fional's recent activity

  1. Comment on As pay TV subscribers decline faster, pressure builds for streaming profits in ~tv

    fional
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    I think the problem here is that streaming took off as the more convenient alternative to piracy--the fact that piracy is less popular today isn't that those technologies have been lost, but that...

    I think the problem here is that streaming took off as the more convenient alternative to piracy--the fact that piracy is less popular today isn't that those technologies have been lost, but that for $10/mo or whatever, you didn't have to deal with all the hoop-jumping. The more you squeeze the streaming customer base, the more likely it is that there's a sea change back to the old ways.

    5 votes
  2. Comment on Twitter is planning to start charging $20 per month for verification / And if the employees building it don’t meet their deadline, they’ll be fired by Elon Musk in ~tech

    fional
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    I’m curious how this affects employee retention; I know in the short term Elon wants to “trim the fat” and stories like these are a clear sign to run for the hills, but I question if it will be...

    I’m curious how this affects employee retention; I know in the short term Elon wants to “trim the fat” and stories like these are a clear sign to run for the hills, but I question if it will be worth the long term damage to both Twitter’s engineering reputation and to Musk as an employer.
    He’s always had a reputation but it’s feasible to see people falling for the cult of personality if it means working on new rockets at SpaceX. Working on sclerotic bay area big tech is a pretty different environment and working for Twitter suddenly moved near the bottom of the list—making a place a nightmare to work usually means attracting only people who don’t have better options.

    EDIT: With some thought, I think this might actually be the intended effect. If my boss told me I had a week to push a huge live production change or get fired, I'd tell him to get stuffed and walk. Part of having integrity as a professional is being able to push back on things and getting hit with a non negotiable wall strikes me particularly sourly. That said, it could be a pretty efficient way to weed out anyone in the company who isn't a back-bending sycophant that you can then walk over. Makes me think of military coups.

    24 votes
  3. Comment on HBO Max adding ten original ‘Star Trek’ movies, bringing back all eight ‘Harry Potter’ films in ~movies

    fional
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    I find this a bit hilarious in that if there was ever a reason I would subscribe to Paramount+ it would be as a one-stop-shop for everything Star Trek related (alas the newer offerings largely...

    I find this a bit hilarious in that if there was ever a reason I would subscribe to Paramount+ it would be as a one-stop-shop for everything Star Trek related (alas the newer offerings largely fail to impress, and DVD box sets of the classics are a one time expenditure). If they're scattering that offering out, I just don't see the value at all.

    2 votes
  4. Comment on What's your unpopular opinion or idiosyncrasy about video games or games in general? in ~games

    fional
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    I think the intrinsic problem is deeper and at the core there's always a conflict in prioritizing the game developer's story versus the player's story. Ultimately, a compelling story arises when...

    I think the intrinsic problem is deeper and at the core there's always a conflict in prioritizing the game developer's story versus the player's story. Ultimately, a compelling story arises when characters make interesting decisions with consequences, but "consequences" is almost directly equivalent to budget. At the end of the day, you can broadly bucket them into a few categories:

    • Fully prioritize developer agency: This is probably one of the more common strategies today, and boils down to "watching a movie with periodic gameplay breaks." This is the easiest route, you only have to develop a single timeline of content, but it's often incredibly unsatisfying narratively because you are, by definition, excluding the player from any consequential decisions. It further often drives you to avoid putting the main character into situations where they might actually make consequential decisions. Otherwise if the MC does something without the player's involvment, it can be REALLY frustrating (looking at you, Spec Ops: The Line). Examples: Most of the later Final Fantasy games (post-FFX, excluding MMOs). Uncharted, God of War, etc. style games.

    • Fully prioritize player agency: If you have a game whose gameplay mechanics intrinsically support consequential decision making, you don't need a story, the players will craft their own stories through the decisions they make. For example, "I was hauling a billion ISK worth of goods through null space when the Goonswarm capital ships started warping in and I was like ohhh fuuuu" (EVE Online), "I almost finished my fortress when a creeper blew a hole into magma and flooded the entire bottom floor!" (Minecraft), etc.

