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Friday Fun Thread for February 10, 2023

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

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Guess who just labeled a hundred pounds of meat "2/22" before looking at the calendar. Good thing twos are easy to turn into a shitty 3.

Anyone written some year old checks yet?

No, but you could have also added another slash and marked it 2/22/23, which isn't the correct date but is close enough for freshness purposes.

It's kind of odd that this isn't bigger news, but iirc, the most powerful launch vehicle ever (if we go by engine power*) just had a static fire, and an orbital test is expected shortly.

I wonder what happened to the birds which were nearby.. Guys didn't drop out of the sky despite what must have been extremely punishing pressure event.

*it's reusable, so the payload to orbit isn't as large as with some others, but the efficiency ought to be unsurpassed, as burning extra fuel is far, far cheaper than throwing away highly complex and expensive machinery.

Once in-orbit fuel transfer works, and SpaceX has more launch vehicles, a Moon mission involving 100 ton payload could be as simple as 6-8 launches to refuel the upper stage in a high orbit. And having a moon lander. upper stage, which they're developing for NASA, but that should actually be somewhat simpler technically than the Earth version, having no need for Earth re-entry.

I wonder what happened to the birds which were nearby.. Guys didn't drop out of the sky despite what must have been extremely punishing pressure event.

That was crazy to watch.

here is your weekly allotted fun. here is a castle marsey that @Snakes made. i will keep posting this every week.

Can someone who has a good understanding of economics or businesses or something explain/clarify the theory that businesses can maintain monopolies by buying out smaller competitors whenever they pop up? Because I keep hearing this as an explanation why, for instance, insulin costs so much, or some other thing, but it feels to me like it should be game-theoretically unstable. Any industry where large companies reliably buy smaller competitors should incentivize lots of startups seeking to exploit this and investors eager to earn a small but reliable sum of money.

Maybe my understanding economics is too mathematically naive, so let me put forth the argument:

Let A is the point where you create a brand new company costing $X in startup costs, B is the point where you're big enough that a monopoly will offer to buy you out for $Y, and C is the point where you become a large competitor splitting the near-monopolistic profits for $Z. Let p be the probability of getting from A to B, and q be the probability of getting from B to C conditional on not accepting a buyout offer.

Case 1: suppose X > pqZ. That is, the average payoff from forming a company and growing it to size is lower than the cost of trying, so nobody will try in the first place. This should be the case in an oversaturated (or perfectly saturated) market, not one which has a near monopoly charging exorbitant prices way higher than their production costs like for insulin. And if this were the case, then this would be the appropriate explanation for why the product costs too much, not blaming the larger company for buying out smaller competitors (which they wouldn't need to do in the first place, since nobody would try to compete with them in the first place)

Case 2: suppose X < pqZ < pY. X < pqZ means that if a monopolistic offer does not exist a new company would be profitable, so people make startups. But pqZ < pY means that, once p has been rolled sucessfully and you have a small company, the offer (Y) is greater than the expected value of continuing the company to completion (qZ), so the startup sells. But this is a profit. pY > X means that new startups will on average earn a profit from selling out, and in fact will do so with less variance than having to roll both p and q, and in a shorter turnaround time. Investors should be repeatedly funding startup after startup to arbitrage this (unless the buyout offer has some sort of non-complete clause that extends to the investors or something). Which should continue until negative feedback loops force the large companies to lower Y, sending us to case 3.

Case 3: suppose X < pY < pqZ. Then new companies will start up hoping to become large, and when they receive an offer, they will decline it because the expected value of continuing, qZ, is larger than the offer Y. And then you have competition and the monopoly weakens, lowering the cost of the produced good. Continue until a fair market equilibrium is reached.


And yet we see near-monopolies and exhorbitant prices in real life, and we don't see literal thousands of eager startups constantly getting bought in the same industry with little effort, so clearly reality has disproven my counterargument and at least one of my premises must be flawed. What am I missing? Is the explanation of buyouts being to blame just wrong and near-monopolies are always caused by patents or unfair regulations or something else? Is there a shortage of competent entrepreneurs such that most potential company founders would hit case 1, and the few who hit case 2 can be bought out and non-competed away without bankrupting the large company? Does this transition from Case 2 to 3 actually happen all the time but slowly and near-monopolies are simply temporary blips during the time it takes for this to play out? I'd love to hear if someone actually understands this.

Monopolies or oligopolies exist where moats prevent new competitors. It’s easy to find capital, labor, and regulatory approval for a new restaurant, so we see tons of competition and low margins. Hollywood sees big margins because blockbusters require huge capital outlays other film markets can’t compete with. A hospital might have huge margins because competitors are barred by law from entering the marketplace. High-end microchip manufacturing is so difficult that nearly all skilled engineers in the field are concentrated in a few firms, so no one else can make products of a similar quality no matter the capital outlay.

Drug manufacturing is a combo of all three. You need a ton of capital, regulatory approval from the FDA, and some skilled industrial chemists. It’s somehow legal to ‘pay for delay’, where company A pays company B to not make their drug, but this only works when B is the only competitor with sufficient industrial capacity to compete. Ibuprophen is old, easy to make, with huge demand; weak moat, so the price is great. But long-acting insulin analogues like glargine or degludec are new, complex biologics targeting the small DMI market; it’s too expensive to compete so great margins, high price. The problem is similar to adverse selection; a small number will buy at any price, so either sick people get extorted, it’s subsidized by the public pocketbook, or new drugs are underprovisioned. Pick your poison.

A hospital might have huge margins because competitors are barred by law from entering the marketplace.

It's even called a CON.

This seems like a topic for the culture-war thread, but the standard libertarian claim* is that big companies lobby the government to increase startup costs (your variable X), causing your case 1 to be more common than it would be in a truly free market.

*For example:

The recent era of antitrust reassessment has resulted in general agreement among economists that the most successful instances of cartelization and monopoly pricing have involved companies that enjoy the protection of government regulation of prices and government control of entry by new competitors. Occupational licensing and trucking regulation, for example, have allowed competitors to alter terms of competition and legally prevent entry into the market. Unfortunately, monopolies created by the federal government are almost always exempt from antitrust laws, and those created by state governments frequently are exempt as well. Municipal monopolies (e.g., taxicabs, utilities) may be subject to antitrust action but often are protected by statute.

I recall reading somewhere that regardless of size, every drug (or just insulin?) company has to contribute the same flat amount of cash to the FDA, which gives a huge competitive disadvantage to new/small companies.

The FDA charges fees for processing applications for drugs and medical devices. That is per application, not per company. Given the high cost of development they don't seem to be particularly high. And note that for some applications, smaller companies are indeed charged less.

I got into watching Russian pyramid, which is a hardcore version of pool. The rules are frustratingly simple: pocket any ball into any hole, but the balls are large and the holes are small. is a great example. If you understand Russian, the commentary is also an amusing confirmation of the Eastern European feedback meme: where snooker commentators go "oh what a shot, what a great shot", the dudes providing the commentary for this clash of the titans are both thoroughly unimpressed.

I once played pool in a friend's basement, his father (who had never played pool, just thought it's something he should have) put the table together with the bumpers attached backwards. As a result the corners were tiny, basically unusable unless you had a precise 45 degree angle, while the side pockets were enormous. It changed strategy significantly.

Where would I even buy these "Large balls" (giggity) ?

Aramith makes both 68mm and 67mm balls. The bigger question is: where would you buy a Russian billiard table?

Those are insanely tight pockets. I had to look it up to learn that the scoring is just "first to eight balls wins the rack", which makes sense since the balls are otherwise undifferentiated. It seems like the vast increase in technical skill required is partially offset by some amount of decrease in cognitive skill required. You still need to think things through a bit, but probably not to the same extent of other billiards games. I'm just thinking about that, because back in the day, I was known to come up with my own billiards variants that went in the other direction, trying to push the cognitive aspect to be harder and harder.

There's also dynamic pyramid, played with a cue ball. If you carom it into a pocket, you get to remove any white ball and get a ball-in-hand, but can't play another carom shot until you pocket a white ball. Without this rule the game would be completely impossible, but with it, it results in very interesting tactical play:

  • first, you have to look for that carom shot and sink your cue ball

  • sinking the next ball is relatively easy, but you have to ensure that your cue ball rebounds into a position that allows you to take another carom shot

  • if the situation is hopeless, you need to take a shot that makes it even worse for your opponent

That sounds like a lot of fun!

I just found out that hotels have terrible security where I live (Dubai).

