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Is Scott Alexander bad at math?

Ok, look, I get that you are trying hard to be a good person, and that's great, but you're not doing such a great job of it right now. And I think that's kind of the crux here: You've somehow gotten the idea that being a Good Person automatically makes you good at it, or should, whatever that means.

You say that you like helping people. I identify with that. I like helping people too. But all that really tells you is how I get my jollies, you know? Other people are not obliged to give me said jollies by being helped, and they may have good reasons not to. Here are some possible reasons:

  • They don't think they need my help.
  • They don't think I am competent to help them, and perhaps are worried that I may make things worse.
  • They suspect that I am optimizing for fuzzies rather than for actually helping, which may cause conflict or poor outcomes from their point of view.
  • They feel disrespected by the implication that I am in a position to help them, and fear loss of status.

Now, you may think some of these reasons are mistaken or irrational (I think any of them might be perfectly sane, myself), but the fact remains that people are quite possibly going to have these concerns, and if I can't address them, I will not be a very good helper. Notice that none of these reasons is "They fail to empathize with me and understand how happy I would be to help them," which is the only concern I see you trying to address here. Why should they care how happy it will make me?

Humility gets a bad rap on LW, but I think in this case it's exactly what's needed, because if you want to help people properly, you've got to remember that helping isn't about you. You have to respect their goals and their autonomy, all the more if they really do need your help and you are in a position of power over them. Love is great and all, but it's not something you ought to force on anyone.

Rationality Quotes Thread March 2015

Any model makes some inaccurate predictions but models can retain utility despite significant propensities for inaccuracy. Inaccurate predictions aid the choice of models for future predictions. Because of this, the central scientific problem in the computational study of the MBH mechanism is not the inaccuracy of the predictions. Rather, it is the absence of any particular prediction at all.

--R. Erik Plata and Daniel A. Singleton, A Case Study of the Mechanism of Alcohol-Mediated Morita Baylis-Hillman Reactions. The Importance of Experimental Observations.

Stupid Questions March 2015

Data: pretty much all male Hollywood stars wear (natural-looking) makeup whenever they appear on camera.

Stupid Questions March 2015

Ask your female hetero friends if Tim Curry was hot in Rocky Horror.

Stupid Questions March 2015

I wear makeup regularly (I am a lady). "Light" makeup usually means natural-looking and easy to apply. The highest-yield stuff would be something to make your skin look smooth and even (foundation, tinted moisturizer or BB creme), something to make your lips pretty (gloss looks natural and is easy to apply although lipstick is longer-lasting and less sticky), and maybe a little eye makeup (this is easier to screw up but not really that hard; start with drugstore mascara and eyeliner pencil and consult Youtube if you want to take it any further). I'm happy to recommend specific products but a lot depends on your complexion.

Edit: Forgot to mention, if you have acne at all, spend money on a good concealer that matches you skin, Dermablend is the shit, this is probably worth it for gents as well as ladies

Stupid Questions March 2015

How does it look like with American eyes - completely fake? Or normal?

It looks like a very exaggerated version of one particular America. There are shops that sell this kind of merchandise in the Western US, but they sell as much to tourists as to folks who actually dress like this.

What you need to understand is that there is more than one distinctively American subculture in the US. In particular, there are at least two major poor, rural, white American cultures: the high-religiosity country music culture, and the low-religiosity rock/metal culture. Though they can often be found side by side in the same trailer park, the same home, or even sometimes the same individual, there is also some real tension between them. Rock/metal appeals more to teenage rebellion, rejection of responsibility and civilization, rootless adventure. Country is more aspirational and its adherents see themselves as salt-of-the-earth folks who love their family, flag, and God. I guess that doesn't go over so much in Europe, so we mostly export rock culture. (Even in the US, urban upper-middle-class people tend to get the two cultures confused since they both equally reject things like suits and liberal arts degrees and clever hipster music.)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 114 + chapter 115

I think the only thing that would satisfy me is a legitimate excuse for Voldemort to leave Harry armed. Anything short of that, you may as well leave it as-is for historical reasons.

Open thread, September 15-21, 2014

Yes, thanks, this has been discussed elsewhere. (That said I'll repeat the request to avoid disrespect or patronizingly phrased advice.)

Open thread, September 15-21, 2014

I'm posting here on behalf of Brent Dill, known here and elsewhere as ialdabaoth-- you may have enjoyed some of his posts. If you read the comments at SSC, you'll recognize him as a contributor of rare honesty and insight. If you'd had the chance to talk with him as much as I have, you'd know he's an awesome guy: clever, resourceful, incisive and deeply moral. Many of you see him as admirable, most as relatable, some as a friend, and more, I hope, as a member of our community.

He could use some help.

Until last Thursday he was gainfully employed as a web developer for a community college in Idaho. Recently, he voluntarily mentioned to his boss that he was concerned that seasonal affective disorder was harming his job performance, who mentioned it to his boss, who suggested in all good faith that Brent should talk to HR to see if they might help through their Employee Assistance Program. In Brent's words: "Instead, HR asked me a lot of pointed questions about when my performance could turn around and whether I wanted to work there, demanded that I come up with all the solutions (after I admitted that I was already out of brainpower and feeling intimidated), and then directed me to turn in my keys and go home, and that HR would call me on Monday to tell me the status of my employment." Now, at the end of the day Tuesday, they still haven't let him know what's happening, but it doesn't look good.

I think we can agree that this is some of the worst horseshit.

On the other hand, he's been wanting to get out of Idaho and into a city with an active rationalist community for a while, so in a sense this is an opportunity. Ways to help: Brent needs, in order of priority: a job, a place to stay, and funds to cover living and moving expenses-- details below. Signal boosts and messages of support are also helpful and appreciated. Ways NOT to help: Patronizing advice/other-optimizing (useful information is of course welcome), variations on 'cool story bro' (the facts here have been corroborated to my satisfaction with hard-to-fake evidence), disrespect in general.

1. Job: Leads and connections would help more than anything else. He's looking to end up, again, in a good-sized city with an active rationalist community. Candidates include the Bay Area, New York, Boston, Columbus, San Diego, maybe DC or Ann Arbor. He has an excessively complete resume here, but, in short: C#/.NET and SQL developer, also computer game development experience, tabletop board/card game design experience, graphic art and user interface experience, and some team leadership / management experience.

2. Crash space: If you are in one of the above cities, do you have/know of a place for a guy and his cat? How much will it cost, and when will it be available? Probably he'll ultimately want a roommate situation, but if you're willing to put him up for a short time that's also useful information.

3. Funds: Brent is not now in immediate danger of going hungry or homeless, but a couple of months will exhaust his savings, and (although it is hard to know in the current state of things) he has been told that the circumstances constitute "cause" sufficient to keep him from drawing unemployment. Moving will almost certainly cost more than he has on hand. There is a possible future in which he runs out of money stranded in Idaho, which would be not good.

If you feel moved to help, he has set up a gofundme account here. (The goal amount is set at his calculated maximum expenses, but any amount at all would help and be greatly appreciated-- he would have preferred not to set a funding goal at all.) Though Brent has pledged to eventually donate double the amount he raises to Effective Altruist causes, we wouldn't like you to confuse contributing here with charitable giving. Rather, you might want to give in order to show your appreciation for his writing, or to express your solidarity in the struggles and stigma around mental illness, or as a gesture of friendship and community, or just to purchase fuzzies. Also, you can make him do stuff on Youtube, you know, if you want.

Thank you so much for your time and kindness. -Elissa Fleming

[ACTIVITY]: Exploratory Visit to the Bay Area

Above observe downvotes making things worse

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