Friday, April 10, 2020

Friday Links!

It's Coronavirus week something or other.

From Wally, and here are some rarely seen WWII propaganda posters: ‘Me travel?…not this summer’: These WWII-Era Posters Are Eerily Spot On. This could come in handy: Remote D&D Tips and Tricks. Plenty of time to read now: The Top 10 War Books of All Time. I had no idea: Gene Roddenberry, Co-Pilot, B-17 41-2644 LOS LOBOS Of The 394th BS. These are amazing: Bringing Sci-Fi to Life: The Walking War Machines of ARPA and G.E. Well, we've found the origins: The Birth of Cosplay. These are stunning: Coronavirus: Photos show deserted lockdown locations at high noon.

From C. Lee, and look, it's an actually competent government that's prepared: Finland, ‘Prepper Nation of the Nordics,’ Isn’t Worried About Masks. Battlestar Galactica is streaming free for the next three months: Battlestar Galactica -- Watch Online. Remarkable: 6 Small Math Errors That Caused Huge Disasters. An excellent read: Semiconductors: the humble mineral that transformed the world. This is fantastic: All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization. Clutch: Norway's hazmat booksellers: keeping Oslo reading during coronavirus. Absolutely no surprise: Study looks at how Russian troll farms are politicizing vaccines.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Just Cause 4 Reloaded

The only game I've ever refunded on Steam is Just Cause 4.

I didn't even buy it launch. I waited a few months for several patches, played it, and it was still shit. Just Cause 3 was a top ten game of all-time for me. I mean:
--grappling hook
--parachute (to use with grappling hook)

It was fantastic, loads of fun, and it was absolutely beautiful. Eli 18.8 (then 14.5 or so) played through it all as well.

So there was literally no way they could screw up Just Cause 4. Just more of the same stuff and slightly better looking, and it's a 95 from me right away.

Somehow, though, they absolutely ruined it all.

The explosions were off. Physics felt way, way off. That's the core of the game, so screwing that up is a huge problem. Plus, it was fugly. It just looked terrible. The character models looked like late-era PS2 quality in many places. It was just unfathomable.

So I refunded.

Last week, though, I saw a key for $7 (I think at GMG). Plus, it's going to be free on the Epic Game Store next week.

Well, it had been a year and a half, so surely they fixed it, right?

Not really.

It still looks terrible. Physics are still way off. I see videos that Square Enix put out and they look nothing like the game I'm playing.

The story is goofy, but the story in Just Cause is always ridiculous, so that's not a big issue. But none of the big issues look like they've been fixed, even after over a year.

I said when the game was released in December 2018 that its current state was late alpha. There's no way the game ever should have been released at that time. Now it seems like they pumped out some DLC and made a halfhearted attempt to fix some things, but it's not nearly enough.

Hey, there's always Just Cause 5.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020


Well, to me, at least.

Espionage fascinates me, and I've read a few books (okay, a lot of books) on the subject. I'm reading one now called The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service. This is post-WWII, at the start of the Cold War, so it's a different era than I normally read about.

Inside this Cold War narrative, though, was a story about the service's inception in World War:
During the first World War, networks of agents behind enemy lines would watch coaches move down the rail tracks as they did their knitting. Drop one for a troop car, purl one for something else. Send the resultant pullover back for analysis. 

I never thought I'd hear about a use for knitting in espionage, but there you go. An amazing anecdote.

I fully expect to read about crochet-related counterintelligence any day now.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Just a Normal Day

Eli 18.8 had three video lectures yesterday. Studied for 2-3 additional hours. Worked on a paper for several hours. Studied French (trying to learn a second language on his own). Played basketball with me for an hour.

He also did this thing called the "1,000 Rep Challenge," which consists of 100 x pushups, squats, situps, leg raises, lunges, planks, and a few others (I can't even keep track of it all, and I'm not even doing it).

I worked hard yesterday, and I feel like I never even got out of bed.

Oh, and I forgot, he also worked out on the hangboard, which is something rock climbers use to practice different finger grips. I think this is the one:

Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center Review | GearLab

It's surprisingly technical, and all the grips have different names. Watching him work on it is just unbelievable.

