so do the immigrants). Of course, this is not politically feasible; people would object and try to give the newfound immigrants those benefits.

Oh, good answer, on both counts. Is the second part something that people actually say out loud, though? Or is it something that they'll think, but then say something else?

Not sure what you mean by "the second part". The "illegal immigration is good so long as it's illegal" theory was part of a public speech originally, and it does sometimes get quoted out loud still, approvingly. The "we now give illegal immigrants a myriad of benefits" caveat is a common anti-immigration complaint, but I don't know if I've ever seen it specifically pointed out as making Friedman's argument obsolete; it's just pointed out as a general cost of both legal and illegal immigration. The pro-immigration side of that branch of the argument is just attempts to rebut it. E.g. in-state university tuition rates for DACA recipients might make sense economically if you consider DACA-to-legal-citizenship as a fait accompli; if they're not going anywhere either way then in the long run you might get more state taxes out of them as college graduates, even looking at NPV minus tuition subsidies.

By "the second part" I referred to "illegal immigration is good so long as it's illegal", as you inferred correctly. I'm just having a hard time imagining the modal pro-immigrant activist saying something like that, and in effect admitting that they're in support of a tiered system of citizens and non-citizens, where the former live the good life and the latter do the dirty work. It sounds like a very Motte-y argument, and I don't encounter those much in the wild.

It's very much a heavily libertarian pro-immigration argument; the modal pro-immigration activist is a left-winger who would be utterly horrified by it.

Even before the premises about welfare for illegal immigrants became dubious, the biggest sympathetic argument against Friedman was that this sort of "tiered system" was politically unsustainable in the US. Popular morality here includes a big mixture of Newtonian ethics and the Copenhagen Interpretation, so it doesn't matter how happy it makes utilitarians to see starving foreigners upgraded to much-less-impoverished guest workers, they'll be outnumbered by voters who see starving foreigners as someone else's tragedy but welfareless voteless guest workers as unconscionable apartheid.

The modal left-winger's main pro-illegal-immigration argument is much simpler: the immigrants will suffer much less in America than they do at home, and suffering is bad, so they should all get to come to America. It's a very compelling argument when you look at just the first-order effects, I have to admit. But there are a lot of both positive and negative second-order effects, and whether any of those make this idea unsustainable in some way is a more complicated question.

Sanctuary cities are supposed to function as a sanctuary from unjust and brutal laws. Proponents would say it is unjust to deport a family who have resided in the US for twenty years, even if they immigrated illegally. The rationale is the same as that for hiding slaves/jews/etc. It is not abnormal to try to safeguard people that are being persecuted.

Thank you for providing an answer. These are the kinds of arguments that I found while googling, and I think they’re pretty bad. They just ignore outright what the laws are actually doing - i.e. allowing anyone who manages to cross the border to stay illegally - in favour of talking about something else or a very small subset of what the policy actually is. For example, the first thing my wife asked was “so criminals and terrorists can just come in?”, and nowhere did I see any mention of it in the pro camp’s arguments. I was hoping for a robust steelman, if one exists.

I will give you the best steelman I can. Cities are not responsible for border security. If ICE is not properly enforcing border control the city of Chicago cannot change things. Sanctuary laws will protect some criminals, but it will also protect long-time illegal residents. There is a tradeoff being made, and proponents think the cost is worth it. Your wife is correct that criminals and terrorists can just come in, but this is ICE's failure, not that of Chicago. Sanctuary laws only affect deportation.

Thank you! That's a fair steelman. It does look at sanctuary laws in isolation, though. Am I incorrect in thinking that the same camp that is pro-sanctuary is also against ICE enforcement? We'd call that "holding the rope on both ends", which I can't find a good parallel idiom for in English, but hopefully you get the meaning.

(To be clear, I'm not arguing the point, I really do want to get the strongest possible version of it so I'm trying to find the holes)

Yes, they are against ICE enforcement. Yes, you're right that they mostly just don't address concern about crime, etc.

Did you see the ongoing fight about the federal government cutting wire at the southern border, and the state of Texas trying to put it back?

Thanks, I'm reading up on this now. It sounds a little bonkers from the description here, which usually I interpret as myself not getting the full context. I'll try to dig a bit deeper.

