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Small-Scale Question Sunday for March 31, 2024

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

One day in high school, we had a random assembly during classes. It seemed pretty insignificant at the time. Someone was giving a talk about some humanitarian crisis going on in the middle east, some country I wasn't even aware of. It was kind of weird and I didn't really get the point. One thing the speaker, an ex-soldier if I recall, kept reiterating was "we're just like you, we watch the same movies, listen to the same music," and so on.

After we shuffled back to class, I distinctively remember someone asking the (history) teacher about the context and they mumbled something about how the speaker wasn't exactly both sides of the story. When I asked what he meant, he clammed up and I forgot all about the day until many years later.

Now it seems like a fever dream. I polled a couple of HS friends and only one of them remembers it. Did anyone else experience zionist PR speeches at their secondary school?

Did anyone else experience zionist PR speeches at their secondary school?

They were selling the atheist version of a mission trip to some Caribbean country.
I got a peek at the software they were using to run the show.
It was EasyWorship.

I had to read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Chosen by Chaim Potok, and Night by Elie Wiesel at various points during my Catholic junior high and high school education during the aughts. None of the discussions involved the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It was fine.

Invisible Children gave a presentation or two during high school. This was several years before Kony 2012.

I disliked an anti-alcohol presentation given by a sadist cop. It was cut short because said cop more or less got off on stage recounting the time he busted a kid for underage drinking. Both students and teachers were not happy.

Also disliked a sex education talk given in a health class. Two speakers came in and told their stories about how STIs ruined their lives. Don't have sex kids or you'll become infertile and die. Okay.

To what extent does the US Congress still have its (purported) power of the purse? For example, last time there was a “government shutdown” but to Congress not passing a budget, I still got my SSI checks from Social Security. According to many of the common descriptions of “the power of the purse” and why the “shutdown” happened, this should have been unconstitutional. And yet, it still happened.

So, to what extent can portions of the executive branch disburse, transfer, or spend funds without clear Congressional authorization? Where are the limits? And should someone in the executive try to go past these limits, in violation of Congress’s power of the purse, what are the enforcement mechanisms available to stop them?

Somewhere in the bowels of the U.S. Code, Congress decided that “essential services” stay online in a shutdown. In 42 U.S.C. §5189e the President was given carte blanche to label services essential. So if nothing else, that’d allow it. Maybe there are harder limits on this somewhere. Maybe it’s one of those things that operates on a gentleman’s agreement until someone fucks it up.

Of course, whatever Code governs the shutdowns might explicitly let SSI continue, in which case the point is moot.

See also this article on the Antideficiency Act, which is what enforces most government budgets.

Edit: new favorite section

Update regarding the kerfuffle surrounding Biden declaring March 31st the Trans Day of Visibility. Zero Hedge reports that Biden himself has no recollection of doing so.

I've already expressed my disdain for the whole concept of said Day, but this article is so bad that it further decreases my opinion of Zero Hedge. Biden is pretty obviously saying that he didn't establish the Day or set the date for it, not that he doesn't remember doing so.

What show, film, book, or album had the most intense or beautiful dramatic moment for you? What was the moment?

In film, probably something from Tarsem Singh's "The Fall".

In literature, probably John Steinbeck's "The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights", the scene where Lancelot and Guinevere pass on the stairs.

One scene that stuck with me is from the book 'A Death in Holy Orders' by P.D. James where the end confession letter has the lines:" ...In this senseless age where we witness the death of culture, beauty what are we to do? ... Like a child building sand castles to stem the tide we are doomed and powerless against the rot tearing the system down... In the end I joined the barbarians...." My words and paraphrasing do not do her words justice.

I love the new site UI, even relative to old.reddit. But, I miss two RES features:

  1. custom user tags
  2. the net upvotes I've given a user

Are either/both of these plausible from a scaling standpoint? I'm a backend dev with some spare time the next few weeks and happy to take a stab at 'em. If so, maybe point me to where to start digging?

See e.g.:



Edit: I poked around the codebase. I forget this is generally simpler when not in FAANGland. Looks doable, I'm going to see about a prototype over the next few days, starting with #1. I still haven't thought about scaling, but again I suspect the answer is this is not FAANGland, it'll be fine. If we can manage the 'new comment' markers, surely this is doable, too.

You're welcome to give it a shot!

Note that the "new comment" markers are entirely clientside via cookie, we're not storing those serverside. There may be performance issues with trying to make this all work - I don't want one SQL query per user when someone reads a page, for example. But I'm pretty sure this should be solvable, and it will of course be easier to solve with a working prototype.

the codebase we forked from already has #2



While we're doing site UI feedback, it would be great if the site tracked read/unread status while logged out.

When I'm logged in the site tracks how many new unread comments a thread has accrued since last viewed. When I log out and log back in the new comment count resets to all read, meaning I can't see which threads have been active, and I can't ctrl-f through the thread for "~new".

Contact lens users: What do you do if you get some debris or an eye lash or something on your eye, perhaps underneath the lens, causing pretty urgent pain, and rubbing doesn't solve the problem, while you're not in the immediate vicinity of a bathroom? My only idea is to take out my phone, turn on the selfie camera, and remove the lens, but this feels sub optimal, especially if my fingers aren't recently washed.

Try to find or buy hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. Use them on fingers, take out the lens. If there’s no alternative and your fingers are dirty you can take out the lens extremely carefully without actually touching your eyeball. Higher risk but could be necessary.

Then find a bathroom, wash eye, put in new lenses. I think it’s probably best to carry spare lenses, glasses or both if wearing contacts. Assume this is dailies, but even if you wear reusable lenses it’s worth sacrificing one if necessary.

Yes. Good advice. I will have to remember to bring spare lenses and sanitizer when going on a trip/traveling.

Does anyone know how accurate these studies are

I mean, they are social science, so we're not starting off at a great point to begin with.

The Cameron & Cameron (2017) piece you link is primarily a defense of their Homosexual Parents paper from 1996, but that consisted of sending out surveys during the 1980s, starting with a 1983 survey sent to 9k adults (4340 responses) in LA, DC, Omaha, Denver, and Louisville, and a 1984 survey in Dallas going to 10k adults (5182 responses). In those surveys, the closest question to "same-sex parents" was if "one of [respondant's] parents was a homosexual"... which "was not asked in the 5-city study".

Being charitable to the level of naivety and assuming that the weird procedural changes were totally just meant to better serve the data, it's hard to think of worse ways to establish this question. Even outside of the lizardman constant problems or the tiny sample size, this isn't the same question, especially during that day and age, and there's no way to separate 'are children raised by same-sex parents more likely to be victims of sexual abuse' from 'are children sexual abused by their parents more likely to know their parent's orientation', esp given that the paper never gives base rates or overall rates.

The Sullins paper is pointing toward his 2015 work, most relevantly "The Unexpected Harm of Same-sex Marriage: A Critical Appraisal, Replication and Re-analysis of Wainright and Patterson’s Studies of Adolescents with Same-sex Parents", which does have the section "Over two-thirds (71% SE 30) of the children with same-sex married parents who had ever had sexual intercourse reported that they had been forced to have sex against their will at some point" and perhaps more shockingly that 38% of all respondents, not just those who had sexual intercourse, if they'd been forced to give or receive sexual touch or intercourse from a parent or caregiver.

