Atvelonis's recent activity

  1. Comment on Humpback whale gulps and spits out Cape Cod lobsterman in ~news

    Atvelonis
    Link
    O, like Jonah, he faced the Lord's divine wrath in the belly of the great leviathan! What a remarkable experience! I'm glad he's doing well, and am amused that this hasn't discouraged him from...

    O, like Jonah, he faced the Lord's divine wrath in the belly of the great leviathan!

    And the LORD prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

    Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly.

    And he said: I called out of mine affliction unto the LORD, and He answered me; out of the belly of the nether-world cried I, and Thou heardest my voice.

    For Thou didst cast me into the depth, in the heart of the seas, and the flood was round about me; all Thy waves and Thy billows passed over me.

    And I said: 'I am cast out from before Thine eyes'; yet I will look again toward Thy holy temple.

    The waters compassed me about, even to the soul; the deep was round about me; the weeds were wrapped about my head.

    I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars closed upon me for ever; yet hast Thou brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.

    When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer came in unto Thee, into Thy holy temple.

    They that regard lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

    But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; that which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is of the LORD.

    And the LORD spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

    What a remarkable experience! I'm glad he's doing well, and am amused that this hasn't discouraged him from sticking with the job. Being swallowed by a whale would seem to me a supernatural hint that I ought to retire!

    4 votes
  2. Comment on Tildes Screenless Day Discussion Thread - June 2021 in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link
    I did my first "screenless day" this past Sunday. My rules were no digital screens from the time I woke up until just before the time I went to sleep (to set an alarm for work, and check Slack...

    I did my first "screenless day" this past Sunday. My rules were no digital screens from the time I woke up until just before the time I went to sleep (to set an alarm for work, and check Slack notifications just in case). I held to that, except I suppose for the clock on my stove. :P I had a leisurely morning, and spent the rest of the day hauling out garbage that had collected in the woods—ended up with four 55 gallon contractor drum liners of junk, mostly cans (lightweight and crushable, so I could get a lot per unit volume). It was about 95 degrees and sunny, but the trees offered enough shade that I didn't pass out from heatstroke. In the evening I had a pleasant dinner and spent some time reading. Turned in early for the night. A nice experience overall and I'll probably try it again later this month.

    5 votes
  3. Comment on Where'd You Go? in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I know I just wrote another comment on this thread ostensibly in line with the use of the phrase "men are trash," at least in an academic sense, but what you said also resonates with me. The...

    I know I just wrote another comment on this thread ostensibly in line with the use of the phrase "men are trash," at least in an academic sense, but what you said also resonates with me. The experience of the comic's author is something I think about a lot. I have trouble extricating myself as an individual from such concepts.

    I made this statement on one of the Tildes Discord servers last week in reference to a thread that implicitly touched on the feelings under discussion here:

    I feel a little bad reading this thread, because it is this exact type of article that makes me [feel extremely bad]. Regardless of who the audience is supposed to be, it does hurt … to hear something like "all those white allies were lying" because XYZ. And not just in an uncomfortable way, in a depressive existential way. I think of myself as an ally … and I really think that feeling is genuine, and when I'm in a position to I try to do actual work to help my community through these issues. But anytime I read an article like this I have a recurring insecurity that I am "lying to myself [and others]" about being "woke." The immediate corollary is that any social-oriented work I was doing, even if I genuinely thought it was useful then, was actually a waste of time and I should feel bad about trying to be anything other than "just the way white people always … are." I know that that isn't rational at all, that it is rooted in a sense of relative insecurity or instability in my community in this context, but it is still my reaction and drills deep a very nihilistic solution to just avoid absolutely everything because then I won't feel so hopelessly targeted. Which is obviously not good.

    That's a routine I seem to go through every time I encounter hostile progressive rhetoric. It definitely originates from the vicarious political climate we live in, specifically from the so-called "woke" crowd. Someone either here or in real life remarked to me once that the left has an unfortunate habit of dragging people down for not being good enough, when it would be more constructive to instead prop up those who are trying.

    I agree with this idea in principle, and for moral and religious reasons it's something I generally seek to embody pedagogically. However, I think it's hard to make serious progress here without complementing it with the unfortunately painful recognition of oneself as a constituent member of a problematic class (where that applies). Balancing these approaches is less a matter of one dominating the other and more introducing them both in appropriate contexts. I don't think that media outlets or most activist groups handle this very well.

    6 votes
  4. Comment on Where'd You Go? in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I appreciate you offering your perspective. I'm sorry you've had those experiences, and I cannot say I've dealt with that. I also feel compelled to comment on some of the hyperbole (?) you're...

    I appreciate you offering your perspective. I'm sorry you've had those experiences, and I cannot say I've dealt with that. I also feel compelled to comment on some of the hyperbole (?) you're using to deliver your point.

    this seemingly omnipresent idea that everything wrong with the world is men's fault and women play no part.

    I am not under the impression that the attitude of "everything wrong with the world is men's fault and women play no part" exists in a meaningful capacity in our society, even among the "woke" crowd. (The perception that it does is perhaps a byproduct of the influence the "perpetually online" have over the digital conversation. I cannot comment on the legal system.) I also do not think it is exactly useful to consider it the precise meaning behind the phrase "men are trash." Whether the latter tagline is used academically and/or critically—moi, les hommes, je les déteste—or casually (that is, carelessly, such as in reference to individuals), I think there are relatively few members of the "woke" community who have truly convinced themselves that women are never the problem.