The Supreme Court letting them continue is only until they actually decide the case. A bunch of conservatives are getting mad over what isn't actually a final decision on the merits of the case. The news and people in general are frustratingly illiterate and partisan on anything related to SCOTUS.

Both sides kind of have a point—the state isn't supposed to be obstructing the federal government, and cutting razor wire to let people in is clearly not what the law was intended for and not something that the federal government is allowed to do.

The Texas governor just argued that they have the constitutional right to continue, arguing that it's an invasion.

So yes, it's bonkers, on all sides.

Sure. I think it's really mostly that illegal immigrants are viewed by many, especially on the left, compassionately—that they are here seeking a better life, forced by the harshness of their local conditions—and so, accordingly, they see attempts to deport them as undesirable and morally objectionable.

I think America thinks more favorably of immigration in general than many places, due to the history. Apart from the black population, almost the entirety of the US is descended from those who chose to uproot their lives and moved here, whether 400 years ago or in the last generation.

And there is, of course, this well known piece of propaganda which further supports sympathy:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.


"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

(This references the statue of liberty.)

So pro-immigration sentiment, at least, when it's legal, is not uncommon. Additionally, a common metaphor for the US is a melting pot—taking people from everywhere and assimilating them.

Also relevant is that, under our current system, there are many more who want to be here than are able to get the visas. Hence the illegal immigration. (Our current policy of substantial illegal immigration and little legal immigration is silly and bad.)

But I think it really just comes down to that illegal immigrants are made out to be objects of compassion, and deporting people is mean. And then, it's more virtue-signalling in many of these places than something with serious reprecussions. Before the increase in illegal immigration under Biden and the political stunts pulled by the Republican governors, many of those cities were seeing negligible amounts of those people, and so it didn't really cost them anything. (Why is it harmful to have them in your city? Well, they often use public resources. You have to put them somewhere. They usually can't work legally, though I'm pretty sure there are plenty of illegal immigrants in fields like landscaping, working illegally.)

Alright, I can see where they come from then. Would you say that in practice, the people who support sanctuary laws etc. are also in support of open borders? I think that’s what we’re having issues with, squaring how someone can support un-enforcement of immigration laws but still not being in favour of letting anyone in. It seems like the practice is opposed to the theory.

I think a major aspect of the dynamic with sanctuary cities comes from the US's peculiar system of distributed sovereignty. In our system, it is the states rather than the federal government that are sovereign, and while less legally supported, there is also a long tradition of local officials, who believe they hold an independent responsibility to their constituents regardless of what the feds or state are telling them to do, refusing to enforce orders from on high. The federal government has very little authority (and even less practical ability) to directly enforce its will on intransigent local officials, unlike in, e.g., France, where your local mayor is a federal employee answering to Paris (my knowledge of French politics is woefully underdeveloped, so forgive me if this isn't actually accurate). It's not uncommon for city councils and county sheriffs to refuse to go along with state or federal policy they believe to be unconstitutional or illegal (immigration, guns, and drugs are the most common issues, but far from the only ones).

They usually lose when push comes to shove, but it requires significant effort and political capital on the parts of higher officials, and complaining about the other party holding you back with their intransigence tends to be more useful politically than playing hardball with federal funds or sending in the FBI.

Hmm, I'm not sure. That's a good point.

Are there any online primary care physicians that accept Medi-Cal? I need a referral.

Any dentists on here?

Is there any truth to some of the things I read about much of dentistry’s research literature being bullshit? Or just that the generally accepted recommendations aren’t really proven empirically?

I’m curious as I’ve been trying to take better care of my teeth as I get older but can’t really floss as my bottom teeth are very close together and even the “shred-resistant” floss gets destroyed. I tried using the Glide floss which worked extremely well but appears to be made of 25% forever chemicals and I don’t want something like that anywhere near my digestive system.

So I’ve just been using a Waterpik but I’m unclear on how effective it is, but I keep seeing that flossing in general does not have much evidence to support it, and maybe even fluoride/brushing in general?

In particular I’ve seen that nano-hydroxyapatite may be more effective than fluoride and there are a few studies that seem to support this.

