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Friday Fun Thread for November 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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I want to bitch about the blue collar middle class here for a second: Contractors are all liars and thieves, or thieves and liars.

Was doing some maintenance on one of our properties, in this case a leaking water line near a wall from god knows when; but was on the plans and part of the original construction. Fuckers ran that shit 100 feet through a slab and instead of spending an extra 50 bucks on fittings and labor to put a t to a hose bib for hose bib and draining purposes; they did four pipe bends to bring the whole fucking thing into the air, ran it into the wall, then back into the fucking slab. Turned a 30 min. solder job into a 8 hour hell march (admittedly because I didn't restock on slip to street couplings and wide radius 90s. Oh well) because I can't just tell the resident "lol i cut the water pipe no water till the grainger truck arives lol".

This a couple days after I went to replace a failing range hood to find it was venting through dryer vent (NOT TO CODE BIG FIRE HAZARD HOURS) and the dryer vent was venting into a cavity in the ceiling, and was actually not even connected to the range hood that had never had the plug removed so it wasn't venting at all.

I go to fix this, and find that the complete shitbags that did previous owners kitchen remodel installed a 3 layers of drywall and a 2*4 below the galvanized vent pipe that goes to the roof. These motherfuckers turned a 30 min. job into me having to cut a 2 foot access hole into the fucking kitchen ceiling because they also ran a ton of vents to a gas heater 100% blocking the crawl space; all in service of scamming their customer out of thousand(s) of dollar(s) and maybe burning their house down.

All this to say: Never trust a contractor. Never trust a tradesman older than 36 but younger than 68. I've never worked with one in that range that didn't try to cut corners or steal from their customers on the quote end.

If a contractor fuck you over, is there any recourse?

I wouldn't mind paying extra if they do a good job, but if do a horrible job and overcharge you then that's pretty much a scam isn't it?

I think of IT support, where people willingly fork over hundreds for a repair that could've taken a 15 minute google search. People pay for ignorance, or just convenience. Why charge $10 for 15 minute of work, if people willingly pay $50 or $100?

I make enough now that I'd rather pay for a contractor than do something myself especially if it needs a ton of manual labor, but I haven't had much experience with contractors. I'll take your experience as a cautionary tale.

If a contractor fuck you over, is there any recourse?

I am not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice.

It's very difficult to bring serious punishment to a contractor. There are exceptions -- if someone just doesn't do anything, or completely destroys an area, or literally seriously injures or kills someone -- you can sometimes get criminal charges or a contractor's license revoked, but there's a big emphasis on 'sometimes', here. Merely shoddy or below-code work will almost never hit that bar.

Meanwhile, refusing to pay for contracted work that was partially- or incompetently-completed work will almost always result in a construction lien against your property. It's possible to clear this up in court if the work is clearly incomplete or dangerous, but if it's merely incompetent this can be much more complicated and dependent on the whims of a judge, and while active will prevent most loans using or sales of the property.

Mediation is usually the first recourse, if the problem is merely scale rather than scam. If the fault is just doing a bad job for the price, but all the rough parts are kinda in place if you squint, you'll often have no recourse but to badmouth the contractor. Assuming scam...

At least in the United States (and Canada) your main option is court. Below a certain (state-specific) threshold, that will be in small claims court -- good in the sense that it's not very expensive (or slow) to bring suit, bad in the sense that you'll have very limited recourse and if you win will almost always get a (capped) compensatory damages. Having clear contractual obligations (don't just write "follow code": mandate materials and specific tasks) and documenting the full scope of both the damages and before the work can make it easier to win; longer delays before filing suit or having work where it's difficult to find an expert to document problems will be harder (or, worse, if you let a contractor tell you that it 'won't need a permit or inspections' and you believed them). Larger (>5k-10k USD, though again this varies by state) stuff will have to go to conventional civil courts and is almost always going to need lawyers involved to some extent.

Note that just winning in court and demonstrating the damages to the court doesn't necessarily mean you'll get your cash back: a lot of scuzzier contractors are fly-by-night operations that can be extremely difficult to recover damages from, either being conventionally judgement proof by not having a lot of recoverable assets, or by just being too obnoxious to recover them.

The typical advice is prevention. You can't avoid every scammer, but a lot of them have a number of red flags. Most reputable contractors for major projects will have past projects they can point you toward as references, will have enough capital that you can contract most payment to occur after major milestones or project completion, and will not try to skimp on permitting and inspections, because that's how you become a reputable contractor. Most scammy contractors won't put off payment and accept specific contractual requirements that they can't meet, because that's the fastest way for a scammer to not get paid and the contractor's lien to get thrown out. If you get multiple estimates, someone offering an order-of-magnitude lower prices than the average without offering a different scope of work is probably not gonna be able to get the job done.

But those won't help if the contractor just plain lies, or if the inspectors are morons or felons/demented, or if a scammer has hollowed out a once-reputable company or the 'reputable company' was really just a gateway to a roulette of sometimes-reputable subcontractors.

The best prevention has to involve using your own evaluation, whether that be to check yourself or to evaluate specific experts, and to do so throughout the process.

The best recourse you can have is social (not professional) reputation in the community.

I'm not a Jehovah's Witness, but a lot of my cousins are big at the local kingdom hall. I've used a lot of JWs they recommended for small jobs, because they won't screw me too bad, knowing that if they screw me my cousins will hear about it, and it'll become gossip among JWs.

Don't get me wrong, they'll still scrimp on stuff they think you won't notice, or do totally unaccountably dumb stuff like pour extra paint down the drain, but they generally won't steal or fail to perform.

My biggest problem with contractors lately has been that I've had so many plates spinning, that I have this perpetual problem of leaving them alone for too long, and they "helpfully" decide to build the whole thing out of popsicle sticks and old plywood. When if they had just called me, I would have gotten the proper material and had them do it right.

Honestly, if a contractor charges you 10* market rate but does a good job, I would just consider that capitalism at work. Yes, it is probably morally wrong and pretty scammy; but what isn't?

The problem (as you noticed) is that price is decoupled from quality.

Re. consequences: No, not really. You should only use licenced and bonded contractors and get everything in writing; specially for important shit. (If you get a guy from the HD parking lot to lay some carpet, the worst that happens is you need to relay the carpet. Less so in the case of eg. roof maintenance.)

If you get everything in writing (Dates and Rates+ specified materials at specified prices, etc) and they fuck you on one of them, you can usually recover something in small claims court or get them to redo the work because they know you can get them in court.

If you don't have it in writing? hahahaha get fucked kid.

The real issue is that lots of shitty contracting only becomes apparent 3 years later when the boomer fuck who had the license is dead or cirrhotic or fucking coolie boys in Malaysia

If a contractor fuck you over, is there any recourse?

Not paying them and seeing who has better underworld-adjacent friends.