    It's not difficult for me to recall situations in which women aboard the "men are trash" train have been actively disrespectful to men in ways that did not serve the end goal of the broader movement toward gender egalitarianism. For instance, disgust at the male gaze (in the academic sense) paired with a proclivity to sexualize men (including myself) in decidedly socio-personal and non-academic contexts is almost surreal in its dehumanization, and deeply ironic. I would call this a misappropriation of the literally-offensive-yet-academically-critical phrase "men are trash," because there is nothing in particular about the phrase that suggests the opposite of what you're suggesting we should do as a society. It is more of a way to call attention to the persistent issue of misogyny originating from the masculine field than an explanation of what its root causes are. Said origin story is really an additional discussion that, fortunately, does not have to involve an inflammatory tagline.

    But it has been rare for me to encounter someone so firmly entrenched in the skewed worldview of those women I refer to above that they will not listen to criticism of particular female attitudes toward men, or otherwise seek to improve their own behavior. I know this because I have led several such conversations in the past. Some of them were even at a women's college, where any number of feminine misbehaviors within the community were correctly attributed to community members, who were all female-identifying. Trans-exclusionary radical feminism is perhaps the most striking example of this, and it is absolutely recognized by the "woke" crowd as a reinforcement mechanism of patriarchy, misandry, and misogyny all at once.

    There are always people on Twitter who are living in their own world, but the idea that women can do no wrong is not exactly an "omnipresent" societal belief or anything of the sort. I understand that you don't believe this concept yourself, but I don't think it's fair to suggest that it has the destructive inertia among others you are implying it does.

    There has been a realignment in societal priorities and expectations in which traditional masculinity is no longer acceptable.

    Is this the case? I'm reluctant to speculate on what precisely you mean when you refer to "traditional masculinity," but the qualities being "attacked" are generally in that position because they actively contribute to female disempowerment and/or damage society in a different way. One of the more long-standing feminist critiques is the suggestion that the class of men ought not to consider themselves the sole breadwinners of the nuclear family; not only because this implicitly excludes women from positions of economic influence (reinforcing a gender hierarchy that we can agree is not beneficial), but because the cultural pressure this places on men is in many cases extremely detrimental to their mental health, specifically their self-image. The latter is something that I believe can be and is being analyzed well through the "men's liberation" framework. The feminist critique of excessive male stoicism may be similarly applied to mental health and to communication more broadly. The feminist critique of the "ideal male body" is not so much a belief that such a body is undesirable, but rather a commentary on the often unattainable physical expectations set for men (by themselves or others). The list continues. I can think of male personas that the "woke" crowd may unfairly demonize (like the car/gun/beer-loving rural blue-collar worker), but I think a lot of these are rooted in contemporary classism, not misandry per se. We can and should consider such oppression intersectionally, but that is a somewhat different conversation.

    I was fortunate enough to grow up with a number of positive male role models in my life, most of whom I met through my Scout troop as an adolescent, and on my sports team in college. I feel that they embodied many of the principles that are commonly recognized within the men's liberation movement as positive elements of masculinity. One such person probably derived a great deal of his worldview from a number of his specific religious beliefs; that is about as traditional as you can get. The influence of the "woke" attitude on his ideology did not destroy his "traditional masculinity" so much as strip elements of misogyny from it, thereby giving it the pedagogical strength it had. And far from being demonized, these figures were recognized by men and women in my highly "woke" circles as valuable and nurturing. One of the comic's remarks is that there is a general lack of positive male role models in our society. I think this is true, particularly in media. But I am not so sure that the refactoring of what we recognize as "traditional masculinity" as "contemporary masculinity" has been so harmful as you seem to be making it out to have been.


    I realize after writing this that my remarks seem a little confrontational, and I apologize if there is any triggering material in here. I think I am mostly a little confused by some of your statements because I don't feel they correspond to the perceptions of gender I'm surrounded by or otherwise observe within our society at large. If you have additional clarifying comments, I would be interested in hearing them.

    12 votes
  5. Comment on Where do you get your sense of community from? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I'm watching some videos of Scandinavian dance now, and it looks like a lot of fun. I thought this performance in particular was very cute—and exciting! I'd love to give it a try at some point....

    I'm watching some videos of Scandinavian dance now, and it looks like a lot of fun. I thought this performance in particular was very cute—and exciting! I'd love to give it a try at some point.

    Scottish country dancers also tend to be a little older (relative to highland dancers, at any rate: their joints can't take all the hopping!), but from what I can tell the community appears to be stable or maybe growing. I joined a group in college that coordinated with our local branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society for resources and events. I think the RSCDS has figured out that they need a pipeline to keep the traditions alive. They even offer young dancers little "scholarships" to dance camps in the summer.

    I'm a northern laddie, but a friend of mine from Charleston remarked to me some time ago that there was a surprisingly robust community for contra dancing in the area—populated largely by young people, no less (that's actually how she started before I dragged her to Scottish). Apparently it's pretty hip. That was news to me, but it gives me hope that the folk arts have an actual future.

    1 vote
  6. Comment on Where do you get your sense of community from? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
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    It's been a year and a half since I've been able to participate, but the community in Scottish country dance is surprisingly close-knit. The first time I went to a ball, I remember being surprised...

    It's been a year and a half since I've been able to participate, but the community in Scottish country dance is surprisingly close-knit. The first time I went to a ball, I remember being surprised at the emphasis people placed on individuals—they all knew who the callers and the musicians were (and were very excited about them), and they all knew each other. I guess there's a reason they call it social dancing.