My friend and I were pretty well dressed for a wedding (Haircuts, beard trimmed, tailor-made suits on). Knowing that you can get into various places if you have a high-vis suit and a ladder on you, we decided to find out how far can looking like a really important rich person get you.

We walked (with stern determined facial expressions) into various high-end (really high end 5 star international chains, imagine 1000's of important international tourists and businessmen venues) hotels buffets, ate the food, chilled in their VIP lounges (ate the food there too), and chilled by their rooftop swimming pools, all of it just by confidently walking into the hotel, and going where we had to. Usually, you get carded before entering any ballroom or facility of a hotel but for some reason, we didn't get carded even once as we nonchalantly walked past the security and the service staff even made things easier for us by checking in to make sure whatsoever we were enjoying was good enough.

I am not too ashamed about committing theft in this instance because all of it was soo amusing for us.

This is how a high-trust society feels like.

The most interesting case I personally experienced was when I booked a small hotel 1 km from the center of Tallinn. And I was arriving after midnight so I asked them if that's OK and they said that they will leave the front door unlocked and my key on the reception table. Which they did. And, like, there was at least the computer there on the reception and who knows what else to steal, but apparently that was a good neighborhood. Needless to say, there were no checks whatsoever regarding the breakfast.

I recently had a Parisian-Bucharestian guest, and we visited a local farmer's store together. Said store is just an open room with goods stacked on shelves, a piggy bank for a cash register and a glass full of change, and no surveillance or security whatsoever. My guest was more than slightly surprised by this being a workable system and still often asks me to confirm the continued existence of that store.

I've had some success with this trick even without upper-class signalling - just being tall-ish, not a visible minority, clean-cut and walking confidently is enough to pattern match with 'belongs here' about 90% of the time.

I'm not sure I would try this in Dubai, though. Risk of extrajudicial punishment if caught seems a bit high.

I had friends who got into the VIP section of the Country Music Awards by just flashing their college badges as though they were passes.

Nah worst that would happen is they kick you out. The stories of insane punishments are a myth.

As much as I have been assured by childless female democrats and their allies in academia assure me that "cultural appropriation" is a terrible thing that must be condemned I've been enjoying watching the Czechs and Poles embrace the joy of redneckism

As much as I have been assured by childless female democrats and their allies in academia

Dude, what is with you lately? You did not used to dip into this base level of culture warring and sneering.

Tone it down, please.

I don't know what to tell you other than what I was recently telling @IGI-111.

I don't think my comment was all that sneering, insulting, or culture warry. At least no more so than what has already been established as the baseline for participation on The only difference is who's sacred cow is getting cooked.

Which actually brings me to something I've been meaning to ask. If a comment were reported as insulting but the community had marked it as "neutral" to "good" what are the odds that a moderator would even read it, much less assign the comment a warning or ban?

Sigh. You really gonna tell me I'm only (lightly) modding you because you insulted my sacred cow?

If a comment were reported as insulting but the community had marked it as "neutral" to "good" what are the odds that a moderator would even read it, much less assign the comment a warning or ban?

I don't know exactly how Zorba's system is going to work - it's still being tested and right now we still only mod based on what we see (in the mod queue or otherwise).

Sigh. You really gonna tell me I'm only (lightly) modding you because you insulted my sacred cow?

Yes and no. I'm not going to claim that what I did was not necessarily worthy of a warning. But I would suggest that reason that I'm getting this attention is that I'm sneering at different targets than most of the other users here and thus I am the nail that sticks out.

I don't know exactly how Zorba's system is going to work - it's still being tested and right now we still only mod based on what we see (in the mod queue or otherwise).

That's actually encouraging to hear, I know that Zorba has always hated moderating and was worried that the new feature would be used as an excuse to offload that burden.

The biggest group of passing sneers I see here is basically some variation of "woke bad" particularly feminists, anti-racists and trans activists. Childless female democrats who complain about cultural appropriation seems to fall in that sphere as well so I don't think you are as much of an outlier (in this respect at least) as you might think.

I'm not saying that there isn't any sneering at progressives to. I'm saying that sneering is already the norm and the reason my comments stick out is that I'm sneering at the wrong targets, IE people rationalists typically identify with.

the reason my comments stick out is that I'm sneering at the wrong targets, IE people rationalists typically identify with

Amazing. Every word of what you just said is wrong.

Your comments don't "stick out" particularly. You got reported because your sneer was -- a sneer. Other people sneering at other targets (including those that rationalists "identify with" and those they don't) have also been reported, and not infrequently, modded. You have not come to our special attention, and while you do have haters who spite-report most of what you post, you are not unique in that regard, and we haven't become stupid since moving off of reddit. You didn't get reported just because you sneered at the "wrong" target.

There are no "right" or "wrong" targets here. There are people who are obviously very tribal, so they think some targets are right and some are wrong, and will report accordingly, but again - we are not stupid. You didn't get modded just because you sneered at the "wrong" target (implying that if you had sneered at the "right" target, it would have been okay).

This place isn't particularly rationalist, and really, hasn't been for a very long time. There is still overlap - maybe we are still "rationalist-adjacent" - but if this place has a "tribe," it isn't rationalists. You didn't get reported or modded because you attacked the in-group.

"Childless female Democrats" is not a group that rationalists particularly identify with, to my knowledge (I am sure there are childless female Democrats in the rationalist community, but that's not the same thing), and they are definitely not a group that the Motte identifies with. (I wouldn't be confident that we have a single childless female Democrat poster.) So you weren't reported or modded because you attacked a group that anyone here identifies with.

You were reported, presumably, because you threw out a low effort sneer. You were modded because a mod (me) looked at it and say "Yup, that's a sneer and we don't want that kind of thing."

Get off your cross. You are not a brave iconoclast challenging the groupthink here - you're becoming just another culture warrior whose enemy tribe is very slightly different from the people who hate wokes, women, and Jews.

But rationalists don't appear to identify with child free female democrats who complain about cultural appropriation.

Thats the (generalizing here) "woke" demographic not the rationalist one. Who are mainly male and overwhelmingly tech oriented. And at least here 1) Rationalists are probably not the majority and 2) those who post here are even more unlikely to identify with the group you targeted, and indeed more likely to target them, themselves.

So I don't think that really passes muster as an explanation. If you were posting on "normie" reddit then you might have more of a point I think.

But I would suggest that reason that I'm getting this attention is that I'm sneering at different targets than most of the other users here and thus I am the nail that sticks out.

You're kidding, right? You think sneering at "childless female Democrats" puts you in a different category from the median Motteposter?

You’ve got to admit, out of the thousand versions of the post one might have predicted, one containing a segway into celebrating polish redneckism is genuinely unexpected. I for one enjoyed the counterpoint to dead internet theory.

You're kidding, right?

No I'm not. See my previous link. I'm saying that while sneering at at niggers and normies is the accepted norm here, sneering at democrats and academics is not. and to be clear, If I eat a ban for saying this I'm not going to be mad. I will be the first to acknowledge that I am not without sin. My comment just now may have been a bit culture warry, but again I would argue that is no more so than many other comments here that have been met with Mod approval.

You're not saying anything banworthy, I just think you're talking shit (since we're being blunt and all).

Plenty of sneers at "niggers and normies" have been modded. You should know better than to join the "any post the mods don't issue a warning for is one they agree with" bandwagon, but I guess you don't. This is disappointing.

Appealing to consensus isn't the right way to buttress your point, whether you go against it or with it. For my own part I don't see any such anti-normie consensus, speaking as a pro-normie myself.

sneering at democrats and academics is not [the accepted norm here].

Er. What? One of the highest voted comments ever on this site is this one, which is basically "look at the ridiculous thing this progressive academic did", let's all sneer at the people who enable such nonsense. The key point, though, was that the sneering was at a specific bad action by a member of that group.

If you had found a killjoy childless academic condemning the Czech and Polish appropriation of American redneck culture, and the condemnation was related to them being a childless killjoy, I think that would have made the comment a lot less jarring. As it was, I felt like I was looking at a comment that said "I don't like childless academics, and also look at this amazing video".

ETA: also TW's comment was in the CW thread

I don't disagree with your overall point, but I do take issue with that article being labeled as sneering. I presented an ongoing story while taking pains to avoid unnecessary potshots at the guy at the center of it. His behavior was bad in a way enabled by current culture, but by no means a pathology unique to progressive culture.

I emphasize this because I think it's worth distinguishing between sneering (overt mockery of opponents) and other sorts of criticism or negative coverage.

More comments

If you had found a killjoy childless academic condemning the Czech and Polish appropriation of American redneck culture, I think that would have made the comment a lot less jarring. As it was, I felt like I was looking at a comment that said "I don't like childless academics, and also look at this amazing video".