There's some weirdness here, not all of which is from Sullins -- while he excludes almost half of what Wainright called lesbian parents on the basis of male adults in the household, the original survey gatherers made some bizarre decisions where the same survey segment was used to only to ask males if they had raped someone and only to ask females if they had been raped -- but combination makes the numbers less useful. Sullins is implying-without-stating that female children are being molested by lesbian parents in this sample by staggering numbers, but it's far from clear that's what actually was asked in the question. Yet at the same time, unmarried parents have zero odds?

((There's also a GRIM failure; 37.8% doesn't come as a reasonable division for any of the combinations I can provide as possible counts for total same-sex couples. Might just be a rounding error if it's the 17 'real' lesbian couples, around 40% of which identified as married, but then it's an N=3.))

Especially given the other assumptions (esp that men should only be asked if they forced someone into sex, and women only if they were forced), I'm curious if this reflects a number of victims of familial sexual abuse in one family environment then having sole custody and/or being adopted by lesbians later, but there's not data for it, just a story.

((Separately, he also wrote in 2015 "Emotional Problems among Children with Same-Sex Parents", and that's at least procedurally not-crazy: pull in NHIS surveys for sexual relationships, look at reported emotional problems and some developmental disabilities, and saw larger values (generally 2x). There's a bunch of interesting modeling, but a lot of it points to gay parents having more emotional problems themselves, and adopted kids having more emotional problems and developmental disabilities (and gay parents being more likely to adopt). But it's not really relevant here.))

should this be dispositive evidence against allowing same-sex couples to adopt?

I think you need some data with more than double-digit total same-sex couples or non-trivial number bad actors, for starters, and then some more serious effort to isolate molestation within the same-sex couple (or adoption).

Study 1: “Children of Homosexuals More Apt to Become Homosexual and Experience Parental Molestation: Surveys Over Three Decades”, published in Marriage and Family Review, 2017. Paywalled, but available via sci-hub.

  • Abstract consists only of throwing shade at another researcher for not acknowledging them.
  • Most of the references are either 1) their previous work or 2) said author’s non-rebuttals.
  • It doesn’t seem like they actually collected any new data since 1996?
  • Obvious issues with causation.
  • n = 17

Study 2: “Denial and Discovery of Harm for Children with Same-Sex Parents”, unpublished (?), 2016.

  • Starts with a very reassuring blast at “the secular propaganda” of “harm denial”
  • I’m sure the Catholic Church supplies ironclad evidence against—
  • nah, they just assume it “creates obstacles in the normal development of children”
  • Cites four categories:
    • Sullins found a 2.4 risk ratio for “emotional distress” among 582 children.
    • Cameron (the guy from your first study) apparently churned out a lot of studies finding exactly what he expected. Also, he and Regnerus were totally oppressed and basically martyred for the cause.
    • Regnerus and Sullins found that lesbian women abuse their children more. No sample size.
    • “Dozens” of adults have come forward saying that their lesbian parents were awful.
  • Concludes that the vibes Catholic teaching must have been correct.

Overall: Nah. To the point where I’m not actually convinced you read these before posting them.

Does it matter what programming language a company uses as long as the choice is reasonable?

For example, if a startup making a CRUD app uses JS/NodeJS or TypeScript/NodeJS or Java or Golang? Does it matter if the company uses Vue, React, Svelte or just plain HTML/JS? Obviously it does matter if there are languages specifically used in an industry or if there are special requirements. Python is a terrible choice for an operating system. But if the goal is to make an internal tool for a company, a booking system for a hotel chain, or a billing system does it matter?

Do tech choices impact business success, or are we entertaining ourselves by playing with the next cool tool?


At the trivial level, code with strong or moderate typing are far less likely to introduce a pretty wide variety of fairly annoying bugs. You can theoretically hire coders who aren't going to make that sort of mistake, but then you have to hire coders who don't make that class of mistake, and they have to put time and focus into it. Compile time can be the difference between iterating in seconds or minutes (or in one miserable case, tens of minutes). If you need portability (whether Windows to Linux, or x86 to ARM to Mac Silicon), some languages are much more frustrating than others.

At the less obvious, the availability of good and strong debuggers matters less for desktop (where the span is more Firefox Inspector Mode to Visual Studio) than embedded or microcontroller worlds (where the low end might be 'you get nothing, good day sir!'), but for applications requiring multithreading or complex performance or memory management, the higher end still matters. There's a tradeoff between succinctness and clarity of code, as evidenced by Java vs Kotlin vs Scala.

While you might consider them extremes of the "special requirements", some languages handle certain matters and frameworks better than others. MVVM makes a lot more sense in Java or C# than JavaScript, and may make sense for a common project type. Many things interfacing with hardware or certain databases may only have library support for a handful of languages, especially in industrial automation world -- at best you're going to end up writing a shim, at worst you may just be stuck. Some languages have really clever tricks justifying their use for certain specialty purposes (Matlab and matrix arithmetic) but are absolutely obnoxious otherwise. ((Some, like VC++, introduce weird user-environment-specific errors that can drastically increase your support costs and reduce user-friendliness, thank you msvr###.dll errors.)) For many internal-use tools, having something that you can build-and-leave-for-a-decade can push you away from languages with a history of breaking changes.

For smaller businesses, you go to war with the army you have, and I say that as someone who's written more than a fair share of internal-use C#, Java, and Python code.

I don't think they're the only part of business success: the road is paved with the skulls of LLCs that had great software but struggled on the business side, or just bad luck. And there's definitely a coding fandom that endlessly chases the Next Best Thing, either to (charitably) keep themselves sharp or (less charitably) keep their resume up to date, in preference to mastering one language well, or building lasting projects, or just getting tasks done. You can definitely end up bike-shedding. But it's a mistake to not consider it seriously and in depth.

Tech choices mostly impact the business on how easy it is to hire for it and how much the tech has a tendency to create messes. There are bunch of over engineered Java projects and PHP hacks out there that just messes with the businesses. Other than that, it doesn't really matter if you avoid that trap with sane choices. Mostly wanting to play with cool tech is an exercise in masturbation that started out with scratching an itch that last project caused. e.g. "The web UI was a kludge of JQuery, lets do it in a framework like React."

So mostly we are entertaining ourselves with the next cool tool unless it is something that is awful slow to get things done in for one reason or the other.

Yes. Not only the technical aspect but people aspect too. You will have a much harder time hiring Ruby on Rails devs in 2024 as opposed to say... NodeJS devs. For simple crud apps, that isn't a complex tech product, it doesn't really matter than much technically. I (not even a web dev) can make you a simple crud app with flask or express and postgress and deploy it in vercel in a week.

I think it matters in that different communities have different cultures. And that can nthn order affect the success of the product.

The people aspect is huge. This is why I want to work at Jane Street. Also because OCaml is amazing and HFT is challenging and because of the pay, but the people this attracts is why it's I think the only place for which I'd be willing to deal with snow and commuting instead of remote work from paradise.