    7 votes
  7. Comment on Does anyone else feel like they don’t know how to talk to people anymore? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link
    I had the same concern, but it's been okay so far. I think we internalize these skills at a very deep level. I've had a lot of uncomfortable interactions during the pandemic, but they've been...

    I had the same concern, but it's been okay so far. I think we internalize these skills at a very deep level. I've had a lot of uncomfortable interactions during the pandemic, but they've been rooted more heavily in an uncertainty over how I'm being perceived by this person whose face I can't see than in any genuine lack of conversational ability on my part.

    The pandemic has jaded me, though, and I've lost some of my patience for ritualistic smalltalk. I'm trying to channel some of this newfound directness into jumpstarting otherwise dull conversations rather than immediately disengaging from them. Usually this entails a hint of the offbeat.

    I also seem to have started automatically smiling with my eyes a bit more—no doubt a holdover from having to exaggerate my expressions under the mask, but I think it brightens people up a little. And myself.

    4 votes
  8. Comment on How can I better engage Tilderinos on my philosophy posts? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Tildes users are influenced by the space they write in as much as the content they're writing about. A thread with no comments is "quiet," and that silence is difficult to break in the same way...

    Tildes users are influenced by the space they write in as much as the content they're writing about. A thread with no comments is "quiet," and that silence is difficult to break in the same way that you may feel physical difficulty in speaking from silence in a group setting in person. The distinction is merely that you can't see the other people being quiet. But on a site with this level of activity, you know that they're there; the vote tallies show it. For people who are engaged with the material, then, you have two types of commenters:

    • People who like being the first voice in the room
    • People who are happy to talk, but who don't like breaking the silence

    For almost all topics, almost all users fall into the latter category. This is why most threads are quiet. However, everyone has a few topics they're very interested in or can engage with at that moment. Fundamentally, the reason many people are reluctant to break the silence is because it's easier to respond to someone else's original thought than to create an original thought of their own. A first-level comment is ostensibly a response to the article, but we are socially conditioned to construct it as a more formal, decisive, or coherent statement than a second-level comment. The stakes are higher because we expect more people to engage with it than a lower-level comment. It addresses the group; a second-level comment addresses a single person.

    This isn't unique to Tildes. Think of every social meeting you've been in that's awkwardly silent until someone makes a joke, and then the whole group breaks into pleasant conversation. It's not like any random sequence of syllables uttered during the conversation has any more inherent significance in and of itself than any other sequence—but the very first one is given special significance because of the context it finds itself in. That is, it finds itself the breaker of silence, addressing the group.

    I specifically avoid putting my own spin on it because I don’t want to color people’s read on it with my own take before they have a chance to take it in for themselves unvarnished.

    I understand and appreciate this perspective, but I think it takes too formalistic an approach to the material being shared here, à la Wimsatt and Beardsley. The literary criticism of the mid-20th century was frequently concerned with making interpretations rooted solely in "the text in itself and for itself," ignoring any manner of authorial intent so as to separate literature from the academy's expectations of it. This is a reasonable idea, but it doesn't work as well as one would hope. The "affective turn" we've inhabited in the decades since has shown us quite clearly that writing sans context loses a substantial amount of its essence, and we are better off analyzing texts contextually if we want to derive meaning that informs an external context.

    If we apply this principle a level up—where the "author" is the submitter of a post on Tildes, and the audience is the set of commenters on that post—we also find ourselves in a situation where both the identity and opinions of the submitter ought not necessarily to be omitted or ignored. By posting an article on Tildes, you are not simply sharing information in a vacuum. Rather, you are contributing to a "canon" of works posted on a specific medium; really you are contributing to an infinite number of canons, such as "Articles posted on Tildes in the last 24 hours," "Articles posted on Tildes during a global pandemic," "Articles posted on Tildes while an article about breakfast cereal is on the front page," etc. Importantly, some of these canons are going to be related to the source material and potentially to the submitter. Tildes' proclivity for meta threads comes to mind—an article on race relations is inextricably linked to a meta post about Tildes' overall discussion about race. What does it mean for a controversial article to be posted in the wake of such discourse? Clearly, we are not operating within a framework where the submitter is a non-entity. Thus we may reasonably conclude that the submitter's opinions should not necessarily be hidden from public view. Why did they submit the article to begin with? What drew them to the material? In what ways do they feel it contributes to the site? Commenters will be curious about these things in any case, so perhaps it is more useful for the submitter to explain their perspective firsthand than to prompt speculation on it.

    A different line of reasoning would be that anyone who is voluntarily reading the first-level comment of a submitter before reading the article is relatively unlikely to break the silence themselves. They are looking for material from other community members to engage with, probably because they feel that going into an article blind won't help their understanding as much as doing so with an opinion in mind which they can contrast with their own (while initially reading the material and not after).

    One thing I have noticed is even when there is engagement people tend to bike shed on stylistic stuff or drag various nitpicks in the piece (e.g. complain about the headline, complain about writing style, speculate on the author’s intentions.) So it’s rarely any kind of discussion on the content of an article itself. It’s kind of frustrating.

    I think these are all legitimate elements of an article for people to comment on, though I agree with you that focusing on them at the expense of the content sort of misses the point of using a link aggregator. At some level we are here for the material, not just other people's reactions to it. I'm often disappointed by the frivolity of some of the discussions here, those with commenters too heavily in an "internet state of mind." Such threads remind me how much time people spend glued to their screens, and that I should go outside myself.

