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Friday Fun Thread for March 17, 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.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

The Finnish elections are coming, so I used ChatGPT and Midjourney to create imaginary candidates for various parties to illustrate their differences in policies and also the types of people they attract. They came out quite well!

Are you absolutely annoyed by emojis in e-mail subjects?

Do you stubbornly insist on using Thunderbird?

Well, have I got the solution for you!

  1. Install the addon FiltaQuilla

  2. Crate a message filter with Subject Regex Match and value /\p{Extended_Pictographic}/gu

  3. Tag the resulting messages as spam and send them to oblivion

  4. Enjoy an emoji free e-mailing experience.

Do you stubbornly insist on using Thunderbird?

Are there better email clients?

In my experience no, but I've noticed a vast majority of people either just use their phone/ a web browser or outlook (forced by work).

That's because most email providers are quite hostile towards third-party clients. Back when you had 5MB of storage they would gladly tell you how to use SMTP and POP3, but now that you don't download your mail, they would rather you used their web client smeared in various ads and JS libraries.

One of the email providers I use now requires I use a separate password for each external client it generates for me, and this option is so well-hidden in the settings I can't even find it there and have to go through the help pages every time. It also cripples IMAP-based search, so I can't look for something in my older emails without going to the browser.

lmao it's all Tik Tok now

I am of the opinion that there is no such thing in fiction as a joke ruining the tone. Every time someone complains that a joke has ruined the tone, they are likely misidentifying a problem. For example, the MCU doesn't have a problem with jokes ruining the tone. The MCU has a problem with characterization. The characters all employ the same kind of snark, regardless of whether it fits their established personality.

In so far as any artistic work has an emotional tone, some things will cohere with that tone and some will clash with it. Certain kinds of joke will cohere with the (perceived intended) emotional tone of an artistic work, others will not. I don't understand your objection.

Could Twelve Angry Men be improved by adding jokes? Perhaps it could. Juror 3 could crack jokes, Juror 7 could, so could Juror 10. But the purpose of the jokes would not be making the audience laugh, but showing how the ambience in the room changes as the movie goes on. Or at the very least, making the audience laugh so they can feel bad about laughing as the movie goes on.

The MCU treats jokes like midwit home cooks treat bacon (or whatever the newest fad is): sprinkle that shit on everything! Bacon makes everything better! You cry and you laugh, or you ponder and you laugh, or you scream and you laugh, or you eat ice cream and you eat bacon, what's not to love? At first, it's novel, especially when done by someone who knows how to combine tastes well. But then everyone jumps on the bandwagon and you realize everything on the menu tastes like bacon. Sushi? Bacon in the rice. Pizza? Bacon in the crust. Milkshake? You guessed it, bacon.

I agree with everything here, except

"You cry and you laugh, or you ponder and you laugh, or you scream and you laugh, or you eat ice cream and you eat bacon, what's not to love"

The problem isn't comedy, it's the repetitive way Marvel inserts comedy.

Jokes can absolutely ruin the tone of a movie. But not all funny movies are ruined by jokes.

People complain about the MCU, and movies that more artlessly attempted to ape it's style, because every time one of those movies approaches any sort of sincere, emotional moment, they feel the need to compulsive neuter it with a joke. Sneering in a very meta way at all the hard work that went into building up a scene and getting the audience invested. It's like the writers are looking you dead in the fucking eye from behind the silver screen going "You like that? You like that you fucking retard? Is this what gets you off? Fuck off and die, trash."

Compare this to a comedy of old like National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. It's a funny movie. It's jam fucking packed with jokes. But the movie also knows when to play it mostly straight and deliver a sincerely heartwarming moment. And it doesn't turn around and make you feel like a fucking idiot for getting invested by having some soulless mouthpiece robotically echo the words of a clinically depressed and overworked Hollywood writer who hates humanity.

Is jokes ruining the tone a common problem with the MCU? The only MCU movie I've seen is Doctor Strange and I had that exact complaint.


I think it's because everyone is a critic, and very few people are storytellers. Which is to say it is really really hard to craft an emotionally resonant scene that nobody laughs at for being silly and over the top*. It is much much easier - and safer - to make your emotional scene and then deconstruct it, and hide behind the irony if anyone laughs.

*Insecurity is an issue here, it is their doubt in their work which allows the mockery to take hold.

