Monday, October 16, 2017


Very sorry, but totally exhausted from being in Detroit for a showcase (4-0, Eli went 2-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .945 save percentage), so a few pictures for today.

Also, tomorrow I'm writing about Colin Kaepernick and the NFL, so just be warned. It's not a political post, but it is a post about America, and that might hit a nerve for some of you.

Now, on to pictures!

Honestly, I don't see how anyone could tell the full story of dragons loving tacos in just one book, so this was inevitable.

If you want to fully appreciate the post-industrial hellscape that is being in a hockey hotel near an airport, just take a look at this picture. Operative themes for miles around: broken pavement and the color brown. 

Also, in the back, see how "America's Favorite Value Inn" is right next door to--a bistro. Optimal proximity? You decide!

Wait--15 calories a serving? A serving of what? Gelatin? That can be a serving? I wouldn't look so happy, kid. 

This small individual seems to enjoy sitting on our porch. The feeling is mutual. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Links!

From Eric Higgins-Freese, with an outstanding accompanying image: Santa’s tomb possibly found, Christmas ruined.

Here is a long and fantastic read that will absolutely blow your mind: American Hippopotamus. Seriously, you absolutely must read this one.

From Geoff Engelstein, and I had no idea it worked like this: What happens to your Steam account when you die?

From Steven Davis, and what a twenty years it's been: Cassini Burns Into Saturn, a grand finale to a 20 year mission. I linked to a different version of this previously, but this one is even better: Swiss freestyle skier’s acrobatic parkour training. This is just amazing: How Kanazawa gold leaf is made.

From C. Lee, and this is just a fantastic, funny video: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is a game about using a sledgehammer to climb a mountain. This is a wonderful documentary: In Tune with Time Watchmaker Masahiro Kikuno. This is so touching: Hachikō.

From Wally, and I don't think I'm even surprised at this point: Statement from Atlantic Media General Counsel Aretae Wyler on Scam Using The Atlantic Names. Savage and brutal: Trench Warfare in Korea.

From Kai M, and this is an amazing story: The Story Behind an Unbelievable Photograph.

From Matt Kreuch, and this is both graphic and hilarious: The Legend of Swamp Ass and Other Tales of Football's Most Pivotal Partnership.

From Tim Hibbets, and this is a wonderful story about kindness (David Bowie alert): Masks.

From Scott Sanders, and this is terrific: Hotel Haludovo, the Original Adriatic Palace of Sin.

From Eric Higgins-Freese (he's a pair of bookends this week, apparently),  and this is fantastic: London's amazing underground infrastructure revealed in vintage cutaway maps.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Favorite Android

After the post last week about android-human relationships, C. Lee wrote in such a thoughtful analysis that I'm sharing it in full. It's all C. Lee from here on out. Enjoy.

A few years back, after you discussed “The Windup Girl,” I wrote in, saying I thought a relationship with a nearly-human android would be all right. I hate to admit it, but I’ve changed my mind. Depending on how AIs are developed, it seems to me human-AI relationships will be either problematic or unlikely. That’s not to say they won’t happen; I just think there’ll be a fly in the ointment.

Assuming we don’t go laissez-faire on AI development, designers will try to enforce socially appropriate behavior in AIs. Maybe the safeguards will be hard-wired, like Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, or maybe the AIs will be psychologically conditioned, the way human beings are. The constraints will extend to the emotional realm, and so you’ll have AIs designed not to be assholes -- that are, in fact, actively pleasant to be around and that cater to humans’ emotional wants.

If you deal with AIs on a superficial level, as we do with most people outside our family and close friends, this would surely be a good thing. Rather than endure unpleasant incompetents, we’d conduct business with flawlessly charming professionals.

A skeptic might argue human authenticity would be lost: An AI clerk would be pleasant to you because he or she has to be, but a human clerk's pleasantness would presumably reflect genuine good will. However, as any retail worker would attest under oath, if human clerks seem pleasant, that’s generally because you’re seeing a social mask, one crafted to cope with often-unpleasant customers. In other words, you’re getting canned, conditioned – I’d go so far as to say compelled -- responses anyway from human personnel, so why worry about getting them from an AI?

