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Small-Scale Question Sunday for March 24, 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.

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This isn't really a small-scale question but where can I go for a relatively complete and balanced perspective on France in Africa and the recent coups? Something nuanced. I'd rather read than watch a video essay. But not too long, hopefully. Or if it is long, at least it should be in digestible chapters.

Phones!
After six years I finally need a new one, and after being out of the market for so long I could use some Motte advice.
For starters, is there anywhere that actually lets you shop by features? Most searches will include different versions, like international models without US band support.
My current spec is:

  • 6-8GB ram: is that enough these days? I don't play games, but I'm a heavy multitasker with a serious tab addiction
  • 128-256GB drive: last phone had 32GB, which was dreadful.
  • CPU/GPU: capable of running android without too much lag is all I ask, why does that seem to take a supercomputer now? Ideally good H265 hardware decoding, but apparently that's asking for a miracle.
  • microSD slot: do modern OSes handle these well? It only worked on my last phone as an integrated drive, and performance was awful.
  • Camera: ideally a simple one, why do they all have 5 different ones now?
  • Screen: bright and 1080p, who cares about 144GHz refresh rates, seriously. Large and not excessively long is best: I hate this new 22:9 stuff.
  • 4G Band 12, 71, optionally 5G n71: T-mobile and its VNOs are the only local option. Is 5G any improvement? I only use data for browsing and messaging, so latency matters more than speed.
  • Extras: As few as possible. I will never use wireless charging, and NFC makes me nervous.
  • Cost: Looking at low end phones mostly because I feel retarded carrying around a thousand bucks of easily crushed hardware in my pocket.

Current Options:

  • Moto G Power '23/'24: top contender, but Motorola has so many different versions with some heavily gimped that I'm hesistant.
  • Samsung A15: probably off the list because the US version with 600-700MHz band support only has a 4GB option. Obnoxious price discrimination to stop us buying the cheap 8GB international version.
  • Galaxy A5x/A3x: again the US versions seem to be gimped, but it's hard to find out.
  • Nord N30: positive: skyrim jokes, negative: ???
  • Pixel 6a: ugh, please don't make me use this thing

Anyone have recommendations?

Obligatory "iPhone SE", but that might be too expensive for what you're looking to do, the screen might be too low-res, I wouldn't buy one until the 4th gen comes out, and you're giving up NewPipe + proper Firefox with uBlock + being able to run whatever you want by going with iOS.

You do get a lot for the money, though; it's the third-fastest phone available (leaps and bounds better than everything else; the 2nd gen is merely on par with those phones- Qualcomm's main business is very expensive modems with CPUs that are already 4 years out of date attached to them) and is as simple as you want it to be, being that it's an iPhone 13 packed into an iPhone 8, with everything that implies (including parts availability).

I hadn't actually considered an iphone, in retrospect strictly out of tribalism. But honestly just the thought of using the youtube app without adblocking makes me want to gouge out my eyes and stuff them in my ears, so it's probably out regardless.

Yeah, I was trying to read up on mobile chipsets for a while, but realized I don't have the time to be doing that kind of dive just to buy a damn phone any more. It's infuriating, honestly.

I was trying to read up on mobile chipsets for a while

Honestly, they're all good enough, you'll just be tempted to replace the slower ones more often.

And I still think you're doing it right; Android phones only make sense at the "cheaper than the current-gen SE" price point (and they do make a lot of sense there even if your total spend is going to be roughly equivalent)- simply because the more expensive Android phones are just iPhone 11s with a different OS and a better screen (or a gimmick- I'd actually say the future of Android is foldable especially for people whose phones are their main computing device because Apple is institutionally incapable of making proper multitasking and copy/paste is one of the most important things a computer can do).

I played that game for a while. It is a much better deal to just get the flagship and trade in every 2 years. Almost zero cost.

No, I don't have a cell phone plan, because $10/mo prepaid works so much better. So I don't get all the trade-in offers that (honestly) seem like more trouble than they're worth)

Paging @2rafa

So what's the deal with Truth Social? It's completed its merger with DWAC, and it is being widely reported as a potential $3bn windfall for Donald Trump. Who would that $3bn come from?

Reports are that Truth Social has a comically small number of users, less than 1% the ADU of Twitter. It booked $3.4mm in revenue and lost $49mm in the first nine months of 2023. They're apparently planning a dividend which would appear to be in excess of total revenue! Perhaps in 2020 there was an opening for an anti-woke twitter alternative, post-Musk acquisition Twitter might have closed that gap, and various alternatives like Mastodon-instances offer an alternative. The problem for Truth social is that its growth theory is that DJT-Thought goes mainstream and people sign up, but in that case the existing social media giants would simply change their own moderation policies, the long term growth strategy is for MAGA to hold enough of a grudge to refuse to go back to R/TheDonald.

The share price has rallied from meme-stock Buy-and-HODL by Trump fans. That dynamic is well understood at this point. But where, if DJT sells his shares of DJT, is the hypothetical $3bn dollars going to come from? For Gamestop and AMC, the money theoretically came from a short squeeze, as shorts had to cash out their positions at a major loss, and shares were near or over 100% short so it was impossible to cash out. The short interest in DJT is more modest, at around 10%, so there's no $3bn in shorts to soak. Trump fans aren't going to fork over $3bn. What major market player is going to sink billions into a social network with no users? Until it makes some kind of profit it won't make most indexes or fund managers, so it won't be automatically purchased that way. He could try to borrow against the shares, but who would lend it?

I feel like there's something missing. Because the WSJ is reporting that Trump is getting a $3bn windfall, but then pointing out all the ways that he obviously won't/shouldn't get that windfall. I'm lost. Can anyone explain this to me?

ETA: Shares are SPIKING on the IPO to close to $70 this morning.

So this is a SPAC deal. SPACs are an alternative way of taking companies public (i.e. turning a company owned by a small group of shareholders who all know each other into a company owned by stockmarket investors) which became popular during the pandemic for reasons which are not clear to me, but may be something to do with COVID and associated government policy making a conventional IPO harder. The basic idea is:

  • A financial sponsor (the bank, hedge fund, or private equity shop organising the SPAC) launches a company whose only asset is the cash the investors put into it. Typically the sponsor gets 20% of the equity in the SPACco but only puts in a small amount of money to cover operating expenses (this acts as a fee for the sponsor). The outside investors put in the money to fund the acquisition (usually hundreds of millions, sometimes low billions) and get 80% of the equity. The SPACco is a public company and may be listed on a stock exchange (DWAC was on Nasdaq). At this point investors are investing based on their confidence in the sponsor's ability to do a good deal.
  • The sponsor has two years to find a company to buy. (If they don't, the investors are reimbursed with interest and the sponsor is out of pocket for operating expenses and any legal/banking fees associated with failed deals). The shareholders in SPACco must approve the deal, and there is usually a provision for dissenting investors to pull their money out.
  • There are various ways of structuring the deal, but the usual end state is that the merged company ends up with the assets of the business being taken public and most of the SPACco cash (companies going public are almost always seeking to raise money to fund further expansion) and owned by a combination of the SPAC investors, the sponsor, and the former private shareholders in the target company.
  • The merged company either takes over SPACco's existing stock market listing, or seeks a direct listing if SPACco didn't have one. In either case the share ownership is sufficiently dispersed (among the SPAC investors) that there is no need for an IPO to create a liquid market.
  • Usually, the sponsor and target shareholders are subject to a 6-month lockup, but the SPAC investors can sell immediately.

Looking at EDGAR filings, DWAC was incorporated in May 2021, listed on NASDAQ in September 2021, and first agreed in principle to buy Truth Social in October 2021 (before Truth Social launched). So since then, DWAC shareholders knew that they were likely to end up owning Truth Social, and the shares traded on that basis. In other words, the original DWAC investors have had the chance to sell at a profit to people who actually wanted to own Truth Social for several years now. It isn't clear how many of the new DWAC investors were people who wanted to give money to Donald Trump for nefarious reasons (the largest single shareholder in DWAC apart from the sponsor was TikTok investor Jeff Yass who invested around the time Trump flip-flopped to oppose requiring ByteDance to divest the US business of TikTok). and how many were hoping to make money flipping a Trump-themed meme stock. (I find it unlikely that anyone involved actually values Truth Social this highly as an ordinary business).

When the merger finally closes after two and a half years of malarkey, we expected to see a small bump in the stock (because of reduced uncertainty), but we have seen a much larger bump (>50%). This is pure meme demand - anyone who know what they were doing could have bought DWAC stock at much lower price than they are now paying for DJT stock. The $3 billion (now $5 billion) is the value of Trump's 58% stake in the merged company (which owns Truth Social plus about $300 million of DWAC's cash), based on the price at which DWAC investors are selling small numbers of shares to meme-stock buyers in the public markets. The other 42% is owned by DWAC shareholders - roughly speaking 8% by the sponsor and 34% by the outside investors.

How can Trump get this money out? For the duration of the 6-month lockup, he can't. (He can't even pledge the shares to secure a loan). After that, he can sell shares in the market, but if he sells more shares than the demand from meme-stock buyers the price will collapse. The cash would come from meme-stock buyers. He also has the option of selling a large block of shares to someone who is willing to overpay as a way of bribing him. There is no way he can get billions in cash out of DJT honestly (unless the underlying business of Truth Social takes off in a way which would justify the valuation). Any cash he does get out will come from investors who were happy to lose money, either because they wanted to give money to Trump or for the lulz.