Insecurity is an issue here, it is their doubt in their work which allows the mockery to take hold

Honestly, I just think it's more of the dumbing down of media for an international audience.

"Sincere moment + smash cut to joke" is a very easy joke for most cultures to understand. Hollywood makes a ton of money overseas so there's not as much incentive to craft difficult sincere moments - the reward for them is proportionally smaller than it used to be in the past as more and more distinct cultures have more and more of a vote in the success of movies.

A large amount of creative output is dreck, of course, but man, when you find the good's worth the hunt.

This is an old trope. Mocking-while-being goes back to ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ and it was perfected in ‘Murder by Death’ (1976). It was a franchisable concept by the time Scream (1996) came around. There is nothing unique or original about the MCU, its only saving grace is that it doesn’t take itself seriously.

It's been a common complaint for a while. Ever since the 1st Iron Man over a decade ago, the MCU films tended to have a somewhat self-aware snarky tone to various extents. It was considered a strength initially, and plenty of the films, including the original Iron Man, used it well, but at some point its constant presence started wear thin on fans, due in part to how they would keep undercutting emotional moments. And again, that happened a while ago, like at least 5 years at this point, and from what I've heard, the MCU has gotten only worse in that regard.

That said, one MCU work that leaned in heavily to the jokes to positive reception (deservedly, IMHO) was Thor: Ragnarok which was more of a comedy with action and scifi than the other way around. I heard the sequel to that was hurt by the jokes, though.

Personally I just don't think the MCU has very many good emotional moments. The presence of a joke didn't ruin anything, because it already wasn't particularly emotional. Spider-Man: No Way Home had some good moments, and some of the TV series had some emotional scenes, but for the most part the movies are just action-comedies and never do very well at anything more.

Jokes can "ruin the tone" in real life, why wouldn't they be able to in a film script?

I don't think they can. I've never even seen anything funny that makes me entirely cease feeling sad or afraid. At best, it's a spoonful of sugar.

Not every joke (or rather, intended joke) is funny.

If the joke requires some sort of inside knowledge, or it is made with the clear intention of the laughing party being on the part of the viewer, it can break immersion.

I guess I agree with the former, but only in the sense that any dramatic irony can ruin immersion. But if we're talking about the latter, I don't think that's true.

I love Breaking Bad, a critically-respected drama, and the show is full of humor that the characters don't react to. Saul is a comic relief character, yes, but you could make the case that Jesse and Walt are both funnier characters, not to mention Todd. I loved the entire bit in the movie with his maid. I love when he paid his respects to her. That was pitch black dark humor and it was great. But Jesse wasn't laughing.

I found a great deal of the humour in Breaking Bad insufferably broad, to the point that it jarred with the grounded and realistic vibe the show seemed to be going for. It's hard to get emotionally engaged with the characters when half the time they're talking like dumb sitcom characters. One of the many reasons I was underwhelmed by the show and didn't understand the hype.

What, if anything, do you believe can ruin the tone of a film or other work of fiction? More broadly, what role do you believe tone plays in one's enjoyment of a work of fiction, and how do jokes and other parts of a scene influence it?

Tone is a subset of immersion. Tone is feeling what the characters feel, or what you would feel if you were there with the character. I have never experienced a tone break in the written word, but I have experienced it many times in live-action media. It happens when the actor performs in a way that is designed to elicit laughter or some other reaction to the exclusion of what the protagonist would actually be feeling or what I would be feeling if I were with the protagonist. In fact, as I write this, I'm not sure if there really is a difference between tone and immersion.

My favorite emotion that can be elicited from art is ambivalence. I like media that has parts that are funny and parts that are sad, but I love media in which the parts that are funny are the same as the parts that are sad. Tonal confusion is the best tone, and I think it elevates something good to something great. In real life, when something funny happens, it doesn't break your sorrow or terror. If you've ever seen someone have a psychotic break, you'll see what I mean. Those are often both funny and horrifying.