Any dentists or otherwise knowledgeable parties willing to set the record straight?

I'm not a dentist but I am in healthcare.

Most medical research is crap because people are complicated, research is hard, and the number of questionable incentives is immense. Dentistry might be worse because of the peculiarities of how healthcare is arranged in the U.S., but maybe not. I don't know.

I lean on two things when I'm trying to investigate stuff like this.

  1. Is anyone making money off of this?
  2. What do knowledgable clinicians actually do for their personal care?

As an example - ophthalmologists almost always wear glasses and almost never get laser eye surgery.

Flossing is cheap and I got to imagine almost every dentist does it (maybe not some of the ones with great genetics).

In my personal experience flossing reduced the amount of nagging I got from my dentist, and a water pick had not. Notably, flossing only did so after I got proficient at it. I don't know how true this is but I remember seeing on reddit "flossing doesn't work" type posts and the response being "digging into the research it seems like most people suck and that what leads to that data, just do a good job."

I don't know if the literature supports this however.

As an example - ophthalmologists almost always wear glasses and almost never get laser eye surgery.

I thought that was a myth. This study seems to indicate that they do usually get LASIK when they're a candidate for it.

Oh that's very interesting. I can't argue with the data (well I guess I could use my journal log-in and read the paper but zero chance haha).

I guess I should then clarify that this is based off of anecdote, and association with Ophthalmologists at very high end departments. Perhaps the difference is that some level of conservatism is associated with appointment to high prestige programs and that has an impact on personal healthcare habits that may not be present in the population of eye doctors at large.

Thank you for passing this along.

I am curious though, do you happen to know what the reason is why some of the ophthalmologists you're familiar with choose not to get LASIK? I thought it was a pretty safe procedure if you're a good candidate for it.

I asked one about it once and he gave me this "why the fuck would I laser healthy cornea."

That's perhaps unnecessarily punchy but it is important to keep in mind that the procedure comes with risks, and can succeed in principle but cause dry eye or night vision issues. When compared with nearly riskless management like glasses that may seem like not worth it, especially when you actually are the one who sees people who come in who had it go wrong and therefore said risk is more than hypothetical.

Additionally it's worth noting that the timing for it is important, your eyes change as you age and after a certain point it no longer makes sense. It's possible the issue here is in part medical training - you don't have the time or resources to get it done until after it stops being clearly a good idea.

As an example - ophthalmologists almost always wear glasses and almost never get laser eye surgery.

Why glasses over contacts?

Contacts have a risk of severe infection and other problems, especially when improperly used and cared for. An eye doctor is probably not going to commit any of those sins, but when you see the bad results it can be....motivating.

I think this is too conservative, but I can't blame them for being turned off after seeing some mangled eyeballs.

Many do wear contacts, most women ophthalmologists I know do.

But I agree with the earlier posted that none or almost none have laser eye surgery. By contrast, most female derms I’ve met have had cosmetic surgery, the temptation is too great.

How low is "low effort" here?

Specifically, I sometimes see replies that are just 1-3 (non-quote) words, many of those simply expressing agreement or approval — "well said," "indeed," "exactly this," etc. — basically a "+1" verbal upvote. I report them for "low effort" when I see them, and yet, rarely do I see mod action.


lmao even

Mostly echoing @self_made_human here, but speaking for myself: if someone reports a one- or two-word comment as "low effort" and I see it, I will usually issue a warning. Not 100% of the time, since if it's an old comment or deep in a thread or whatever, it probably isn't worth the time. And it is possible for one or two words to succinctly make a point.

But yes, I usually mod "I agree" posts. We might sometimes miss one or let it go.

The amount of effort we ask is largely proportionate to where a comment is posted.

Top level comment in the CWR thread? Better discuss something novel or add a lot of commentary and context to something you found online. Bare-links are not allowed as top-level comments there.

If discussing or debating something with another poster? Saying nah, I'd win won't cut it. That is mostly because that is refusing to engage in the kind of discussion we wish to encourage here.