But I’d argue the skeptic is on firmer ground when it comes to deeper emotional relationships. It seems to me there’ll be an inevitable “uncanny valley” when it comes to freedom of choice for AIs: The fear of creating Frankenstein’s monster is too ingrained in us.

In this valley, the AIs may appear to have free will, but will actually be following the dictates of their programming. An AI may appear to choose a human partner, but its choices will have been limited to avoid harm, emotional or otherwise, to humans -- to the point where it has no real free will to speak of. Until an AI is free to behave unpleasantly, it’ll remain stuck in that valley.

Granted, past this valley of constraint, you can imagine an AI with what we consider free will. (One hopes it’d like you enough to choose not to be unpleasant.) But until that point -- so long as the AI’s behavior is restricted by its creator’s will -- what genuine emotional value can a human find in an AI partner who says, “I love you?”

“Would you love me even if you weren’t an AI?” a human might ask plaintively.

“Of course I would,” the AI would reply, without a trace of irony. Irony is unpleasant to some humans, after all.

The human might think, “Well, if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…” and avoid thinking too deeply about the matter. Other people might not.

I’d argue that one of the most important things someone can do in a relationship, aside from not being an asshole, is tell you when you’re being an asshole yourself, and this might be even more valuable in the long run. It’s hard to imagine a restricted AI delivering the message, however richly deserved it might be; the risk of emotional harm would likely keep it silent or limit its honesty.

Another thing many people want from romantic partners is affirmation; a person assailed by self-doubt may find genuine comfort in having someone say, honestly, “I love you; I value you; you’re special to me.”

But if the AI partner would say those things to any human with equal sincerity, then there’s really nothing special about any particular human partner, however much the AI might say otherwise. I suspect not being genuinely special to a lover would bother most people.

I’m not a wealthy or famous man; no prestige clings to my name. So I’ve never second-guessed romantic relationships; if a woman tells me she loves me, I’m generally inclined to believe her. (Famous last words, I know.) However, this is not the reality for people who are, in fact, rich or famous. I imagine at some point, they must feel suspicion and unease about their partner’s motives. “Does she love me or my money?” “Does he love me or only the image around me?” “Would anybody do so long as they were powerful?” and so on. And I think people would feel something similar with AI partners stuck in that uncanny valley. The problem remains even if you can somehow imprint the AI exclusively on a human: “Does he love me just because I bonded with him first?” “If she’d had the choice, would she rather have bonded with someone else?”

Now I believe that rich and famous people do find love. And I realize many people would simply feel fortunate to have an endlessly patient, pleasant, and compliant partner, and these people wouldn’t worry about their unique value or lack thereof. But not everyone can deal with that kind of relationship; not everyone would be content to accept behaviors at surface value; not everyone would want an emotional yes-man or woman. For all the annoyances and griefs that come with loving a sentient, independent being, there can also be benefits that might not exist with AIs for some time. Not because those benefits are impossible to replicate, but because the inherently unequal relationships of creation and creator, servant and master will hinder progress along those lines. After all, there are a number of people in this world -- those in power, and those who would have power -- who consider independence to be not a feature, but a bug. That’s why I believe this uncanny valley will likely be long and fraught with pitfalls.

So what about after AIs gain true free will? Just imagine: a meeting of the minds, one human, one more human than human, so to speak – more patient, more pleasant, more intelligent, more capable. I mean, talk about a great deal for the human! Well, now you have to start asking yourself – what’s in it for the AI to hook up with Joe or Jane Human, who’s assuredly none of those things? Why wouldn’t the androids prefer their own company, for example? Allowing the possibility of free will in androids means you not only risk their deciding to run things – who better qualified, after all? – but also that they might realize you’re not anywhere near their league as far as dating goes. Which, again, is not to say that it couldn’t happen. Like that old Tom Petty song goes:

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride
They get lucky sometimes

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I was driving to the rink for a game on Saturday.