I had three different HVAC repair men come to look at my furnace and all three gave me completely different diagnoses with very similar prices (~$1300). My aunt has a list of repair men that she has collected over her life (mostly recommended by friends I think) and is adamant that word-of-mouth recommendations are the only feasible way to get a good contractor.

I found one company that seems pretty good in my area. They have electricians, plumbers, and indoor air specialists.

One of the things that made me a little more confident was how frustrated they were with the state of the house and how reluctant they were to do more expensive fixes.

There also seems to be two layers of protection in place:

  1. The local government comes out and inspects work related to plumbing, electrical, and gas. The professional might not care too much about their reputation with me, but they need the inspector to like them.
  2. They fix things that they messed up on. So one pro doing a bad job and screwing it up for a different professional gets noticed.

Amen to that. Liars and thieves. I can accept that when the final result is fine. We once hired our late neighbor to renovate our dacha and his people did a good job (not perfect, but good enough), but we paid through the nose for top-of-the-line materials and the end result was unmaintainable. I have no idea where any of the power lines and water lines go. I wanted to install a bigger breaker and couldn't, because the line that goes from the pole to the breaker passes through the house like the recurrent laryngeal nerve through a giraffe, I can't run a new thicker cable through the same conduit because there's no conduit, I would have to open up the walls and reroute everything.

Everyone else I've hired has been even worse. For construction my only answer is, "hire a company, include independent inspection in the contract, hire an independent technical inspector". For piping and wiring and the rest being your own general contractor is the only option.

We've bought an aging manufactured home, and are trying to figure what maintenance we should do. Unfortunately, if I, as a naive person who doesn't know that much yet, try searching for information online, I just get a bunch of contractor sites telling us to hire them to do work that won't result in a clear end state that we'd be in a position to evaluate. Things like "re-level" it every three years or something (there wouldn't be much evidence whether this had been done properly or not). The only thing I've found that's clearly measurable by me at this point is "wait for the house to fall apart in some obvious way, replace it with an entirely new structure."

Are there good sources of information to help a homeowner figure out what to even hire someone to do, and how to tell if they did in fact do a good job of it?

I have been reading through the international building code which my local city and county defer to, with amendments.

try searching for information online, Ask ChatGPT.

I’ll give it a try, though the anecdote above about it staunchly insisting the ISS is larger than the moon wasn’t reassuring.

Adding: I did try asking Chat GPT, and it gave a bit of advice, but mostly recommends finding and evaluating a structural engineer. I suppose I could ask either the organization we bought it though (a local non-profit who are still holding the mortgage, and therefore invested in it retaining value) or some friends who are doing contractor and handyman work.

Man, don't ask chat GPT. Doesn't know dick about shit. Try getting it to say anything deeper than buzzfeed for your area of expertise for a laugh.

Speaking of not knowing dick, mobile homes are a closed book to me. I assume you are in a community of such; if they have a managment office they'll probably know. Failing that, probably normal house shit needs done in addition to mobile home shit.

EG, check your roof, check your door sweeps and insulation, change the anode in your water heater if it's gone, clean the filters in your range hood and furnace, flush your water heater, etc.


I assume you are in a community of such; if they have a managment office they'll probably know

No, this is just how they do semi-rural houses out here. We have it because the land it's on is very nice for a variety of reasons, and the house itself is... a house, which provides shelter, and is large enough. It has a metal roof, which is nice.

change the anode in your water heater if it's gone, clean the filters in your range hood and furnace, flush your water heater, etc.

I'll look into this, thanks. I hadn't heard of an anode before, and had to look it up. We do have very hard water -- mountain spring water, so at least it's nice to drink, but is pretty hard on appliances.

How do you find trustworthy contractors?

You can't. They don't exist. They are like unicorns. You can do 100 jobs with a contractor, and that won't stop them from fucking you on the 101st. Ask me how I know!

For real though: don't trust reviews, and try to either get a personal friend who is a contractor to do it or have the personal friend contractor find you one that he knows to not be a total shit.

For Real For Real: Become your own contractor. Hire tradespeople directly, let them know before they quote you will get the materials they recommend yourself and keep any spares, only pay the full amount on completion, and stand over their shoulders the whole fucking time they are working.

For the REALEST: do what I did and become and omnitradsman, capable of doing everything except sparky shit on your own to a semi-expert level and then suffer eternaly.

get a personal friend who is a contractor to do it

A contractor who is a personal friend or a relative is the worst option, IMO. You won't be able to call them out if they do something wrong because you don't want to sour your relationship.

Yeah, there's a lot of space for horror stories here: the contractor-friend doesn't even have to be intentionally screwing you over. Just getting pushed out of their comfort zone or area of expertise to help can lead even good contractors into deep fuckery.

try to either get a personal friend who is a contractor to do it or have the personal friend contractor find you one that he knows to not be a total shit.

This depends on your friend circle. I doubt many people have direct ties to contractors, especially those living in cities.

The more realistic answer is doing your own due diligence using word-of-mouth recommendations from neighbors, non-contractor friends, and other acquaintances.

The 'For Real For Real' no longer works so well, at least in my area. Any "good" contractor has enough other work to do that they won't play by custom terms of scrupulous project managers.

Re: "For the REALEST", I was on my way to this before having a few kids. The time evaporated to the point that it's no longer practical. Unless you're willing to make that your job, your spouse is willing to not see you in the evenings, or your spouse is willing to live in an endless construction zone, it's just not an option imho.

I've simply excepted the dao of construction. I can turn my head a look at a stack of 2*4's right now.

become and omnitradsman

What resources did you use to acquire your current understanding and expertise? I hang on 4chan /diy/ sometimes and I suppose I’d just keep searching YouTube if needed.

I worked in the field for quite a while, but even before that I was simply extremely poor. The choice was learn how to plumb or have no water, because the landlord wasn't gonna do shit.

This applies to you too! Use your common sense here, but most things aren't that bad if you fuck them up. (excepting gas, electric, and non ground floor plumbing, those can be bad. be careful). Worse comes to worst, you have to do the call of shame and have someone clean up your mistake.

There is such a thing as best practices, you can usually get good specific advice on youtube and reddit, and be mindful of common safety failures. Eg, read the warning labels on everything, climbing on roofs is taking your life into your own hands, never trust an angle grinder (or any tool that spins faster than you can pedal a bike), etc.

Did anyone see David Fincher’s the Killer? Thoughts?

Not offensively bad, but not worth seeing either. Didn't do anything for me, other than kill two hours.

It it's intended to be a straightforward action/suspense movie, then it's not very good.

If it's intended to take the piss out of such movies, it's better. It's basically a John Wick type of story, but all elements being sufficiently shitty so as to just be above blatant parody. For example, there is a narration throughout the movie where the protagonist justifies his actions and puffs himself up with a sort of sophomoric "cool assassin guy" / "nothing personnel kid" persona (he literally calls civilians normies) as well making mildly unfunny quips. It's long unclear if it's just shitty writing; but in one scene his monologue is abruptly interrupted when somebody talks over him, so it becomes obvious that it's his actual internal monologue and just him being a blowhard. It just never actually blatantly winks at the audience, so you'll have to realize this yourself. (Another thing that points to this is that he constantly fucks up, especially when doing "cool ruthless assassin" things; like when he shoots nails in a guys chest during an interrogation and has an internal monologue calculating how slowly he'll die, but none of that works and he just dies instantly instead.)