This "appropriation" of American culture (more precisely image of American culture from cowboy novels and movies) is more than 100 years old (yes, for real) and is integral part of Czech culture by now.

In the Czech Republic, the first tramps were senior scouts who did not like certain rules of this organization - they paid more attention to taking care of nature. This took place during the First World War , when the name tramps did not yet function, they were called wild scouts.

Tramps gradually discovered still wild areas, such as the southern area of Prague (mainly in the basin of the Vltava and Sazawa rivers ), later the Berounka basin and forests near the Brda River. Later, tramps could be found in every corner of former Czechoslovakia. However, it was in the basin of the Vltava and Sasau that the first settlements were established, modeled on those organized when settling the West .

The tramps showed special respect for nature, their camps left no trace of human interference in the landscape.

The oldest known Czech settlement was founded around 1918 on the Vltava in a place called Svatojánské currents , today flooded by the waters of the Štěchovice dam reservoir . An initially nameless group of former Prague scouts renamed the place where they went on weekends to "Roaring Camp" after the short story by Bret Hart . Later (according to the settlement chronicle in 1919) the tramp settlement " Ztracená naděje " or "Ztracenka" was founded here - on the forest land of the Strahov Premonstratensians. [1] The settlers chose the name of the settlement after the silent movie cowboy The Valey of Lost Hope (1915, Valley of Lost Hope). The settlers also included the Tramp lyricist and composer Jarka Mottl .

The first tramps were usually people from poorer social strata, or the unemployed for whom this way of life was socially acceptable. Later, when the movement became popular in the wider strata of Czech society, young people from the middle classes, fashionably even from the upper social classes, the so-called Astrakhans, joined the tramps.

City trippers with cars and fancy equipment were derisively called " thugs " or "greasers" - sometimes leaving behind greasy papers and other messes. In contrast, true trampers had respect for nature, there was no trace of their camping, they cleaned up after themselves.

All regimes in history hated this movement - pre war Czechoslovakia as obscene and communist, Nazis as American and Jewish, Communists as American and capitalist. If "childless liberal academics" object to it, they are not alone.

"Cotton Eyed Joe", a staple of my youth dances, was of course a Swedish song, originally, and Swedes have a long history of American redneck larping.

It was originally an Southern American folk song; the Rednex recording was an adaptation. Here's Bob Wills singing it in 1946. Having first heard the song from Nina Simone's 1959 recording, I was very confused as to why so many Redditors seemed to be familiar with it.

Oh, makes sense. Though I mainly mentioned it as a segue to raggare anyhow.

There's this somewhat 1990s famous anime series* "Legend of Galactic Heroes". It's based on a series of Japanese military SF novels. The novels are of the kind that deal more with command, strategy and tactics rather than the actual pew-pew/aargh of SF combat.

I learned about it when someone posted a meme dissing 'lore' of some other series and well, look for yourself:. Piqued my interest.

No spoilers at any of the links here.

Haven't gotten around to watching the series - it's rather long and quality of visuals is not up to modern standards, but I'm enjoying reading the first book.

Like with Three Body Problem, there's a distinctly alien quality to the book despite it being translated and populated mostly by people descended from Europeans. It's sort of a military space opera I guess, but with a more serious tone. The books and the series is complex but not too impenetrable like certain anime. I suspect a lot of the harder to understand anime series are that way because Japanese correctly understand if you make something that makes little sense, people will still try to make sense out of it and impute deepness to it.

The first book is not bad at all. The writer has a good turn of phrase and the characters / organisational dynamics are described realistically. It's not boring or too predictable.

A flaw in the first book is that the strategic issue with the first battle were a bit ridiculous- e.g. professional soldiers in long running war making the kind of error a schoolboy wouldn't make after five games of Stellaris! Specifically they allow themselves be defeated in detail, which is just .. ugh.

*no. 11 on that list, which is mostly new stuff.

Hmm. I'm not saying this to be deliberately inflammatory, but I honestly don't think I've ever come across a Japanese anime or videogame that had something remotely interesting to say about history of military conflict or world politics. And I've consumed a fair amount of both, though anime I've almost completely given up on a while ago. (Except maybe for a couple of Miyazaki movies but he does, as snobby as it sounds, transcend the genre.)

Instead, the range seems to be from "I like to look at picture books of WW2 tanks and planes, aren't they awesome?" to "I took Poly-sci 101 and Philosophy 101 freshman year and now I have all these amazingly deep insights I'd like to share!" with a generous dash of "Japan getting nuked twice made me realize all war is bad!" The sort of thing that makes Tom Clancy look like a top military analyst and Aaron Sorkin like an absolute genius.

Lots of anime has very cool (ranging on obsessive) detail in its rendering of real and fictional military hardware, but that's generally where the attention to detail seems to stop.

(But I'm glad I looked at the clip, because I recently saw those spaceships in an unrelated video about sci-fi space combat and was wondering where they were from!)

I'm not sure. E.g. the world politics asides in Ghost in the Shell were not bad. Haven't seen enough to make an opinion.

Haven't really read the LOGH books, but the political parts seem the least weak. Sure, demagogues bad, but I'm expecting at some point a recognition of the need for myths and such.

After all, war is not something that humanity can simply transcend without killing itself. The lies necessary in waging a war may be distasteful, but so is killing, and while there are some who'd prefer to be a victim rather than a killer, our blood comes from those who chose otherwise, hence there's always going to be more of those who will do the needful.

Japanese in general seem more cynical and realistic about democracy - they've had democracy imposed on them at gunpoint, and have never really started to believe the bullshit.

You might like Ryosuke Takahashi's work. Dougram in particular, and maybe some parts of VOTOMS.

Great series. Expect a fair amount of caricature-level commanders and silly politicians to be a common thread in the stories. It's not all like that first battle, but it will recur, especially for side characters.

I've only watched one season of the new series/remake (Die Neue These), but it's actually not bad. It might be a classic in its own right. It has a kind of modern-yet-glacial pace which grows on you, like an old novel.

Interesting. I've heard a lot of recommendations for LOGH, yet never watched it myself.

I read the light novels for 'Saga of Tanya the Evil' where an authoritarian capitalist HR manager gets murdered by someone he angers for firing him. He then manages to anger God by being too much of an atheist so is born as a poor orphan girl in not-Wilhelmine Germany with significant magical power, such that she's drafted for the mage-force around 12 and gets to fight in not-WW2 against a coalition manipulated behind the scenes by God.

It was interesting since I got a certain sense of the author's genuine interest in military tactics and the what-ifs of WW2. What if they march on for total victory in France, refusing to allow not-Dunkirk? What if they arm the minorities of the not-Soviet Union? Tanya gets a kampfgruppe later on, invents some combined arms warfare. There's discussion of the advantages of internal-lines of communication vs divided enemies amd various other ideas. I learnt that Soviet air defence was so amateurish that they let some random German pilot land a light aircraft in Red Square back in the real world. Thus Tanya decides to mount an air raid on Moscow, at which point not-Beria goes mad with lust upon seeing a pre-teen girl humiliating the not-Soviet Union. It's a fun story, where Tanya gets into all kinds of trouble due to misinterpreting the situation + God messing with her.

Also, there were some really unrealistically terrible generals in the real world. Fredendall for instance was comically incompetent:

Instead of using the standard military map grid-based location designators, he made up confusing codes such as "the place that begins with C." This practice was unheard-of for a general and distinguished graduate of the Command and General Staff School, who had been taught to always use standardized language and procedures to ensure clarity when transmitting orders under the stress of combat. Fredendall's informality often led to confusion among his subordinates, and precious time was lost attempting to discern his meaning.

Fredendall was given to speaking and issuing orders using his own slang, such as calling infantry units "walking boys" and artillery "popguns."

Fredendall rarely visited the front lines, and had a habit of disregarding advice from commanders who had been farther forward and had actually reconnoitered the terrain.[11] He split up units and scattered them widely,[12] and at critical defense points had positioned U.S. forces (against advice) too far apart for mutual support or effective employment of artillery, the strongest American arm.

Fredendall was barely on speaking terms with Ward, whom he had deliberately left out of operational meetings after Ward had repeatedly protested the separation of his command into weaker 'penny packet' forces distributed across various sectors of the front.

Allied forces were bereft of air support during critical attacks, and were frequently positioned by the senior command in positions where they could not support each other. Subordinates later recalled their utter confusion at being handed conflicting orders, not knowing which general to obey—Anderson or Fredendall.

