Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bear Cam

Katmai National Park in Alaska has a live stream of bears fishing around for salmon at Brooks Falls, and it's mesmerizing. The sound of the waterfall is particularly soothing. So if you're having a stressed out day today, go have a look: Brooks Falls -- Katmai National Park, Alaska.

There's also a link to an orca cam at a different national park from that page.

Farmageddon

Long-time friend of the program Joshua Buergel (who you may remember from the very entertaining card game Hocus), let me know that he's finished a new game. It's called Farmageddon, and it looks like it is both fun and funny.

More info and pre-order link here.

Well, Hell

I was all excited this morning because I was going to drop Eli 15.0 off at goalie camp (where, incredibly, he's now an instructor) and go play nine holes of golf.

I was carrying stuff out of the house, stepped out the front door, couldn't see the thick and quite high mat we have on the porch, hit the edge of it somehow, and blew out my right ankle.

Totally blown out. Heard ligaments popping. Agony.

I've done this before, because I've had a bad ankle going all the way back to a severe sprain in high school (tennis), but we played tennis hard all summer and I never had a single problem.

Managed to make the drive to the rink with the help of an ice wrap, but man, this sucks. Can't really walk and I'm afraid it might be a high ankle sprain, which would be way worse.

On the positive side...well, there's no positive side.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Riveting

"It's almost hypnotic, really," I said.

"They could make this a live feed on the Internet and I'd watch it all day," Eli 15.0 said.

"Do you think that's Buster?" I asked.

"No, he  looks like Walter," Eli said. "I think Buster is over there by the door."

"Uh-oh!"

"Looks like Terry is headed for the sin bin," Eli said.

"Lance, too," I said. "Coincidental minors."

We're in PetSmart, of course, standing outside the glassed-in area that is doggy day camp. It's basically a dozen dogs inside a room, and all of them are constantly moving around. Relationships are formed and broken in seconds. New rivalries emerge.

"It's the history of the Roman Empire in under five minutes, but with dogs," I said.

Plus, there's the person.

One person. One women in her late teens to rule them all.

"What do you think is the worst job on Earth?" I asked.

"Hmm, I don't know," Eli said. "Cleaning up biohazards or something?"

"The people with this job apply for that job," I said, as the attendant tried to handle approximately ten disagreements among campers simultaneously.

Besides interpersonal conflicts, there's a little board that lists the dogs names, and you can spend all kinds of time trying to figure out if the bulldog is Wally, Dante, or Thomas.

"All they need is a snack bar," Eli said. "This is better than the movies."

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Rabbit Hole #1: Bleem!

Through an endless series of interconnected rabbit holes, I briefly thought this weekend that one of the most highly regarded feminist novels ever written mentioned Penny Arcade.

It DID mention Penny Arcade, specifically, but it was published in 1997, and Penny Arcade didn't begin strips until 1998.

So, so close.

However, because of that, I started reading Penny Arcade again from the beginning. It's a real trip into the wayback machine of gaming, and I think I'm going to go all the way through, both for the window into gaming and also into how Tycho and Gabe have changed over the years.

Eighteen years is a long, long time.

Anyway, in the July 30, 1999 strip, Bleem! gets mentioned.

In case you're wondering, Bleem! was going to be the ultimate Playstation emulator, playable on either the PC or the Dreamcast. It was hyped and hyped and hyped, and then it finally turned out to be plagued by bugs and way too difficult to actually pull off.

The promises, though, were splendid.

Make Better Decisions: Olympic Edition


That does not seem like a sport.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint," I said to Eli 15.0 at the beginning of the Olympics. Trying to distill NBC's coverage--which is decent on some channels and absolute crap on others--is complicated enough, but just the sheer volume of footage to sort through every day is actually tiring.

If you live in another country, let me explain how the Olympics work here: 22-25 minutes of advertising an hour for the prime-time coverage on NBC. Then there will be 10-15 minutes an hour of puff pieces framing the individual athlete's struggle against darkness and evil overlords. So, at most, you might see 20-25 minutes an hour of actual competition.

The sub-channels, though--like NBCSN--were much better. They actually showed most of an event live, instead of tape-delaying and endless editing and reframing the footage for maximum emotional impact.

Except the field events. What NBC does to the field events is just an abomination. They refuse to show them in their entirety, or anything even remotely close to it.

I'm glad I saw what I saw, but man, I'm glad it's over. I need two years to recover before the Winter Olympics.

Random Olympic Conversation About An Unnamed Sport #3

"This looks like it should be an act at Sea World with marine animals," Gloria said.

"I think they toss Frisbees as well," I said.

"Flaming torches," Eli 15.0 said.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an absolutely fantastic read: The Leak Prosecution That Lost the Space Race. Also, and this is a long and tangled read, but a fascinating story, it's The Life and Murder of Stella Walsh, Intersex Olympic Champion.