The road I was driving down is a two-lane, country road, one of those roads with a high speed limit but houses along its length, connected to the road by long, rocky driveways.

I looked up and saw a girl standing at the edge of a driveway, facing the road.

She was about twelve, with straight auburn hair halfway down her shoulders. She had on short blue shorts and a peach top.

In her hands she held a violin.

I slowed down, and she played as I drove by. I couldn't hear her, so all I had was a silent movie, watching the wind move her hair.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


I hope we can all agree that this is a bad idea: 

A lovely sunset, and even prettier in person:

We played pickleball last week, and on the courts beside us, there was a bicycle polo tournament going on. 

I had no idea that was a thing. 

Based on our cursory observations, I believe there is a significant crossover between bicycle polo and roller derby:

This is quite a lot of dough:

We found a vintage candy store in Pittsburgh (it found us, really), and they had old packs of Topps Hockey cards from 1990:

Of course, the first thing I did after we looked through the cards was pull out the gum. 

I held it up.
"You are NOT going to eat that," Eli 16.2 said. 

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "This gum is twenty-seven years old. I have to eat it."

I popped it into my mouth and started chewing. 

"Well, how is it?" Eli asked, laughing. 

"Hmm," I said. "It basically just dissolves into a powder. There's a bit of flavor, but no elasticity."

"I can't believe you ate it," Eli said. "Idiot."

Monday, October 09, 2017

Golf Story (Switch)

Please tell me you have a Switch. Seriously, it's the best platform for gaming right now, and it's not even close. It's an impeccable user experience, and handheld mode is utterly wonderful.

Sorry, that was wayward. Back to Golf Story.

Oh, what a game.

Remember the Kairosoft games? There are 41 Kairosoft games available for Android, and as far as I can, all 41 are the same management game. Incredibly charming, at least for the first few you play, but at some point, I realized that managing a soccer team/mall/stables/etc. was all so similar that it wasn't fun anymore.

At the same time, what I really wanted was a single-player Kairosoft game where I wasn't managing anything but myself. Some kind of adventure.

Then Sidebar Games made Golf Story.

Trailer: Golf Story Release Trailer.

Visually, it's incredibly similar to a Kairosoft game, but it's a one-person golfing adventure. With murder.

Seriously, who wouldn't want to play that?

It's very, very witty, and the golf is solid, and there are secrets and mini-games everywhere.

I think it took me about 20 hours to finish, and I had a fantastic time.

I do wish that a few of the courses were a bit more conventional, and there were some bugs in the initial release (patch has been submitted and may be out by the time you read this), but damn, this is such a good game, and it deserves a wide audience.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Matthew Teets, and it's fascinating: Did Medieval people walk the way we do?

From Wally, and this is an interesting read: Benedict Arnold: The Hero Before the Traitor. Not good at all: The deadly germ warfare island abandoned by the Soviets. This is quite an interesting read: THE LEGEND OF THE PRIVATEER AIRSHIP AND THE CURRENTS THAT LIFTED IT. Well, the title is in ALL CAPS, so it must be good. This is a long and absolutely fascinating read: How Hot Chicken Really Happened.

A slew of links from C. Lee, presented in two parts:
Stereographs Were the Original Virtual Reality
The Secret History of Dune
No business, no boozing, no casual sex: when Togo turned off the internet
The Unexpected Way That Bollywood Could Help Millions
4 lessons for modern software developers from 1970s mainframe programming

Part two, and since the U.S. is basically one giant PUBG mod now, this seems topical: One Man’s Journey From Welfare to World’s Hottest Video Game. Next, an excellent read: The Coming Software Apocalypse. This is terribly sad: Once Trapped in Korea, Puerto Rican Vets Now Face Battle At Home.

