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Friday Fun Thread for March 29, 2024

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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The new episode of Smiling Friends came out, fittingly, on April 1. Absolutely top tier episode. Maybe the best episode of the show so far. The puppet remakes were nice too.

On first watch it didn't quite land with me. But now I think it's really good. The Cameo joke was great, and it's better when you realize that James (the one bullying Charlie) was the one who sent it.

I didn't even notice that detail. I gotta say though, that episode was a better Mcnuggets ad than any I've seen.

Happy Easter to all my fellow Christians ( @urquan and @TheDag are the specific individuals I remember, but I know it's more than just you two :))! It's a great day, death itself is conquered! I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter Sunday.

You too!

So I've recently watched the Netflix adaptation of The Three-Body Problem. One of the central plots of the show (and from what I can gather, also the book series) seems to be disappointingly half-baked, especially considering that the plot device is the namesake of the show and the title of the first book.

Something that's established early on is that the San-Ti (or the Trisolarans) live in a chaotic three-body (really a four-body) system that can't be predicted, and despite having the capability to enter into lungfish-like dormancy their civilisations kept being wiped out due to not being able to predict when destructive climatic shifts would occur. You could, however, probably predict the chaotic orbits of three bodies solely through simulation, the aliens would probably be capable of this. The issue for us and why it is "unsolvable" is that there’s no simple one size fits all solution where you can plug in initial starting conditions and predict the state of three bodies at any point in time - but you can move each ball a little bit as a small amount of time passes, and then recalculate.

Of course, methods which iteratively compute position can and do deviate from reality, a small error can result in large deviations in the model over a very long period of time, but you can minimise error to a very high degree. And if you’re living on the planets themselves, you can constantly update the state of your simulation every time your model observably deviates from reality. So an iteratively computed model, continuously updated to align with current state, would probably help them avoid dying off at any given point, because T = 0 keeps being reset and you only ever need to calculate T + 1.

Note also, these are aliens that can unfold a photon’s higher dimensions, inscribe a supercomputer onto it, fold it back down, send it to a target site then communicate instantaneously with it via quantum entanglement. Aliens capable of incomprehensible space magic aren't capable of simulation, apparently.

Pretty sure they did that, ages ago, and moved on to more elaborate simulations. By the time they’re doing photon bullshit, they clearly have enough delta-V to leave their local volume.

I don’t think the 3body game was farming out intellectual labor. They were using it more like one of those plays about the life of Jesus.

No they are capable of that and they've effectively solved the problem by then. But the trauma of living on that world for so long messed them up, they turned into this stratified, rigid militarized society. All their artsy, soft civilizations died off quickly, only the toughest and most disciplined civilizations survived.

Headcanon: they were going to do it like you suggested with the simulations being updated periodically with new observations but then they forgot.

As it happens the book was in stock at my local used book store the last time I was there. I haven't seen the show at all, but have watched Quinn's summary of the first episode.

In the first book, everything we know about the aliens comes from a computer game created by their human allies intended to introduce the aliens history and culture to humanity slowly. So it's mostly focused on the alien's ancient history (the periods when they learned more about their solar system).

By the end it's not explicitly stated but is hinted at that the aliens developed the ability to simulate their system and model it which is how they could advance to the level of dimensional folding and interstellar travel. They were thriving in the peaceful periods but their planet only had a couple centries until their planet would be trapped by one of the sun's and fall into it being utterly destroyed.

I am a bit hazy on the exact plot since it's been a few years since I read the book.

However, I don't think that modeling the system is really the key question here. The trisolarans are able to dehydrate themselves to not die during "chaotic eras". However, it presumably really sucks to live on a planet like that, and someone has to stay hydrated to rehydrate their buddies. So they want to invade earth because it's hospitable to life and has a stable orbit.

The Dark Forest theory just doesn't make sense on its own terms.

A civilization with access to exponential self-replicating probes is very hard to eradicate. The offense and defense equations change drastically when the latter have massive advantages in mass as well as the ability to disperse.

Further, it doesn't take imaging technology much better than ours to spot biosignatures from the other side of the galaxy. An inferometric telescope maybe an AU across in terms of effective lens size would work just fine. With better modeling, you could simply predict which planets are likely to be habitable, and then RKV the fuck out of them a few hundred million years before they develop multicellular life.

You can launch from distant outposts, outside the galactic plane even, a delay of decades or centuries means nothing on those time scales. No need to make your own system the obvious target. But in return, any civilization close to a Type 2 in terms of energy budget has the ability to sterilize the galaxy and barely notice the expense. They're also likely so dispersed and decentralized with off world outposts and robotic manufacturing and infrastructure that simply blowing up their home planet or razing it with a Nicoll-Dyson beam would only be a mild inconvenience. And there's no way to hide when you have one of those, that we know of.

If there were highly advanced and malevolent civilizations lurking out there, barring truly out there technologies and an implausible ability to cover their tracks in terms of emissions and signatures from before they knew how to start hiding or even the ability to do so, then there is simply no sense in trying to hide.

You should aim to get as big as possible, as fast as possible, if your Von Neumanns arrive at a system that's actually home to a hiding super-civilization, well they'd have found you first, but that's a problem tens of thousands of light years away. If they RKV you, so fucking what, you've got outposts past the Oort and can amass teratons of fuck-you in return. Your best bet is signaling that you're too big to fuck with, and the only way to get there is to grow.

Thankfully it seems that we're alone in the galaxy or even the cluster, unless there's very good reason why civs would have access to energy sources even more abundant than nuclear fusion and also coincidentally ignore all the lovely stars left free to waste theirs.

You can't hide. You can run. You can make them regret it. If you spot techno signatures across the galaxy, better be sure they won't be capable of sending RKVs back, but that's an acceptable cost, and in the meantime you need to rush for all the empty real estate.

If there were highly advanced and malevolent civilizations lurking out there, barring truly out there technologies and an implausible ability to cover their tracks in terms of emissions and signatures from before they knew how to start hiding or even the ability to do so, then there is simply no sense in trying to hide.

There are seriously powerful civilizations in that universe, powers that could snap the Xeelee like a twig. At one point they suggest that the fundamentals of mathematics were weaponized. I think most of the big players were never even biological, they were born when the universe was young, in higher dimensions.

If they RKV you, so fucking what,

The primary danger doesn't come from relativistic kill vehicles, it comes from one of the higher powers saying 'hey, these guys are behaving a little oddly and might become a future threat, let's stomp them to paste. We're not going to use sunbusting RKVs, we're going to utterly flatten them.' You don't want to draw attention to yourself. Fire off too many RKVs and you might draw the ire of the bigger fish. Outposts past the Oort won't save you from them.

I'm not just talking about the in-universe justifications about the Three Body Problem, it certainly takes its liberties with physics or at least goes hard on the speculation aspect of hard scifi.

I'm talking mostly about our own universe, and to the extent that we have no real reason to think that most of the 3BP tech we see has any basis in reality, my explanation for why the Dark Forest Hypothesis doesn't work is grounded in reality ad we know it. While it's not a bad book, it certainly popularized the notion, and has many people taking it seriously as an explanation for the Fermi Paradox IRL, which it absolutely isn't.

I think it's useful in showing a deeply weird equilibrium which can only be explained by knowledge they don't yet have. The humans thought they were so smart with their fusion drives and railgun battleships...

We also observe a deeply weird equilibrium. Where are the grabby aliens??? Are we the first? I think we're not, I think we shouldn't extensively theorize on these issues till we understand dark matter and dark energy. It's no good getting all up in arms about the Fermi Paradox when we don't understand 95% of the universe.

What could a planetary scale superintelligence achieve in physics? What can stellar scale particle accelerators reveal? We're nowhere near the finish line and are not in a position to judge alien capabilities.

What does Reykjavik airport have to do with anything?

Well, if earth is going to be hit by relativistic kill missiles, I can hardly imagine a less important spot.

Assuming not a joke - relativistic kill vehicles.