From Steven Davis, and this is utterly insane: New Camera Allows You to Zoom in to the Surface of the Moon. Way In. Next, and this is terrific, it's The Librarian Who Changed Children’s Literature Forever. This is a great read, but man, it's depressing: These People Are Among Us But Not Of Us: How a 125-year-old mass lynching tried to make America great again. Next, and this is amazing: 'Brain training' technique restores feeling and movement to paraplegic patients. This is a fascinating video: Gotta Groove Records - The Artist's Preferred Record Pressing Plant.

From Christopher S., and this is a fascinating read: The True Story of the ‘Free State of Jones’.

From Andrew, and if you were curious about how live sporting events can "enhance" the sound, this will explain it: The Sound of Sports.

From Wally, and this is both interesting and beautiful: Historic Center of San Gimignano. Next, and this is incredible, it's Cyborg stingray swims toward light, breaks new ground. Next, and this is both funny and bizarre, it's Parrot Tries To Cat.

From Brian, and this is mind-blowing: Library of Babel.

From Eilidh, and this is a terrific read: There's a Section of Yellowstone Where You Can Get Away with Murder.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: Thanks to This Man, Airplanes Don’t Crash Into Mountains Anymore. This is an excellent read: Secrets and agents George Akerlof’s 1970 paper, “The Market for Lemons”, is a foundation stone of information economics. This is a terrific read--about ants: Meet the worst ants in the world.

From Jason, and this is an intriguing story: Bang! The Brown Mountain Lights are back in business.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Lesson of These Olympics: Never Lie To Your Mother

Some of our Olympic idiots apparently lied to Brazilian police about getting robbed at gunpoint.

Ryan Lochte, head idiot, told this story to his mother, who then somehow notified the press, and it all went from there.

Of course, Ryan Lochte wouldn't be in all kinds of trouble now if he'd followed the Prime Directive for children: never lie to your mother. 

Even at my age, I never lie to my mother. Mothers are generally equipped with the Advanced Lie Detector Mark IV, and they will know you're telling a lie before you even finish telling the lie.

Mom always knew, and after a period of rebellion (from age 5 to about 30, so it was quite a long rebellion), I realized it was so much easier to tell the truth--to her and everyone else, too.

Once I just started being honest, life got much less complicated, and quickly. When you're telling the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

It's pleasant, really.

Lochte's mother apparently doesn't have the advanced lie detector that my mom has, but she still took a lie and bad things happened.

Yes, occasionally you piss someone off by telling the truth. That can't be helped. It's still much, much easier.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Texts

Eli 15.0 had a strained tendon in the back of his knee last week and took two days off (the first days off he's had since we moved here).

I texted him while he was in Driver's Ed:
You may have some free time with that injury. Found something for you.


He texted back quickly: Updated and revised.

I didn't know what he was talking about, then I looked at the upper right corner of the book.

What kind of late-breaking information could be added to the original "How to Raise Chickens"? Is there some kind of new wave in chicken care?

Today, I went and worked out. Texted him:
Went to the YMCA. Pretty swole. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

No Man's Sky

If you're close to my age (sorry), I will describe No Man's Sky in one sentence for you: A Yes album cover by Roger Dean with music by Vangelis. 

For the rest of you, let's keep going, and this isn't going to be an exhaustive gameplay discussion, because you can find those all over the place.

Let's pretend that you never read a word about No Man's Sky. Had no idea what it was about. One day, a disc appears in the mail and all it says is "Play Me".

You decide to follow instructions.

When the game is installed, you wait to play until the house is dark and quiet. You shut the door, put on headphones, and press "Play".

Your mind proceeds to get blown. Fully, irretrievably blown.

Awe.

Back in gaming's early days, we overlooked the minor in pursuit of the major. Today, we micro-analyze the minor to invalidate the major.

Don't do that with this game.

It's stunningly, staggeringly beautiful. The experience is almost hypnotic.

I could write many words about how NMS might be even better if it was different here and here and there, but those words do not matter.

The game is bigger than all of those words.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Detroit

Eli 15.0 had Driver's Education from 9-11 this morning, then I picked him up and we drove to Detroit to watch Pro Elite Camp.

"I wonder if I should get a snow kayak this winter," I said.

"That's not a thing, is it?" Eli asked.

"Sure it is," I said. "Small skis are attached just below the kayak, so the kayak just rides on the snow."

"How do you paddle?"

"I'm not totally sure," I said, "but I think you use the regular paddle, only it's modified with spikes that can grip the ice so that you can push."

"Are they expensive?"

"I would think there are plenty of used ones up here," I said. "Don't know how much they'd cost."

I drove on for about thirty seconds.

"You know that snow kayaks totally do not exist," I said.

"I KNEW THAT UNTIL YOU STARTED TALKING," he said.

"I almost persuaded myself," I said.