Rust? Good luck getting business logic done over the din of nerds playing with a type system. Java? You're gonna get a culture of boring adults. Javascript? Scrappy startup types who may not write tests, they ran it like twice.

Wake up, babe, new scissor statement just dropped on March 32.

“Cleaning the dryer lint after you dry your clothes is the socially responsible thing to do.”

Do both! Before and after, belt AND suspenders.

You get peace of mind, accurate information about the habits of the people who share the dryer, and the warm fuzzy satisfaction of doing a good deed. Any time spent in optimizing this trivial life detail is wasted. Just check before and after, never think about it again, and you'll come out ahead.

If it's in a house, the person who does the most laundry should clean it when it makes the most sense to them. If the lint builds up in the duct, the person who has cleaned the lint the least has to pull it out and fix the problem. In most households, this will loosely map onto the wife cleaning the lint and the husband cleaning/fixing the dryer itself.

If it's a laundromat, it makes more sense to clean it before, since you know nothing about whoever just used it.

This is one where I think the optimal equilibrium is the natural one. You need to pull the filter to check anyway, which means that everyone cleaning the last person's lint saves time overall.

The expectation that everyone cleans the dryer lint before using the dryer is one where someone else not doing it means nothing to you (just fluffier lint, I guess).

In my experience with dryers, fluffier lint is even easier to clean out, so I don't even care if other people aren't doing it.

“Cleaning the dryer lint after you dry your clothes is the socially responsible thing to do.”

Simpsons did it.

“Cleaning the dryer lint after you dry your clothes is the socially responsible thing to do.”

Yes, but kinda no. Some morality stems from pure social equilibrium. Not tipping your waiter is bad purely because society expects tips and has built that assumption into their wages, unlike for mailmen or call center employees. Not cleaning lint is likewise bad, but purely because others expect you to, and if you don't, you're free-riding on the people who do post-clean. A hypothetical society where the equilibrium is that everyone cleans the lint before use has an equal amount of work for everyone and no free-rider problem.

This is why it's good to fight bad equilibria while they're in the process of forming. I always just take the free coffee when someone starts a stupid "Pay It Forward" chain. If it ever does entrench as a social norm, though, I will have to submit.

This post, of course, was inspired by my housemates always cleaning afterward, except when they don’t, which has led at times to me cleaning (beforehand) a double or triple layer of lint.

To mirror Scott's ACX survey: In the past 24 hours, have you thought about the Roman Empire? If so, what was the context of that thought?


My girlfriend and I were watching the MST3K episode Werewolf. At the end, the bots are singing along to make fun of the dramatic credits music. One of the punchlines was "Tusk!"

When I played the original song for her, the music video apparently involved a 70s marching band in centurion uniforms.

Yes, and it's a stupid context because it's meta. Apparently I missed that there's some meme of "men spend a lot of time thinking about the Roman Empire", so last night when I mentioned to my girlfriend that there's this ramen place across the city that I keep thinking about daily, she said "so it's like your Roman Empire?" So I got the quick rundown on the meme from her, said she missed a great Ramen Empire pun, and said that if she actually asked me the Roman Empire question, my answer would be around once a week. Which is apparently the exact stereotype, heh.

She said she never bothered to ask it because she's seen my bookshelf with How Rome Fell on it. I might be a little basic.

Yes, because of Easter. Also, I saw an argument about the moral impact of Christianity somewhere and that got me thinking about things like slavery and infanticide in the Roman Empire. Being a Christian and that playing an important role in my daily life pretty much makes sure I think about it in passing pretty much every day.

Easter so Roman governance (Pilate vs Harold), Roman army organization and titles, and Pax Romana are all pretty central to the day's activities, lessons, and meditations.

But also with the ship wreck in Baltimore, wondering how much of maritime law traces back to Rome.

How often Rome/Fall of Rome proxies show up in strategy game lore (Wh40k, battletech, etc).

And whenever I look up something in various languages how the Romance languages are just corrupted Latin.

Oh and I saw some wine at the store and thought of how much Rome changed Europe with wine vs beer drinking.

It's Easter. People talk about Jesus. Most of his life occurred in the Roman Empire.

This is the main reason why I find the question rather silly. The Roman Empire could have accomplished absolutely nothing of note other than been where Jesus lived and the prevalence of Christianity in the West alone would make it reasonable to think about them in passing at least once a day.

Interestingly, it's arguable if the Christianity or the West would both exist without Roman empire.

I was reading a little on the letters they found from the Bar Khokba revolt (insane that they just found his letters in a cave). I was looking at some renaissance paintings of the resurrection which featured Roman soldiers guarding the tomb. Actually a very cave-filled day, I guess.

I started watching The Passion of the Christ, so yes.

Planning a trip to Italy and realizing I might be one of the last few generations who can see it once its lows birth rates lead to population collapse. Got me thinking about how the Romans and Byzantines would have felt knowing their descendants would be rich beyond their wildest dreams and simply not reproduce enough to replace themselves.

On a happier note, any travel recommendations? It will be on a cruise but we’ll get 12 hrs a day in a few major cities.

I did a double-take when I scrolled past this; it felt like I was getting a window into an alternate universe. I genuinely do not understand how you could come to this conclusion.

Forget birth rates--imagine that Corona II kills 50% of the population. The government collapses. Survivors are left scavenging a wasteland of empty houses; surely no one is wasting time mopping the Colosseum. How long do you think it would take to start getting tourists again?

Within 50 years of being depopulated by the Black Death, Florence was firmly established as a cultural center. The Papal States in general were flourishing. Unbelievable wealth and power was flowing into the region as the Renaissance was in full swing. In addition to the arts, this was a time of enthusiastic study of the classics, including the Greek and Roman artifacts which suffused the region.

The world is smaller today. Denser. It's also more resilient to catastrophes and to political shifts. If the legacy of the Romans survived the tumult of European history, it'll survive whatever puny year-over-year decline arises from a generation or two having fewer kids. Maybe the next generation will actually be able to afford a house.

More doomerism; it is common in passionate online spaces, many people are afflicted with it. It allows the doomer to extrapolate their ideology into a world ending catastrophic "I told you so", while also allowing the fantasy of rising from the ashes in the aftermath. It is the perfect ego trip. Unassailable in the future, but always right around the corner.

In Rome there are a bunch of obvious sights to see if you are interested in history. In twelve hours you probably struggle seeing all the main attractions already, but if you have some time left for some reason: the Basilica of San Clemente is itself a monumental church, although there are many more impressive ones in Rome, but you can enter excavations of a 4th century church below that, and then you can enter even lower excavations of a 1st century house that was used for a Mithras cult below the 4th century church. A Medieval church, built on top of a church from antiquity, built on top of effectively a Mithras temple and you can enter all those buildings. I thought that was a pretty cool place to visit. Another interesting church to visit in Rome is the Sant'Ignatio. While building it they ran out of funds to build a dome and then the painter managed to make a painting on the ceiling which very convincingly produces the illusion of a dome from the perspective when you enter the church. It's a fun gimmick to see if you happen to be close to it.
In Napoli, the Vesuvius and Pompei are obvious attractions. I haven't been to the Vesuvius, because somehow both times I was there the weather was terrible and they closed off the mountain due to safety reasons (that's what I get for avoiding tourist crowds in the winter I guess). Pompei I thought was very impressive to see. Another slightly lesser known one that is also very impressive is Herculaneum (or Ercolano in Italian). It is a town buried under lava from a Vesuvius eruption just like Pompei and while it is much smaller and lesser known than Pompei, it is actually for the most part better preserved. Some difference in how it was covered by the eruption means that there is more organic material, like paint and wood, that was preserved and survives until the present.