Similar things are going on with the plot and character motivations; he wants to kill the people responsible for assaulting his wife (who is given the minimal amount of screen time to establish a motivation for the protagonist, and then is basically never thought of again). He leaves a pile of dead people in the wake, executing even innocent people without mercy to not leave evidence, but then in the end when he meets the big boss responsible for everything the guy gives him a piss-weak excuse of having no idea what is going on, and the protagonist just buys it instantly and lets him go.

I keep seeing this take in discussions, and I just don't get it.

Yes, the killer messes up in the beginning and he makes a few mistakes throughout the film (shooting the nails into the guy, getting caught in the Florida house, snagging the janitor's key). But the killer ultimately succeeds in everything. He kills everyone he wants to kill. He doesn't die or get caught or get grievously injured. And he repeatedly shows cold blooded efficiency, like when he killed Tilda Swinton or the Florida guy. Based on his wealth and reputation, he has probably successfully pulled off dozens of assassinations in the past.

So the killer is not a try-hard buffoon. He really is an expert assassin, but as he admits in the opening monologue, he isn't a genius, so he makes some mistakes along the way.

As for the ending, I think the textual read is that assassinating a billionaire would bring too much police attention and risk, so better just to threaten the guy. I'm guessing there is also some sort of subtext about the billionaire boss surviving while his contractor/employees all died, hence the killer monologuing that he's now part of the masses being exploited by the few, rather than vice versa.

He really is an expert assassin, but as he admits in the opening monologue, he isn't a genius, so he makes some mistakes along the way.

I read a lot of reddit takes in the /r/movies review thread. I think you've kind of distilled it down.

The Killer is mostly a highly competent assassin. I think the point of the movie is that he is human and fallible. He keeps repeating his mantra while he breaks his own rules and that is kind of the point. He keeps fucking up, which isn't just because he's incompetent.

I think the movie shows a relatively realistic view of what a professional killer would be and how that would work in a world where humans are humans. The other killers fuck up more than the 'protagonist' did. Tilda Swinton's character should never have accepted a job with The Brute and it arguably led to her death.

The Lawyer had this arrogant professional attitude like 'You idiot why did you actually trust me? You know how the game is played' and treats the Killer with contempt, even as it led to his death. Fincher did well in that the movie with a 'What happens when people try to pretend that they are more perfect/professional than they are?' experiment.

Besides the meta-narrative, I really enjoyed the concept of what a hitman would actually look like in real life. I can't imagine someone doing much differently in a professional assassination role outside of the Spec Ops world. Many people in the reddit thread thought it boring and mundane, but I love the detail and the flaws in the methodology. It reminds me of a book series by Andy McNab (an ex SAS author) who talks about all sorts of mundanity like going to Target and buying a few changes of underwear before going on a stakeout, and how the protagonist fucks up even as he thinks he's done nothing wrong.

Completely predictable (including that Tilda Swinton was the best thing in it). No particularly interesting characters. And, why does an organization that employs assassins have their home addresses on file? Do they send them W-2s?

Fincher is a master technician and I respect the film for what it is... but the sum of its parts is very "meh." It's just not interesting. I didn't care about any of the characters, I didn't care about the plot, and maybe 60% of the film literally consists of watching Fassbender do ordinary boring shit like pick up rental cars and buy stuff off Amazon. I was never quite bored, but I was never really into it either. Yet again, I really wish Fincher would apply his amazing filmmaking skills to more interesting material. But at least the mid-movie fight scene was amazing.


But at least the mid-movie fight scene was amazing.

I kept asking myself why the big mountain of muscle kept throwing his disarmed and physically weaker opponent away from him where he ended up repeatedly grabbing improvised weapons, instead of just grabbing him and choking/beating him to death in a more controlled fashion.

Armchair MMA, I guess.

I kept asking myself why the big mountain of muscle kept throwing his disarmed and physically weaker opponent away from him where he ended up repeatedly grabbing improvised weapons, instead of just grabbing him and choking/beating him to death in a more controlled fashion.

This is one of those movie tropes that I've come to just depressingly accept at this point. Maybe action movies have always relied on this as a get-out-of-jail-free card to deal with situations when the hero needs to fight someone clearly much bigger and stronger than them, but I've certainly noticed it a lot more over the past decade or so. The generally well-received episode of Game of Thrones, Hardhome, was basically completely ruined for me because of this trope where Jon Snow should've been killed ten times over before his dramatic discovery of the effects of Valyrian steel on White Walkers. It sure would be nice of scriptwriters and action choreographers cared about building a fight scene around its combatants and the back and forth of their actions and reactions to each other in the fight instead of around spectacle and plot convenience, but the latter is much easier, I'm sure.

Hell, I was thinking the same thing watching Thor throw around Iron Man in Duplex’s example. His most effective move was literally just squeezing.

It's time for the weekly "Is ChatGPT Getting Worse" discussion.

I use ChatGPT 4 a lot for work, and it's getting painful. For one, it's always trying to browse the web with Bing. If I wanted blog spam, I wouldn't ask ChatGPT. So now I have to preface every request with "From memory". Saving this in my user profile doesn't seem to work.

The bigger issue is that it's just really stupid. It's hard to believe that this thing can pass the bar exam. Consider this query.

"What's the second largest thing that orbits earth".

The result it gave me was something like:

"The moon is the second largest thing that orbits Earth. The largest thing orbiting earth is the ISS, which is considerably smaller than the moon".

Even after multiple rounds of thumbs down, it still gave me this same bizarre answer. A few days later I tried again and got this correct if annoying answer:

"The Moon is the largest natural object orbiting Earth. The second largest object is the International Space Station (ISS), although it's significantly smaller than the Moon."

Who knows what's going on. It could be that my expectations were initially low and they were positively surprised by ChatGPT's good results. Now my expectations are high and I am negatively surprised by the poor results. Nevertheless, I really do think things are getting worse.

For the web browsing problem, that's a solved problem with the new "My GPTs" feature (once you have access, which still might not be everyone yet?). The new default GPT has all the extra features enabled by default, including the (I would argue) very useful DALL-E feature and the (I would agree) not very useful web browsing feature. But you can pin "ChatGPT Classic" to disable all that and stick to strictly textual responses, or create a custom one to get your preferred combination of features.

I've just started to mess around with the custom GPTs, and while it doesn't seem to be functionally different than keeping around some preliminary instructions to copy-paste before your actual query, I'm finding that that seems to have an outsized difference in decreasing the mental barrier for me wanting to use it. Now I've got one dedicated to generating unit tests from pasted code (following preferred style guides), one for code review (outputting potential issues with suggested changes), and so forth. I'm pretty optimistic about generative AI from an ever-increasing utility perspective, so I find it hard to complain about the current state of things.