Later on, I heard a reference to parachute pants in an ad on the radio and made him look it up on Google. "Oh, no," he said when he saw them.

That is the correct reaction to parachute pants.

Pro Elite Camp is a Bandits camp that features a few NHL draft choices, guys on the National Development Team, D1 college goalies, and a few guys below that level. Plus the shooters are just ridiculous.

It was all amazing, but here's one story, because it's late and I'm beat.

When Eli worked out at Barwis during regular Elite Camp, there was a group of NHL players working there at the same time, and at one point, he had to ask the fastest skater in the NHL to move over because he was standing over Eli's water bottle.

He looked over at Eli and says 'Oh, sorry man, my bad." Typical hockey player--super polite, really nice guy.

That same player was a shooter today, just shredding guys in the drills. We were the only people in the stands, and at one point, he looked directly at Eli for several seconds, like he was trying to place him (at least half a dozen of the guys knew Eli, and they all acknowledged him at some point, so he might have noticed that).

Or maybe he wasn't looking at all, but it seemed like it at the time.

"My god, I swear he was staring at me," Eli said.

"He was taking an image with a mental camera," I said. "On that image are the words 'PERSON OF INTEREST.' "

Eli burst out laughing.

About fifteen minutes later, he looked over again. Seemingly.

"I swear he did it again," Eli said.

"That 'PERSON OF INTEREST' text is now flashing," I said.

Driving to Detroit at 11 and driving back at 5 is tough, but it was worth it.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Links!

From Wally, and it was an infamous "chicken ranch": Closing Down La Grange. Next, and this is a fascinating investigation of cause: Tay Bridge disaster. This must be one of the most prolific authors in history: John Creasey. Next, and this is entirely brilliant, it's Landlord installs Faraday cage to block phone signals because social media is ruining British pubs. This is fascinating: Researchers learn about wire-fraud scam after Nigerian scammers infect themselves with their own malware. Oh, and if you're in the L.A. area, this sounds incredible: Like monsters? You'll love the Guillermo Del Toro exhibit at LA County Museum. You won't see anything at first in this next link, but trust me, just keep zooming out one step at a time: Polka Dot Land.

A slew of excellent links from C. Lee. Leading off, and this is intriguing: Nature Videos Make Prisoners Less Violent. Next, and this is fascinating, it's Spider Colonies are Cooperating Themselves to Death. Next, and this looks like fun, it's NASA just released an addictive Mars Rover game. Have a look at how different the Harry Potter book covers were in different countries: Harry Potter Book Covers.

From Steven Davis, an argument for the humble washing machine as the greatest invention of the Industrial Revolution: The magic washing machine. Here is an absolutely amazing look at a pivotal moment in American history: A Cutting-Edge Second Look at the Battle of Gettysburg. Next, and this is one of the craziest war stories I've ever read, it's THE LOST BATTALION: HOW A PIGEON SAVED 200 LIVES IN WW1.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is both bizarre and wonderful: Salvador Dalí's Long Lost Collaboration With Walt Disney Will Take Your Breath Away.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Random Olympic Conversation About An Unnamed Sport #2

Eli 15.0: This is soccer. With sticks. It's stick soccer.

Gloria: Are they playing with umbrellas?

Eli: If it starts raining, they just open them up and stand together in colorful patterns.

On The Nature of Greatness

No Man's Sky releases on PC tomorrow, and man, I'm ready.

The backlash against the PS4 version began very quickly. A litany of complaints and resentment issued forth almost immediately upon release. Actually, they issued forth before release.

This made me wonder about the nature of greatness in games, and how difficult it is to be great these days.

Back "in the day", no one really rooted against games. I don't think anyone was desperately hoping that Civ II sucked. We all wanted it to be great.

We were looking for greatness.

Today, though--damn.

Incredibly, a large part of the gaming "community" doesn't really want anything to be great, seemingly. Anything that could potentially be great, or become great, is methodically knocked down, even before it's released.

I know that our country is polarized to an incredible degree politically. I can sort of understand that (even though I think one side is entirely deluded at this point). But how does wanting a game to suck qualify as a "side"? What is the point?

I'm not saying that No Man's Sky is great. It just reminded me that there is a group of people that try to destroy every game.

I'm curious about the demographic of these people. Is it just Angry Young Guy? And if it is, what is Angry Young Guy angry about in general?

This is an old man comment, but it seems like the proportion of people who would rather destroy than build seems to steadily be getting larger, and it's both uncomfortable and disturbing.

Angry mobs.

It makes me sad, that pitchfork-wielding cretins have done so much damage to a hobby that I have enjoyed so much, and that has been enjoyed so much by my friends.

Rugby Sevens Finals at 6 p.m. ET Tonight

Fiji versus Great Britain, and every player on Fiji's team looks like he could play in the NFL.

If you have DirecTV, the game is on 220.

This has turned into one of my favorite sports in the Olympics.

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