My favorite albums of 2013

January 1st, 2014  |  Published in better-than-you, music

THE YEAR HAS ENDED, MY FRIENDS, and given that I only seem to use my blog for one thing, year-end favorite-album lists, I may as well post a year-end favorite-album list.

Forthwith, then, the list (Do note that I can barely tolerate music or art any more, both being significantly less Honest than Violence or Dogs, so view these not so much as "favorite albums" as "albums correlated with minor changes to my blood chemistry or neuronal activity").

  • 35. Shearwater - Fellow Travelers
  • 34. Haim - Days are Gone
  • 33. µ-Ziq - Chewed Corners
  • 32. Four Tet - Beautiful Rewind
  • 31. Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
  • 30. Junip - Junip
  • 29. Devendra Banhart - Mala
  • 28. Josh Ritter - The Beast in its Tracks
  • 27. Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
  • 26. Russian Circles - Memorial
  • 25. Local Natives - Hummingbird
  • 24. Melt-Banana - fetch
  • 23. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down - We the Common
  • 22. Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium
  • 21. Man Man - On Oni Pond
  • 20. Washed Out - Paracosm
  • 19. Andrew Bird - I want to see Pulaski at Night
  • 18. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
  • 17. Tim Hecker - Virgins
  • 16. Mark Kozelek and Jimmy LaValle - Perils from the Sea
  • 15. Julianna Barwick - Nepenthe
  • 14. Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Daze
  • 13. Chelsea Wolfe - Pain is Beauty
  • 12. Baths - Obsidian
  • 11. Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse

and cool the top ten hey cool

  • 10. Machinedrum - Vapor City

  • 9. Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven

  • 8. Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

  • 7. Cass McCombs - Big Wheel and Others

  • 6. Kanye West - Yeezus

  • 5. Phosphorescent - Muchacho

  • 4. Son Lux - Lanterns

  • 3. Bill Callahan - Dream River

  • 2. The National - Trouble will Find Me

  • 1. Pusha T - My Name is my Name

Shortlist of albums that could have made it on a different day:

Mogwai - Les Revenants
A$AP Ferg - Trap Lord
A$AP Rocky - long live asap
The Dodos - Carrier
Lorde - Pure Heroin
Mark Kozelek - Like Rats
Mark Kozelek & Desertshore - Mark Koselek & Desertshore
Mount Eerie - Pre-human Ideas
My Bloody Valentine - mbv
Glasser - Interiors
The Range - Nonfiction
Midlake - Antiphon
Delorean - Apar
Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
of Montreal - Lousy with Sylvanbriar

Favorite albums of 2012

December 27th, 2012  |  Published in better-than-you, music

Well, another year is nearly over! If you're anything like me, you live life with headphones on! And you know what that means: END OF THE YEAR FAVORITE ALBUM LISTS!!!

In chronological order, my favorite albums from 2012:

Karl Pichotta: Christ to Earth, Christ to Earth: Is Anyone Listening?!


K Pichotta: America! Mother! Weep! Weep!


k.arl pichotta: Apostasy, Freedommaker


Kørl Piçhötta six.six: Is it? Is it? Is it? Is it? Is it?




Karl Pichotta: Redemption in Obamawolf's Jaws


Karl Pichotta: Obamawolf, Infinite Heart


Karl Pichotta: Howl Me To Freedom, Wolfbama Mine, Wolfbama Mine


Papa Roach: The Connection


What a year it's been!

[images, in order: ([1]); ([2], [3]); ([4]); ([5]); ([6]); ([7]; ([8], [9]); ([10], [11]); ([12])]

My favorite albums of 2011

December 18th, 2011  |  Published in better-than-you, music

I know you have been clawing at your computer screen, crying out "Why won't Karl talk at me about music" for the last 12 months.

Well look, you can cease your agonized cries now.

(Note that 2011 inexplicably had like half the number of really good albums 2010 had, so if I were to combine this with my 2010 list, most of these would appear pretty far down the list).