You have a very unconventional definition that your argument rests on that you failed to introduce when you made the argument. To reduce tone to believable characterization, or your immersion based on characterization, you have to ignore most of the ways the word tone is commonly used, which is generally as the entire structured mood in a film, touching on its genre and its "point-of-view", influenced by all aspects of its storytelling, including cinematography, soundtrack, and genre expectations. Imagine the early scenes of a horror movie where everyone is happy. Is the tone a happy cheerful one? Most people would say no, the tone is still horror, or a kind of tension, just by virtue of knowing what's next. Even if people said the tone is happy, just add some tense violins to the score and its now definitely horror no matter what the characters are doing. That's dramatic irony which most people would argue is an important part of tone, but is completely missing from your definition because it is entirely based on what the characters of the movie are feeling/doing.

To reduce it to immersion also robs it of its variations. Tone isn't just on a spectrum of effectiveness. It can be horror, it can be lighthearted, it can be romantic, cynical, and yes, ambivalent. And a break in tone is commonly seen to mean just shifting from one to another, not as an automatic failure. If something "ruins" the tone, people are generally identifying that the movie shifted tones unskillfully, although some people seem to think that shifting whatsoever is unskillful, which I would strongly disagree with.

A couple guys on Twitter have entered into a million dollar bet on whether the dollar will hyperinflate within 90 days.

I know this things are often useless, but Balaji is very wealthy

I’m not that smart but if he actually believed this he’d be borrowing as much as he could from a bank to buy BTC with right?

This is a bitcoin publicity stunt, but anyway, what should you do if you really believed it. If he loses he’s out 1M of today's money. If he wins, in 26k. This is for an extremely unlikely event, so 1:1 odds would already be great for the counterparty. This is 40:1.

The market can provide better odds than this. Buy some June 16 550 spy calls for, let me check, one cent. If the dollar devalues by 40, spy will be worth 15500. Spy might lose some value, margin of safety and all that, let’s say 3000, and let’s add another 4 cents of transaction fees, why not. Gives odds of 0.05 (times 40 due to hyperinflation) to 2500 in his favour, that’s 1:1250 . Don't settle for a toyota when you could be a billlionaire.

If the dollar devalues by 40, spy will be worth 15500

Will it? Wouldn't people take all their money out of the US? Gold, BTC, ammunition, roubles and renminbi are the play IMO.

Its debatable whether there are any securities one could buy that would pay out at positive net real value if the dollar devalued by 40x over 90 days. Far out of the money call options would definitely not pay out. This isn't about reading the fine print; there is no possible sequence of words in the options disclosure document that would prevent the government from canceling the transactions of "speculators betting against the wellbeing of the American People," for example

Is there a precedent for this? Technically, I was betting on america, spy to the moon, yee-hee.

There is precedent for exchanges cancelling trades after execution, and there is precedent for the US Government seizing speculative assets immediately before they predictably rise in value. You can extrapolate how exchanges and governments would react to even more extreme market events.

It's not much. LME got a lot of shit for that, accusations of being in bed with the losers, lawsuits still pending etc.

In 2008, some bet fifty to one against mortgages, that was less ambiguous, and they kept the money. Besides, you think they wouldn't let apes profit from a call, yet look on your bitcoin gains with benevolence? Closing that door is the first thing they'll do.

I don't get how people think the global reserve currency is going to blow up before Japan's not global reserve currency. Japan has the equivalent of $60 trillion in government debt and their Central Bank owns 40% of that debt as well as a significant share of of the stock market.

Isn't the stupider part that the bet fundamentally favors of the one betting against hyperinflation? If he wins he gets a whopping $1M USD. If he loses he only has to pay a measly $1M USD.

It's not quite as asymmetric as "I bet humanity won't go extinct in 90 days" but it's pretty asymmetric.

The whole point is to get it into people's minds that bitcoin is a hedge against financial collapse. The chance of total banking failure in the immediate future is very much not zero. Reading the linked thread did in fact get me thinking about buying more bitcoin. If the bet goes viral it could be positive expected value for Balaji even if he loses the bet.

It’s always someone with laser eyes in their avatar

Hope everyone has a good st. Patricks day, if you celebrate. We’re going west coast swing dancing, I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for a new hobby.

WoW Geoguessr videos are... wow.

There are 125 zones in WoW and 190 dungeons, and the base game sprawls ~80 square miles and the full game maybe 150 square miles now. Each zone has at least 60 unique identifiable “places”, possibly more, whether that be a random feature of the environment, a mob encampment, a random hut, an npc, etc. This includes major landmarks and the random “things to see” in-game. Longterm WoW players are able to determine the location of 7500 unique identifiable places covering 150 square miles down to the meter, often able to name the residing zone and town and what “happens” their ingame. Counting dungeons, that’s about 19,000 unique things they have pinned down on a map sprawling 150 square miles.