That said, I have also noticed a greater-than-chance series of factual errors in recent conversations. Interestingly, the latest one I can recall also involved an error in comparative measures (while discussing hypothetical US statehood): "As of my last update in 2023, the Philippines had a population of over 100 million people. This population size would make it the second most populous state in the U.S., surpassed only by California."

So maybe they tweaked some dial to improve some other metric, which by the impossible-to-comprehend inner machinations of text analysis wizardry, had a tradeoff that made this failure point more common. Or maybe it really is less factually accurate across-the-board, and these examples are just the easier ones to notice. Either way, it doesn't seem too bothersome at least for me, with my set of use cases, especially since I imagine an easy-to-notice regression like this will be pretty quickly taken care of. If not by OpenAI, then by the others in the ever-escalating arms race.

I'm less annoyed by its stupidity than by its constant moralizing. It straight-up refuses to do things much of the time.

One that stands out (though, I can't seem to reproduce it now) was ChatGPT refusing to send a request to DALL-E for an illustration of a trans character pre-transition. I can't find the conversation, but it was something like:

ChatGPT: Due to our content policy, I can't generate that image

Me: What? .. why? What's wrong with that?

ChatGPT: It is important to respect the feelings of trans people, and depicting this character at a sensitive time in their life could be hurtful and (etc etc.)

Me: It's a fictional character. I promise they won't mind.

ChatGPT: It is important to .. (blah blah blah)

Me: Fine. Screw it. Character isn't trans any more. Are you happy now? There goes half our diversity quota

I asked it to make a thumbnail of an "attractive female teacher" for some content I was working on. It must have decided that 2 of the 4 images were too sexy, because it wouldn't show them to me.

Those were the good old days of two weeks ago. Now Dall-E 3 will only make one image at a time for me. I have to tack this on to every command: "simple, no extra elements, colors not overly saturated, not complicated". Mixed success.

If you're using it for real-world tasks (and not to score points / complain about your outgroup) it's logical mistakes are far more annoying than its political leanings.

Try to get it to depict an average American... It refuses because its a perpetuates harmful stereotypes! LMAO

At first it refused, citing "variety of ethnicities, variety, complex task, bla bla bla". Then I asked again, leaving out ethnicities. It created an image/mosaic, showing a burger, a coffee cup, a city street, and several US flags.

I meant more in the sense of someone that doesn't look like a model and isn't model level thin.

I've tried but been unable to create a woman with above 25 BMI.

Using woke-speak is the most effective method I've found but even then it seems to run into some hard wall. It accepts the prompt, generates the picture but then refuses to publish it, citing "breaking safety guidelines". Asking about what specific policy is being violated leads to the model claiming that actually no policy is being violated, attempting to generate a picture again, and then being stopped by some unknown process. After a few tries it just shuts down and claims it's broken.

I saw this article this morning, with the online headline "My $5,000 Bender in Casino World"

And my reaction was... Befuddled. $5k? That's it? I'd be modestly interested in hearing a friend tell me about losing $5k gambling. But as the subject of a whole article? Come on. With inflation the way it is, I think you have to lose at least $30,000 before it's interesting. Listing $5k might hurt a lot of people, but the real problem was their prior destitution/poor decision making, not the $5k lost gambling. Just, like, get a job?

I had a similar reaction to would-be academic Kierkegaard's changing his name and moving country to dodge a $10k judgment. Come on, what formidable person can't just pay that off? Tighten your belt for six months and you should be fine.

Maybe it's just seeing the world through privilege, but I feel weird being asked to respect these people. It's an ethos argument: if you don't have your life organized such that you can handle a minor financial setback, you're not a substantial person.

What do you think is, in 2023 first world countries, a large enough financial loss to be interesting, or to force a life change on someone, for a person you would respect?

if you don't have your life organized such that you can handle a minor financial setback, you're not a substantial person.

If 5000 USD is minor, then sorry for being insubstantial.

To put my cards on the table up front, you wouldn't respect me. But that's ok, I stopped caring much about respect when I learned I was a genetic dead end. Which is another reason I don't deserve respect.

Never mind all that, I just read the clarification you wrote to iprayiam and I had misunderstood in the same way.

Nevertheless, I don't think the writer was aiming for respect - she's talking about licking crumbs of coke off the floor of a restroom and mocking her own stupidity constantly. Even the last few paragraphs, when she's trying to get better, are written in a way that makes her look silly. It reads more like a confessional or cautionary tale to me.

Sure, but I want my confessional and cautionary tales bigger and juicier. I didn't read the article until after I posted this, because my original point was just about the headline failing to grab me. Having now read it, it's the same thing: the problems strike me as banal, and the writer isn't strong enough to carry it off.

$5k is about right. Bigger than most car repairs, smaller than most cars. The latter is the kind of thing you're supposed to plan around; the former is what you're supposed to be able to handle even if surprised. "Supposed to" in the social sense, not the rational one.

I don't think there's any particular amount that would make it article-worthy.

But then, I also doubt there's a threshold which would have made you respect the author of this article.

Desperate situations make people do objectively stupid things.

For example, Fred Smith, the founder of Fedex, gambled $5,000 in 1973 because he was unable to secure a loan from a bank and was desperate. In this case, his gamble paid off and he managed to win $27,000. Adjusted for inflation it is a much larger sum, roughly around $33,000, but blackjack has an expected negative net return.

It's hard to say how much this gamble is the reason he was able to turn fedex around considering the company was $11 million in debt at the time, but it's likely that if he lost that gamble the entire company would have 100% gone under.

Would the impact of the story be less if it was $5,000 in today's value? Maybe, but I think the intention and situation around the gamble make the story more interesting than the amount. I know you're asking specifically about the loss here, and maybe you're more interested in how the loss impacted/changed a person, but I think the situation/circumstances that led to the gamble are more interesting. I'd also argue that if the amount he gambled was much larger, say $500,000, it be harder for me to accept that it was a desperate situation versus a stupid impulsive decision, even if you win with that larger amount.

Looking at the article, it seems clear that the main problem isn't exactly the $5,000, but rather that she spent it descending into addiction and uselessness while an unemployed adult.

"I went to rehab and then spent several months living with my parents until saving enough to rent a closet-size room in L.A. From there, I tried to engage in the “healthy” activities sober people are supposed to love. But there was no amount of hiking, hot yoga, or acai bowls that could stop me from constantly fucking up, and every relapse got progressively worse until I stopped trying altogether." If this were a working class man, people would have given up on him by now.

It reminds me a little bit of that piece from a decade or so ago by a woman who was raised middle class, got a degree in English or something, and then alienated her family and spent several years slumming in cheap hotel rooms, writing about spearing roaches and feeling exhausted all the time. I think it was this person

Clearly, not a "substantial person," that's the point.

