Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's awesome: Ethan's Make-A-Wish. DQ reader Ken Dean's son Ethan has Cystic Fibrosis, and his wish was to be a garbage man for a day. You may recognize this from the annual link I put up when Ken participates in the Great Strides event, which raises money for CF research.

DQ VB.NET Advisor Garret Rempel has a gaming company now, and a website, and here you go (and I know it will be excellent, like everything else he does): Tricorn Games.

From Geoff Engelstein, and boy, this is discouraging: N.F.L.-Backed Youth Program Says It Reduced Concussions. The Data Disagrees.

From C. Lee, and what's the Japanese word for "dirtbag"? In first, Tepco admits ice wall can’t stop Fukushima No. 1 groundwater.

From Wally, and this is an excellent read: The Ghost Towns That Were Created by the Oil Rush. This is fascinating: What Things Cost in Ancient Rome. Next, and this is the most expensive cheese in the world: A cheese made from... donkey milk? Next, and this is one of several things that are more disruptive than anyone can imagine today: Yes, you can totally use beer, coffee and hemp for 3D printing. This is just funny, with good detective work: Diablo Sandwich / "Diablo & Doc" From Smokey & the Bandit, Identified!

From Steven Davis, and this is just stunning: Functioning ‘mechanical gears’ seen in nature for the first time.

Here are two long, excellent, and very sad reads to close out the week: first, it's A tragic fight between college-bound basketball stars changed lives forever. Next, and man, this one is going to stay with me for a long time, it's Jonathan and Aaron and ... :No one but Aaron Hernandez will ever fully grasp how a millionaire tight end came to gun down a friend three summers ago. But Aaron's older brother, Jonathan, was there from day one, and he witnessed all the little moments, all the poor choices, all the unwise associations that led to murder. That perspective cost Jonathan his way of living—but that's O.K. He understands.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Windows 10 Upgrade

All right, since I'm sure some of you are doing this at some point in the next three days (while it's still free), here's a quick summary of my experience.

1. Clean up your crap
I consolidated everything I could, deleted everything I should have deleted two years ago, and uninstalled apps that I should never have installed in the first place.

2. Backup your important stuff
Probably, it will be fine. If it's important to you, though, put it on Dropbox or somewhere, just to have a copy if the upgrade goes sideways.

3. Microsoft can be startlingly inept at times
When you start downloading the update, depending on how you choose to do it, you may not have any information on how much of the download has completed. And when it's finished and you try to install, you might get this "preparing to install" message for--in my case--about 8 hours. With absolutely no additional information about what the hell was going on. So don't expect any clarity during the download/preparation steps. It's embarrassing, really.

4. Microsoft can also be startlingly competent at times.
However, once the actual upgrade process started--with an actual percentage complete indicator--the entire upgrade was very quick and utterly competent. No device issues (although I recommend unplugging everything you can, like a printer, and adding it after the upgrade is done). No program issues. It appears to be a very, very clean upgrade.

I've used Windows 10 on my Surface Pro 3, and the way I use it is that I never go anywhere but the desktop. I don't go to whatever the hell Microsoft calls the multi-panel UI, because I can't imagine anyone ever producing anything in that environment. It's fine for being entertained, but I want to produce things, too.

The upgrade didn't start me out on the garbage panel. I don't even know if that panels exists, because all I've seen is the desktop with my familiar screensaver and my desktop icons, which didn't move at all (that drives me nuts). Totally familiar and comfortable.

5. Privacy is seriously messed up.
You need to read this (thanks, Theo) to understand how nefarious some of the default settings for privacy are in Windows 10: Broken Windows Theory. It will take 10-15 minutes to change all the privacy settings for the better, but it's well worth it.

6. Windows 10 is sleek, fast, and very easy to use.
I was a big fan of Windows 7, but this is better. It's slick and very fast.

Do I have any complaints, now that the upgrade is complete? Not one.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

That's A Big Hand

Eli 14.11 can't really hold seven tennis balls for long, so the picture is slightly misleading, but he can hold six for as long as he wants.

I've been teaching him (somewhat) for years, but it had gotten to the point where I really felt like I was holding him back. Tennis circa 1985, and the proper instruction, is not very relevant in 2016.

Good coaches know when to step back and let someone else coach.

In an incredible stroke (awful pun there) of good fortune, though, we met someone here who is an absolutely terrific instructor, and he teaches the way Eli learns--like an engineer.

He's taken four lessons so far, and I can't believe how much better he plays already. All the good qualities of his game--athleticism, intelligence, power, and touch--are still there, but they're now in a more fundamentally sound package, with strokes better suited for this century than last.