19,000 pieces of information navigable on a map.

And then you remember it’s a game, and the game is not even about this information. There’s also maybe 4000 cosmetic items, and players like Asmongold are likely to tell you the name and where to find them and what quest it involves. There are 30,000 quests, half of which these players could tell you about just by seeing the NPC. There are bosses and mob types, surely at least 500 unique ones which can be named. 9000 spells, and a given player will know 150 of them and what they do by their image and when to use them.

Then there are the random things: the potions and other consumables, the emote commands, what you do in a raid, the hundreds of different vendors, the hundreds of materials for building things. Not to mention the lore!

These longterm WoW players easily know 45,000 pieces of distinct information. It’s crazy when you add it all up like that.

Where Mankrik's wife? will still get a flinch from open-beta or early release players on the Horde side.

This isn't specific to MMOs, notably. Even ignoring the extreme outliers like those with encyclopedic knowledge of Mario 64 glitches, there's probably a pretty sizable subset of Zelda BOTW players who can recognize each of 120 shrines, 14 towers, 80ish quests, yada yada (though I don't think anyway cares about the 'golden seeds'). ARK pretty much requires you to memorize 100-150 creatures by aggressiveness (which isn't just a matter of 'fights me or not', but also what mounts it won't attack), taming approach, diet, and utility; 'note runs' involve optimizing some (usually 100ish) subset of 1000 explorer notes for rapid experience gain; certain resources have important-to-recognize locations dependent on a map, so on. They usually won't get as large a list, but that's mostly a limit of their content and scope. Fallout or The Elder Scrolls players can end up with bizarrely specialized knowledge.

Some of this reflects video games being able to centralize that knowledge. FFXIV has somewhere upward of 500+ gathering items available from probably upwards of 150+ 'locations', but these are all hugely identifiable locations, and even the most generic landscapes (probably Coethas Western Highlands, which was often bashed as a boring snowy plain) has a landmark in sight for each gathering location. And as the memory palace approach attests, the combination of repetition and spatial reasoning may improve recall. Of course, on the flip side, almost nothing in Morrowind was hugely identifiable and there's no reason to every return to most ruins and... there's someone out there that knows where the One Muffin is.

That said, I'd caution that there's a big space between "longterm X players" and most or even many longterm players. I haven't played WoW for a while, but back when I did play the notorious difficulty finding anything in Thunder Bluffs or the Undercity was pretty well-established. For FFXIV, the problem of 'I have no memory of this place' is pretty standard for raids or dungeon roulettes, of which there are far fewer and which players would often repeat day-after-day for months when they were first released. I always end up going to the wrong part of the Gold Saucer trying to find Wild Rose, despite having done so on a weekly basis for the better part of a year.

Genuinely, a similar thought in my youth is why I started to study history + geography as a hobby. I realized that given I had an interest in learning place names, cultures, the course of different wars, the lineage of different monarchs, etc, I really ought to put that drive towards things that actually existed.

This certainly hasn't stopped me from being a "lore nerd" for different games and series, but it at least keeps a little voice in my head to spend at least as much time on reading about actual nations as I do about fictional ones.

These longterm WoW players easily know 45,000 pieces of distinct information. It’s crazy when you add it all up like that.

And it is ever crazier when you grok that all this knowledge belongs to mega corporation that can alter or delete it by one click of some minimum wage employee, mega corporation that can easily decide the game is no longer profitable and shut it down.

Imagine - you dedicated days and weeks and months and years to exploring Black Troll Land and mastering the lore. Suddenly someone sees how extremely problematic it is, and deletes all racist content.

You are screwed.

Building your life and your identity on something so fragile is like living on a quicksand. Do not do it.

... to an extent, and indeed WoW already did so to a small extent once (Cataclysm rebuilt a lot of the early zones, albeit in most cases for the better). And there's certainly worse: Tabula Rasa got smashed by some back-office NCSoft smuckery (literally faking a resignation e-mail while the guy was in space), and attempts at a private server are... not great.

On the other hand, some leaks of City of Heroes lead to the game having a small but lively rogue server community.