Today it's mostly around nailing people to trees and poking them with spears -- other times I probably don't think about them as much as I should.

Does anyone else here have random, fledgling thoughts on the culture that are too vague for the CW thread? Maybe we should have a thread for them.

(This post is almost definitely too long for here, my bad)

Like today, I was on Youtube and ended up watching video diaries from Japan. Out of nowhere, this 5-second clip of a girl spreading butter on toast sparks something in my brain, and fuses together an enormous amount of things into one simple realization: Being a kid in Japan must be absolutely incredible. Of course it's amazing everywhere, but in Japan it's simply better.

To explain why, I want to set up a quick and dirty dichotomy: Active and passive. These are roughly your classic A- and B-Type personalities. The A-Type is energetic, strong-willed, risk-prone, grabs life by the horns, and tries to wrangle reality into becoming what he wants. Your B-Type is lethargic, unambitious, risk-averse, and will only make drastic moves in the face of extreme pressure. Internal vs. External locus of control, you've all heard this before.

Generally, childhood sucks for the active kids and it's amazing for the passive kids. The active kid is always moaning about how everyone talks down to him, he can't buy liquor, too young for gym, too young to drive, etc. The passive kid meanwhile never really complains about this stuff. He'll sit in his room playing Grand Theft Auto and be stimulated out of his mind, in total bliss. What he doesn't realize is this is potentially the peak of his life. Once he reaches adulthood, the days of carefree living are over, and yet he doesn't care for anything "adult" so his quality of life simply declines. The active kid though may become an entrepreneur, or an athlete, or what-have-you. Could he totally crash and burn pursuing whatever dream he has? Yeah. But at least he has a chance to peak.

Japan is interesting. It's a nation with powerful impetus towards living a passive life, having no dreams, and joining some company. And yet ironically, this passive lifestyle is somehow or another going to hell. Job security? Dwindling. Family? Good luck. Home ownership? You're stuck in some cramped box in a metropolis. To say nothing of the economy! Japanese people treat aging like a 100% death sentence, because for their life path it simply is, man. What does an old man possibly have to look forward to in that scheme? Playing pachinko all day?

It's happening here too. 30-somethings who watch anime all day; no wife, no cool hobby, not even a dog. These guys are either going to evolve into active men or they're going to be absolutely crushed by the next few decades. "They should get a job." They already have jobs -- that's the point. Living like their parents did simply doesn't work anymore. There is, unironically, no happy normal anymore. To be happy in 2024, you need to be a shark. In 2002, this joke was great because obviously you can just be a normal dude. Now? The minimum for "comfy and secure" is getting a tech job, which is borderline shark behavior. C'est la vie.

P.S. I posit some kind of axis whereby societies trim down on our freedoms to the benefit of a "passive" lifestyle, e.g. "nanny state", but that none of this matters if the bedrock for a passive (read: trad) lifestyle is dead and gone, and your nation's men just sit indoors and watch anime all the time.

Was, uh, was that a question?

To be happy in 2024, you need to be a shark. In 2002, this joke was great because obviously you can just be a normal dude. Now? The minimum for "comfy and secure" is getting a tech job, which is borderline shark behavior.

I had to check if this post was made by one of our resident depressionposters, but I don't recognize you as being on that list.

I don't really think this is true. There's plenty of well paying careers outside of tech. Will they ensure a comfortable life in the most expensive zip codes in the country? No, but there's more to life than living in VHCOL.

Also, getting a tech job is at once not that hard and not that secure. You don't need a postgrad degree, you don't need a fancy school. Plenty of people (especially in big companies) are just putting in their 40 hours a week and plenty are working even less. You may also be laid off in the next round for no apparent reason (although you'll probably find a new role in a reasonable timeframe).

Yeah, it is pessimistic -- maybe overly so, since it's drawing on personal experience. I grew up lower-middle class, and all my friends' families were trapped in these clearly unhappy situations which ended in divorce (against the background of 2008), and the whole lifestyle that our parents aimed for simply didn't pan out. I knew one family who were smarter than average, and conservative, and they weathered the storm & they're still close today. The rest of them? Divorces. Kid goes off to college, never talks to his parents anymore. Kid moves in with his grandma, gets involved in a bad crowd, it goes downhill. These are middle class families that won't replicate.

Conversely, the upper-middle class families I saw in that same time weathered the storm far better. They had failure states too, like dead bedrooms or emotional distance, yet they never lost the basic ability to function as a family. What the lower half has can't properly be called family. It's like a Mr. Potato head doll -- I knew an anxious white woman living with 2 sketchy middle eastern men, I knew an autistic teen with a single mom dating some guy that was never around, I knew a half-filipino kid who never saw his white father, teen with single mom who moved to Florida and ended up on worldstar, house of 5+ black kids getting raised by a single grandma. It is so on-the-nose, you'd call me out if this were fictional, but all of this is real. Normal American suburb in the 2000's.

Only two families in my neighborhood turned out well. One was the trad set I mentioned earlier. The other was a short kid who moved into a much nicer suburb by high school, and lived in a big house when I last saw him. So far as I know, both are doing great to this day. The rest? Not so well. Hopefully that explains where I'm coming from.

There's another axis though - cunning. Suppose the anime-obsessed shut-in bought bitcoin back in the early years? Or DOGE? Or Shib back in 2021? Or NVDA in late 2022? There are many low-effort pathways to becoming comfy and secure that merely require being ahead of the curve. IDK if you define that as shark but I visualize sharks being the kind of people who grind up leetcode, who produce a portfolio of passion-projects, who learn paragliding to get in with that VC funder - whatever it takes.

Obviously it's best to be the hustling, cunning ubermensch and worst to be the stupid, lazy loser. But the middleground between the two is contested.

I am so not looking forward to the next decade.

It sucks, but at least we see it coming. Things will probably get rocky in the coming years. Not in the sense of violence, so much as a mass realization of what's happening accompanied by a quick scramble for whatever gains are in sight, overwhelming some systems. America's still an easy country to get ahead in with a bit of brains, but I suggest we get where we want to be soon, because that can always change. Of course... maybe nothing happens. It would still be wrong to ignore the weird vibes in the air. I'm not the doomsaying type, but those vibes are there.

Last week has been a banger of a week for me. I got a 50% raise and started dating an attractive woman. Myself from 1 year ago would have been stoked at the thought of this.

Current me is.... unfazed. I feel like neither of these things are anything crazy and are "par for the course" and I need to grind even harder to do even better. Hedonic treadmill/ladder climbing go brrrrrrrrrrrr.

I have officially forgotten how to have fun.