    My impression is that Tildes users model most of their behavior on Reddit's commenting etiquette (modifying it only slightly to reduce noise, or to impose an aura of seriousness), which is generally superficial. On that website, most commenters do not read the source material at all, and if they do, they often intend to engage with it unfairly. I feel that this is influenced more by the expectations of the spaces they are operating in than by any specific introduction from the submitter or other commenters on an article. i.e. this cultural practice originates from the structure of the site more so than the structure of any given discussion.

    So on a structural level, Tildes obviously lacks most of the ideological forces that Reddit has, but it retains many of them culturally, probably subconsciously. Why this is the case (beyond simple inheritance) is unclear to me, but I can speculate. @Akir made a useful observation in a response to a comment of mine last month that may serve as an adjacent piece of analysis:

    I've long believed that the biggest problem is that people don't understand what the internet is from a simple conceptual point of view. People tend to think of it as some kind of simulacra; like things on the internet are somehow less real than 'the real world'. If you understand that, you realize the root of all the stupid and evil things you find on the internet.

    I think this may apply here. Why engage with the source material, which takes a great amount of effort, when one may engage with a simple but misleading characterization of it? Why analyze six paragraphs when just the headline will do? Why analyze the author's statements in detail when one can assume they're writing in bad faith? Obviously we will still find people intentionally nitpicking arguments or being intentionally dense in real life too, but I think we're conditioned not to let that fly more robustly than we are online. On Tildes we have something of an expectation to think critically, but we have neither the rigorous expectations of an academic journal nor the forgiving ones of a face-to-face conversation. We stand, rather, in a liminal space. That uncertainty prevents us from developing our ideas with as much grace as we should. The solution to this behavior is unclear to me, and probably can't be addressed quickly, but I would be curious to hear other thoughts on the matter.

    5 votes
  9. Comment on Half of all US adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    It looks like it's about 40% of the total population right now, but that figure seems to be a little misleading. If you look at the state level, Vermont is at 54% while Mississippi is at 27%. And...

    It looks like it's about 40% of the total population right now, but that figure seems to be a little misleading. If you look at the state level, Vermont is at 54% while Mississippi is at 27%. And even that is misleading: at the local level, New York's Hamilton county has fully vaccinated 68% of residents, whereas Louisiana's Cameron Parish rests at a staggeringly low 10%. As far as vulnerable populations are concerned, I think we're doing better than these numbers suggest: Hamilton has apparently vaccinated 96% of residents aged 65+ and 78% of those 18+. I agree that we need to vaccinate everyone, especially children, but I feel less worried when deaths are consistently falling. Of course the capacity for a vaccine-resistance variant developing among unvaccinated individuals is concerning, but I'm not sure how immediately that could happen.

    I'm remaining optimistic about the state-wide data because it appears that quite a few more people have been vaccinated with at least one dose. Vermont is at 70%, and Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and New Jersey are around the 60–66% mark (with many other states not far behind). There's presumably some number of people who schedule their first shot and not their second, but I suspect that most people who've gotten around to starting the vaccine regimen will finish it. My prediction is that a "herd immunity" of around 75% will be reached in the northeast and a few other areas by the end of the summer; within states it will probably still be divided by county. I don't think that most of the southern and western states are going to get anywhere near there until schools and workplaces start mandating vaccination. Several hundred universities are already doing this, and it's only a matter of time until it becomes required for public K-12 schools as well (perhaps once a vaccine gets full FDA approval).

    6 votes
  10. Comment on How can I better engage Tilderinos on my philosophy posts? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link
    I find that it can be easier to engage with material that has at least an introductory comment from the author, if nothing else to set the tone of a potential discussion. I always write something...

    I find that it can be easier to engage with material that has at least an introductory comment from the author, if nothing else to set the tone of a potential discussion. I always write something to this effect when I submit a link. It doesn't have to be long or formal—a candid affectual reaction to a piece can be useful in closing the gap between the material and our understanding of it as emotionally driven people. My preference is not just a list of quotes (although they may be included), but at least some analysis from the submitter. I think it really places the work into context in a way that engenders discussion.

    I don't submit many philosophy links, but this comment on a post of mine seemed to beget a fair bit of discussion; this one had a bit less; a third not so much; another had nothing. A lot of that is probably just the amount of visibility the topic got—there's a critical mass somewhere—but I think that little "conversation starters" could certainly be a way to go.

    6 votes
  11. Comment on What are your cognitive biases, and how do they affect you? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    It certainly has value. I'm occasionally reminded of conversations you and I have had when I'm editing an oppressively long-winded piece of writing (my natural cadence). If you can believe it, I...

    It certainly has value. I'm occasionally reminded of conversations you and I have had when I'm editing an oppressively long-winded piece of writing (my natural cadence).

    If you can believe it, I have a similar bias about information density, but I think I just happen to have a pretty high baseline. I might visualize it as a -log(x)+2 to your -log(x), where the horizontal axis is the length of the material and the vertical axis is my personal interest in it (the root being a complete loss of interest). For example, I tend to consider the ideas or themes in the first 200 pages of a novel more important than next 200, even if that's not how it's actually structured—I always notice this when I take notes on a work of fiction, because I'll barely have anything for the later chapters. In academia I would call this "efficient," but it sort of misses the point of skimming. I do get weirdly uppity once I reach this arbitrary threshold, as if I'm personally offended that the work is "wasting" my time, and become less receptive to whatever it's trying to say. Odd!