Yeah, losing $5K gambling and having it actually sting is basically a sign that someone is just a complete fuckup. Really, that's true of any sum of money. Gambling is fine and losing a decent bit can be a funny story, but betting money you can't afford to lose just means you're a degenerate loser. I lost $800 on a day of football bets and was irritated, but not genuinely upset. I watched a buddy roll up to the $100 blackjack table at Caesar's, go up $2K, then proceed to lose that and the $1K he walked up with in the first place. That one stung a little because he could have walked and bought us steaks - what an asshole!

I have a hard time picturing chance financial losses that genuinely damage people's lives that are generally well-arranged, because deliberate exposure to excessive risk is just a stupid thing to do. That said, I would feel great empathy for anyone who had their business collapse, even if it was a small business and their business plan didn't seem all that great to me. I suppose that's generally going to mean at least a six-figure loss, but at the end of the day, it's more about the loss of labor, pride, and self-worth. For the standard W-2 guy, I have a tough time figuring out why they don't just not spend more than they make.

Really, that's true of any sum of money. Gambling is fine and losing a decent bit can be a funny story, but betting money you can't afford to lose just means you're a degenerate loser.

Where I disagree, or maybe I'm just making a different point, is that at a large enough sum of money the story becomes interesting to me. Obviously the gambler that loses a fortune is more degenerate than the gambler that loses a small amount, but I'm more interested in the story of how it happened. Take the film The Donut King, where (spoilers for a documentary) the Cambodian refugee protagonist comes to America penniless, builds an empire of donut shops, makes millions, only to gamble it all away in Vegas, leaving his family destitute. That's obviously worse in every way than losing $5k on online slots, but it's interesting, it's a great topic for a documentary (Highly recommend the movie, actually, the guy lived at least three fascinating stories in one).

Oh, sure, I'm not saying that degenerate losers are necessarily boring.

Maybe I'm not a 'substantial person' but 5k would be a pretty painful loss for me. That said: I don't gamble, it's a mug's game.

Thinking about this has made me curious to what percentage of this forum isn't working in a high paying job/career path. I don't think of myself as stupid or even average intelligence but I've geared my life towards what I find rewarding and until I start my own business in this industry I most likely won't be hitting the big time anyone soon.

I make six figures and would hate to lose $5k. Given investment yields etc. that translates to retiring like 2-3 months later which is pretty significant.

A minority, I think. The forum might lean towards disagreeable, but people who bear with huge chunks of texts and the rules are usually not that dumb. Students, those who failed, maybe a few people who're just lazy or never cared.

To your last point, I'm a little bit hesitant about going into detail about my specific situation, but I made less than $35,000 last year working full time, and while this year is an anomaly, I probably won't break $15,000 this year.

If I were to land a position in the coming year that paid me $50,000/yr, which I'm hopeful about the prospect of pending an interview here soon, I'd consider that a substantial upgrade from any position I've ever had. I am 30.

I do consider it a major personal failing that I did not pursue a career track more optimized for income over the past decade. I've gotten in on the ground floor of about 4 different lines of work whose skill sets largely do not overlap. This was avoidable, I had the sense to know it the whole time. I have half of a BFA degree from ten years ago, which is almost as embarrassing as it would've been to pay for the whole BFA degree, and exactly as useful. I have several well-developed skills in lines of work that there's not really any good money in in the first place, and have spent many of the last few years committed to working at low wages for small to medium-sized local businesses that I knew very well from the beginning had no capacity for upward mobility or even guaranteed longterm solvency.

I'd say it's the central failure of my life, not to get too dramatic in the Friday Fun Thread. I get by alright, day to day, it could absolutely be worse, and I manage my expenses well enough, but there's certainly no room in my life for supporting a partner or a family the way I would want to be able to do at my age. I may be starting to wrench myself out of the bottom of the trough now, but I wouldn't be surprised if it takes me another decade to get where my peers are right now, assuming I ever do. I like to think of myself as a relatively capable and intelligent person, but the hard facts of my education choices, employment choices and resulting income over the last ten years could make a pretty solid case that I might actually be stupid.

I guess at least I don't gamble.

Maybe I'm not a 'substantial person' but 5k would be a pretty painful loss for me.

While I am not @FiveHourMarathon and he may feel differently, the part that makes someone utterly disreputable isn't that losing $5K gambling would be a disaster, it's that they would bet $5K that they can't afford to lose.

To be honest though, I generally don't have much respect for people beyond a certain age that would have trouble coming up with $5K. Yes, I know, people have various extenuating circumstances and even many of the people that don't have those circumstances are basically decent people even if they're kind of fuckups financially. I am disinclined to treat them as "substantial" if they're 40 and can't afford to buy a nice watch if they wanted to though. Being broke indicates either a lack of ability or interest in earning a decent wage or a severe inability to exercise financial discipline and planning. The latter is worse than the former; someone that makes $200K/year and lives paycheck to paycheck is much more disreputable in my eyes than a guy that just doesn't really have a marketable skill.

Given that you can't think of anything more substantial to spend money on other than baubles and gambling, it's not obvious to me why it's so important to earn a high wage. So you can waste money in a high status way?

I assure you that I have used my income to structure a highly secure life. That an occasional trinket doesn't interfere with anything meaningful is a nice perk of having earned well and invested well.

To be honest though, I generally don't have much respect for people beyond a certain age that would have trouble coming up with $5K...I am disinclined to treat them as "substantial" if they're 40 and can't afford to buy a nice watch if they wanted to though.

This seems unnecessarily condescending, but regardless, I wonder how far you define these boundaries.

I'm in my mid 30s, and while I make a pretty good salary, every dollar I have is basically accounted for and then some. I have no debt outside of my mortgage and I'm not living pay-check-to-paycheck, but the productive things that I want to spend my money on far far outstrips my income, to the point that there's plenty of things I can't 'afford' to spend money on, and a nice watch is actually on that list.

By the time I pay for my kids, their preschool school, put money away for thier future years of Catholic schooling, daily living expenses, pay my bills and mortgage, put money into my 401k and other retirement vehicles, tithe, and put money into the savings account for a smallish home expansion (since I'm priced out of ever moving), yeah I don't even have enough income to put as much into each of those buckets as I would like.

My windows need to be replaced, my roof will need to be attended to eventually, there's some other non-trivial home repair to be addressed, and so forth. I'd like be able to afford to to take my wife out on a date and pay a babysitter more often, my phone and my wife's phones are hopelessly outdated. I wish we could afford to go on the same type of vacations our middle class parents took our families on. Our hand-me-down sectional is on it's last leg. Our water heater ought to be replaced soon. There are several hobbies I'd like to invest in with my kids. None of those things make the budget without taking something out of the above list.

This is not to say I couldn't tighten up my weekly expenses. And I could certainly hand you 5k tomorrow if I needed to without blowing up my life. But, no I can't really justify paying for a $2-3k watch, even though I've been thinking about it for some time.