But the amount of effort we care to police decreases monotonously as you go down deeper into the bowels of a thread. And as far as I'm concerned, specifically telling someone you like their comment or agree with them is both a very natural instinct and one that doesn't run afoul of either the prohibition on consensus-building or the effort rules. It's when you disagree that we have slightly higher expectations for you to articulate your disagreement. All affirmative comments are alike. All disagreements disagree in different ways.

Just think about it, if conveying the impression, with little effort, that you agree with someone was against the rules, why on earth would we have upvote or downvote buttons?

In a similar fashion, if two people in an argument have been making multiple high effort comments in response to each other, and someone gets tired or annoyed and leaves with a low effort one, that is also not worth modding, contingent on there actually having been a modicum of effort put in earlier.

And for the other threads, especially Wellness, Fun and so on, go for it, that is literally the place meant for low effort comments.

TL;DR: Please don't use the button that way, at least not there.

Eh, I disagree. I don't think it's valuable to have a comment that says "Great post, thanks", it just takes up space, and I think they should be removed. Removed without prejudice or implication of future warnings/bans sure, but still removed.

Just think about it, if conveying the impression, with little effort, that you agree with someone was against the rules, why on earth would we have upvote or downvote buttons?

I think the point is that if the only thing you're expressing is agreement then you should be upvoting instead of commenting in order to save pagespace and brainspace for substantial comments. Everyone who scrolls past can see the comment and is likely to waste time reading it before recognizing that it contributes nothing and moving on. Rather than having a popular post with 50 "I agree" comments and one actual reply mixed together, we could just have a 50 next to the upvote button and then the one actual reply stand on its own for people to read and possibly reply to.

To the extent that upvotes and "I agrees" aren't actually the same thing, as you can upvote people you disagree with but you feel make good posts, and you can fail to upvote people even if you agree with their point, I've suggested in the past that it could be useful to have two different vote bars, one for quality and one for agreement.

There are some cases where "I agree" is noticeably different from an upvote, specifically those in which the agreer's identity is relevant.

If I post something, and you post a reply making some claim which I don't actually disagree with, then anonymously upvoting your comment doesn't actually tell you that I agree with your claim, only that somebody does. On the other hand, me saying "I agree" does tell you that.

I swear, when I disagree with a post I'm going to start posting replies under "I agree/well said" posts instead of the post in question. @self_made_human

Please continue reporting them.

Have any female articles of clothing been masculinized recently?

For example, the vast majority of people around me wearing what used to be hypermasculine clothing like double riders, sheepskin bomber jackets and trench coats are women. However, I can't think of an article of clothing that has crossed the gender line in the opposite direction. Or am I selectively blind? I can only think of jewelry.

I saw a """unisex""" over the shoulder handbag at a Costco last week. Some people would call that a purse. As humorously discussed in the movie The Hangover in which one guy pretends his purse is a "man bag" and another guy with the same purse calls him a "gay boy" and says it is a purse.

The virgin man bag fan versus the chad openly gay purse enjoyer.

For some reason, it only seems to go one way. I've also noticed that boy names often become sex neutral but don't know of a single example of this happening to a girl name.

Tight pants, painted nails, and short shorts.

short shorts

I don't like the look of shorter sorts of shorts on men. But, it's ridiculous that we pretend they aren't functional proper shorts. Men's shorts used to be really short. It wasn't a woman thing pre-1990s or so.

I'd say bring them back. Don't let women take functional clothing from us.

I used to have a pair of satin short shorts with a side slit in the mid 90s.

It's not clear to me that tight pants are a female article of clothing. Men just used to walk around in leggings all the time.

Don't get me started on those garters.

True, but then one arguably runs into the same thing with most items of ‘female’ clothing that could be ‘masculinized’.

Short shorts are a bit tricky. They could just as easily be a return to masculine styles of the 1970s and earlier, rather than a feminization of modern clothing.

So I'd say the depths of the Great Male Renunciation probably hit around 2004 when I was a teenager. We were actually laughing about the things that would get you labeled gay when we were 14-16. Not exactly articles of clothing that were strictly feminine, but that around 2004 were strictly feminine or gay but have come back around:

-- Skinny jeans. Guys in local emo bands used to literally buy girls jeans.

-- Scarves. You could not wear a scarf without being called a fag.

