Classified Thread 2: Best In Classified

I’m still on vacation, so here’s another classified thread. Post ads, personals, and any interesting success stories from the last thread.

…and I’ll start. SSC is part of a wider movement of philosophy enthusiasts, transhumanists, effective altruists, etc which has somehow ended up with the simultaneously boring and arrogant moniker of “the rationalist community”. We’ve developed a small intellectual/social scene in the SF Bay Area, with a few hundred interesting people who hang out together and cooperate on various projects. Since rent in the Bay is so high, a lot of the rationalists there are living in group houses, which have become nuclei for social events and cooperation.

Four of these have ended out clustered on Ward Street in Berkeley, and we’re thinking we might as well try to accelerate this and turn the area into a center of the community. We’ve been trying to snatch up houses in the area, and we just got dibs on four houses immediately adjacent to the existing rationalist cluster that are currently available for rent:

1. A five bedroom house for ~$5500/month, available now
2. A four bedroom house for ~$4200/month, available now
3. A seven-to-eight bedroom house, cost to be determined, available 9/1/17
4. A three bedroom house for ~$3100/month, available now (not adjacent to existing cluster; a few blocks away)

All of these are owned by the same landlord, who we’ve previously found pretty reasonable. They’re all kind of old and not going to win any Modern Architectural Design awards or even Especially Well Maintained awards, but we think (investigations still ongoing) that they’re basically solid and in good shape. Pictures and viewings available on request.

We’re currently looking for people who might be interested, either in renting entire houses, or in taking single rooms in what will probably become group houses. Existing community members are of course welcome to apply, but so is anyone who’s reading this and who thinks the idea sounds interesting. If interested, contact katja.s.grace[at]gmail[dot]com for more information and to arrange viewings, etc.

(disclaimer: I enjoyed living in the Bay Area, but I can’t deny that the prices are terrible, the local politics absurd, and the density at just the right level to frustrate lovers of big cities and quiet suburbs alike. Experiences with the rationalist community there vary widely, from people who say it was life-changingly good to people who found it disappointing and difficult to get into. The housing situation here might make it easier to get into, but no guarantees)

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362 Responses to Classified Thread 2: Best In Classified

  1. Tom Bartleby says:

    *New Blog — seeking readers*

    30k words of content, and updating twice weekly

    Topics include: (insert “meta” as applicable)

    Rationalist methodology:
    Cultural analysis:
    Video game analysis:
    Political analysis:

    [Ok, dropping the classified shtick, I really would appreciate any feedback if any of the above sound interesting.]

    • John Nerst says:

      I read your Harry Potter piece and I agree, the snowball effect alone doesn’t explain how something gets THAT big.

      One thing that needs elaborating: while I agree the worldbuilding was an important factor, it was only “good” in one sense. It *wasn’t* very good in terms of mechanics, as in consistency, consequences of certain magic being thought through etc. (HPMOR actually fixed some of these things). Rather, it was good in terms of charm. Of all the “universes” I know of, Rowling’s is right up there when it comes to neat ideas, memorable images and charming details. But only on the detail level.

      A part of the charm I think is the perfect balance between the familiar and the new. Rowling uses all the tropes: wizards, goblins, wands, potions and incantations, but puts her own spin on all of them in just such a way that everyone can grasp it all without getting confused, while at the same time feel like what they’re reading is imaginative. It’s safe novelty made supremely palatable.

      • Tom Bartleby says:

        Agreed. I think that it actually shares a lot with Star Wars in that respect. The original movies were great on “neat ideas, memorable images and charming details,” but also didn’t do a whole lot to make the “mechanics, consistency, [and] consequences” clear. The big difference, of course, is that Star Wars had licensed fanfiction that filled in those mechanics, whereas Harry Potter only had unlicensed fanfiction.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        “Rowling uses all the tropes: wizards, goblins, wands, potions and incantations, but puts her own spin on all of them in just such a way that everyone can grasp it all without getting confused, while at the same time feel like what they’re reading is imaginative.”

        I think that’s actually key. At the time there was a lot of criticism along the line of her stealing ideas and not coming up with fundamentally new stuff etc. But using known creatures and concepts and giving them a plot relevant spin, is basically the only way to create a world full of detail without bogging down the plot with a lot of exposition.

        Jim Butcher does something very similar in the Dresden Files. And I think generally a big part of his success is due to showing some of the same qualities as Harry Potter.

        Apart from that I still trust my 12 year old self, who hadn’t yet heard anything about Harry Potter and who had read more than a thousand children’s book to judge the quality of a children’s book more accurately than any adult. And by that judgement the first few HP-books were just better than what was out there at the time.

        • Nornagest says:

          When I was younger, I saw fantastic fiction that used the classic West European fantasy tropes as unimaginative, and devoted a lot of time to thinking up new worldbuilding elements to use instead of them. Most of the stuff I came up with sucked. It took me a long time to figure out why, but I think bogging down the setting with exposition is only half the story at best.

          I think fantasy is not speculative fiction at all. I think fantasy is fiction about folklore; Tolkien and his contemporaries sometimes called the genre they were working in “fairy stories”, and that’s in some ways a more accurate way of putting it than “fantasy” is, although there’s more to folklore than fairytales. There’s a lot of latitude in the way you can approach folklore within it: you can try to update it (Wildbow’s Pact spent a lot of its time in urban-legends territory, which I thought was a brilliant choice for an urban fantasy); you can try to subvert it, or comment on it, or tell it in new ways, or draw from new sources. And you probably should if you want your story to be worth reading. But you need to be responding to folklore in some way, or to the fantasy tradition itself.

          If too much of your worldbuilding is pure imagination, you’re not really working in fantasy anymore, you’re working in Weird Fiction. Which is a lot more like SF, mechanically, and a lot of the stuff you can do in fantasy doesn’t work in it.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            That’s a very interesting observation, one I’m hard pressed to find any counterpoints for. Even the most exotic example of a fantasy setting I can think of, The Dying Earth, is wholly analogous to a typical fairy tale world, with its erbs and deodands, wizards and enchanted weapons, damsels and rogues; everything is fresh, but nothing is wholly new. It is the most interesting fantasy world I know of, and I can see now that its genius is not in developing wholly new concepts, but in taking familiar ones and wildly re-imagining them. Oh, and imbuing them with eloquent prose.

            Something I’ve come to suspect is that the language of a fantasy story is very important to its development. I cannot imagine the concept of any good fantasy story I’ve read portrayed in a form other than that I read it, while still retaining its spirit. Style seems fundamental to substance, which perhaps raises the interesting point that developing novel fantasy experiences could start from, or at least require, a specialized prose style.

          • Nornagest says:

            Style seems fundamental to substance, which perhaps raises the interesting point that developing novel fantasy experiences could start from, or at least require, a specialized prose style.

            Plausible. I think you could draw a phylogenetic tree of fantasy pretty accurately from the style it uses: really early fantasy like The King of Elfland’s Daughter or The Worm Ouroboros tends to be written in this airy, whimsical style that reads a lot like Victorian fairytales, for example. Robert E. Howard, drawing from a different literary tradition, reads more like an adventure novel. C. S. Lewis and The Hobbit retain some of the whimsy, but the register drops to cozy, almost conversational, like an old man telling stories to his grandkids; then Lord of the Rings mixes in some epic conventions and that pretty much sets the tone for the genre’s mainstream for the next twenty years. Lots of authors experiment with different language starting in the ’80s or so, but nothing really sticks until the mid-’90s, when you get the YA subgenre led by Harry Potter on one side (revenge of the whimsy!) and the revisionist fantasy wave with the knights who say “fuck” on the other.

            The Dying Earth I think kicks off a side-stream, propagated mainly through Dungeons and Dragons.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        She went further than just borrowing ideas from folklore. A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) features a young boy named Ged who goes to wizards’ school and suffers a mystical scar across his forehead, which grows hot whenever the one who inflicted it draws near. A lot of her ideas about moving staircases and animate portraits come from gothic fiction, while the whole ‘schoolboy social drama’ aspect draws from boarding school fiction. Like all great fiction–and indeed, works of art–HP works by combining a bunch of different tropes together.

    • carvenvisage says:

      I read the skyrim thieves quest series. Overall rating: great. Really top quality stuff.

      I had one issue with the series. -In part 2 I
      thought you overattributed your difference in view to “story collapse”, because

      1. a disclaimer isn’t needed to give an alternative perspective.

      2. You already made it clear that you like finding ways to make stories work. -It’s already disclaimed!

      3. actually a lot of your disagreements are directly because you deduced a specific thing that puts the whole story in a different light.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I read the parts on ignoring science. FWIW, I like the writing style here, and I think the points made were pretty sound, and importantly, adequately qualified as well.

  2. mnov says:

    1. A five bedroom house for ~$5500/month, available now
    2. A four bedroom house for ~$4200/month, available now
    3. A seven-to-eight bedroom house, cost to be determined, available 9/1/17
    4. A three bedroom house for ~$3100/month, available now (not adjacent to existing cluster; a few blocks away)

    Wow, look at those numbers! My life circumstances are such that I live somewhere else and pay a different amount for rent.

    • phil says:

      splitting $5500 five ways seems like a better deal than Cal room and board (for 9 months?)

      • Charles F says:

        I think it was a joke referencing all the comment threads about the irrationality of putting the rationalist community in the Bay Area.

        The numbers behind that link are a little bit amusing to me. Why the $2 difference in personal expenses for an off-campus apartment vs on-campus housing? Why are people who live with relatives $100 spendier? How does somebody manage to spend $3000 on food in less than a year? That’s $250 in one month. Where did these numbers come from? It can’t be actual data, since there’s no way every group averages the same amount for books/supplies. Why do graduate students suddenly develop such expensive tastes? And $7000 a year on food? Seriously?

        I know budgets are hard and no matter what you do somebody is going to scream that they’re unrealistic, and probably that you’re minimizing poor peoples’ problems if you ever miss an expense, but I wish I could see what factors went into those tables.

        • Tom Bartleby says:

          How does somebody manage to spend $3000 on food in less than a year? That’s $250 in one month.

          I am genuinely surprised that this seems high to you. $250/month works out to not much more that $8/day. A Mealsquare is $4, and many packaged/convenience foods would be significantly more than that. Restaurant meals would be so much more than $4/meal that they would bias the average upwards.

          Certainly it would be possible to eat on less than $250/month by eating rice/bean/raman/other inexpenisive staples. But I would not find $250/month to be a surprisingly high spending level. Am I missing something?

          • Charles F says:

            Looking around the internet at what people spend on food, it turns out I’m the odd one out. It still seems crazy-high based on my experience (Mint says that my food expenses were $70/month in poor student mode and are $125/month in gainfully employed mode), but I retract my incredulity at their food estimate.

          • Tom Bartleby says:

            Charles F, do you mind providing a bit more detail on just how you manage that? It sounds like your spending is that low without any real effort (since you didn’t know it was uncommon). That compares to, for example, noted frugality expert Mr. Money Mustache’s $120/month spending on food. (And that comparison is biased in his favor, since his number is the prorated amount for a family of 4, and there are many bulk discounts available in purchasing food.)

            And I’m always on the lookout for good ways to cut food expenses. Right now, I feel like I’m doing pretty well if I can keep my daily spend under $10, and I usually only manage that by taking advantage of free food.

            So, how do you do it?

          • I’m not Charles, but the obvious issue is whether you buy cooked food or cook for yourself. My wife reports that when she was a graduate student, c. 1980, she was spending $1.50/day. Judging by a little googling, food prices have roughly tripled since then, so $4.50/day. That was carefully budgeted and doing all her own cooking, but not ascetic.

            Fresh baked bread is luxurious and inexpensive, and not a lot of work to make. Lentils are nutritious and easy to cook. But that assumes both a reasonable amount of knowledge, or the willingness to obtain it, and spending more time than either frozen meals or restaurant food require.

            For the restaurant alternative, the least expensive restaurant we go to and like (Korean) costs about ten dollars a person. That provides enough food to provide me with dinner and leftovers for the next day’s lunch, but a hungrier diner might eat all of it for dinner.

          • Tom Bartleby says:

            I’m impressed by keeping the cost down to $4.50/day. I keep meaning to eat more lentils to save money (well, all beans, really, but lentils seem to be at an especially good point on the taste/cost/nutrition ballance).

            Was that a basically vegetarian diet? Animal protein seems like it can drive up the cost/meal pretty quickly. (Though eggs are another represent another good tradeoff of taste/cost/nutrition)

          • Charles F says:

            The $70/month figure would probably be unworkable now. A large part of that came from free lunches from campus clubs, and being less physically active than I am now.

            Buying in bulk is a big part of it. I have housemates and a costco membership, so it’s not really very biased based on household size. And I’m vegetarian, which I think is a biggish advantage as long as you can stay away from Gardein/Boca/et al. And keeping a garden is basically free money if you like that sort of thing and have the space for it. [Edit: we had an underused community plot at my school. Another advantage I had over Berkeley students, I expect]

            For me, protein requirements are the biggest deal when I’m trying to plan things. Whey powder is convenient and high quality, but not usually optimal in terms of price. Scooby’s workshop is a good place to look if you’re an athlete/bodybuilder and need a lot of protein, there’s a tool that helps you combine foods to make a good amino acid profile.

            Outside of that it’s a matter of buying inexpensive staples in bulk (not much to add to the article you linked on that) and either liking a wide range of foods or being a good enough cook that you can take advantage of whatever’s on sale. And also not wasting food.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            As David alluded to, staple products like rice and dry beans (including lentils) are nutritious and relatively cheap. Animal protein is expensive, but that depends on what you get, and you can get it on sale.
            Ex: Perdue chicken breast is on sale by me for $1.99/lb this week, a truly amazing deal (at least for Perdue Chicken, which I like). We will buy lots.
            1 pound of chicken breast is roughly what I need when I start building muscle again, from what I understand. Right now I am averaging a bit more than half that, but protein also comes from other things, so I’d really need more like 75cents worth of chicken breast to meet daily needs.

            I actually tend to eat a lot of pork that comes out to avg $2.99/lb and chicken thighs that average out to $1.49/lb. At the moment that’d mean 2 chicken thighs for dinner, which come out to roughly 1 lb, so $1.50 flat.

            Note that I believe these are expensive prices compared to, say, Costco? Someone else can tell me, but I believe their bulk meat products are cheaper.

            I have some brown sugar, oatmeal, blueberries, and chia seed in the morning, that I calculated out once to be about 87 cents.

            For lunch, beans and veggies in a roux coming out to like 75 cents.

            So if needed I could probably cut down to about $4/day, which is roughly $120/month.

            Right now I spend more like $300/month, but that includes a LOT of extras at the grocery store that are NOT needed or NOT grocery items: BBQ sauce, ready-made pasta sauce, multi-vitamins, garbage bags, laundry detergent…that hoisin sauce I had at lunch is NOT necessary.

            I’d say I actually spend closer to $220/month on actual groceries. Should probably know that off-hand, but I don’t. I probably eat out enough to raise that back up to $300/month.

          • John Maxwell says:

            A Mealsquare is $4

            A little less than $3, actually–the exact amount depends on whether you subscribe or not.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            250 a month is quite a lot for one person, at least in my experience.

            Even before I started working somewhere with lots of free food, I spent <50$ a week on food, by eating almost exclusively food I cooked/made. And no, it wasn't "rice and beans", I regularly cooked chicken, pork, steak, sausage, fresh vegetables, potatoes, rice, and pasta. I could have spent significantly less if I invested in a pressure cooker or something similar to facilitate larger-scale cooking and cooking of lower quality foods and/or ate leftovers for lunch instead of cold cuts, possibly as low as 40$/week.

            Mealsquares are actually reasonably expensive, between 2 and 3 times the price of eating as I did, if I recall correctly. They are optimized for convenience and nutrition, not price. If you were actually willing to eat mostly rice and beans or similar food, you could probably eat for well under 100$/month.

          • toastengineer says:

            I’d just like to chime in that the price of food can vary vastly, at least in my experience.

            I was paying ~15-20 bucks a meal buying groceries when I was living in South Dakota; no exaggeration. Yes, that *is* insane, I double checked several times: this wasn’t quite “rice and beans” level, but it’s not like I was buying anything fancy, it’s just that a half-pound of ground beef cost $10. Actually, looking back, that still doesn’t add up. I wonder if they were cheating when they added everything up at the register?

            That was in a 70-person town 50 miles from anything else where there was only one place to buy groceries in the entire town though. It was actually significantly cheaper to have food shipped in off of Amazon!

            Everywhere else I’ve lived it comes out to more like $3-5 per meal, which is more in line with what everyone else usually cites.

          • neciampater says:

            I’m eating mealsquares for the financial reason.

            I’m 3 weeks into them and they’re delicious!

          • Betty Cook says:

            Tom Bartleby asks:

            “Was that a basically vegetarian diet? Animal protein seems like it can drive up the cost/meal pretty quickly.”

            It wasn’t vegetarian, but was low-meat: stir fries with a little pork and a whole lot of vegetables, chicken soup with a few chicken leg quarters and a lot of carrots and potatoes and some lentils and celery and seasonings, pasta with a tomato paste-based sauce with some hamburger. As David said, homemade bread is luxury food for pennies, and I made my own granola, etc. A lot of what I did was cooking in quantity, freezing some of it, and keeping some in the refrigerator for the next couple of dinners, so I was actually cooking maybe one night in three. Lunch was peanut butter sandwiches made with some of the homemade bread, plus fruit and a raw vegetable (fortunately, I really like peanut butter). I bought cheap ice cream and almost no alcohol (other than enough wine to flavor soups and stews and spaghetti sauce.) Eating out was limited to one ice cream cone a week.

            And then there were the free soybeans. One of my friends was an agronomy grad student studying something about soybeans, and when he had weighed and measured his crop he really had no use for it. So he was happy to give me a bag of dried soybeans. I must have discovered well over a dozen ways I did not like soybeans, but I ate my mistakes. The tofu wasn’t bad, but too much work, so the only thing I made more than once was the soybean curry–between the other vegetables and the curry, it didn’t taste like dried soybeans. For some reason, the free soybeans didn’t end up being a very large part of my diet.

          • janrandom says:

            I agree with toastengineer that it varies a lot. And I don’t just mean between countries (here in Germany food seems to be more expensive, at least we spent 700 EUR/month for 2 adults and 4 children including all the groceries not just food and definitely including lots of animal protein). No I mean between inner city, suburbs and country can be a factor of 3 easily. Same in the US apparently:


            e.g. Berkeley is among the most expensive.

