Tuesday, November 19, 2019

In Text

To Eli 18.3:
Wait, is this punter wearing jorts-length pants?

This is a disgraceful image, and wow, those really are jorts. 

The NFL: vanguards of fashion.

The Four Characteristics of an Authoritarian Leader

This is from a book I read on Stalin. It's useful now, given what's happening here and in the world.

1. The Great Leader is never wrong.
2. Only the Great Leader can solve the country's problems.
3. There is always a conspiracy against the Great Leader.
4. The Great Leader is always the victim.

The Plan*

*usually never followed

I'm having PRP therapy on my elbow next Tuesday, which will keep me away from keyboard for a few days, at least.

What I'm going to do, hopefully, is write content today and tomorrow that will cover the rest of this week and through the next.

Plus, I'm going to do something new for Thanksgiving-Friday links this year. Because some of you will be trapped and bored to death somewhere, I'm going to post Friday links on Thanksgiving, and every link will be a long read. That should keep you distracted from the tragedy around you, if needed.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Honest Press Releases, Vol. 1

Chick-fil-A To Stop Funding Controversial Groups After LGBTQ Protests
Chick-fil-A announced it will take a different approach to its charitable giving in 2020 following years of protests from LGBTQ groups that have taken issue with the Atlanta-based food chain’s donations to organizations that do not support gay rights.

“Staying true to its mission of nourishing the potential in every child, the Chick-fil-A Foundation will deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger,” the organization announced Monday.

Hahahahahahahahah. I'll fix that for you.

Chic-fil-A To Stop Funding Controversial Groups After Discovering Popeye's Chicken Sandwich Tastes Better
Chic-fil-A announced it will take a different approach to charitable giving after Popeye's introduced a better chicken sandwich. "Shit, man, Popeye's?" said a Chic-fil-A spokesman. "We've had the chicken sandwich locked down for fifty years. Now Popeye's has thirty cars lined up in the damn drive-through. We've still got waffle fries, ya'll!"

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Two-hour impressions)

I have incredibly fond memories of two Star Wars games (I've played over a dozen): Super Star Wars (SNES) and Knights of the Old Republic (PC, original version). KOTOR, in particular, was a towering game, just brilliant in both design and execution, with quality everywhere.

Now that I think of it, that SNES Star Wars game was pretty fantastic, too, with a trench run at the end that was a brilliant recreation of the original.

Most of the time, though, Star Wars games are disappointments. Over-hyped, unfinished, never quite hitting the mark.

This time, though, I was hyped. Early reviews were 90+. This must be the one. And I have EA Sovereign Ruler Access or somesuch service, so I was able to play this game for "free."

I've played two hours.

Three alternative names for this game:
Uncharted: Jedi
Crash Bandicoot: Jedi Edition
Star Wars: Grate and Vine

WTF-itty-F is this?

The reviews talk about an open-world game that's mostly exploration, mixed with combat. Where is that game? The game I'm playing is an endless runner with lots of grate and vine climbing.

It also has the dramatic impact of a sponge.

I'm running and slashing and jumping and climbing, all along a pre-determined path on a train, and there are BIG MOMENTS™  coming every few minutes, but they just don't care how long it takes me. What would that feel like in real life?

Dear Father,
I am still trapped between railway cars, where I have been for the last six months. Curiously, though the enemy continues to engage in repetitive search patterns and behavior, they have been unable to find me. Perhaps they will tire one day. 

[SPOILER ALERT: That letter could not be written for reasons]

The problem with setting up BIG MOMENTS™ like this without any sense of pace is that all the bigness drains out of them. When it happens over and over again, it just feels ridiculous.

Look, I understand that it's just an introduction to the game, but why introduce the game and it's physical commands in a level that is apparently totally unlike the rest of the game? It's just cheap.

Oh, and in the Cheap Dept., how about getting caught on scenery, or how if you can't grab onto something when you jump, you just sort of bounce off? Yeah, it looks bad. Real bad.

It's not that there aren't deft moments in the first two hours. There are some terrific bits of dialogue and moments that feel natural and genuine. The game is a tremendously odd mix of deft and clumsy, often within seconds of each other.