Fredendall is one of those bizarre episodes of WW2 that's .. hard to believe but apparently happened.

Not that the war wasn't a clownshow in general - combat almost always is, but it's usually a way more serious and less obviously funny clownshow.

One could make a black comedy about Fredendall, the ordinary battlefield fuckups are just heartbreaking. And if they aren't, what happens to the other side is.

In the operational exercises the US Army conducted in the fall of 1941, 42 divisional, corps, and army commanders took part. General George Marshall (Army Chief of Staff) saw fit to relieve 31 of them afterwards. The next year, 20 of the Army's 27 division commanders were fired. Fredendall made it through both of these cullings.

That goes to show you how significant and severe the crisis of American military leadership was prior to the war, and gives you an indication of how someone like Eisenhower managed to go from Colonel to Supreme Allied Commander in under three years.

... I wonder how the war would have ended without someone like Marshall being in charge of the army.

The next big war is going to be a complete shitshow is my guess, because the things on reads about officer promotion boards are highly discouraging.

I was wondering if anyone can recommend a good abstract algebra book? It’s something I have been wanting to learn a bit of. I am a geophysicist so I have pretty strong linear algebra, calculus and general numerical

Methods background, but have never taken set theory or real/imaginary analysis.

I remember liking a course I took ages ago that was based on Atiyah-McDonald's Introduction to Commutative Algebra, though padded with additional material by the lecturer to remove the "commutative" qualifier.

The doorstopper that is Lang's Algebra has everything, but I thought it to be more useful as a reference work than something you'd actually read cover to cover.

When I took an abstract algebra course in college, the text we used was A Book of Abstract Algebra, 2nd ed by Charles C. Pinter. Decent book as I recall.

Ain't nothing wrong with Dummit and Foote, but as usual you pay through the nose. (I'm too cheap to own D+F, but it was the text in grad school. Ash is 1/4 the price, and has some cool algorithmic style stuff.)

With some texts, you can still just google "$Title $Author pdf" (or epub) and get a clean copy without torrenting. This is the case with what you just mentioned.

Probably trying libgen makes more sense. Awful lot of stuff over there..

Probably trying libgen makes more sense. Awful lot of stuff over there.. works too, not only for public domain works.

Books still in copyright can be "borrowed" for limited time, easily downloaded and very easily stripped from DRM protection.

Dang that is expensive (even the international edition is like 60$!). I’ll start with Ash!

I may have mentioned this before, but for those of you don’t know, I’m an unapologetic music junkie. Since 2010 or so, I’ve been making my way through the corpus of music history in a semi-systematic way that makes sense only to me, and rating albums as I go through it using a scale of 0 to 5 stars, half stars included. To date, I have awarded 186 albums the highest ranking the criteria for which are as follows:

The crème de la crème. Albums that have no serious weak moments and many transcendent ones. Any weak spots or less than captivating songs are overshadowed by the splendor of the glorious majority. In any event, these are minor enough that pointing them out is the kind of petty nitpicking that even fans of the work in question will argue over. Nearly all of these records defined either the genre which they belong to or the era in which they were recorded.

I don’t normally rank the albums as I rate them, but I’ve done so for the top tier. As a sort of personal indulgence, I will include capsule reviews for all the albums on this list over the next several Fridays, including as many reviews as character limits allow. Without further ado:

186 Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More from the Road (1977)

Most live albums are superfluous—they include pleasant live renditions of the familiar studio material but rarely offer anything essential. The best live albums are usually the shorter ones that highlight a few key performances rather than attempting to provide the full concert experience. Unfortunately, there was a trend in the 1970s where any artist nearing the end of its contract would release an obligatory double live album that clocked in at over an hour and contained everything a fan could want in a live release. Most of these are decent, but inessential. This record is one of the few exceptions. Lead guitarist Steve Gaines had recently joined the band and would only be present for one studio album, but the performances he gives here are nonpareil, giving the familiar classics a level of sophistication they hadn’t had previously. And the performance of "Freebird" that ends the album makes it abundantly clear why calling for it at the end of unrelated concerts became such a cliché 20 years later.

185 Strawbs – Ghosts (1975)

Strawbs were about as undistinguished a Progressive Rock band as you could get, never having any commercial success, always showing flashes of brilliance but never making a truly great album (though Hero and Heroine came close). Then, in 1975, as Progressive Rock was in its death throes, everything finally came together. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the album, just that it combines great songs with enough of the usual progressive elements to keep things interesting.

184 Organized Konfusion – Organized Konfusion (1991)

Most rap albums—even the important ones—suffer from some critical flaw that prevents them from achieving the highest ranking. I’d be remiss if I claimed that this album held any particular degree of importance in the history of rap music, but it manages to run for nearly an hour without a bum track in sight. The liberal Steely Dan samples don’t hurt, either.

183 Thievery Corporation – Sound from the Thievery Hi-Fi (1997)

Downtempo albums can be difficult to judge because they are, at some level, supposed to exist in the background as much as the foreground. Ones that emphasize the former tend to be generic and unmemorable. Ones that emphasize the latter can be good albums, but they aren’t really effective as Downtempo albums. Not only does Thievery Corporation manage to strike this balance perfectly, they also manage to strike a similar balance between Hip-Hop and Easy Listening, making this album equally suited for smoking a joint as it is to being played in a department store. And, of course, the individual cuts are great as well.

182 The Byrds – The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)

It seems odd looking back at the catalog of one of the most significant bands in Rock history that this was the only album they released that makes this list. There are at least five other Byrds albums that probably have better critical reputations than this, and they are very good albums, but all suffered from pretty significant flaws. What makes it all the more unusual is that this album was recorded at an uncertain point in the band’s history; personnel changes were rampant, with the only constants being Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, and session musicians were used to complete the songs. Nonetheless, this album manages to encapsulate everything that was great about the Byrds: “Goin’ Back” echoes back to their early Folk-Rock period, “Wasn’t Born to Follow” looks ahead to their Country-Rock future, and there’s plenty of psychedelic weirdness thrown in for good measure.

181 Bob Seger – Night Moves (1976)

While Bruce Springsteen has always fashioned himself as the working-class Heartland Rocker par excellence, Bob Seger is a much better choice for that distinction. He’d spent the past decade as a true working musician, putting out albums regularly, touring constantly, and getting little recognition outside of Michigan for it. His breakthrough album was the typical double-live Live Bullet, but this was his first real studio success, containing great songs that encapsulate the heartland approach without resorting to the theatrical bombast of Bruce Springsteen or the overearnestness of John Mellencamp.

180 Roy Harper – Stormcock (1971)

Roy Harper’s claim to fame among most Rock fans is as the namesake of the Led Zeppelin song “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper” and as the lead vocalist on Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”. He was always bound to be the kind of guy that was more popular among musicians than among the general public. This is certainly an unusual album in the Rock canon—only four tracks, two per side, just acoustic guitar and vocals. But the length of the songs works to their advantage, as Harper is talented enough to make them seem epic rather than overlong, and his guitar playing is intricate enough that the spare instrumentation never seems inadequate.

179 Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase (2005)

The critical consensus may be that Music Has the Right to Children is the best Boards of Canada album, and while that record was more influential, it had to much weirdness for the sake of weirdness to make it into the top tier. By the time The Campfire Headphase was released, the band was no longer on the cutting edge, but the more deliberate composition and integration of acoustic instruments made this the better album.

178 Donovan – A Gift from a Flower to a Garden (1967)

Donovan was by far the dippiest member of the British Folk-Rock scene (he went to India with the Beatles and actually took the whole trip seriously), so it’s no surprise that he recorded a children’s album that was more than a lazy cash-in. While the individual songs are relatively short, the album is a double, and it’s clear that he was contributing A material. The dippiness actually works to this album’s advantage, as Donovan can parlay that into a sense of whimsy rather than simply dumbing-down the music, as so many other musicians are wont to do when playing for children. The end result is a kid’s album that you wouldn’t even know is a kid’s album unless someone told you.

177 Fleetwood Mac – Tusk (1979)

Lindsey Buckingham abandons the tight pop songs that made Fleetwood Mac icons in favor of his own eccentric weirdness, which isn’t merely limited to his contributions but to the arrangements he provides to the Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie songs. And it works! The counterbalance the rest of the band provides makes this more palatable than his solo material (where he simply runs wild). The rest of the band would tell him to cut it out after this and release more conventional pop albums, but they’d never reach these heights again.