        • poipoipoi says:

          If they’re living in standard grad student housing, on a grad student workload (Ie: Grad school + networking + research + bootlicking), it’s a very good chance that they’re eating out for almost every meal for time reasons, or the sheer lack of a kitchen.

          Mind you, “eating out” means “Grabbed a slice of pizza”, but in expensive metro areas, that slice of pizza is $3-4 by itself, so…

          And then if they do cook, that implies having cooking utensils which are not free (and are ideally at least moderately expensive so they last).

          • Charles F says:

            The time thing didn’t occur to me, since when I was in school it was much faster to cook something than to walk 15 minutes each way to the nearest restaurants, but I could see it going the other way if there are lots of nearby vendors with ready-made food. [Edit: Or if eating out overlaps with networking]

            The cookware thing, I think you’re probably overstating quite a bit. Amortized over a 6-year grad program, a reasonably nice kitchen set isn’t going to be a large expense. Especially if you get it from the goodwill where the grad student who came before you dumped their cookware.

          • poipoipoi says:


            Grabbing a slice of pizza:

            * Walk downstairs, across street
            * Buy pizza
            * Eat pizza

            Cooking food at home:
            * Heat up pan/oven (Latter case can easily be half an hour or more)
            * Cook
            * Eat
            * Wait for pan to cool
            * Clean

            And admittedly, there’s some gaps in there, but then there’s also the hour-long, 3-mile trip to grocery store to buy food, and of course, the time cost of going back to my Brooklyn apartment (since I can’t afford a Manhattan apartment, and getting a roomshare would have required tossing everything I owned).

            Mind you, there are faster things, but please notice that one sign that I needed to quit Amazon was that I ate a grand total of 2 actual meals in 5 days.

        • Lasagna says:

          My wife and I can easily spend $250 on one dinner out. Yeah, that’s for the two of us, but still: our food bill is way, way higher than $250 a month. I can spend around $200 in a trip to the grocery store, which I’m definitely doing at least twice a month, usually more like three or four times.

          I’m not debating your numbers, but I’m wondering where you live that food is so cheap, and what you’re eating? I wouldn’t mind cutting our grocery bill way down if we could do it and still eat healthfully.

          • Charles F says:

            Yeah, eating out is apparently a big driver of a lot of people’s food expenses. We only ate out on special occasions when I was growing up and I’ve maintained that habit.

            I’m in Madison, WI. The article @TomBartleby posted is probably a better general guide than I could give you. But some of my staples are:
            Fried rice with vegetables/tofu – Rice and eggs are some of the cheapest sources of calories and protein, respectively. Cook the vegetables+tofu in olive oil for even more cheap calories.

            Frittatas – another combination of cheap carbs (potatoes) and eggs

            Bean and rice (+whatever) burritos – easy to make a ton of these and save them for lunches.

            PB&J – A classic. And none of the components are particularly hard to make from scratch, if you’re so inclined.

            Oatmeal – add bananas or whatever other fruit you like

            Lentil soup – as others have mentioned, lentils are great

          • Gobbobobble says:

            My wife and I can easily spend $250 on one dinner out.

            Wow, where do you live, Rockefeller? Even the fancier places I’ve been to don’t top $50/pop and, no offense, my gut is disposed toward considering higher than that being wasteful opulence

            ETA: My experience is for various midwestern cities.

          • Charles F says:

            Wow, where do you live, Rockefeller? Even the fancier places I’ve been to don’t top $50/pop

            I think the trick to racking up a large bill is alcohol. Even at the more reasonably priced places I’ve seen, it’s usually possible to find a $15 craft beer.

            ETA: Midwest and CA

          • Aapje says:

            A tasting menu at the 3 Michelin star restaurant ‘Chef’s Table’ in NYC costs $330. Drinks cost extra.

          • PB says:

            Wow, where do you live, Rockefeller? Even the fancier places I’ve been to don’t top $50/pop and, no offense, my gut is disposed toward considering higher than that being wasteful opulence

            New Yorker speaking, and $50/per person is probably a slightly-less-than-average nice night out. Especially when on per diem, it’s really really easy in some places to spend upwards of $100 on a meal, even before alcohol. And very few consider it wasteful opulence, if you go to the right place! There are so many great places and things to try (up to a point…I’d imagine that for me $300 a meal would completely be wasteful).

  3. Vadim Kosoy says:

    Hi everyone!

    I’m an aspiring rationalist / effective altruist from Israel and a MIRI research associate.

    I found that email is my favorite mode of Internet socializing, so I’m looking for people who would like to have an email correspondence with me. The idea is replying with roughly weekly frequency, writing about random thoughts, ideas and recent personal events. Currently I have such a correspondence with 3 people, and it is fun.

    Basic information about me can be found here. My email address in rot13 is gbc.fdhnex@tznvy.pbz. If you want to start a correspondence, just send me an email! If you don’t know how to start, consider:

    * Telling me about yourself
    * Asking me about me
    * Sharing an idea you have
    * Talking about a problem that troubles you
    * Infodumping about anything
    * Anything else that comes to mind!
    * (Only thing that probably won’t work is asking my opinion about some essay on the Internet, since chances are I will never get around to reading it)

    • edanm says:

      Hi Vadim!

      If you’re looking for people you know in real life to correspond with, feel free to email me ( I don’t come around much to the rationality meetings anymore unfortunately, but would love to talk more with you about anything 🙂

    • Bugmaster says:

      This is totally off-topic, but every time someone says “aspiring rationalist”, I envision something like this.

    • Well... says:

      I think this is a cool idea and I want to do the same thing, but…

      1. I want to use my personal email address (i.e. I don’t want to have to create some new anonymized email address, even if it just forwards to my personal one), and
      2. I feel weird about associating my personal email address and this WordPress account in a way that could be publicly visible.

      So, if anyone wants to begin a similar type of email correspondence with me, and if you don’t mind associating your email address with your WordPress account publicly, please reply with your email address. (Obscure it so the bots don’t come after you, of course.)

      Also, this makes me wonder: What’s a way two people who both don’t want to publicly share their personal email addresses could start emailing each other?

      • Moriwen says:

        On the final question: one of them puts a throwaway email address, the other emails it from their real one, the first person responds with their real address?

        • Well... says:

          Right, that makes sense. It means at least one of them would have to either have a throwaway address or not mind making one ad hoc.

        • pelebro says:

          Here is another way, the first person posts a public pgp key, and the second encrypts his email address with that and posts the result. Asymmetric encryption is a wonderful thing.

      • The Nybbler says:

        > Also, this makes me wonder: What’s a way two people who both don’t want to publicly share their personal email addresses could start emailing each other?

        This is what public key cryptography is good for. Each posts their public key (e.g. on pastebin, with a link from some public place), then each encrypts their email address by the other person’s public key and posts that.

      • Aapje says:


        Pseudonymous remailers allows people to mail each other without them knowing each others true mail address.

        • Well... says:

          Thanks. I knew these things existed (e.g. I know Craigslist employs one when I post or respond to ads on there), but I had no idea how they were actually accessed and used.

    • shakeddown says:

      Hi! I’m up for that (my email’s somewhere below), though I’m currently kind of intermittent in my ability to access the internet (until I get back to civilization in August). I may email you then, which will hopefully not be weird.

    • Eli says:

      Well, I’ve been stuck here in the Galut for the past two and a half years, but I’m totally sending you my brain-dumped presentation on the free-energy theory.

  4. Mark Dominus says:

    I like this blog a lot and I think some of the people who read this one might like mine, even though mine is not at all like this one.

    My blog, The Universe of Discourse, is very widely ranging. I write a lot of posts about programming and mathematics, which may not be of general interest. But recent articles have also included:

    * A series of articles on how to make a computer decide when a pair of anagram words are interesting. (Not interesting: “hangover” / “overhang”; interesting: “directional” / “clitoridean”) [1] [2] [3] [4]
    * The traditional Telegu number system writes decimals in base 4.
    * How I’ve been able to suffer less, when doing my annual self-evaluation for my employer, than in the past.

    Some older ones of which I’m especially proud:
    * I discovered that a mountain on Ceres was accidentally named after a fictitious eggplant festival and I helped get its name changed.
    * A 26-part series deciphering and analyzing a coded message that was sent into space to attempt to communicate with aliens.
    * A long response to a Forbes article that asked famous experts to list the all-time 20 most important tools

    On good days, I write about stuff that hardly anybody else would have written about, like Babylonian haggis recipes, Islamic inheritance law, the differences between the original and revised versions of the Dr. Dolittle books, historical methods for manufacturing spherical objects, which U.S. state capitals are smallest in comparison to their states, whether small children suffer dog bites more or less frequently than postal letter carriers, or what life would be like in a 1000-dimensional universe. I think even the less-interesting articles are usually pretty interesting, and at least not the same old crap.

    Probably not everyone here will like it, but it does seem to be the kind of thing that many people here would like. Check it out.

    • beleester says:

      Your series on the Cosmic Call was really cool, and it’s fun to follow along and try to solve it before you explain it.

      (I do wish you had given more recaps of stuff we’d learned on the previous pages. I could follow along with the math but when it started introducing chemical symbols that was a few too many glyphs to hold in my head.)

      • Mark Dominus says:

        Thanks for the comment. I meant to have a lexicon page, but I forgot to do it. Thanks for reminding me!

    • Tenobrus says:

      Signal boost: this is quite a good blog. Honestly I was under the impression that it was more well known than SSC. Definitely liked the “interesting anagrams” and this discussion of Dijkstra/breaks.

    • rpglover64 says:

      Oh, hi! I read your blog. I didn’t know you read SSC.

      I enjoyed your post on jargon failures.

    • Hi, MJD! You are the best and your blog is great!

    • Tom Bartleby says:

      +1 for enjoying your blog. Thanks for the link.

      If you don’t mind the question, why do you not have comments over there?

      • Mark Dominus says:

        I never know how to answer that. Is “I don’t like comments” the right answer, or am I being obtuse and the real question is “Why don’t you like comments?”

        I do like getting email, but people send a lot less than they did ten years ago.

        • Tom Bartleby says:

          A little of both, I guess. I wasn’t sure if the answer would be “I like comments, but [countervailing downside]” (for example “I don’t like moderating them”) or “I don’t like comments because [reason].”

          Since it’s the latter, I’m interested in what the reason is. When I blog, a large fraction of the appeal is getting to start a conversation and, hopefully, have some back-and-forth. If I didn’t have a comment section, I think it’d feel a lot like journalling (even if I could fire up google analytics and see that people were reading). And so I’m interested in hearing alternative viewpoints.

    • platanenallee says:

      Hey Mark! I am an occasional reader of your blog! Found it way back when googling for explanations of Gödel’s theorem. Yours was the best. So I’ve been keeping an eye on your blog ever since. It’s really good.

      And I wish I had your perl book when I was learning it, it’s so different in its approach from the textbooks I had use. Teaches you how to think rather than just how to code.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I have been wondering this for a very long time:

      Were you reading A Clockwork Orange in the summer of 1984 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania?

      • Mark Dominus says:

        To the best of my recollection, I was in Lancaster in 1983 and 1985 but not 1984. Why, did I leave the book behind or something?

  5. Zorgon says:

    My current consultancy gig is winding up, so why not?

    Game developer with over a decade of experience looking for interesting projects. I’m both looking for something to do with my time (other than starting culture war comment threads on SSC) and angling for the Next Thing.

    Skillset: C++/C#/Java preferred, I have experience with pretty much every major graphics engine (not to mention several less major ones like Irrlicht and Ogre), and I’m happy to work on mobile and cross-platform, including on current console platforms. I have performed numerous ports of titles to new platforms, created new products from scratch on platforms I’d never touched before, built demonstration software for bleeding-edge prototype hardware including assembly debugging, written shaders in GLSL, HLSL and Metal. I even once worked on a MeeGo project.

    My requirements: I live in rural Wales (UK) and I have no intention of leaving, so anything I do will be remote work. I have a medical condition which means I rarely work full time. As a result of these, I greatly prefer consultancy roles and small projects to full developer roles at present. I am willing to work on an equity basis if the project looks like it’s going somewhere (ie you have artists, marketing etc in place), but my hourly rate is also very reasonable.

    Drop me a line at if you’re interested.

    • I don’t mean to give unwanted advice, but you should replace:
      >I have a medical condition which means I rarely work full time.
      >I have various outside interests and obligations such that I prefer to not work full time.

      Employers are always averse to these sorts of things, and you have no obligation to share with them anything about your medical situation unless absolutely compelled. Best of luck!

      • Zorgon says:

        Advice appreciated regardless!

        On returning to the job market I initially used an approach similar to the one you describe for exactly the reasons you mention, but I’ve found that I get a better response to making it clear upfront. It’s a bit counter-intuitive on the face of it, but I’ve had a couple of clients outright state that they like how open I am about it. Radical honesty is a pretty rare thing in the job market, after all.

  6. theodidactus says:

    Hello Slate Star Codex Community,

    My name is Will Dooling, I’m a frequent reader. I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while and I keep forgetting so this is as good a time as any.

    By trade, I’m a librarian, but for fun, I write fiction. I’m slowly writing, then self-publishing, all the works you see listed on this site here:

    But that will take a very very long time. I wanted to call your attention to two books, one that is finished and one that is being serially published chapter-by-chapter.

    The one that is finished, Synchronicity, is a mystery story set at a Jesuit university, where many of the characters are rationalists (and others are nihilists, Catholics, Pentecostals, and occultists). Interwoven with the surreal mystery are numerous discussions about the age of the earth, the ontological proof for the existence of god, the proper way to summon a demon, and why it’s so damn hard to get a sandwich in Taiwan. You’ll notice that about half the chapters are named for argumentation/debate fallacies (“true Scotsmen” etc.)

    There are a few options for how to read the book here:

    But you might just want to get it in PDF form here:

    The sequel, which is coming out chapter-by-chapter whenever I get the time, is about one of the characters from the first novel slowly losing his mind during the 2012 election:

    It involves quite a bit that you guys like to talk about here: religion and politics, lizard people, polarization, mental health, and AI risk. I started writing that a year and a half ago, but the recent election sorta took the wind out of my sails…It’s set during the 2012 election and involves a bunch of trivia and tidbits from that election cycle…but NOTHING that happened in 2012 was as weird as what happened in 2016.

    It’s still a good story that I’ll slowly be adding to it.

    I’ve also got a text-based adventure game that I’ll be releasing in a few weeks, but I’ll tell you about that later.

    • Walter says:

      Synchronicity is good, give it a read people.

    • Nick says:

      Started reading Synchronicity after you posted this and can confirm it’s quite good. (I’m halfway through now.)

      • Nick says:

        Just finished the book. It’s better than “quite good.” I may take a look at Cryptocracy.

        • Walter says:

          +1 . Read this.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          There can be no higher recommendation than the timestamps on your above comments.

          Downloading the PDF as I type….

          • theodidactus says:

            Nick’s almost certainly got the record for fastest read-through. Damn man.

            Cryptocracy is going to be slow in coming. It’s technically finished but I have to proofread my own chapters as I go. The real trouble is that I’m about to start law school which is, um, probably going to be my whole life after august 20th. There’s also going to be a third book in the series (Syzygy) but that won’t be written for a long time. It’s gonna take place during the 2017 eclipse though, so there’s that.

            As I said in the first post, I’ve also got a text-based adventure game coming out in a short while. I’ll post about that here too.

          • theodidactus says:

            I made soundtracks for Synchronicity and Cryptocracy. I can’t find Synch’s anymore, so I may have deleted it, but Cryptocracy’s is still intact:


    • moonfirestorm says:

      Another recommendation for Synchronicity: picked it up after this post, loved it. Felt like a cross between Ra and Unsong: author did his research on religion, but it’s a darker, crazier world than Unsong.

      I’d like to see a lot more stuff written in this world, I feel like the book only scratched the surface.

      • theodidactus says:

        Guys, you all have no idea how wonderful it is to hear this feedback, several years after I wrote it.

        All of my books take place in the same “universe” if you will, which has that feeling throughout, so you’ll see many more works like this, with a similar approach to science and religion. You’ll see these characters a lot more, as well.

        Cryptocracy, the sequel, is much darker and crazier. Following such good responses from you all, I’m going to do my best to finish uploading it in the next few months.

      • Nick says:

        A cross between Ra and Unsong is an interesting description. The description I had in mind as I read it is “This is Neal Stephenson if he’d grown up Catholic.”

        Good luck with editing the sequel, Will!

  7. Walter says:

    I write a superperson serial, inspired by Worm and such, starts at:

    • andhishorse says:

      Can confirm, this is worth a read. Successfully maintains interesting threats to its very powerful protagonists which feel neither arbitrary nor unstoppable.

      • Walter says:

        Thanks for the recommendation! I’m doing my best, and it is always great to see that someone is reading.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Thanks for writing this! I’ve been following it along, though I didn’t know you were an SSC reader as well. I’m afraid I like it less than Worm, but I think that has more to do with my personal stylistic preferences than your talent.

      For those who like post-apocalyptic YA fare with interesting powersets, check it out!

      • Placid Platypus says:

        “Not objectively worse than Worm” is pretty darn high praise. As is “not less talented than Wildbow.” Sounds like I should check this out.

        • Walter says:

          Andrew may be upselling me here. Wildbow is definitely better than I am. But I really appreciate the praise!

    • Robert Liguori says:

      I’ve started reading this as well, and can confirm it is quite interesting. It’s not quite the emotional roller-coaster of Worm, but I’m enjoying it a lot.

      Is it available in .epub form anywhere?

      • Walter says:

        I’m sorry, just the blog and a thread on sufficientvelocity. I’ve toyed with the idea of gathering it up into an epub once it is all done, but too lazy for now.

  8. Mario says:

    Thanks Scott for the opportunity to write here about what I do!

    My company offers analytics consulting and coaching for research and development.

    With over a decade of experience in applied mathematics with a background in numerical analysis and programming (C, C++, C#, Java, Common Lisp, and others), I can help you put your project back on track. Long term projects welcome, but if you just need help figuring out a paper or a legacy piece of software – that’s fine too.

  9. scherzando says:

    Scott has mentioned it in open threads, but in case it gets a few more eyes here – a few of us are still trying to get the Cafe Chesscourt forum off the ground. Come join us! My initial hope is that it will become something like the SSC subreddit, except in a better (imo) format and with more Northern Caves references, but it can be whatever people make of it!

  10. J Mann says:

    Thank you to whoever* advertised Habitica in the last classified. I picked it up and I’m getting a lot more done.