    1 vote
  12. Comment on What are your cognitive biases, and how do they affect you? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link
    Glancing through that Wikipedia list, I seem to identify with a few of the anchoring biases and quite a few of the egocentric biases. I've never been exactly sure how my attitude is perceived on...

    Glancing through that Wikipedia list, I seem to identify with a few of the anchoring biases and quite a few of the egocentric biases. I've never been exactly sure how my attitude is perceived on this website, but I'm aware that I can be pretty intractable in my arguments—in truth I'm certain about rather little, but I rarely make arguments I'm not extremely confident I can defend. To compensate for a potential appearance of narrow-mindedness, a lot of what I write tries to address counterarguments pre-emptively, sometimes legitimately or sometimes by just making my thesis more ambiguous (and therefore more difficult to attack). It can be difficult for me to distinguish between "offering nuance" and pointlessly hedging my statements (you can see a few instances of the latter in this very comment). Often my "counterarguments" are snarky or condescending, because I am bored by the thought of having to talk about something so clearly incorrect. Sometimes that's warranted, but most of the time I think it makes me look a little conceited.

    2 votes
  13. Comment on It turns out, all those 'woke' White allies were lying in ~misc

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I think we are conditioned to make this response when discussing "morality at birth" because a given individual definitionally lacks the agency to decide to be born; by extension, and quite...
    • Exemplary

    When we're talking about where to establish the line of moral neutrality, answers aren't obvious to me. But that seems like a "no."

    Do we place children on a set of scales, transferring the burden from one innocent person to another until all appear equal? Is that moral? Is it even meaningful?

    I think we are conditioned to make this response when discussing "morality at birth" because a given individual definitionally lacks the agency to decide to be born; by extension, and quite reasonably, their natural inheritance of wealth implies no particular moral obligation on their part. Thus it is not constructive to suggest that a child born into wealth is somehow acting in the immoral when they do not become philanthropists. Children do not have agency over their wealth and, until a certain age, do not necessarily have agency over themselves.

    We are mistaken, however, to suggest that one who has progressed beyond the tangle of confused neurons that represent early childhood is equally free from any sort of moral obligation in regard to their wealth or social position. There is a very good reason that we have a social differentiation between children, adolescents, and adults; the precise age at which this transition occurs is not significant to my argument so long as we recognize that there is a point for all persons at which they have the capacity to make decisions for themselves and understanding the context of their social cohabitants. Philosophy based in an intellectual or ethical equivalency between children and adults is not realistic.

    To the extent that we are interested in something approaching genuine egalitarianism, yes, it is both moral and meaningful to consider members of our society with reference to the wealth and power they have accumulated. If we do not incorporate the inheritance of economic or political capital into our sociological analysis, then it is axiomatically impossible to bring about substantial social change. If we ignore the fact that the wealthier now are descended typically from the wealthier then, we return to a form of uncritical hyper-individualism that is simply incapable of engaging with social movements that exist emergently in the collective. (Yes, many of our grandparents emigrated from Greece etc. in the 1910s and were very poor then. We are not speaking so narrowly here.)

    There is very little use in attacking children for anything. There is immense value in recognizing that having inherited and consciously lived with a privilege is no more ethical than having forced your way up to obtain it. Either way it is at the expense of others; one's inheritance is merely the maintenance of that position and is in no way morally neutral. If we are interested in tangible social progress, then we must not sink eternally into the status quo.

    11 votes
  14. Comment on The Texas oil and gas industry is defending its billions in subsidies against a green energy push in ~enviro

    Atvelonis
    Link
    The fossil fuel industry's holdout on what is clearly a dying source of revenue is remarkably short-sighted to me even from a purely labor-oriented standpoint—leaving ethics aside—because there...

    The fossil fuel industry's holdout on what is clearly a dying source of revenue is remarkably short-sighted to me even from a purely labor-oriented standpoint—leaving ethics aside—because there are plenty of methods of generating renewable energy that are adjacent to drilling for oil and gas while being better for PR and more sustainable in the long-term. What comes most immediately to mind is geothermal energy, which is actually relatively efficient all things considered, particularly for heating buildings. Contrary to popular belief, Iceland is not the only place where the procedure is applicable; the issue is mostly just that drilling deep enough for it to work under normal circumstances can be challenging. There is no reason inherent to the concept of geothermal that it has not become widespread, except that the cost to entry is high (because drilling is expensive); maybe as high as other renewables were a decade or so ago. Oil and gas are always looking for ways to drill more cheaply and effectively, and thus have pioneered a lot of the R&D for that already. The concept applies in both cases: drill a deep hole, except that one of them doesn't involve extracting any material (or cause earthquakes). The industry could very realistically pivot to geothermal if they so choose, or at least invest more heavily in it. Why they have not yet is a mystery to me. Whoever makes the next breakthrough in geothermal is going to be wildly successful, and only then will oil and gas realize just how much they've missed out on.

    8 votes
  15. Comment on Your gym routine is worthless in ~health

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    For sure. There are agonizing moments during exercise, but they generally come in the form of injuries, not the activities themselves. There should be no serious pain if you're doing everything...