    • Multiple endings: This is a halfhearted attempt to shoehorn player agency into the first story model. You can't really change anything about the game itself, but some token decision you make towards the end gives you a different epilogue! This can help, but it usually suffers for one of two reasons. If you make the choice early in the game, you have the narrative dissonance of that choice not actually seemingly affecting anything for the rest of the game until the end scenes. This is often the problem with morality systems--you can press the "savior" button or the "be a jerk" button and your character portrait will change colors but it doesn't really do anything narratively because you still have to get to the same place in the end. Alternatively, you end up deferring the choice until the very tail end of the game at which it feels like a capricious decision (Mass Effect, Deus Ex: HR).

    • The tour guide: This actually can work, and is the route some of my favorite RPGs take. In this model, the main character is still essentially at the top-level a boring player stand-in, but can intercede within modular side-quest content. The decisions taken within those modules are consequential, but because they are bounded within a specific side-quest domain, they limit the amount of consequence-sprawl that can happen. The main arc of the story is still linear, though. Examples: Fallout NV, Chrono Trigger, Deus Ex).

    • Actually build the game and story together: this is the hardest approach because your story isn't something bolted onto an existing game, but both evolving in conjunction over the span of development. Sometimes, this means exploring a story that doubles down on the intrinsic lack of player agency by echoing it thematically in the setting and plot (Outer Wilds, Majora's Mask). Sometimes you play up the frivolity of the entire idea of agency and consequences (The Stanley Parable). Finally, sometimes you actually do give the player agency and double down on that choice being consequential (Undertale is the biggest example that comes to mind here). This is the rarest route because even with a single choice, you're often essentially forking the universe and developing multiple games in parallel.

    That was a lot of words. Ultimately, I don't think game writing is bad because we undervalue narrative or writers--heck, I think most AAA games secretly wish they were movies or novels--but because AAA gameplay expectations and budgetary requirements preclude the necessary sacrifices to compellingly blend narrative and gameplay.

    3 votes
  5. Comment on Are billionaires a market failure? And if not market, are they social failure? in ~finance

    fional
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    I've always looked at market-based capital allocation as a system that functions best away from extremes. A certain sect of political thinking has associated the concept of "free market" as one...

    I've always looked at market-based capital allocation as a system that functions best away from extremes. A certain sect of political thinking has associated the concept of "free market" as one that is as free of regulation and intervention as possible, and this has resulted in unchecked growth in monopoly power at the company and personal level. When "too big to fail" sees zombie corporations limping along on market power and bailouts, when the little regulation that does get passed only serves to empower firms large enough to afford costly compliance mechanisms, and when tax law and loose monetary policy encourages stock buybacks and market concentration, it's hard to call the present world a good implementation of free market capitalism.

    Instead, I see the original envisioning of a "free market" as one that maximizes competition, where there are few barriers to entry for new aspiring players, and relatively few mechanisms to prop up failing players that unfairly bias incumbent firms. Under this approach, we'd make policy to that effect:

    • A laborer is a market player, and so a strong social net increases competition and free market effects. This means not being slaved to a corporate gig for healthcare, and having a viable alternative to working an untenable job that isn't "be funneled into the homelessness/crime death spiral." This might be better labor standards, a higher minimum wage, or some form of basic income. A company should not be able to unilaterally force unsustainable wages, schedules, or working conditions because they are the monopsony buyer of labor in a particular market.
    • Companies that are "too big to fail" are "too big to exist" and should be broken up. We should be on constant lookout for firms whose structural implications grant its leadership to act with impunity knowing a bailout will save them.
    • The legal system should not weight the relative depth-of-pockets of disputants in outcome. Today, it's very easy for a big fish to eat a little one just by virtue of the zero-sum arms race that is having an army of lawyers.
    • Higher top-end tax rates. Just as a company can achieve monopoly power that allows it to drag on unproductively for decades without contributing value, there are levels of capital concentration where no single person can legitimately claim to be able to productively allocate said capital. This isn't "Harrison Bergeron," it's okay for wealth inequality to exist, but the range between the poorest and richest could be significantly compressed before people collapse into black holes of unassailable fortune.