I have a suspicion Trump’s sudden flip on TikTok after speaking to Yass is that Yass implied ByteDance or other Chinese investors might buy Truth Social if they didn’t have to divest. I don’t know if he could pull it off, but I can certainly see Yass suggesting it as a possibility. And a few billion is really a small price to pay for the Chinese. Trump isn’t fully loyal by any means, but he does have a certain sense of quid pro quo, he really would be a lot more favorable to China if they bailed him out. Provided Congress goes fully red and given the fact that as president he has de facto control over CFIUS, he might even have a chance.

I think it’s just Trump’s fans pumping the stock at retail. There are millions of true believers out there and as long as they keep buying and don’t sell, the valuation is going to stay unreasonably high. Most funds are going to want to stay away from short plays because after GameStop taking on retail is unpredictable and because it’s not worth becoming an official enemy of Donald Trump, being called out in a million angry tweets/truths™️ and in White House press conferences if he gets re-elected and getting harassed by his supporters. All this means the stock has a tendency toward exuberance, especially as Trump comes closer to returning to the White House and supporters see this as a campaign contribution that might even make them money.

Apparently there is 10% short interest, so someone is willing to sell the stock short. My guess is retail - as you point out any big investor who shorted DJT could expect punishment if Trump wins in 2024.

The most likely scenario for small investors in DJT to make money (other than by selling on to Greater Fools) is that Trump wins the election and a big Russian or Chinese company overpays for DJT in order to curry favour with the US government.

With all the hubbub over in the main thread with the ATF, it's the perfect time to have a favorite gun thread!

In other words, what's your favorite gun? Preferably a real one, but I'm scared you'll shoot me if I adjudicate too harshly, so if it launches a projectile from a barrel I'll let it slide.

Trick question! Anyone worthy of this contest can't have just one answer.

In my case, the top 5 are:

  1. The MCX Spear. Because we were due an M5 already, .277 Fury is a wild cartridge, and while it's grossly overkill for Russian conscripts or Chinese soldiers in Alibaba armor, when the robots come for you, better come packing. I was mildly inclined to reconsider because the Textron entry to the NGSW program was a bit cooler, a bullpup with a telescoping barrel that shoots polymer rounds? If only it hadn't been a bullpup, it would be a shoe-in.

  2. The G3. While the FAL is the right arm of the Free World, I simply think this one is neat. Well, at least I think it looks cooler stock. An SA-58 variant of the FAL with modernized furniture certainly tells you the 70s are back with a vengeance.

  3. The MG-338. For when you still don't have power armor and can't have Infantry hoof around Brownings, but want something with more oomph than 7.62x51.

  4. The Mk-18. My short-barreled beloved. Compact, all the cool kids use it, comes gucci-d out. Closely tied with a Honeybadger or Sig MCX Rattler both in .300 Blackout for small but deadly.

  5. The Mk-18 Mjolnir. Do not confuse these two entries. The Mjolnir fires .338 Lapua. Because fuck you and the tree behind you (for a modestly sized tree).

  6. Thought I'd stop at 5 did ya? Mistaken. The PKP, because we need some Soviet or Russian representation. Better than the M240B in almost every way, including weight. So good that new and not so new NATO countries like Finland and Poland field them.

One day, I'll make it to Battlefield Vegas, and then I will dual wield PKPs and fire them at my feet till the recoil lifts me straight to Valhalla.

The Colt Single Action Army and it's many clones. It's got to be up there with the Kalishnikov as far as a massively influential and successful design.

Phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range, obviously.

Well, that's one way to describe a malfunctioning microwave when you put a grape in it.

I've seen the Terminator my dude. 40 watts is a ridiculously low power rating for a plasma rifle, because the screenwriters don't know physics.

It was a joke. And grapes do turn into plasma in a microwave, if you thought that was a joke.

https://www.snexplores.org/article/why-microwaving-grapes-makes-plasma-fireballs

S&W 686-6 6” 6-shooter.

SKS

Well, at least you don't need to live somewhere with particularly permissive gun laws to make it work!

the FAL is the right arm of the Free World

Ah yes, the Western SKS. Certain types of gun people complain to high heaven about people putting detachable magazines, improving the ergonomics, and trying to add optics to the SKS, yet praise the FAL even though it's literally the exact same thing (the FN-49 is even more blatantly just an SKS) with the exact same drawbacks, adopted for the exact same reasons (because your country fought WW2 with obsolete bolt-action rifles and some form of submachine gun, it's the early '50s, and the enemy is at the gates).

In any case, my top 5 are:

  1. Remington Model 8, an AK-47 but 40 years early. Caliber selection is exactly what people try to do to their AKs now, since the most popular calibers for AKs are 6.5 Grendel .25 Remington, 7.62x39 .30 Remington, 9x39 .35 Remington, and .308 .300 Savage. Identical manual of arms (the longer mags don't lock the bolt back, something AKs don't generally have either), identical safety (to the point that I'm not sure I believe that was just convergent evolution), identical dual-hook trigger mechanism. Only difference is the ergonomics, provided you're ignoring the Saigas.

  2. Stoner M69W, better known as the Stoner 63. What if AR, but AK with basically no recoil instead? The XCR is the spiritual successor to this but it doesn't look nearly as nice, having 5 guns from more or less one set of parts is plain cool, and the reason why the gun's so well-behaved would go on to star in later developments where the bolt doesn't bottom out -> gun just sits on target in full auto fire.

  3. Bushmaster M17S, the best version of an AR-18 ever created. Would pioneer most of the construction techniques every gun that isn't the AR-15 or coming out of Russia uses- the fact it's an extruded aluminum upper is very obvious unlike later rifles and the use of plastic in the lower is also what every gun does now. It's what the SA-80 would have been if it was done correctly; sadly, the only thing that gun does right is have a plastic handguard so you're not cooking your hands after dumping a few mags.

  4. HK36 (not the G36), about the last StG-45-derived rifle HK would create. Still very much a G3, but with plastic stripper clips, a single magazine, the G36 cocking handle, and some ridiculous fire rate that the G11 would later do better, maybe.

  5. Desert Eagle. The Malorian 3516 is probably more reliable, but that gun doesn't actually exist outside of Cyberpunk- it's important to understand that the reason people hate this gun is because it's impractical for most of the things media portrays it doing (and also because its reliability is questionable unless you're careful about the ammunition you feed it), but at longer distances when you want to carry a lot of ammunition it's probably a better option than anything else on the market. Also, golden gun lmao.

I grant it to ya, those picks certainly have unique aesthetics. I'm certainly fond of the Stoner 63, need to play around with it in VR some more.

As someone who sort of developed a moderate interest in true crime discussions, I was surprised to later find out that apparently the consumers of true crime literature, videos and other media are overwhelmingly middle-class suburban women / cat ladies. Then it occurred to me that my surprise isn't warranted, as it's natural that the people most likely to fantasize about true crime are the ones most secluded from its reality. This view of mine was confirmed when I've heard the argument that, supposedly, this sort of true crime media is much less popular in Latin America, the reason being that crime is much more of a daily reality there, so people are less prone to fantasize about it.

Is this argument correct in your view?

Is this argument correct in your view?

No.

True Crime is primarily a meme, it's a genre. Any debate that centers primarily around a genre, rather than centering primarily around characteristics, is going to be a debate around classification.

I agree with @coffee-enjoyer that comparing against Latin American women is problematic because they might consume similar characteristics of content in different genres. In the same way it would be silly in the 1990s to say "White kids are listening to Punk Rock and Thrash Metal, Black kids aren't, does this mean white kids are angrier than Black kids?" No, it means angry Black kids are listening to gangster rap (as are many white kids).

True Crime is just a modern form of the ghost story, the horror film, Stephen King, etc. True Crime is popular predominantly among women because it is popular predominantly among women, the content creators are designing their products around their female audience. True Crime podcasts and associated properties got really popular after Serial season 1, which I listened to multiple times, it was really a brilliant podcast possibly the GOAT. That's what created the modern form. Since then, I've tried alternative podcasts that try to recapture that feel, and they're increasingly female-coded, in ways that put me off the genre. I want to like it, but I just can't get into it, the feminine touches are too much (I should note, I have a high tolerance for feminine media, I regularly watch The Bachelor).

I think men consume the same content, just in different forms, whether it is video games or horror movies or creepypasta or whatever.

True Crime is popular predominantly among women because it is popular predominantly among women, the content creators are designing their products around their female audience.

Sorry but that explains nothing.

Evaporative cooling. You start with a population that is 55/45 F/M, podcasts that cater to women in various ways will do better but turn some men off, it drifts to 60/40, the process repeats with increasing speed.

True Crime satisfies the mostly female need for wives’ tales and gossip — women evolved to keep their bodies and character safe from bad men. It’s true that some women also fantasize about serial killers but this is because of the paradoxical evolutionary desire to fuck really good killers who also happen to be handsome and charismatic. Why is this not found in Latin America? Their culture still has good old wives’ tales and gossiping, and they have soap operas where the characters’ continually fall into calamity.