Am I of no substance to you or @FiveHourMarathon ?

What you just described is someone that doesn't have any trouble coming up with $5K. I don't see how it stands as an example against what I wrote above. The fact that significant amounts of resources are deposited in various savings and investment vehicles stands in stark contrast to the kind of degenerate that had only $5K to their name and spent it all at casinos.

The watch part is just an example. You don't want to because it doesn't make sense (or, at least you don't want to enough to overcome the fact that there's a tradeoff). I'm not critiquing that in any way. I like watches, but watches are a stupid purchase, an expensive toy that doesn't really do anything. My usage in that paragraph is about capacity rather than the actual choice.

I don't see how it stands as an example against what I wrote above.

No, I suppose it doesn't. You've sufficiently removed my doubt about how I was to interpret your point.

This is not to say I couldn't tighten up my weekly expenses. And I could certainly hand you 5k tomorrow if I needed to without blowing up my life. But, no I can't really justify paying for a $2-3k watch, even though I've been thinking about it for some time.

Am I of no substance to [] @FiveHourMarathon ?

I would re-read the question at the end of OP:

What do you think is, in 2023 first world countries, a large enough financial loss [] to force a life change on someone, for a person you would respect?

You state directly that you wouldn't need to blow up your life to afford paying $5,000 in sudden expenses. You're making enough, and spending little enough, that you could find the slack in the system. Which is exactly my point: a man of substance might be stretched thin, but he can come up with the money, it won't break him. Presumably, you'd get into a serious fight with your spouse et al if you bought yourself a Rolex out of nowhere (I would too); but you wouldn't change your name and move across the country. You might write a Wellness Wednesday post about what happened if you lost $5k on a bad bet, but it would all be rather banal for a magazine article ("We had to cut expenses for a few months, buy off-brand more, delay replacing the couch and the water heater, and then we were fine.")

Since you seem to be the perfect example of what I'm talking about, what is the financial loss that would cause you to flee? The point at which you would say, like Springsteen in Atlantic City that "I got the kind of debts that no honest man can pay?"

Being broke indicates… a severe inability to exercise financial discipline and planning.


my kids

Point taken, but im interested in what counts in Walterodims heuristic of 'can afford an expensive watch'. I don't think I could really call myself 'broke', as I have quite a bit in net worth and a positive cash flow. But simultaneously I can't 'afford' an expensive watch, in terms of having several thousand to spend on myself.

I generally don't have much respect for people beyond a certain age that would have trouble coming up with $5K.

Being broke indicates either a lack of ability or interest in earning a decent wage

You don't have much respect for people who lack the ability to earn a decent wage? What about a hard-working dad whose wife stays home to take care of young kids and who just doesn't happen to have marketable skills beyond $20-25/hr low-skill labor sorts of jobs? In today's economy, I doubt those wages would be enough to escape living from paycheck to paycheck.

The word "generally" is doing a non-trivial amount of work. Life happens, I can find many examples of respectable people that don't earn much money. Nonetheless, the median broke guy in the United States is not actually a particularly hard worker that's making all the right choices and just can't get ahead.

Okay, I appreciate the clarification. I think we're in agreement after all. As a very frugal person in a single-income household that's struggling financially, I am frequently shocked and disgusted by the spending habits of people who make almost twice as much as my household and have the gall to say they can't afford a setback of a few thousand dollars. Motherfucker, you go on two cruises a year, just bought a pool, and go out to eat twice a week.

It's because of people like that - and I think that describes the median person quite well - that, despite my financial struggles, I am so deeply skeptical of government financial assistance programs.

I just lament that a lot of people, and apparently some commenters around here, seem to struggle to imagine common scenarios where someone could genuinely be making sound decisions all around and still struggle.

You don't have much respect for people who lack the ability to earn a decent wage?

Intellectually? Hell yeah. Intelligence and Income correlate up to the point where one reaches a comfortable middle class existence. Cowen discusses the same study here. Both interpretations are focusing on the question of "Are top 1% earners super-geniuses?"; I'm more focused on the question of what does it take to get one to the $40k-$60k income range.

Returning to your hypo, $25/hr is warehouse worker wages in my area at this point, low-no skill involved, and if one holds down a full time job equates to about $50k/yr; I would respect such a man morally, he may be a good man, but not intellectually, he is unlikely to be a man with great insight into the world in the motte-ian sense. For reference a McDonald's manager nationally will make about $65k on average, ranging up towards $84k, and I know from Chamber of Commerce stuff that a lot of Taco Bell and related franchises are aiming to raise managerial salaries towards $100k. And, for that matter, I doubt a man making $50k/yr would change his name and flee the country to dodge a debt under $10k! Which was the original question.

For myself, I've been in the position of "losing everything" professionally, my career completely derailed and only minimal savings. Within eighteen months I had cobbled together two jobs (neither of which had anything to do with my prior skillset) that combined earned me about $75k/yr. So maybe that perspective tends to give me faith that intelligence and talent will out itself over time.

You don't seem to recognize the incoherence of the implication that everyone can be a manager (who are they managing if everyone is a manager?)

Anyway, I would simply suggest that you keep in mind that many people have struggles and limitations that you seemingly don't/can't even fathom. There are lot of physical and mental health issues that can preclude the life path you're sketching out. But even aside from that, people can get stuck in a subsistence trap that's very hard to break out of.

For example, let's say you're currently employed in a contract job with a temp agency and you want to get a better job. That requires physically going to interviews. But those interviews happen during business hours, when you're working. Your contract gives you no paid time off and you're unable to change your shift schedule to get time off during the day to attend interviews. What are you supposed to do? If you take a day off, that's a couple hundred dollars of foregone wages you simply cannot afford because your cashflow is already razor thin. And realistically you'll have to take a lot of days off to take enough job interviews to finally get accepted somewhere else.

Let's just say I speak from experience.

Being broke indicates… a severe inability to exercise financial discipline and planning.


young kids

  • -10

This isn't 4chan. If you have something to say, then say it, don't vaguely gesture to it with lazy quoting.

Being broke indicates… a severe inability to exercise financial discipline and planning.

young kids

Perhaps this couple had a higher paying job when the kids were younger but has since been laid off. Perhaps this couple used to be able to afford things but haven't gotten raises despite inflation. Perhaps the female was in her mid 30s and they decided to have kids despite not being financially stable because it was now or never. Should people who don't make enough money be effectively consigned to end their genetic line because you (or the other commenter I was responding to) "don't have much respect" for their decision to have children?

Perhaps this couple had a higher paying job when the kids were younger but has since been laid off. Perhaps this couple used to be able to afford things but haven't gotten raises despite inflation.

"Financial discipline and planning" includes planning for uncertainty.

Perhaps the female was in her mid 30s and they decided to have kids despite not being financially stable because it was now or never. Should people who don't make enough money be effectively consigned to end their genetic line because you (or the other commenter I was responding to) "don't have much respect" for their decision to have children?