I seriously wonder what it would feel like to be that strong, even for a day.

Molly Lixey, the Hero We All Need

Tim Lesnick sent in this video, which expertly shows how fast coronavirus germs (and germs in general) can spread if you're not very careful, even when wearing gloves:
This nurse demonstrates just how fast germs spread even if you're wearing gloves

Okay, I Have Enough Readers

Many thanks to all who volunteered.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Thinking About Writing

I was trying to explain (to myself) this weekend how I'm trying to write in The Man You Trust. I  couldn't really figure it out until I started thinking about programming.

You've seen how many edited pages I have. I'm gone through pass after pass, simplifying diction, removing a sentence whenever I can, even removing individual words whenever possible. I'm trying very hard to remove any distractions between the me, the reader, and the page.

I realized that what I'm trying to do is write in assembly.

For instance, adverbs. There aren't many of them, and I'm constantly editing them out whenever possible. Every superfluous word needs to go.

I'm going to need a few readers (who didn't read the first version, and thanks to everyone who volunteered for that) in a day or so to read the revised first act (about 60 pages). I'd like to get impressions from someone who hasn't read it before. So if you like science fiction and can take the time, please let me know.

Breaking News

The top broadcast on Reddit right now is a man playing the accordion. He is somehow riveting.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week a terrific article: The wonderful world of Milton Hershey. Also, and I had forgotten about this, but what a brilliant idea: Kojima’s GBA experiment—and the sunny island childhood it changed forever.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's both impressive and appreciated: How Christian Siriano turned his fashion house into a mask factory.

From Wally, and it's an interesting read: How China Turns Trash Into Wealth. This is fascinating: The Punch-Out Speedrunning Community Spent Five Years Trying To Beat One Player And All His Records. This is quite an incredible story: Historian and family live in groovy 1965 bubble and do the time warp, again. Well, this is is a nice idea: David Hockney shares exclusive art from Normandy, as 'a respite from the news'.

From C. Lee, and it's brilliant but difficult to read: 1968 - the year that haunts hundreds of women. A national treasure: What If Everyone Had Their Own Larry David? An excellent read: How computational power—or its absence—shaped World War naval battles. Oops! The U.S. Navy's Big Beautiful New Carrier Has Hilariously Messed Up Toilets. Also excellent: The Seminal Novel About the 1918 Flu Pandemic Was Written by a Texan. This is a very good idea: How to Help Librarians and Archivists From Your Living Room. So kind: Socially distanced street parade greets US teenager after cancer treatment. Good grief: Doctors hoard unproven COVID-19 meds by writing prescriptions for selves, families.

From John Willcocks, and it's spellbinding: White Balls Juggling Act.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

A High-Quality Read

DQ Reader Lee Gaiteri's books are free on Amazon right now.

In particular, I recommend Below as an absolutely exceptional piece of writing.


If you've ever had a spectacularly bad birthday (not sad or tragic, just darkly amusing), then send me the story. I'll put up a post next week with the best ones.

Worst Birthdays, Ranked

My birthday.

Historically, it's often been bad. Roll a one with a d20 bad.

It's Saturday (hey, a Coronavirus birthday!), and I can't go anywhere, or do anything, so here comes another one. Not important in the slightest, in the context of what everyone is suffering through, but darkly comic.

So I thought about my birthdays over the last twenty years and made a top-three list of the absolute worst. There were some tough decisions to be made.

#3 April 4, 2001: The Bataan Death March (Seaworld Edition)
Five days after arthroscopic knee surgery, we went to SeaWorld in San Antonio. It was blistering hot, in the 90s, and none of the drink stations were open. All around us, the smell of fresh asphalt, almost dizzying. I staggered on one leg, lost five pounds, wished it would end.

#2 April 4, 2010: Jesus Killed My Birthday
Ah, the Easter birthday. Absolutely, nothing, NOTHING was open, much to my astonishment. Lunch? Nope. A little self-gifting at Fry's? Nope. I guess I know how Jesus feels, because nothing is open on his birthday, either. If you're expecting this, it's manageable (I just move  my birthday to Saturday now, if I need to), but I had absolutely no idea the first time it happened. I kept driving to the next place, thinking that surely IT would be open, but no. Nothing.