On the gripping hand, "mega corporation that can alter or delete it by one click of some minimum wage employee" is a surprisingly wide net. Don't get me wrong -- I do much prefer the private server models of MineCraft or ARK, of ripping every eBook through Calibre rather than waiting for Amazon to revise or retract it, of running *nix for personal computers rather than letting Microsoft have all my data backed up on the Cloud, so on -- but I would caution doing this doesn't actually get you that much protection. If Microsoft decides to fuck over Minecraft's authentication model again, it doesn't get easier to legally play (including old versions!). Buying physical media doesn't mean it has what was written on the box. And going private for multiplayer just changes the threat model rather than eliminates it: my last big MineCraft server lasted about three months before player interest dropped too low to justify the maintainer keeping it alive; my last ARK one restarted just yesterday due to save file corruption and player interest in changing maps.

It’s interesting to think, “what’s the information most important to devote to memory”? Not for professional life, but for one’s life satisfaction.

It is amazing to me how good games are at teaching information.

WoW is an especially good example because the human memory works best with spatial representations of visual information. Memory competitors who try to remember as many numbers as possible will actually turn the numbers into People or Objects and place them around a pre-ordered spatial map, usually conjoined with a plot. The most playing cards memorized in an hour is 2000 or so, with every competitor using this technique.

The algorithm placed this in my recommended queue and it made me chuckle so now I'm placing it in yours.

If animals could speak English


123 Gentle Giant – Octopus (1972)

Gentle Giant started out as a fairly conventional prog band, but with this album they came into their own. Rather than write the sprawling epics of their contemporaries, they were able to compress everything down into conventional song length without losing any of the ambition. Actually, the songs are not compressed so much as they are folded in on each other and tied up. The band had long abandoned any semblance of conventional song structure, or instrumentation, and the songs feature oblique jazz elements, oblique classical elements, nonstandard instrumentation, (multiple) nonstandard time signatures, and enough jamming to allow for individual expression but not enough to overwhelm any of the other elements. And it still manages to rock in places, even if the kind of rocking it does eludes conventional understanding.

122 Pink Floyd – Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)

In an earlier review, I described the underlying ethos of British psychedelia as “kaleidoscope bicycle lollipop cloudy cloud man”. The cover of this album has a kaleidoscopic image of the band, and there is a song about bikes, but, overall, the vibe of Piper is much, much darker than that description would suggest. This may be a fairytale world, but it’s one of crooked men and mad gardeners. This is largely due to a heaviness that just isn’t present on, say, Sgt. Pepper, but the sound is still nimble enough to avoid the heavy psych sludge of proto-metal groups like Blue Cheer or Iron Butterfly. As an aside, I refuse to go to laser Floyd until they stop taking votes on what show to run. A general audience is always going to pick Dark Side or The Wall, but it’s clear from the options that a Piper exists, too, but will never be played unless a dedicated group can brigade the show.

121 The Doors – Strange Days (1967)

I grew up in the ‘90s, part of a sizeable minority of Millennials who eschewed the homogenized crap that pop radio was pushing at the time in favor of the music of our Boomer parents; it was this phenomenon that led to the ubiquity of Pink Floyd and Bob Marely posters on dorm room walls. The Doors certainly fit into this paradigm as well, but unlike those other artists, most of us stopped listening to the Doors sometime shortly after college. Jim Morrison’s mystique—a combination of rebelliousness, a turbulent personal life, and poetic aspiration—certainly fueled a lot of this adoration (kids who were really into the Doors seemed more into Morrison than the music itself), but once you hit a certain age, something was lost. Morrison was a good lyricist but a bad poet, his antics seem juvenile in retrospect, and his problems with drugs and alcohol are just sad. At a certain point, nihilism stops being cool. And then, preferably once you’re past thirty, you go back and put the albums on and just listen to the music, and realize that there’s more to the Doors legacy than Morrison’s larger than life persona. He’s a bad poet but a good lyricist, and his crooner ambitions were in such opposition to the material that it perversely works. Ray Manzarek’s Vox Continental and Robby Krieger’s flamenco-inspired guitar give the band a sound that’s unique in the history of rock. And, while the psychedelic feel is certainly there, it’s based in a grim Los Angeles reality of broken dreams, worlds away from the idealism of San Francisco. While later albums would have more of a blues influence and result in higher highs, this record remains the best expression of their original sound.