    For sure. There are agonizing moments during exercise, but they generally come in the form of injuries, not the activities themselves. There should be no serious pain if you're doing everything right. Of course not everyone is at the same base ability to start off, and we all have our own physical inhibitions that make certain types of exercise more challenging than others. My ankles are not as strong as they once were because I've had the misfortune to sprain them, but I can alleviate that while running with some athletic tape and by working my way up to a high mileage over a period of time rather than diving straight in.

    Where I think a lot of people go wrong is in assuming that they can or should push through a substantial amount of excruciating pain to reach some goal they aren't ready for. Our bodies are actually pretty good at letting us know how they're feeling, it just takes a while to learn all the cues. If my joints are feeling a bit weak, that may not necessarily stop me from going on a run, but I'll dial back my pace and be more careful not to roll anything. It's a different story if I can't even walk without getting a sharp pain in my arch.

    Last week I injured some of the muscles in my upper back, neck, and rotator cuff, which severely limited my range of motion in my left arm and made even miniscule uses of my back unbearable. I can confidently refer to that as "agony." By contrast, my calves getting tired on a run isn't necessarily pleasant, but it's not even close to the same level. When people mix up the mild natural resistance they feel toward exercise (the body saying "move less please, I don't want to work") with the active pain associated with muscular or other injuries ("AHHHHHHH STOP STOP STOP DON'T MOVE THAT AGAIN OR YOU'RE GOING TO DIE"), they open themselves up to long-lasting and potentially irrecoverable damage.

    When I was taught how to properly exercise for the first time, it changed my life. My anxiety dissipated somewhat, my self-esteem improved, and I realized that I'd found something I got a real kick out of. Whether it's my sport itself or adjacent hobbies like dance, getting a good handle on the physical component makes the activity far more accessible. One of my initial motivations was definitely to look ripped, but in many ways that became secondary to the overall experience once the novelty of being in shape wore off. At this point the main draw of exercise for me is that it delivers all the good brain chemicals (especially when I'm outside!).

    2 votes
  16. Comment on Your gym routine is worthless in ~health

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm not sure how to respond to this article. I find it condescending in its attempt to frame something so mundane as "over-exercising is bad" as a novel thesis, because it makes no serious attempt...

    I'm not sure how to respond to this article. I find it condescending in its attempt to frame something so mundane as "over-exercising is bad" as a novel thesis, because it makes no serious attempt to analyze the psychological component of fitness in a fair way. I can't quite tell who its audience is, because its title and much of its body suggests that it's speaking to gym rats, while the actual argument is really only useful as a warning for people who have never exercised not to let themselves be pressured into doing things they don't like doing. I don't think there's any need for the author to insult what is an important personal aspect of many people's lives just because she personally happens to find calisthenics boring.

    Shriver is evidently trying to fight the apparent Western obsession with "fitness fanaticism," which she believes "naturally nurtures narcissism." I'm stunned at some of the characterizations being made here, because they're rooted in completely false premises. We are in the midst of the worst obesity epidemic of all time. The American obsession with cars has diluted our interest in any mode of transportation that requires physical exertion. Exercise is barely taught in public school—with very few exceptions, "gym class" in the 21st century means standing on a field for 45 minutes while the two athletic kids throw a football at each other—and it is absolutely not used as a benchmark for success in the way that academics are. High school football is a big deal in some parts of the US, but a holistic athletic curriculum is not by any means instilled in students. The only part of our culture that is steeped in athletics is watching sports on television: a decidedly sedentary activity.

    The author also makes a weird generalization in suggesting that exercise for cosmetic purposes begets "narcissism." I reject this description—a better term would be "self-love." Certainly there are narcissistic qualities to many gym-goers, but it doesn't really manifest in a harmful way. In the abstract there is no reason to be ashamed of wanting to improve one's physical appearance, for the same reason that an interest in fashion is perfectly acceptable. Shriver does qualify her description here by saying that this applies only when "taken to excess," and that "what we need is not to go back to being slobs, but to restore a sense of proportion. However, I am unconvinced that this came from the heart. Indeed, anything "taken to excess" is harmful, but this is a truism. The article's title is literally "Your gym routine is worthless." I detect some "bad vibes" here that I think have infected the argument as a whole.

    The elevation of fitness to the highest of attainments is a sure sign of a culture grown neurotically inward and stunted. It’s a sign of diminished aspirations. When “self-improvement” entails not learning German but doing star jumps, we’re aiming to clear the lowest of bars. We’re not producing superheroes, but gym bunnies.

    I'm an athlete, so take this as you will, but I think her assertion that a cultural interest in physical fitness suggests that we have become "neurotically inward and stunted" is obnoxious and maybe offensive. Grammatically she is speaking collectively; rhetorically this is just a dig and comes across very poorly. This is the sort of judgmental remark that an unathletic high schooler makes about the jocks they've never even spoken to because the nerds are the ones who get the best grades, and of course all that matters in life is going to Harvard and making ten billion dollars through your immense brainpower.

    If Western culture is obsessed with anything—because it isn't exercise—it's with singularizing personal success as achieving material wealth through academics and the high-paying careers they afford. The "idolatry" she speaks of in regard to exercise is virtually nonexistent. This is absolutely not the case for the traditional epistemological processes of the educational system. Go to the honors cohort of your local high school and ask the students what they do for fun: the answer is very little, because they are much too occupied with a barrage of overwhelming AP or IB classes with which they hope to impress university admissions counselors. Oh, and by teaching themselves three different programming languages on the side, doing research on quantum physics with their uncle who works at NASA, and running five different academic clubs. Those are all valid interests to have, but Shriver is gatekeeping "self-improvement" in the worst way possible—by feeding a machine that has been in the process of actively destroying the mentalities of the youngest members of our society for many years now. If you reach self-actualization through exercise, that should be viewed with no less admiration than doing so through intellectual hobbies; one of those is already so dominant as to be causing an acute mental health crisis, and, again, it's not over-exercising. Both of these things involve a tremendous amount of dedication, consistency, and personal resolve. It simply doesn't make sense to insult one or the other for somehow being the inherently worse way to live one's life. If the author is going to make vague critical remarks about scourges on society, she has better things to choose from.