Anyways, my top 10:

  • 10: Moonface - Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped

  • 9: Tim Hecker - Ravedeath 1972

  • 8: Cut Copy - Zonoscope

  • 7: The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck

  • 6: Cults - Cults

  • 5: The Weeknd - House of Balloons

  • 4: Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo

  • 3: EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

  • 2: Bill Callahan - Apocalypse

  • 1: Wye Oak - Civilian

Notes from the Post-Singularity

October 11th, 2011  |  Published in kurzweil-is-mashiach, kurzweil-is-truth, writing

I started to rearrange the furniture, but Overbrain wouldn't let me, said such degrading work was "ill befitting a human", I think maybe like how shitting on the lawn ill befits a dog.

The other day I tried to read a physics book but Overbrain insisted I not strain myself, so I went and stared at a picture of myself in a hat for three hours. I guess I already know all the Science, but I sometimes feel like my time could be better spent? Being everything really makes me feel like nothing.

Oh man that's good, I wish the concept of authorship were coherent, I would copyright the hell out of that.

Being part of a near-omniscient manmachine supernetwork is supposed to get me all sorts of sweet prognostic visions—retinaless Cybersibyls whispering immutable truths to me in Akkadian, dark superrealities made manifest within the divine technospark inside my skull, and so on. I'm really good at spotting trends in commodity prices I guess, but this stuff just isn't as sexy as I'd hoped.

Also I'm not sure how to tell if the collective overmind is bullshitting me because I guess I am the collective overmind? Like, Overbrain keeps mentioning how easy it was to fix global warming, but whenever I ask about it I just get told it's "complicated." Call me old fashioned but I feel like the manmachine godnet of which I am a component should be maximally forthright with me. It just seems a bit silly to hide things from me.

Haven't been feeling great. I figured maybe if I disabled my prefrontal cortex for a few hours I'd finally get some honest-to-god rest, but I understand I just crawled under a table and licked the carpet. I'd imagine I was pretty happy though, maybe I'll do it again.

I uploaded my consciousness onto seven vacuum cleaners and threw them into the river yesterday. I'm confused about everything, all the time.

I guess I'll go sit under a tree and make tiny piles of pebbles until I'm sleepy.

What the hell is a harmonic mean? OR: A few thoughts on traffic intersections

July 14th, 2011  |  Published in amth, math, maths, meth, minth, morth

"In which Karl works through math he should have understood a decade ago"


Something I was thinking about as I biked about my current home of North Austin, where they have been adding traffic lights to accommodate the increasing population...

Suppose you are trying to time a stoplight. That is, you are tasked with setting the durations, order, and whatnot of the various stages of the light cycle. What quantity exactly do you try to maximize?

So actual traffic intersection design is a tricky balancing act--you want to get lots of cars through, but you're not going to want to make it unsafe in doing so. You'll also want some notion of "fairness"--it's a Bad Thing to keep a car stopped at a red light for 20 minutes, even if by so doing you maximize the number of cars getting through the intersection per minute.

Let's simplify, however, and just think about maximizing one variable. What do we choose? Well, the first thing I thought of was throughput--the number of cars getting through the intersection per minute. A well-designed intersection will try to maximize this.

Suppose, however, we don't have a way of measuring this directly, but we do have the cars' average speed from the time they enter the vicinity of the intersection to the time they leave it. What then? (You may ask yourself what "average" speed here means--that's actually exactly what we're going to answer.)

The first thing I thought in my Texas-summer-induced haze was that we would just maximize the arithmetic mean of the cars' speeds. The arithmetic mean will give us the "average", right? Well...

What is the Harmonic Mean?

I didn't hear the phrase "harmonic mean" until about my junior year in college, and I didn't really figure out what it was until somewhat recently. Basically, the harmonic mean is the best way to average rates of things--if you have a bunch of quantities which all take the form "unit1's per unit2" (miles per hour, price per earnings, etc.), then the harmonic mean is likely the average you want.

If you have n numbers x_1,\ldots, x_n, then the harmonic mean H of them is given by

H(x_1,\ldots,x_n) = \frac{n}{\frac{1}{x_1} + \ldots + \frac{1}{x_n}}.

Say we fix a distance d and have two cars drive distance d. The first goes speed r and the second goes speed s. What do we want out of an "average speed"? Well, we want a speed a such that if a single car were to go distance 2d at speed a, it would take the same amount of time as if the car were to travel the first distance d at speed r, and then travel the second distance d at speed s. This is exactly what the harmonic mean gives us! (A short proof of this fact appears at the end of this note; if it's not obvious to you--it wasn't to me--give it a look, or, better, try to prove it yourself--it's not complicated.)