It seems that the final part of your comment is lost. Anyway, yeah, I can accept the argument about old wives' tales and gossiping, as Latin American societies are less individualistic and more family-focused.

Then it occurred to me that my surprise isn't warranted, as it's natural that the people most likely to fantasize about true crime are the ones most secluded from its reality.

This theory would predict that middle- to upper-class men would consume true crime content at about the same rate as middle- to upper-class women (its natural demographic). Middle- to upper-class men may be slightly more likely to be victims of crime than middle- to upper-class women, but I can't imagine the relative crime victimisation rates are distinct enough to explain the differing rates at which they consume true crime content.

I think true crime content is rather ghoulish and exploitative, and the people who consume it are morbidly fascinated by death and violence. But because they're mostly women, a woke just-so story must be contrived to explain why they consume this content without casting them in an unfavourable light. Hence "women are so scared of being raped or murdered that they consume true crime content as a coping strategy" or whatever. If it was mostly men consuming this content, people would correctly be calling them out for being ghoulish.

I think true crime content is rather ghoulish and exploitative, and the people who consume it are morbidly fascinated by death and violence.

Hence the South Park episode pointing this out about a decade ago.

God damn, those boys do not miss.

Hence "women are so scared of being raped or murdered that they consume true crime content as a coping strategy" or whatever.

I also assume they love reading and hearing about cold cases from decades ago, because it serves to reinforce their view that Western patriarchy was always a brutal hellscape where rape victims were basically the punching bags of society etc.

https://reason.com/2023/09/23/true-crime-distorts-the-truth-about-crime/ an article I found interesting about why the gender balance skews the way it does.

Thanks, that was an interesting read. Funny how that Knox story reinforces any prejudice one might have about Italy.

Eh, don’t think so.

It’s more consistent with general female hybristophilia.

Middle class suburban American cat ladies, who code white, being into serial killers is a “man-bites-dog” story in comparison to the “dog-bites-man” story of black American women being into thugs (as Will and Jada Smith might tell you) or latinas (whether born in the US or Latin America) being into cartel members or their derivatives.

Putting a “white” in front of “women” is oftentimes a way to Notice things about women without getting Canceled. After all, white women are among the white people of women, non-Asian minorities, and the LGBTQ+.

My observation isn't about hybristophilia per se. It's broadly that a demographic largely secluded from the daily reality of societal violence and brutality is prone to consuming media content in general (not just true crime related stuff) that is exceedingly violent and pathological.

I don't think that's correct. It seems explainable by the classic "people vs things" distinction. True crime is fundamentally interpersonal drama.

This article cites a Pew poll saying that while most true crime podcast fans in the US are women, a majority are black or Latino rather than white.

I find myself single.

This was inevitable, and the writing was on the wall that the two of us weren't compatible, even if I loved her dearly right from the start.

Little fights would snowball into battles, she had a hair-trigger temper and you'd swear her name, which incidentally could have passed as Latina, made her one. As lovely as she could be, as smart and talented as she was, it wasn't meant to be.

I'm at fault. I'll gladly shoulder the majority of the burden for it all. I could make excuses about ADHD, depression, the enormous amount of stress I'm under as the knives chop away inexorably at the strands of the future, but for all that they're true excuses, I was a pretty crappy boyfriend. I'm very lucky I'm smart and funny enough, that I could make her laugh and temporarily forget my myriad flaws. It's not like I didn't care about her, even if I struggled to show it in the way she craved.

She'll be fine. She always was a fighter.

I think I'll be too. After all, this was a shared decision. Like two cacti hugging in the cold desert winds on a moonless night, the sweetness of the dripping nectar couldn't keep at bay the building pain from all the pricks and scabs we couldn't help but scratch at.

On to more practical things.

I've given enough (good) dating advice here that I know the ropes. Currently, work and exams makes even the apps appealing, for all that they're meticulously designed by psychologists (and the incentives of mammalian evolution) to be a gauntlet of suffering for the male of the species, all to squeeze out your hopes, dreams, and more importantly, money.

But I've aged like wine. I've got a dozen good pictures carefully curated. With a dog. In scrubs. With friends, so women can rest assured I'm not a psycho. In decent clothing and proper lighting. I might not be as handsome as my brother, but I'm certainly not repulsive either. Most importantly, I'm older, and for a man, that's a good thing, right till the male pattern baldness or the paunch hits. Two matches in less than two hours, whereas the last time I tried, as a med student, it took days or weeks.

I'd love to date more in person, but I'm not going to hit the clubs alone. Most of my friends have long since fled to fairer shores. Thankfully flirting with patients (or at least their family members, I don't swing towards 70 year old ladies with cancer) is not illegal in India, we haven't cucked our doctors that badly, but that's not really something I'm inclined to do either, let alone how fucking tired I am at work. Oh well, at least I know I can slide into DMs like I was lubed, 7 years of steady relationships don't lie about that. They didn't pick me for my sterling good looks after all.

But if anyone has any advice. I'm all ears. I'm tired of dishing it out and could actually use some myself.

Before anyone suggests the usual, I am, or intend to:

  1. Get a good haircut (already done).
  2. Hit the gym.
  3. Buy clothes? Nah, I haven't bought new ones in like a year, and I've got enough good fits to make it work.
  4. Lawyer up for our shared investment of a cellphone charger and a vape pod. Well, she does owe me a sizeable amount of money, but I trust she'll pay me back.

I'm tall, charming, with a beard that's far less scraggly after some (poorly adhered to) minoxidil, in a promising career (hahahaha), so please skip the kind of blue pills (psychiatric variant) you'd feed the dearly departed Skookum and the like.

Go on ahead, hit me with your best or worst. I have a beer in hand and a flint in the other to strike and light Tinder. I'm receptive. I have time to kill and the things I need to do can wait.

(The biggest motivator to study for me now has become the observed fact that hot young med students and interns love them an older Resident or Consultant. Time to grind and get that bag.)

I have a years supply of Costco brand minoxidil I got got free. How long till you actually saw results ?

I don't really need a more dense beard, but I might as well use it before it goes bad. Thanks for the reminder.

The standard consensus is that it takes 3 months or more of regular, twice daily use to get a respectable beard.

I think the maximum I've used it that consistently is about a month, and then intermittently whenever I can remember to. It is still a noticeable improvement over what it used to be, and I was already old enough that if I was going to grow a respectable beard it would have happened.

My brother has been using it for at least 6 months now, maybe even longer, and he's been religious about it. He keeps his beard trim, but barring a small patch below the chin that just won't go away, it's denser than mine is, and he's both younger and started worse off.

Just to be clear, you have liquid, topical minoxidil right? I mean, the pills will grow hair. You just won't like where.

(Dosage is about 3 drops or 1 ml per cheek, rubbed in. Trim your beard if you want to maximize the amount making it to the skin, though once again I haven't done that because if keeping my beard short is required to make it bigger, that's (temporarily) defeating the point.)

Buy clothes? Nah, I haven't bought new ones in like a year, and I've got enough good fits to make it work.

You may have the clothes, but do they fit well?

I won't go and dox myself by posting pictures, but I have a sense of style that is above average. Note this is accounting for the abysmal fashion sense of the average man.

So I do have outfits that look good on me, and fit well, especially when layered. Some very experimental ones too, who says straight guys can't wear zebra print? (My mom and brother, but then again half his college suspects he's gay, and I don't even know for sure).

The biggest issue with fashion in India is that this place is abysmally hot and muggy.

Now, I'm usually too lazy to dress up, but I am perfectly capable of it. I've lost some weight, so if I want to, I can get some of the shirts adjusted.

Typical outfit:

  1. Suit/Blazer/Nehru Jacket
  2. Shirt. I usually like floral prints, but anything with printed patterns is my jam.
  3. Trousers/Chinos
  4. Crocs if I don't give a shit, dress shoes if I do. (I don't wear Crocs with a suit, goodness me)

(With just the floral prints I look like I'm in Hawaii or a very drunk dude who walked into the favela for the wrong reason. Hence the layering.)

The biggest issue with fashion in India is that this place is abysmally hot and muggy.

Genuinely a burden on fashion. The best fits are pretty much all at their most comfortable when it's pretty chilly.

On the flip side, it's a great excuse for linen.

You bet I was very fucking fly in London.

I must thank my ex for all the pictures I can now use on Tinder. I can thank her a little less because she was the fifth person I swiped on in Bumble, today.

I'm tall, charming, with a beard that's far less scraggly after some (poorly adhered to) minoxidil, in a promising career (hahahaha),

Do people use minoxidil to grow hair on their face? I've never heard of that before.

so please skip the kind of blue pills (psychiatric pills) you'd feed the dearly departed Skookum and the like.

Uhh, I hesitate to ask what this means. Do you mean departed like he's not on the Motte, or do you mean departed like he died while attempting to do the Scag (or whatever that wilderness thing was called that he was doing)?

the Scag

He called it the Hock.

Do people use minoxidil to grow hair on their face? I've never heard of that before.

If you take too much minoxidil orally, you grow hair everywhere that hair can grow.