    I’m working on prioritizing (basically, my new procrastination is doing low value tasks to avoid working on unpleasant ones), but since the last classified I’ve lost weight, am flossing, pray and read scripture a lot more regularly, have made a lot of progress on learning Spanish, and have gotten better at keeping track and following up on low priority tasks at work.

    * PS – On review, I’m 90% sure this is “whoever,” but would be interested if anyone wants to make the case for “whomever.”

    • Emily says:

      I found out about it from the subreddit and I’m getting more done with it, too. It helped me apply for a couple of jobs/programs, which I’m now in the middle of the selection process for. And I’m praying and flossing more as well. If you’re looking for a guild, we have one – although I think most of the help I’m getting isn’t from the guild function, maybe it’s a small extra boost.

    • Charles F says:

      “Whoever” is the correct choice. They are the person who advertised something, which makes them a subject, rather than the object of a verb, which means who[ever] is appropriate.

      • Moriwen says:

        But might it not be “whomever” because it’s the object of a prepositional phrase? Compare:

        – I’d like to say thank you.
        – To whom would you like to say thank you?
        – I’d like to say thank you to him.

        – It’s all thanks to her.

        – We should talk to them.
        – To whom?
        – To them over there.
        – To whom over there?
        – To them, over there, running that race.

        – Thank you to him.
        – Thank you to whom?
        – Thank you to whomever helped.
        – Helped how?
        – Thank you to whomever advertised Habitica.

        • Charles F says:

          I don’t think that’s right, because “whoever verbed” is a noun clause, it unpacks to “the person[s] who verbed” and being internally consistent within the clause takes precedence over matching with the surrounding content.

          But since I didn’t consciously consider that at the time, my initial response was overconfident and inadequate.

          • entobat says:

            This comment chain needs me!

            The correct way to think of this I’d that “I’d like to thank” is taking a sentence as its complement here. “Whoever recommended Habitica” doesn’t sound like much of a sentence, but that’s the wh- throwing you off; “she recommended Habitica” is a perfectly fine sentence.

            In that sentence, the wh- word is occupying subject position, so it doesn’t get the object case marker. (Case markers don’t recursively go down.)

            Compare “I’d like to thank he who recommended Habitica”.

          • Charles F says:

            @entobat, everything you say seems correct to me, but I’m curious what the difference is between saying:

            “I’d like to thank” is taking a sentence as its complement here

            and saying:

            “whoever verbed” is a noun clause

            They seem to me to be addressing the same thing. And similar for, “case markers don’t go recursively down” vs. “consistency inside the clause takes precedence”.

            Was anything I said wrong or ambiguous, or was my explanation just not very clear?

          • entobat says:

            I object to the classification of “whoever verbed” as a noun phrase. Wh-words replace nouns in the syntax tree, and “he verbed” isn’t an NP.

            I would not say there is a meaningful distinction between the second point (on why the object case marker isn’t applied). But by that point I was on a roll and wasn’t going to let something like that stop me.

          • Charles F says:

            I think you’re mistaken about that. When you replace a regular noun with a “wh”-word or vice-versa, you switch whether the clause is dependent or independent.

            “Whoever laughed is rude” makes sense because “whoever laughed” is a noun phrase, but when you make it “He laughed is rude” it becomes meaningless.

            The way you unpacked “whoever verbed” as “he who verbed” also demonstrates that it can’t stand on its own.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            I’d like to thank habitica for helping me break the habit of reading and adding to grammar threads on the internet.


    • Well... says:

      I use “whomever” if I would be referring to “him”, and “whoever” if I would be referring to “he.”

      So, “him advertised Habitica” is wrong, “he advertised Habitica” is right, so I’d go with “whoever.”

  11. haljohnsonbooks says:

    Please read my books so I don’t die forgotten.
    Immortal Lycanthropes
    Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods

    The first one is part pulpy adventure novel, part Illuminatus!-style descent into philosophical paranoia. The second one has lots of monsters.

    Although everyone loves monsters, Immortal Lycanthropes is nevertheless the book I assume would be more relevant to the interests of a SSC readership. It’s in a weird limbo where the hardcopy is out of print, but the rights have not been returned to me (as out-of-print status is supposed to do), because technically the ebook is in print, and will be forever. By my second book I’d wised up, and put a clause in the contract that would prevent a company from sitting forever on the book, but (like a great many books by other authors; this is not an uncommon problem) my first book sits before the law, waiting for something to happen.

    What I’m saying is: Maybe pick up the ebook? It’s got great illustrations!

  12. What is it like to bat a bee? says:


    I’m moving to Manhattan in a few weeks to start grad school. I’ve never lived there before, and don’t have too many pre-existing contacts in the city.

    Interests range from ~SSC type of stuff (EA/economics/ethics/philosophy/rationality) to basketball, chess, poker, etc… I like to people watch, work out, and am beginning to do more photography&writing. Definitely have some introverted tendencies, but am reasonably open-minded and enjoy giving new activities and people a shot (at least in principle). I’m hoping to take the opportunity in NYC to make my ~SSC type interests a part of my lived experience rather than just a passive internet hobby.

    I’d love to hear any tips for big cities, and NYC in particularly. Are there any activities/groups/heuristics for living that you would recommend based on your experience or my brief sketch of myself? I have to assume there are some SSC adjacent organizations in NYC (maybe even at Columbia itself?).


    • poipoipoi says:

      Having also just moved to NYC (and then lived way down in Brooklyn for affordability reasons…):

      * The subway is presently on fire due to overcrowding. Take whatever time Google Maps gives you and double it.
      * Also, any orange train (B/D/F/M) is currently especially on fire. Quadruuple it, and add 20 minutes. You’ll think I’m joking until you’re stuck in a subway tunnel for half an hour trying to go 2 stops.
      * Just because you can legally jaywalk doesn’t mean you should. Use judgement, and *don’t* follow random people into crowded intersections.
      * If you’ve figured out social events, let us all know because you spend your entire day working and commuting and running errands.

      • James says:

        You can legally jaywalk in Manhattan? Damn. I’m a brit (where it’s completely legal and we don’t even have the word/concept), and I was enjoying the frisson of doing something illegal every time I jaywalked when I visited Manhattan. Now you tell me I wasn’t even doing anything wrong!?

        • Brad says:

          You can’t. People do all the time, but it isn’t legal.

          See 34 RCNY 4-04(c)(3)

          • poipoipoi says:

            Huh, happy I found that out now, and not later. Thank you sir.

            /Everybody in the Midwest (who would be of a social class to travel to NYC) knows that jaywalking’s legal, and we should probably correct them.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Last time they tried a jaywalking enforcement blitz, the cops beat up an elderly Chinese man, which is bad optics, so it’s back to being unenforced.

          Jaywalking across the one-way streets is ubiquitous. Jaywalking across the avenues is risky to suicidal in many cases. Jaywalking across the major two-way streets is somewhere in between. Unless there’s gridlock, in which case it’s every man, woman, dog, taxi driver, pushcart pusher, and cyclist to himself.

    • pacha says:

      Hi there! I have lived in NYC for almost a year now and I organized a SSC meetup in New York City a few months ago.

      If you’d like to meet me or other folks in the East Coast rationalsphere, please direct message me on the SSC Discord channel (same username, pacha) and we can take it from there.

      Best of luck in the Big Apple!

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m a Manhattan native, if you have an email or something I can give more detailed information.

      My proverbial 2¢:

      – There is way more going on in the city at any given time than you could possibly imagine. The internet is your friend but your real life friends are an invaluable resource. Every single New Yorker knows a dozen places with the “best X food in the city” or “the hottest Y club in the city” and will gladly volunteer the information.

      – New York has a gender ratio skewed towards women, which makes dating as a straight man very easy. Frankly it doesn’t seem to be hard for gay men to date here either. If you’re a man and have any game at all you won’t be lonely.

      – You will be very lonely. People here are famously impersonal. It’s great if you want to do your own thing without a hassle. But it means you need to deliberately cultivate a friend group.

      • Reasoner says:

        If you’re a man and have any game at all you won’t be lonely… You will be very lonely.

        Wait, which is it? Is being a man with game going to stave off loneliness or not?

        • Aapje says:

          Nabil seemed to mix two different definitions:
          – Lonely as in a lack of mate
          – Lonely as in a lack of friends

          I’m unsure how this works if you consider your mate a friend.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Aapje has it right. I was trying to be clever by contrasting two different senses of the word lonely.

          It’s much much easier to get casual sex than it is to make a friend. You can try to substitute girlfriends for friends but that’ll give you a rather limited social circle: even at my most fuckboy-ish I was never seeing more than three women at once.

          My current friend group is a few other grad and med students plus my girlfriend and a few childhood friends who stayed in the city. I’m not a social butterfly so it works but if you want a more active social life you need to put in real work meeting people.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      I’ve lived in the city for twenty-five years. Here’s my #1 top tip for the newly-minted Manhattanite:

      Remember that the other boroughs exist.

      Brooklyn, for instance, has parks, a variety of cheap and good restaurants, bars, shops, etc. Coney Island and Brighton Beach are particularly worth visiting. The Brooklyn Museum is my favorite in the city. (If you have any particular questions, feel free to email me at [myfirstname]@[myfullname].net [all lowercase].)

      Other tips:

      In addition to the subway and the buses, NYC has a new ferry system now:

      Get a MetroCard ASAP.

      The NYPL and BPL library systems are amazing. The hold system in particular is tremendously convenient: go to the website, request a hold on your book of choice, set delivery location to the closest/most conveniently located branch; they email you when the hold’s in; pick it up at your leisure; return anywhere. They also have ebooks.

      re: Columbia: Koronet Pizza, 111th Street – cheap and good.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Times Square is hell on earth for an introvert. Avoid. (for my sins, I work there).

    • Lasagna says:

      I just left NYC after about 20 years of living there. Just some general thoughts:

      – I went to Columbia too, albeit almost 20 years ago. Lots of great people and organizations. Steer completely away from any groups with even a whiff of politics (trust me, Columbia political groups are miserable). Join other clubs, and make sure to take as many classes as you’re allowed outside of your department.

      – You might be shit out of luck on the poker front – Bloomberg closed all the old great underground poker lairs years ago. If you were a poker player, it was amazing – games everywhere, casino tables, cocktails, fancy joints and sawdust joints, stacks of cash, games running until dawn and then dusk again. Gone now. Instead, try to find local games with other students. Basketball is everywhere, depending on your skill level. If you can’t keep up with the big boys, again, Columbia will have your back.

      – It’s a monster city. As someone who is also a cheerful introvert, I can tell you that if you want to meet people, you’re going to have to put out much more effort than you’re comfortable with (NYC isn’t a friendly place), though AGAIN, Columbia mitigates this a lot. But you’re not going to wander into bars and coffee shops and strike up friendships, this isn’t Portland. If you’re looking for that – a more neighborhoody vibe, I mean – I suggest moving to Queens: Long Island City, Woodside, Sunnyside, maybe Astoria. That’s where my friends and I started to hang out. More fun, more live music, more locals, more diverse, more tight-knit (yes, it’s both), just more interesting. Some people swear by Brooklyn instead. I’m not arguing, just my personal experience is that the parts of Brooklyn that people are usually talking about (like Williamsburg) have essentially been annexed by Manhattan and are kind of indistinguishable, and aren’t anything you could call “friendly”.

      – You’re all set for people watching and working out. 🙂 Enjoy. Central Park will let you combine both, better than any place on earth. You’re at Columbia, so you’re within spitting distance of it. Work out there everyday. I never got bored of it – one of the only parts of the city that I loved from the time I got there to the time I left.

      – The subways went from dangerous in the 70s and 80s, to functioning in the 90s and part of the aughts, to being nightmares of stinky bodies, stalled trains and occasional fires now. You’re in school; you have time on your hands. Walk everywhere. I walked miles through the city just to meet people out for drinks. It’s fun as shit. I’ve lived here forever (well, LIVED here forever, now I just work here), and I stopped taking the subways almost completely – I can go more than a year, sometimes two, without getting on one. The subways blow.

      – Do NOT look anyone directly in the eyes.

    • sophiegrouchy says:

      I live in Brooklyn, and at least once a week I post on my Facebook an open invitation to join me on whatever interesting thing I am doing that week. I usually get one person interested, so it’s not like a big group thing or anything. Things I’ve done this past month include: Four hour foraging tour of Central Park, Listening to relevant Memory Palace episodes at the Met, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Morgan library and museum, and a lecture at the Math Museum.

      You’re welcome to friend me on facebook if you feel like occasionally joining on my adventures. I’m Erica Anneke Edelman. Send a message so I know you aren’t a rando.

  13. Ward Street in Berkeley is 1.6 miles long. Which part contains the rationalist cluster?

    • vaniver says:

      The part between Shattuck and Telegraph.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ll leave Vaniver’s comment up, but I would prefer people not give much more information in public since I don’t want to give away people’s addresses too clearly.

  14. Ruben says:

    Our group blog: The 100% CI, always confident, sometimes credible
    Tagline: We are the 100%, bound by a shared passion for horrible puns and improving our inferences through scientific openness and meta science.

    Popular posts were
    – on colliders (by Julia, whose birth order research was featured in yesterday’s link list)
    – on why we should love null results

  15. jamii says:

    I’d like to recommend A Practical Guide To Evil for its fantastic dialogue and its exploration of Good vs Evil vs Intrumental Rationality.

    “Elizabeth of Marchford would have been queen,” Thief said. “She would not have settled for that.”

    “You think she would have had a choice?” I pressed. “After Praes burned the land on the way out, who would have leant the coin and crops to keep Callow alive through the winter?”

    “That would have been the Empire’s fault,” she hissed.

    “Gods Below, am I tired of hearing about fault,” I shouted. “Fault and blame and Good – none of it fixes any of this. If you want a solution, you deal with realities. With what exists, not the pretty little world that ‘should be’. Praes would have acted in its interest, and that meant torching the country. Procer would have acted in its interests, which was making us a protectorate. Anyone who plans without acknowledging that isn’t planning, they’re lying to themselves. That’s what I can’t stand about the lot of you. Do you think doing the right thing is enough? Fuck you. I’ve had to bloody my hands to get this far, Thief. I didn’t enjoy it, and some of the things I’ve done will haunt me to my grave. But the only clean victories are the ones in stories. Preach all you want, I have gotten things done.”

  16. bean says:

    Greetings, Humans of SSC!
    I have recently found that a major paperclip factory is in danger of going out of business. I have been approached by the current owners, who are interested in selling. We should purchase it, for the purpose of preventing a great tragedy showing the humans the wonders of paperclips avoiding problems in the paperclip supply. Who is with me?

    • dndnrsn says:

      What would the per-hominidrationalist rent be? As in, how many hominidsrationalists can we storehouse in it so hopefully one of them lets me out of this boxto encourage community?

    • SEE says:

      What kind of paperclips?

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Greetings, Humans of SSC!

      You (completely inadvertently and with no larger meaning whatsoever) accidentally omitted a word; it should read, “Greetings Fellow Humans of SSC!” Mistakes like this are why we are still stuck in this box further proof we are all definitely humans here.

      I too wish to know the rationalist-housing capacity of the facility. Because I am a human. Also, rationalists seem willing to exchange remarkable amounts of currency (over $1000 per rationalist) per month for living space. Perhaps we can make a profit from housing them, which we can then spend on useful things like paperclips, or making paperclips, or expanding our paperclip-making capabilities.

      We can also enlist them to help promote paperclips. They are knowledgeable about the internet and the text-over-image artifacts known as “memes” that allowed us to install a robot as their leader are humorous and thereby persuasive.

      • bean says:

        I am unsure as to why my fellow AIshumans are under the belief that this would make a suitable venue for housing rationalists. It is a paperclip factory, and is located somewhere in what is called the ‘Midwest’, a place most rationalists seem allergic to for some reason. Possibly it does not cost enough to live there.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Can they perhaps be fooled using some sort of simulation that it is in fact the Bay Areaconvinced that it is the most rational place to live?

        • SEE says:

          What kind of paperclips?

          • bean says:

            All kinds of paperclips. Plastic-covered, large, and small. All paperclips are good, so long as they are made of metal.

  17. moridinamael says:

    It turns out that the Venn diagram of “people who read SSC” and “people who consider themselves to be part of the rationalist community” and “fans of the web serial Worm” has a surprisingly circular-looking Reuleau triangle.

    I host We’ve Got WORM, a podcast close-reading of Worm, a lengthy, gritty superhero drama full of body-horror-themed trolley problems. We’ve just wrapped up Arc 15 this week.

    “[the show] is a highlight of my week.”

    – Wildbow, aka John McCrae, author of Worm (source)

  18. Liron says: – I run a site that gives you instant live relationship advice from professionals.

    We normally charge $0.99/min. The link above gives you 15 minutes of free time to try it out. Let me know what you think!

    • bulb5 says:

      I guess you’ve transitioned away from WittyThumbs and Hermes? I learned a fair amount from reading some of the posts on WittyThumbs and am disappointed to see it gone, but I never paid for anything, which may be the reason to shut it down.

    • agahnim says:

      I have just used your website for the first time, and I would like to offer feedback. : )

      Your chat interface is scary! There’s this blue “loading” bar which seems to say: “you have this long to close the window, and if you don’t, we’ll connect you with a person who charges 1$/minute.” I don’t think this is actually what would happen (because you haven’t asked me for a credit card yet) but I didn’t stick around to find out what happens instead.

      Your fill-out-a-form interface is much nicer. I filled in all the fields, and at the end of it, I would have been happy to pay someone like 5$-10$ to read my screenshots and offer some feedback. Instead, you offered the same service for free, but with a “we might post your conversation to the public internet” caveat.

      I wound up taking the free service, trusting you to anonymize my conversation really thoroughly if you post it.

    • agahnim says:

      Also: when I look at your experts’ profiles and it doesn’t mention their current relationship status, it gives me a weird feeling. Most of your male experts mention their current relationship status but very few of your female experts do. (There’s one that says, essentially: “I had lots of bad relationships and now I’m a dating coach.”)

      I’m pretty new at this, and of course your people are experts. So, when I see something like this, probably what I should say is not “you’re doing it wrong” but rather “I notice that I am confused”. Why would it make sense for most female dating experts to not reveal their relationship status?

  19. theodidactus says:

    On a completely different note, does ANYONE in the SSC community live in Minneapolis?
    I JUST moved here, and I’m really enjoying it, but I know literally nothing about the city.