-- Coats that are below hip length. Being cold is gay.

-- Pink.

I haven't seen this for twenty years and I knew what it was from without clicking on it. What a blast from the past.


Excuse me, it's "salmon"

Dyed hair, painted nails, and cardigans? According to the TikTok via GQ, crop tops (but all the examples look terrible)

It seems like a man wearing clothing associated with women is a much stronger signal of sexual preference/identity than the inverse, creating a stronger barrier for men who aren't actively trying to signal that.

Painted nails? Must be different in the US, I don't see more men with painted nails than I see women. Actually, I barely see them these days.

To within roundoff error 0.0% of American men have painted nails.

Crop tops? Surely only gay men are likely to wear those? While they're still men, I would imagine that's not quite what OP had in mind.

One football athlete in high school wore them occasionally and never in class. But that was some sort of flex where he was showing off his cut abs.

I've also seen it on heterosexual men who identify as queer/non-binary to bang rainbow-haired wokescolds.

How does that work out for them?

It's also a weird body builder thing you see on occasion in the gym. I'm not quite sure why.

As muscle mass increases, the probability of finding off the rack clothes that fit approaches zero.

To work around it, you buy oversized and cut down. Unfortunately, if you're spending that much time lifting, you don't learn much about tailoring. The end result is that you cut to a length that "looks right", but you forget that the fabric will pull up after you cut the hem and it ends up too short.

Maybe something to do with them being gay?

(Only half a joke)

Something, something rising pants waists: "Hamza Abou Ammo first got the idea for cropping his T-shirts from his wife, who had been doing it herself from a young age." ( Every time TikTok trends make their way into my field of view, I find myself confused.

That... wasn't what I expected. I expected something that would leave a conspicuous gap between the hem and the belt, not a tshirt that is a bit too short to tuck in.

Tiktok is banned in India.

While I'm against restrictions on freedom of expression, I still sighed in relief.

I own a cardigan. Basically clothes like cardigans amd leather jackets can be used to soften or harden an outfit.

Feminine women wearing a leather jacket over a dress doesnt have anyone bat an eyelid. Conversely i dont get strange looks with the cardigan due to the rest of my appearence (an behaviour) being very masculine.

Maybe its an example of people showing what they can get away with like that fad for pretty girls ro dye their hair grey.

It seems like there's been a bit of a grandpa core trend going lately. I first noticed it when a couple years ago most of the baby clothes (for both sexes) were suddenly little grey cardigans with low saturation knit pants. Then the women's sections were selling waistcoats with their softly tinted cable cardigans. And the Swift song, of course. Coatigans are apparently still on offer (eg

Personally, I've been enjoying the recent iterations on knitwear (I am a woman, but the textiles on the sweaters and even low cost t-shirts my husband buys have shifted noticeably lately). I buy a lot of stuff from Uniqlo, which has been advertising its "3-D Knit" manufacturing process over the past couple of years, and I do like some of the results, especially the edges, and the way it handles transitions between different stitches. It looks like I am not imagining things, there are articles about a technological movement away from knitting then sewing bolts of fabric, towards machines that knit in the round and waste less thread, apparently starting in 1999, as well as need less labor to piece together. Looking at the (fairly inexpensive) sweater I'm wearing, all the seams are completely flat and the rows line up perfectly, and there aren't very many of them (no shoulder seam or side seam, for instance).

I dont really have anything to add to this except I'm also a huge fan of Uniqlo. Just amazing at wardrobe basics and staples of high quality for a reasonable price.

So, what are you reading?

Slowly going through The Master and his Emissary. His basic thesis is that the hemispheres aren't in a symmetrical relationship, hence the title, with the right hemisphere being the Master and the left the Emissary. So far there are only hints about the consequences of this, but it seems to lead away from scientism and postmodernism.

There's something about this book that is hard to pin down. I haven't assimilated much that I've read, but it's beginning to fascinate me.

Recently (as in yesterday) finished The Lone Samurai, which is a biography of Miyamoto Musashi. Have just begun the Dune series.