Date two attractive people at the same time, then your life will get super exciting. I think part of the appeal of adultery is that the elaborate double life is thrilling. Since you've got more income, you can go on twice the dates! Repeat until you're a bog-standard rationalist polygamist.

What are you gonna do with the bigger money?

If it were me... I guess I'd just pay off my house faster. Lame. I hope you have at least a little something more fun in mind.

Mostly invest, eat out, spend on going out, travel (see you soon Tokyo).

One of my favorite lines in Kipling's "If":

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools

Triumph and despair really are both imposters. Nothing is as bad or as good as it might seem

Myself from right now is stoked on your behalf. Well done, and I'm sure your past self deserves some credit. Here's hoping your future self appreciates your progress moving forward.

A 50% raise is serious business, well done

Does anyone have a good explanation for why the Republicans don't make a bigger deal of the fact that Hamas have US citizens as hostages? Even for an isolationist who doesn't care about what's going on in the ME, it would seem like a good political move if your aim is to hurt Biden. Either he's made to look weak for not trying to rescue Americans held by terrorists or he's forced to defend or even emphasise his assistance to Israel in wiping out Hamas, further driving a wedge between him and the progressive left.

Admittedly, they might be doing this and I'm just not seeing it - I don't live in the US so it's a somewhat curated selection of news items pertaining to America that I'm exposed to.

(This might be more suited for the culture war thread but I didn't feel it was a substantial enough topic).

The US is giving everything Israel demands and more. What can one accuse Biden of not doing to help Israel?

Also an unknown but likely substantial numbers of those hostages have died/will die due to Israeli bombardment and starvation. It might backfire big time if some documents end up leaked tying IDF action to deaths of American passport holding hostages.

It supports the narrative that most Israelis can just "go back where they came from."

I don’t follow.

Holding Americans hostage doesn’t seem like it would reassure anyone.

There's a lot of potential for a backfire. Highlighting one very good reason to back Israeli's efforts to defeat Hamas may drive that wedge between Biden and the pro-Islamist wing of the party, but for middle-of-the-road people that haven't thought about it much, they're apt to hear that and realize that it makes sense to support Israel.

So, what are you reading?

I'm going through Richter's Pictures of a Socialistic Future, and early novel on dystopian socialism. It's a slow burn, and it's interesting to see what was within the imagination of early observers.

Ooh, I've heard of that book. Quillette had a clever article contrasting passages from it with recent reporting about Venezuela.

I'm reading When We Cease to Understand the World, a non-fiction novel... thing which presents a series of vignettes about real-life scientists and mathematicians, explaining how they arrived at their most famous discoveries. It's really interesting.

"The Happiness Trap, 2nd edition" by Russ Harris. I was recommended this book as a "low-cost, low-effectiveness" potential solution to a wide range of mental problems (depression, anxiety, addiction, etc.). I'm only about 30% in and it's too early to say anything for sure.
I have used a similar book on CBT in the past and that one was definitely worth reading.

I'm reading several things at once. One of them is The Fountainhead. I've said this before, but: I wish that Ayn Rand occasionally turned her skills towards less political subjects. I actually enjoy her writing style a lot and find her fun to read.

Another one I've got going is Peachy Keenan's Domestic Extremist: A Practical Guide to Winning the Culture War. Easily the Motte-iest thing I've ever seen in print - it's almost disorienting to see references to BAP, the Cathedral etc. in a book held in my hands, published by an actual press with wide distribution.

I thought The Fountainhead was better than Atlas Shrugged, and came a lot closer to justifying its massive page count.

Agreed. By the time I got to the 60 page speech at the end of Atlas Shrugged, it was a battle of willpower to finish the book.

So, what are you reading?

Re-reading my CS Lewis: Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain, plus some of his other apologetics for the first time. (Last month's subthread on christianity and theodicies put me in mind of him.) I must say, as an atheist, they are the best steelman of christian faith you will encounter. They present a version denuded of all things the sort of person who hangs out on the Motte dislikes. The mystical elements reduce to two foundational miracles: that God was made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, and that your conscience is communication of God rather than a consequence of brain chemistry.

Better, Lewis presents a heady, masculine version of the faith which is largely absent in the therapeutic sop of modern nondenominational churches. He stresses that Christianity calls for radical striving and self-abnegation, for walking through the "narrow gate" ; that accepting Christ means, not nuzzling into the unjudgmental embrace of mother, but asking for father to break your will and reforge you with soul of a saint.

It's unfortunate. The mind-body dualism introduced in the first chapters of Mere Christianity, on which everything else builds, doesn't stand to reason. He spends a good deal of time arguing against the idea the conscience coming from "herd instinct", as he calls it, but his objections have easy answers. Human brains have an id and superego which are represented by different neural pathways; they make "bids" in the parliament of our ego, and the stronger case decides our action. You can see a primitive version of this in the warring segments of lamprey brains trying to decide whether to swim out to seek mates or hide in the rocks.

While Lewis's christianity may be pro-social and psychologically appealing, believing what your reason rejects for emotional relief is cowardly and base. If I am a seeker, I must remain one.

I, Claudius.

I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s interesting to me how older books (I, Claudius was written in the 1930s) tend to have much longer paragraphs compared to todays ADD-riddled one and two sentence paragraphs. I’m thinking particularly about NYT articles where you hardly ever reach four sentences in a paragraph. But modern books are written that way as well.

Reading these older books takes some getting used to, but I find they can be just as compelling and page-turning as the modern stuff.

Anyway, the book itself is quite interesting and I’m looking forward to finishing it.

Most current fiction seems like it's written to be adapted as a movie/tv show - 80% dialogue and 20% spectacle. Some first-person stuff still has significant sections of internal monologue but even that is getting less common in my experience.

I live in an apartment building that offers free visitor parking with online registration. The web form asks a lot, between the info of visitor and the resident to every detail of the car. It's not unreasonable, but it's time consuming, and there isn't a way to easily re-register a car that's previously been registered.

How feasible is it to create a local app on my Android phone that automates all this?

I did some light coding years back so am not completely code illiterate, but expect will have to heavily rely on GPT 4 / Claude 3 and general smarts to make this work. I feel like the personal breakeven for me is making this work in 8 hours or less. To be honest, I doubt this app will save me more than 4 hours over the lifetime of my staying in this apartment, though the personal satisfaction of beating an inefficient system is worth like 4 hours.

It seems to me like the basic components are:

  • Install Android IDE
  • Tailor an HTTP request to the web form: replicate form submissions, which is pretty basic--visit the URL, enter the static building passcode, choose permit type from a dropdown, then enter text fields, then click submit
  • Create a Google spreadsheet with all the requisite info of my guests and their vehicles to serve as the database. Seems easier to just make the file visible to all with the URL, though I understand it'd be more secure to invest in figuring out their API with OAuth etc.
  • Create a simple app GUI to tap on a name to auto submit the HTTP request to the webpage
  • Create error handling to confirm form returns success

There are probably a dozen QOL features that I could add, like displaying the registration date and time, add/edit guest info directly in app, offline support etc. But I'm just interested in the simple basics right now.