Applied topically, it works just as well for beards as bald patches on the scalp. Check out /r/Minoxbeards , I can personally vouch for it, and my brother who was a stickler to the routine had even more startling results from a worse start. My family is kinda bad at growing beards naturally and we're no different. My aunts never grew one, nor did my grandma, though a great aunt managed a moustache once before a misandrist cow mistook her for a man and kicked her in the head.

Uhh, I hesitate to ask what this means. Do you mean departed like he's not on the Motte, or do you mean departed like he died while attempting to do the Scag (or whatever that wilderness thing was called that he was doing)?

The former. Someone here was claiming that he did something far more sensible like climb a mountain first instead of the Hock (or at least to prepare for it). He's still alive, or at least that's where the smart money is.

I don't know what a Scag is, but if it's as suggestive as it sounds, you'd need an entirely different blue pill ending with -fil to make it work.

If you take too much minoxidil orally, you grow hair everywhere that hair can grow.

Applied topically, it works just as well for beards as bald patches on the scalp. Check out /r/Minoxbeards , I can personally vouch for it, and my brother who was a stickler to the routine had even more startling results from a worse start.

I mean, I definitely know that rogaine will do that, which is why bald people are usually careful to not let it drip onto their foreheads. But I didn't know that anyone actually deliberately puts it on their face to grow beards, that it would have desirable effects.

I stumbled upon SkookumTree commenting in PoliticalCompassMemes, but didn't have an unbanned account with enough karma to inquire how he has internet and enough time to participate while dying in Alaska.

Your situation is surprising for me only in that she ditched you before gaining access to the non-Indian sexual marketplace. Want to take bets she pops up in the West before you do?

She failed the exam we gave outright. I'm in limbo with a small chance I'll squeeze through and get something. We could have both been in the West if we didn't happen to prioritize exams that lead to career progression instead of dead end jobs in the NHS.

Your situation is surprising for me only in that she ditched you before gaining access to the non-Indian sexual marketplace. Want to take bets she pops up in the West before you do?

Dude, India isn't Qatar. If a middle class professional woman wants dick, we've got Tinder too. Bars. Sleazy nightclubs. I'm sure Western men would align with her feminist ideals better than the average Indian in our social class, but I'm about as egalitarian as it gets. I did dishes, the laundry and cleaned. When I slacked, it's because I'm lazy, not because it's beneath me or something.

No, I wouldn't have dated her for 1.5 years if I thought she was what you're implying. Our differences were irreconcilable, falling apart because neither of us could fix our character flaws, not because she was out for an upgrade. It's probably easier for me to get laid in the UK than it is here, but for an attractive woman? You couldn't schedule the time. And it's not like there aren't liberal men here too, if you seek a more longterm relationship. We were together and eyeing a future together because our plans aligned, I can't date someone who expects something more than a hookup without lying about how I intend to fuck right out of this country as quickly as possible, and I know she's honest, often excessively so, and wouldn't do the same.

SkookumTree commenting in PoliticalCompassMemes

A fate worse than death. He should have gone on the Hock instead.

I like the Dan Savage heuristic for breakups: one month of mourning for every year of the relationship (I'd round up the year, so if you're at 8 months just call it a year). If you're feeling down, that's a good rule of thumb for when you should be forcing yourself to put down the booze and get back on the horse. If you're feeling up-and-excited, it's a good rule of thumb for the time period during which you should question your own judgment on getting into anything new. Rebounds are a bitch, don't get caught up in something that isn't good for you.

It's been a year and a half now. Like, I am sad it didn't work out, but much of the pain and devastation I'm used to from previous breakups was frontloaded, used up in all our endless battles over the pettiest bullshit.

I'm mostly numb. I only shed enough tears to wet a toothbrush.

Two months is far too long to mourn. I have exams. Work, that frowns strongly on me turning up with a hangover. And I suspect my parents would be rather miffed if I spent two months in a drunken haze.

Not even at my worst did I feel tempted to hit the bottle that hard, and my liver thanks me.

Sure, don't get drunk every day and fail out of your job regardless. But also don't be surprised, despite your perception of have pre-grieved, if you aren't actually ready to date for two months. Or if you generally aren't in a great mood.

I appreciate the advice. Sadly I haven't been in a good mood for the past 10 years, so that isn't anything new haha. Well, not at a stretch at least.

Go get drunk if you haven't already. It won't help, but it's tradition.

Just take some time being single. Depending on how strong the pair bond was, it can take a fair bit of time to be ready to seriously date (up to several years if you were in high limerence/engagement). In the meantime, feel free to either stay away from girls or date unseriously and messily. Be honest with the girls that you aren't seriously available. You'd be surprised how they react.

Way ahead of you chief, already got that beer bottle in hand. Funnily enough I'm not nearly as depressed as I was in past breakups, I crave a stiff drink, but I'm not inclined to drown my sorrows in wine just yet. Several of those breakups weren't initiated by me, so the sense of crushing inadequacy was far more overwhelming. These days, I'm older and (maybe) wiser, I know I've got game and while I am simply too lazy to be a fuckboy, I can charm women into committed relationships, to our mutual detriment.

As a minor consolation, I've matched with an absolutely amazonian fashion designer on the apps, and while her literacy is questionable, with thighs like that, she could crush my skull till our IQs match and I wouldn't complain. 🙏 Inshallah I'm going straight to heaven

So I'm going to finish my beer, which has gone flat since I'm arguing on the Motte. I'm going to pop a Ritalin, because I'm a terrible doctor who doesn't listen to advice about avoiding mixing stimulants and sedatives (well, with one beer it isn't that bad), and then I'm going to read up more on calcium metabolism, which is paradoxical enough that maybe a brain compress will help me understand it better, or at least it'll make more sense when I'm drunk.

Alcohol actually improves memory, at least from before you began drinking it.

Anyone have any thoughts on the 2001 anthrax attacks, particularly whether the accused perpetrator was truly guilty? If this is something you have researched let me know.

There are a few things that I think are at least pretty interesting and are well-agreed upon (e.g. you can find them on Wikipedia, you don't need to go down rabbit holes). The FBI and CDC almost immediately deleted a huge chunk of physical evidence:

The FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both gave permission for Iowa State University to destroy the Iowa anthrax archive and the archive was destroyed on October 10 and 11, 2001.[80] The FBI and CDC investigation was hampered by the destruction of a large collection of anthrax spores collected over more than seven decades and kept in more than 100 vials at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Many scientists claim that the quick destruction of the anthrax spores collection in Iowa eliminated crucial evidence useful for the investigation. A precise match between the strain of anthrax used in the attacks and a strain in the collection would have offered hints as to when bacteria had been isolated and, perhaps, as to how widely it had been distributed to researchers. Such genetic clues could have given investigators the evidence necessary to identify the perpetrators.[80]

The National Academy of Sciences rejected the claim that there was solid evidence pointing to Ivins:

In what appears to have been a response to lingering skepticism, on September 16, 2008, the FBI asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct an independent review of the scientific evidence that led the agency to implicate U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins in the anthrax letter attacks of 2001.[10] However, despite taking this action, Director Mueller said that the scientific methods applied in the investigation had already been vetted by the research community through the involvement of several dozen nonagency scientists.[10]

...

The NAS committee released its report on February 15, 2011, concluding that it was "impossible to reach any definitive conclusion about the origins of the anthrax in the letters, based solely on the available scientific evidence".[160] The report also challenged the FBI and U.S. Justice Department's conclusion that a single-spore batch of anthrax maintained by Ivins at his laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland was the parent material for the spores in the anthrax letters.[160][161][162]

I don't know whether Bruce Ivins was a perpetrator, but I do know that the law enforcement responsible for investigating this royally fucked up the investigation, arrived at scientifically unsound conclusions, and were incentivized by the administration to wrap the answer up in a tidy package for public consumption. That ol' paragon of virtue, Bob Mueller, was the FBI director at the time. I would be unsurprised to find that Ivins was effectively bullied into committing suicide by an overzealous FBI that wanted to put a bow on the crime. I have no opinion on his actual guilt though.

I think it was a process of elimination thing. As I say below, Anthrax is so deadly that it would be very, very difficult to put it in an envelope and mail it to someone without killing yourself. If you or I were to get our hands on some anthrax and start to mess around with it, it is extremely likely that we would die a horrible death within the next few weeks. The number of people who have the technical expertise to use anthrax as a murder weapon is very limited, and anthrax itself is extremely difficult to obtain. Only a very limited number of people have any access to it. Since there are only a limited number of people in the US who have the technical expertise to carry out this kind of attack, and it was trivial for investigators to compile a list of 60 or 70 names, the FBI started out, so to speak, in field goal range, if not exactly in the red zone. The problem was that when they looked into the lives of these people individually they couldn't find anything approaching solid evidence that any one of them committed the crimes. Ivins was the one they liked the best, and as such, the brunt of the investigation fell on him. I remember there was some suggestion that he was behind false information that was leaked suggesting that Iraq was behind the attacks, and the guy definitely seemed to have a widget loose. Either way, even if the case against Ivins contains a lot of eyewash, the FBI was confident enough with it to proceed with prosecution, and after his suicide it was easy to pin it on a dead man and say "case closed". I don't know that there are any other good candidates.