The most interesting book I have read in the last couple of years was probably Seeing like a State. In particular, there was a section about how surnames arose due the state needing a more precise naming convention to track down specific people. There are many Johns in England, there are fewer John Smiths, there's probably only a couple of John James Christopher Smiths. While we, or at least I, thought surnames were common throughout history it is apparently a fairly recent phenomenon outside of royalty.

It also delved into failed state attempts at making the world legible to itself, like how it tries to homogenize a forest to extract lumber, but removing all other tree species, plants and animals create a perfect condition for a disease to devastate this new orderly forest. This 'short-slightness' extends to city-planning as well as farming and many other areas.

I have a rule to finish at least one book per month and think this is a rather languid pace, but my bookshelf is steadily filling up.

Is that realated to "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes or is it completely different?

Checking the index, I found (this is shortened by me):

I believe Jaynes was near to making a breakthrough - did in fact make one - but that, perhaps derailed by the view of schizophrenia outlined above, his conclusion was diametrically opposed to the one he should have drawn. His insight that there was a connection between the voices of the gods and changes in the mental world of those who heard them, that this might have something to do with the brain, and indeed that it concerned the relationship between the hemispheres, remains, in my view, fundamentally correct.

However, I believe he got one important aspect of the story back to front. His contention that the phenomena he describes came about because of a breakdown of the 'bicameral' mind - so that the two hemispheres, previously separate, now merged - is the precise inverse of what happened. The phenomena came about because of a relative separation of the two chambers, the two hemispheres...Where there had been previously no question of whether the workings of the mind were 'mine', since the question would have no meaning - there being no cut off between the mind and the world around...there was now a degree of detachment which...led to the intuitive, less explicit, thought processes being objectified as voices (as they are in schizophrenia), viewed as coming from 'somewhere else'.

I've only read about 10% of the book but I thought the whole point was that the left hemisphere, originally meant to be subservient, is now totally dominant in modern society.

Yeah, he cites a story of Nietzsche where the emissary, an ambitious regional bureacurat, usurps the power of the master who ruled his people wisely.

I think the core insight must be the idea of asymmetry. If the hemispheres are more or less equivalent, then there's no such thing as a wise arrangement.

Seth Kaplan's "Fragile Neighborhoods". Heard him interview on a couple of my podcast subscriptions: Stacking Benjamins and Strong Towns. Surprisingly easy to breeze through the first 50 pages where he makes his case. But it's only easy because it's either referencing a whole bunch of stuff I've already heard before or telling stories I'm inclined to believe. For instance, Trump's support in the 2016 primaries being heaviest among the disconnected and disaffected, and the unsourced claim that most money America spends on foreign aid doesn't end up where it's supposed to go.

This would probably be a much different experience if I were to take the time to backtrace all of his citations. I am not that sort of man these days. But I am noting that I feel like he's saying things I should look deeper into, because something is probably being smuggled.

But that was Part 1. Part 2 ought to set the stage for where to work in neighborhoods, and Part 3 plans to tackle the how.

Still running through King Rat. It’s a page turner for sure.

Still on Good Soldier Svejk

Read Empedocles at Etna last night. I've been listening to SHWEP and they had an episode on him, I found the poem. It's a light read, very interesting view of him on volcano day.

Just finished W. David Marx's Status And Culture. Interesting and expansive without tediously reiterating the same points over and over to reach the magic 350 page count as so many pop intellectual books do. A little too blinkered though; yeah status plays into and undergirds a lot of society, but it's not literally everything*. Most of it will be familiar material to everyone here but it's still good to see the theories fleshed out and not just used as stick to beat on the outgroup de jour.

About to start The Stories Of Ibis.

*Edit: What I find frustrating about the typical analysis of status is that it treats status as an end in itself. I see status as a means to reach/achieve/reflect the underlying concretely valuable objectives and avoiding the suffering of being deprived of the same.

Given that there are unsupervised cattle in (some subset of?) Indian cities, what measures are people allowed to take if such a bovine behaves aggressively?

Cattle mostly get out of the way if you move towards them with confidence.

I can assert this is also true for humans, be it in the public canteen at my hospital or the London Tube.

Also on humans in cars. Approach a left lane hogger with speed and intent and hes likely to move over as opposed to slowly creeping up behind him.

Depends on what you mean by "aggressively".