Plus, I think he's serving 100 MPH on his first serve at this point. Not kidding.

Still hasn't beaten me yet, though. Old Man Garbage Tennis is still competitive for a little while longer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Even Better

I have been informed that the full title of the book the guy was not reading is "No Excuses: The Power of Self-Discipline".

Well played, sir.

Um, Yeah

My Internet connection is killing me.

We now have AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet Max Plus, which allegedly provides the following speeds:
Download: 12.1 Mbps - 18 Mbps
Upload: 768 Kbps - 1.5 Mbps

Yeah, I know--that's not very good, really, although depending on where you live, it might be blazing. That's the fastest speed we can get from AT&T in this neighborhood.

That's not the problem, though.

The problem is that I'm actually getting (with a wired connection, mind you) 9.5 Mbps downloading and (hold on) 80 Kbps upload.

I wanted to download some files to Dropbox so that I have a safety net when I install Win 10 (yeah, I'm doing that, too), and it's taken over 24 hours to upload the files because I'm only very rarely over 100 Kbps.

The download speed has been as low as 5 Mbps, according to Speedtest.

This is not a big problem, entertainment-wise (it won't kill me if web pages take longer to load, although it's annoying), but when I'm trying to upload builds of the new game to Dropbox, this is going to be absolutely excruciating.

Any ideas (besides changing ISPs), please let me know.

Previously, I had a Time Warner connection that was 50+ Mbps, and it was very, very fast 99% of the time.

Terrible Lines From Terrible Movies #1: Pyranhaconda

"She played kickball with my cojones."

Make Better Decisions #12: Excuses Edition

I woke up very early one morning, couldn't go back to sleep, and decided to go get a bagel and review my programmer's Bible (Pro WPF 4.5 in VB) before I start coding the recruiting prototype for Fighting Eleven.

I'm reading at the bagel shop when a guy walks in and sits across from me. He has two books with him, and I can see that one is titled "NO EXCUSES!"

I guess abusive self-help is a genre now. I didn't know.

I'm there for about another 45 minutes, and I occasionally glance over and notice the guy. Then, when I stand up to leave, I look over one last time.

He's on his phone, surfing the internet. Like he's been doing the entire time.

Quadrilateral Cowboy

I have it and I'll be posting impressions later.

Monday, July 25, 2016


"Bros need a sizing chart," I said.

"What do you mean?" Eli 14.11 asked.

"When bros go to buy clothes, the sizes must be bewildering to them," I said. "For instance: 'small'."

"Right," Eli said, "because there are no small bros."

"Exactly," I said.

"What's the equivalent of  'small' for a bro?" I asked. "Jacked?"

"No, I think small would be 'Built'," he said. "'Jacked' is medium."

"Then I think you have 'swole'," I said.

"That's large," he said,"and 'extra swole' has to be extra large."

So here's the full chart for bros seeking online clothing:
Built = S
Jacked = M
Swole = L
Extra Swole = XL

Don't think we're looking at setting up a phony website for bro clothing, because we're totally not considering that at all. If we had time.

True Artisan Bagels

There's this little bagel place in East Grand Rapids that has absolutely phenomenal bagels. Seriously, the best bagels I've ever had in my life.

It's in this tiny little shop, and it's utterly calm.

They never seem to have many bagels, either--not because the bins are empty, but because the bins are very small.

I came back from having one on Friday, then drove Eli 14.11 to the rink for a workout.

"Picture this," I said.

"I already don't like the sound of this," he said.

"A bagel shop," I said, "and the name is 'True Artisan Bagels'. Their slogan? 'One bagel. Every day.'"

"Ooookay," he said.

"You have a little film that shows two guys getting up at 4 a.m., then heading down to the shop, where they spend hours making the perfect bagel. They put it out by the counter, and someone walks in and buys it. Then you see the guy walk to the front door, flip the 'Open' sign to 'Closed', and when he turns back to the camera, you see him smile slightly."

"Terrible idea," Eli said.

"It's so terrible it's brilliant," I said.

"No," he said. "It's just terrible. But I like it."

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Links!

We're a little light this week, but there are some very strong links.

Leading off this week, and man, it's an incredible story: Revealed: How VW Designed the Greatest Scandal in Automotive History.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: How the CIA Hoodwinked Hollywood. Also, and this is excellent, it's A peek into Naughty Dog game creator Neil Druckmann's creative process.

From Mark Lahren, and this is both hilarious and terrifying: Conspiracy Theorist Cruise.

From Wally, and this is an interesting, obscure note about WWII: Il Duce’s Blitz? — Italy’s Role in the Battle of Britain. This is twenty years old and still very funny: The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord.