I'm not sure either way, but some points against the accused person being guilty:

  • The feds always love to lead with anti government white people as the assumed perpetrator. The actual DC snipers were interviewed by police but released because they were both black and the profile said it was a white guy.
  • The National Enquirer got anthrax envelope sent to their corporate HQ. The company name is "American Media". That's the sort of mistake I'd expect to happen if it was done by someone foreign.
  • The first one was mailed 7 days after 9/11, which to me fits in more with a pre-planned follow up than someone coming up with the idea and implementing it after 9/11.

The argument against foreigners having doe it is that it takes quite a bit of technical expertise to handle anthrax and avoid killing yourself in the process. The envelopes were postmarked domestically, and the idea that a foreign national would be able to either smuggle anthrax into the US without triggering an infection in the process or being able to obtain it domestically are slim.

With hindsight, also that anthrax isn't consistent with the MO of any of the likely foreign suspects. The only foreign actor known to have the means and inclination to send anthrax letters is Russia, and Russia had no reason to poison a large number prominent Americans in autumn 2001.

A few months ago, I've heard rumors about Chinese fishing fleets that hover near the edge of international waters and terribly overfish not to actually obtain food, but to intentionally crash ecosystems and harm other countries' economy. Is there any substance to those, or is it just another thing that someone made up, probably originating on /pol/?

They exist. They've been known to operate, not just in the South China Sea, but in the South Pacific and even farther abroad. They sometimes operate illegally (eg within the Galapagos Islands), or just unsustainably in international waters. I don't know about intentionally doing economic harm, but the overfishing part seems real. Also the Chinese government used to subsidise fuel for it's fishing fleets which directly contributed to their impact.

Most of the sources here are a few years old. I'm not sure of the current status of these fleets. The New York Times said in 2022, the fleet basically camped permanently off the cost of South America (paywall).

Tell me about your favorite mods or most interesting fan projects you know. A while back when I was prepping for a roadtrip, I looked into emulator options and games to play during in-between time. Pokemon, was of course, on that list, but since I hadn't played pokemon for over 10 years, and wasn't interested in going thru the grind loop again, I started digging around the ROMhack scene. Most mods were of the usual, outdated, poorly documented, sort. There were only 2-3 polished and highly rated ones but they didn't really grab my interest. But one recently released ROMhack stood out, with its ambitiously vast scope of changes and the author's unwavering dedication. Pokemon Sweltering Sun, a hack based on Ultra Sun (2017, for the 3DS), that in the author's own words, tries:

To have every single Pokemon be fun and viable to use for the entirety of the game... thanks to new moves, abilities and so much more.

By every single pokemon, he means every single pokemon, and to wit, has uploaded a 488 video playlist, covering all 800+ pokemon (the hack adds all mons from gen 1-7), explaining each redesign thought process. There's also a neat spreadsheet pokedex with all the changes for "easy" reference (and it will cause your browser to lag). As a modder, I can tell you that is not normally, This very very insane. It is one thing to make an ambitious mod, it is two things to be super disciplined about clean documentation, and it is three things to have so much sustained passion, because in the process off writing this, I noticed the mad lad has still been pumping out content and just announced a brand new romhack project.

The two big FPS mods I've come across are Horizon for Fallout 4 and Gamma for the Stalker trilogy.
Horizon turns Fallout 4 into a very difficult, survival-focused adventure that I found interesting even after 200+ hours. The story/writing is mostly still shit and it's a GIGANTIC mod so almost nothing is compatible with it but it is easily the best way to play Fallout 4 imo.
GAMMA is also a very difficult, very survival-focused mod that is essentially what 15+ years of work prompting up a 2007 game looks like. All the levels from the base game and its 2 expansions, more than 500 different weapons, dozens of mutants, a complete reimagining of the artifact system (and the next patch promises yet another artifact remake), a robust repair/weapon parts system and an overwhelming number of mod options to adjust the game to whatever the player wants it to be.

The best place to find installation instructions and links for these two are their discords. Which is a shame imo but it is what it is.
Incidentally, have you noticed how this type of discussion used to be almost entirely a reddit thing and has sharply moved towards discord in the last few years? Maybe a sign of things to come.

Fall From Heaven 2 for Civ 4 and the Fall From Heaven ecosystem generally (Erebus in the Balance is the most tame, Wild Mana the richest and Master of Mana the furthest from vanilla). It's basically a dark fantasy total conversion with interesting lore and a bunch of new mechanics: magic, heroes, armageddon counter. All of the civs have their own identity - the Illians have rituals to bring back the God of Ice, the Sheaim are here to end the world and the Calabim are vampires. Later in you can summon factions of demons and angels.

Advanced Civ for Civ 4 because they somehow managed to make the AI much smarter while improving performance significantly. Most mods just add huge amounts of content the AI can't use well, this is the opposite and deserves praise for technical skill.

Anbennar for EU4. Another fantasy total conversion, adding a magic system, non-human races and an enormous new map. Reclaim the empire of the Precursor Elves as Venail, unite the Empire of Anbennar or crush the world under the centaur hoof of Khuraen Ulaeg.

Third Odyssey for EU4. What if the Byzantines left for America in 1444? The mod struck me as overly complicated mechanically but the premise is irresistible. The soundtrack is also pretty good.

Ultimate Apocalypse for Dawn of War Soulstorm. Adds a huge amount of content, many new factions and Titans (that are way too big for the maps). The music also goes hard.

Forged Alliance Forever for Supreme Commander Forged Alliance. It's basically a balance patch/multiplayer community with its own submods.

Zero Entropy 2 for Half-Life 2 - fan made Half Life 3 from the perspective of the Combine's top guy.

Equestria at War for Hearts of Iron IV - enormously rich and detailed atrocity/total war simulator but set in the world of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Like many I was intrinsically sceptical of the premise but the bronies did a very good job.

Pokemon Unbound deserves all the accolades it gets. The game is so expansive, feature-rich and high quality that it begs the question what Game Freak have been doing all this time.

Enderal, for Skyrim. A passion project made by lunatics.

I hear some buzz about Dark Souls Archthrones recently.

Moviebattles 2: a mod for Star Wars, Jedi Academy.

Finally, someone figured out how to do sabers vs guns in a multiplayer game. It's basically a standard class based deathmatch - various classes with abilities that you spend points to buy. You could be a bounty hunter with snipers and grenades, a sith who can jump and run and blast people with 2 handed lightning, a droideka with powerful shield and quick movement - possibilities are nearly endless. Playing on a series of movie accurate maps (seriously, the Phantom Menace hangar/throne room map...), 2 teams of various units face off to either kill everyone or complete the objective.

The lightsaber isn't a baseball bat. It's a one hit kill (unless the super battle droid opted for Cortosis!), BUT, when not in blocking stance, you are vulnerable to blaster fire. A skilled jedi could wipe out numerous trooper type units, but working together a good soldier could hold their own. The dueling as well, I never could figure out but was pretty high skill ceilinged. Really really fun, hours and hours of my youth on that.

The RTS Star Wars: Empire at War has a pretty big modding community even though the vanilla game isn't that polished or popular. The Expanded and Remake mod projects are both significantly better than the base game in different ways, but I have a soft spot for the 2017 release of Republic at War. I find it interesting because of some factors that are pretty easy to call 'flaws' combine to make an unusual experience.

Empire at War is similar to the Total War games in basic structure. Importantly, however, the strategic map is real-time rather than turn-based. The control scheme is clunky - ships have to be transferred between fleets one at a time, and the click-and-drag to order a fleet to move to another planet can be awkward to perform. If a battle starts while you're issuing orders they're interrupted. In the original game this doesn't matter too much for a number of reasons. The maps are pretty small, 33 planets at most. Fleets usually only consist of a dozen or so ships. And the AI is not particularly aggressive. In Republic at War this is very different. The full map has 72 planets and they're spread further apart than the ones in the base game. You start with over 100 ships. And the enemy will attack you every few seconds at times, fueled by massive economic advantages that let them replace ships as fast as you destroy them.

Furthermore, the ships are pretty poorly balanced against each other. The CIS battleships get more bang for their buck than all the Republic ships with the exception of Venator Star Destroyers. These, however, are by far the best in the game, capable of shredding four or five times their cost in enemies when used well. Unfortunately, besides the three you start with, you can't build more until the fourth tech level out of five. Getting there takes about 30 minutes on the strategic map, but that time you'll probably be attacked over a hundred times at least.

It creates an extraordinarily tense and frantic experience that I haven't found in any other strategy game. You are beset by swarms of enemies on all sides, struggling to match them with inferior ships and inferior numbers. The trio of Venators can hold territory, but they can't be everywhere and if one is destroyed it can't be replaced for a long time. There's a big red timer counting down to the next tech level, but every second feels long when a new attack might come at any point. If you manage to hold on long enough, though, it all changes. Suddenly you have fleets that can outmatch the enemy, retake everything you lost and go on the offensive for the first time. It's a great feeling, and it really only works because of what seem like mistakes in game design.

So, what are you reading?

I'm still on McGilchrist's The Master and his Emissary. He posits that classical paradoxes like Achilles and the Tortoise are fundamentally left-hemisphere phenomena, which try to build up something from parts and run headlong into the problems of this way of thinking due to its rejection of interconnectedness and context.