I remember this one time I was enjoying a chicken sandwich by a river, and a bull wanted a piece of it. Cue me running like a madman around several benches, then climbing atop one. Then some middle aged gent came and kicked it, at which point it went off to touch grass.

Cattle here don't really attack anyone, though they do impede traffic and shit in inconvenient spots. But if they're in the way, nobody will complain if you whack them with a stick, that brings back memories of a time I was in Jaipur (I think?), and we went for a scenic ride on a tuktuk/auto down a 45° incline and multiple windy roads, with about 3 westerners who were dressed up in animal outfits, though I only recall this girl from the States in a fucking zebra costume (apparently they were on a dare to travel from the tip of India all the way to the south in that fashion), and halfway down our impromptu roller-coaster ride a bull blocked the way. Queue the driver getting out to literally beat it out of the way, once again with a handy stick.

I don't know whether the takeaway from this anecdote is that Indians are crazy for tolerating so many bovines, or that Americans are even crazier. It wasn't even a furry thing, more of a children's costume deal. I can only pray they didn't die of heat stroke before reaching Kanyakumari as they planned 🙏

They have a duty to retreat.

What is the name of the fallacy where one claims religious authorities don't believe in their own doctrines and are motivated by desire for power?

How exactly is that a fallacy?

I tried rephrasing my question for ChatGPT, and it gave me a pretty close answer:

"What is the name of the logical fallacy where you believe other people think the same way you do?"

ChatGPT: "The logical fallacy you're referring to is called the 'false consensus effect.' This occurs when someone believes that their opinions, beliefs, or preferences are more common or widely shared than they actually are. It involves an overestimation of the extent to which others agree with one's own views."

That's the typical mind fallacy.

Oh I see, so you're objecting to the way people accept it as a common assumption, rather than justifying it in each individual case?

I'd call it the Pharisee fallacy.

Has sabaton released anything about the Ukraine war yet?

I feel like making larping epic music about wars long ago is only a bit cringy but about the forced conscription drone deathmatch meat grinder that’s currently going on? From your cosy Swedish studio? That would be quite beyond cringe.

There would probably a fair few Ukrainian soldiers who would be extremely happy if Sabaton made a song about the Ukrainian War praising their heroism (it would be very unlikely for them to do the same for Russians) and would blast it incessantly.

Ukrainian propaganda already regularly releases metal(or easily adaptable to the genre) songs about how brave the Ukrainian soldiers are. I’d imagine sabaton could easily make a song about the defense of Mariupol or bakhmut or the defeat of the kyivan airport raid and have it become extremely popular in Ukraine.

I agree. Sabaton songs usually go with a tone of "They, the warriors bravely defending, are so bad ass", not "We, the masculine warrior class, are so bad ass". I don't think it's cringe at all.

Millei seems interesting, anyone have a good summary of his beliefs and policy goals/ how likely he is to achieve them?

Unrelated but what exactly is the Starbucks situation that lead to some people boycotting them? I’ve heard it was nothing more than them telling union workers they couldn’t display the company logo in protests that activists decided to describe as “Starbucks supports genocide”, is this true?

He had a speech at Davos recently you can watch on YouTube. It seemed to me he's pretty similar to Jordan Peterson, except he puts libertarian politics first and social issues second. His first priority by far is getting the government out of shit, but he also holds other conservative values like abortion is bad and feminism has been going too far.

It's been mildly funny to notice that when people refer to basically the same institution as "Davos" it's meant as a neutral or even a positive term and when it's done as "WEF" it's intended to be negative, possibly conspiratorial in tone.

Is it an institution, really? I thought it was a conference staged mostly to sell tickets.

I don't know the answer to your first two questions, but the answer to your implied third question is that the past tense of "to lead" is "led".

Actually, here is a partial answer to your first question:

Funny I read the Caplan piece I thought Caplan believed Milei would fail and then read the Cowen piece who claimed Caplan was more positive.

I guess it all comes down to what you can declare as victory.

My victory condition is he’s a modern day Pinochet that invites a bunch of University of Chicago dorks down to Argentina and sets the country on a path to be rich again.

Cowens seems to be he fixes enough to stop hyperinflation.