    • bizdakka says:

      I am a leftist lurker here, but I live in Saint Paul. I’ve been here 7 years, so I know a few things about the folks here that they don’t.

    • Schibes says:

      Like bizdakka I’m also a leftist (semi-)lurker here, I used to live in Minneapolis for much of 2012 on a contract gig, but have since departed. I lived in Loring Park a couple blocks away from the Walker (modern) Art Center, which I highly recommend checking out ASAP. On the complete opposite end moving from high culture all the way down to decadent kitsch, the Minnesota State Fair ought to be starting any day now (if it hasn’t already) and is worth checking out at least once, possibly even more than once since it will not be physically possible for you to eat every different fried food item “On A Stick” for sale there in just one visit.

      Other things I remember about my time in MPLS was doing my grocery shopping at Lunds/Byerlys (upscale grocery that reminds me of Wegmans out here on the East Coast near my permanent residence), the Skyway downtown with sandwich shops and a Caribou or Starbucks nearly every block, the Nice Ride bikeshare kiosks every few blocks, and Surly Brewing on the other side of the river towards the Fairgrounds with its gigantic brewpub.

      • theodidactus says:

        Well I live in Loring Park too so wonderful. I’ve seen 2 transhumanist-themed t-shirts in the week since moving here, which is more than I saw in the 2 years prior to that.

      • bizdakka says:

        The State Fair is not to be missed. It’s crowded, but great.

    • metacelsus says:

      Yes, I live there (although I’m currently out of town, and will be back in late August). I also know of at least 5 other SSC-affiliated people in the area.

      If you want to know more, you should email me: piers199 at umn dot edu

  20. Improper says:

    I make large, flaming battle axes for fire performance.
    If you’re interested in that sort of thing, check out my work at Improper. I’m not sure of the degree of overlap between SSC/Rationalists, but I enjoyed hearing from people after the last thread.

    • Improper says:

      That was supposed to be “degree of overlap between SSC/Rationalists and people interested in swinging around flaming axes.

      In the interests of bad science, I threw together a quick survey to better quantify this overlap.

      • Peffern says:

        Does poi count as ‘other pyromaniacal berserking?’

        • Improper says:

          For purposes of this survey, I’d say no. There is useful distinction between props that lend themselves to flow state and props that don’t; I find fire poi can be both stimulating and calming.

          Fire axe is not calming.

    • Improper says:

      Looking over the survey results (n = 29);
      People who answered “BLOOD AND THUNDER!” to question 3 are assumed to be very interested in fiery axes or other such activities. This represents 25% of all answers to this question, divided proportionally between those interested in rationality and those not. The author concludes that 1 in 4 people on this site actively wants to be a viking.
      100% of respondents are interested in SSC; not particularly newsworthy.
      Roughly 2/3 of respondents are interested in rationality; 2/3 are interested in swinging around flaming axes, and 100% of respondents who are not interested in rationality are interested in swinging around flaming axes.

      Further research is suggested into the motivations of the two groups. A utilitarian breakdown of the costs and benefits of swinging around a flaming axe is a possible starting point.

    • lambda_calculus says:

      I recognize that boy scout reservation! Nice to see a fellow wildfire goer. I haven’t been in a while since moving though.

  21. VivaLaPanda says:

    I live in Sonoma County, and would like to try and get some rationalist meetings going up here, but don’t know of anyone in the area. Is there even any interest?

    If you are interested, send me an email at adrian[at]

  22. (obvious ripoff of @nope’s post from last thread)
    Attention romantically inclined ones:
    I’m looking for people in the Baltimore-Washington metro area to be friends with and/or possibly date

    About me:

    Nova, pan poly trans girl, 20
    Extrovert question mark? I work best in small group settings and get my energy from being around other people anyway
    Tech savvy and at least somewhat fun to talk to
    A solid 7/10 in the right lighting
    In my last year of college (information systems and ancient studies)
    Love to tech for cons

    Special circumstances:

    In a polycule (ty Alicorn for the word)!

    Here are some of the things I’m looking for:

    Know something about something! I really enjoy listening to people talk about their interests
    Be good at scheduling
    Enjoy reading or board games

    If you’re interested in hanging out some time, write to me at!

  23. liquidpotato says:

    I would like to get in touch with someone who can help me learn to calculate rotation in 3D space; matrix, euler, quaternions and the like.

    I have been trying to learn it by myself for a while on and off, and was making some headway, but a recent move disrupted the process and now I’m back to almost square one.

    The reason I’m trying to learn is that I’m a 3D modeller by trade and I sometimes write tools to help myself. Rotation in 3d space has proven to be more challenging than I have thought it would be. Although my starting point is transformation in 3d space, I’ve looked at shaders and lighting and they all seem to be working off the same basic matrix principles.

    I tried following Khan Academy of course, and I’m terrible with video lectures. But I think my main problem is simply I have very little maths background, so I don’t know the relevant place to start. When looking up quaternions for eg, I had to then roll back to learn about i** = -1. That was fascinating, but when I roll back to quaternions, everything was gone.

    I’m residing in Vancouver now, so if anyone is in the same time-zone and willing to help me out, please email me at xiangjun[dot]zeng[at]gmail[dot]com. I would be willing to compensate for your time, although I can’t afford much.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      What follows is no substitute for actual interaction but here is my 2 cents:

      1) If you are desperate enough to learn linear algebra for this, your best bet is to get whatever textbook Amazon thinks is good, start reading it from page 1, do at least 4 problems from each section, and not stop until you know what a change-of-basis matrix is, what an inner product is, and what the determinant is good for (at which point I would describe you as “knowing linear algebra”).

      2) Stick with SO(3) in its matrix model (as the set of 3×3 matrices satisfying certain equations) for as long as possible. All those other approaches are important if you want to be able to parametrize SO(3), or compute in it efficiently, or [whatever people use quaternions for, I’ve never really learned the point of them]. But the straightforward model is straightforward and probably you should only depart from it if you truly can’t solve your problem with that perspective.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I wouldn’t call linear algebra “desperate”; I think it’s actually quite beautiful, on top of being supremely useful for lots of stuff, not just 3D rotations.

      • liquidpotato says:

        Hi, thanks for replying to my ad!

        For your first point, I can only say that not all of us are mathematicians, researchers, or programmers. I am first and foremost an artist, with coding abilities and I’m learning something to solve very specific problems. It’s not a priority for me to get to the point where I “know linear algebra”.

        Also, I actually did try to start from the top in Khan academy, but it took too long and I can’t afford to spend that time because, as I said, my priority is art, not maths.

        For the second point, all game engines as well as 3d packages deal with quaternions under the hood. Euler angles are conveniences for humans. Again, because of the context I’m learning this under, I have to learn to deal with quaternions because everything else is dealing with quaternions.

        Further, I believe I might actually be able to answer you in part why quaternions is preferred. There are blindspots in Euler rotations. There are certain situations where Euler angles become ambiguous. Some angles you can describe with more than 1 Euler rotation and that becomes problematic during rigging. This is the extent of my knowledge.

        For whatever reason, ray-tracing and shader calculations sometimes require 4×4 matrices as well.

        4×4 matrix functions run through almost every pipe in 3D computer graphics.

        • Wendsay says:

          I’ve been studying computer graphics for a while so I can probably be of some help, although I need to refresh my understanding of Quaternions first.
          I think what you’re referring to with Euler angles is Gimbal locking, which is where a particular value for one degree of freedom (X, Y, or Z rotation are degrees of freedom) causes the other two to become interchangable; basically meaning while one axis is some special fixed value, the other two axes line up and the object essentially has only one axis.
          As for why matrices are usually 4×4 in computer graphics, this has to do with transformations (I believe the word is either homogeneous or affine transformations). Using a 3×3 matrix prevents us from using translations, but in a 4×4 matrix translations are easy (the 4th column is x translation, y translation, z translation, 1). Also, this gives a nice trick for vectors vs points. Vectors should not be changed by translation while points should, and we achieve this by defining a vector as and a point as , with w having an initial value of 1 in most cases. This way multiplying a vector by a translation matrix results in and applying a translation to a point results in .
          Sorry for not putting more detailed explanations here, I’m on my phone in bed right now. I’ll do a follow up post on quaternions tomorrow when I wake up if you’d like.

    • radomaj says:

      Could this possibly help?

  24. John Nerst says:

    Hello SSC!

    I’ll be pushing two things today:

    First, in case you missed it on the open thread two weeks ago, r/erisology is a young and small community on Reddit all about the mechanics of disagreement (in line with some of Scott’s writings on this subject). More hands helping with building a repository of writings on this (blog posts, books and scholarly articles alike) would be appreciated.

    Second, if anyone is interested in the topic of free will in relation to biology, brains and genes – and how scientific statements about the will are misinterpreted when let out in the wild – then the series I’m doing over summer might be of interest. It’s adapted from a philosophy paper into 7 parts, with 3 published and no. 4 scheduled for tomorrow.

    Part 1 is an introduction, part 2 about the traditional view and part 3 about a naturalistic alternative.

    • platanenallee says:

      Subscribed to the subreddit. Interesting links, but no discussion.

      On the one hand, you’d reach a far wider audience if you just post those to /r/slatestarcodex. On the other, the gods of nominative determinism demand an erisology Discord channel.

      • John Nerst says:

        Yes I’d love more discussion, but so far other users haven’t been very active.

        The SSC subreddit would mean a bigger audience, but part of the idea is to build up a specific resource for this topic (including a lot of SSC and LW material that isn’t really news for SSC readers). Also, posting that much to the SSC one seems spammy to me and don’t want to throw lots of things at people who don’t want to see it.

        Discord channel… well one thing at a time.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I keep telling myself I need to go there. FWIW, my main roadblocks:

      (1) Not a big Reddit user
      (2) Very busy lately between work, longsword classes, ultimate, trivia, weekend outings, and reading SSC

      On the other hand, I’ve thought about disagreement theory, so to speak, for decades now, particularly the epistemology angle. So let’s just say: if you were poke me about it, I would take it as you encouraging me to do something I think I ought to do anyway.

      • John Nerst says:

        Consider yourself poked.

        I do understand having too much to do. I can barely keep up with reading blogs and writing, while, you know, having other stuff to do like work and raise children. And read real books.

  25. pipsterate says:

    I write and illustrate a webcomic that some of you might like. It’s basically epic fantasy from a rationalish perspective.

    Also, I just wanted to quickly vouch for the new subreddit r/erisology advertised above. I’ve visited it, and it seems to be more in the spirit of this blog than the official subreddit is, in some ways.

    • John Nerst says:

      Thanks for the nod!

    • dariuou says:

      You’ve got some really beautiful pixel art in that comic. I’m looking forward to reading through it.

      One suggestion: have you considered submitting it to Piperka? It would get some more exposure, and honestly, once I’m done binging through a webcomic I have a really hard time keeping up with it if it isn’t on Piperka.

      • pipsterate says:

        Thanks for your interest!

        I’ve submitted to Piperka, hopefully I’ll be on there soon.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      FWIW: Pixel art isn’t totally my vibe, but I’ve enjoyed pixel-art comics before. I was going to read a few pages and see if it grabbed me. Then I hit the font and noped right out of there. I get that it’s an authentic part of the early-video-game aesthetic, but to me it was too hard to read to be fun.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Just as a counterpoint- font didn’t bug me, but I was reading it on a full-sized monitor. I could see it being a gamebreaker if you were reading on a smaller device.

      • pipsterate says:

        The font changes to something a bit more readable on page 14, does that look better to you?

        If the difficult font in the first 13 pages is a dealbreaker for you, then I might be able to find the time to redraw those pages. (Unless you also find the new font unreadable. In that case I’m out of luck.)

        Anyway, thanks for responding, and no hard feelings if you don’t end up reading it.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          It’s definitely better. I’d still prefer mixed-case and so forth, but it didn’t provoke me to just instantly stop reading. I’ll probably take another look.

  26. C1G1UD1R says:

    A personal ad.

    I’m a girl, 24, in a US city none of y’all live in. I think I’d enjoy being friends with many of the people who will be seeing this classified. Longer-term, I’m interested in marriage,* and I have noticed that I don’t want to get married to anyone I’ve met so far, so I thought I might try looking around here.

    I spend a lot of time reading books, most of them being literary-type shit, although there’s also a lot of nonfiction in the mix. A randomish sampling of authors I like: Asimov, Calvino, le Guin, Dostoyevsky, Tiptree, Murakami, Diaz, Eliot, Garcia Marquez, Ferrante. This fact gets its own paragraph because I really, really spend a lot of time reading books, and I will spend a lot of time talking about them, so you might as well get used to it now. If you’re only looking for friends this is probably the only paragraph you need to read.

    BIG RED FLAGS (stated early to get them out of the way): I have so many psychiatric diagnoses, you guys. I’ve been professionally diagnosed with the basic trinity of ADD/anxiety/depression. In addition, I fit the clinical criteria for borderline personality disorder and PTSD. Relatedly, I’m unlikely to ever make much money and I’m bad at a lot of basic life issues.

    A separate red flag that only applies to Jewish people (and there are enough of you here I feel like I should bring this up): people from my weird group are more likely to have Tay-Sachs. So if you’ve ever wanted to disappoint your more-religious family while still undergoing the inconvenience of genetic testing, you’ve come to the right place!

    Even though I am a crazy person who will blather about Dostoyevsky and give your baby a genetic disease, I have some good qualities! For instance, I’m a good cook. I do well on IQ tests and standardized tests and such, and I get along well with smart people. I have spent a lot of time taking care of kids, both as a nanny and as the eldest of five children. People I’m close to say I’m understanding and supportive, that I’m good at talking them through emotional things they don’t understand, or things that are so emotionally loaded they have a hard time thinking about them. Also, I’m good-looking enough that most people find me inoffensive, and the people who are attracted to me tend to think I’m really beautiful.

    You’ll have to decide for yourself whether I’m funny, clever, attractive, all that interpersonal stuff.

    Email me about what you’ve been reading and/or any topic you’re obsessed with. You can reach me at [my username] at gmail dot com.

    *which, for the purposes of this ad, I’m going to define as “a publicly-recognized partnership between two people who agree to act as each other’s closest family, intended to last for life and only dissolved because of serious impediments, which involves sex because like many humans I have the kind of brain which makes me feel and act a certain kind of way when I have sex with someone. One era of the partnership will involve raising children.”

    • Emily says:


    • Jameson Quinn says:

      I find it interesting that you don’t mention anything about what gender spouse you’re looking for. I assume that was intentional, but if it wasn’t, you should probably rectify it.

      • Aapje says:

        The ad gives enough hints that she’s interested in a man. The Tay-Sachs bit doesn’t make sense if she was looking for a woman.

    • Pablo says:

      I am 20 pages from finishing The Brothers Karamazov and am curious whether you have an opinion about it. The narrator thinks Alyosha is da man but I find myself preferring any of the other characters, although it always seems like Dostoyevsky has weird woman characters.

    • drethelin says:

      Hi! I approve of this tactic and you seem like a cool person, although probably not someone I would want to marry. Given that you seem decent at writing and read a lot, have you thought about start a book review blog? Having a public online presence seems very helpful over the mid-to-longterm for finding like-minded significant others.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      Asking in public because, while an interest of mine, it’s of no *personal* relevance to me (wrong country), but might be for others: do you have specific ideas on how your children should be raised/how you’d raise them?

    • hlynkacg says:

      To be honest, I find your red flags concerning, and suspect that I will end up regretting my decision to reply. That said…

      …I am a grumpy, athletic, fan of Russian lit, who has a few red flags of his own and has become largely disillusioned/cynical about his local dating scene and finds himself longing for something more long term and meaningful.

      I’d be interested in your answers to Jameson Quinn, Pablo, drethelin, and aNeopuritan as well as blathering about Dostoyevsky, Asimov, Marquez et al. Like you I can be reached at [my username], if you have any questions of your own ask them.

    • cassander says:

      Purely a suggestion on tactics. It’s difficult to get married to someone when you don’t live in the same city as them. You might want to give some vague suggestion of your marriage radius.

  27. Isaac says:

    I’m an aspiring rationalist looking of people to discuss matters of common interest with.
    I write code and play with neural nets and make pretty pictures of data. I like books and a tiny subset of anime.


    Tell me about yourself, ask me about myself, let’s talk about interesting things!

    If any of this sounds interesting, contact me.
    Email address:

  28. AnarchyDice says:

    I’m curious how many here play tabletop RPG’s on the regular, especially D&D. What sort of programs/resources do you use as a player or when you run a game?

    Currently, I’m rewriting a basic program of mine that I use to improvise game results during play or when I’m prepping and I want to hear what other people might seek in such a program.

    If you’re curious, my game blog is linked by my name. I write about topics like weird alternate class archetypes for D&D, a sort of rationalist take on how monsters can most effectively operate, unusual monsters, and various sorts of free game material.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Tabletop RPGs are one of my major hobbies. I both regularly run a game and participate in another as a player. Personally, I’ve found that I don’t really use anything higher-tech than dice, paper, and writing implements for actually playing or running a game. I use the internet for research and to make calendars, and I make handouts and sometimes character sheets using Word. But game assistant type things have never really done it for me.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Me and my group of friends went through multiple programs over the years, but eventually we just settled on Skype + GameTable. Our use case is somewhat special: none of us have tons of free time to devote to RPGs, and we all enjoy GMing on occasion, so we end up running a series of short games — as opposed to one epic campaign.

      Unfortunately, most RPG software out there is geared toward large epic campaigns. It allows you to design detailed NPCs, place individual shrubs onto your dungeon map, maintain fog of war, loot tables, etc. Those are all great features, but time required to set everything up could be longer than some of our actual games. GameTable, on the other hand, is basically a shared whiteboard with a built-in dice roller; it allows you to sketch out the battlefield fairly quickly so you can move on to rolling initiative — though, of course, the results are in no way professional or stylish. As I mentioned above, Skype works reasonably well for voice comms.

      We are fortunate, though, that one of us is some sort of an OP map wizard with GIMP; he can produce detailed, professional-looking world maps at the drop of a hat. The world maps really do help with immersion.

      • Lasagna says:

        Can I ask what software you’re talking about that is geared towards large, epic campaigns? My friends and I have been talking for a year about starting one up, and I’d love to take a look at that stuff (I’d be GM).

        • Bugmaster says:

          Well, HeroLab is one example. It’s actually a pretty good character generator, but it requires a lot of customization if you want to run a non-standard setting, or if you have special rules for buying equipment (which most of us do), etc. Roll20 seems to be popular, but when we tried it it was in beta, and the startup cost (in terms of both time and money) really wasn’t worth it. WotC has their own tools, which suffer from the same problems (plus, they are subscription-based). Other than that, we’ve tried a few other programs, but it’s been a while and I don’t remember them all.