    Ultimately, I see capitalism a bit like running a nuclear reactor. There's a range in the middle where everything is great, but if there's too little (e.g. not enough societal infrastructure to support fair contract enforcement or market making), or if there's too much (markets become so influential that their gravity distorts the societal space around them), then either economic activity stops or blows itself up.

    9 votes
  6. Comment on What have you learned from working in tech? in ~talk

    fional
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    Software development (and technological development), particularly at higher levels of abstraction, feels like creation when in reality it is decisionmaking. At the beginning of a project (or...

    Software development (and technological development), particularly at higher levels of abstraction, feels like creation when in reality it is decisionmaking. At the beginning of a project (or startup), the world is a superposition of possibility, but every new piece of software, be it written from scratch or adopted from an external source, is a quantum entanglement that collapses your future possibilities. Interfaces get adopted, data formats become entrenched, conventions get established--these processes are not necessarily one-way but you will either pay back the initial time spent manyfold when circumstances change, or the whole endeavor collapses under its own weight. Better decisionmaking up front can quicken or prolong that process, but it is inevitable so long as your software lives in a changing environment (not that that's always the case, see the 20 year old machines running Win95 in airgapped installations). Part of my despondence with the tech industry is that the entrenchment of giant companies means that this exponential investment in prolonging can go on for MUCH longer (at much greater expense), where in the 90s or 2000s we'd just see companies replaced by other companies that could start with better-informed groundwork.

    Corollary to the above: the hardest software development projects are rarely hard due to a technical challenge, but rather because people with decisionmaking authority are unable or unwilling to make decisions regarding their business or processes. Manual processes can accommodate significant slop in dissonant or outright conflicting decisions, by individual humans exercising judgment and massaging things at the edges (see, for example, how the healthcare system runs on fax machines because EHR systems just can't get along). Automating those processes, likely because the human fudge-factor is expensive, means trying to broker a peace between two or more warring conceptual factions. It's satisfying when it works, but it's a hard path to follow.

    Software architecture is a hybrid of science fiction and journalism. Your success or failure stems from your ability to visualize and worldbuild in a (near) future fiction, and then bring it back to the present and document it clearly--that might be documents, that might be screenshots, that might be prototypes--such that you can get everyone involved living in that same future world. The further people (or teams') conception of that future world drift apart, the more problems you will have.

    5 votes
  7. Comment on What are you battling with right now? in ~talk

    fional
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    I am struggling in the same vein, albeit a decade earlier in my career. I’ve always embraced my identity as the “computer nerd” growing up, and it certainly lead me to a lucrative career, but the...

    I am struggling in the same vein, albeit a decade earlier in my career. I’ve always embraced my identity as the “computer nerd” growing up, and it certainly lead me to a lucrative career, but the further along I get, the more the job centers around navigating internecine corporate firedrills and trying to excavate megacorps out of the holes left by my forebearers.
    I’ve been circling burnout for years, and increasingly find myself in a destructive loop of anxiety, procrastination, and questioning my own competency—surely anyone looking at me should tell I am not delivering results, so I fear for my job and try to push myself harder, but pushing harder just increases the stress without producing results.
    Alas, I live in a VHCOL part of the world and switching careers at this point is so high risk that I cannot ever seriously consider it. I also feel the need to invalidate myself because I realize how precariously most people are living today.

    6 votes
  8. Comment on Starfield sounds way too big in ~games

    fional
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    I guess, as a counterpoint, I think when you strip away all the mechanisms of communication—be it game design or storytelling or music or photography—I think there’s a qualitative difference...

    I guess, as a counterpoint, I think when you strip away all the mechanisms of communication—be it game design or storytelling or music or photography—I think there’s a qualitative difference between something that was created by an author to convey some message or experience, and something that is pure mechanism, no message.

    For example, I think modern AI experiments like GPT-3 and DALL-E are converging on mastery of their respective mediums, but it’s a real fear that a GPT-4 or GPT-5 could drown the internet in philosophical “p-zombies” that can say everything while saying nothing. Think like the Elsagate/Spiderman youtube videos that were autogenerated, yet occupied children for countless hours.