    In the end, no matter how much agony we undergo to build our biceps, those perishable muscles will still atrophy in old age and then end up on the scrap heap — at which point, what have we got to show? We could stand to demote the press-up back to the floor where it belongs.

    Ah, the mid-life existential crisis rears its slowly atrophying head! What a terrible outlook on life, and one utterly incompatible with any form of self-improvement that exists (not just exercise). I continue to take issue with the presumption that genuine "agony" is an essential component of exercise, and I am particularly irritated by the author's suggestion that "if it doesn't last forever, it's completely meaningless." This is a discouraging sentiment and not in keeping with many of the principles I personally try to live by, particularly appreciating the present moment (see: mindfulness meditation) and living with some amount of hedonism more generally. The "perishable muscles" you've worked to develop are not going to last you into your seventies, but… they can serve you well right now, whether that's because your favorite hobby is obelisk carving (delivery included, naturally) or because you and/or your significant other find them aesthetically pleasing. The latter has no less utility than the former and should not be so ardently construed as a deadly sin.

    By contrast, plain exercise — calisthenics, running when you’re not in the mood (almost always) — is drudgery.

    The real takeaway of this piece is that the author doesn't enjoy running anymore and should probably find a better way to exercise instead of knocking the concept as a whole. This is just projection and should not be taken to apply universally. A lot of people seem to have gotten this idea into their heads that "exercise" means running and some very specific manner of strength training; and because they happen to dislike most of what that entails, they conclude that exercise means awful horrible pain and how could anyone ever like it? You can place a lot of the blame there on the imagery we tend to use in athletic montages and the way specific exercises are popularized in media. But the reality is that, even as they may joke about the "drudgery" of exercise, many people do it because they enjoy it. To some extent I also feel that the popular description of exercise as necessarily painful is an exaggeration or misrepresentation of the experience. In the same way that you can enjoy solving an intellectual problem for the challenge it presents, there is no particular reason that the physical obstacles associated with exercise need to be considered so negatively. It is masochistic only in the extreme.

    In general I would not take articles like this seriously. There are a few good points here—mainly just that you shouldn't devote your life to a hobby you don't enjoy simply because society tells you to, and that exercise for its own sake (like anything) has the capacity to hurt more than it helps. However, these are heavily outweighed by misleading and childish characterizations of exercise and by extension anyone who makes it an important part of their life. Greater substance may be found in reviews of the activity that make more reasonable efforts to reconcile the many potential drawbacks to excessive or dangerous forms of exercise with the numerous physical and mental benefits it provides—and without unnecessary condescension.

    5 votes
  17. Comment on Biden: “Great day for America;” Vaccinated can largely ditch masks in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    But the maskless are already maskless. The incentive we've been operating on doesn't work for everyone, and never will. It has an ambiguous timeline, in many places an extremely long...

    By enforcing a measurable number to be met there's an incentive because they'll be in a prisoner's dilemma if they don't.

    But the maskless are already maskless. The incentive we've been operating on doesn't work for everyone, and never will. It has an ambiguous timeline, in many places an extremely long one—technically it has no guarantee of ever being met. This makes it a psychologically weak incentive, something that produces applause from scientists and groans from public health communicators. Vermont will be lucky to vaccinate 75% of its population in the next month; that's not so bad, but states like Mississippi are looking at more than a year.

    This is a Catch-22, but we don't live in a world where it can be resolved by continuing to yell about rules without changing any other variables. There is no realistic chance that a masking recommendation from the CDC would see widespread adherence through the end of the summer outside of pockets of hyper-liberal population centers. (This would require enforcement via jail time or non-trivial fines, which is never going to happen in the United States.) Most vaccinated people I know are also okay with wearing masks right now, but only because they've been waiting for an announcement like this one. The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, and a masking recommendation that is indefinite in practice obscures that. The current incentive (in and of itself) eventually directs us toward a deadlock state; a more nuanced solution is clearly needed.

    Broadly speaking, I feel that social pressure is better instilled through focusing the brunt of our efforts on empathetic personal messaging, not behavioral protocols that are abstracted from the problem. Anecdote: I visited a friend from my hometown last week for lunch. We got sandwiches from our favorite deli and sat in a park by the river to eat. I asked in passing which vaccine he'd received, and it turned out he hadn't scheduled anything at all! No particular reason, not even hesitancy, he just didn't consider it a priority—despite months of quarantining and masking. I suggested that he make an appointment, and he did. That's all it took. In his case, which I suspect represents a larger portion of the unvaccinated than actual anti-maskers/anti-vaxxers, the tipping point was not a vague future incentive but just encouragement from a trusted figure.