120 Radiohead – Kid A (2000)

The album that killed rock music; it seems fitting that this came out in 2000 because it signaled a totally new direction for the music to take. But that was the end of it. Radiohead had ventured further out into the abyss than any other mainstream rock band, and found a reasonable amount of success, but that’s where it ended. Few bands were interested in picking up where this album left off (this was the age of Nu-Metal), and those that did had no hope of mass success. Even Radiohead themselves would backtrack. What’s left of the rock mainstream seems more interested in revisiting the blues than in pushing sonic boundaries, and this isn’t a bad thing, but it still feels like something has been lost.

119 Tortoise – TNT (1998)

Post-rock is one of those styles that’s had an outsized influence on the music scene despite being virtually unknown to the general public. And everything about the style is self-contradictory. The primary emphasis is on texture and atmosphere, yet it’s rigidly structured. It’s rigidly structured, with tight tempos and an emphasis on repetition, yet the playing is surprisingly loose and jazzy. It’s loose and jazzy, but there is little soloing or improvisation. Some albums on this list are difficult to describe. This one is easy to describe, but the description doesn’t make sense. And it should go without saying that this is entirely instrumental.

118 Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977)

Around the time in every young millennial rock fan’s life that he realizes that the Doors aren’t as cool as he once thought they were, he starts to realize that Billy Joel is a lot better than he ever gave him credit for. I suspect this is purely a generational thing—Billy Joel released his last new studio album in 1993, and if you aren’t old enough to remember the era when he was a contemporary pop force whose music was all over the radio then it’s hard to understand how uncool he really was. It was music for housewives. But actually listening to his best material without bias reveals an artist who places melody above all else. While he worked in a conventional pop/rock style, his music was never simple; he would always find the perfect chord progression and polish everything until it was perfect.

117 The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

Alternative rock begins here. Half garage band, half avant-garde experiment, with Andy Warhol as benefactor and a German chanteuse for good measure, the Velvet’s debut is the heavyweight champion for influence as a ratio of units sold. If the Doors added a hefty dose of oblique Los Angeles realism to their psychedelia, The VU stripped psychedelia of all its normal trappings save its experimental tendencies, and added a heftier dose of explicit New York realism. They sang about topic like domestic violence, S&M, and, especially, heroin addiction, and were conventional enough that one song can fit in easily on a playlist without notice but experimental enough that the entire album at once is a trip.

116 Brian Eno – Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983)

Brian Eno’s most notable achievement was the development of ambient music, and while this record draws heavily from that work, its purpose as the soundtrack for a television documentary about the Apollo missions means that the music is tied to director cues and a narrative structure in a way that most of his prior work hadn’t been, giving the music a focus and structure that serves it well. But its greatest achievement is, as the title suggests, delivering the perfect atmosphere, as the cold, empty, loneliness of space is balanced with the sense of wonder that comes with man’s greatest achievements.

115 Gordon Lightfoot – The Way I Feel (1967)

Leonard Cohen may be most people’s pick for best Canadian singer-songwriter, but my money is on Lightfoot. While Cohen was developing a whiny John Updike/Phillip Roth ethos where the dominant theme is about being sex-obsessed yet unsatisfied, Lightfoot was developing actual songwriting skills. And what skills! This album is a master class on where contemporary folk music was at the end of the 1960s, and Lightfoot would later help define what it was in the 1970s.

114 Beck – Morning Phase (2014)

When this won the Grammy for Album of the Year there was grumbling from the usual circles about how the RIAA was just a bunch of old white guys who where out of touch with contemporary music and wanted to give a lifetime achievement award to a guy who should by all rights be playing the hits on the oldies circuit. What these critics ignored, is that this is Beck’s best album. It is largely evocative of 2002’s Sea Change, but that album suffers slightly from being the product of real emotional turmoil. Coming at Morning Phase fresh, though, allows Beck to return to the same low-key vibe while focusing on craftsmanship and exploring themes other than despair. As such, he is able to navigate similar territory as before but without the album dragging.