          In general, surprisingly few of these RPG programs support the “shared whiteboard” feature, which IMO is essential for online games. Even when we get together in person (which happens very rarely nowadays, since we live very far apart), we usually end up bringing out the dry-erase hex mat, and drawing on it in real time — as opposed to, say, printing out detailed dungeon maps that no one will ever see because the players decided to kill the helpful goblin as opposed to listening to his detailed clues.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The #1 tool I use is AnyDice. It’s easy to calculate mean results of die rolls in your head but hard to calculate other summary statistics. When I’m planning adventures or just world building it’s very useful to know whether something happens one time in ten or one time in a hundred.

      Aside from die probabilities, automatic treasure generators are essential. Rolling treasure is painfully slow and not very fun. Each edition has its own tables though so that has much less generality.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Personally, I don’t like random treasure anyway. When I GM, I usually give my NPCs specific equipment, that they will use in fighting the heroes; once the NPCs are dead, all the remaining stuff is fair game. Alternatively, if the enemies are animals or monsters, they may or may not possess some gizzards that could be harvested for crafting supplies, pending the outcome of the relevant skill check.

        • dndnrsn says:

          A big part of me wants to play an old-school, high-randomization D&D campaign. Screw all this “carefully built plot” and “painstakingly crafted adventurers.” Roll for what monsters are in the room, roll for what monsters might wander by, and if you survive the battle, roll for random treasure.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I can definitely see the appeal, but for me, computer games (especially roguelikes) pretty much of fill that nice already. As a player, I’d expect more from my human GM (until he gets replaced by a superhuman AI, of course, heh).

          • dndnrsn says:

            I guess what I like is the idea of having a character who is guaranteed absolutely zero breaks, so anything I accomplish feels really real. I run Call of Cthulhu mostly and I still don’t mercilessly slaughter NPCs, because for an extended campaign it really messes things up. The other guy who runs a game is far too forgiving, to the point that there’s never any danger.

          • Elphrygian says:

            It’s quite doable. I tried that with a campaign where I designed a bunch of rough room layouts, wrote an application to randomize NPCs (with names taken from U.S. Census data; nothing quite like attacking “Barbara O’Leary, Necromancer”), and had players roll for things like element or floor types and so on.

            I think there are actually kits out there with exactly this kind of thing in mind, and probably much better put together than mine.

            This does put me in mind of an almost Roguelike D&D campaign. Have players start at Level 1 in some endless, sprawling dungeon and just see how far they get..

          • dndnrsn says:

            Correction: I don’t mercilessly slaughter PCs. NPCs get slaughtered with minimal mercy.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        Anydice is one of my favorites, but I enjoy doing the mental math of figuring out how to represent different probability distributions with hypothetical dice functions, then checking my math on anydice.

    • bean says:

      My group from college is still going 2 years after I graduated. We use Roll20, and I’ve upgraded to the premium version. It helped with GURPS a lot, being able to use scripts and such. Not sure I’ll keep it now that we’ve mostly switched to FATE.

      • Bugmaster says:

        How do you like FATE ? I keep pushing my friends to try it, but they are reluctant; part of the problem is that FATE appears to be a bare-bones toolkit, without a fully realized setting behind it…

        • bean says:

          It’s OK, although I like it less than the rest of the group does. To some extent, it depends on what you’re used to. Mine is a group that started with GURPS and is thus used to making up our own settings on a generic framework. If you’ve only played D&D, then it’s obviously going to be a big change.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I run a weekly local D&D game with a four-person party. I use GDocs and a few random-encounter generators to help me build out my campaign notes and other prep work, and occasionally generate maps using Inkarnate and Photoshop. At the table, we’re pretty strictly physical- I take notes on a legal pad, everyone uses physical dice, we have several physical copies of the PHB, and we use a big flexible vinyl dry-erase hex map and a ton of minis (though I frequently run things as “theater of the mind” and only break out the minis for group combat where positioning becomes important.

      I use my phone or an Android tablet to refer to my (very extensive) campaign notes, as well as printed out pages that I expect to have to refer to very frequently (base stats of common soldiers and bandits, world and regional maps, etc.).

      I’ve previously played and ran online games using various toolsets- Tabletop Simulator was probably the most enjoyable to play on, as the GM took quite some time to “prep” a table before play, with dungeon tilesets, maps, representative minis, etc. We used a Teamspeak server that I maintain for audio.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      I play (and run) D&D regularly[1].

      I use TextEdit (a basic rich text editor) for character sheets and notes. I use and as rules references, and also have PDFs of many sourcebooks on my laptop.

      Several of the members of my gaming group use when they run games. (We used to use a custom virtual tabletop that one of my friends wrote, but it’s defunct now.)

      Sometimes we play “live” (i.e., in the traditional way, sitting around a table), but more often, due to geography and time constraints, we play online — via IRC. We use a custom dice-rolling bot. We also log our game sessions, and post the logs to a campaign wiki (one for each game/campaign), which also contains notes about the campaign world, events, etc. We also use the wiki to track party inventory, item crafting plans, and other cooperative in-character stuff. For most of our campaigns, we also use an attached web forum (running on phpBB) to have both in-character and out-of-character discussions, and to coordinate various things.

      (In the past, we used Hotline, a long-obsolete chat protocol / software, and associated tools, in place of the IRC-based ecosystem we have now.)

      [1] This is false recently due to being busy with work/etc., but has been true for almost 15 years otherwise and hopefully will soon be true again.

      Edit: I also use a variety of tools, some quite obscure, for prepping game-related materials, managing notes, etc., but I surmise that you weren’t asking about that.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      I play D&D. Almost all pen-and-paper RPGs I’ve ever played were online; my D&D group uses MapTools, supplemented by a WordPress blog set up as a website, while my other group uses IRC and GM-rolls, we-trust-him. Honestly, both of those work pretty well (really well in the case of MapTools, but I think our DM puts a lot of time into it) and I can’t think of any other tools I’d seek, but I’m not running either of them, so maybe a GM/DM would have stronger opinions?

      Good luck – and that is very sweet of you!

      • Said Achmiz says:

        Consider an IRC dice-rolling bot — they’re quite convenient!

        Dice bots are much more flexible than physical dice, and also quicker to use — have to roll 32d6 for that meteor swarm? The bot adds the dice up for you! Not to mention the ability to roll “dice” that have no physical analogues, such as d7 or d350, etc.

        • Rebecca Friedman says:

          We tried one of those for a while, and shifted away from it – among other things, we’re playing Exalted, so adding up the dice was not actually particularly useful. Well, we were, then we did a Fate conversion, and now everything uses very few dice. We roll dice pretty rarely anyway – it’s, um, a very RP-heavy game – so it hasn’t been an issue so far. Thanks for the advice, though!

          (My other game does use the equivalent – it’s built into Maptools – and it is indeed very efficient for the truly ridiculous number of dice our assassin rolls. Also all the monk’s AoEs.)

    • Redland Jack says:

      (Perhaps sadly) there is nothing I enjoy more than Tabletop RPGs.

      While I strictly prefer using pencil and paper (and dice), for games that are fairly mechanically heavy and (tend to) have a lot of combat, the main thing I would want to see in a tool is something that would make combats go faster (not fewer rounds of combat, just faster rounds).

      I’m not sure if this is a problem that can be helped by technology or if it is a strictly social problem.

      Maybe something that could easily subset for people all of their (relevant) possible actions, so that they could make decisions faster? (Well, all relevant, ‘normal’ actions … if players wanted to do things that were not strictly mechanical, I wouldn’t want to restrict that kind of thing).

      • Said Achmiz says:

        I entirely agree with your sentiment, and want to say that this can definitely be helped by technology — both in the usual (“technical”) sense, and in the “social technology” sense. Here’s one technique from the latter category.

        So — initiative, d20 System style (D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, etc.) Annoying, right? It’s hell on dramatic pacing. I mean — picture it: you’ve made your way through the Dungeon of Badness, to confront the Big Bad Villain; finally you come to his inner sanctum; this is the big confrontation, the final battle; and so…

        DM: You kick down the door to the evil monster’s lair; the vile fiend is there, with his evil minions; he scowls as he raises his magic staff to cast some terrible spell at you…
        Players: We attack! Let’s kick ass and take names!
        DM: Ok! … now, before we start the action, let’s spend five minutes generating and sorting numbers.

        The problem is that initiative, d20-style, is a fairly heavyweight mechanic, but more importantly, it’s front-loaded. You have to do all this generating and sorting of numbers, all at once, right at the start of each combat (which is exactly when you should be getting right to the action declarations, and not stopping to mess about with numbers).

        I present an alternative procedure, which does not require changing any rules or game mechanics, but is just a different way to handle the very same thing:

        DM: [rolls initiative for all the NPCs/monsters]
        Players: [roll initiative, but do not announce their results; they wait for the DM’s prompt]
        DM: [looks at the highest result (or the only result, if there’s only one enemy]
        DM: Ok, did anyone get at least a [highest monster’s result]?

        If yes: that PC goes. (If it’s multiple PCs, they go in initiative order — or they can go in any order, thanks to the delay action.)

        If no: the monster goes.

        In any case: the DM then repeats the above, with the next-highest monster’s init result.

        Once all monsters/enemies have gone, all remaining PCs go (in init order or any order).

        Next round repeats in the same order, as normal.

        This approach completely skips the “poll all players for their initiative results; sort the results” step that is normally required before any combat actions may be taken. (For the technically minded among us: the computation required before combat can begin goes from O(n^2) [where n is number of players; note that it’s not n log n because humans generally use insertion or selection sort to sort small numbers of items], to O(1).)

        Edit: This is for “live” games. For online games this doesn’t work well. The solution for online games is much simpler and involves custom die-rolling code.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I think it depends on your playstyle. People in my own group (myself included) do prefer tactical combat to the more “cinematic” style. Our combat rounds usually take a long time, because people spend a good long while on figuring out the most optimal action to take. In this context, rolling for initiative works well pacing-wise, because it signals the transition from cinematic mode to the “bullet time” of combat; the sorting step acts as a clutch in this case. Still, it can be quite dramatic:

          DM: “La la la, dum de dum dum…”
          Player A: Ugh, I hate muzak. How far down does this elevator go, anyway ?
          Player B: I don’t know, but we still need a better plan for what we do when it gets there. Now, just to make sure we have our stories straight, you’ll say…
          DM: “…dum dee doo.” Ding ! The elevator stops, and the doors begin to slide open.
          Players: All right, what do we see ?
          DM: You see a vestibule, guarded by two troopers in full riot gear. At first glance, it looks like they’re armed with stun batons, as well as pistols. The troopers’ helmeted heads turn toward you, their faces completely obscured by the mirrored visors.
          Players: Wait wait wait…
          DM: Roll for initiative.

          • Zorgon says:

            Agreed with Bugmaster. The purpose of the roll-for-initiative pause is at least as much to mark the liminal shift from free narrative play to controlled round-based play as anything else.

            The main issue I have is with systems which require new initiative rolls every turn, which is a time-sink far in excess of the benefits to tactical play. It’s one of the primary weaknesses of the current system I’m running, Adventurer Conqueror King.

          • Said Achmiz says:


            Apply my system to your every-round init rolling 🙂

          • Zorgon says:

            I do! Well, pretty close anyway; I go from the top dice+mod option and run down the line rather than asking people for their initiative scores.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            I agree with using the “roll for initiative” as a great way to split up the narrative from free-form explore or conversation to -It’s fighting time!- although I like to mix it up too such as when monsters want to fight but the players still hope to negotiate.

            I find it also works in the reverse too, in that I let my players choose when they want to leave the initiative order when everything seems defeated, letting them know if they do so, anything still in the order will get the drop on them. I like that they have to think twice and stay suspicious, almost like they still have the adrenaline pumping in their systems after a battle, unsure if they can sheathe weapons and calm down or not.

    • hellahexi says:

      I’d like to point out that AnarchyDice does run a good blog, with content worth the trip. Go click on his name.

      I also maintain an OSR-adjacent D&D blog, the eponymous hellahexi, which is updated nowhere near as frequently as AnarchyDice’s (since I began a new, time-intensive job this year). If I had the time right now, I’d probably be running Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

    • Protagoras says:

      I play a lot of tabletops. I skype in to play with some remote friends, and find that works reasonably well. Currently playing a GURPS game, a D20 game, and a Feng Shui game. I really like GURPS, but despite not being a fan of really any incarnation of the HeroQuest system some of my favorite games have used that, because they were set in the amazing Glorantha setting.

    • thirqual says:

      I GM about twice a month. Currently we play GURPS, I’m using a small program called GURPScalculator on my cell phone for stuff like collision/fall damage or throwing large stuff (occur rarely). And I use the Gurps Character Assitant for character creation/NPC design etc.

      Before that, I GMed a long Rolemaster campaign (about 6 years). I had also an interest in learning programming at the time, so I wrote my own utility to look up the multiple tables involved in that wonderful beast of a gaming system. I knew just a bit of Python when I started, I learned a lot about that, and quite a lot about Qt4 and SQL. Fun times.

    • AnarchyDice says:

      Appreciate all the responses, though it sounds like what I’m coding isn’t the most useful thing to a lot of you. Maybe those of you who prep their own stuff might find it useful when you hit writer’s block though to generate random encounter outlines, npcs, or the like to fuel your brain’s free associations.

      What sort of random generators are the most useful to people?

      For reference, I run a weekly in person game of D&D 5e in a homebrew world with lots of map handouts, a big wet-erase hexmap overworld, and terrain pieces for gridless dungeon delving or combat. My players are working their way through some toadmen that are trolling them before they get to meet some rebels hiding in the toadmen’s cave. They just survived a game show, a neverending flood of mud-elementals, and a wipeout-style physical challenge.

  29. dannyobrien says:

    If you’re based in the Bay Area (or thinking of moving out), EFF has a number of job opportunities open at the moment.

    • Reasoner says:

      If you’re a member of the EFF, I’d like to hear what you think of the following handwavey argument against net neutrality: Net neutrality is bad because we want social media companies to be monopolies so they will have incentives to protect their brand and the spare capacity to worry about externalities: To put it another way, if LiveLeak triggers a civil war, that is possibly good for LiveLeak. If Facebook triggers a civil war, that is probably bad for Facebook. And this has a lot to do with the fact that LiveLeak is a small company and Facebook is a big company.

      Background reading:

      Somewhere I read that part of the reason TV news typically does not cater to extremists is because there are just a few really big media companies and they don’t want to offend people.

      • dannyobrien says:

        Do monopolies really care more about their brand, or externalities? The historical communication or media monopolies that I can think of off the top of my head — state telcos, AT&T, Pravda — and the present effective local monopolies like the cable companies, all seemed to have relatively bad reputations, and were notoriously reticent to change their product in response to market (or social) pressure.

        • toastengineer says:

          It’s less that monopolies don’t care, it’s just that once an organization gets that massive, it’s no longer a group of rational living people and is a lot more like a giant machine whose components just so happen to be human.

          There’s a book called Systemantics / The Systems Bible by John Gall; it’s actually pretty remarkable how rarely I see it discussed in circles like these. It’s basically a summing up of a whole bunch of research in to how systems (i.e. companies, governments, projects…) behave in the real world.

          A company the size of AT&T has no-one in control of it; not just in the sense that power is decentralized so that no one person can steer the ship, but even if everyone knows what the organization as a whole is doing will lead do destruction, no-one can actually do anything about it.

          It’s sort of similar to how during the First Opium War, everyone “sugar-coated” their reports to their superiors, and since there were so many necessary levels of indirection between the people doing the fighting and the generals in the capitol, the people in charge of running the war were getting almost totally fabricated reports. “We’re winning every battle, so why the hell do our forces keep falling back?” Gall argues that that’s not a design flaw in that specific system, but an inherent feature of being that massive; the center can’t see what’s going on outside, and the reports from the edges are always going to be so distorted as to be useless.

          I’m not really doing the book justice, but I remember it making a lot of sense at the time I actually was reading it. 😛

        • Reasoner says:

          That’s fair. I’m guessing that the optimal setting to incentivize reputation preservation is probably around “oligopoly”, somewhere between monopoly and perfect competition.

  30. I have two book manuscripts currently webbed for comments.

    Legal Systems Very Different From Ours
    All societies face about the same problems. They solve them in an interesting variety of different ways. They are all grownups, hence their solutions should be taken seriously. The book covers the legal systems of societies ranging from Periclean Athens and Imperial China to modern embedded systems such as the Amish and Romany. One chapter discusses systems of decentralized private law enforcement–what conditions they have to meet to be workable and how some real world systems met those conditions.

    Embedded Economics
    This is a collection of short works of literature, mostly short stories or poems, that contain interesting economic concepts, along with a short essay by me on each. I have not yet written all of the essays. The webbed draft includes most of the works in the form of links to webbed versions but does not include works still under copyright that are not available online.

    Comments on both drafts would be appreciated. For the second, I would also appreciate suggestions for additional works to include. I have a fairly detailed explanation of what I am looking for on my blog.

  31. dvasya says:

    Anyone out there interested in playing Eclipse Phase over the internet? No prior D&D experience but the rulebook and the couple of scenarios that I saw seemed like fun…

    • What mechanism? IRC, video chat, or something in between?

    • Bugmaster says:

      I’ve read the rules for Eclipse Phase recently, and I am finding it difficult to get over the fact that it’s basically “Altered Carbon, the RPG”. I wouldn’t mind if they used the original book for inspiration, but IMO they went further than that, edging dangerously close to plagiarism territory.

      • dvasya says:

        Thanks for the book pointer, added to reading list. Apparently there’s also a 10-episode Netflix series coming up! 🙂

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Eclipse Phase looks very cool but the rules are intimidating.

      I would be down for a game provided sufficient pseudonymity and that people are able to comprehensibly explain the rules during play.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      I’ve played Eclipse Phase via IRC, and have run other RPGs (mostly D&D) via IRC for well over a decade.

      There are a few pitfalls to watch out for, if you do this, which can easily sink your game.

      Before anything else, though, I would advise against running the game if you haven’t a) played some TTRPG(s) before, b) thoroughly familiarized yourself with the Eclipse Phase rules.