Tomorrow: Hey, it kind of opens up! Into a slightly different endless runner.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday Links!

Well, it's not just here, apparently (college admissions): Scandal of kids posing as researchers continues to grow in South Korea.

This is entirely interesting: Physics holds the secret to volleyball’s highly unpredictable “float serve”.

From C. Lee, and it's concerning: Researchers hack Siri, Alexa, and Google Home by shining lasers at them. This is fascinating: The secret to better beer could lie in cell signaling networks. A very interesting possibility: Sunlight-Tracking Polymer, Inspired by Sunflowers, Could Maximize Solar Power. A strong read: The Men Who Still Love "Fight Club". Even Harry Potter can't go home anymore: Harry Potter’s childhood home is now renting rooms on Airbnb. A bizarre story: The Irkutsk Babr.

From Joshua Buergel, and it's a terrific read: The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising.

From Wally, a bit of Jenga mastery: Expert. What a headline: Bird of the Year: Rare anti-social penguin wins New Zealand poll. This is amazing: "Unsinkable metal" stays afloat even with holes punched in it. This is a very cool idea: November 1, 1964.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's a terrific read: "Removing the water": physically-accurate color correction algorithm for underwater photography. And a video: This researcher created an algorithm that removes the water from underwater images.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

All Right, Let's Wade Into This

I wasn't going to write about this today, but since the flu-like fever dream has passed, I guess it's as good a time as any.

Yes. Blizzard, free speech, and Hong Kong.

First off, there's a very NSFW Jimquisition video: Blizzard is Pathetic. Everything he says, and the incendiary tone, is true. Blizzard is actually pathetic, and their "apology" at Blizzcon was a huge embarrassment.

If you haven't heard anything about this (I don't know how that's even possible), here's a quick summary: Blizzard suspended a professional Hearthstone player after a post-match interview in which he expressed support for the protesters in Hong Kong (longer summary).

Now, I'm going to do something I didn't think I would do: defend Blizzard. Maybe not in the way you expect, though.

There's one mistake in the Jimquisition video (which is both on-point and very funny): several times, he says that companies want access to the China market because it's worth millions in revenue.

Nope. It's not millions. It's billions. Billions and billions. An example: China's mega shopping event, Singles Day, sold more in 24 hours than Amazon sells in two months.

Blizzard is absolutely complicit. But then, so are we all.

Both of these things are true:
1. China is a anti-democratic, brutal regime.
2. The commerce relationship we have with China has benefited us to an incredible degree.

How do you parse those two things? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that no companies are refusing access to the Chinese market, and no consumers are refusing to buy things made in China, so we're all kind of in this together.

In that context, Blizzard's mealy-mouth non-apology (just like the NBA) makes sense. Trying to appease both sides is mutually exclusive, in this case, so they sound ridiculous. But people are trying to make their money, as people will do.

Which is very, very sad, because those Hong Kong protests are enormous and have the potential to cause seismic change, if anyone really cared.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Based on Current Data

From the information I've gathered in the last few weeks, there is a definite pattern to booth selection at the Gardens.

Women often "queue up" and sit in the closest booth to someone already there. Men, in contrast, absolutely never do.

Is it possible that men's vast Urinal Etiquette experience preclude them from sitting in the closest booth? Women, having their own stalls, have never received any training in this delicate social dance.

Um, hurray?

I had my annual physical yesterday.

As part of the visit, I had my second round of the shingles vaccine.

That's great, because anyone who's had shingles will tell you that it's very, very painful.

What is not great is that I had a reaction to the vaccine and shivered uncontrollably for over an hour last night, and now I feel like a truck ran over me. A large truck. "Flu-like symptoms," they say.

Hey, my back is better, at least. I'll take that.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Costume Count in Countening

That's not a word obviously, "costume."

I raked leaves and mowed the front yard on Sunday, because the big chill was on its way. All I'd done for five days was walk and stretch my back as often as possible. I felt like this was a good time to test it out.