So I realized I want the harmonic mean instead of the arithmetic mean! Neat! Done! We'll time the stop light in such a way that we maximize the harmonic mean of the speeds of the cars within some vicinity of the intersection. That'll be $200,000 please, City of Austin.

That was an unsatisfying explanation.

I agree! So I sat down and tried to think of a more convincing argument that maybe a well-designed intersection should maximize the harmonic mean of the speeds of the cars traveling through it.

A wholly and totally reasonable quantity to want to minimize is the sum time all the cars spend in an intersection. That is, suppose we have n cars, and each car i spends time t_i in the vicinity of the intersection. Then we will want to minimize the function

\sum_{i=1}^n t_i.

A bit more accurately, suppose we have a stoplight setup \ell. The time it takes car i to get through the intersection is a function of \ell. So really what we want to minimize is

\sum_{i} t_i(\ell).

Great. Let's further suppose the distance traveled by these cars is d (that is, the length of the "vicinity" to which we're referring is d). Further, each car i goes an average speed v_i(\ell), which is a function of the stoplight setup: different intersection setups will yield different average speeds for cars. (Again, the "average speed" of a car here is going to mean what you probably think it means if you've gotten this far.)

So let's do a little bit of algebra! If you're not familiar with the notation, \arg\min_x f(x) gives you the value of x at which the function f is minimized. Similarly, \arg\max_x f(x) gives you the value of x at which f is maximized. The variable x with respect to which we are finding the argmin/argmax here is something like "all conceivable intersection setups".

\arg\min_x \sum_i t_i(x)

= \arg\min_x \sum_i \frac{d}{v_i(x)}

= \arg\min_x \sum_i \frac{1}{v_i(x)}

= \arg\max_x \frac{1} {\sum_i \frac{1} {v_i(x)}}

= \arg\max_x \frac{n} {\sum_i \frac{1} {v_i(x)}}

= \arg\max_x H(x).

(The first step holds because v=d/t; the second step holds because the numerator will stay the same regardless of what we choose for x; the third step holds because \arg\min_x f(x) = \arg\max 1 / f(x) for any f; the fourth holds for the same reason as the second.)

Neat! We have shown that constructing our intersection to minimize the total amount of time cars spend in it is the same thing as designing our intersection to maximize the harmonic mean of the speeds of the cars within its vicinity (and NOT the arithmetic mean).

This isn't a particularly interesting result, but it wasn't immediately obvious to me.

Anyways, moral of the story: if you are averaging rates, think very seriously about using the harmonic mean.

So is maximizing the harmonic mean of velocities really different from maximizing the arithmetic mean?

Yes! Suppose we are considering two stoplight setups \ell_1 and \ell_2, and suppose we are running a simulation with two cars. In \ell_1, the two cars have velocities 1 and 9. In \ell_2, the cars have velocities 4 and 4. Now,

H(\ell_1) = \frac{2}{ (1/1) + (1/9) } = 1.8

H(\ell_2) = \frac{2}{ (1/4) + (1/4) } = 4

So if we are picking stoplight setups based on harmonic mean of velocities, we'll pick \ell_2. However, if we're picking based on arithmetic means, we'll pick \ell_1 (which gives an arithmetic mean of 5, vs \ell_2's arithmetic mean of 4).

So the type of average we use matters!

(You can verify for yourself that \ell_2 minimizes the total time spent in the intersection.)

Post-scriptum: Promised proof of above statement

OK, so we are showing that if car 1 goes distance d at speed r and car 2 goes distance d at speed s, then the ideal average speed a is the harmonic mean of r and s. By "ideal average speed" I mean simply the following: suppose we have car 3, which goes distance 2d at speed a. Then it takes the same amount of time for car 3 to go 2d at speed a is it does to go d at speed r and then d at speed s. Denote by t_1 the time it takes car 1 to go distance d; denote by t_2 the time it takes car 2 to go distance d; denote by t_3 the time it takes car 3 to go distance 2d. Then what we want to show holds is that

t_1 + t_2  = t_3.