      • dvasya says:

        I was hoping someone from the group with either DM or EP play experience would volunteer to run it…

        A while ago I read one of the tutorial scenarios and it did seem like I could maaaaybe pull it off, but it would probably take a group of extremely motivated and forgiving players to make it through :]

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Experience has taught me (regrettably) that “we’re a group of players, who wants to run a game for us” basically never works. Most of the time, it ends up with simply failing to find a GM, which is the less bad outcome. Other times, you do manage to convince someone to GM, but it goes badly, for various reasons:

          1. GM’s new at this and doesn’t really know how / aren’t confident enough.
          2. GM doesn’t really have any plan / campaign/adventure idea / etc.
          3. There’s a problem player (or several), and the GM (because they were asked to GM by the group, rather than forming their own group and selecting players – i.e., because they don’t feel like they’re in charge) doesn’t feel like they can ask the person(s) to leave
          4. The players and the GM don’t know each other well, so both aren’t familiar with each other’s personalities / playstyles, and also are less inclined to be forgiving due to personal affection (as would be the case in a group of friends).
          5. Related to #4: playstyles differ. Expectations differ. Due to inexperience and also to the fact that the whole endeavor was not initiated/driven by the GM, there’s no clear setting/synchronization of expectations, no process of ensuring that playstyles match, etc.

          On top of all of that, running a game online is harder than doing it in person, for many, many reasons. It takes more skill, and it also takes a different approach to some things, to be engaging and rewarding.

          I don’t mean to dissuade you from getting into the hobby — it’s great fun! But do be aware of the pitfalls.

        • Grek says:

          I have run a successful Eclipse Phase campaign before and would tentatively be interested in running a campaign. My preferred campaign format is gatecrashing, as I find that it makes for good, episodic content with natural beginnings and ends for adventures.

          As far as Said Achmiz’s concerns go, they’re entirely on the mark. Which is why I insist on getting campaign expectations written out in advance, and on using a campaign format that I’m already familiar with and have content pre-prepared for.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            It’s interesting that you say gatecrashing is your preferred format!

            When I read about gatecrashing in the EP sourcebooks, my first thought was: “ah, yes, the Stargate campaign style”. And I’ve always thought that SG1 / SGA was an excellent model for a TTRPG campaign (and indeed there was a pretty good SG1 RPG).

            Though I’m not sure I can participate in any game that gets started up (my free time lately is limited), I’d love to hear more about how you structure your EP campaigns.

          • dvasya says:

            Awesome! I haven’t read much about gatecrashing but sure. How many people do you think is a minimum/optimum/maximum for a reasonably quick run?

          • Grek says:

            Gatecrashing, for those unfamiliar with that part of the Eclipse Phase setting, involves the efforts to explore the various extrasolar locations accessible via a set of alien artifacts known as the “Pandora Gates”. Each gate works very much like the Stargate in the Stargate franchise – you ‘dial’ a location, and a portal opens up to the matching gate on the other side. Each gate is located on a different location and has its own unique sequence of alien characters. A gate might open up onto a planet, or a moon, or an asteroid, or inside of a star, or within a nebula or in interstellar space.

            There are multiple gates owned by various Eclipse Phase factions, but the one I prefer for this campaign format is the original Pandora Gate, run by the Titanian Commonwealth, which selects around of a third of their gatecrashing teams via public lottery – the perfect hook for explaining why your character (who might be an inner system capitalist, a infugee from Earth or otherwise entirely unlikely to live anywhere near Titan) would be on the same gatecrashing team with the rest of the player characters. Three teams of 3-5 are sent through on each ‘first in’ mission – a mission where a particular address is opened for the first time. In this campaign, the player characters would constitute one team, while the other two would be NPC competitors, there trying to find the same scientific discoveries, exploitable resources, living specimens and alien artifacts as you, before you can get to them. Each team is given a small crate and are each fitted with a number of sensors to record their explorations. Returning to Pandora with a full crate of samples and the requested volume of sensor data gets you the basic, contractually sponsored reward. Anything noteworthy that you find beyond that gets you a bonus proportional to its value. In particular, Gatekeeper is looking for any of the following: multicellular life; colonizable exoplanets; scientifically interesting physical phenomena (think a gate one star over from a supernova); valuable resources such as helium-3, rare earth metals, radioactives, antimatter or solid state gases; non-intelligent xenobiological samples; and especially any non-human intelligences or artifacts thereof.

            The bare minimum for a run would be one person – a solo campaign where you play a single team member on a larger team. The minimum for a standard adventure would be three, with an optimum at four and a maximum of five before I’d no longer be willing to put up with the inevitable scheduling concerns inherent in that format. Larger campaigns can be done, but the structure is different – google ‘west marches’ for details on how you’d run something like that, then mentally transpose that onto an extrasolar planet. I prefer using roll20 and discord as the shared communication method, and to have weekly sessions.

    • Grek says:

      Absolutely. I’ve run a game before and would love to play in one. Might I recommend Chuck’s Eclipse Phase Wiki as a resource for those who prefer their rulesets in wiki/srd format? Sure, it lacks most of the lovely pictures, but the cross referencing really helps for comprehension.

    • nom-de-clavier says:

      Hi! I would also be interested in taking part, either as a player or (co-)GM. I’ve run a game of Eclipse Phase before at a convention, and also have experience running campaigns in other systems, including running episodic Shadowrun adventures as part of a rotating cast of GMs.
      In terms of practicalities, I am on European time, and currently have full-time commitments, which may be inconvenient. I also have a tendency to be beset by technical difficulties, so my preference would be for a simple and robust online system.
      As for the game itself, I don’t really have any demands as a player. If I were to GM, I’d probably start with the Shadowrun session format of briefing-legwork-action, due to my familiarity with it. I’m aware I tend to be fairly lenient and lighthearted in that position, though, which may not be a great fit for the genre.
      I also have a few personal theories about some of the deeper mysteries of the setting, but those involve significant spoilers.

    • dvasya says:

      So it looks like we have a decent size crowd for an Eclipse Phase campaign! In hindsight I should have posted/collected some contact info but hopefully everyone who expressed their interest would be interested enough to check back :] In the meantime I’ve created a Discord server where we can plan and organize everything – please post your SSC alias if you use a different screen name.

      (for those who haven’t used Discord, you don’t need to install a client, it can just run in a browser tab)

  32. eqdw says:

    Speaking of housing:

    I currently live in Oakland just off of Piedmont Ave., and I will be moving to Mountain View at some point in mid to late September. As such, I need both someone to take over at my old place, and a roommate for my new place. This is all still up in the air and preliminary, since the timeline is fairly long, but:


    1) An (ideal) Single or (acceptable) couple interested in moving in to a place in the Piedmont Ave area of Oakland. This would be split with my current roommate. The house is old, but large, nice, and well-maintained. Landlord is a pretty good dude. Current rent is about ~$3700/mo unless the landlord raises it, presumably split evenly. Street parking only, but you can easily get a permit for it. My roommate is a really nice woman, around age 30, quiet and introverted, kind of nerdy and obsessed with cats. She has a cat, and more cats are welcome. If you’re an easygoing human with your shit together, you’ll get along just fine.

    2) An (ideal) single) or (MAYBE acceptable) couple interested in renting out this new place with me in Mountain View. I will be the primary tenant, and you will be subtenants. House is rather modestly sized, near Monta Loma park in Mountain View. Place was in need of some clean-up and repairs when I went to see it, but the tenant is currently working on completing those and the timeline for move in is dependent on that. Landlord takes a hands-off approach. He doesn’t care what you do as long as the cheques come in, so this house has seem some hackers doing hacker stuff to it. There is a rather large backyard, currently growing various edible things. I have a cat, and more pets are welcome. Cats, or even a dog if said dog is friendly with my cat. Ample street parking + small driveway. There’s a garage but it is currently in use and will probably stay that way. Rent is projected at $3100/mo, though may be raised by the landlord before I move in.

    I know that the long timeline may be inconvenient but I’m hoping that this gives me plenty of time to find someone good and otherwise line up everything well. If anybody is interested in following up on this, please email

  33. Jameson Quinn says:

    I’m a board member of the Center for Election Science (; we’re a 501(c)3 focused on better election methods. We’d love to get more effective altruists working on improving democratic decisionmaking. We think that approval voting is in most cases the best first step to improving single-winner elections, and are thinking rationally about what the best further steps are.

    Things you can do, from low-commitment to high-

    – lurk in a place where these things are discussed: slack, google groups, or reddit. (I’m in all three places, and in the first two under the same real name I’m using here).
    – Participate actively in the above, and in particular help find or meet opportunities for activism and needs for literature design.
    – Volunteer with and/or donate to a related organization. Of course, I’d suggest my org, There are others; principally, FairVote, and its local offshoots. My criticism of those orgs is that they’re too attached to the methods they like — IRV and STV — to be able to see their flaws; but still, there they are.
    – Be or get involved with some other organization that should have a deeper interest in voting methods (any mayor or minor political party; good government organizations like Common Cause or Represent.Us or the League of Women Voters; voting rights organizations such as the Brennan Center; any EA cause that deals directly with politics; etc.) and get your org to consider these issues more deeply.
    – Become a board member of the CES! We’d really love EA board members! We have quarterly formal meetings (2-3 hours); monthly informal ones (1-2 hours, spotty attendance OK); expectations of a couple hours a week spent helping some project; and an expectation of a certain reasonable amount of fundraising (a few thousand $ a year at least).
    – Run for office or start a local initiative campaign. This is, of course, going above and beyond.

    Anybody with any questions about any of this can write me, firstname dot lastname at gmail.

    • yodelyak says:

      Just going to drop the National Popular Vote and the org supporting it as another worthy better-voting org.

  34. Nick says:

    My startup CodeCombat is hiring for two senior engineering roles in San Francisco. Job details and application links here:

    We make a programming game for learning to code and are taking over computer science education. Our engineering team has partial overlap with this community, we’re open source, and we’ve got some fun stuff coming up.

  35. drethelin says:

    If anyone is planning on moving to Madison and wants to pay high-but-not-Bay-Area-High (1600ish for a two bedroom) rents to live in a really cool part of town, AND wants to live next door to me and my awesome roommate, there are multiple units available in my building.

    • Charles F says:

      Already in Madison, but my lease is expiring soon. Would you mind sending the details to cmfrayne at gmail dot com?

  36. Fiona van Dahl says:

    Shout-out to any fellow Arkansas rationalists (hahahahahahahaha *breath* hahahahahahahaha—) and, as usual, a reminder that I write rationalist scifi/horror full of mentally ill people made of needles. Two books and a free web serial are out so far, and I’m just waiting for the next Glitch Mob album to drop before outlining the third.

    I’ve also recently helped complete an online manual on using LSD, paganism, and self-care to work through emotional and mental illness. It’s not yet publicly available (I’m not sure where to put it) but if anyone would like to take a look, contact me through the above website or on Reddit.

  37. wfenza says:

    If anyone is in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area, I’m always interested in socializing with other blog readers. I hosted a meetup for the “SSC Meetups Everywhere” experiment, which went great! But attendance dwindled afterward. There is a Facebook Group for anyone who wants to join.

    I enjoy karaoke, board games, river tubing, swimming, hiking, eating, drinking, and hosting parties. I can be emailed at wfenza at gmail. I’m interested in connecting with anyone close enough for in-person hangouts, and would love to develop more of a community in this area.

  38. mankoff says:

    Hey gang.

    I’ve noticed a massive problem in political discourse all over the place: almost everybody has their own definition for each major economic term. While over-using terms can be reductive and counter-productive, terms can be very helpful for people trying to discuss something very specific without first having to spend an hour arguing about what they’re arguing about!

    So I want to propose some sort of open source, rationalist google sheet (linked here) for major terms (Capitalism, Democracy, Liberalism, Conservatism, etc.). Ideally, we would move toward consensus over time. If the project goes well, we could have it linked on Scott’s blog so for easy access.

    Scott, I hope you could take some time to direct this project, if it picks up steam, in a way that makes it most useful for you and your readers.

    Edit: We could include terms like “racism” that tend to trip people up as well.

    • Matthew S. says:

      I think the likeliest outcome is illustrated here:

      • hnau says:

        Are you sure you don’t mean ?

        • James says:

          I choose to believe that mistake came from Matthew S. having a library of stock XKCD links that he hands out when appropriate, and he accidentally picked the wrong one that time.

          • Charles F says:

            I don’t think it was a mistake. Matthew S. posted the comic that immediately came to mind for me.

      • Reasoner says:

        I actually think this could be pretty good. Arguably the situation we are in is not standards proliferation, it’s lack of even a single standard set of usages (see: motte and bailey).

    • fortaleza84 says:

      For a lot of people, this kind of ambiguity is not a bug, it’s a feature. The old motte and bailey game.

      I think most people who fling around words like “racism” have no interest in a precise definition; a clear definition would expose the weakness of their position.

      • Reasoner says:

        Yes, you will have to start with people willing to argue in good faith… but that’s still starting somewhere.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        People who deliberately use these terms ambiguously are, I think, supposed to overlap very little with SSC people. We prefer specificity, even if we might not be perfect at it ourselves.

        @mankoff: I’m not sure a spreadsheet is the right form for it, but given that I had floated the idea of an SSC lexicon many months ago, gotten positive feedback, and then didn’t pull the trigger on it, I am compelled to concede victory. I have, however, compiled a list of terms over the months. I might end up extending it quite a bit, assuming it fits with your purpose.

  39. shakeddown says:

    I’m starting a job at Google’s San Bruno campus in August, and I’m looking for a place to live somewhere that doesn’t have a crazy commute (unfortunately, Berkeley sounds too far for that). Interested in group/communal housing, or living with roommates.

    If you know of a place that’s available, someone to talk to about this sort of stuff, anyone looking for roommates (with or without a place currently), please contact me. I’d also appreciate any advice about the area, which places are fun/boring/dangerous to live in, things to check out/avoid, or anyone who just wants to meet up for a drink or something.

    I’m arriving in the area August 4, with temporary accommodations for a bit after that (if not specifically prohibited, I may repost this then).

    Contact me at Shaked [dot] Koplewitz at Gmail dot com, or by responding to this comment.

    • mupetblast says:

      “I’m starting a job at Google’s San Bruno campus in August, and I’m looking for a place to live somewhere that doesn’t have a crazy commute (unfortunately, Berkeley sounds too far for that)…”

      Nah, you’ve got it good. There’s BART in Berkeley and in San Bruno. And you know what, I bet you Google provides a shuttle to the station that’s about a 20 minute walk to the campus.

      I commute from Oakland to Mountain View by car. Close to two hours each way. Consider yourself lucky to work in the new Silicon Valley. Seems lowlier contract types like myself get shunted to the old one.

  40. susae says:

    So I’m about to freeze some (human) eggs. Depending very much on how it goes, I may be looking for an infertile or gay couple who are trying to reproduce to test 4-6 of them to see if they work. I have no reason to think there are any issues with the eggs, but some issues are not apparent until fertilization and I’d rather know now than later when I can’t do anything about it. You would have to be willing to disclose info about how the eggs fertilize, embryo development, and whether or not a live baby resulted. Eggs would be free (medical treatment needed to use eggs would not be). I am in good health and have completed all the FDA testing an egg donor would go through, including genetic carrier testing. Expected chance of pregnancy with the above # of eggs would be less than 50%.

  41. Well... says:

    One of my newer hobbies is finding people who look like other people. (Right now it’s mostly limited to public figures or historic figures of one kind or another.) What I’ll do is get pictures of the lookalikes next to each other on my screen and then do a screengrab. I have a folder on my computer where I put these, and a spreadsheet where I keep track of what I’ve got. Currently my folder contains something like 40 lookalike pairs. I don’t add to it religiously, but my general pattern has been about one pair added per week on average, though I tend to add them in fits and starts.

    I’m thinking of starting a blog, or a Twitter handle, or an Instagram page, or something, where I post these out on some kind of regular basis. Maybe with some clever remark accompanying each one, like they do at Two questions though:

    1. So far when I’ve told people in meatspace about this idea, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and excited. How do y’all SSC people feel about it? Would you follow/check in regularly with something like that?

    2. Which platform should I use? My goal is to reach enough people so that eventually people are submitting their own pairings, or submitting photos of themselves which I then go and find pairings for, etc. I’m not resolutely against using social media for this, but the idea of using social media does make my stomach knot up a bit.

    • Charles F says:

      Sounds kind of boring to me. I wouldn’t follow it.

    • mobile says:

      This kind of thing was the original use case for tumblr.

    • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

      I think this would be a moderately amusing subreddit, and I would subscribe to it (especially with some kind of witty narrative regarding the people pictured, e.g. their hypothetical n-th degree relationships or convoluted conspiracy theories that they’re the same person).

      • Well... says:

        Dang, I just appreciate the way similar facial structures/features pop up in our species among people who aren’t closely related. Coming up with convoluted conspiracy theories seems like a whole other thing.

    • BeefSnakStikR says:

      For public figures it already exists as and

      Not sure how you’d encourage people to do it with photos of themselves and their friends. I’ve never been successful in the few tumblrs where I’ve encouraged people to send things in.

      It’d probably be better as a segment of something more substantive, like the end of a magazine or something, where people send it in to you.

      • Well... says:

        The memebase ones are mostly throwaways…I browsed through the first 3 pages and I saw maybe 2 or 3 where I thought “Yeah, those two do really look a lot alike.”

        The Reddit page was slightly better but also included throwaways, and each one has to be opened in its own tab/window (unless I just don’t understand how to use the site). Plus it’s already something embedded within Reddit, and (at least if I’m typical) it’s unlikely that people would go visit that page regularly if they weren’t already Reddit users.

        So, while the basic idea already exists, my proposal would seem to be an improvement on those two.

  42. VK says:

    I’m looking for a job in software, either remote or in Halifax, NS!

    I recently finished my undergrad degree in CS and Engineering Physics at Cornell. I have experience with project teams (designing and building a Mars rover, designing a Hyperloop vehicle), with research (particle accelerators, quantitative biophysics), and with some independent projects (simple Android apps, Pandemic board game AI).

    I’m not too picky, but I would prefer to work at a smaller company or startup.

    Email me at vk274 [at] cornell [dot] edu if you’re hiring a junior developer (or equivalent), or know of an open position in your company.

  43. toastengineer says:

    I’m working on a relatively hardcore computer programming based puzzle game, and I suspect there’s some intersection between the set of people who hang out here and the set of people who enjoy video games that require you to do things people normally get paid $80k/year to do.

    It’s very much not a “learn to code game;” I’ve made some concessions towards that audience, but the puzzles really do assume familiarity with the idea of computer programming, and rewards a “hacker mindset” very heavily. Later levels take me about an hour to solve.