#1 April 4, 2018: The Boston Massacre
We went to Boston for Spring Break last year so that Eli could get fitted for a custom goalie helmet, and it was also a good chance for him to see Harvard. There's nothing like temperatures in the high 30s and steady rain to rejuvenate your enthusiasm for several days running. Also, half of Boston's roads were getting worked on, so you couldn't get to or from anywhere. At the end of the trip, I flew back home, while Eli 16.7 and Gloria flew out to see more colleges. On my birthday, the flight into Detroit was five hours late arriving (coming in after midnight), I missed the flight to Grand Rapids, and wound up in an airport hotel getting four hours of sleep before waking up to make a 7 a.m. flight. Happy Birthday. Yay.

Now the really excellent news is that my birthday has such a low bar that as long as I don't actually have (or catch) Coronavirus, it won't even come close to cracking the top 3.

I do have a friend that was born on 9/11. That's an even tougher dice roll.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

The Future

"I wonder if hologram video calls are being researched now?" Gloria asked. "Because people might want to see a more realistic representation of someone on a video call."

"It's too realistic for me already," I said. "Plus, what is the first question you'd ask if you had a virtual hologram?"

No answer.

"I'll give you a hint," I said. "Does this hologram--"

"Make me look fat?" she said, laughing.

"So then people spend all their time adjusting their holograms to make them much better looking than they actually are, and then there will be a flood of articles about how people would rather spend time with holograms than people because they're better looking."

"It wouldn't work, anyway," Gloria said. "I can barely get my audio to work on conference calls, let alone a hologram."

"Sorry, guys," I said. "I'm going to have to reboot my data cube and clear the virtualization cache. It should take about an hour."

Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Here are a couple of things to watch/read while you're stuck in the house.

First is Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster. I'd read several books on Chernobyl previously, but this is by far the best, with loads of additional detail and sources. You wouldn't think that a book about a 30+ year old disaster would be riveting, but that's definitely the right word to describe it.

Next, and boy, this delivers in every way: "Tiger King" Murder, Mayhem and Madness" on Netflix. I don't even want to discuss the story, because spoilers, but I will say that there's no good guy. None of them. And it's wildly entertaining. A truly phenomenal piece of documentary filmmaking. Oh, and when you've finished watching it, a complementary article with some extra detail: Tiger King Joe Exotic and His American Animals.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Ostriv and the Ignorant

Rock, Paper Shotgun posted a glowing story about Ostriv today.

It's a city-builder set in the 18th century, and it's fantastically detailed. It focuses on small towns, not enormous ones, and it looked like it was right up my alley.

Since it's in Early Access, I went to look at the forums. Oh, no.

Someone politely asked why certain worker roles were gated off for women, and then it started. "SJW! SJW!" shouted assorted manbabies. "Not historically accurate if women can do XYZ!" shouted more.

I'm really tired of this shit.

One, I'm tired of the reaction. People who don't know a damn thing about history are the first ones to start yelling about historical accuracy. They want to so badly to keep women out of gaming entirely, whether it's as characters or actual players. It's gross.

Two, they're idiots. To believe that women's roles were so rigidly defined, you'd have to believe in amazingly even population distribution, as well as an abundance of workers.

The 18th century, though, wasn't an Excel spreadsheet.

Population distribution was even more likely to be uneven in smaller locales, which is where much of the game seemingly takes place. It was also most likely in smaller towns to have an imbalance of workers.

Villages have to function. If they don't, people die.

So while it wasn't common for women to be carpenters or laborers or whatever, of course they were when it was necessary. Here's a conversation that literally never happened:
"We have a critical shortage of workers. If we don't finish the harvest/complete housing before winter/etc., many people will die."
"Damn, I guess we better pray that six more men move in quickly."

Good grief.

I'm not saying it was common for women to fill those roles, but it wasn't unheard of, either.

Here's an idea. Maybe let people choose who they want to do which job. If someone wants to create a village of super women and have them take on every physical laborer role, they're not hurting anyone. If you wanted to get really ambitious, there could be different body types (even frail/stout would be enough), and body type, not sex, would determine the job type.

That doesn't seem so difficult.

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