    I see a few possible routes: you can have a human author that uses procedural generation as a force multiplier to do more with less, but you will ultimately run into the limits of their necessarily finite vision on what they want to convey. Alternatively, AI can become so good to effectively attain the level of personhood necessary to convey messages, in which case “procedurally generated” becomes “hand-authored by a sentient being coerced into doing so” which is a bit tragic. Or the p-zombie AI can get good enough that we’re all watching the adult version of Elsa/Spiderman, which is also kinda scary.

    The future is weird. :)

    2 votes
  9. Comment on DIY haptic input knob: BLDC motor + round LCD in ~tech

    fional
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    All components are limited stock right now. The supply chain issues the past few years have been really bad for open source hardware—as soon as you designate some particular component as the...

    All components are limited stock right now. The supply chain issues the past few years have been really bad for open source hardware—as soon as you designate some particular component as the drop-in version for the published designs, they evaporate.

    4 votes
  10. Comment on Google search is dying: Reddit is currently the most popular search engine. The only people who don’t know that are the team at Reddit, who can’t be bothered to build a decent search interface. in ~tech

    fional
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    I suspect there's an arms race for content creators at play here too: in the early days of the internet there was virtually infinite supply of attention, and finite quantities of content. Making...

    I suspect there's an arms race for content creators at play here too: in the early days of the internet there was virtually infinite supply of attention, and finite quantities of content. Making content was technically hard and/or expensive, so as long as you were willing and able to jump those hoops as a content creator, you could do very little else and search engine crawlers would feed you traffic.

    Today, the situation has reversed; we've made it extremely easy to publish content for consumption, and now there's essentially finite attention and infinite content. Even excluding SEO spam and bots, there's multiple hours of video content being uploaded to YouTube every minute, multiple hours of mediocre-if-acceptable music being posted to SoundCloud, millions of generally decent but uninteresting photos being posted to Instagram/Flickr, etc.

    As a result, attention is a zero-sum game, and it's unavoidable that as a creator, you spend a lot of time thinking about optimizing how you get your material in front of real people. Nobody likes spending hours on a creative project only, at the end, to chuck it into the inky void of irrelevance. Instead, you have to find out where the people are. That might mean YouTube yesterday, TikTok today, and some new fad tomorrow (Clubhouse, anyone?).

    The idea of "renting a web host and writing some HTML" is about as archaic a distribution mechanism as being a town crier today, so no one does it. There's no magical new search engine that's going to find content that no longer is made today.

    19 votes
  11. Comment on In what good ways are you like your parents? in ~talk

    fional
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    My father and I share an endless font of curiosity (that I suspect stems from a hereditary bias towards ADHD, diagnosed recently in my case, and I strongly suspect in him). Combined with my...

    My father and I share an endless font of curiosity (that I suspect stems from a hereditary bias towards ADHD, diagnosed recently in my case, and I strongly suspect in him). Combined with my fortune in growing up alongside the nascent internet, back when it was about sharing information and not social engineering warfare, meant I have been able to build a fairly massive toolkit of expertise in a wide area of topics. I’d not downplay the detriments of ADHD but its influence in my personality has been to my benefit.

    4 votes
  12. Comment on What's the best way to learn piano without an in-person teacher? in ~hobbies

    fional
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    This is a difficult thing to ponder as someone who's had a lot of piano training in the past... it's hard to visualize the beginner's mind when you have expertise. So I'll keep this somewhat...
    • Exemplary

    This is a difficult thing to ponder as someone who's had a lot of piano training in the past... it's hard to visualize the beginner's mind when you have expertise. So I'll keep this somewhat generic.

    On technique

    One of the more important things a teacher does for you, as a beginner, is help you to spot technique errors you are making and correct them before they become ingrained muscle memory, after which they're much harder (but not impossible) to correct. As a beginner, you will have a hard time distinguishing between a physical gesture that feels awkward because it's unfamiliar to you, and one that feels awkward because it is awkward (and therefore will impede your fluid playing in the future).

    Try to be vigilant in separating those two different root causes. To that end, when learning a new technique, start slowly--slower than you think--and make sure you find a way to execute it that feels fluid, and there's a certain elegance and "conservation of energy" in the way you perform it. Now, this may or may not be 100% identical to someone you see doing the same technique on YouTube; we all have differently shaped hands and flexibility. Once you've got it down slowly, you can start to gradually speed it up. Any time you find yourself encountering fumbling, or more importantly, pain of any sort, take a break, slow it down, don't try to push through. Repetitive stress injuries in piano can sneak up on you, especially if you start trying to excessively drill.