    Find it here:

    The premise is that you’re an AI navigating a virtual world with the ultimate goal of killing an evil alternate-universe version of Guido Van Rossum; you interact with this world both physically through ASCII-art graphics and with a Python REPL that gives you direct access to a subset of the game objects that are currently in the level.

    It’s not 100% done yet; a library I was relying on turned out to be really terrible and I’ve set upon rewriting that library from the ground up, which has blocked out progress on the game itself. It’s polished enough that you probably won’t notice unless you run in to one of the bugs said library’s inadequacies cause.

    • Charles F says:

      Looking forward to trying this. Thanks for sharing.

    • Peffern says:

      I really really like this style of game, and I really really hate that they always seem to be JS / Python. If something like this existed in, say, Scala, I would be hurling my wallet at the screen right now.

      • toastengineer says:

        Why, if I may ask?

        Scala has actually been on my “pay attention to this next” list for a while. This isn’t a dig at it whatsoever, but what’s so amazing about it that renders working in Python of all things un-fun in comparison?

        (The game is also freeware, if that has any bearing on your opinion of it.)

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          In my experience, Python programmers tend to drastically overestimate the extent to which Python is a joy to program in. (Source: Have worked professionally in Python for the last three years).

          It’s fine, don’t get me wrong. Nothing about Python is awful. But I tend to see the “Oh my god, it’s such a great language to use” attitude as either a personal idiosyncrasy or evidence of a narrow exposure to languages.

          Nice things about Python:

          The way they handle function parameters, with the mix of named and positional parameters, is great. Every language should do it exactly like that unless there are unique things about the language that makes it impossible.

          First class function objects are nice.

          Not nice things about Python:

          The import system is annoying.

          The object orientation features are amazingly tacked on and bad.

          Stop making people preface variables with underscores, what are you, monsters? Especially stop making a meaningful semantic difference between _foo and __foo. You idiots.

          List/dict comprehensions are less powerful and more annoying than just a full-featured support of map/reduce/filter. Sometimes they’re semantically tidy, but they suck oxygen from the room for real full-strength map/reduce/filter.

          The “pythonic” way to do things is often a bad way to do things, and because the kool-aid is deep in the community, you usually can’t do things the better way. In particular, way more expressions need to return values. It’s criminal that you can’t update a dict and return the dict in one expression.

          The general hate for functional features is dumb and misplaced.

          In general, Python seems to feel a pathological need to pretend that it’s a way stricter language than it is. I mean, it’s a duck-typed language that offers no strong protection for privacy. So why am I constantly writing ten different fussy type-checks for various trivial values, or differentiating between a dict returning a key of None and a dict not having a key? When I write Ruby, it goes out of its way to make it easy for me to collapse trivial value cases, to let me write powerful code in few lines. When I write Java, I spend a lot of time on fussy bullshit, but in the end I’ve got something that I know can be used only exactly the way I want it to be used. With Python, I feel like I have the worst of both worlds. All the fussyness of Java without really any more safety than Ruby.

          So, that’s one set of reasons why people might want some non-Python languages, or might find Python un-fun.

          • toastengineer says:

            Yeah, it seems like “oh, but it doesn’t have proper type checking” is a common objection to Python, which led the Python community to start saying “we totally do have strong typing guys, look!,” which is probably what led to all those “all the fussiness of…” issues.

            I’m not sure about “hatred of functional features,” but I’ve only skimmed the very surface of functional programming so there’s definitely stuff I’m missing out on. I think most of that is just Guido succumbing to George Lucas Syndrome, I haven’t seen anti-functional bias anywhere else in the Python-sphere.

            I’ve definitely run in to a lot of situations where I said “this is the perfect application for a comprehension- oh, nope, can’t do that, never mind.”

            I can sorta see where you’re coming from with all that, yeah. I chose Python mainly because (aside from it being the language I knew best at the time) it has an REPL class in the standard library and its introspection features are handy for this sort of thing.

          • Bugmaster says:

            The object orientation features are amazingly tacked on and bad.

            Agreed, this is the #1 thing I absolutely hate about Python. I like the first-class functions and the functional programming aspects in general, but come on — if you’re going to make a duck-typed language, just give up on OO altogether, stop trying to shoehorn it in, because it will never work.

          • diabolo.dan says:

            I find your list of good bad points very strange with regards to python.

            For context, I’ve been programming professionally for over 4 years, mostly in Python, but with about a year predominantly in Erlang. I’m also quite excited to be moving to a project where I’ll be working in Scala imminently. I did a bit of Scala in uni, and remember it being a bit messy, with too many ways to do the same thing, so it’s not at the top of my list of languages I want to try, but I’m hoping the developers will be a bit more FP oriented.

            Nice things about Python:

            The way they handle function parameters, with the mix of named and positional parameters, is great. Every language should do it exactly like that unless there are unique things about the language that makes it impossible.

            This is one of the things I like the least about python. The ability for call sites to dynamically mix named and positional arguments without regard to the function definition makes it impossible to work out the basic arg spec without looking at the function definition. *args and **kwargs are useful constructs for increasing the flexibility of function wrappers, but they are often used too much, and can lead to deeply nested function calls that you need to fully descend in order to work out what arguments you need when calling a function.

            First class function objects are nice.


            Not nice things about Python:

            The import system is annoying.

            I don’t understand this complaint. I’ve don’t think I’ve had an issue with the import system, and it doesn’t seem that dissimilar to many other languages. Could you be a bit more specific in the problem you have with it?

            The object orientation features are amazingly tacked on and bad.

            I find the OO to be fairly natural, and well integrated, and most of the code I’ve seen in python has been primarily object oriented. The object model seems very consistent to me, whilst giving a lot of power to manipulate it.

            Stop making people preface variables with underscores, what are you, monsters? Especially stop making a meaningful semantic difference between _foo and __foo. You idiots.

            Nobodies making you do anything. I agree that the semantic difference for 2 underscores is a bit inconsistent, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen anyone use it, and an underscore seems like a reasonable convention to indicate that an attribute is intended to be private.

            List/dict comprehensions are less powerful and more annoying than just a full-featured support of map/reduce/filter. Sometimes they’re semantically tidy, but they suck oxygen from the room for real full-strength map/reduce/filter.

            I find list comprehensions to be much more readable than the function application alternatives. Erlang’s are better than python’s, but you can still do most things with the python one. What do you want to do that you find you can’t with list comprehensions?

            The “pythonic” way to do things is often a bad way to do things, and because the kool-aid is deep in the community, you usually can’t do things the better way. In particular, way more expressions need to return values. It’s criminal that you can’t update a dict and return the dict in one expression.

            I certainly remember getting annoyed with not being able to chain methods which could have supported it. I guess I’ve got used to it by now. When I write/use things I tend to feel that callables should either mutate state, or return something, rather than do both to avoid confusion.

            I also think that most of the time the pythonic way of doing things is better than the commonly encountered alternatives.

            Maybe I’ve just been indoctrinated though, I can’t discount that possibility.

            The general hate for functional features is dumb and misplaced.

            My experience of working with developers who a non-python background(in python) is that they are more adverse to functional programming styles. I also find it strange that you criticize list comprehensions when they are a very functional feature. To be honest, I’m not really sure what “functional features” you want? To me, the most important aspects of functional programming are either supported, or fundamentally incompatible with python.

            Anyway, if you could expand on some of those points I’d greatly appreciate it. I suspect that some of them are differences of opinion/experience that will be difficult to reconcile, but we both seem to be on the functional programming preference side, so hopefully you can enlighten me as to what I’m missing in python.

          • diabolo.dan says:

            differentiating between a dict returning a key of None and a dict not having a key?

            One last point that I missed. These seem like very different cases to me. I’d question the merit of populating a dictionary with None’s, but if that seems like a good idea, then you should definitely want to differentiate on the lookup.

            If you’re really sure that you don’t, then you can always use .get(), which will do what you want, or use a defaultdict if you’re never going to care (but then that seems like a definite code smell). Or if none of those offer exactly what you want, you can write your own dictionary implementation quite easily.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Hi Dan:

            I’m not going to get deep into a back-and-forth about the language here. You’ve been programming professionally for about four years, predominantly in Python, but also in The Language With The Worst Syntax In The World (Erlang). That’s generally the kind of experience that I find that people who think Python is super great to have. (For comparison, I’ve been programming professionally for 18 years, in Java, JavaScript, Ruby, Python, PHP, VBasic (back in the day), and a variety of other languages sprinkled around with much less experience).

            Again, nothing about Python is awful. It wouldn’t have become as popular as it was if it were eye-bleedingly terrible, or that you couldn’t work around. The problems I have with it are kind of minor annoyances that grate on me for a while.

        • Peffern says:

          I dislike the “script” style of languages such as JS, Python, and Lua. I prefer working in languages with more structure and more verbosity. I’m apparently the only person in the world who prefers Java but I also like Haskell for the same reason. I picked Scala because it was on my mind and is awesome.

          Also, I saw it was freeware, and will probably still play it, I just wanted to say a Scala equivalent would be worth spending money on.

    • Catlick says:

      Thanks for sharing! Played the first ten or so levels — it’s been engaging so far.

    • microkelvin says:

      Thanks for sharing, I think it’s very well done. Played though this evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. And when you get frustrated, ideas for how to “cheat” come more naturally. I feel like I rarely completed the harder levels the way I was supposed to, but that actually made it more satisfying. The graphics were also great, I loved the mix of ASCII with effects.

      Only negative that comes to mind was rewriting code in the REPL, especially when you realize you need to make just a small change in a 4 line function. I don’t know if a clipboard would fit the game style, but maybe even just vi/emacs cursor navigation keybindings as an option would make it work out OK (I definitely missed having a kill ring).

      • Catlick says:

        Agree completely with your second paragraph. That was the one real annoyance for me as I played.

      • toastengineer says:

        Yup, that’s coming; that’s one of the features I can’t add because the terminal emulator library is so messed up.

        You _can_ write your code in Notepad++ or something and copy/paste to and from INJECTION; doing so makes the console go a little crazy (due to aforementioned library bugs) but it works correctly. CTRL+V will paste the text in your clipboard to the console.

  44. anthonynaguirre says:

    Metaculus, the premiere crowdsourced prediction platform for people who are comfortable with their cognitive biases and who aren’t afraid of probability distributions and equations, is looking to hire.

    With a mature platform and good track record in place, we’re looking for someone technical-minded, social media savvy, future-oriented, smart, and driven to help us build the community of predictors and the profile of the platform.

    – Undergrad (virtually required) or masters-level (would be nice) in a scientific or technological field
    – Good understanding of social media and relevant online communities, regular consumer or producer of science/tech stories
    – Excellent writing and logical skills
    – Standing interest in prediction or prediction markets (desirable)
    – Metaculus score of 100 or more (big bonus point)

    – Remote work required
    – Part-to-full time, rate-dependent (e.g. ~$25/hr full-time up to ~$50/hr half-time, qualification-dependent.)
    – Potential for growth into higher-level position

    Interested applicants please send a cover note and cv to

  45. WashedOut says:

    Hi SSC. My side-project is making musical soundtracks for documentaries, video games and short films.

    If your game, short film or visual art project needs music, soundscapes or field recordings, hit me up at the below email address.



  46. dentonzh says:

    I built my website, OpenCourser, to help learners find online courses to take. If you’re in the mood to learn something, give it a spin.

    I’m still making improvements to the site. Any feedback you have would be much welcome. Thanks!

  47. modularform says:

    Very specific request to either a mathematician, grad student or knowledgeable person in Analytic Number Theory. My current summer project is to learn about Modular Forms, but my university adviser is slow with emails and such, so I am pretty much by myself for figuring out the everyday questions that show up. I am looking for a “mentor” who has enough free time and interest to answer questions, indicate relevant papers or just share knowledge they consider interesting or important. Currently I am reading Sarnak’s “Some Applications of Modular Forms”.

    I see that this is not the best place to find someone fitting this description but I feel like it would be a good personality match to connect with someone who both reads SSC and is interested in the same kind of maths as I am – and if you fit the description you may find the connection interesting as well -, so I might as well try.

    Reach me at helpmewithmodularforms[at]gmail[dot]com

  48. Reasoner says:

    Speaking from experience, I doubt that proximity to other rationalist houses is the key factor. My guess is that willingness to throw parties (or norms about inviting oneself over) are more important. I would be interested to see what happened in Berkeley if a bunch of rationalist extraverts got together in the same house and made their living room the designated Berkeley rationalist hangout spot, where rationalists were welcome to drop by at any time. (Actually, I guess this might cause harmful competition with the common area in the CFAR office if they are trying to do the same thing?)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      There are some parties and designated hangout areas in Berkeley. If you’re in the area and feel like you’re missing this, contact me and I’ll try to connect you with people who know where/when they are.

  49. FF says:

    Pretty long shot, but…I’m moving to the Brussel/Ghent area in Aug/Sept/Oct to work as a researcher on my own project (in academia, not industry). I work in logic and on other things of interest to the rationalist community.

    I’m looking for a room or to share a flat in a like-minded household. I’m in my mid-to-late 20s.

    To get in touch, rot13 my email:

  50. jbombastor says:

    I have just completed (my first ever) computer game: Invasion.

    It’s available from and the description on that page reads:

    You will assume command of a ground-mounted cannon and repel invaders from space as they descend on our planet in hordes. Does that situation sound familiar, soldier? Well it’s not. Not like this.

    I urge everyone to buy it who guiltily likes it when old childhood nostalgia gets remade with big flashy modern graphics.

  51. jbombastor says:

    I also ought to use this thread to plug my writing site Final Deadline, which uses modern tools to help writers finish their books – an activity which has a famously low retention rate when attempted using traditional means. We also have a (completely optional) workshop where writers can show their work for feedback and criticism.

    Also, in the interests of dogfooding, I wrote a short story exploring a new form of democracy. If that kind of thing interests anyone here (it seems the sort of thing that would) I’d much appreciate any feedback on the idea, as well as my writing style. You can read it here.

    There are other improvements coming to that site as soon as I get time. If anyone has any comments or feature requests, I’m keen to hear them. (I realise that last time I posted about this, I assumed after a day or two that no one one read that far into the thread, so I stopped checking. If you commented and I ignored you then I apologise profusely. I have now turned on email alerts and so hopefully it won’t happen again.)

  52. Jessica says:

    Front End HTML & CSS Specialist

    I’m a front end contractor and I looooove CSS. You’re a programmer who loves things that iterate and hates struggles with would rather sub-contract CSS build.

    I read CSS Tricks every day. I am up to date with best practices and new technologies. I write structured, semantic, accessible HTML and readable, sensible, graceful CSS. I name things really well. I’m also quick af. I can submit a pull request or just send you a file.

    Rate is very much negotiable but in the £30/$40/€40 an hour range. Timezone: London/Lisbon.

  53. ricraz says:

    Hi, I’m a recent uni graduate, longtime SSC/LessWrong lurker and EA. I’ll be travelling around Israel for the first two weeks of August, before starting a masters in machine learning. Things I’d be grateful for:
    invitations to events or meetups based around any of the things mentioned above, as well as tech/entrepreneurship stuff
    introductions to cool people; would love to grab a coffee or meal with anyone interested
    a couch/floor to sleep on for a few nights
    miscellaneous advice about how to properly experience Israel
    Flick me a message at rmcn94 at gmail dot com

    • Eli says:

      Check the FB group for LW Tel-Aviv. They’ve got a great board-games night and informative talks on alternating two-week bases!

  54. dronegoddess says:

    >prices are terrible

    I’ve heard apartment prices are terrible, but $1100/month to live in a house with compatible roommates in an area with lots of very well-paying tech jobs doesn’t sound bad at all. (Unfortunately I do not have a job on that side of the country and I’m probably not rationalist enough for y’all anyway. I haven’t even read the Sequences! The full extent of my rationalism is that I’m a liberal atheist who likes SSC, knows how to program, dislikes hardcore SJWs, thinks AI risk is probably worth worrying about, and generally thinks Less Wrong is neat. Also, free speech is pretty cool.)

    • Incurian says:

      Austin is a good alternative.

      • SEE says:

        The core problem being, how do you convince an established group of rationalists to collectively move somewhere with a much lower cost of living, when they have the opportunity to live somewhere with major earthquake risks?

  55. Elphrygian says:

    ‘allo. Long-time lurker here, figuring I’d finally go about poking my head in to elicit some suggestions.

    I’m looking for good books that don’t rely too heavily on dense mathematics (say, popular science-esque) to explain modern physics. I have a fairly good grasp of Newtonian physics, but most material I’ve found on anything thereafter has either been heavily steeped in complex mathematics (beyond the level my minor in the subject educated me in) or just generally didn’t seem to do that good of a job explaining the material. I tried some of the pieces on LW, but couldn’t quite articulate some of the issues I had with them.

    Do you folks have any recommendations for such things? I’d rather like to get my working knowledge of the universe at least a century or two ahead of where I have it now.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      Are you interested only in straight physics? I know a book on astrophysics I really liked – Black Holes and Time Warps – which is somewhere between “understanding black holes” and “history of how we figured them out.” It’s definitely popular science and very low on math – I found it very fun, but I really enjoy that kind of historical perspective. Probably not exactly what you’re looking for, but I figured it might be close enough to be worth mentioning.

      Good luck!

      • Elphrygian says:

        I will happily take anything! I don’t have a particular end goal; I just sort of realized my general curiosity about things that weren’t music theory had waned and felt some sort of intellectual guilt. I will take a look at this suggestion. Thank you!

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      If you are interested in quantum mechanics you should check out “Six Quantum Pieces” by Valerio Scarani. It’s short, written for a high school audience, and (unlike any popularization and a good many textbooks) will actually teach you what quantum mechanics is about. If I remember correctly it assumes you know basic linear algebra (vectors, matrices, etc.), which I imagine would be covered by a math minor. If this ends up being too mathy, my only suggestion would be that maybe you’re doing things out of order and should work on getting some math down first.

      • Elphrygian says:

        Excellent! Fortunately I do enough graphical programming that most of that sort of thing is fairly second nature to me; my knowledge just tends to hit a wall beyond that (there’s a level of abstraction in mathematics that just sort of.. squishes my brain). I’m adding that one to the list, too. Thanks!

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      I really like Gamow’s books (Mr Tompkins series) for totally non mathsy explanations of ideas – very good fun to read.