176 Big Star – No. 1 Record (1972)

This is one of those overrated critical darlings whose reputation precedes it. As much as I want to resist fellating this album the way so many critics do, I have to admit that this is a pretty near perfect collection of Power Pop songs, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

175 Heart – Dreamboat Annie (1976)

Heart has developed a reputation as a sort of female-fronted Zeppelin, and while that characterization isn’t entirely fair, what makes their early career is their Zeppelin-like ability to blend Hard Rock riffage with more contemplative acoustic material. By the time the ‘80s rolled around, commercial pressures forced them into a generic power ballad arena band, but at the beginning, they were able to craft thoughtful albums with a cohesive artistic vision.

174 Rush – Hemispheres (1978)

Most people would rate their next two albums as better than this, but for me, this is as good as Rush ever got. The title cut might be the last great sidelong suite, “Circumstances” is a solid Hard Rock cut, and the Harrison Bergeron-inspired “The Trees” doesn’t disappoint either. But the real standout here is “La Villa Strangiato”, which is the best instrumental of Rush’s career and is in the running for best Rock instrumental of all time. Rush would find a more distinctive voice in the ‘80s, but they never really topped this.

173 Bad Company – Bad Company (1974)

Bad Company’s reputation isn’t the best since they’re viewed as responsible for all the generic arena bands of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s like Journey, Foreigner, Loverboy, and, well, all the other Bad Company albums. But this is still a killer collection of songs that remains unparalleled in the genre, and that won’t change regardless of how much crap it inspired.

That's it for now. Let me know what you think!

Looks like we have similar taste / views on music.

They're a bit of an outlier on my usual listening habits. But I think King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is the greatest band alive today. Curious if you like them?

Appreciate it. Ghosts is cool and i haven't known where to go with Donovan since I fell in love with the Sunshine Superman album. This "children's music" is solid! Trouble is, I really just want to listen to Bert's Blues again.

Can you expand on what you think is weirdness for weirdness' sake in MHtRtC? Although I love all BoC albums nearly equally, the reason I tend to put Campfire Headphase below both the first album and Geogaddi is basically yours but mirrored: it's exactly their greater amount of weirdness, not just for its own sake, but genuinely quirky, interesting weirdness, that makes those two albums the ones with the more lasting and deeper impression on me in comparison.

Second the request for more, love reading about music and being introduced to new material. The only two records I didn't know from this list (Big Star and Organized Konfusion) I liked a lot. If it's not too much work, I'd suggest adding a favorite & least favorite track mention for every album, opinions on that are always very interesting to see.

I went back and revisited MHtRtC today since it had been several years since I last listened to it and I wanted to make sure I didn't miss something the first time around. I've noticed my grading has gotten more lenient over the years and since that was like a 2014 rating there's a good chance I could have been wrong. But in retrospect, I still stand by my original evaluation. There are two essential weirdness faults. The first is that the synths are out of tune throughout most of the album. I understand the effect they're going for, but it's simply overdone. The other problem is that some of the individual quirky sounds are overdone as well. It's one thing to do something different, but electronic music is repetitive, and it's hard for something distinctive to have the same impact the 138th time you hear it. It's still a 4 1/2 star album, and I like it a lot, it's just that the weird aspects are enough of a flaw for me to keep it out of the pantheon.

If it's not too much work, I'd suggest adding a favorite & least favorite track mention for every album, opinions on that are always very interesting to see.

It's my contention that these albums are great because they stand as cohesive entities, so picking and choosing best and worst cuts isn't really in the spirit of the enterprise. A lot of these albums don't really have any cuts that would even qualify as best or worst because the quality at this level is so consistent that I'd really have to stretch to make that kind of judgment. There's also the problem that since I'm only doing this once a week and am limited to 10,000 characters I have to keep things concise if I have any expectation of getting through this list within the next year. I might get into more detailed reviews as I approach the higher numbers, but at this point I'm limiting myself to capsule reviews until I put a dent in this. That being said, if you have any specific questions about any of the albums listed or want to hear more, I'm happy to discuss these albums at further length in the comments.

Seger, Heart, Boards of Canada and Tusk instead of Rumours? Marry me. And then we need to have our first serious fight, because I can't believe you called Heart generic.

'70s Heart isn't generic. '80s Heart is. If you really want to defend Private Audition and Passionworks, go for it. And it's not necessarily Tusk instead of Rumours; there's no limit to one album per artist on this list.

Oh ok, where is Rumours on your list? Also I wouldn't put alone above crazy on you, but I would put it above barracuda, although only just. And Heart's self titled album came out in 1985 too, and it's a great album.

Giving sneak previews of the list would defeat the purpose of the slow reveal, so you'll just have to wait to see where Rumours is on the list, if it's even on it. As for Heart, whatever you think of the 1985 album, that was around the point when Capitol wrested creative control from the band, dumping Mike Flicker to bring in hot rod producers like Ron Nevison and Keith Olsen and turning to hook-for-hire songwriters to pen all of the group's singles. They were generic by design. I'm not a huge fan of generic '80s arena rock, but if you're into that sort of thing, I'm not going to criticize you for it.

And yet they remain the only multi platinum woman fronted arena rock band in existence. Whatever, enjoy Rumours.

I'm not sure I see your point. Yeah, they had commercial success, but I don't see what record sales have to do with anything. At a time when they were fading into irrelevance studio execs parlayed their credibility to give them a second life, but part of the process was stripping away what had made them distinctive in the past. I really don't see how they're any different from Jefferson Starship/Starship of this period. Both had Ron Nevinson and Keith Olsen giving them the same slick sound, both had Diane Warren writing hits for them, both bore little to no resemblance, music-wise, to their earlier incarnations that gave them artistic credibility. Heart could have easily had a hit with "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" that wouldn't have been radically different than the Starship version. This is part of what I find so frustrating about what happened to classic artists in the '80s—in a bid to stay relevant, they all succumbed to trends and abandoned what made them distinctive in the first place. It's one thing when the band reaches that point organically, like Genesis did, but it's another when a deliberate effort is made to reduce the band itself to nothing more than frontmen (or women) for the machinations of record executives. This says nothing about whether the resulting product is actually good or not, but merely why I described them as generic (and if they're not, what would be generic arena rock, exactly?). And what's your problem with Rumours?

That's it for now. Let me know what you think!

Well, it's a hobby I guess, like say, collecting beetles, or building 10000 SPM bases in Factorio. We all need one, I'm told.

Apart from the tone and content reminding of the infamous music scene in American Psycho[1], I confess I don't really get 'rating' albums. Most music is .. just bad.

Even music from my favorite musicians is just .. kinda meh. Also, while looking up some music I discovered Arvo Pärt, one of my favorite composers isn't Finnish, but Estonian. TIL.

The most extreme case ever was Pixies. I liked 'Where is My Mind', downloaded what looked like the entire discography, tried listening to it and then deleted all of it.

[1]: this is the superior Tom Cruise version benefitting from the Tom Cruise bonus. He was apparently an inspiration for the actor for the role of Bateman.

The point of the music scene in American Psycho wasn't so much to demonstrate that Bateman was a music junkie as it was to demonstrate that his opinions on music reflected the yuppie popular consensus almost exactly. To Bateman, Genesis didn't become worth listening to until their position on the popular radar was enhanced by the more radio-friendly sound they developed in the 1980s (as opposed to the '70s, when they were a Progressive Rock band). He recognizes that Phil Collins's solo material is more commercial, and he admits that he finds it more appealing, but in a limited way. Well, what else is he supposed to think about it? After all, pop music is designed for mass appeal, but astute adults aren't fooled into thinking that this crass commercialization represents sophisticated artistic expression. Phil Collins initially launched his solo career because he had written a number of personal songs about his divorce, and didn't feel they were appropriate for a Genesis record. But his solo career soon turned into a commercial force that ultimately became bigger than the group, and the introspective songs were replaced by material that Collins felt was too commercial for Genesis, before it became his primary focus and led to the band's ultimate demise. But Bateman doesn't think this way; a musician's best records are those that are the most popular, at least the most popular among his peers. There's a scene in the book where he's dating a woman who likes Rap, and he proceeds to buy every Rap album available at his local record store before telling her he doesn't see the appeal. He likes thinking of himself as a person who cares about music enough that he's not going to cast judgment on anything before giving it a fair shake (or, in this case, an unreasonably fair shake), but he's enough of a conformist that his ultimate judgments aren't going to cut against the consensus of his peers. His peers don't listen to Rap, it's not marketed to them, so there's no reason for him to listen to it. That being said, I didn't think the movie or the book were all that great, so don't read this analysis as an endorsement or anything.

That's the point - he was as much of a music junkie as he was a normal person. A shallow facsimile.

Anything that looks like reviewing art acts like a fnord on me.

