Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a magnificent story from my finest friend Mike: Why He Kayaked Across the Atlantic at 70 (for the third time).

This video is astonishing. I'm exhausted just watching it: DH Urban Bike-Comuna 13.

From Ken Piper and this is a stunning story: The Accidental Feminist: Fifty years ago a Southern segregationist made sure the Civil Rights Act would protect women. No joke.

This is long overdue: Japanese Football Team Has A Thomas The Tank Engine Shirt.

One of the most bizarre articles I've ever read: My Little Pony Fans Are Ready to Admit They Have a Nazi Problem.

These are entirely delightful: Re-imagining ALIEN as a Pixar film.

This is remarkable: Digital synesthesia: Tricking your brain into experiencing smell as temperature in virtual reality.

From C. Lee, and it's an amazing story: How a humble Tennessee scientist became a worldwide hero amid coronavirus pandemic. this is fantastic: Hobbies to Hone While Hunkering Down, With Help From Public TV. This is incredible: Can you 3D print Damascus steel? Pretty much, yeah. This is a disaster: Police arrested wrong man based on facial recognition fail, ACLU says. A remarkable bit of research: Mt. Asamayama eruption in 1108 may have led to famine in Europe. This is happening in China, but it seems like a great idea everywhere: For Those Getting Married, a Searchable Domestic Violence Database. Oh, the humanity: The virus didn’t stop a Washington socialite from throwing a backyard soiree. Then the tests came back positive.

From Shimmering Geek, and it's incredible: The Miracle Sudoku.

From Wally, and it's an "inside baseball" look at what restaurants have to go through before they reopen during the Age of Covid: How a Restaurant Reopens, Here you go, LOTR nerds: Lord Of The Rings: 10 Movie References Only Fans Of The Books Understood. This is mime strong: Luggage Handling.

Thursday, July 02, 2020


I talked to Mom 90.3 yesterday, and she mentioned that she'd been unable to sleep the night before.

I said I generally slept well.

So, inevitably, I woke up this morning at 4:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I stayed in bed for a while, then gave up, had breakfast, and started editing at 5:30.

I had to move my car this morning to another street, due to some maintenance work, and on the walk back I realized how much I enjoy the mornings here. It's going to be very hot for the next week--low nineties--but even then, it's always in the sixties first thing. It's cool.

In Austin, in summer, it's never cool. Even dawn is in the mid-seventies, often higher, and it's never better than a slow boil. There's no chance to recover from the heat of the previous day.

So it was a nice walk, and I'm writing this before I sit down and start editing again. I'm trying to get another few hours in before I start to feel sluggish and tired, because you know that's coming.

Oh, random golf note. Eli 18.11 shot a 37 for nine holes earlier this week. He'll be breaking par soon. When you hit a seven-iron 210 yards (a seven iron!), golf courses are short, and his consistency has really improved.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Gloria 5*.0 had a birthday on Tuesday.

Today, she took Eli 18.11 on a hiking trip. Sleeping Bear Dunes, specifically, which is one of those tiny Michigan beaches that is actually quite beautiful. She sent back some pictures.

This is the trail they hiked on:

And once they came out of the woods, here was the beach:

Like I said, really beautiful.

I asked them if they saw any mirages. Unfortunately, they did not.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Wait, What?

Here's a headline you don't see every day: Mirages possible on Lake Michigan this week.

I mean, this entire year has seemed like a mirage, but this is the real deal. Of note:
Mirages over Lake Michigan typically appear upside down and above the horizon. These are known as “superior” mirages and were given their name because they float some distance above the horizon.

Often, they can be images of ships or even the buildings of Chicago, which typically aren’t visible from our shores.

If you're wondering how this is possible, it's related to hot air over cold water. In some situations, it can change air density enough to bend light waves.

Pretty astounding.

Pictures? Here's one:

(image courtesy of J. Michael Hall, as you can see)

If it was April Fool's Day, I wouldn't believe it. 

The Innovator

Eli 18.10 with the circular mow:

Looks genuinely amazing in person.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Here's a blast from 2009:

This was the follow-up to Puzzle Quest, which was almost universally loved, since it had a single player campaign and light RPG trappings. 

I was so pumped when Puzzle Quest: Galactrix was released. And, ultimately, disappointed. 

I wrote about this 11 years ago, but I'm not looking back to see what went wrong. What matters is that this game has been in the back of my mind for a long time. 

During the Steam Summer sale, it's $0.99. 

That was more than enough to get it off my wishlist and into the library. 

First off, an obligatory note that on my system, it runs fine in Win 10. There's an occasional, tiny bit of static with the soundtrack, but it's not onerous. 

Second, I remember that the game saved often, and it was interminably slow. With SSD's, though, and a much faster system, it's something I barely notice. 

Third, holy crap, the music is magnificent. I totally forget that there were a few Blade Runner-type compositions, and they sound entirely amazing. 

Okay, those are a few intro notes. Let's talk about gameplay. 

What makes Puzzle Quest: Galactrix notable (even today) is the pull mechanic for new tiles. It's a basic tile-matcher, where you swap a tile with another to create matches. The unique part is that whatever direction you move the tile, that's the direction the new tiles come from. 

That's mind-bending, and it makes the gameplay incredibly interesting (as well as challenging). It's certainly the most difficult match-three I've ever played, and it also has a high dose of randomness, so that even if you're using the correct strategy, you'll be replaying battles. 

That bothered me much more in 2009 than it does now. 

The number of different matching games are substantial. You mine, craft, hack leapgates, and battle. I believe that there are others I haven't seen yet. They're all fun and all slightly different. 