113 Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading (1976)

Don’t trust your biases. The idea of a black, female singer-songwriter with a huge natural afro probably brings up visions of Carly Simon or Carole King-style soft rock with more of an R&B influence. But don’t be fooled, this is a rock record, with Glyn Johns producing and Armatrading providing acoustic guitar work that stands up with the best of them. Her guitar playing and vocal style actually presages Dave Matthews (and he isn’t shy about admitting it), though her music dispenses with the “eclectic” mix vibe and ersatz jam-band style that can make Dave grating at times. If you only listen to one album you’ve never heard of from this list, this should be it.

112 The Rolling Stones – Between the Buttons (1967)

Mick Jagger hates this record, but it doesn’t mean you should. It’s a head first dive in the art pop scene that started to develop in 1966, and it’s understandable that the frontman of the quintessential rock and roll band would want to pretend that this never happened. But there’s nothing on here to be embarrassed about. While there’s little of the blues based music that they would soon come to perfect, this album proves that the Stones were among the rock world’s best songwriters, and this is a key element that shouldn’t be dismissed when discussing their later work.

You're a bit rough on Cohen (his debut album stands with most anyone's) but I'd take Lightfoot as well. His masterpiece is 'Sundown' (1974) -- odd how the invasive production frills help him where they hurt Cohen (e.g. his adventures w/ Spector).

I'm enjoying this series you've got going. A few years back, I took on a similarly ambitious task. To it I added the strict arbitrary limitations of no more than 2 albums per artist and no more than 2 per year. The omissions kept me up at night. Did you impose any such criteria on your list?

Did you impose any such criteria on your list?

Nope, no limitations. I said in the addendum to another comment that this list omits jazz, country, bluegrass, and anything else that's outside the rock/R&B paradigm, and it's obviously limited to albums I've actually heard (which means it's less comprehensive than lists compiled by professional publications), but other than that, no restrictions. If the 5 best albums of all time were all from the same band I'm not going to pretend that they aren't.

I think Cohen is great, and I'm much more familiar with his work than Lightfoot's, but Lightfoot has a voice you could just sink into. I love that kind of quality.

I’m also a big fan of Stan Rogers as one of Canadas greatest singer-songwriters. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is a solid karaoke song, though.

This seems more culture warry than "fun" but okay. You might at least share what prompts you gave to produce this.

Okay, I will delete.

This week I made a butcher block.

Went down to the lumber yard and scooped up some 5/4 hard maple for $6 a board foot. Came out to $75 for 15 feet worth of 8.5" wide boards. I should be able to get 2 15x20x1.5 butcher blocks out of them, and then 1 smaller one of dimensions I haven't figured out yet.

I had a good time on this project. It was nice doing a simple project compared to my bookshelf, and also a project I planned to repeat so there was an aspect of learning and trying to figure out how to do it better. One is for my wife to beat the shit out of to determine if we want butcher block countertops. The other is going to be a gift. A third might be a reserve gift for a birthday that sneaks up on me.

If you followed my bookshelf project, you know how this goes. Chop it down to rough dimensions, get it on the plane sled, mill it flat to about 1" thickness. After than I only jointed one edge and began taking off 1 5/8" strips. I got about 5 per board minus a few which had defects.

After that, the goal is to set them on edge, so that the butcher block is composed of all the edge grain facing out, and all the faces are glued together. I intended to plane it flat after this process, but the whole thing won't fit in my planer. So I glued it up in two halves which would then get joined together at the end. This may have been a mistake. I'll come back to that later.

With the two halves glued up and flattened, I jointed the edge on my tablesaw and... there was a seam. A big seam. I'm not sure how or why. Both edges despite being run straight on my tablesaw had a slight inward bow to them. I grabbed a hand planer and fixed it as best I could, but I'm not very good at it. Then I went ahead with the glue up. Some of the seam was still visible so I tried a trick I saw where you take some fine sawdust from the project, and rub it into the seam with some glue. it worked ok. The seam is slightly visible, but you can't feel it with a fingernail anymore. Which is important for a butcher block because you don't want bacteria nesting in cracks and crevices that refuse to properly dry out.

I need a lot more practice routing, even with an edge guide. But I decided to go for it and route out a drip edge and handles. It could have gone better. As I slowed down at the corners especially, the maple burned. Some research after the fact indicated maple is notorious for burning when you route it. The only solution is to have a steady hand and a steadier feed rate so that the router bit doesn't stay in the same place for too long. This is clearly going to be the one we keep so my wife can beat the shit out of it.