As such, reading your post just made me recall the scene - it's the only thing in my memory related to it-

I think you're kind of missing the point. Most people who are really into music have tastes that are at least somewhat offbeat—they're into groups that aren't mainstream and have no problem goring sacred cows, whether critical or commercial, and usually have strong disagreements with their peers on at least a few points. Bateman may or may not be a music junkie, but that's beside the point. From what we know about him, his critical ability is limited to what he reads in Entertainment Weekly. He doesn't have opinions so much as canned justifications for why he likes the same music everyone else likes.

The most extreme case ever was Pixies. I liked 'Where is My Mind', downloaded what looked like the entire discography, tried listening to it and then deleted all of it.

I enjoy Pixies, but 'Where is My Mind' is exactly one of the songs I skip.

I'm wondering if we'll ever find out why preferences differ this much. E.g. most of what my sisters listened to in adolescence (a lot of punk and.. ska? ) sounded like complete trash to me.

Is it an effect of culture and exposure, or is there a neurological reason ?

I would love to see the other 172 top rated albums!

Well, they're all coming. Eventually.


For completeness' sake, here are the criteria for the remaining ratings in the system:

****½ Records that would be 5-star albums but for one or two serious and unavoidable flaws. This category also includes records that have no major flaw but that either don’t gel when taken as a whole or that lack the kind of transcendent material necessary to achieve a 5-star rating.

**** An “average great album”. These records may have serious flaws that are outweighed by an abundance of good to excellent material and can be recommended without hesitation. These records don’t represent significant milestones in the history of rock music, but are solid albums that go beyond what could normally be considered routine.

***½ Records that have one or two great-to-excellent cuts but are dominated by material that isn’t quite up to standard, though often coming close. Can also be used for records that would receive a higher rating but contain material that is unforgivable. A routine album from a band that normally puts out great music, and a minor highlight from a band that normally puts out pedestrian music.

*** Above-average. These are essentially 3½-star albums that don’t contain any great-to excellent cuts. Sometimes the underlying approach is interesting enough but the songwriting just isn’t there. Other times the filler crowds out the more considered material. Overall these are worth hearing, as long as one keeps their expectations in check.

**½ Represents the Platonic ideal of an “average” record – one or two decent but not great tracks surrounded by mediocre filler. In practice these are often albums that have 3-star songwriting but without a 3-star approach. This is the point where casual fans of a group will usually get off the train.

** This is where mediocrity has come to not only dominate the record but to completely overwhelm it. The material is not exactly bad, per se, simply boring and uninspired.

*½ A distinction is in order here – mediocre means that while the material isn’t exactly good, it’s still at least listenable, the kind of thing that could play in the background without incident even if you’d never want to listen to it closely. Bad material is actually offensive to the ears, making you want to turn it off. These records are mediocre at best and bad at worst.

  •   Albums that should never have been released. Either unlistenable failed experiments that while bad aren’t entirely without interest, or records where the bad material starts to drown out the merely mediocre.

½ Albums that never should have been recorded. Unlistenable in their entirety, these albums nevertheless have some small silver lining that saves them from the lowest category.

0 Reserved for the very rare album that manages to offend from the opening cut to the last. It can’t be overstated how bad a record has to be to land here.

I included this description because I want to make it clear that just because I ranked an album toward the bottom of this list, or indeed, because I did not rank it near the top of this list, does not mean that the album is deficient in some way. Any record rates a half-star higher on a good day and a half-star lower on a bad day. As such, while to some extent these albums naturally seemed to fall into tiers, it isn’t always obvious that Record X is necessarily better than Record Y, and one’s opinion is always going to be dependent on his own subjective judgment. Furthermore, rating albums using the rubric established above is difficult enough, but it is relatively easy compared with sorting them sequentially based on quality. For an album to rate 5 stars it only has to be free of major flaws. To rate high on a list like this, though, there is an essential conflict between historical relevance and enjoyability—it’s one thing to recognize an album’s greatness in an abstract sense, another to actually want to listen to it regularly. This becomes problematic when one has to make the decision whether to rank a personal favorite higher than an established part of the canon. The point of all this is that compiling a list like this is a highly subjective process. Any album on it could get a ranking of forty places higher or lower depending on whether it’s a good day or a bad day. People are bound to complain that a dozen of their favorite recordings are omitted from the top ten. To that I have to say: Make your own list; I’d love to see it.

I'm not much of a music head, but I do watch and review a lot of movies and was struck at how neatly your 5 star rubric matches to mine for movies, like almost to a T. Even the 4.5/5 star distinction where a 4.5 star is basically perfect, but to get that last little mmph it needs to move me in some way, or change me. Transcendent, yes!

Do you have some examples of 0 stars? I would enjoy seeing those

I was going to include the zero star albums as a separate "Bonus Feature" one of these weeks, but since you asked:

The first broad category is experimental garbage by minor artists who seem to specialize in experimental garbage. Daniel Higgs manages two enteries in this category; Magic Alphabet is 42 minutes of him fooling around with a Jew's Harp, and Say God is a weird quasi-religious mess where he plays harmonium and does that sing-songy chanting that priests sometimes do. Also in this category are Eric Copeland's Strange Days, which sounds like a mashup of random snippets taped off the radio unartfully combined, and The Messy Jessy Fiesta by Blectum from Blechdom, an Indie Electronic duo who obviously don't have any musical training and have the musical sophistication of a 13 year-old fooling around with a cheap keyboard.

Moving into slightly more mainstream territory, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone's debut album Answering Machine Music is a bunch of generic emo songs set to a programmed Casio keyboard and other cheap instruments. The Moldy Peaches are best known for the annoying song that appears at the end of the movie Juno and their lone album (which contains the song) is similar crap that sounds like teenage poetry set to simple melodies and recorded in the cheapest way possible, on purpose. And of course there's Lou Reed's classic Metal Machine Music, the first entry we have by a mainstream musician, except that the four sides of guitar feedback were recorded as an intentional Fuck You to his record company so there's an asterisk here.

Moving on to albums by mainstream musicians that were intended to actually be good. First we have Rod Stewart's 1984 album Camouflage, which includes "Some Guys Have All the Luck", easily his worst single, and the rest of the album is even worse, just a gloss of bad '80s production over unmelodic crap. Jeff Beck's 1985 album Flash is something of a twin to this (Stewart sang on an awful cover of "People Get Ready" and Beck played guitar on some cuts from Camouflage) and is bad for all the same reasons. The Beach Boys 1992 album Summer in Paradise is nothing more than a Mike Love cash-in that sounds like it was recorded entirely with 1992-era Pro Tools presets. Finally, there's Queen's soundtrack to Flash Gordon which is incredibly kitschy and, to my recollection, is mostly dialogue from the movie. It should be mentioned that, apart from Flash Gordon, all of these mainstream records include terrible covers, proving that songwriting isn't the only problem here. In addition to the version of "People Get Ready" from Flash, Stewart's Camouflage contains a cover of "All Right Now", and Summer in Paradise has an awful cover of "Hot Fun in the Summertime". To put an exclamation point on this, Jeff Beck released a zero star single around the same time, a cover of "Wild Thing" that's worse than anything on either his or Stewart's record. It also gets bonus points for having the worst picture sleeve in the history of music, a photograph of what appears to be a clown from an S&M club.

This is cool. Do you have any folk music recommendations? I've been hooked on Dave Van Ronk for the last six months and have gone through just about everything he's put out. Are there any folk albums in the DVR vein that you like?

Unfortunately, folk is one of my blind spots and any recommendation I could give you would probably just be stating the obvious. That being said, the Roy Harper album on this list might fit the bill, though he's not exactly in the same vein as DVR as Harper is British and progressive whereas DVR is American and traditional. Still worth checking out, though.

Valentine’s and Mother’s Day are the worst days of the year to eat at restaurants. On the other hand, my husband and I cook nice meals at home too frequently for that to feel outstandingly special.

Does anyone have more creative Valentine’s traditions?

Try breakfast in bed!

  1. Reschedule to a more convenient date. Easier to get tables, tickets, etc. Because it is only you two that are relevant, it isn't hard to get buy in compared to other holidays.

  2. The right takeout meal can be a very convenient accompaniment to love making.

  3. Depending where you are, the "get a nice hotel room to fuck all night in" bit can work pretty well.

  4. Role play being a different couple shopping for something large. Furniture you'd never buy, art, an expensive car, an open house at a large home for sale. It can be so much fun. I may or may not have gone so far as to use fake business cards and names when out of town with my wife, just to fuck with the realtors.