You have pretty much also converged on a strategy I had come up with quite a while ago (and didn't talk about because I wanted to potentially implement it in some fiction of my own) - be extremely expansionary, and sterilise/terraform possible habitable planets ahead of time so competition within your Hubble sphere is minimised to the greatest degree possible. The Dark Forest fails to be a satisfactory Fermi paradox solution at least in part because it simply doesn't and can't address why it is that the universe isn't already filled to the brim with intelligent life. On its face it offers up an argument against communication, but that doesn't address the issue of why we don't see grabby aliens everywhere. The utility of expansionism is difficult to ignore.

My personal preferred hypothesis surrounding this (and one I haven't seen in popular discussions of the Fermi paradox) is the idea of an astrobiological phase transition. A possible vehicle for this transition would be gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), which occur when two neutron stars spiral inwards. Star formation peaked 10 billion years ago and has declined since, resulting in a decrease in the rate of GRBs. These bursts are probably capable of sterilising large swaths of the Milky Way possibly hundreds of light years across, and such bursts may have been responsible for some extinctions in earth history.

It seems not implausible that we might be just at a spot in space and time where the frequency of GRBs is low enough to allow for the development of intelligent life (which we would expect to see developing not only here but in many other places concurrently), and we're in a phase transition between an equilibrium state where the universe was devoid of intelligent life and another new equilibrium where the universe would be filled to the brim with it.

Creative. But from what I know they have to be relatively close, and directed for them to be a danger to you. Once you have colonized a few systems it is doubtful one would wipe out a universe of life...

Regardless of the mechanism in question, be it GRBs, or the low metallicity of early stars, or the tumultuous situation towards the inner galaxy, it seems clear to me that the smart money is on civilizations amassing as much resource and energy as they possibly can.

The fact that we don't see Grabby Aliens, the fact that we're on our way to becoming grabby, all combined with the largest threat to our continued civilization being replacement by what is likely an even more grabby entity (an ASI), well, that suggests we might genuinely be the first kids on the block. And I don't see any reason we have to share, if the protozoal slime wanted that planet they should have invented flags and nuclear pulse propulsion.

Or maybe the Simulators are cutting corners, IDK, but if there's open real estate and nobody seeming to stake a claim, then you take it first and ask questions as and when you have to.

Yeah i mean it dosen't make sense. As with most alien invasion narratives, any civ with the tech and power to invade earth would never have a reason to and if they did we wouldnt even know it, we would just be dead. There would closer and easier solutions to their problems.

The magic photons are especially silly and impossible. Reminds me of all the shoehorned psychic abilities that humans end up "developing" in bad scifi.

My brother's medical textbooks still have the picture of the OG Food Pyramid.

Shit's been discredited for at least a decade or more. 6 servings of bread a day? Are you fucking with me?

Though not nearly the most outdated thing I've seen in authoritative textbooks in India, most egregious example was an organelle supposedly responsible for oxygen metabolism in aerobic bacteria, which we've known since the uh, 80s, is actually an artifact of poorly done preparation before electron microscopy and not found in actual living organisms.

Sadly the margins of exam papers are too small to contain my frantic screaming, and the graders too overworked to care.

6 servings of bread a day? Are you fucking with me?

Not basing this observation on any science, but I see far fewer overweight people in France in neighbourhoods with boulangeries and pâtisseries on nearly every corner than I did in Ireland where meat is noticeably cheaper. Bread is very cheap here so presumably people are buying it fairly regularly to keep those businesses going.

Ireland is full of easily accessible processed food (we have delis on the corner serving chicken rolls, breakfast rolls and sausage rolls instead) so maybe just not eating that is the key, but it seems like you can get away with eating a lot of bread - even bread with chocolate and sugar - if you avoid the truly terrible stuff.

That pyramid contains an absurd amount of food, but afaik keeping animal product consumption pretty low (and not eating ultraprocessed junk) is supported by big data to prolong a healthy life, so it's not all wrong.

It's very far from right too. Like there are so many damn things wrong with it, especially the stigmatization of fats.

While nutrition is still a crapshoot, it's still better than what was in vogue during the Clinton administration.

The last time I recall a thought experiment based on global choices being discussed on the Motte, it got quite heated and divisive. Hopefully this one will be more fun, if y'all are willing to indulge in a bit of daydreaming and power fantasy.

Pic related. TLDR: you are one of a number of people given a choice between 10 sets of powers, with corresponding agenda that make them stronger when followed and taboos that make them disappear for a time when broken.

  • Approximately 1 in a million people from those who live now, eligible from age 14 and upwards, are presented with the choice. This is a one-time event.
  • Everyone is explained the choices in the language and terms they understand.
  • Those who were not picked to participate in the choice do not know anything yet.
  • Trying to abuse or bug-test the choice mechanic results in being assigned the 10th option.
  • Everyone who's been picked knows those five stipulations.

What do you pick? What do you think the world will be like, and how do you intend to make it?

Personally, I am a bit torn between Amlia and Marked. My Amlia powers will likely not be too strong, since I don't think I'll find it in me to dedicate myself to healing the sick full-time. However, I can expect a good deal of goodwill and protection from society, and have the Sanctuary to retreat to if shit hits the fan bigly. Marked's total immortality is tempting, but I don't want to stick around floating in the void until the heat death of the universe, whether as a soul or as a body. Finally, XM sounds like a decent, if more daring, pick. (It is not clear whether XM powers are at a constant level, or shift based on an inscrutable variable).

It's Lux for me, anything that boosts your intelligence is very powerful. We live in a world of machines and mathematics.

World would be pretty fucked. However, MBTI suggests most people are inclined towards the Lawful Good end of the spectrum, so the bottom ranks wouldn't be very populous. They'd be manageable. I envisage a huge machine of Ur knights and healers, probably the most popular classes - funded and organized by Lux masterminds who control everything.

Some other CYOAs I like:


I'm torn between The Magician and Strength, they're all so good! The Minor Arcanas are an afterthought and don't matter IMO.

Some long-form interactive CYOAs: (Traveller's made quite a few but I think this is his best, the others tend to be overly complicated) (trending more into that overly complicated zone but there's great charm in the original Expanded Universe idea)

The World tickles my encyclopedia completionist side, I must say. How easy would it be to lift myself off my ass is arguable, even in a brand new fantasy world, though. I'd hope the sense of restlessness the card induces would compensate for my homebodiness.

Do you think the Luxors would be in control? With the divine leadership aura, I expect the Urians to be calling the shots. Von Neumann didn't rule anyone.

Von Neumann was merely a savant, not a remote-control technomancer who can steal knowledge! 3x thought speed is also a huge advantage.

Ur needs guidance, they need to know where the bad guys are to smite them. Who's going to be telling them where the bad people are, who's going to be controlling the satellites, the cameras, the cars and sensors? I see their angels of righteous fire and I raise them swarms of drones and missiles.

Ur, Amilia, and Marked are the easiest to avoid the taboos of passively if you want to just have a free power and not dedicate your life to advancing some cause.

I'd probably go with Amilia, become the head of a magical hospital where I heal people for money (and have enough EMTs and ambulances to keep people alive until I can get to them, and get obscenely rich while simultaneously helping people. I assume that charging money for healing is a lot less pleasing and would advance the agenda less than doing it for free, but it's not strictly taboo. I think as long as I don't turn away poor people, healing anyone who comes and simply charge them proportional to their ability to pay, it'll probably be fine. I assume that the existence of other Amilia users will drop demand to reasonable levels such it won't lead to absurdly high prices like it would if you were the only one who could cure otherwise incurable disease, but one in a million multiplied by the proportion of people who choose Amilia means this will still end up with a lot of money.

Alternatively, see if the Fae power can be munchkinned for absurd amounts of money by growing rare spices or something. Depending on the growth rate and quality/quantity it can be used on at a time, it might be more profitable to heal people entirely for free to boost your strength more and earn all your money from growing stuff. Though again, profits will be mitigated by other Amilia users.

Ersu for the ladies’ locker-rooms.

Link is broken.

Try a VPN. I'd put the picture on imgur, but I only ever see everyone here use catbox.


Marked, just because I'd assume it's a lie or demonic scam so I'd walk out on it.

I think the problem with refusing deals with the devil is that there's the assumption that the devil needs your consent. (to present a choice where all options are a change from the status quo)

Forces outside my control or understanding can determine my entire life- my parents certainly did when I was little! But if I have no actual agency ever then I'd like to petition a higher power to turn my consciousness off forever.