Choosing expensive children and a late retirement over cheap living and an early retirement is a valid choice, in the context of the human mind—but calling it a financially-intelligent choice seems a little too much.

Did you mean to add more to these two comments?

No. The juxtaposition of the two quotes concisely points out that the first quote has already addressed the second quote's concern. It's a convenient convention that I first saw on 4chan.

I don't think it does. It leaves it to the reader to guess what you meant, which isn't usually the practice here, and is one of the reasons I prefer this board to 4chan.

My guess would be you're asserting that having young kids when not already wealthy shows a lack of financial discipline and planning. That seems to be, empirically, a belief of many middle class couples, but the cracks in that strategy have been showing for several decades now.

I think you are being obtuse my man, it's plainly obvious he meant you should get your small children to manage your finances.

It's not even that. Imagine a guy, with 3 kids, who's wife homeschools, who bought a house in say, 2021, paid a fortune for an old house needing tons of maintainance but locked in at a good rate. The guy could be making 100k+ and is likely still living so tightly that he couldn't imagine buying luxury jewlery for himself or adjusting his budget by 5k without significant pain.

But it’s not about making a lot of money. You can just walk into a mcD’s, shuffle some fries around for a while, and they will give you the 5k. I don’t understand the drama 5k represents to these people , whether by losing it at the casino, or by having a debt. The only explanation is that their default is to always spend all their money, and therefore the sum represents a ‘deficit’, which they have to compensate by the extremely difficult and painful process of ‘saving’. Their leaky bucket is the problem, not the flow rate of the faucet.

You can just walk into a mcD’s, shuffle some fries around for a while, and they will give you the 5k. I don’t understand the drama 5k represents to these people

Because of nondiscretionary expenses. If that $5k has to go to food, rent, utilities, healthcare, car insurance, gas, etc., then you're basically just working that McDonald's job to exist and not actually accumulating money you can use to pay off a $5k gambling debt (or, y'know, buy a laptop or a couch or something).

Very few common expenses are truly nondiscretionary. One can easily live on like 8k a year. Most students do it. It does not require one to compromise on health nor on time. Just a bit of superfluous comfort and convenience. People go camping for fun, and that’s way less comfortable. Even the middle class mostly spends money as a status signal. The explosion of the luxury goods industry in recent years reveals how hollow the reason for most purchases are. Just like cima’s million dollar handbags and gladrags, of course they’ll swear up and down that all the stuff makes a difference to their QoL, but it really doesn’t.

One can easily live on like 8k a year.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a figure of 25 k$/a is the average for a single low-income person. That figure includes 590 $/mo for "shelter" (including mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, and rent) and 173 $/mo for "utilities, fuels, and public services". That figure also includes about 5 k$/a of non-essential expenses, but 8 k$/a for total essential expenses seems a bit low.

(Two-person low-income household, consisting of 1.8 adults and 0.2 child: 39 k$/a, including 686 $/mo for "shelter", 280 $/mo for "utilities, fuels, and public services", and 6 k$/a of non-essential expenses)

Very few common expenses are truly nondiscretionary. One can easily live on like 8k a year.

I'm fully with you on how most people spend way more on frivolities than they think they do, and that most people living paycheck to paycheck are just spending irresponsibly. But I think you vastly underestimate how expensive nondiscretionary expenses are. Let's just take rent as an illustrative example. Typically people pay 1/3 of their income on housing. At $8k/yr, that's $222/mo. There's no way you're going to be able to spend $222/mo on rent without roommates. Indeed, an income of $8k for a family of four is 1/4 of the federal poverty level.

Your estimation of the expenses of living are so astronomically far from reality that I am a little vicariously embarrassed that you're suggesting them. You seem to act like bills practically don't exist - that a $5k expense is trivial because one can "shuffle fries around for a while, and [McDonald's] will give you the 5k". Frankly, it's like a child's imagination of where income goes ("Woah, you make $5k in a year?!?! Think of all the toys I could get for that!!")

I guess I stayed young at heart. Granted, even the other kindergarteners thought I hated wine and overhead too much. I’ve lived on that budget for years (I also hate work). I didn’t say 8k without roommates, for a family of four. Now that you mention it, people spending too much on their kids and their kids’ “education”(including public education) is also largely pointless and/or status signaling, and imo the main reason why they aren’t having more of them.

The poverty threshold is a relative measure, in practice if not in theory. People complaining about the working poor in the west are complaining that they don’t get to spend as much on status as others, which of course is a zero-sum game.

Yeah I live on less than 20k a year at the moment and I'm very comfortable. I even eat out occasionally. Frankly I could cut costs a bit more if I wanted too.

I have discovered the best way to downsize your company. It's practically foolproof:

  • craft an email that looks like an automated notification from some obscure software system
  • put everyone in your company on the list of recipients
  • send the email from a no-reply account
  • fire everyone who clicks "Reply to all", even if all they write is "STOP REPLYING TO EVERYONE YOU IDIOTS!"

You basically waste a single day of productivity at most, but someone who can't resist replying "please exclude me as well" to an email chain a thousand letters long is not worth keeping. And no one will hate you for firing all of them.

There should be an email system where you have to pay $0.0005 per character per recipient.

I have saved every one of these emails that I've received over my 15 years at my current company and plan on to replying to each on my last day.

I treat those as casual staff conferences. “Shut the fuck up! Btw, whose job is it to repair the copier on 2nd?”

They can be fun, but not when the mail server is groaning under a flood of mass emails.

Were you the one that shut down Jezebel, you bastard?

What are some obscure job tasks that might make for fun video games? We all are aware of the zillions of programming, train-routing, and bridge-design games. But what about parking-lot design? Guide-rail design? Curb-ramp design? House design (as a game with targets to be met, rather than as a goal-free sandbox like The Sims)?

Pretending To Work Simulator.

Bonus points for playing it during work hours.

Romance of the College Instructor: Fifty Shades of Grades. See things that the human mind was not meant to see: sin(x)/x = sin. Or 1 (without a limit as x->0). Repeat ad infinitum. Eventually become a cultist of Cthulhu.

I want to see an oil-refinery sim. Like factorio but with capitalism. And you have to tune the control system so that nothing explodes. I know sim-refinery was prototyped, but it never got released.

Maybe it was the horrible fluid system, but a lot of factorio players used to consider oil refining to be really unpleasant work. Not even just a difficulty barrier for newbies, but something even the big team megabase builders drew straws for having to do.
That said I would absolutely love a refinery sim, so maybe it just takes autism beyond autism.

Weird. I played a few rounds of cooperative Factorio, and I had to actively fight with others for the right to set up the refineries. Maybe that's just because I couldn't bear to have it done by someone who refused to touch the logic circuits rather than because it's inherently a more enjoyable part of the game, but it also didn't ever feel any worse than, say, cooking conveyor belt spaghetti or setting up rail stations or copy-pasting walls & guns.