I got through it all, but man, I'm sore. So this is going to be a slow recovery, unfortunately, and I'm trying to limit my time seated.

That's a long-winded way of explaining that I haven't tallied the costume counts yet, but I'm starting today. I want to get up the summary before we're eating turkey, which would just be poor form on my part.

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Haiku For When It Gets Cold

Almost ideal nose
A champion in summer
Why must you run so?

This is not a real turtle

It's been snowing for about 12 hours straight now. Humans consider this sub-optimal.

I went to get a replacement furnace filter yesterday, and found a high-quality filter for $19.99. Then I saw what looked like the exact same filter for $24.99.

There was an  employee putting out merchandise in the same aisle, so I went up to her and asked about the difference. "Bluetooth," she said.

That's right. The filter has a bluetooth connection that will send you a message when it's time to change the filter. That's why it costs $5 more.

Why stop there? Slap a router on that bad boy for $249.99. Let's go.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Friday Links!

Incredibly, I watched a few episodes of this as a kid, if I got home from school quickly. Barnabus Collins FTW: I Can't Stop Watching This Late 1960s Soap Opera About a Vampire.

A wonderful story from now-defunct Deadspin: My Life As A Minor League Baseball Clown.

This should come as no surprise: Undercover reporter reveals life in a Polish troll farm.

From Wally, and these are so brilliant: Hong Kong student living in Toronto strikes a nerve on Twitter with eerie observations about Canadian life. Some things should never be accidents: Man accidentally buys 1000 hens from online auction. Useful and encouraging: The inspiring story of how Cloudflare defeated a patent troll and broke the patent-trolling business-model. An interesting read: How the Web Became Unreadable.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's fascinating: This Amazing Image Made of Code Looks Different Based on Your Browser. Here's the actual website. I am personally a fan of "OK Boomer": Why “OK BOOMER” is GENIUS!

From Kevin Womack, and it's genius: One Page Dungeon Generator.

From C. Lee, and this is remarkable:  Measles wipes out immune system's memory, study finds. This is awesome! Google Maps for the Roman World. Boy, do I remember this: When the Internet Was Made of Sound. Hmm: Why Ireland’s Pub Owners Have Long Moonlighted as Undertakers. Yeah, don't do this: Here’s why you should never use decorative contact lenses—in graphic pictures.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

All Politics are Local

At a time when it appears that one party's entire political strategy has taken on the ghost of Groucho Marx, who famously said, "Who do you believe? Me or your own eyes?", it's comforting to retreat into small town politics.

My small town, in this case.

There were two controversies in the mayoral race. The incumbent said that her 52-year-old opponent would "make a fine mayor" with "more experience." The whippersnapper responded that the mayor had passed out campaign flyers at a high school football game, then neglected to stay to pick up the trash generated from the flyers.

"It's gone thermonuclear," I said. "Young person versus litterer.  A battle for the ages."

"I don't understand how a fifty-two year old needs more experience," Gloria said.

"Just a few more decades of seasoning," I said. "She needs to reach the median age of voters in this town."

Oh, controversy burning bright. That was the entire campaign, I think, except for a police union endorsement from a force that must number at least five.

Yesterday, it was showdown time.

"I wonder if they'll keep the polls open late if one person calls ahead and says they can't make it on time," I said. "They'll probably bring cookies."

In the end, litter proved to be a larger issue than age. Fifty-two year old youth won by 800 votes out of almost 4000 cast, a decisive victory for something I believe we can all agree on: people should pick up their trash.

All hail democracy!

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


I saw a story that said "Older people's most common regrets."

Well, damn it.

It's really shitty to have gone to the middle designation of old. Not oldest, yet, but headed in that direction.

All right, I'll click on the damn thing. Maybe I'll find something to avoid.

I clicked and was rewarded with a paragraph of text and a "1 of 31" slide show.

31 regrets? How do people even keep that many regrets organized? Who can even remember 31 things to regret?

No, I didn't start the slideshow. I figured when I finally finished, I'd have 32 regrets, and nobody has time for that.


I just heard a little girl tell her mother that her favorite color is "rainbow." That's pretty profound, honestly.

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