I didn't get past the second choice. Amila, 100%. There was a time where I debated to myself what kind of superpower would be the best to have. That was before I became a parent. No debate, it's magical healing, by a long shot. Everything else can be fixed, except people.

If I had such a power I'd spend the rest of my life traveling from hospital to hospital, healing everyone there. I'd let people know in advance, so they could bring their sick and crippled. I'd start a nonprofit organization to support my work and auction off the right to be the first three people healed by me at any of my stops to the highest bidder in order to fund it.

I would never retire.

And what do you do when a disciple of Quet comes calling?

In the early days, just die probably. Assuming the sanctuary power doesn’t work when cursed.

If I can get my operation going, we can expand. I could hire disciples of Ur as bodygaurds, hire more healers to expand my operation, and eventually build a secure hospital facility of my own that people can be flown to. If we pair healers up two by two then if one is cursed the other could potentially sanctuary them both to safety.

Heal the mental illness that caused them to choose Quet, at which point they will see logic and throw themselves off a bridge.

While I don't think being murderous is necessarily a disease, an Amlian's touch does "remove anger and aggression". Also, it isn't against Amlia's taboo to have a bodyguard squad nearby who will shoot dead anyone who resists your calming touch, smacks you with curses or brings a pack of zombies with them.

Also also, I'd expect Amlians to be among the least attractive targets. Their powerset is one of the least useful for a murderboner, they are liked and protected, and if you're heavily wounded just ask for their service like any other normal disciple. Tank the disfavor for sparing them if you have to.

Ur the Wheel. Bring righteousness, inspire respect in others. What’s not to like?

Optus the burdened. I don't see why a hedonist would chose anything else. I would turn my tap water into gold and sell it. The vault would be extremely useful. You can summon a weapon, use it on someone and then disappear it. You could also store all your cars, helicopters, jets and boats in the vault so no worry of theft or vandalism.

Lux Divine Watchmaker is amazing but no sex is a deal breaker.

Why would anyone chose Quet? You would have to be so angry at the world to want to fight disciples you've never met.

I've polled one of my chats and saw one person pick Quet, as they said, to ensure other Quets don't touch them. I suppose that's where the parallels with "red button/blue button" come in.

Why would anyone chose Quet? You would have to be so angry at the world to want to fight disciples you've never met.

You are aware this is from 4chan, correct?

There's something to like in most of these. I'm most tempted by the top row, but what I like most of all is Ersu's offer of immortality. I see I could get that on the cheap as Marked; that plus immunity from the power of the thousands of other disciples who will be out there breaking the world seems to make Marked the most obvious choice.

Technically all of the option offer immortality: the Marked description specifically says they can't die because there is no afterlife that will let them in, which implies that everyone else does get an afterlife. So they're all immortal, but the Marked have to stay in this world forever instead of moving on to another.

These files (many, many more are available at this link) always make me extremely angry. Why are people so obsessed with making them images rather than PDFs (or, even better, HTML files)? The 4000×4000 JPEG file linked above is literally four megabytes! Imagine how much smaller it would be if text were actually stored as text.

Image hosting is straightforward, jpeg decoders are well established and safe.

They can be easily generated by taking a screenshot.

Bundling text and images together into a safe format that works in different screen aspect ratios is a surprisingly difficult problem. You're introducing a lot of complexity in generating them and safely displaying them.

I find it extremely unlikely that the thousands of people who create and view these "CYOA" documents have all refused to install PDF and HTML/EPUB viewers on their computers due to fanatical cybersecurity concerns.

I can't open the original file on mobile. Are one of these the same as what OP linked?

They're all big JPEG files in the same vein, but not identical.

Probably due to the fact that websites such as the one you linked are called imageboards.

The format is pretty awful, though, at least in the image linked in the top post. A grid of 3x3 means having to scroll left and right and then down then left and right, which is a pain in basically any browser compared to just scrolling down on 9 rows of 1 column.

/tg/ allows PDFs as well as images to be uploaded.

Over a year ago, I started a project where I gave a ranked countdown of all the albums of the 4000+ I’ve spent the last decade scrupulously evaluating. 186–102 are complete, but at that point a took along break. Basically, what happened was that the market for oil and gas work was getting inconsistent and I was finding myself with a lot more free time on my hands than I would have preferred, so I quit being self-employed and joined a litigation firm that requires me to actually show up to an office and bill hours. The engagement on my weekly updates was getting progressively lower, which discouraged me from spending my much-reduced free time on the project. Now that I’ve settled in, it’s time to finish the damn thing. So here’s the next installment.

101. Steely Dan — Gaucho (1980) The final Steely Dan album from their initial run doesn’t get as much critical acclaim as the others. The recording sessions were plagued by misfortune: Walter Backer had developed a heroin addiction, and then was hospitalized in a car accident that left him bedridden in the hospital. Becker’s girlfriend tragically died. A recording assistant managed to erase the tapes of what would have been the best song on the album. The duo’s notorious perfectionism was getting out of hand; Babylon Sisters, for example went through over 200 mixes before they were satisfied. They spent $150,000 for their engineer, Roger Nichols, to develop a primitive drum machine that would let them move samples around on tape. Critics said the album sounded tired, defeated, soulless, sterile, perfectionist to the point where the life was drained out.

The critics have somewhat of a point, but I think the perfectionism was worth it. I’m not too keen on the quantized drums, but the album has a silky, seductive feel. Bernard Purdie’s shuffling drums on the aforementioned Babylon Sisters are only one reason why it’s the best song ever written about a past-his-prime loser having a three-way with a couple of whores. And from there cue the usual Steely Dan parade of losers, outcasts, and addicts. It’s a dark album for sure, but the title cut (about a gay catfight) provides a bit of levity, as does the bluesy film noir of My Rival.

100. The Decemberists — Castaways and Cutouts (2002) The rock music scene in 2002 was rather grim. It was the age of nu-metal. Garage Rock was making a comeback, but there were limitations to how far one could take the genre. The lighter side was dominated by John Mayer-style wuss rock. Even the indie scene was largely dominated by 90s holdovers who established the genre under the presumption that grunge wasn’t, well “grungey” enough. I exaggerate of course, but this album was a breath of fresh air at the time. The production evoked a warmth that hadn’t been heard since the 70s, with acoustic guitars, organs, Rhodes piano, and drums that weren’t compressed to hell and back. The structures were complex. The melodies actually went somewhere. And the lyrics were “literary” in the truest sense of the word, evoking past times and distant lands, with no shortage of whimsy. Future albums would explore these concepts further, with mixed results, but the band never really beat their debut.

99. Joe Walsh — Barnstorm (1972) Joe Walsh spent the early part of his career rocking out in the James Gang, and he would later go on to provide the Eagles with a modicum of rock credibility. But his best work was in his solo albums. He had matured since his days with the James Gang and lent into the Progressive Rock that was popular in Britain at the time without totally betraying his Hard Rock roots. The Eagles ultimately made him more money, but there he was a mere hired hand who would contribute a song here and there but would never have the clout to realize a total artistic vision. If you want that, then this album is the best example. The songs are distinct, yet they flow together in a suite-like manner that completes the effect. The whole is grater than the sum of the parts, but the parts are pretty damn good by themselves.

98. Aphex Twin — Selected Ambient Works 85–92 (1992) In the Classical era, the third movement of a symphony was in a dance form, usually a minuet. But while the form was there, the music itself was not intended for dancing, and it certainly wasn’t expected that the audience would get up from their seats and begin dancing in the middle of the performance. As time went along, the “dances” became so stylized that they were virtually undanceable, there for listening only. Electronica took a similar path. Born in the 1980s underground rave scene, it emerged primarily as music for dancing. With this album, however, IDM, or Intelligent Dance Music, almost emerges fully formed. Its roots are obvious, but it’s music clearly intended for listening, not dancing. The idea of electronic music that wasn’t intended for dancing wasn’t a new one, but older material in that vein was either clearly outside the scope of the club scene (Milton Babbitt, Brian Eno, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Wendy Carlos, etc.) or was Ambient music meant for chilling out. The title notwithstanding, this album wasn’t intended as mere background music or accompaniment to a drug experience, but as something worth listening to on its own. Over the course of a tranquil hour and fifteen minutes, MR. Richard D. James presents us with a series of subtly changing electronic pieces that retain the rhythms of what would be considered dance music but also contain a complexity that rewards close listening. This album took Electronica out of the dance club and into the living room, making it something for ravers and nerds alike.