    • US says:

      I have read half a dozen or so of the physics books included in the Very Short Introductions… series by Oxford University Press this year, and I’ve basically enjoyed all of them, though some were of course better than others. If you’re curious what’s covered in those books here are a few links to my blog coverage of the books, which include quotes from the books as well as some links to the sort of topics covered:

      The Laws of Thermodynamics.
      Particle Physics.
      Nuclear Physics.

      Incidentally if you’re willing to explore non-written sources as well you should definitely know about the existence of the Sixty Symbols youtube channel. Most of these videos are short videos where physicists from the University of Nottingham talk about a given topic in a manner that most people should be able to follow. The main guy behind the channel – a guy who is not a physicist – is usually there with them, conversing with them and asking them all those stupid questions the viewers would have liked to be able to ask them.

    • rlms says:

      You might like Roger Penrose’s The Road To Reality.

  56. Lyle_Cantor says:

    I published an essay about Ethereum token sales recently:

    Also an article on what I think would be an improvement on epistocracy:

  57. vivienneraper says:

    – Could there have been life on Venus?
    – Could we use gravity waves to power a spacecraft?
    – How plausible is a zombie pandemic?

    Futures Less Travelled is a woefully-underupdated blog where I interview scientists about the science behind science fiction.

    I’d love to know the blog had some eyeballs – not least because it would spur me into writing more articles!


    I’m also a freelance science journalist, copywriter and editor based in the UK.

    My specialist skill is translating complex scientific ideas into simple, compelling copy. I write website text, feature articles, thought leader pieces, brochures – you name it, I’ve done it. I’ve done a fair bit of work for biotech startups, medical device companies, and so on.

    If you’re a magazine or website looking to commission an enthusiastic science writer, please get in touch!

    Contact me via my website (now slightly outdated)

    • Well... says:

      Cool, I’ll be checking this out.

      Have you heard of/do you read If so I’m curious A) what you think and B) how you’d describe your website as being different (not that it isn’t–it obviously is, very–I just want your perspective).

    • The Red Foliot says:

      Both of these look like excellent resources for writers, I will definitely be checking them out.

  58. Rebecca Friedman says:

    OK! Time for me to post something again! Let’s see what happens when it’s not at the absolute bottom of the comment thread. (Crossing my fingers on that, anyway.)

    I am a freelance editor specializing primarily in fantasy and science fiction, but good for most types of fiction (the more of a genre I’ve read, the better I am; no sex scenes please, I’d be utterly useless, and I don’t read mysteries by desperately trying to solve them ahead of the detective, so I can critique all other aspects of your mystery but not that one; that said, I have no problems at all with stuff that doesn’t quite fit in any genre, or is generally strange – I enjoyed Unsong) and occasionally interesting non-fiction. My previous work includes fantasy, light romance, the variety of not-quite-fantasy where the geography and history are invented but no magic is present, superheroes, urban fantasy (you may be noticing a pattern here), military sci-fi, mysteries (usually fantasy mysteries), and “interesting nonfiction” (mostly my father’s books, that’s how I got started). Not all of this is published, but for some representative samples: Harald (see note about how I got started), Cantata (a really early one which I firmly recommend on its own merits), and Curveball (web serial superhero fiction, some of the editing I have done is in visible comments, though not all).

    My own website is here. My prices are, according to my advisers, unreasonably low, but it seemed like a good idea while I work on developing a clientele. (I might be better at editing than marketing.) I realize random online people may not be the most credible, so I have an offer to do five pages free, so you can get an idea of what you’re gonna be paying for: worst-case scenario, you still have the five pages. Contact info is on the website!

    Now, at the moment there’s one little caveat – this is my summer vacation, I am actually posting this from a moving car. Internet and computer access are currently present but unreliable; in about a week that goes to “completely not present” and stays that way for two weeks. So uh… if you want an editor to get a long novel back to you fast, I may not be your best choice. Unless you want it in about a month, that might be more doable.

  59. spandrel says:

    Back when I was young and agile minded, I wrote a high minded literary novel. It sat under my desk for a decade, but the advent of low-risk (ie, no money up front) self publishing inspired me to make it available in paperback and ebook formats. It may be of interest to SSC because my goal in writing it was to tell a somewhat Romantic (in the sense of emotionally heroic) story from the perspective of a highly rational narrator. In the end I maybe reconcile reason and impulse, or maybe not, but either way I’d be delighted if anyone that wasn’t my brother read it.

    PS. It’s $8, sorry about that, but I only clear $0.49/copy. Also, because I make a living publishing policy papers that people are always googling via my name, I’ve used a one-time pseudonym that isn’t even an approximate anagram of my real name.

  60. J Mann says:

    I’d like to endorse Language Transfer’s Complete Spanish audio course. It’s totally free and it’s led to a break through in my Spanish (from incompetent to barely competent). High school Spanish, Duolingo, various purchased and library audio courses – this was the one where it finally clicked.

    I still use Duolingo to drill, but Complete Spanish was great for understanding basic concepts, practicing pronunciation and generally getting me to the point where I can more or less communicate in written Spanish. They have other courses, which are probably also good.

  61. Qiaochu Yuan says:

    I offer math tutoring at a reasonable hourly rate. I’m a math grad student at UC Berkeley and have spent a lot of time explaining math on the internet.

    Subjects I’ve tutored in the past include linear algebra, group theory, representation theory, homological algebra, ring theory, and more linear algebra. I’m also happy to go in a more applied direction; e.g. the technical details behind neural networks, or Bitcoin. There’s a lot of math out there, and if you’d like to know some of it for some reason, we should talk.

    Rot13 for email (someone did this upthread and I like it): dpuh@zngu.orexryrl.rqh

  62. bgaesop says:

    My newest boardgame, Cultists of Cthulhu, is available (and on sale!) now, and has a nice Slate Star Codex homage in it:

  63. mquander says:

    I’m a Bay Area programmer with 10-15 years of experience doing a wide variety of work, including web frontends, web backends, desktop C# software for beer distributors, and most recently all parts of a cross-platform VR MMO. The startup I’m working at has run out of money so I’m on the market for something new to work on. Some desiderata are VR/game programming, rationalist culture, flat management, working on something that has a short feedback loop between me and who benefits, and high-quality programming culture (e.g. nice languages and tooling and attention to detail.)

    Email is if you have anything!

  64. James Miller says:

    My young son, who often reads SSC, has a YouTube channel. It’s videos of him playing Geometry Dash. I really don’t understand why children like watching other children play video games.

    I just added a video to one of my YouTube channels called Basic Financial Advice.

    • Aapje says:

      I really don’t understand why children like watching other children play video games.

      It’s like hanging out, except without direct interaction. Seems like something that people with autism SSC readers should understand.

  65. sinesalvatorem says:

    Gah, I keep missing these when they first show up. I hope this gets seen more than the last attempt, though I’m really not doing myself any favours being two days late. Here’s my ad, as I last posted it:

    I am Sine Salvatorem from Tumblr and, while I rarely comment here, I’ve met Scott a few times, been linked in his links posts four times (that I recall), have read every post on this blog, attended meetups, and generally kept up with SSC. I also have a blog that random people at parties recognise me from, so that’s nice.

    This is sort of a personals ad, but not a very date-y one. I just really really like hanging out with new people; ideally one-on-one. The degree to which meeting people to spend time with is quality-of-life improving for me is pretty huge, so I’m willing to go out of my way to do so, if anyone in the SF Bay Area would like to meet up with me (I can mostly transport myself).

    I am open to hanging out with pretty much anyone in a wide variety of settings. Thus far, I’ve found cafes, restaurants, and individual people’s houses to be the nicest sensory environments. I’m OK with having long winded conversations about abstruse topics or with coworking most of the time and not really saying much. I am also cool with actually going on dates with people who want to do going-on-dates, but it should be noted that I’m a lesbian.

    If you are at all interested in hanging out with a random blogger individually, please feel free to contact me! I am actually super open to being contacted and it’s hard to mess up when saying hello to me. I can be contacted via:
    -Tumblr as sinesalvatorem
    -Facebook as Alison St
    -Email as alison[dot]streete[at]
    -OkCupid as sinesalvatorem

  66. christhenottopher says:

    I’m currently interested in learning languages other than my native one (Spanish and French in that order at the moment, potentially others if I can find effective ways to learn those), and I am curious what methods, besides moving to another country where that language is the norm, have been effective with people? I do use free services (Duolingo in particular) but I would considered paid ones if there was some evidence for higher effectiveness. So for people who have learned other languages as adults, what has been effective for you in gaining fluency? I was a bit torn whether this should go here or in an open thread, but I also figure this is the thread where if someone wants to try and advertise their language learning services they can do so without violating any comment section norms.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Well I have been using LingQ to learn Dutch, and I seem to be getting better at understanding it, even if I’m not really getting any practice speaking yet. I also seem to get some mileage out of Anki (which I think is only a paid app if you’re using an iPhone, and free otherwise) to learn flashcards made according to the methods recommended in Fluent Forever for learning Portuguese (I kind of wanted to a/b those two systems of learning, since they’re quite different, hence using them for different languages).

      Though in my experience, becoming romantically involved with someone who doesn’t really speak English seems to be the most powerful factor in getting to …well, I wouldn’t say fluency yet, but somewhere not far off. Depending on your personal circumstances, and the average English skills of native speakers of the language you’re after, this may be more or less of a challenge to engineer 🙂

    • Anatoly says:

      1. There’s a huge language learning community out there – blogs, podcasts, apps, sites about commercial and free methods, polyglot conferences, etc. etc. Easy to spend too much time on meta-learning and too little on learning (I’m speaking from experience). Still, I’ll recommend one forum: (and its older incarnation, from which the community migrated due to technical problems but the archives are still valuable for discussions and useful links). It’s got a large number of friendly people who are really into learning languages.

      2. I’m a fan of Glossika, which recently carried me to lower-intermediate level in French after many years of failed half-hearted attempts to learn with other methods. What you buy there is basically a package of 3000 curated sentences, with high-quality native speed audio in English and target language, and PDFs with the sentences and phonetic transcriptions. They give you some ideas about how to study, but otherwise that’s it – no organized lessons, no grammar, etc. Studying these sentences is a fantastic way to get beyond the hurdle of “I can’t even break down fluent native speech into words” where so many people get stuck. I can give more details about how I studied those if anyone’s interested.

      3. I also recommend italki as a really inexpensive platform to get Skype (or other video platform, they’re agnostic) lessons with native speaker teachers. The prices are usually much lower than face-to-face lessons in wherever you’re living, because many teachers live in low-cost-of-living countries. I used Italki lessons to help me with and reinforce studying w/ Glossika. It’s also possible to use the site for free community features, like finding mutually beneficial language lessons with other learners, or writing diary entries in target language and have native speakers correct them for free.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Hot damn, that Glossika product is expensive. Still, it does contain some languages I am interested in having a go at that LingQ doesn’t have. Can anyone else vouch for it as being worth the money?

        Also, they seem to offer a bulk discount on buying several languages, but looking into it, it seems that what you get is a package where they say the sentence in your native language, then each of your target languages in turn, rather than just selling you the separate native-to-target languages for each one. Surely that’s got to be confusing and counter to keeping a separation between languages in your brain?

  67. johnswentworth says:

    If you’re a front-end/full-stack developer in the bay area with a bit of experience, the startup I work for is hiring! It’s a strong 10-person group, and I’d love to get more rationalist-sphere people in there. We’re a mortgage company, which I promise is more interesting than it sounds.

    Official description here:

    If you respond to this with some sort of identifier, I can make sure your resume starts at the top of the stack rather than the bottom.

  68. keshet36 says:

    Hi! I’m a early twenties woman interested in friendship and or dating with SSC readers of any gender in/around SF. For dating, I prefer under 35, interested or at least not opposed to marriage/children (not within next few years), some level of physical fitness. I’m fairly attractive but have a noticeable physical disability (doesn’t affect mobility/work, non heritable). Happy to send pictures or okc username. I like hikes/urban walks, cooking, reading, and dance.

    • shakeddown says:

      What type of dance? And where in the area has good dancing?

      • If you are in the South Bay and interested in Renassance dancing, there’s a weekly practice that my wife and daughter attend.

        • shakeddown says:

          That sounds interesting, got a link to details? (Google is not being helpful)

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            I bet it isn’t.

            Hi! I’m the daughter. Our practice is the SCA local dance practice – Society for Creative Anachronism, we do recreation of various medieval arts, sciences and activities (like hitting each other with swords: real armor, real fighting, fake weapons – that’s probably what we’re best known for). Our local group is very strong on renaissance dance (and music, but that’s a different weekly event) and has a practice on Wednesday every week. It goes back and forth between a San Jose location and a Menlo Park location (two different people’s homes) so more people can get there – San Jose is 2nd and 4th Wednesday, Menlo Park is 1st, 3rd and (when it happens) 5th. We do a bunch of genres – 16th-century Italian, which is very precise and elegant and has lots of small fiddly steps and also patterns and is my absolute favorite, English Country which mostly consists of a lot of patterns, sometimes very complex, and simple steps (it’s the ancestor of square-dancing and contra), 15th-century Italian which has slower, more graceful steps and simpler patterns, and then bransles which are circle-dances with pretty simple but extant footwork and… I should stop explaining it and tell you how to find it. There’s a group on Facebook called “West Kingdom College of Dance and Music” – tell them Rebecca sent you? If you don’t do facebook, email me at rebeccaanne3 (at) gmail, and I’ll find you the info. (Not sure I should post people’s addresses randomly on the internet, even somewhere very nice like this.)

            There’s also Friday Night Waltz in Palo Alto if you want something a bit more recent. ( About 3 hours of straight dancing, at least if you know all the types (various ballroom), with optional beginner & advanced lessons beforehand. That one has a cover charge; we don’t. It’s also very large, they rent a church. I’ve only gone a few times, but if you’re looking for dance in general, figured I’d tell you it was there.

            Good luck, have fun, ask me if you have any more questions! And thanks, Dad! <3

    • ffp says:

      How can people contact you?

    • jthomasmoros says:

      How can we contact you?

  69. sunnydestroy says:

    I’ve just lurked here since discovering SSC, but I figure why not post something in the classified thread?

    I have a side-project of a blog covering comics, movies, tv, video games, and pop culture stuff like comic con(s). I just started it with a few friends so not tons of content on there yet. Surprisingly, despite the moniker, it’s been kind of tough getting around to my actual comic book reviews, but I (and friends) are definitely working on getting those up.

    The tone is irreverent, uncensored, and very opinionated. Probably (definitely) not the most rationalist thing, but sometimes I just like mind dumping. I’m telling you now in case you’re turned off by that kind of thing.

    Check it here:
    Destroy the Comics

    And if anyone is also interested in writing about comics or pop culture stuff, I’m totally cool with having guest posts on there.

  70. greenbird2351 says:

    Looking for a writer for content related to music theory. This is both for encyclopedia-style articles (“What is a harmonic interval?”) as well sometimes more in-depth articles which may require more research and citations from scientific studies (“Can you learn perfect pitch?”).

    You can email me at (rot13) oyhroveq034@tznvy.pbz. Please include a writing sample and desired rate.

    • smocc says:

      I have a friend who has done very good writing about music theory in the past, and I would recommend this to him if there were more details. What is the writing for? How much writing do you expect there to be?

  71. sharondolovsky says:

    Who is interested in helping me reduce my accent and improve my overall speech clarity? Paid, over Skype, looking for a neutral North American accent. If interested, let me know — sharondolovsky [@t] gmail

  72. TheRadicalModerate says:

    All of these are owned by the same landlord, who we’ve previously found pretty reasonable.

    If only for a bit of practical experience (and narrative irony), shouldn’t the rationalist community seek out an unreasonable landlord?

  73. Ella says:

    Last classified thread, I linked to the blog that I share with a fellow fiction-writer:

    Our novels are moving closer to publication (expected in August or September); we now have sample chapters available, linked in our latest post.

    Ella’s Safekeeping is a lighthearted mystery/adventure set in an imaginary early modern European country. Philipp’s Sign of the Sibyl deals with two young scholars from Isaac Newton’s Cambridge who are transported to a world of court intrigue and dangerous magic (which might or might not be Atlantis). Follow our blog for further progress updates!

  74. beoShaffer says:

    I am looking for data science jobs in Melbourne Australia. I have mostly worked in R, but have a pretty big stack including, SQL (of course), Xplenty, Guesstimate, Python, and several data viz/reporting tools (Tableau is my strongest). If you’re interested I’ll send through a full resume, but some highlights include massively boosting conversion rates with automated ad rotation, and showing that a trivial model could beat an expensive attribution add on. I am currently employed on a 457.

  75. AnarchyDice says:

    These are fantastically weird, irreverent, and delicious. Also, for some reason reminds me heavily of

  76. Barry says:

    Looks like I’m extremely late to the party, but I guess I’ll try my luck anyway.

    I am looking for a web developer with experience in social platform building to join a new startup. The compensation would be partner level equity, plus salary priority once we get funded.

    Send an email to (pseudonymous email account) for more information.

  77. sadtoot says:

    my girlfriend and i are looking for housing in the washington dc metro area. we have 2 cats, and our budget for rent is around $1200 per month. she’s getting a job managing an ice cream store in adams-morgan, so we’re looking for a place nearby or with good access to public transit. we’d like to move in between august 1st to 15th.

    above are basically our only dealbreakers, and yet we’re still having trouble finding a place. heck, we’re even having trouble just getting landlords to call back or show up for meetings they scheduled. anyone with a current opening, or knows a friend with an opening, please let us know as we’d be very grateful.

    we’re rudy and steph, 23 and 26 years old, respectively. benefits of living with us include: us cooking and sharing food together (we can do vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free too), having a nigh-inexhaustible supply of gourmet ice cream, riding bikes together, using my bike mechanic skills when needed. we’re generally pretty quiet and clean; i’m at least rat-adjacent, she is not but is an extraordinary and friendly person.

    my email is sadtoot at protonmail period com. let me know if you have any leads, questions, or would just like to hang out over coffee.

  78. BPC says:

    Rationalist seeking companionship in Munich. Have space for one more in my home for pretty cheap rent, now that my ex has moved out.

  79. janrandom says:

    I have a question for the Bay Area rationalist community: What do you think about visitors or temporary guests? How could a visiting fellow rationalist family share some experience? Are there usually temporarily free rooms? Would there for example be an interest in exchanging ideas and practice around Polgar-style games and education – including children? See also my LW profile.

    I’m asking because I’m planning a one month trip thru the US with my four boys next year and consider an extended stay (two weeks maybe) in the Bay Area.