  5. Buy a cheap fake engagement ring off of Amazon. Have your husband publicly propose to you somewhere like a public square, or mall, or restaurant. Loudly reject him, tell him you fucked his brother and you love his brother more, say you can't marry him because he has a wife, or because he's a scientologist, or whatever you like. If it's a bar, he'll probably get a free drink out of it.

  6. Take that same fake engagement ring, find out where one of your single friends is going for V day with a temporary partner, approach the maitre'd and tell him your friend wants this put in the lady's dessert. Sit back and watch.

  7. Get each other gag gifts, the worst least romantic thing you can find at a dollar store. See who wins. ((My prior winner was knee sleeves, because they implied both that she was old and that we were going to have rough sex, at the same time))

  8. Depending on the weather wherever you are, hiking is often doable but uncommon in February. Find a nice overlook or hillside to kiss and read poetry on.

I regret that I have but one upvote to give for this comment.

My wife and I bake a heart-shaped pizza every year (along with sides). Very simple but it's nice to work together on something we're both going to enjoy, and we rarely have pizza outside of Valentine's day for health reasons so it's a bit of a special treat.

Something I tried with an ex was to make the bedroom as comfy cozy a place as possible. Pleasant lighting, nice aromas, some low white noise (thunderstorm sounds are nice), warm, freshly washed bedding, comfortable ambient temperature, pets to cuddle with, and whatever clothing you prefer (i.e. both parties dress for personal comfort rather than dressing up for the other), and put both your personal phones on 'do not disturb' mode.

Then order some food for delivery, set up a TV at the foot of the bed, and just watch a mutually-selected show and enjoy each other's company for the day.

Modify for whatever type of low-key entertainment you prefer.

Also might help to get the erotic implications of the holiday taken care of the day before, so anything that happens the day of is more genuinely spontaneous.

Amazingly, I think that removing the stress of expectations from both parties instead of heaping them on (she's expected to doll up and be sexy, he's expected to pick an expensive/fancy place to eat, he wants to get laid, she wants to be seduced, and you're being judged in comparison to dozens of other couples) makes it more likely to be an enjoyable event for both.

I've had a couple valentines days go sideways because the effort involved actually makes it harder to enjoy things and the heightened stakes make 'failure' feel particularly harsh.

Then order some food for delivery, set up a TV at the foot of the bed, and just watch a mutually-selected show and enjoy each other's company for the day.

Eating in bed? Bold.

Yep! But thats what makes the day special, rather than routine.

I'd be more worried about the mess :-X

As I recall we put down some towels, also the meal was crepes so not the messiest food ever.

Don't do anything on the 14th, enjoy half-priced chocolate day on the 15th.

Do your personal Valentine's day celebration on the 13th perhaps?


My Intuition Essay contest, in which a poll will be set up on Sunday to choose among the entrants who will get to pick the charity for the $200 donation, is drawing to a close. Any other submissions made today, 2/10, will be accepted and included in voting Sunday. Right now I count four (4) submissions, all of which were kind enough to note directly that they were entering:

@TheDag entered Intuition in a Scientific Age

@f3zinker entered A Case For/Against Education, Intuition

@felipec entered My Intuition About Intuition

and, last but not least,

@Pitt19082 entered This Untitled Piece Comparing Statistical and Intuitive Approaches in Baseball and Politics

If I missed any appropriate posts, please link them below and I will add them to the list and the ultimate voting. ANY EFFORTPOST ABOUT INTUITION, EVEN IF IT WAS NOT WRITTEN TO BE INCLUDED IN THE COMPETITION IS ELIGIBLE. As long as it was written between my original post and the end of the day today, it can be included in the ultimate voting. I looked through the CW threads for the appropriate period, and found nothing else which made sense to include, but feel free to point out anything I might have missed.

I explicitly abstain from the contest (and time's up anyway), but if anyone cares here's my take in the same vein.

I want to prompt all the contestants: @TheDag, @f3zinker, @felipec, and @Pitt19802.

Did you find the topic difficult to write about?

I think people judging our essays might be very quick to criticize and say: why didn't the writer mention X? how didn't the writer connect Y with Z? (it's obvious)

I think the readers might not be aware of the vast idea space that can be explored. It takes time to explore a branch, and as you do you realize there's many more branches that can be explored that probably would take even longer time. And if you do take the time to explore other branches, you realize that the first branch you explored was not as important as you initially thought, and might not even be worth mentioning (there's plenty of examples I ended up not mentioning).

This is particularly worse if you've never written about the topic (as I), and then of course the time limit doesn't help (although without it I probably would have delayed the work even more than I did).

It's very easy to criticize, but I think only the people that actually sat down and tried to write about the topic would understand why a particular try might not have turned out to be as fruitful as many readers would hope, but it's still worthy of praise. Also, the end result might not necessarily be a reflection of your thoughts on the subject, which are probably evolving as we speak (the very next day I had yet another insight that I feel should be worthy of writing about).

Yes I have mentioned before, its a difficult prompt. Especially if its not something you ever thought about before, like me.

There is also the onerous constraint of making it an effort post that the motte in particular will like. I can go on all day about various intuitions and their nitty gritty details and nuaces about my hobbies of choice, but that wouldnt suffice.

I do wish more people participated. There would have been more (definitelt better than mine) submissions to read and as you mentioned, more people realizing that its hard to write on command, and that might do some work against people thinking they are better writers than they are because they only write about what they like writing about.

Wanted to start off by saying I really enjoyed your submission. I think the model of intuition you laid out is largely one I agree with.

Yeah, I found it to be a difficult topic, which is ok.

I was mostly motivated to submit something because I really like the competition model.

I find pretty fascinating.

I really like the idea of scaling it down, both to try and shape a nascent internet community (does this internet community still count as nascent???) you're part of, and even just to generate insights into something that's just bothering you.

I really like it conceptually, so I felt like I should submit something, if nothing else, to support it as a model of something I think we should get more of.

I'm not sure I had any particularly fantastic insight into the topic, certainly none I would have thought to share if FiveHourMarathon had posted 'hey, how do you think intuition works?' in a Small-Scale question thread or something. (Reading over the posts, I think this is somewhat reflected in that my submission seems to do the worst job of staying on the topic).

I think that's sort of what makes the competition model cool though. If nothing else, its a way to break people out of their shells. If there's a particular topic you want to mine the board expertise about, this seems like a good model.

I like it enough that I think I might found a 2nd competition on a different question.

If people have any thoughts about shaping the competition in a way that works well, I'd be interested in that. This topic was pretty broad, would a narrower topic work better?

"I think people judging our essays might be very quick to criticize and say: why didn't the writer mention X? how didn't the writer connect Y with Z? (it's obvious)"

Again, I enjoyed yours quite a bit.

Not sure writing generates these sorts of responses unless its good enough to be engaged with. I would take any such response as a perverse form of flattery.

"then of course the time limit doesn't help (although without it I probably would have delayed the work even more than I did)."

I'll just speak for myself as someone who submitted the final, without the deadline, I wouldn't have gotten around to generating a submission.

"the end result might not necessarily be a reflection of your thoughts on the subject, which are probably evolving as we speak (the very next day I had yet another insight that I feel should be worthy of writing about)."

fwiw, I had the same experience, if anything, I think that's one of the real values of getting it out of my head and into the real world, thoughts that are sort of 80% formed, you can keep 80% formed for a long time in your head, exposing them to light forces them to evolve.

I found it difficult, but mainly because I’m at a very busy point in my career and didn’t have as much time to research as I’d like. It’s definitely a topic I plan to come back to.

I want to come back to it as well. I didn't research anything at all, I just thought about it a lot. But doing a bit of research afterwards I've found some resources of interest for people who want to explore the topic more.

After digging out 3 boxes of tattered 2001 era MtG cards from my childhood closet, I want to get back into the game but I’m not sure where to start. I have a handful of nice cards that have aged well; a vampiric tutor, some common-rarity Rhystic Study’s, some old shocklands, but everything else looks severely power-creeped. Should I start going to drafts? Just grab a prefab commander deck? Smash random shit together and just show up?

I have a Tabletop Simulator mod with almost all pre-constructed decks released as well as some code to generate any deck you want to play.

Arena or Commander (or old school if you want to play your old cards).

I'd be starting at EBay.

I "beat" Per Aspera this week. I played it probably over a year ago for the first time, and muddled through most of it on an easier difficulty setting, but got stuck with an atmosphere of the wrong composition to achieve the final "breathable atmosphere" goal. Then my mouse buttons began to quit working, and I got side tracked researching what microswitches to replace them with and how...