    On reproduction vs. improvisation

    I would say there's two separate skills in playing an instrument. On the one hand, you can get increasingly good at reproducing a piece exactly. This involves being able to read sheet music and perform it accurately, and then moving up the difficulty ladder in being able to perform increasingly difficult pieces (faster, more challenging chords, more difficult techniques) accurately. The trick to advancing rapidly on this axis is finding pieces that exercise some boundary of your abilities: they should be hard in one technique or area you're trying to improve, but within your skills elsewhere. Picking a piece that's completely beyond you in all areas is a recipe for much slower progression and frustration. Shout-out to IMSLP as an invaluable tool for finding pieces. I would also place programs like "Synthesia" into this category, as they reward you on precise reproduction of a recorded piece.

    Alternatively, the improvisational skill lies in being able to take a very broad outline of a piece (e.g., a jazz lead sheet is essentially a chord progression and the main melodic line) and transform it into a novel musical work on-the-fly. This is less about practicing technique, and more about building up a compositional toolkit--chords and riffs--and embedding those tools into your immediate recollection so you can summon them effortlessly as you play. What's nice about this is that you can often take the same song and play it throughout your progression; as you get better, you improvise more complexity over the same basic outline. Advancing on this axis means learning and practicing scales and chords: can you take a piece you know and play it in all 12 different keys? Further evolution can involve transcription: when you're listening to a piece and you hear that something that's super cool, can you figure out how to play it yourself, by ear? Once you've figured out how to play it literally, you can experiment with it in different contexts and eventually assimilate the basic idea into your improvisational toolkit.

    I would say the easiest way to start down this path is to find songs you like on a tabs site (e.g. ultimate-guitar) and find a chords+lyrics document. Then, learn how to play those chords elsewhere. There's nigh-infinite ways to transform a chord, but the basic triads and inversions are straightforward; you might simplify a scary looking chord like "Cadd9" into just "C" for now. It'll sound a bit off, but in the ballpark, and as you get more comfortable, you can start expanding from triads into the more complex chord types.

    Note: while obviously the concert vs. jazz pianist might arguably specialize in these two different axes, all musicians will have some facility on both ladders and you should probably not disregard one or the other.

    On motivation

    Regardless of whether you have a teacher or not, I think motivation is the crucial driver of progress. Why do you want to get better? Is it achievement-for-the-sake-of-achievement? Do you just want to impress people with your skills? That's often a recipe for frustration. Another misstep is to play a piece solely as a skill-builder when, in reality, you just aren't that into it as music. Instead, in my practice, I find the key is to seeking out stuff that really make you go "heck yeah, I want to play that!" Maybe you have to find simplified sheet music at first, or just find the chord progression and play it with your own level of ability, but the reward of being able to generate a "heck yeah!" out of your own playing is, in my mind, one of the biggest drivers towards musical progress. Find something you like to play, learn to play it, repeat. :)

    8 votes
  13. Comment on What did you do this weekend? in ~talk

    fional
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    Here in the PNW, I’ve been sitting in the dark in the one room small enough to be effectively air conditioned with my small portable unit, while fighting existential dread about climate change....

    Here in the PNW, I’ve been sitting in the dark in the one room small enough to be effectively air conditioned with my small portable unit, while fighting existential dread about climate change. Supposed to hit 109 today. It’s been rough.

    4 votes
  14. Comment on What's a question you want to ask, but you're worried about how it might come across? in ~talk

    fional
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    This shouldn't be surprising--puberty 1.0 isn't overnight either! In practice, different effects kick in at different times. The first couple of months can feel like nothing at all is happening...
    • Exemplary

    It takes years for hormonal transition to work?

    This shouldn't be surprising--puberty 1.0 isn't overnight either! In practice, different effects kick in at different times. The first couple of months can feel like nothing at all is happening (though I presume at the cellular level things are different). The first noticeable effect for me was a dramatic softening in my skin, which continued to get even more dramatic through the first two years. Then breast development starts to become evident. though it tends to happen it fits and spurts which makes it hard to predict if you can expect more.