A note on starting out: it's helpful to limit how many missions you're taking on at one time. The galaxy is large (over 100 star systems, I believe), and when I accepted the max number of missions (four), I just had too much going on in too many different places. Starting off with only one or two missions is helpful as you get to understand the game mechanics and the galaxy. 

Random bit: 100+ ships, and customizable with a variety of different items.

The story is not great, and neither is the writing. You can skip both, though. and the gameplay is worth it. 

I don't know many games that age well, but this one did. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and this is an excellent political explainer: The Republican Choice.

This is an excellent long read: The Ghost Hunter. And another: In Search of King David's Lost Empire. One more: The Twilight of the Iranian Revolution.

From Wally, another casualty of COVID-19: Ballpark Peanuts, a Classic Summer Pleasure, Have Been Benched. A tremendous cover: The Lovecats - Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

From Mak K, and what a bizarre story: 'We live in a cage': residents hide as macaque 'gangs' take over Thai city

From C. Lee, and this is worthwhile: Transcribe Anti-Slavery Letters to Help Historians. Intriguing: Scientists induce state of artificial hibernation in mice. Ah, the 'Peter Principle': The reasons why people become incompetent at work. A very odd story: Why Soviet Russia Named a Tomato After an American Celebrity. I never get tired of grift stories: The Liechtensteinian Lady Burglar and Her Mysterious Trunk. This is a fascinating transcript: Patent Racism.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


Okay, how could I have not seen "River" before now? How is that possible?

Don't even ask any questions. Just go to Amazon Prime and watch it. It's unspeakably brilliant.

Seems Like Good Advice

I'm trying to remember this, but the combo Orwellian/Clockwork Orange vibe is definitely unsettling.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Incredibly, Another Post About Netball

Andrew was kind enough to send this information on netball from Australia:
Was interested to see you posting a netball rules video, and having played a little bit of (mixed) netball I thought I'd add some thoughts on it. 

It's hugely popular with young girls, and primarily a female sport. There are mixed competitions as you enter older age groups, but for kids, girls play netball and boys generally don't.

The main thing to know is that netball is horrific for lower limb injuries. You can probably tell from the amount of stress put on players' legs from using their "landing foot", and only being allowed one step. The sudden stop/start movement having to withstand momentum and impact leads to a lot of knee issues. At least with basketball you can take two (or three if you're a Pro) steps to disperse some of that impact and momentum. 

Here's an article on injury rates, where it ranks worse for lower leg and knee injuries than AFL, soccer and both rugby codes: Hard court: stats show netball's injury toll.

The other thing is that if you come from basketball as I did, the movement and defense almost breaks your brain. It doesn't seem like much but the drop from 2 steps to 1 is really difficult to un-learn. You either need to jump stop everything or land on one foot and then think about your next step. Which then leads back to the injuries.

The "contact" rule feels like you can't get sufficiently close enough to anyone to play defense. Any sort of body contact is penalised, which can get frustrating again if you come from another non-contact sport that allows incidental contact.

When I watched the video I linked to last week, it looked for all the world like a sport that was invented because women weren't "strong" enough to play basketball. All kinds of weird sports variations were created for that reason. So I looked up "history of netball," and immediately found this (Wikipedia):
The history of netball can be traced to the early development of basketball. A year after basketball was invented in 1891, the sport was modified for women to accommodate social conventions regarding their participation in sport, giving rise to women's basketball.

There we go.

I've mentioned this before, but all the way to 1978, girl's high school basketball in Texas was six on six (three on each half of the court, no crossing over). Parents, incredibly, had to sue to get five on five basketball.

The second thing I thought when I watched the video was that it looked like an ACL nightmare. That explosive stopping, over and over again. Women are at higher risk for ACL tears (I believe it's something about hip angle that puts more stress on the knee), and netball looked like the perfect environment for such injuries.

And it is, as it turns out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What I'm Doing

Someone asked me about the editing process for The Man You Trust.

I'm not sure how other people do it, but for me, there are two levels. The first is a factual level. Timeline details that need to be verified. Details that have to be checked (someone can't be drinking from a glass of water that they haven't been given). Checking for the frequency of phrases or body language to make sure that they haven't been overused. Checking descriptions to make sure they don't sound too similar.

The factual level is very list driven. I have a long, long list of things that need to be checked, established, or emphasized. It's relatively straightforward.

The other level is much more difficult (at least for me). I read through a chapter and feel the rhythm. The narrative should flow at a particular speed, unless there's a specific reason I want it to speed up or slow down.

What I do sometimes is try to get from Point A to Point B as a transition between two areas, but all I'm thinking about is the transition, not what the characters would actually be doing. When I write this way, the transition always feels incomplete and reads too fast.

In other words, it's wrong.

When I find one of these passages, it has to be fixed, and that can be surprisingly time consuming. It's like manually adjusting the speed of a record player while also writing the music that's playing. That's the best way I can describe it.

I've allocated 500 hours to do this. I think I spent about 1,000 on each draft. We'll see.

Monday, June 22, 2020

It's Possible

I know we've pushed back the threshold of stupid for the last few years, but I think we have to consider that we've reached the apex.

It begins with this: MrBeast partners with MSCHF to give away $25,000 as part of a massive one-time game.

Here is the important bit:
Donaldson has partnered with internet collective MSCHF for “Finger on the App,” a one-time multiplayer game with a very simple premise: the last person to take their finger off their phone screen wins up to $25,000. The twist is that “Finger on the App” has a fluctuating prize pool. Other players decide the final cash prize amount, meaning the prize can be anywhere from $1 to $25,000. 

That's right. The entire contest is keeping your finger on the phone for as long as possible.

I mean, where could we go from here? I feel like we've done it.

This reminds me to recommend one of the best documentaries I've ever seen: Hands on a Hardbody. People trying to win a truck by being the last one to remove their hand. Drama ensues.

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