This time around things went much, much quicker. Bumped up the difficulty, and beelined for transportation tech as quick as I could. Knocked out the final goal in maybe 3 or 4 evenings? I had bought the DLC that lets you build aquatic buildings which I think helped a lot. Had quite the expansive naval network by the end, although fluctuating water levels had me constantly pulling my ports back.

So yeah, fun enough game.

I started They Are Billions again. I hadn't played this for years and years and years. Before my daughter was born I think? Apparently at some point they added a campaign mode, and that's been fun. Although I got far enough along that I have to clear out a zombie hoard to unlock more missions and I failed spectacularly. Not entirely sure what to do about that.

I remember hearing about Per Aspera- flawed but interesting.

Don't have enough to say about games for a top post in this week's fun thread, so I'll just write some things here and hope you won't mind too much.

Are there any cooperative RTS games ? Where e.g. you have a complex economy and large armies that require many people in the field directing the troops?


Age of Empires, Rise of Nations and Empire Earth are kind of like that, and you can always play a custom match with a buddy where it's you and him versus an AI of an appropriate difficulty level. Comp stomps are a time honored tradition of RTS fans who aren't good enough to cut it against actual people. Like myself.

The Settlers was always a series that had a fairly in depth economy and a languid pace. I'm not aware of what it's multiplayer options were from version to version. No explicit coop I'm almost certain, but a custom game against an AI with a buddy may have been an option.

Are there any cooperative RTS games ?

All I can think of is a mod for Forged Alliance Forever where everyone on a single team shared control of their units and buildings. It's a pretty complex game that requires managing large and diverse armies on multiple fronts across very large maps. Just look at the list of units:

The cooperative mod felt weird to play, IMO. There were a couple of balance changes that came with it but it feels strange to have people messing with your stuff. I wasn't on comms with others to be fair, that would help a lot.

Isn’t the allegory of the cave kinda lame ? All you see are shadows, but I, the philosopher, see the true nature of things. You’re nothing but a groundhog to me, kid.

Not to mention how tortured it is. People have nothing better to do than to chain NPCs to a cave and give them an indonesian muppet show all day long? Can’t those shadows be made by real animals, walking along the road, or something?

People have nothing better to do than to chain NPCs to a cave and give them an indonesian muppet show all day long?

What do you think Hollywood, art, mass media, religion, and culture essentially are? If you are the one putting on the show you guide the reality-perception of the masses. That's the stuff that builds (or destroys) civilization. The cave allegory is lame because it supposes some duty for philosophers to liberate the NPCs. But that's not possible or desirable. The vast majority of people are probably not capable of living without some sort of structure defined by the puppet show put on by the elites.

The cave allegory should be properly understood as recognizing the power of mass media and culture over the masses. Plato understood the psychological power of light projection thousands of years before the creation of cinema. That should be the real takeaway from the allegory.

Not really. Consider, for example, that it remains very relevant to this day in discussions around whether or not ChatGPT can 'know' things. Much like the prisoners of the cave, ChatGPT only derives knowledge from the training data it is provided. It has no direct experience of reality. And yet we would clearly consider a person trapped in such a cave to be sentient and intelligent, albeit ignorant.

To me, it's fascinating that a primitive living over two thousand years ago could have articulated such a scenario.

The story could be translated into english thus : I know the real meaning of events, you and chatgpt don't know the real meaning. ok, but why? Just because I say I saw the sun and the real things under it. That's hard to trust, could be shadows. To an objective third person, they might say I just derive knowledge from a different set of training data.

The point is not that the allegory of the cave is correct. I think most intellectuals, in our postmodern era, would disagree with Plato - there is no sun or objective knowledge, and we are limited in our ability to perceive the world directly - and we can just as much derive knowledge from the image of the horse as we can from the horse itself. But just because it is wrong does not mean it is not relevant or interesting.

I don't think it's lame at all, it's actually quite insightful. We all have our biases and limitations, and when we are confronted with matters outside them we naturally recoil (even if we are seeing the truth). The metaphor of the cave is very useful to remind us of that fact, and to encourage us to not flinch in the face of unfamiliar things because it may be we were ignorant before.

All you see are shadows, but I, the philosopher, see the true nature of things. You’re nothing but a groundhog to me, kid.

I think you're reading things that aren't there. It's been a hot minute since I read Plato, but as I recall there was no self-important smugness in the analogy. He was simply pointing out that this is how people act in the face of hard truths sometimes.

Not to mention how tortured it is. People have nothing better to do than to chain NPCs to a cave and give them an indonesian muppet show all day long? Can’t those shadows be made by real animals, walking along the road, or something?

I mean, what do you want? It's an analogy, meant to help us to see a point. It's not some completely realistic treatise of a situation that actually would occur in real life. I think you're really nitpicking here.

It's been a hot minute since I read Plato, but as I recall there was no self-important smugness in the analogy.

When people talk about Jordan Peterson, they're mostly talking about Jordan Peterson fans. When people talk about Barack Obama, they're mostly talking about their perception of Democratic voters more generally.

When OP talks about Plato, he's likely talking about the glosses that have been put on it, the secondary sources, etc.

I wonder if that’s true when there’s a single, specific point. Debating meditations on moloch rather than Scott in general.

But the cave story has been rigged on so much that might not be practical. We’re not exactly citing primary sources.

When I was first introduced to the allegory it was in a Media Philosophy class in college, and we watched The Matrix right afterwards. And it happened to be the first time I had seen the movie so in full context the whole discussion was rather mind-bending to me.

Throw in some information of how one's environment and upbringing can directly influence how they are able to perceive reality with their senses and I think there's quite a bit of meat there.

Yes, scientists have more-or-less literally carried out Plato's cave experiment on young kittens.

If you were one of the cats raised in an environment consisting only of vertical lines and was incapable of perceiving horizontal lines (except by turning one's head sideways!) wouldn't this be a massive 'hobble' on your understanding of baseline reality? And wouldn't we want you to gain a clearer, more accurate image of the world?

So perhaps the point of Plato's cave is to pose the question of whether the prisoners are not just only experiencing a 'flatter' version of reality, but whether they are fundamentally less able to perceive things in 'higher' reality. And, taking that a step further, whether even 'normal' humans raised in a 'normal' environment might be missing out on some facets of their world that they simply haven't gained the ability to see? Shouldn't we be trying to find ways to improve our own perceptions, because we wouldn't even know if there were 'higher' parts of reality and experiences out there unless we make a decision to start looking for them?

Plato's terminal point was, I believe, that there are 'platonic ideals' of certain concepts out there that are beyond our mere senses, and education/reason must be employed to perceive them. Those lacking education or reason are forever cut off from this extra plane. Which is probably where the "foolish mortals, us philosophers have access to whole dimensions of reality that you can't even fathom" part comes from.

Compare that to the idea of the simulation hypothesis, where our simulation masters are the ones who control everything we experience and perceive and can expose us to as much or as little of 'true' reality as they wish, and much of this thought experiment seems prescient.

Managing to generate an idea this 'out there' as an ancient philosopher is, I'd assert, rather impressive!

So perhaps the point of Plato's cave is to pose the question of whether the prisoners are not just only experiencing a 'flatter' version of reality, but whether they are fundamentally less able to perceive things in 'higher' reality.

IMO it's not so much that the cave-dweller is physiologically unable to perceive Truth, in the way that those cats can't see horizontal lines, but about the mind-constraining effects of socialisation/indoctrination/brainwashing that is an inevitable and necessary result of growing up inside a culture.

Once the cave-dweller is shown the outside world/Truth, he recoils. We like to imagine that upon seeing Truth, we will not only recognise it, but accept it. But Plato is right. The cave is comfy and familiar, and besides, all our friends and family are there. And once the ex-cave-dweller accepts the Truth, and returns to the cave, he finds himself mocked and ostracised.

Those who take the red pill often don't end up saving the world. They might end up poor and mad, like Ignaz Semmelweis or van Gogh.

The objection I have is that this is coloured by hundreds of years of interpretation, people read into it what they want. It's like a story in the bible. Originally the author may have put it there for the stupidest of reasons, he was reffering to a petty fight he had with his neighbour last week. After millions of washing cycles in the minds of clever people, there is no end to the brilliant insights to be found in that story.

I would also assert that the Bible DOES contain much valid wisdom that was inserted there less because of a petty fight with a neighbor, and more because there were society-level problems that were ameliorated by adding in particular cludgy solutions which had to be enforced by an all-seeing God in order to stick.

For instance, consider that many of the more ridiculous behavioral constraints that many Christians assert belief in are based in the books of