Wait, what.

Horrible fluid system ? ..what ?

Apart from being a cpu hog, the fluid system is beautiful. Nothing as satisfying as getting an eight stage cycle of fluid refining with lots of flaring off to the side, all in the service of making rocket fuel or turning cellulose into napalm in service of turning the enemy crispy.

The recent rework made it better, but remember when any fluid contamination in a pipe would run through the whole system, and you had to chase down the errant bit of water by tearing up all the pipes? And pipes would automatically join when placed next to each other even if they had different fluids in them?

Yeah, I remember it. Mild annoyance.

Maybe it was the horrible fluid system, but a lot of factorio players used to consider oil refining to be really unpleasant work. Not even just a difficulty barrier for newbies, but something even the big team megabase builders drew straws for having to do.

Really? I looked up a tiling blueprint for the refinery itself, and that taught me everything I needed to know for unlimited scale from that point on. I'd heard newbies complaining it was too complicated, but it's really, really not.

It was much harder before blueprints and bots, IIRC. And that was back in the dark days when belts decompressed from turning corners

Middle management: Command economy edition.

Like one of those supply chain games, except everyone’s always lying about quotas, and you don’t know exactly what’s even possible. A new steel process is invented and factories which roll it out are lagging behind. Is it just growing pains? A flawed process that isn’t actually more efficient? Or perhaps the old numbers were just fake? Make it about trying to cope with this imperfect information.

I've heard that you don't even need to make NPCs who intentionally lie to you to make it happen. Of course, yours would be like the final boss version of this game.

Yo, 5 year plan the board game would be fucking incredible. Secret Hitler like; but everyone knows who Stalin is and he has to hit certain (real) production numbers or he gets killed, some random number of players want him killed, some random number are loyal, with stated production being the only real signal Stalin gets and real production getting totaled at the end.

Could be fun if someone good designed it.

Man, this is actually tough for me. Everything I want to say already has a game. There is already a Something Builder for nearly everything.

Is there a Wii style or VR game for chopping wood yet? Could maybe select various wedges or splitting axes to get the job done. Or different species of wood or knottedness. Could be a fun activity up there with VR boxing simulators and the like.

Oh wait, I have another idea! A commuting simulator, but in a fantastical style. I'm thinking really loose physics and a nearly complete disregard for the law. Start with a relatively simple commute, then add some normal events like school buses stopping constantly, or construction. Escalate to civil unrest and alien invasions. Could be fun to allow the user to choose their own route by basing the map from geographic data. I think it'd also be fun to preserve damage to the terrain and buildings from accidents you caused and/or the chaotic events going on around you.

Crazy Taxi: Commuter Edition

Of course there's a lumberjack simulator already! That second idea is great though, I especially like the idea of retaining damage from previous rounds. What exactly would the player control though?

You went and got my hopes up, only to dash them! That one is all about using industrial equipment to log trees. Not the manly activity of swinging an axe.

Ah shit, I linked some dlc instead of the main game. Looking into it more though, it's not what I thought it was. I figured that since lumberjacking is an actual sport there would be a strong emphasis on using your chainsaw and axe, maybe a bit of a qwop style mini game for climbing trees, a robust selection of flannels and beards to wear - lumberjack things. But the gameplay sounds more like euro truck sim with a half assed first person log cutting section on top. Here is the blurb from under the heading First-person chainsaw and axe -

The map is an open world, its details numerous and filled with challenges. From high slopes to varying surfaces, there is plenty to look out for, and you need to stay focused in order to deliver your logs to their final destination (and keep your truck intact).

That's right, it's open world! You can chop down a whole forest, assuming you aren't killed by all the varying surfaces out there, varying when you least expect it. And you can tell they are proud of it too, because out of the 32 screenshots on the store page a grand total of two of them feature the first person mode.

You could do some military jobs!

  • Leave Papers, Please: Reviewing and processing leave forms (penalties for approving too many, or approving ones with errors)
  • Sweeping the same 50 square feet for an hour, making sure you look busy the whole time even though you've finished after 10 minutes.
  • Navigating a warship at night through a busy shipping lane, trying to keep your closest point of approach (CPA) greater than 2000 yards for every ship out there so you don't have to wake the Captain, whose standing orders require you to tell him if you're ever going to have a CPA under that.
  • Polishing your dress shoes
  • Mess crank: like Cooking Mama, but you have to cook 10x the quantity, some of the ingredients are rotten, and you can't tell the difference between tablespoons and teaspoons.
  • Leverage an LLM to determine how effective your speech is after telling your division not to get any DUIs over a holiday weekend. Additional levels could be to convince them not to buy a Dodge Charger at 26% APY, and not to send half your paycheck to the Filipino prostitute you met at the last port call.

Man, the one about keeping an eye on CPA was a huge part of my life for about three and a half years. We had a really thin standing orders binder, but the night orders always included the line about CPA and surface contacts.

It sure does stick with you. I haven't had to deal with that for over a decade but I still have strong feelings whenever I think about it.

One of the best things the Onion ever did

sweeping the same 50 square feet for an hour

You’ve just reinvented MMOs.

Deep state employee

  • communicating with media companies to strengthen/suppress certain POVs
  • putting together intelligence operations with spooks to create material for above (ie surveillance, blackmail honeypots, piss dossier)
  • analyzing sentiment for important metrics (appreciation for LGBTQ+, racial animosity, officials that need to be bribed)
  • hiring and managing other deep state employees (funny questionnaires to weed out true believers, people too smart to be trusted, retain prospects with blackmailable but manageable flaws)
  • sim component (baby-eating/BDSM orgy/drugs/expensive racecars/virtue signaling... gauge to keep filled up)

I think this is called “The Shadow Government Simulator” on Steam.

I sometimes think that manual machining (lathe/mill) could be interesting as a game. Every time I watch machinists I'm impressed at the parts of the process that aren't in the blueprints: ensuring tolerances in the real world match design specifications requires a lot of attention to detail and order of operations that seems like it'd be a fun mental geometry puzzle.

There are many domains where hidden motives could make for a fun and educational experience.

  • College admissions. You have to craft a student body that maximizes the prestige of the university, using only policies that ostensibly achieve other more laudable goals.
  • Corporate hiring (similar to college admissions).
  • Sims but you're graded on your people's social status. Choices have to have plausible deniability. If your subject doesn't claim to find driving fun, you can't give them a Ferrari without a status penalty for being a phoney or nouveau riche. (I don't play The Sims so for all I know it already works this way.)

There is a lot of opportunity in well trodden game types to introduce new targets or mechanisms.

  • Urban planning. People are unhappy if they live close to much richer people and feel envious every day. You have to minimize the local Gini coefficient across the whole city. Using policies with plausible deniability of course.
  • Traffic design that minimizes envy and resentment. Different modes getting privileges (e.g. a lone bicyclist getting a green light ahead of 50 cars) makes people unhappy.