Recently these kinds of thoughts seem recurring, that is, that there might be natural approaches to long-standing problems which make them simple, if only I could learn them. But it also seems like the touchy-feely approach which is often given as an alternative to bottom-up thinking needs much refining.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

I just finished reading Orwell's long essay "Inside the Whale" and I'm once again struck by how relevant his political writing still is. He was describing what we now refer to as "the God-shaped hole" in 1940.

Achilles and the Tortoise isn’t a paradox due to building up something from parts. It’s a paradox due to doing it sloppily.

By analogy, there are various “proofs” that 0 = 1 that rely on bad math, but nobody would argue that the problem is with math. The problem is with people incorrectly using math.

For Achilles, the problem arises because, just as the distance covered gets cut in half, so does the time it takes to cover it.

If it takes you 1 second to cover 1 meter, 0.5 seconds to cover 0.5 meters, etc., the fact that this series never exceeds 2 says you can’t pass 2 meters in less than 2 seconds.

The "paradox" is that Achilles will never pass the tortoise, and "how far can Achilles get in 2 seconds" says nothing meaningful about this.

So, now that mint.com has turned into intuit, which is a useless loan advertising platform, anybody have any budgeting trackers worth recommending? I'm looking particularly for something that can track spending in one place.

Have you tried Ledger?

If you want a very powerful, but very crusty, option that will probably not have the problem of turning into an advertising platform. GnuCash has the capability of "properly" doing bookkeeping with full double-entry accounting. It's probably overkill for personal budget tracking, and comes with the expected jank of a raw GNU project, but there is a reason GAAP exists.

You Need A Budget. I have found it to work better than Mint ever did, even before it got acquired by Intuit.

Something like YNAB?

I recommend YNAB. The only counter-argument is that it is specifically designed to stop you juggling credit cards to manage a temporarily negative liquid net worth, so if that is something you want to do then YNAB won't work for you.

Are there inexpensive enrichment activities I should consider enrolling my ~5 year old daughter in?

I was in Girl Scouts, but it was getting pretty dodgy (heavy cookie sales focus, zero outdoors skills) even then, and I haven't heard great things lately. 4-H is still good as far as I can tell, but for 10 and up. Someone I know tried Mormon and Evangelical groups (for a bit older kids), and said the boys groups were fine, but the girls were doing kind of the larp housewife stuff people have been commenting on lately. A co-worker has her first grade daughter in gymnastics and she likes it, but I think that's kind of expensive for me at this time.

My sister-in-law takes her daughters (ages 2 and 11 months) to the children’s museum about once a week. I think their yearly family membership costs less than $200 and the museum changes the “exhibits” up every few months. I’ve been to two different museums with them now and have been impressed by both of them. Jungle gyms, arts and crafts, water tables, instruments, microscopes, light tables, the last one even had bunnies and chickens.

Also libraries often have children’s programming like weekly story times where they read to and do activities with the kids. Typically free.

Boy scouts rebranded a while back and now has girl's packs/troops. It's not as widespread though so you might not have a local group. Also some of the opportunities won't be available to the girls as they don't get enough participants (though that's more of an issue at the high school level).

I used to work for the local Boy Scout council and found myself advising my old troop on how to deal with the situation through my contacts after the scoutmaster was given answers he didn't like from the District Executive (no real surprise there). The exact problem was that the daughter of one of the more active adult leaders and her friend wanted to join, and while there was a girls' troop relatively close, the leader basically said "I'll be damned if I drive to two meetings and manage two sets of events, etc." So we ended up chartering a troop with two girls that I ended up being the assistant scoutmaster of under the scenario of "We'll call your bluff." It basically operates as a patrol within the larger troop because as long as we keep the paperwork separate, the Council isn't going to pry too deeply into our affairs.

Gymnastics or dance lessons are the standard answers for girls that age, but for a 5-year-old, just waking up is a pretty rich experience already. I wouldn't worry until she's 7 or 8.

for a 5-year-old, just waking up is a pretty rich experience already. I wouldn't worry until she's 7 or 8.

Seconded. I am a parent of sons, but I don't think the sexes are that different at that age, and if anything I would expect daughters to benefit more from unstructured time with Daddy. The time of a working father is precious, and you can spend an hour paying attention to your daughter, or you can spend the same hour paying attention to the road while you drive her to whatever enrichment activity you do. You don't take a 5 year old to soccer practice, you kick a ball about with them in the back garden, etc. As far as I am aware, the only activity where people who start at 7 struggle to catch up with the people who started at 5 is violin.

Swimming and riding a bike may be essential life skills for kids depending on where you live, but you can probably teach them yourself.

Yeah, maybe I'll just hold off, or send her for some swim lessons in July. I'd like her to learn to swim properly.

Any physically demanding team sport.

Soccer, basketball and volleyball are usually the most popular among girls and I'd mildly favour basketball or volleyball since thay seem to cause less female specific injuries if they go onto elite level competition/exercise.

Maybe you don't consider this enrichment though?

Another option is joining a church choir, it's often free, not very preachy (if that is something that bothers you) and it's a decent music education.

She's 5. I went to the kind of English prep (i.e. private primary - different meaning to the US) school where team sports is as important as academics, and we didn't play "real sport" until year 3 (September after 7th birthday). If getting 5-year-olds into team sports was a good idea then traditional English schools would have done it.

It depends on what your goal is I suppose, the first years are very casual. People obviously have different opinions on these kinds of things.

I started soccer at 6 but I know that it was available for 5yos at my local club. My local basketball club offers activities from age 3.

I guess I hadn't considered team sports, because it seems like a big commitment, and we do a family day trip every Saturday that it's nice out and we aren't sick. I wouldn't really expect any kind of elite level competition, since there are no athletes on either side of the family, just high energy and openness that manifests as hiking/camping/restlessly exploring everything in a three hour driving radius. Maybe I'll look into it and see what team sports involve and are available in the area.

I'm trying to go back to church, and suspect chanting/choir (our preferred church is Russian tradition liturgically) might be a good activity for our younger daughter, especially, but do also like that it's something where the other kids and I could all go and participate and not just be spectators. It could also be something to do during the service -- currently they just act really antsy and distracting (part of why we don't go much).

Team sports usually isn't a big commitment until they're like 12+. For the very young (like 5-7yo) it's usually 1 to maybe two times a week on weekdays and no games.

A plus is also that its often possible to let other parents do most/some of the work, at least if you can befriend them. You don't need all parents to drive to every game for instance. I don't know your living situation and how car dependant your area is but when the kids get a bit older its often possible for them to largely manage themselves.

What have you heard about codependency in popular culture or your circles, what have you heard about Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, and do you know why I’m asking about both together?

I’ll post more on this after church this morning, whether this gets any replies or not.

Codependency is a word with a misleading etymology (like schizophrenia meaning “split mind” and being confused with dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly multiple personality disorder). It comes from the discovery that most people in relationships with substance dependents (the less judgmental term for drug addicts and alcoholics) tend to have some personal issues and patterns of behavior of their own keeping them in the relationship. It was later discovered to be the same thought patterns and patterns of behavior of serial divorcees, serial victims of abuse, people with chronic loneliness, and other people with constant relationship troubles. It tends to run generationally in families with issues of abuse, divorce, and substance use. For every visible relationship addict or drama addict, there’s a dozen functional codependents struggling through their day-to-day life. It is a known failure mode of human socialization.

At its core, much of codependency is boundary issues: the inability to separate one’s thoughts and feelings from one’s perception of what others think, feel, or opine. Actively codependent relationships tend to be characterized by enmeshment, where one partner/friend is trying to run or fix some part of the other’s life, and the other is letting them, each for their own reasons. Not all toxic relationships are codependent, but most codependent relationships are at least somewhat toxic. Most codependents feel hollow or empty, and use other people, or attempts to help someone live their life, to try to fill the void.

Ayn Rand was a Russian Jew born in 1905. Her family lost their small business under Lenin’s rule, and her family lost their lives under Stalin. She hated Communism more than most people will ever hate anything in their lives, and made it her life’s ambition to eradicate socialism through art and philosophy.

She traced the philosophical roots of socialism to two concepts: collectivism and altruism. Collectivism is the belief/worldview/way of setting up societies in which groups are treated more important than individuals and their rights. Altruism proper is the belief that a person’s life is only worthwhile if it is lived for others (not the mere belief or value judgment that helping other people is a good and worthwhile thing to do). She made it clear that these stand in contrast to individualism, the belief that individuals have rights that no group can take away justly, and egoism, the belief that a person’s life is rightly to be lived for their own values, happiness, and worth.

Objectivism, her philosophy, is based on the belief that humans are the most amazing and glorious creatures to walk the Earth, when driven by objective values and living through reason, rational self-interest in the short and long term, and the most suffering or cruel creatures on Earth when they are not. (This is a very brief and extremely reductive description of Objectivism. The real thing is best absorbed through her essay anthology The Virtue of Selfishness.)