97. Black Sabbath — Paranoid (1970) There’s some discussion among music junkies whether Metal is a subgenre of Rock or its own thing, the way Rock is distinct from Blues. While I’m inclined towards the former argument, the existence of Black Sabbath is the best evidence in support of the latter. When discussing the origins of metal, a number of bands — Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Jeff Beck Group, Iron Butterfly, etc. — come up in the discussion. But Black Sabbath stands out above the pack. The Hard Rock scene in the early 1970s was just that, Rock with more distortion. It was loud, for sure, but if there’s one differentiating factor between the Hard Rock of the 1970s and the metal of the 1980s and beyond, it’s the latter’s disposal with most of the traditional Rock and Roll elements, particularly the reliance on blues structures and any tendency to swing the rhythm. As much as Led Zeppelin was revered, they were always a Blues band at heart, and the others on the list even more so. I am of the opinion that one of the distinguishing factors between good Rock music and bad Rock music is that good rock music always retains at least some blues feel; it can move into the background but should never been absent entirely. While later generations of Metal musicians would strip as much of the Blues out of the music as they could without rendering it unrecognizable as metal, Black Sabbath understood this clearly, and while they were able to avoid the obvious Blues inflections of their Hard Rock contemporaries, they never succumbed to outright abolition. Instead, they gave the spotlight to the other structural elements that make Metal what it is and let the Blues simmer in the background. They first achieved this on their self-titled debut, but this is where the style would reach its apotheosis. Three of the cuts (“War Pigs”, “Iron Man”, and the title track) are radio classics, and the rest is on the same level, particularly the closing “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots”. On future albums Black Sabbath would reach similar heights, but by wisely varying the formula rather than simply reiterating it. This was the height of the original style, and I don’t think Metal got any better after this.

96. Tangerine Dream — Phaedra (1974) This album is the inverse of the Aphex Twin album. While Aphex Twin took electronic club music and turned it into something that was worth listening closely to, Tangerine Dream made electronic music expressly for the purpose of close listening and almost inadvertently made it something worth dancing to. It’s IDM BC, provided you keep in mind that not only is it totally undanceable but also that it was never intended to have the effect that it did. Tangerine Dream were a trio who came out of the German Avant Garde scene who had been making experimental electronic music since 1969. While early synthesizer promotors such as Wendy Carlos were trying to adapt the instrument to existing forms, and plenty of Rock bands were treating the instruments like pianos and other keyboards, Tangerine Dream was more interested in exploring the full potential of the instrument. You can play Bach on a synthesizer, sure, but you can also play him on a harpsichord. What can you do with a synthesizer that can’t be done with anything else? A lot of groups would spend the next several decades trying to answer this question, but the development of the sequencer would change the game for Tangerine Dream. Put simply, a sequencer is a kind of synthesizer computer; it allows you to program a sequence of notes that will repeat. It’s the foundation of EDM today. Had Tangerine Dream simply made the first sequenced album, that would be a fine accomplishment but not necessarily make a five star album. They understood that a repeating sequence of notes was just that, and while it would later prove good enough for dancing, the intention was listening. So the sequences are integrated into a greater whole that stands on its own. They change — sometimes subtly, sometimes wholesale — in a way that moves the music forward as if one were going on a trip. It’s a dark, textured, and haunting album, and one that pairs well with psychedelics, or so I’m told. The ability of this album to repeat a consistent pattern and build on it would be influential in the development of Electronica, but his album is so much more than that.

95. The Who — Live at Leeds (1970) One of my pet peeves with the modern concert scene is that it usually involves people paying hundreds of dollars to see some well-known mega act and then evaluating the performances based on how close they sound to the record. Well, I can listen to the records at home, and for a lot less money. I want my live performances to offer something that I can’t get from a studio recording. Not all bands are able to consistently reinvent themselves like this, so most live albums end up being superfluous. The Who always had more of an edge than other British Invasion groups, but as the 70s dawned and Hard Rock took center stage heaviness became mandatory; what they had been playing only 5 years before now seemed a tad quaint. The performance of “Substitue” on here rocks harder than anyone could have predicted in 1965. “Magic Bus” had by this point become an extended performance piece. And “My Generation”, perhaps the definitive rock anthem, is extended to fifteen minutes, seemingly integrating every spare riff the band was playing with in that period. But that’s only part of the story. “Shakin’ All Over” and “Summertime Blues” are Hard Rock updates of Rock and Roll classics, bringing to the fore the raw aggression these songs always had buried somewhere in them. And then there’s the centerpiece, a cover of Mose Allison’s jazz tune “Young Man Blues”, which is the aural equivalent of being charged by a rhino with its incessant riffage. This album is a sonic assault in the best sense of the expression, being aggressive but not for its own sake. When I see a band — even a band that I love — has released a 3-CD boxed set of live performances, I often wonder if any 6 songs of the 52 or whatever they included can match the 6 presented here, and I shake my head knowing that the best 6 probably won’t come anywhere close.

94. Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin (1969) This is where the legend begins, kids. It’s not Led Zeppelin’s best album (spoiler alert!), but it does answer the question of how far one can push the Blues and still have it be the Blues. Pretty damn far. I don’t really have much to say about this one other than that it set the stage for pretty much the entire hard rock style. It isn’t as diverse as their later work, being mostly a Blues Rock album in the style of the Jeff Beck Group, but the 1-2 punch of “You’re Time Is Gonna Come / Black Mountain Side” preview their more sophisticated Rock songwriting and folk tendencies, respectively.

93. Bob Dylan — Blood on the Tracks (1975) Bob Dylan is at least partly responsible for three revolutions in Rock music. First was the expansion of lyrical themes from typical teenage concerns first to political and social commentary and then to oblique, symbolic poetry. Second was the expansion of song structures from verse-chorus arrangements to something more malleable and expansive. Third, he helped impart the idea that a serious musician writes his own material rather than relying on that of outside songwriters. By the 1970s, this revolution had spawned the Singer-Songwriter, an ostensible mini-Dylan who wrote and performed his own Folk-influenced songs about adult concerns. Dylan himself, however, never really fit into this mold, as the Singer-Songwriters sang mostly about personal matters while Dylan was anything but personal. That changed in 1975. Fresh off a divorce, Dylan finally embraced the style he helped developed and wore his heart on his sleeve for one album, letting out the anger, frustration, and other emotions out into the open.

92. The Allman Brothers Band — Brothers and Sisters (1973) Just as the Allman Brothers seemed to reach their height, everything came crashing down. Duane Allman, the band’s heart and soul, was killed in a motorcycle accident in October 1971. Only a year later, bassist Berry Oakley was himself killed in a motorcycle accident only three blocks from where Duane met his demise. Given the circumstances, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the band simply packed it in. Instead, they replaced Oakley with Lamar Williams and added Chuck Leavell as a second keyboardist and went on to record the best album of their career. While the track lengths aren’t any shorter than their previous work, the songs as a whole seem tighter, with less of the jam tendencies of the early material. It seems almost unfathomable that three of the band’s best-known songs, “Wasted Words”, “Ramblin’ Man”, and “Jessica”, would come from an album without Duane. Much of the credit goes to guitarist Dickey Betts, who took over much of the songwriting duties and direction in a band that was ostensible democratic. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last. The band’s next album was widely regarded as a disappointment and would lead to their breakup. They’d reunite several times over the years, and while they put on good live shows, they’d never add anything to their repertoire that was even close to being on par with this album.