What do you think about this approach? It feels like this is a bigger project than 8 hours (for me). Are there places to cut corners so I can more readily rely on GPT4 to do the heavy lifting?

Separately, I'm curious how long end-to-end you think an actually competent developer might need to create something basic like this. Because if it's like 2 hours with the aid of GPT4, I might try to see if I can pay a friend to do this for me...

(I should write the full story about this)

I once had a similar situation, except all of the info had to be filled out by hand on paper for every iteration of the same visitor parking.

At the time, I was dating a stripper (decisions were made!). She would roll over to my place after work, so 3 am on Thurs, Fri, and/or Saturday. Having to pretty much fill out an insurance survey every damn time got old for her.

Her solution was to flirt hard with the front desk guy, who proceeded to cut her visitor parking passes without so much as her first name filled out on the sheet.

The flirting involved what one could call a "free show" in the package room of that particular apartment building.

Everybody got choices, that's what I'm trying to say.

Seems like dark pattern to not allow at least photocopies of the paper form.

The other solution is probably to tip the guy with some singles.

Change apartments.

Android app? Almost certainly a bad idea, unless you already have experience in building android apps and getting them onto your phone. Just figuring out how to build a "hello world" level app and get it onto your phone could easily take 8 hours by itself, much less setting up even a fairly basic UI that's functional. Using GSheets as a data store sounds like a bad idea too, way too much work to interface with. What I'd do is, in this order, following the steps until you think it's good enough or get tired of it or whatever:

  1. Open up dev tools network tab the next time you use the form. Note down everything about the request to actually reserve a spot and what it returns on success and failure.
  2. Put together a CLI script on your developer machine to make those requests. Iterate on that until you are able to successfully reserve a spot without using the website directly. Doesn't matter what language, Python is fine, just make direct HTTP requests, you almost certainly don't need full browser emulation.
  3. Hard-code in the info for your regular visitors, implement a decent CLI interface to make reservations for any of them. This is probably good enough for most people.
  4. Turn that script into a basic web server, running locally on the developer machine. A few simple HTML pages to interface with it you can use on the browser on your developer machine.
  5. If you still really want to use it on mobile, rework the CSS etc until those pages look good on a mobile browser
  6. You could leave it running on your developer machine or some other machine in your local network and access it from your mobile any time you're on your home WiFi. Or you could deploy it to a proper web server somewhere, probably for free, maybe using Google Cloud Run or something like that, to be able to use it on your mobile from anywhere. It'll be on a weirdo URL nobody can guess, so you can probably get away with no authorization. And the visitors are still hard-coded, so you'd need a redeploy to add or remove anyone, but that shouldn't be hard enough to be annoying.
  7. If you're still feeling ambitious, add a proper DB on the server to store visitor info, and web interfaces for managing them. Probably ought to do authorization too at this stage.
  8. For even more ambition, set it up so other residents can register themselves on your system, enter their own visitor lists, and reserve spots too. Then advertise it to other people in your building, or even people in other buildings that use the same system.

Thanks for the walkthrough! Think you're absolutely right in avoiding an entirely new platform (i.e. phone). Think I'll aim for step 3 on your list. Then maybe before the EOY GPT 4.5's user agent will be able to assist with the rest (like on mobile).

Check out Selenium, maybe just use python/selenium for the form automation and run it from your computer. You could have a table of your guest personas and just read that into the script. I've never done web dev stuff but I'd think finagling the script into an API that you could call to from some simple web gui would be doable on a cheap VPS.

Good call. I did code a little scraper in Selenium a long time ago.

It'd probably be easier to make the automation with a chrome extension that automatically fills out the fields when you navigate to the webpage. Creating an android app interface feels like a lot of work, especially for a beginner, when you're the only one using the app. The only reason I'd see to use the app is if you often want to do the parking requests while you don't have access to your laptop. And even then, I'm pretty sure it's possible and not too much more difficult to do browser extensions for a phone browser.

To what degree should the politicians do what the general population wants, when what the general population wants is stupid? The most clear cut case of the general population wanting stupid stuff I think is price controls- the idea of keeping rent or gasoline below a certain hard cap is very popular with a lot of ordinary people. But it of course would be counter-productive- it'll only result in a lower supply of something people desperately want, and force them to start paying with their time in long lines instead of paying just with their wallets. So if 90% of the population say they want a cap on prices of something, does their elected representative have a responsibility to say "No you guys are stupid, I know what you really want" and not implement price controls?

Another example would be nationalism. A lot of times, people will be chauvinistic about their culture, and want to oppress minority cultures. Not really so much in the US recently despite all the fuss about race relations, but there are many extreme cases internationally. The majority will try to inflict on the minority restrictions on using their minority language in schools, prevent access to elected and civil service jobs, take children away from families, forcibly expel people, even execute the minorities with roving firing squads or death camps, in a brief list from least bad to worst actions chauvinism often leads to. Does a politician have any obligation to say, "No, I will not implement this policy. Not only is it immoral, it won't actually make life better for you" to the people who elected him if the 90% majority population wants to inflict those degradations on the 10% minority?

The obvious slippery slope is a politician thinking he knows better in a case where he doesn't actually know better, or deciding laws based on his own personal values instead of the general population's in a case where there is no option that's better on all metrics. E.g, abortion laws always have a trade off between the preferences and health of the mother against the fetus, and where you want abortion laws to be at depends on the ratio of which you value mother:fetus.

Would this fit better in the Culture War thread? It's roughly on topic and certainly seems fleshed out enough.

Anyway, yeah, this is a big reason why shifts toward more democratic rather than more elitist governments can be harmful, as we've been experiencing in the US.

Of course, politicians will also use their discretion to enact bad policies.

Would this fit better in the Culture War thread? It's roughly on topic and certainly seems fleshed out enough.

I sometimes like the lower standards of the smaller threads. Less pressure to thoroughly defend my position.

Virtue ethics: Stand up to the mob, though it will be at the cost of your favor with them.

Deontology: Obey the mandate of the voters because fidelity to your role as their representative is the only rule you can will to universal law

Utilitarianism: ExpectedUtility(your policy) - ExpectedUtility(public's loss of trust in the institution that gives you power)

I see the job of a politician in a democracy as trying to enact the best policies possible under the constraint of needing to get elected. If they did whatever the people wanted, it would lead to disaster, and they'd probably actually be voted out because of it.

So is a politician justified in restricting the rights of minorities, if the populace is deeply bigoted and actually want the politician to go even further?

Seconding Avocado.

I haven’t seen anyone argue that gas needs to stay below X $/gallon. Or $/barrel, since that’s insulated from actual gas pump and heating bill prices already. What shows up in the news is the clearing price for what is basically a fixed quantity demanded.

“I can’t believe it cost $80 to fill up my truck.”
“I can barely afford the kids’ school supplies.”
“Why are a dozen eggs so expensive?”

The big exception is rent control, where the normal supply and demand rules are already incredibly distorted. Then people start throwing around hard caps.

As for actually answering your question—the only winning move is not to play. Reneging on a popular promise is suicide. A politician ought not to make ones he thinks are stupid or immoral. He should run on a positive platform that just happens to deprioritize or counter the popular thing; it’s much easier to be ignored than be told you’re a dumb idiot.