In fact, the average speed a that makes this true is the harmonic mean of r and s.
Assume a is the harmonic mean of r and s. Then:

t_1 + t_2 = \frac{d}{r} + \frac{d}{s}

= d \cdot \left( \frac{1}{r} + \frac{1}{s} \right)

= \frac{d} {\left( \frac{1}{r} + \frac{1}{s} \right)^{-1}}

= \frac{2d} {2\left( \frac{1}{r} + \frac{1}{s} \right)^{-1}}

= \frac{2d}{a}

= t_3.

This completes the proof.

Songs During Which I am Constitutionally Incapable of Sitting Still

June 6th, 2011  |  Published in better-than-you, funk, funky-funk, music, things-which-possess-the-property-of-funk

A short, incomplete list.

The Glitch Mob - We Swarm

Otis Redding - Try a little Tenderness

LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean

Cut Copy - Corner of the Sky

Cut Copy – Corner Of The Sky found on Pop

The Antlers - Two

Bibio - Jealous of Roses

Memory Tapes - Bicycle

Junip - To the Grain

Asking Questions about Noses

March 20th, 2011  |  Published in brains, branes, ignarince, ignorance

Why are your eyes, ears, and nose in your head?

I would imagine you'll come up with the same answer I did. Namely, putting related things near each other makes a lot of sense most of the time. We usually sit our PCs at the desk right alongside our monitors and keyboards so we don't need 100 feet of wires stretching between rooms, for example.

It makes sense for our eyes, ears, etc. to be in our head for the same reason that algorithmic traders want their servers as close as possible to the stock exchanges' servers: the closer our sense organs are to our brains, the faster the signal arrives there. Your olfactory epithelium has neurons in it, and your retinae were, when you were a little blob in a uterus, part of your developing brain. It doesn't make a lot of sense for these things to end up very far away from the brain.

Shaving milliseconds off of your response time to sensory input could mean the difference between life and death in the face of an attacking predator, or a barrel rolled by an ape, or a turtle shell thrown by Bowser. Putting your sense organs closer to the thing that processes them does just this.

(Note this observation provides simple evidence for the wholly uncontroversial assertion that the brain is the center of cognition (this assertion was, in fact, not wholly uncontroversial millennia ago).)

Anyways, I think this observation is worth writing down not because it's particularly interesting, but because I am a fairly scientifically literate individual (who took an entire college course on cognition) who didn't even think to ask this question for twenty five years of his life. Sure, once I ask the question, the answer is laughably obvious, but I hadn't even thought to ask until today!

This is completely terrifying to me. What other stupid simple observations about the world am I oblivious to because I just haven't thought to inquire about them?

New Internet Memes

March 7th, 2011  |  Published in better-than-you, horsebama, internet  |  1 Comment

So I've been brainstorming some new Internet Memes---I want to be known as a man of ideas, and in 2011 you can't be a man of ideas without having a few Internet memes to your name.

So here's what I've got so far. We'll see how the focus groups go.

  1. LOLHegels:


  2. Methbadger:


  3. Wasterolling:

    just like "Rickrolling" only instead of misleadingly linking to a Rick Astley video you link to Eliot reading The Waste Land.

  4. Subtly incorrect mathematical proofs:


  5. Barack Horsebama:


Lemme know what you think!

My Favorite Albums of 2010

December 15th, 2010  |  Published in better-than-everyone-else, better-than-you, better-than-your-friends, music  |  4 Comments

This started out as a top 10 list, but grew into a top 15 list -- there was a lot of really good music in 2010 it turns out.

Herewith, please find proof that my aesthetic intuitions are superior to yours:

  • 15. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti -- Before Today

    I really didn't like this album the first few times I listened to it, but it's certainly grown on me.

  • 14. The Walkmen -- Lisbon

    A nice, affecting little album.

  • 13. Nina Nastasia -- Outlaster

    A desperate resignation permeates all her music, it is so wonderful.

  • 12. High On Fire -- Snakes For The Divine

    ZOMG Stoner Metal

  • 11. Best Coast -- Crazy For You

    I am apparently much more tolerant of girls acting like they're 16 and singing about boys than I thought I was.

  • 10. Flying Lotus -- Cosmogramma

    Noises which are pleasant upon striking tympana.

  • 9. Deerhunter -- Halcyon Digest

    Turns out Deerhunter isn't nearly as boring as I always thought they were, whoa.