91. Lynyrd Skynyrd — Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd (1973) The Allman Brothers may have invented Southern Rock, but it was Lynyrd Skynyrd who consolidated it into a distinct genre. While the Allmans were essentially a Blues band that owed more debt than usual to Soul, Country, and Rock music, Skynyrd was essentially a Hard Rock band that owed more debt than usual to the same “Southern” genres the Allmans were into. The result was a baseline that other bands could take as inspiration and vary from; if the Allman Brothers were the progenitors, Lynyrd Skynyrd were the definers. Take the Skynyrd base with more of an emphasis toward Country and you have The Marshall Tucker Band. Emphasize Soul and you have Wet Willie. Emphasize Hard Rock and you have Molly Hatchet. Emphasize pop and you have Atlanta Rhythm Section. Etc. If someone wants to know what Southern Rock sounds like and you only have 45 minutes, playing this album will give them as good of an idea as any playlist you could come up with.

90. Fleetwood Mac — Rumours (1977) Evaluating the mega albums is always problematic. On the one hand are normies who say it’s one of the best albums ever because, we suspect, that’s what they think they’re supposed to do (Thriller being the most egregious example of this, though I think A Night at the Opera may eventually overtake it). On the other hand, there are the contrarians saying that this album sucks because popularity does not equal quality, blah blah blah. One thing I’ve learned about evaluating art is that in order to give it a fair shake you have to forget about every prejudice you have about it and listen with fresh ears. I don’t want to get into a whole essay about how cultural expectations influence our perception of cultural artifacts themselves, but I don’t think its controversial to suggest that the rubric by which we evaluate art is defined by how we perceive ourselves. Something as simple as being young may bias us against music for “happy hour at the old folks home”, whereas the serious, sophisticated listener may be instinctively put off by music he perceives as being marketed towards teenage girls.

Much has been made about the personal tensions that were underway when this album was being recorded, but less has been said about the creative tension that was inherent to this edition of Fleetwood Mac. They started as a Blues band in the 1969s, led by Peter Green, but Green went nuts and they spent the first half of the 1970s rebranding as an average to above-average Pop/Rock band. Constantly adrift, they recruited Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks solely on the basis of the album the duo made together, and Buckingham agreed only on the condition that he be given an inordinate amount of creative influence for a new member. This actually turned out to be a good idea, as he was easily the most creative member of the new lineup. Creativity is, of course, a double-edged sword, as there’s also an inherent weirdness baked into most creative people. Luckily, these tendencies were balanced out by Nicks, who was much more conventional, if less daring, and Christine McVie. Buckingham was always in charge of the arrangements though, so nothing escaped Buckingham’s influence. The results speak for themselves. It wasn’t a massive hit because it appealed to the lowest common denominator, but because it knew how to appeal to the lowest common denominator while still being sophisticated enough to stand on its own two legs. Fleetwood Mac’s future albums would be beset by various problems to which there was no obvious solution (I also give Tusk 5 stars, but I admit that Buckingham kind of went off the rails here and he lost influence because of it), but this is the one place where it all clicked.

89. The Eagles — Hotel California (1976) Sticking with the mega albums, here’s another doozy. When Rock documentaries get to the punk years, this album is almost always cited as the reason Punk had to happen. It’s emblematic of the general decline the second generation of Rock artists foisted upon the genre. The initial youthful drive of Chuck Berry, the Stones, and the Who had been replaced with sanded schlock meant to appeal to California housewives, not pissed off teenagers. Rock stars weren’t outcasts from society, but multi-millionaires with comfortable lives, making music for young professionals with comfortable lives. The idealism of the 60s had been replaced with the materialism of the 70s; the hippies were well on their way to becoming yuppies (not that the Punks had any love for hippies or idealism, but I digress). I’m not going to argue that any of this isn’t true. I am going to argue that art isn’t subservient to ethos. This is especially true for music, which is, by its nature, and abstract form. Dylan went through the same thing in the 60s, when the Folk community cast him out as a Judas figure, first for refusing to commit himself to validating their politics, then for daring to go electric, thereby completing the betrayal by abandoning folk altogether for the siren song of the dreaded “Pop music”. While I can’t say that these days people have forgotten about that, as it’s an essential part of Rock mythology, I’m unaware of anyone today who seriously thinks the world would have been better off if Dylan had kept making solo acoustic albums about politics, Folk fans included.

The upshot is that the Eagles aren’t cool, a sentiment that’s best exemplified by the scene in the Big Lebowski where The Dude is kicked out of the cab for daring to say that he hates the fucking Eagles. The Dude, original author of the Port Huron Statement, member of the Seattle 7, consummate 60s radical and aging hippie don’t give a fuck extraordinaire — of course he hates the Eagles. I feel like the context of the joke is largely lost on the generation who embraced that film (that is to say, my generation), but the point is well taken. The question is whether there’s anything about the music itself that’s lacking, and there isn’t. Some things are popular for a reason.

88. Cream — Disraeli Gears (1967) It never really occurred to me until now how closely cream parallels The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Power trios that include guitar gods, fundamentally based in the blues but who added psychedelic touches and would set the stage for hard rock and jam bands. The most prominent difference is that Cream was more directly rooted in the British blues scene and would never embrace the all-out freakery that Hendrix would, though they did more closely presage jam bands. Other than that, I don’t have much to say. I’ve listened to this album so many times its become embedded in my DNA at this point, and asking for my opinion on it is like asking for my opinion on breathing. I’ll be happy to field any questions or address any criticisms on the off chance that someone else is as familiar with this as I am.

87. Grateful Dead — Workingman’s Dead (1970) Speaking of jam bands, the Dead is probably the jam band par excellence. But that has nothing to do with this record. Speaking of psychedelic music, the Dead is probably one of the most oft-cited examples of a San Francisco psychedelic band. But that has nothing to do with this album. The secret is, that, at their best, the Dead were a roots-rock band, and their best work was when they kept this in mind. I don’t want to say too much at this point because the Dead have a complicated legacy and can be difficult to talk about like one talks about other bands. That’s the minefield I’m entering that I didn’t much have to worry about earlier — when you’re discussing obscure bands no one has any preconceptions about them, and it’s not a hot take to list one at number 139. Hell, at a certain point I’ll probably have to start posting this in the Culture War thread. But the point is that, for all the bullshit that’s wrapped up with the Grateful Dead, there is nothing on this album that should turn off anyone who is already predisposed to like roots-rock in general. Most of the songs are acoustic-driven, if not entirely acoustic, and evoke a nice, laid-back atmosphere. Perfect for listening to on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

86. Deep Purple — Machine Head (1972) No, It’s not metal, but it’s hard rock at its finest. It’s got “Highway Star”. It’s got “Space Truckin’” It’s got a bunch of lesser-known songs that are just as good. And it’s also got that other song, the one I need not mention. The one that’s right up there with “Pinball Wizard” and “Stairway to Heaven” as one of the most recognizable songs of all time, the band’s business card, their definitive symbol, the riff that become synonymous with the entire concept of the electric guitar. Yup, that song.

Q- should I bother with FLAC

Yes, why not? It's higher quality than mp3 and disk space is cheap.

But what does /u/Rov_Scam think?

Sorry for the delayed reply — it's a holiday weekend and I've been spending time with my family. To answer your question, the short answer is what @sarker said. The longer answer is, as with a lot of things, it depends. I personally try to use flac whenever possible, though a large part of my collection is mp3 I got before I decided to switch over everything circa 2014, and I just haven't updated it yet. But, and this is a big but, I also do most of my listening on one of two serious stereos I own or a pair of over-the-ear headphones which are top of the line for wireless ones. So keep that in mind.

So it depends on what your starting point is and what you expect to gain. High quality lossy formats are virtually indistinguishable from lossless formats. Subtractive testing has shown that very little audible material is lost in 320 kbps mp3 as compared to flac. That being said, different program material responds differently to compression; a solo acoustic guitar piece is going to be much easier to compress than a symphony. So I keep mine in flac not because there's an obvious audible difference, but because there might be and audible difference and I'm not going to A/B every single file to save a little bit of hard drive space. But I'm also listening on a relatively high-end system; any differences are going to be less audible on less transparent hardware. If you're system consists of a pair of airpods, a Bose lifestyle system, and a portable bluetooth speaker, and you don't have any expectation of ever upgrading, then the chances of there ever being an audible difference is going to be much lower.