Compare the mainstream Democrat response to “defund the police.” The low hanging fruit (body cams, diversity statements) gets picked. The expensive and counterproductive stuff is less likely outside of areas which made it a single issue.

As for actually answering your question—the only winning move is not to play. Reneging on a popular promise is suicide. A politician ought not to make ones he thinks are stupid or immoral. He should run on a positive platform that just happens to deprioritize or counter the popular thing; it’s much easier to be ignored than be told you’re a dumb idiot.

Sure, but say 2 years into a 5 year term there's a massive gasoline shortage, and the majority of people start calling for price caps like in the 70s. What do the politicians do then?

Lower speed limit, 55 max on the highway.

Remove tariff and / or sanctions on oil producing states.


Drill baby, drill!

Start a war / Organize a democratic revolution in a country that is mean to women and / or homosexuals but has oil.

People will hate lower speed limits. Some of the others seem better, though.

Those might be better options, but that dodges the question of what responsibility the politician has when their voters say they really want price controls but would in reality prefer one of those options, or even doing nothing, over price controls.

The responsibility is to advocate for actions that will make improvements, and oppose actions that will lead to increased scarcity.

So how does a politician apply that rule when it comes to an issue that's a values judgement, like abortion, or the best amount to redistribute from the rich to the poor, or gun rights, or freedom of speech vs hate speech?

A politician's constituents are less likely to be as unified on these issues as they would be on abundant and affordable housing and energy.

Can you define hate speech?

Gun rights in what context?

Freedom of speech in what context? I believe the current standard is Brandenburg v. Ohio.

Abortion; the best likely scenario is to do nothing and make no specific advocacy.

Can you define rich and poor? Getting into the weeds on issues like this is likely best.

A politician's constituents are less likely to be as unified on these issues as they would be on abundant and affordable housing and energy.

Across a nation? Sure. But I'm certain you can find some smaller constituencies where the voters are quite unified in what they want their representative to do.

Can you define hate speech?

I can't, and the voters might not be able to either, but that won't necessarily stop them from demanding something be done. I have a similar response to the rest of your questions: I am not trying to argue for specific policies, I am asking what a politician has the obligation to do when their voters start angrily making demands that something should be done, but what they say they want is not what they really want long term.

More comments

population wanting stupid stuff I think is price controls- the idea of keeping rent or gasoline below a certain hard cap

I'm not sure what people want are price caps. People want affordable abundant housing and energy. Price caps don't typically achieve this. Politicians promising price caps are frequently popular which is why they persist.

You do get people advocating for specific popular policies that they think are obviously good, and when they don't see politicians doing enacting them, they assume they must be corrupt. For example, in Canada, there is a strong push right now to ban AirBnb completely or to ban corporations from owning houses, or even to ban anyone from owning multiple properties such that renters would only be allowed to rent from government owned housing or co-ops. Whenever these ideas come out on social media, the support to opposition ratio is easily 100:1.

Whenever there is any discussion about why these policies are not being enacted, there is always agreement that the problem is that politicians either don't care about the people or that they have investment interests that they're trying to protect. They never consider that some people might think their ideas won't work.

Politicians could maybe avoid this problem by increasing the housing supply, but if there are any problems with housing at all, then there will be a lot of outrage directed at them for not enacting these specific policies. I read a paper once that argued that this is South America's problem. There are lots of educated people who know that their policies are terrible, but the electorate has so little trust in politicians, that in order to get elected, you need to promise to enact these populist measures. In the West, the electorate tolerates the political class not doing exactly what they want because they have a certain level of trust.

In the West, the electorate tolerates the political class not doing exactly what they want because they have a certain level of trust.

I'm not sure trust is the word I'd use. My sentiment would be nearer acceptance, acquiescence, resignation. It is only by degree that our current political structures have not yet descended to a despotism that would see a plurality resist them through force of arms.

That's kind of my point. The people think they want one thing, but they really want another. I don't think people really want to erase minority cultures or kill a minority population with roving death camps either, they just get tricked into thinking they want it. But what rights do politicians have to bypass what the people think they want?

I don't think people really want to erase minority cultures

I don't think this is true. Usually as soon as they think it's objectionable, they want it gone. At that point, it's really just a matter of how much they care which determines how far they are willing to go. Many trad-ish christians would happily erase the trans movement and vice versa, I think, if it could be done without much broader societal harm.

Death camps seem less likely, though.

It would seem that many politicians are unable to deliver abundant affordable housing and energy. They still need to be seen to do something, price controls are something, besides these are totally not price controls. They can blame the greed of companies or producers. The direct or indirect subsidies or policy incentives that might be effective in delivering abundant and affordable energy and housing are frequently untenable for other reasons.

Violence against minority populations can be popular organically. In current year in many western nations it's the political classes calling for calm or obfuscating and minimalizing what are frequently valid complaints about policy failures or the actions and behaviors of a minority cohort. They don't want to risk a revolution that sees them chucked out or hanging from a lamp post. While it can certainly be induced by propaganda, some is the 'natural' clash of civilizations, without a functioning political process to resolve the differing perceptions some amount of violence should be expected.

If there's no political process that can prevent the housing of migrants at hotels in a community, I would predict fires at hotels.

A riot is the language of the unheard.

  1. How often do you use generative AI, and is it for leisure or work?
  2. How are you using it, and how deep down the prompt engineering rabbit hole have you gone?
  3. What is your favorite model?

Sadly, in my workplace, use cases in descending order of frequency are: Generating funny images for powerpoint slides > generating funny names for things > asking scientific questions. I subscribed to Chatgpt4 and have been using it a fair amount over the last several months, and while it is quite helpful, it's far from accelerating my work in a largely meaningful way. I'm curious whether people have any recommendations for other models or specific prompts beyond 'take a deep breath and answer step by step' or 'my grandmother will die if I get this wrong.'

I use it every day, mostly for work. I don't do much prompt engineering. I don't usually find it necessary and it's very difficult to get it to to do what you want anyway. For example, no matter how much I insist I don't like lists, ChatGPT insists on explaining things with lists. I use it mostly for finding bugs in code and for telling me how to do something simple that I don't know or don't remember how to do. I also sometimes ask it to do things that are a little complicated that I am not sure how to do. This is very hit or miss, but might give me an idea for a better way to do it. Anything too complex, it can't handle.

Less often, I use it as a better Google search. There are certain kinds of things it is way better at getting information on. I also use it to take pictures of things and tell me what they are or to ask questions about it.

People are work use it to write emails for them, but I don't do this because it takes me just as long to write the email myself as it does to explain to ChatGPT what to write, and I'll do a better job anyway.

My favourite model is ChatGPT-4, because it is the only advanced LLM I can use in Canada.

I certainly use GPT-4 for impromptu medical lessons and debates, and to sometimes have a intelligent bouncing board for my ideas. It's also great for just asking random questions on topics that would otherwise take far more effort or reliance on the kindness of strangers.

I use image generation mostly to create art I enjoy, to illustrate hilarious visuals from Xianxia or to create pieces for my own work.

Sadly (or happily), it doesn't augment my productivity in my day job particularly much, but that'll inevitably change.