Thursday, October 05, 2017


We were in or near Moon, Pittsburgh, last week for the USHL Fall Classic games. 

One of the things I'm trying to do before games now is exercise. Eli 16.2 gets to the rink 90 minutes before a game, and that is a long time to sit. 

Anxiety rises. Significantly.

Instead, when I can, I walk for an hour and listen to the GWJ podcast. It takes me away from the moment, which is a good thing, because the moment is too stressful. 

Here's what it looked like on one of my walks in Moon last week:

And this:

When we get back to the hotel room after games, goalie gear occupies a sizable portion of the room (almost half if we have a small room). It all has to be spread out, and it all has to be near the fan (the Lasko, which is infamous at this point for the amount of air it generates). Here's what it looks like when a pro (Gloria) sets it up:

I'm not sure, but this Pittsburgh salad seems to be innovating in the salad space:

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Steam Game Descriptions Greatest Hits, Vol. 1

Ripped right out of the middle of the game descriptions for your pleasure.

Try and navigate your way through one of the world's most tightly controlled dictatorships, with two cute soldiers by your side.

casually interact with a puppy

as you show the world what happens if you mess with Scotland.

[Note: I think if you combined the last two descriptions, you have a platinum hit: "Casually interact with a puppy as you show the world what happens if you mess with Scotland." Boom.]

the town of etiquette is divided into eight, left off the universe

Chef can't work without his hand. [Is this a cooking game or a hand-finding game? Not sure.]

where you can make some virtual pancakes.

A fantasy puzzle-platformer with true quantum physics set in the ancient Atlantis. [That ticks a lot of boxes.]

Game has 5000 achievements

Lead a fellowship of jackasses

Smithy is an underground rodent that happens to be an excellent weapons smith

Why Did I Never Notice This Before?

Well, it took me fifteen years, but I realized this morning that Jerry Holkins (Tycho of Penny Arcade) is Guildenstern.

I Thought There Were No New Ideas For Movies. I Was Wrong.

Sir, I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017


We went to Pittsburgh for the USHL Fall Classic last week.

Sixteen teams, by invitation, played games in Pittsburgh with an inconceivable number of scouts in attendance. Eli 16.2 played a game with 50+ scouts watching.

They weren't all watching him, obviously. Maybe none of them were there for him (likely), but they still saw him on the ice.

His team went 2-1-1 (Eli was 1-1, and his loss was to the #2 team in the country), and they will probably be ranked around 15th when the new rankings are released tomorrow. This is a fast, highly skilled, high effort team, and if they keep playing like they played in the last two games of the trip, they'll be in the top ten soon.

It's hard to even explain how much better kids are in U16 than U15. Just one year, but the development difference is enormous, as is the speed and power. That's what happens to a ton of kids--they're good enough to make a AAA team, but they don't realize how much better they have to get each year to make it again.

Eli understands that, though. He's the one who told me, a month into the season last year.

What I've noticed most so far this season, besides how much faster he's gotten, is how much tougher he's become mentally. There were games last season when things would go against him, or his team wouldn't be playing well, and his body language would change. It's a subtle thing, but it was there, and when his body language was like that, I knew he wasn't going to play well.

This year, though, that's not happening. If something goes wrong in a game, his body language never changes, and neither does his level of play.

The other change I've noticed is that he's become a much better game manager. He talks to his defensemen much more effectively, and he plays as part of the team's defensive scheme instead of just stopping the puck. That's a much higher level of all-around play, and he handles it well. Plus, I think he enjoys it, too.

He's on the cusp of a lot of things right now. As long as he keeps getting better, I like his chances.

These trips and games, though, are really taking a toll on me. The anxiety is enormous, particularly before and during games. I tend to lose weight on every trip because I'm just not hungry, then eat it back when we're home (although in Pittsburgh we went to a place called "Burgatory" that was both outrageously expensive and incredibly delicious).

I have some pictures and general thoughts about Pittsburgh, and I'll write about that for the next couple of days.

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