Another consideration is the current makeup of your collection. I've spent a decade making the transition to flac, but my collection contains nearly 100,000 files and I'm very particular about tagging and artwork so making the changeover is going to be harder for me than for someone with 10,000 files who's satisfied with autotagging. Do you currently rely on a streaming service? If you're happy with streaming then it would probably make more sense to switch to a hi-res platform like Tidal than to start a collection from scratch. If you're looking to get off of streaming and starting from scratch or close to it, then flac makes sense if space isn't a concern. Is space a concern? Mp3s first came to prominence in an era when a 20 gb hard drive was considered large, and continued to make sense for large collections even as average sizes were in the hundreds of gb. But now that you can get a 5 tb hard drive for like 150 bucks, there's no reason to worry about space.

Unless, of course, you intend to keep your entire collection on your phone, in which case file size still is a concern, and you may want to consider a lossy format, though mp3 is outdated at this point and there are better options on the market, though since I switched to lossless I'm not hip to the exact details. I personally listen to music on my phone, especially when I'm at work/hiking/biking/in the car, but I listen to entire albums compulsively and work from lists I've made, so I just keep a rotating collection of 20-30 albums on my phone from what's next on the list. So to conclude, it depends. If you give me more detail on your setup, plans for the future, and listening habits, I may be able to give you a more definitive answer, but I hope that's enough to get you started.

Now, this isn't what you asked, but since you're obviously interested in sound quality, I'd be remiss if I didn't include it. Bitrate and compression are only part of the equation. Different masterings of an album will have much more of an impact on the sound of a recording than the file format. For instance, a record released in the 1971 may have several vinyl pressings from various territories. Then, with the advent of the CD in the 1980s, there are US, Japanese, UK, and European editions, all of which sound quite different from the others. Then there was a "Remastered Version" from 1995 with a few bonus tracks with the same mastering used for each territory, and then a 2 CD "Deluxe Edition" from 2012 with yet another mastering followed by a single CD edition from 2015 which doesn't have any bonus tracks but uses the 2012 mastering. And there's also an audiophile gold CD from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab or DCC from 2001, and an audiophile vinyl edition from 2009. Whether you're getting your music from legitimate sources or the high seas, the easiest one to find is usually going to be whatever mass-market edition is currently in print (and it will often be the only one that is legitimately available for download or streaming), and this will usually not be the edition with the best sound quality, given the casualties of the loudness wars and tendency towards noise reduction and questionable EQ choices.

So finding the best sounding version of a record isn't always a straightforward process (though relatively new music will only have one mastering). It often requires perusing online forums to find the internet consensus, and I may even download multiple versions of an album before settling on the best one. As I alluded to above, this is more of a problem for older material that's been reissued numerous times, and that was recorded in the analog days when recording wasn't always great and when original master tapes weren't always used for CD reissues. I can provide more information about this aspect if you're interested, up to and including my own personal recommendations, but for now I at least wanted to make you aware of it. Again, sorry for the delay but I wanted to give you a complete answer rather than a pithy yes or no.

Amazing write-up. I’m collecting FLAC, but sometimes wonder if it is worth it (especially on private trackers where it might count excessively against an upload ratio).

I’m interested in hearing more about remasters. The only time I would probably encounter this would be on - I only know what is available and seldom hunt down specific editions unless there are bonus tracks etc.

As far as my setup goes, it’s been random budget audiophile picks in 2.1 setup doubling as a home theater. I probably would not go above $500 in any situation, I just haven’t heard good enough speakers to justify the spend.

If you're on a private tracker it's a different story. I haven't been on a private tracker since the days of, and I haven't felt the need to get on one since you can find pretty much anything on Soulseek or rutracker (though if you've got an invite I won't turn it down). As for your system, that's enough for it to be worth the difference in quality. Generally, if you have a "real stereo" that has a separate receiver and speakers you're there. If you've done any research into your purchases then you're probably chasing rainbows if you spend more than a few thousand on a system. For full disclosure, my system consists of a few hand-selected pieces I bought used about a decade ago and I spent less than a grand on it if you exclude the amount I spent on stuff for vinyl.

As for remasters, the rules of thumb are that audiophile remasters by record companies like Mobile Fidelity, DCC, Audio Fidelity, and Analogue Productions are probably going to be the best, though some of the earlier MoFi stuff may be questionable (though not bad, just not the best). SACD releases are usually good, with a few exceptions, but it's all because of the mastering, not the bogus "hi-res" designation. For records that were originally released between the mid 70s and the mid 90s, the first CD edition is usually the best. This was the era when most of the questionable recording practices from years prior had been dispensed with and before the loudness wars started. If the record was originally released before the mid 70s, then the quality of the source tapes used comes into play in a much bigger way. Early releases may have used inferior tapes, and later releases may have been casualties of no-noise and the loudness wars. For newer stuff the options are limited, and there is often only one mastering available, and if there is more than one it is either an audiophile release or isn't any different in quality than the original CD. There are exceptions, of course, and the best course of action is usually to search the Steve Hoffman forums for the consensus on what the best release is, just be forewarned that if Steve mastered any of those albums then that version will always be the consensus best version, though not without reason (he has a very warm style of mastering that I absolutely love, but he can be a bit smug about his abilities and there's some backlash online). If you're wondering about any releases from the classic rock canon, DM me and I can tell you, or just give you my Soulseek handle so you can look me up and grab it yourself.

especially on private trackers where it might count excessively against an upload ratio

You're downloading more, but you are also seeding more, right?

Hard to compete with other seeders, if I could upload a FLAC of some new release and seed it would grant me many more MP3 rips. Maybe I should finally invest in a proper seedbox.

Glad you’re back, I was wondering what happened.

Black Sabbath - This was the height of the original style, and I don’t think Metal got any better after this.

After a decade of being a full-time metalhead, I agree. Though metal got heavier, faster, more ruthless and violent. The atmospheric opening to War Pigs has never been topped.

IMO, if Chuck Schuldiner had lived longer, then we would seen an inevitable transformation of Metal into something different. With Sound of Perseverence, his band (Death) nearly touched the raw intensity of Black Sabbath. The least I can do is recommend this accessible instrumental from his last album.

Been playing "Reverse Collapse - Code Name Bakery" lately. It's 20% asian VN , 80% turn-based tactics game similar to xcom. The graphics style is very cute chibi with some really impressive (and gruesome) animations.

I would describe the story as "grimdark post-apocalyptic dystopian hard sci-fi with a dash of time-travel shenanigans". The themes and events contrast sharply with the moe artstyle.

In terms of gameplay, it's mostly excellent, with the exception of the occasional mandatory stealth section. I chose the hardest difficulty mode and I can only describe it as "sadistically cruel". I'm talking "3 hours for a single bossfight", 2 hours for the typical level. And almost all of that is thinking and changing tactics. The UI and camera are clearer, easier to understand and more informative than the ones in Xcom. The "two 90% misses in a row" meme still exists but it's nowhere near as bad. And you can tell exactly where enemy LoS and shooting range end, which I can only applaud.
There are some RPG elements of the "choose which talents to buy and which items to craft" type but they're very minor.

I do recommend it to VN and Xcom enjoyers out there. If you're curious why the steam score is mixed, there was apparently some drama with the fans of a different game and typical brigade shenanigans ensued.

Just looked up the drama and that is some of the most pathetic and deranged incel shit I've ever heard in my life. LMAO

Looking at it, it's imo clearly in the tradition of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, not XCOM. Though the artstyle is still a bit overly cute for my taste, it seems not as bad as some other games.

Yeah, I haven't had the opportunity to play any of the Fire Emblems because of lack of hardware but those would have been an even better example.

I strongly recommend trying them on an emulator. There's even quite a few good emulators for Android, I used to constantly play these games back in college classes with mandatory attendance.

Okay, I'll look into it, thanks for the recommendation!

I do like turn based strategy, but there's something totally repellent to me about games or media where every character is a bobblehead anime girl.

This. It's my favorite genre and I'd really like to try it, but this is such a massive ick-factor that I'm probably not going to.

Edit: Just took a look anyway after all, and it doesn't look nearly as bad as I feared based on Mewis' remark. That seems tolerable.

Anyone playing any tabletop games?