  • 8. Kanye West -- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

    Whatever, the album's excellent.

  • 7. Zola Jesus -- Stridulum II

    A grand, towering monument to Ennui. Though I guess that's how I'd classify 80% of art.

  • 6. Arcade Fire -- The Suburbs

    An entire album about how the place I grew up in crushes your soul, what could be more perfect.

  • 5. Sufjan Stevens -- The Age of Adz

    This album is nutso. Like, what the hell is the last track -- is it a 30 minute self-parody, or what? I'd be perfectly happy if Sufjan put out ten more versions of "Illinois", but I guess it's good he's not, as this album's really pretty good.

  • 4. Dum Dum Girls -- I Will Be

    It turns out there are still new things to be done with drums, guitars, distortion, and singing!

  • 3. The National -- High Violet

    Boy, they sure can write a mean fucking song about being neurotic.

  • 2. Caribou -- Swim

    This is my favorite thing Daniel Snaith has done, and I really really like everything Daniel Snaith has done.

  • 1. Joanna Newsom -- Have One On Me

    I don't know what to say about this album, it is so good, it is so so good, it is so so so good. It has 18 songs, each of which averages about 7 minutes in length, and each of which stands on its own incredibly well. When they are put together into an album, the result is wildly powerful, holy jeez. This album is so fucking good you guys, there cannot possibly be a better album produced in the next decade, I categorically rule out the possibility.

And there we have it!

Bonus: albums which almost made the list (2009 had like 3 good albums, what the crap happened in 2010 to create this situation?):

  • Sleigh Bells -- Treats
  • Robyn -- Body Talk
  • Women -- Public Strain
  • Twin Shadow -- Forget
  • Toro Y Moi -- Causers of This
  • Pantha Du Prince -- Black Noise
  • Four Tet -- There is Love in you
  • The Bitters -- East General

What is Ada Hiding?

November 19th, 2010  |  Published in idiocy, music, whoopi-goldberg

Eisegetical Idiocy

Like any self-respecting American Twentysomething with a beard and plastic-framed glasses, I listen to a lot of The National. I got to thinking about the opening lyrics to Ada, one of my favorite songs of theirs:

Ada don’t talk about reasons why you don’t want to talk about reasons why you don’t wanna talk.

So there is a set of reasons R1 why Ada doesn't want to talk, and she doesn't want to talk about these reasons R1 for (possibly) different reasons (call these separate reasons R2). Matt Berninger is earnestly entreating Ada not to talk about reasons R2.

So, naturally, I got to thinking about what the hell R1 and R2 could be. Some options:

    • R1: Reason she doesn't want to talk: Blackmailed by Russians.
    • R2: Reason she doesn't want to talk about these reasons: The Russians will break her kneecaps.
    • R1: Reason she doesn't want to talk: Her throat is very sore.
    • R2: Reason she doesn't want to talk about these reasons: It is sore because she yelled at the TV too much while Perfect Strangers reruns were playing.
    • R1: Reason she doesn't want to talk: When she talks, she is is invariably reminded of her childhood dog Scruffers (she would spend hours each day imagining Scruffers talking, thereby creating an indelible mental association between her childhood pet and the locutionary act in general).
    • R2: Reason she doesn't want to talk about these reasons: That is incredibly, incredibly embarrassing.
    • R1: Reason she doesn't want to talk: She has taken a vow of silence as a sign of religious devotion.
    • R2: Reason she doesn't want to talk about these reasons: Her religion is "Whoopi Goldberg."
    • R1: Reason she doesn't want to talk: She cannot have a conversation that does not result in her yelling furiously about Lizard People and Freemasons.
    • R2: Reason she doesn't want to talk about these reasons: If she were to talk about this she may have to confront her Problems.

WELL, this ended up being a lot more autobiographical than I thought it would. Whoops.

(Sidenote: this demonstrates, of course, the fundamentally recursive nature of language. The sentence

Ada don’t talk about reasons why you don’t want to talk about reasons why you don’t wanna talk about reasons why you don't want to talk.

is perfectly valid, as is

Ada don’t talk about (reasons why you don’t want to talk about)^n reasons why you don't want to talk.

for any nonnegative integer n. The National has supplied us with a roundabout proof that there are an infinite number of valid sentences in the English language!)