If you're looking for fiction, Claude Opus is great. It convincingly manages to emulate my own style from short excerpts, and does a good job at writing overall. Far less LLM-y when it comes to tone too. I suspect it can do more, but I'm not paying $24 a month to find out, when GPT-4 via Bing is free.

I suspect that most of the image generation capacity is being used by turboautists making 100+ pictures of the same thing in slightly different variations every single day. Not that I'd know anything about that of course.

I have co-workers who rave about ChatGPT, but I don't think it's all that useful. I will occasionally get desperate and ask it something, but most of the time it just makes shit up. That said, there are a couple of use cases that it actually handles well.

  1. When I need to knock out a quick script for something, but I don't want to spend time looking up the APIs to do what I want (or in the case of bash scripts, I can't be arsed to learn the syntax). Easy enough to check its work and it's usually correct.
  2. When I need to find documentation for something, but the documentation is poorly organized (looking at you, AWS). ChatGPT generally gets this right as well and again, it's easy enough to check.

So overall, it is a nice laziness aid in some situations but mostly is pretty useless. I really can't understand the hype around it.

I was reading Javiér Bardem's Wikipedia page and found this little quote:

During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Bardem and Cruz signed an open letter denouncing Israel's actions as genocide.

Weird that you could change the "1" to a "2" and the sentence would still make perfect sense. Are we in the "tragedy" or "farce" stage of history repeating?

Noam Chomsky gives a lot of talks, he schedules them years in advance. The people booking wanted to know the topic far in advance.

He discovered that he could reliably use "The Current Crisis in the Middle East".

It will be true for 3,4,5 and so on. This is a mighty shitstorm of a conflict if there ever was one.

People have been protesting Israel and calling them genocidal basically every year since 1947, with only small breaks during the periods of hours to days when the Arabs start a military offense and briefly look like they have the upper hand before getting their asses handed to them.

The insistence on referring to the conflict as "genocide" stands out as one of the best examples of how everything needs to be ramped up to 11 at all times. It's not enough for people to declare that they think Israel is being too aggressive and should have a more proportionate response, or even that Israel has a long-run goal of conquering Gaza and the West Bank, they need to believe that there is a plot to literally eradicate Palestinian people. With each new issue that comes up, I increasingly find myself struggling to treat my opponents like they've even trying to engage in a good-faith analysis of the world.

There has been some discussion (1 2) of how the lawsuit recently lost/settled by the US's National Association of Realtors may affect real-estate transactions in that country. But what about the rest of the world? It would be nice if some of the goshdarned furriner varmints that frequent this forum could relate their own experiences with buyer's-agent-free real-estate transactions, so that we uncultured USAians know what to expect in the coming years. For example, are these articles from Britain (1 2) and Australia (1 2) accurate?

As a Brit who has bought two houses, sold one, and walked several friends and work colleagues through the process, the attached articles about the English process (Wales is basically the same, Scotland and Northern Ireland are very different) are accurate. Some thoughts about how the system works in practice:

  • Even before you look at the 2nd commission for they buyer's agent, England has lower % commissions - admittedly based on higher average house prices. "Standard" commissions for a full service bricks-and-mortar agent are 2% outside London, 1.5% in London, and are negotiable down on large transactions so in practice the commission is a flat £7,500-£10,000 for houses in the £500k-several million price range. (In all cases add 20% VAT on top). Discount agencies like PurpleBricks or Yopa charge a flat fee of roughly £1,500, but as far as I can see they do the bare minimum work not to get kicked off the property websites (which don't accept FSBOs).
  • Given the existence of Zillow-style property websites (the main ones in the UK are Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket), I don't see what MLS or buyers' agents add to the house-hunting process. Before property websites, a thorough house hunt with no buyer's agent involved speaking in person to 5-10 estate agents in your target neighborhood to see what was on the market.
  • I can see the advantages of both parties being represented in complex negotiations - but if you are in complex negotiations you are probably in a chain, and the norm in the English system is that all of the estate agents in the chain are supposed to work together to keep things moving forward - in practice this means that the agent I hired to sell my first house acted as an informal buyer's agent on the purchase of my second house. And I wouldn't trust someone being paid by the seller to represent me in any case!
  • If you hire a cheap lawyer to do the conveyancing, it costs about £1,500 for the buyer and £1,000 for the seller. This is usually fixed-price work, not hourly. A licensed conveyencer (i.e. a paralegal who specialises in uncomplicated real estate transactions) would cost about half that. De facto this goes up sublinearly with price because people doing bigger transactions tend to use fancier lawyers. Some of this covers work that would be done by realtors in the US (negotiating the non-price parts of the contract) and some covers work that is done by the title company (like local searches and organising the closing).
  • Solicitors get paid anyway, so they feel less urgency about closing transactions than estate agents do - particularly the cheap ones. (At the price level where people have family solicitors, the solicitor will feel the amount of urgency appropriate to the quality of the client relationship).
  • A major bogosity of the English system is that it takes a long time to actually close a sale after an estate agent tells you the seller has accepted your offer. The traditional target is 6 weeks from acceptance to exchange of contracts - closing is traditionally 2 weeks after exchange but can be delayed further to fit around removal arrangements etc. The actual average from acceptance to closing is 12 weeks. Obviously delay creates the risk of the seller (in a rising market) or the buyer (in a falling market) opportunistically renegotiating the offer - something referred to by the lovely technical terms gazumping and gazundering respectively (both of which are generally understood by the housing-obsessed English public). It isn't clear why this is, and multiple attempts to fix it have failed.
  • England has a Torrens-like registered title system, so a single Land Registry fee covers deed recordation and title insurance (including for any mortgages).

So the total cost of an English residential transaction (excluding the mortgage broker and taxes) looks like:

For a £300,000 semi in the burbs outside London (full service/discount):

  • Estate agent £6,000/£1,500
  • Seller's solicitor £1,000/£500
  • Buyer's solicitor £1,500/£750
  • Local search fees £300
  • Land Registry fee £150
  • Total £9,000/£3,200 (3%/1%)

For a £1-2 million London townhouse:

  • Estate agent £7,500-10,000
  • Seller's solicitor £1,500-£3,000
  • Buyer's solicitor £2,000-£5,000
  • Local search fees £500
  • Land Registry fee £500
  • Total £12-19k (slightly over 1%)

For a US comparison, you would need to add the title company fee and any county deed-related fees to the realtor commission to compare to the UK total.

What specifically are you wondering about? I've bought and sold properties in Sweden and often the only agent involved is "the sellers agent" (in theory both parties agent but paid for and recruited by the seller)

You might recruit people like an assessor or a surveyor if your buying land or a house but you don't have to.

I've never paid more than 2% of the sale price to the realtor but supposedly it can be up to 5%, but I imagine that is for unusual and very high value properties.

"the seller's agent" (in theory both parties' agent)

This practice, called "dual agency", is outright illegal in several US states due to the conflict of interest.

The operative word there is ”theory”. No buyer expects the real estate agent to be impartial beyond handling the official stuff properly. You can hire an agent (who obviously works for you) when buying a house but it’s rare.