I'm a year and a half into a heavily modified 5e campaign I've been running. It's going well, but I've been itching to be a player in something longer than a oneshot for a while now. Two of my players have talked about interest in running Traveller and Cyberpunk 2020, respectively. My fingers are crossed on at least one of these panning out, as I've been itching to play something that isn't 5e for ages.

I’ve got a long running thirst to play Ars Magica. I am wildly underqualified to play it, let alone DM ST, but wizarrrrrddddddds

My 5e group is between games at the moment, and I'm hoping to find/run a group with a different system. 3.5, Pathfinder, Numenera, Traveller, Wolves of God... you name it, just something different from 5e.

After a long hiatus from TTRPGs, getting into a Pathfinder 2e campaign.

I'm a big fan of the system from a mechanical standpoint, and we're using a virtual tabletop which helps with some of the more fiddly modifiers / ranges.

I've been lucky enough to get to consistently "freeload" as a player- my playgroups have tended towards players itching to DM rather than DMs itching to play.

PF2e looks really fun. It seems like it was made by and for people tired of 5e's lack of crunch. What do you plan on playing?

We're all on Virtual Tabletop as well. I don't know if it'd be my first choice, but there are a lot of advantages to it over in person, like presentation, handling rolls, etc. If a campaign takes advantage of the online tools I think the switch is worthwhile, but when the GM doesn't do that it always feels worse than in person.

I'm going Sorcerer this time, having been a Cleric for my first go around. Going straight from 5e to a prepared caster was a bit rough last time, hoping spontaneous will be a little more flexible.

For us the main appeal was the 3 action system (which I do much prefer to move/action/bonus action) and an easier time balancing characters and encounters for the DM.

I'm glad we're using VTT for the calculations and battlemaps, but I really do think quite a bit is lost by not being in person, especially in terms of immersion. Having some kind of touchscreen gaming table in person would probably be the best of both worlds, but would obviously require quite a bit of time and space invested.

I'm spending the weekend in shekhawati, it's a region in north rajasthan settled by my ancestors. My family is that of feudal lords though unfortunately our fort and other properties are under judicial watch due to fake court cases. Still, I'm finally visiting my motherland, a place literally named after my people who fought and won it from the evil tyrants before them. I'm staying at the hotel of fellow shekhwat feudal lords as they run a fund to help the underprivileged kids of our caste attain education. My family has been living in Jaipur for the past 4 generations.

I've never had a weekend getaway so it's quite fun, the heritage homes here are cool and most importantly, I have enjoyed it so far. Besides this I'll be watching the fights this weekend, I watch if or bellator whenever I can though it's a weak fight night card. I do wish to start training again but not sure.

The place I'm in also houses a temple remembering all the women who committed sati, I don't like the practise at all but can't speak ill of women who did it. I'm glad that the place we settled exists, not as glorious as it was before democracy, still, it's there.

Finally, I'm completely over that chick, it's been 4 years and I just don't care as much, life goes on and so should I. I won't get the 4 years back but I'll love my life like a normal person now. I'm really happy that the mods here didn't ban me for talking about her 😅.

I do look forward to hear, till then I'll be out exploring the semi arid wasteland that my forefathers built into something worthwhile. I'm really happy, life's good. I'm usually morose though I feel great. In the motherland with great weather (35 degrees is ideal imo). Ciao 🌞

A puzzle, transformed from being about [redacted] to being about ice cream.

There is a famous gelateria in town, and the owners are rather insistent about only pairing specific toppings with specific ice cream flavors. Their 'old reliable' combination is whipped cream and chocolate chips paired with vanilla. You are aware of the combo, to the point of when somebody mentions choc chips and whipped cream you automatically think about vanilla ice cream.

You know that choc chips are also commonly paired with mint ice cream. They are also less commonly paired with caramel and strawberry flavors, although the latter only in some more specific combinations.

You know that whipped cream is sometimes paired with coffee flavor.

You are applying for an apprenticeship, and have to pass a test so that you won't break the flavor pairing rules. Among the questions, there is the following:

(Below, "flavor" refers to ice cream flavor, not the toppings)

We try to avoid making two-flavor combos where the dessert could be done as a single flavor in one of the two flavors. Given that, suppose you have a two-flavor dessert with chocolate chips and whipped cream (and no other toppings). What of the following flavor combinations would be the best choice for this dessert?

a. vanilla-mint

b. vanilla-caramel

c. coffee-vanilla

d. mint-caramel

e. caramel-coffee

I think that when presented outside the context of [redacted], the answer is obvious, but I want to make sure ;) I'll let you know what this is about in a day or two

This is a bit hard to parse, but I think the answer is e. caramel-coffee.

a, b, and c all have vanilla which could be a single flavor paired with chocolate chips and whipped cream. Between d and e, none of the single flavors there can be paired with both toppings, so they're basically equivalently acceptable. If we must rank them: they share caramel, which can be ignored since both contain it. Of the remaining flavors, mint vs. coffee, mint is common with one topping while coffee is "sometimes paired" with whipped cream, so coffee seems hardest to replicate as a single-flavor dish.

It would be helpful if the rules for pairings were delineated more clearly.


only pairing specific toppings with specific ice cream flavors

And this

We try to avoid making two-flavor combos where the dessert could be done as a single flavor in one of the two flavors.

It looks like you're trying to say that if Flavor1 goes with Topping1, a two-flavor combo should not include a Flavor2 that also goes with Topping1, and also Flavor2 should not have Topping2 that could be paired with Flavor1. You have presented the following combinations as permissible:

  • Vanilla: ChocChip & WhipCream*
  • Mint: ChocChip
  • Caramel: ChocChip**
  • Strawberry: ChocChip**
  • Coffee: WhipCream

It's not clear whether "ChocChip & WhipCream" is considered a single topping, or two separate toppings, or a distinct topping from ChocChip or WhipCream alone. The precise details of Caramel and Strawberry are also vague: is it only Strawberry that only gets ChocChip topping in "more specific combinations," or also Caramel? The "only in some more specific combinations" also seems to strengthen the idea that one legitimate topping is "ChocChip & WhipCream" as distinct from either ChocChip or WhipCream alone, such that there does not appear to be any way to know for certain what constitutes a permissible topping combination for Strawberry (and, maybe Caramel).

My inclination is to agree with @PutAHelmetOn that Vanilla can be eliminated, since the two toppings you've mentioned both go on Vanilla, so adding a different flavor to vanilla doesn't add any topping possibilities--assuming the only two toppings are whipped cream and chocolate chips, which seems unlikely (and is never stated by you) but there's no further information given on the matter. This appears to hold true even if "ChocChip & WhipCream" is a distinct topping from either ChocChip or WhipCream alone, since presumably adding ChocChip to "ChochChip & WhipCream" won't count as adding a topping by adding a flavor.

Since Mint, Caramel, and Strawberry are all identified as ChocChip (with some asterisks), the obvious thing to do is combine one of them with Coffee, identified as WhipCream. Mint-Coffee would most easily and obviously fit the bill, but it's not on the list. Of the two non-vanilla options, Mint-Caramel and Caramel-Coffee, Caramel-Coffee seems to be the easiest fit, assuming Caramel is not part of the "latter" flavors intended to include ChocChip "only in some more specific combinations." If so, Mint-Caramel has the same presumptive problem as Vanilla: both flavors take ChocChip topping, even if some further combination requires it.

And all this depending somewhat on what the "more specific combinations" actually are, of course, but that information isn't provided, but... the way you've written the problem, Caramel-Coffee appears to be the only plausible answer. It's just that the whole rest of the problem seems to hint at the existence of further helpful information which you have for some reason neglected to provide, which anyone actually applying for an apprenticeship would certainly make it a point to know. For example, if Strawberry only gets ChocChip in combination with Banana topping, then Vanilla-Strawberry would work despite the ChocChip overlap--but this is also moot given the possible answers, since none of items A-E include Strawberry at all. But this reasoning also works for item B, Vanilla-Caramel, if Caramel is indeed among the "latter" flavors in that sentence and the combination in question includes some third unmentioned topping.

I think part of the problem is that the additional information might "give away" what this problem comes from. The block quote is a pretty straightforward adaptation of the original question, but the background information is comicsansstein's own summary of the relevant background information; participants were expected to bring their own understanding of the domain with them.