    Other effects can take a really long time. Hairline recovery is slow, if at all (there appears to be some point of hair miniaturization where it becomes irreversible for a particular follicle). Fat redistribution is also very gradual, it appears that your hormonal regime dictates where new fat is stored but extant fat is happy to keep on keeping on wherever it happens to be.

    I would say you probably won't see much at the 3 month mark, and by the 24 month mark you'll probably be near 80% of final effects, but that last 20% is stretched out over many many years and are much more subtle. This is all decidedly nonlinear as well--changes to how you administer HRT (injections seeming more effective than oral routes for most), surgical procedures (removal of the extant gonads that contribute hormonally in an antagonist fashion), and development of secondary sex organs (that still participate in endocrine regulation)--all of these can kickstart new momentum in changes.

    So some people might never get to the point of passing as a cis female to most people? How often does this happen to trans people?

    It's quite possible, but I don't know that there's any statistic. Nor do I think that such a thing can really be measured; passing is much more of a spectrum than a binary "yes/no" attribute you can apply to a person, and it can be impossible to know ""the truth"". Plenty of cis people have "failed to pass", and in reality our gender identification is pretty much the overlap of countless heuristics rather than an objective test.

    This can actually be a really pernicious issue for how we judge ourselves. If I'm confident in my gender identity, then I can laugh off the rare "sir" as an unfortunate accident. If I'm feeling really dysphoric and low self-confidence, then that one "sir" in a thousand can be "the proof that everyone else that gendered me correctly is just gaslighting me with kindness because I live in a liberal town and they recognize I'm trying to identify as a woman even though they see right through me." Exact same interaction, but one ends in me laughing for a second, and the other makes me spiral for the rest of the day.

    Another nasty facet is that you really can't get this as a "true opinion" even if you wanted to. You can't ask a friend if you pass, because just by the process of getting to know someone, you learn to identify them as the gender they present as, and you mentally emphasize the things that support that identity, and deemphasize the things that don't. It's not that you want to be intentionally misleading, it's just that your brain is a pattern matching engine that learns to update its model as new information comes in.

    There was a period where I was... rather deep in the hole of trying to be objective about this, because I was terrified and filled with self-doubts, and I kept getting obsessed with the various flavor of ML algorithms online that purport to classify face images with various best-guess attributes (gender, age, smiling/not-smiling, etc.). I would get consistently misgendered by these, and it really crushed me. I ended up reproducing the models by hand, with extra annotation so I could track which parts of the image contributed most to the final decision. Turns out--a lot of these models end up being glorified eyeliner detectors.

    What do trans people look like when in the first year or so apparently of HRT? Can they pass as both genders or neither?

    I would say... most later transitioning trans people have attributes that heuristically match to both man and woman, and therefore exist in a grey space that is markedly more open to interpretation. This means that rather subtle cues can be much more influential.

    Taking myself as an example: I'm around 5'10". That's not impossibly tall for a woman, but is in the "wow! you must've played basketball in high school!" crowd. I've had substantial laser and electrolysis hair removal on my face--the complete absence of beard shadow is extremely rare in men. My usual speaking voice is a low alto, again it doesn't necessarily "give it away" in either direction.

    In practice, that means that strangers will latch onto rather minor cues to drive their decision-making process. One of the biggest I've noticed is, funny enough, the fit of pants. If it's the winter, and I'm wearing a COVID mask, and I'm wearing a baggy set of jeans and a puffy winter coat, my "sir" rate goes up dramatically. If I wear a set of thermal leggings that are tight fitting, and more form fitting jacket, it never happens. Within this restricted scenario, it seems our gender identity comes down to gender segregated fashion choices.

    Similar to PhilosophyTube, my first year or so of HRT I mostly elected to wear baggy jeans and oversized hoodies, and for the most part present as "an unidentifiable lumpy outline". This pushed me far enough into ambiguity that most people just kept treating me the way they'd always treated me. If they had their suspicious as to the effects of HRT, they kept it to themselves. It did mean that, later on, there was a second "bandage to rip off" in the form of getting rid of the safety blanket hoodies and presenting myself more proactively.