Her former disciple Nathaniel Branden (from whom she was estranged over specific relationship issues, ironically) wrote extensively on the psychological roots of what would come to be known as codependency. Some have called him the father of the self-esteem movement. Here’s a list of some of his best insight porn.. His well-known Six Pillars of Self-Esteem are useful reading for anyone with codependency:

  • The Practice of Living Consciously
  • The Practice of Self-Acceptance
  • The Practice of Self-Responsibility
  • The Practice of Self-Assertiveness
  • The Practice of Living Purposefully
  • The Practice of Personal Integrity

From Branden’s introduction:

I was acutely conscious of the pressures to “adapt” and to absorb the values of the “tribe” — family, community, and culture. It seemed to me that what was asked was the surrender of my judgment and also my conviction that my life and what I made of it was of the highest possible value. I saw my contemporaries surrendering and losing their fire — and, sometimes in painful, lonely bewilderment, I wanted to understand why.

(Tagging @comicsansstein @non_radical_centrist @George_E_Hale and @cjet79 instead of individual replies.)

  1. That it's a term that probably has a more narrow formal definition, but has been watered down to being thrown willy-nilly by people in /r/relationshipadvice and similar places, like "gaslighting" or "emotional labor"

  2. I've learned about in back in 2007 from the Bioshock previews, which coincided with Fountainhead and Atlas getting Polish editions in 2008 or 9 (there probably were some in the 90s, but with small print runs and niche). I've read the former, but not the latter. Which leads us to...

  3. I guess whatever the fuck Dominique and Roark had going on can be described as codependency if you squint? And considering that our autistic (cmon, can it be any more obvious with the fixation on trains?) anti-bolshevik queen modeled her characters after her... inclinations, there's probably some real life subtext here which I'm not familiar with.

I know codependency as mostly a gag in sitcoms about crappy couples. Like Jerry and Beth from from Rick and Morty.

I've never read an Ayn Rand book. I don't really know how it differs from other types of libertarianism, but I mostly see lefties mocking Ayn Rand as a dumb libertarian, and libertarians politely disagreeing with Ayn Rand as also a dumb type of libertarian. So I assume Objectivism is somewhere between wrong about literally everything and wrong about most things.

Ayn Rand has always been a strange one. I don't personally like her books because I don't like the style of Russian literature that she uses.

But she really nails some aspects of her criticism of communism and communalism. I'd suggest reading Anthem to most people. I actually enjoyed that book of hers the most. It's short, like a hundred pages. Communism has won in the story. Completely won. It's quaint but also horrific.

There is a depiction of the community concerned politician in Ayn Rand novels that she occasionally nails. The code language to say politically correct things while proposing evil.

It was and maybe still is a gold pill for a lot of young libertarians.

Not sure where I was going with this, but "objectivism is mostly wrong" seems like the wrong take to me.

What does gold pill mean? I've heard of red, blue, black, white, and pink pills, but not gold.

I really don't know what Objectivism is. I've just never really seen anyone defend or explain it in depth, and I've never seen anyone smart recommend it besides Rand herself.

I’ve given a basic outline in a reply to my OP. It’s the philosophy she believed western enlightenment thought was based on, before she discovered Kantianism had infected America like the USSR.

Just made it up, libertarian pilled basically. Gold and green (money) are common colors associated with libertarianism.

My first guess was that it meant skepticism of fiat currency.

I feel as if I heard more about co-dependency in the 90s or early 2000s, and most always in pop psych ways, again most always in the context of a romantic relationship. I.e. she needs to be needed, is happiest when tending to the bruises of a damaged man, even when he's violent, moody, not particularly kind, etc.

I read a few of Rand's books in the early 90s, having been given a few by friends. Apart from its fetishizing of grand-level accomplishment, The Fountainhead had some, to me, weirdly rapey scenes in it, and not in a "reader should see this scene as bad" way, more of a "height of eroticism" way. Ten years later Ian Fleming would, in Casino Royale, have Bond musing on "the sweet tang of rape" so maybe it was just a really different era. The collection of objectivist essays The Virtue of Selfishness, co edited by her lover Nathaniel Branden (whom Rand knew along with Branden's wife) seemed to lay out the tenets of objectivism more explicitly than Rand's novels. Fervently anti-altruism and--arguably at the time just as importantly--anti-christianity.

I don't know exactly why you're lumping putting the two together.

I was around a bunch of libertarians in college, so I've heard lots about Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged seemed to have some co dependency themes.

I literally had a dream last night that Hlynka was unbanned.

In general I’ve never found dreams to be particularly interesting, my own or anyone else’s, and I’ve always been puzzled over why they held such fascination for certain thinkers like Freud. Usually their contents are either nonsensical, or they’re connected to waking events/thoughts in a relatively straightforward way.

Have you had any interesting dreams lately? What do you think about dreams in general?

I rarely have dreams I remember through the morning. Though after becoming a dad, they do come a little more easily. Maybe it's the sheer emotion of being with my little sprog, maybe it's the long-term management of raising her. Hard to say. Emotionally-charged moments do tend to get the dream machine cranking harder.

Today, I dreamt about the loss of control of who is in my house. I remember I was in a house larger than my current one - but still believed it to be mine - and being shocked that people I disapproved of were in it. The details are very fuzzy of how they got there, or how they tried to remain despite my protests.

Last night, in a fit I threw one shelf of my medicine cabinet into a laundry basket. The clutter was so bad I couldn't see the back of it any more. We ended up having far too many expired items. Also, duplicates of stuff that might have been bought because we couldn't see what we had? Anyway, the first shelf was finally ordered & visible and all was right with that little corner of my world.

It's possible the purge triggered that line of dreaming. I'm not a strong believer in cause-and-effect here. Possibly other causes I'm not aware of as well.

I wouldn't know. I can basically never remember my dreams unless I'm startled awake or feverish.

A longtime friend living abroad slowly ghosted everyone from a friend group, with me being probably the last one. I had a recurring dream about meeting her again, which led to disappointment after waking up. After 3 or 4 instances of that, eventually I had a semi-lucid one when I suddenly went "Huh, I thing this is another dream. If it's not, tell me something that happened during all that time that I wouldn't be able to otherwise know." She just looked at me awkwardly and apologetically, and then I woke up. Haven't had a lucid dream other than that one.

(We're in contact again, in case you're wondering).

I've long had a weird relationship with dreams because I became a lucid dreamer at a pretty young age.

I have a triggering scenario that always got me lucid dreaming: I'd be underwater holding my breath, but I'd feel myself breathing somehow.

I have sleep apnea, so I probably ended up in all these dreams cuz my brain/body was trying to relate to an experience where I'm low on oxygen.

I lucid dream far less with a sleep apnea machine. And I'm mostly happy with that.


I've also had some predictive dreams / deja vu. Usually of mundane scenarios. Main memorable one was dreaming of my future wife and having the name correct, but its a common name. But office, classroom, kid raising situations have come up too.

I would like dreams to be more meaningful, but they are probably mostly random firings and rearrangements of existing memories and sensations.

I think dreams are pretty amazing, for a few reasons.

  1. I get to experience stuff I don't get to in real life. But, like I'm really experiencing it. When I fly in a dream, it really feels like I'm flying, and it's amazing. When I play instruments that I don't normally play, it feels amazing. When I have sex dreams with women I fancy but will never actually have sex with in real life... I enjoy it.

  2. I think it's really interesting when I have creative concepts come to me through dreams. I've written my best music that way, and sometimes had real insights that I don't think I'm clever enough to come up with myself. But the weird thing is that those insights did, in-fact, come from me. It couldn't have come from anyone else, unless there are 4th dimensional creatures injecting thoughts into my dreams or something. I think it's amazing that there is a method of unbinding my mind such that I'm able to think more creatively than I ordinarily do.

Well, I dreamt that the $45 I spent on 10 months supply of Ozempic for my mom was actually a permanent $4500 a month commitment I couldn't break without her developing liver failure and dying. Relatively straight forward as dreams go, I've already gritted my teeth and prepared to hand over a chunk of my liver (and a rather high risk of dying) if she developed full blown cirrhosis.

Thankfully, Hlynka has yet to haunt my dreams. I'd classify what you saw as a nightmare.

I've always been rather annoyed that my dreams are so low resolution and blurry, and I've yet to have a lucid one. Just imagine the graphics, I could save so much on an RTX 5090! Who needs full immersion VR?

I know my brain is holding out on me. My art skills peaked at the age of 5, despite my mom being a talented artist, yet when I was halfway to dying with a fever of 105° F as a child, I had vivid photorealistic hallucinations in 3D. It just won't bother until I'm literally cooking in my own heat.

I'd give so much to have a single lucid dream, they sound like a ton of fun.

As for the actual importance of dreams, I consider them to be somewhere between offline training and garbage collection going on in the brain when we're unconscious. No particular greater significance.

My art skills peaked at the age of 5, despite my mom being a talented artist, yet when I was halfway to dying with a fever of 105° F as a child, I had vivid photorealistic hallucinations in 3D.

Although there are unsurprisingly some highly talented artists who report having hyperphantasia, it's not a requirement. Glen Keane famously had aphantasia. My impression from watching professional artists work is that most of them simply have an average capacity for mental visualization.

The majority of learning how to draw just comes down to acquiring cached patterns and learning how to modify and combine them through trial and error, same as any other skill. It doesn't depend on any special faculties.

I spent about 7 or 8 years of my life undergoing personalized drawing and art lessons by a tutor. Other than an attempt to molest me, nothing came of it. To be fair, he wasn't very good at his job.

I'm sure you can improve to some degree with practise, but I am relatively confident that innate talent is indispensable if you want to become a "good" artist, or at least one that people want to look at, or even to the point of getting ten hearts on DeviantArt or Twitter.