    In true liberal fashion, we have a proclivity both on this website and in political science as a whole to prioritize widespread systemic solutions to complex societal problems, but this unfortunately takes a relatively unspecific look at the individualized psychological mechanics that are necessary for sociological theory to operate in any meaningful capacity. Different strategies are going to be necessary at each progressive stage of the problem, even if that means sacrificing elements of the idealistic solution. The post-utilitarian within me also emphasizes that even something as ostensibly insignificant as daily mask usage (among other things) can have profound impact on people's mental health! For many individuals, the negative cognitive effects of potentially indefinite masking eventually outweigh the potential for reduced social pressure in their absence. Human behavior is tricky to work with and I think we need a much more robust approach if we actually want to end the pandemic faster.

    I agree than mandates are needed, but are unlikely to happen for awhile. American's hate mandates, and that's why we never really exited first wave.

    I would like to note that several hundred universities have already declared vaccination requirements for the fall semester, and any number of workplaces have done similarly. When the vaccines are approved for full authorization, public school districts will have a substantial defense for requiring it as well. Because young people have the lowest vaccination rates right now, I feel that this is an underappreciated development in the vaccination process. The government will never make the vaccine mandatory for all adults, but a substantial number of people will be forced one way or the other to take the shot.

    9 votes
  18. Comment on Biden: “Great day for America;” Vaccinated can largely ditch masks in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    If they weren't vaccinated and still weren't masking, I don't see how this announcement changes anything. It was going to come one way or the other. These people obviously aren't going to do...
    • Exemplary

    If they weren't vaccinated and still weren't masking, I don't see how this announcement changes anything. It was going to come one way or the other. These people obviously aren't going to do anything voluntarily, and as such there is little value in maintaining a recommendation that is not scientifically necessary merely for the sake of instilling social pressure. At this point, we would get more out of public or private vaccine mandates (school, work, etc.) than misleading the populace with overwhelming pessimism and undue paranoia about the virus.

    From an individual standpoint, there's no reason for a person who isn't particularly concerned about the virus to get vaccinated unless it makes their life easier to do so; i.e. if they don't have to wear a mask anymore. Indeed, this does create the potential for people to pretend to be vaccinated, explicitly or implicitly. But if we maintain a charade that you actually have to keep wearing a mask after being inoculated with an extremely potent vaccine, that provides similarly little incentive for the vaccine-lazy to get the shot, and additionally undermines public faith in the entire vaccination process.

    It's a reasonable deduction: if we need masks to stop the spread of COVID as a stop-gap for a vaccine, but that vaccine actually doesn't stop us from having to wear masks, the natural conclusion for a lot of people is going to be that the vaccine is useless. There's already a great deal of hesitancy over its side effects, and I would strongly contest the idea that doing anything except promoting the vaccine for what it is—an extremely safe and effective product—is going to help us end the pandemic.

    20 votes
  19. Comment on Weekly coronavirus-related chat, questions, and minor updates - week of May 10 in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I totally feel that. I got my second Moderna shot on Wednesday and was exploding with a strange manner of energy yesterday evening—I would have gone and done some sprints to loosen up, except that...

    I totally feel that. I got my second Moderna shot on Wednesday and was exploding with a strange manner of energy yesterday evening—I would have gone and done some sprints to loosen up, except that any lateral motion of my arm was so painful as to prevent me from moving. The spot around the injection site was sore, but within a few hours of the shot, all the nerves in my arm were lighting up. I couldn't help but amuse myself by imagining that I had gotten a new superpower, shooting laser beams from my fist or something, and just had to figure out how to use it. If I sat absolutely still my arm didn't hurt, just tickled, a feeling that also extended to my core (which was both agitating and really funny). I'm shocked that I was able to get any work done considering how on edge I was. I somehow fell asleep for the night, and upon waking up I was sure that the most intense part of the sensory overload was now behind me, but I'm still a bit "wired" as you say, haha. But more than anything else, I'm just glad that I'm fully vaccinated now.

    7 votes
  20. Comment on To be more tech-savvy, borrow these strategies from the Amish in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link
    This reminds me of a comment I wrote on Tildes last month. I suggested that as our technologically infused society matures, perhaps over the course of some decades, the internet and related...

    The foundation of this ‘honourable alternative’ is to not adopt every single new technology, or use cars, phones and social media as soon as they become the norm. Instead, the Amish make slow and deliberate decisions as a collective. Rather than rushing optimistically or blindly into the future, they move forward cautiously, open but sceptical.

    This reminds me of a comment I wrote on Tildes last month. I suggested that as our technologically infused society matures, perhaps over the course of some decades, the internet and related advances will be seen less as "the essential next step of the human experience" and more as simply an option of how to live. The corollary is that while tech will never disappear from our lives, we will probably self-moderated our use of it more heavily.

    As it happens, Amish communities are home to plenty of tinkerers, hackers and technophiles. Just like early adopters who read the news online when ‘the internet’ was still a strange term, they rigged up light bulbs, bought telephones and surfed the web before their peers or church leaders knew much about them. Due to the decentralised nature of Amish religious life (there’s no Amish pope), no one set a policy for addressing these novelties. Contrary to what outsiders might expect, early adopters often aren’t censored, nor necessarily discouraged.

    This is a quality of the Amish that most people don't recognize: each individual community has vastly different norms on what constitutes a legitimate and collectively beneficial use of technology from one another. I feel that this maps appropriately onto the "rest of us" insofar as everyone who has "embraced technology" obviously has their own standards, preferences, and no-gos with regard to usage and manners of information-sharing. We absolutely can learn from communities who are selective about their adoption of technology, and I think we should.

    4 votes