Lastly I slathered it in as much tung oil as it could drink. This wood was thirstier than a teen boy on instagram. At first I worried that the 32 oz of food grade tung oil/citrus solvent I ordered wouldn't be enough not only for this board, but the other two I intended to make. I was watching it utterly vanish into the wood the moment the brush left the surface. Maybe 8 oz later it began pooling on the surface like it's supposed to when the wood is saturated. Minus the end grain, that shit stayed thirsty almost the whole time, but I got it to a point where the oil wasn't instantly being absorbed. It's going to take 30 days to fully cure, but should be usable with some caveats in 14 days.

I'm going to make another one this weekend. I think to avoid the seam between the two halves, I'm going to doing one massive glue up, but not glue that middle seam. My hope is the clamps keep everything oriented such that I won't need to joint that seam once the glue has dried and I've flattened them again. Then I can plane them separately and glue up that final seam. If that doesn't work, I might set up a straight edge and a trim router bit and attempt to get a nice jointed edge that way. If that doesn't work, I might set up my router table as a makeshift jointer by carefully setting up the fence so that one side is maybe 1/32" of an inch further out than the other, and getting it parallel with the edge of a straight bit.

Maybe next Christmas I'll treat myself to an actual jointer.

Why not just get a hand jointer?

So, I do have one, and I mentioned attempting to use it to joint that edge. It helped. But I'm just not good enough with it to get the job done to the degree I would have liked. Practice I suppose.

Sorry I missed that! You said makeshift jointer or something and I assumed.

Did you consider making an end-grain one?

I considered it, but I wanted to start with an end grain one. The 3rd, smaller one I make might wind up being an end grain one. See how much maple I have left after the second one gets finished.

Looks great regardless! Good work!

I always enjoy your woodworking reports.

I'm glad! I have a few more projects planned. A desk chair that has some rather unorthodox constraints so it can slide under a rather diminutive desk. Then probably a small table for the Starlink router that has a compartment to keep the slack cable in. Some sort of display case for minis. Debating whether I want to add some LED lighting to the back with a giant diffuser. It'll be a good excuse to add some soldering to a project. Going to make a clock for my daughter, where the face is poplar and some red oak splines make up the hour marks.

At some point the wife is going to coopt my labor when she finally finds a chicken coop she wants built.

It's gonna be a fun summer.

Yesterday I finished my geodatabase of Russian municipalities and decided to play with it a bit before starting working on my fantasy map. I tried plotting the population density, and turns out there's an outlier that spoils every classification if you don't use quantiles.

Meet Reutov, a town just across the beltway from Moscow proper and a part of its urban area. Despite having the area of only 9 sq km (3.5 square miles for you Liberians) that includes an industrial zone, it houses 114000 people, being as dense as the Bronx and much denser than any other municipality in Russia.

Also, the map has some holes inside the town of Dzerzhinsk that don't belong to any municipality. I wonder if that's an error in OSM data or a sign of something cool.

Ok so what can’t GPT-4 do at this point?

It still hallucinates a lot.

It is possible to get to to do useful things but the constraints are largely the same as for GPT-3.5 even if the output is a bit more polished.

Very surprised to find that no LLM I've tried, including GPT-4, has been able to zero-shot "Which aircraft carriers were afloat in the Pacific on June 10th 1942?"

They almost always list the carriers lost at Midway, even as half the time they note that they were sunk on June 4th/5th/7th as part of answering.

Avoid trying to confidently redefine basic math?

Kill all humans.

From what I've tested:

  • it does better with Finnish history questions I asked here from GPT 3.5, but still made at least one obvious error with 3/4 of the questions asked, and hallucinated even more stuff about Veikko Vennamo than 3.5.

  • it cannot translate into Finnish as well as a dedicated program like DeepL. I've only tried one text, but my estimate would be that it's output is similar to 3.5, ie. there are obvious grammatical mistakes and like.

  • it cannot create palindromes or Finnish-language spoonerisms. (edit: it's notso-hotso with English-language spoonerisms, either)

  • it struggles in writing a credible fictional alternative history timeline. I tried asking for a Confederacy-wins scenario, and its proposed point of divergence was Lee winning at Appomattox Court House.

Design and train GPT-5.

The OpenAI team use it internally, so it can't do it by itself but at least it can help!