    12 votes
  15. Comment on What's a question you want to ask, but you're worried about how it might come across? in ~talk

    fional
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    I will answer a slightly different question, because I assume it's closer to what you're getting at: What is it like to be in the first year or two of hormone therapy (HRT) for treatment of gender...
    • Exemplary

    I will answer a slightly different question, because I assume it's closer to what you're getting at: What is it like to be in the first year or two of hormone therapy (HRT) for treatment of gender dysphoria? I'll answer this from the trans woman perspective.

    Assuming, like me, you're transitioning sometime after your first puberty, it's a very turbulent time:

    • You're finally doing it, the thing that's been keeping you awake at night for months, or years. Going for it can be an incredible relief because you're finally making that unsaid thing said, and you don't have to keep trying to live up to this fake construct and dual identity you've been propping up for so long.
    • It's also terrifying--there's no guarantee that you'll get the outcome from HRT that you'd hoped for in your head, and at this point it's too early to tell. You have spent ages agonizing over every secondary sex expression that you've had up to this point, and if it's reversible or something you can live with. Will your hairline recover? Have your hips' growth plates closed? Can you find a voice that works for you, given the irreversible influence T has on your voice box? "Is this all the changes that I'm going to get?" (This is particularly dire if you live in the various subreddits where the extremely young and/or fortunate transitioners tend to flaunt their success.)
    • It's also boring! It feels like nothing happens for the first six months. Transition, in a lot of ways, is like a bunch of very slow moving changes--physical, mental, and social. Each of which on their own doesn't contribute that much, and none of them are a binary flip-flop, but they have a compounding effect so the overall "graph" can be quite hockey stick. Nothing seems to be happening at any given point until suddenly everything seems to "click" and then retroactively you can be like "huh, I guess a lot of things did happen."
    • In a lot of ways, you're also having to destroy your old identity and rebuild something new. Some friendships will blow up disastrously, some will tail off because you've stopped overlapping socially, some friends and family will genuinely surprise you in how much they support you. There's usually some conversations you've had, and still other conversations you've yet to have, that you dread more than anything. But they happen, and it's not the end of the world, even if it seemed that way beforehand.
    • Add to all the above: it kinda is a second puberty. You're ramping down one primary hormone, and ramping up on another and that can have all sorts of interesting effects. Hot flashes, mood swings, the works!

    On the whole, it can be a fairly messy process; especially if you are trying to keep up your relationships, work life, etc.

    22 votes
  16. Comment on What's a question you want to ask, but you're worried about how it might come across? in ~talk

    fional
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    I don't know that there's a single great answer to this. I think gender is probably a very muddy concept, with some parts social construct and some parts grounded in more physical manifestations,...

    I don't know that there's a single great answer to this. I think gender is probably a very muddy concept, with some parts social construct and some parts grounded in more physical manifestations, but trying to pin it down exclusively as one or the other risks excluding some folks' important lived experiences.

    On the one hand, there are a handful of fairly renowned examples of people in the 60s/70s that--due to intersex conditions or unfortunate surgical outcomes as infants (e.g. circumcisions)--were raised as the opposite gender than they were originally assigned, to extreme detriment in their personal lives, and ultimately their decision to transition to their natal assigned genders. This might imply some degree of intrinsic causative factors--but much like homosexuality and the search for the "gay gene", is fraught with a lot of ethical issues. I also think the framing can support medicalism, where trans folks seeking medical transition see themselves as more "true" than those that don't, which is nasty and particularly erasing of nonbinary identities.

    On another hand, gender probably has a lot of social construct elements, but being a social construct doesn't mean something is imaginary or inconsequential. Social constructs have really huge consequences! (See: race.) While seeking some sort of ideal of "not seeing gender" and treating all people identically can appeal from a theoretical perspective, that's not at all anyone's lived experience, and wanting to fit into the social construct that maps to ones' identity is certainly attractive when the alternative is a constant battle to swim upstream against a narrative that just does not work.