Frankly, I disagree strongly with the final conclusion:

The majority of learning how to draw just comes down to acquiring cached patterns and learning how to modify and combine them through trial and error, same as any other skill

You cannot arbitrarily improve skill with effort, and even guidance and feedback. I'm unsure why this isn't as obvious to you as it is me, but just look at chess, music, sports and so on. Success in many fields is absolutely gated behind intelligence and fine motor skills, and more abstruse talents.

If I had to point to myself, writing absolutely comes naturally to me, and that was obvious at an early age. I've certainly improved with millions of words written, but there are bounds and the asymptote becomes obvious in most cases. Most people certainly become better writers from the period they learn the alphabet, but practice only takes you so far, and usually not to the point you're lauded as a good writer.

In the particular case of art, aphantasic people still have spatial skills. I dimly recall they're mildly disadvantaged as shape-rotators, but evidently not to the extent they can't draw at all. After all, it would be obvious if they couldn't write, or perform any other task that you might (possibly erroneously) assume that you need some kind of visual memory, even if they don't have a "mind's eye" as per usual.

You cannot arbitrarily improve skill with effort, and even guidance and feedback.

I never said otherwise.

The average person off the street can't become Terry Tao and win a Fields Medal, no matter how much time and effort they put into math. Their brains are physically incapable of getting to that level. We're in agreement on that point.

All I was saying is that drawing ability isn't intrinsically coupled to a superior faculty of visualization, and even the best artists still have to study and practice to reach a professional level of skill.

Regarding how many people are physically capable of becoming competent artists: I don't know the exact number, but I do believe that it's higher than is generally supposed. It's higher than the number of people who are capable of winning a Fields Medal anyway.

We have to distinguish between pure drawing from reference (e.g. portraiture, still life) vs creating original pieces. I think the vast majority of otherwise developmentally normal people are capable of learning the former to a competent level. I've done it, I've seen other people do it. It's a purely rote mechanical skill.

Original pieces are a lot harder but it's not hopeless. I started from absolute zero, I have no intrinsic talent for this. In fact I have anti-talent, progress has been abnormally slow and painful for me. But I was still able to make it this far. Obviously it's not pro level even by anime standards, but I think it's kinda cute and I got a few responses saying as much when I posted it online.

I also don't think I'm anywhere near the inherent ceiling on my abilities. I struggled for years partly because traditional art education is all crap and not at all geared towards people who naturally think analytically. Now that I'm learning how to take apart drawings the same way I take apart programs I'm starting to see a lot of progress and I'm way more confident in my ability to keep going.

I struggled for years partly because traditional art education is all crap and not at all geared towards people who naturally think analytically. Now that I'm learning how to take apart drawings the same way I take apart programs I'm starting to see a lot of progress and I'm way more confident in my ability to keep going.

That's interesting. I teach art, and admittedly have basically nothing to offer the kids who want to learn anime styles. Even the illustration markers make me twitchy (I hate so much that I can't guess how long they'll last, as an expensive drawing supply I have to ration between hundreds of children). I remember an interaction back when I was taking drawing as a teen too, between the teacher and a student who really wanted to draw anime, which was basically "I'm not teaching that, do you want to learn what I am teaching?" And she kind of did learn it, but seemed grumpy and not like she was heading the direction she wanted.

Do you have any examples of instructional materials that worked well for you?

Do you have any examples of instructional materials that worked well for you?

Not really! I feel like I had to figure out the most important things myself.

These days I'm basically using the same principles you'd find in the Loomis method ("Drawing the Head and Hands" and "Figure Drawing For All It's Worth") but what really helped things start to click for me was tracing the construction directly over references and trying to think, "how would I actually construct this? Do I have a repeatable process I can apply to future drawings like this?"

I also find it helpful to watch videos of pro artists work and look at how they think about things and how they approach problems, like David Finch or this guy.

Interesting, thanks for the response.

I've never been much interested in story drawing, so don't know much about it. I guess I had always assumed there was a robust and parallel way of learning things like how to draw dynamic poses for storytelling that's unrelated to what I learned (I follow traditional landscape artists like this), and am surprised to hear that it isn't that well laid out.

I guess I had always assumed there was a robust and parallel way of learning things like how to draw dynamic poses for storytelling

Well there definitely is. Sort of. David Finch has a bunch of lecture-style videos on Gnomon Workshop, Glenn Vilppu has a bunch of demo videos, Michael Hampton has a figure drawing book that a lot of people like. I'm sure there are more Japanese-language resources specifically for anime that I'm unaware of. My problem was that I was too stupid for everything and nothing held my hand to the degree I needed.

A lot of these things go like, "well if you want to draw a person, then you draw a ball for the head, an egg for the ribcage, cylinders for the arms and legs, and 1 2 3... there you go, you drew a person". But whenever I tried to do it myself it just looked awful. I understood the basic idea, and I agreed that it made sense, but something was going wrong and I didn't know how to bridge the gap.

The problem is that there's only so much detail you can convey verbally. You can tell someone to use basic shapes like eggs and boxes and cylinders to construct more complex ones, but the catch is that if you don't draw exactly the right kind of shapes in exactly the right position and proportions, then everything will look like crap. That's where all the magic happens. The devil is in the details.

The head is a really instructive case study because it's a small and self-contained object that has a ton of complexity. I kept banging my head into the wall over and over again trying to get the Loomis head method to work and I didn't know what was going wrong. Yes I'm drawing a ball for the cranium, and then I'm attaching the jaw and marking where the side plane is and I'm drawing the features on the front plane, so why does it look awful every time? The books themselves didn't give any hints. There's so much detail that goes into even something as simple as the ball-and-jaw idea - where exactly does the line for the eyes/brow go? how long do you make the jaw, how wide? what is the exact ratio of the front plane to the side plane, when viewing the head from a given angle? how exactly do you arrange all the features, how far apart are they? - that you really can't write it all down, you just have to look at a lot of examples and figure it out for yourself.

The big first step for me was drawing studies of references (anime references in my case) and then overlaying my drawing onto the reference (digitally) to see how accurate I was. For the first time I could actually describe explicitly what mistakes I was making, instead of just having a vague feeling that everything looked wrong - now I could say that this particular drawing was wrong because the eyes were too far apart, or the jaw was too long. Now I had actionable items I could improve on in both my studies from references and my original pieces.

The next thing was taking references (still anime head references) and tracing the construction directly on top of the reference. Like, I knew that there was allegedly a ball-and-jaw construction lurking in this drawing somewhere, but I hadn't really internalized how exactly that should look (even for the more realistic heads that Loomis used I didn't have a good sense of how it should work, and I certainly didn't know how to apply the same technique to anime proportions). So I just took a bunch of pro drawings and went, ok if I was going to draw this I guess the circle would line up like this, and then we have the jaw here, and if I was going to draw a guideline representing where the eyes go it would go here... basically taking the drawing apart like a mechanic takes apart a car. And it really helped me start seeing patterns and shapes that I had never seen before, and it forced me to really focus on all these little details that I had been getting wrong this whole time.

Anyway I wanted to try and describe my thought process explicitly because I've never seen any book or video lay it out like this, and I hope it's helpful if you have any students who want to learn more about anime or Western comics. A lot of art instructional material just goes with a sort of "grind" mindset like "yeah just do 10k one minute figure sketches and you'll learn how to draw" but that sort of thing didn't work for me at all. I had to really slow down and think about what I was doing.

I may well be worse than average at art. Sure, if you don't mean to claim that performance at it can be arbitrarily improved with effort (and I didn't think you literally meant it, just that you thought it could make someone a passable artist), then we just happen to disagree on what the criteria for being "OK" at art is.

We have to distinguish between pure drawing from reference (e.g. portraiture, still life) vs creating original pieces. I think the vast majority of otherwise developmentally normal people are capable of learning the former to a competent level. I've done it, I've seen other people do it. It's a purely rote mechanical skill.

In the most degenerate case, one can trace a drawing or use a pinhole camera, but I acknowledge that drawing from imagination is probably quite a bit harder, though I'm sure Real™ artists also use references.

Original pieces are a lot harder but it's not hopeless. I started from absolute zero, I have no intrinsic talent for this. In fact I have anti-talent, progress has been abnormally slow and painful for me. But I was still able to make it this far. Obviously it's not pro level even by anime standards, but I think it's kinda cute and I got a few responses saying as much when I posted it online.

Not bad! I'm glad your efforts paid off.

Now, I would certainly like to be an artist, but as experience has shown, it was not easy at all for me. Thankfully with AI, I no longer need to be constrained by my hand's ability to sketch what my mind conceives. It'll get the writers too, undoubtedly, I'm just grateful for a year or two of alpha so I can say "yeah I was good before anyone could do this". I suppose you'll still draw regardless, since you presumably enjoy drawing, and I'll continue writing.

Most artists I've encountered draw from reference photos or reality most of the time, not from memory or imagination, so visual memory doesn't come up all that much. But then I mostly follow more traditional naturalist artists, not sci-fi or fantasy ones.

Personally, my painting and drawing skills are alright, while my visual memory and imagination are quite weak. On the other hand, it actually is important in art to Notice, which is partially involu