From Steven Davis, and this is an amazing video ("In this theater the dance of a puppet, destructured in time and space, shows us the mechanisms that pulls the strings."): OSSA.

From 3Suns, and watch out, everybody: Hacker shows Reg how one leaked home address can lead to ruin.

Finishing off this week, and it's a terrific read, it's How a Guy From a Montana Trailer Park Overturned 150 Years of Biology. Wait, here's one more: How To Summon The Bird That Guides You To Honey: In a rare case of specific communication between humans and wild animals, the Yao people of Mozambique have a special call for attracting the greater honeyguide.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Geforce GTX 1070 (EVGA Superclock)

I mentioned last week that I was getting a new videocard to replace my Geforce GTX 970, which has been a terrific card.

The one thing the GTX 970 couldn't do, in a fair number of demanding games, was maintain a smooth framerate at 2560x1440.

In some games--like Just Cause 3, which ran incredibly well--it was fantastic. In quite a few others, though (Witcher 3), it just didn't have enough oomph.

"Oomph." A highly technical term.

There's nothing I can throw at the 1070 that even makes it breathe hard. Plus, it's silent. I've never heard the fans come on even once, because I've never gotten above about 65C.

Oh, and the reason there hasn't been much going on this week in general is because I woke up at 5:30 Monday with a stomach virus that completely knocked me on my ass. I'm fine now, but I spent a good part of the week in bed with my entire body hurting.


Only Two Complaints

Considering how many complaints I normally have about anything, this is a very small number. 

1. There's too much damn Pepsi up here.
Eli jokingly says that Pepsi's slogan should be "Is Pepsi okay?" because no one really wants it instead of Coke. 

However, in Michigan, Pepsi is huge. So much so that I'm going to Subway fairly frequently just to get Diet Cokes. 

2. Entrance ramps of death. 
There are a few highway entrance ramps (I'm looking at you, Hall St. and 131) that are the shortest I've ever seen, with no usable shoulder of any size. Very, very scary, and I'm trying to figure out ways to avoid all of them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

So I Almost Had It Right

After yesterday's squeaky floor post, Kai sent in this article: Nightingale floors: The samurai intruder alarm system Japan’s had for centuries.

Here's an excerpt:
The specially constructed floors were called uguisubari. Literally translating as “bush warbler guard watch,” uguisubari are more commonly referred to in English-language texts as nightingale floors.

In installing nightingale floors, planks of wood are placed atop a framework of supporting beams, securely enough that they won’t dislodge, but still loosely enough that there’s a little bit of play when they’re stepped on. As the boards are pressed down by the feet of someone walking on them, their clamps rub against nails attached to the beams, creating a shrill chirping noise.

So this house wasn't training ninjas. It was protecting its owners FROM ninjas.

A Television Sensation

"Oh man, they really brought the hammer this episode," I said.

I was speaking, of course, of our new favorite show: Knitting Daily. 

It's on once a week on the Grand Rapids PBS station, and it's incredibly soothing. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for grownups, really.

No one yells.

It's a welcome change from the real world, where everyone seems to be yelling.

I know nothing about knitting, and neither does Eli 14.11, but we have a season pass.

Oh, and by the way, the crocheting scene in Kuwait City? Thriving, according to the most recent episode.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Kentucky Route Zero Act IV. That's a very nice surprise.

A Feature

Our new house squeaks.

Seriously, every board squeaks. It's incredible, really.

We've decided that this house was previously used as a ninja training facility. That seems like the most plausible explanation.

And Now...the Rest of the Story

I linked to a video Friday about Northlandz, a 52,000 square foot model train world in New Jersey.

The fellow who created it (all of it!) is Bruce Williams Zaccagnino.

What I didn't know--until Mike Gilbert e-mailed--is that Zaccagnino had a long and pretty distinguished career in PC games (Solitaire's Journey, The Perfect General, The Lost Admiral).

Northlandz is in New Jersey, and I think Eli's team makes one trip to New Jersey this season, so maybe we can stop by.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Donkey Wheel

I was driving us home from the rink.

"I'm not turnin' that donkey wheel," I said, taking an alternate route as I saw traffic stopped because of a wreck up ahead.

"Donkey wheel? What?" Eli 14.11 asked.

"Common expression," I said. "Used to describe a difficult situation caused by stupidity."

"So that's a thing," he said.

"It's a thing," I said, and continued to drive. We sat in silence for about thirty seconds.

"It's not actually a thing," I said.

"It should be a thing," he said. "It sounds like an actual thing."

"I think we can make it a thing," I said.

"It's a thing," he said.

Donkey wheel. It's a thing.

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