    From personal experience? I've noticed in the years since I first transitioned there were definite stages. At first, I saw myself through the lens of being treated AMAB my entire life, and therefore though I "wanted" to be a woman, I had a really difficult time actually internalizing that. During that phase, I think I biased towards indulging in normative gender roles, in part because I was trying to prove my gender identity to myself as much as anyone else, and external presentation was an easy way to signal that (also something of a whirlwind tour of all the bad fashion decisions most people get through in their teens).

    Once I'd gotten more comfortable with myself, I've settled into a more relaxed stance about gender presentation. Before, I used to wear t-shirts and jeans most days. Today, I still wear t-shirts and jeans most days (granted, different cuts and different fits). The important changes are how I view myself, and I'm 100% happier with who I am today. Totally worth it.

    (Disclaimer: That's just my experience, and between living in one of the most liberal cities, and hormone therapy being rather generous to me, I enjoy a fair bit of "passing privilege" that means that I fit into society the way I want without having to overtly signal it that hard. Don't want to speak for anyone else.)

    8 votes
  17. Comment on Ecocredits, on how to use capitalism to solve global warming in ~enviro

    fional
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    I’m not certain how you avoid implicitly assigning a monetary value to an ecocredit, wishful thinking aside. As an example, if I’m a carpenter and I make a nice piece of furniture, either you can...

    I’m not certain how you avoid implicitly assigning a monetary value to an ecocredit, wishful thinking aside.
    As an example, if I’m a carpenter and I make a nice piece of furniture, either you can come pick it up (and pay the credits on your gas), or I can deliver it to you (and I’ll pay the credits on my gas). Does the price I charge for delivery not, in itself, set a price on an ecocredit (plus labor), and does paying it constitute a hidden transfer?

    3 votes
  18. Comment on Do you think a recession is likely within the next 15 years? If so, what/who will cause it and why? in ~talk

    fional
    Link
    I suspect there's a substantial risk in both corporate and sovereign debt-- the absolute amount of debt is quite high, but serviceable due to historically low interest rates. As a result, the...

    I suspect there's a substantial risk in both corporate and sovereign debt-- the absolute amount of debt is quite high, but serviceable due to historically low interest rates. As a result, the economy seems very dependent on a low interest-rate environment, to the point where the raising or lowering of the interest rate appears to dwarf most other market trends.
    While this situation has existed for a long time, and could persist for the foreseeable future, I also think it's possible that the demographics of the baby boomer generation retiring may also produce an exogenous shock to the interest rate situation--as the peak earner boomers retire and become a net capital outflow from the investment sphere, they decrease the credit supply and therefore will exert an upward pressure on interest rates. This is less acute in the US, where immigration has helped offset declining fertility rates, but might be more pressing in southern Europe and East Asia. As the Baby Boomer generation ran until 1964, the last of them will hit 65 at 2029, and so if this plays out, it will likely be within the next 15 years.

    3 votes
  19. Comment on Categorically Gay: For queer people who grew up in an era when rigid identities were essential, today’s fluidity can feel like their history is washing out with the tide. in ~lgbt

    fional
    Link
    I feel like there's a similar tension at times in the trans community--it's wonderful that with growing acceptance there's an increasing number of young people that are able to tackle their gender...

    I feel like there's a similar tension at times in the trans community--it's wonderful that with growing acceptance there's an increasing number of young people that are able to tackle their gender issues before puberty, and outside of an awkward year or two of transition in school (and let's be frank, when is school not an awkward time of transition for anyone?), get to live the remainder of their lives indistinguishably from their cis- counterparts.
    But at the same time, there's a bit of an awkward schism between this group and the later transitioners; there's not the same set of shared experiences between someone that is able to treat their trans status like a condition treatable with medication, and someone whose status makes them part of a visibly marginalized minority. Sometimes this comes from the younger folk, who would rather not openly acknowledge that they are trans and entirely disengage with the larger community, sometimes this comes from the older folk (we're not immune to unrealistic societal standards of beauty, even if we can't hope to achieve them), and there can be a lot of latent envy and animosity.
    On the other hand, outside of some 100% infallible medical test (and all the extremely uncomfortable implications that that would have), it's likely that there will be people that don't figure themselves out until later in life, and so this might be more of a persistent bifurcation.

    4 votes
  20. Comment on Setting aside the musical content (if you can), what are the best music videos you know? in ~music