My read is: avoid a two-flavor pair if either flavor on its own would be good enough. This means the answer can't contain vanilla, since vanilla by itself is the tried and true.

The best answer would be something silly, like peanutbutter-pistaccio, but thats not an option.

If it doesn't contain vanilla, then between e and d the last problem is decide if mint or coffee will work best with the caramel.

The prompt only gives info about mint in the presence of chocolate chips (no info on whipped cream) and about coffee in the the presence of whipped cream (no info on chocolate chips)

At this point, I reread the prompt which says "what of" not "which of" so multi answers are allowed: e and d are tied.

If I had to tiebreak, I choose e because the word "sometimes" feels less frequent to me than "less commonly." But really the wording is ambiguous.

I must be missing something.

I believe that the scenario description needs to include something like "if no flavor of ice cream in a combination can accommodate a particular topping, then that topping is not an approved choice." Which I think would break your tie.

We try to avoid making two-flavor combos where the dessert could be done as a single flavor in one of the two flavors

I'm having a hard time understanding what that's supposed to mean

Perhaps rephrased-

"We try to avoid making two-flavor combos where all the toppings can already be paired with just one of the two flavors"

Goodness, it's been 6 years. I know there was a recent reddit thread on the topic; is that what has brought this to mind? I'm not sure you've done a great job of porting the question over, even if I agree that it was a pretty poor question.

EDIT: To clarify, I think the world of food design is too divorced from the constraints of the original problem, and people would be much more reasonable to use their intuitions about tasty things in this framing of the problem than their intuitions about the domain of the original problem.

Parentheses are rot13.

That thread did indeed prompt this question. I wondered if having no preconceived notions of what a (Freen Natry) is would make the people less likely to be stuck on an incorrect answer. I tried to give all the info a (Zntvp cynlre) would have, without tipping the hand too hard. I may have overcomplicated things.

What was the original context?

Look up "Great Designer Search 3 multiple choice".

The answer is obviously vanilla-caramel, because that's the only flavor which sounds like it would actually taste good.

Coffee-caramel ice cream can be pretty good, but frankly it makes more sense to put caramel sauce on coffee. I'm probably going to go to a different shop and get a sprite + sherbet freeze though.

So the right answer must contain vanilla, because it's the "normal" combo with those topings. We are also told choc chips are "commonly" paired with mint, whereas whipped cream is "sometimes" paired with coffee. I suppose "commonly" is meant to indicate a stronger affinity than "sometimes," so I guess the right answer is vanilla-mint? I'm not sure I'd say this answer is obvious, though, as I'm having a read a lot into your specific choice of words.

Also, this answer may not translate over to whatever [redacted] is, in particular if there's any kind of interaction term between the flavors. For example, if the toppings are meant to be symptoms a patient is exhibiting and flavors are meant to be drugs one might administer for those symptoms, I would imagine the answer might be different because you'd need to take into account drug interactions. Similarly if the toppings are economic indicators and the flavors are government policies, it's the same issue where two policies can interact in non-trivial ways.

So I've spent three weeks selling short dated covered calls for COIN and walked away with a whopping $250 I didn't have before. Doesn't sound like much, but so far the stock has never come within $50 of my strike price. If, and I understand it's a big if, I keep this up for a whole year, I'll have earned over a 10% return on underlying assets worth $25,000-ish.

The first week was nerve wracking. The second week less so, except for one day where the stock shot up $30 intra-day with $50 left to go to my strike price. But with 3 days left, I sincerely doubted it wouldn't pull back. It did. The third week as soon as I sold my covered call a judge issued a decision allowing an SEC lawsuit to move forward and the price of the option I sold immediately got cut in half.

The more of these I successfully sell, the more I feel I have a buffer to close my position at a loss if things start going badly. I'm more shocked that there are enough degenerate gamblers out there willing to throw a Benjamin at the off chance COIN shoots up 50% in 4 days.

We shall see when I receive my comeuppance.

Covered calls is great until there's volatility and you miss out on a year's worth of appreciation in a few up days or you eat a huge correction and give back several years of premiums.

This sounds less entertaining to me than just putting a hundo on the Bills to win the AFC East.

Is it weird that, to me, the options trading scheme would be a lot more fun than the sports bet?

The bets appeal to different types of gamblers. The NFL future allows for potentially months of sweat, but generally the real adrenaline doesn't start flowing until the last game or two when the outcome is really decided. The options scheme is more of a true gambling experience in that there are semi-constant rushes and downs - more like playing craps at a casino.

Of course from an EV standpoint the options trading is much more likely to be profitable but they are simply different things.

Have you heard the phrase. Picking up pennies in front of a steam roller? You're much better off in an index fund if youre looking for 10% returns.

As I understand it, @WhiningCoil 's strategy of covered calls is the opposite. He's getting a slow but steady return by giving up the chance of a big upshot. It's actually negative EV, because the big upshots are what drives the market, but it can make a living.

For real "pennies in front of a steam roller" you need to sell naked puts... I've been there and it's a hell of a drug...

Yes i didn't notice he said covered. My mistake for sure.

In this case, he's covered since he owns the underlying security. So the worst that would happen is his COIN stock gets called away (at a very inflated price to boot).

It gets called at the strike price; not the trading price.

I guess the strike price is high so he wouldn’t be too bent out of shape at selling.

The loss is the delta between the market price and the strike price.

I think he was liquidating anyways though -- so if he sells on day 1 for market price, he's not getting any appreciation regardless.

In that case, continuing to sell the deep out of the money calls is simply risking the asset dropping in value.

Ah i missed that they were covered. Wouldn't that negate the inflated price thought? That is the whole point of the options people are buying.

I have that too. This is not the only thing I'm up to. Not even the majority thing. Not even the majority of a minority thing. It's a minority of a minority of a minority of my investments. I'm trying it for fun.

I guess then it's worth assessing whether you're actually having fun or if its just the feeling of anxiety/thrill that you want, at which point you could get that by trying roller coasters, skydiving, or just normal gambling at a casino.

Back when I dipped my toe in day-trading cryptos I approximately broke even but it became evident to me that it wasn't a good kind of stress it induced and the attendant compulsion to keep checking the charts distracted from more enjoyable pursuits. Gardening, DIY projects, and futzing around with 3D printers and, more recently, AI media production have been overall more fulfilling to me.

Not that I judge what you do with your time and spare change.

It's less day trading and more week trading. Less gambling, and more selling the lottery tickets to gamblers.

So, what are you playing?

Well over a decade ago I watched Yahtzee's review of Catherine (, a weird puzzle-platformer from the people who made Persona. Although Yahtzee was iffy on the game, I thought it sounded like it might be my bag, but at the time they hadn't released a PC port. I picked it up in a Steam sale a few months ago and started playing it last night.

I'm really liking it so far. It's very funny and quirky, the core gameplay is deceptively simple and much more challenging than I expected, and it's oozing with style.

I’ve been playing CK3 and a little Slay the Spire on the side, but recently have got into Balatro after a lot of chatter from friend groups. If one likes deckbuilders, definitely worth a try.

Finishing up ff7 rebirth. It's pure nostalgia for me, nice bonus that the combat is probably the best in a mainline ff game in ages. Really makes me wonder how ff16 scored as well as it did, that game feels like just the bare framework of a game compared to ff7.

QS Watermelon (also known as Suika game) on my iPhone. It’s like a slower version of tetris. Highly addicting.

No video games, unless you mean Visual Novels with IRL elements, which I'd call dating.

I found the character creator to be horribly railroaded with a predefined character thrust into a hostile world. But that seems to have taken over my free time for now.

I quit destiny cold turkey, and I'm over to Warframe and Helldivers 2. I need to get back to the megafactory I'm building with my brother-in-law in factorio, though.

Oh hey, I've been playing a bunch of Warframe and Factorio as well. I can't get enough of games with in-depth crafting systems.

Do you know of any other games with similar progression systems to Warframe? Monster Hunter is kind of similar in crafting, but I'm more interested in the mastery system: "do all the things, collect one of every single weapon/armor/companion etc, and each thing you collect adds to your exp even if you never use it."