Monday, September 28, 2020

And so it continues

My phone rang at 8:30 Sunday morning. I'd been editing for an hour. Eli 19.2 is not known as a weekend early riser, so this was a surprise. 

"Dad?"

"What's up, buddy?"

"So I applied to be in the virtual fan grid for the Miami Heat." Those are the digital screens behind the benches and baseline in the NBA playoffs that show about 300 fans per game from their webcams.

"Okay, I see what's coming here," I said. 

"I got an email and I'm in for tonight's game against the Celtics," he said, and he burst out laughing. 

"I would be surprised, but we both know there's no reason for that."

"I'm not guaranteed to get in, but I'm in the group of people that they choose from."

Of course, he did get in, because him.









Ironically, this game must have had the fewest free throws on that end in NBA history, but it was still great. 

Plus, Eli told me that it was a great experience from his end, too. Their host told them to get pots and pans and make noise during free throws, which would get piped into the game. They got to interact with other people in their section, and there were mini-games to play at each television timeout. 

It sounds like a genuine effort by the NBA to include fans, which is really impressive. The NBA has been totally great in the playoffs--maybe my favorite season ever, given the quality and pace of the games--and this makes it even better. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an incredibly powerful tribute (thanks, Ken): Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's former law clerks line up to honor her on Supreme Court steps

A wondrous tale: The Uncanny Tale of Shimmel Zohar. Also, this is entirely wonderful: Enjoy Malinda serenading her chihuahua with a Beatles song.

Here's a public service link from C. Lee, and it could be incredibly useful: hGoogle’s new COVID-aware Google Maps will help you avoid the plague

From Wally, and I had no idea: The Secret Ingredient to America’s Vietnamese Coffee. This is very clever: Loose Ends: A Literary Supercut of Sci-Fi Last Sentences.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is fascinating: The Big and the Small.

From Ken Piper, and this is good to know: Google Drive will start to delete trashed files after 30 days starting on October 13th. This is a remarkable discovery: The Good, the Bad and the ‘Radically Dishonest’. A terrific article: Poppy Northcutt, the Only Woman in Mission Control, Recalls Challenges of Bringing Apollo Astronauts Home

More links from C. Lee, First, and I'm surprised it took them so long, it's 'I've never seen or heard of attacks': scientists baffled by orcas harassing boats. Intriguing: ‘Dr. Phosphine’ and the Possibility of Life on Venus. This is excellent: Before & After Don't Starve - The History of Klei Entertainment | Noclip. I had a Cliff Bar in a pile of flames just last week: Dozens of Amazon's own products have been reported as dangerous -- melting, exploding or even bursting into flames. This is nightmarish: Patient dies after ransomware attack reroutes her to remote hospital. I don't understand why tech moguls can't give a deposition without going down in flames: Revisiting the spectacular failure that was the Bill Gates deposition.

Conceptually

After hitting golf balls with one hand for six weeks, I actually hit six balls with both hands on Monday. 

My left wrist still isn't healed, but it's much better. 

The difficult thing with this injury is that I'm not sure when to start strengthening exercises. It's some kind of tendonitis, or possibly a torn tendon, or maybe something has burrowed into my wrist and is currently living there, waiting to breed.

The good news is that after six weeks of one-handed swing drills (not fun), I now have a draw swing 100% of the time. That's a fast swing makeover. 

So I now have a 5-gallon bucket and 15 lbs. of rice in the bucket, and I'm trying to build hand strength so that this doesn't happen again.

I walked into the kitchen with an important question. 

"Okay, I'm strengthening my hands by putting them in a bucket filled with rice. But I have a conceptual question."

Gloria was finishing up preparations for Taco Tuesday. "What's your question?"

"Well, I have fifteen pounds of rice. In a bucket. And I'm using it to work on my hand strength." I paused. "But what happens if I need rice for dinner or something and I'm out?"

"No," Gloria said. 

"I always wash my hands before I put them in the rice."

"No."

"And I'm boiling the rice."

"Absolutely not."

"Literally boiling it."

"Never, never do this."

"All right," I said. "We'll talk about this later."

It Was Going To Happen Eventually

 ...but the eight time I wrote that paragraph, I nailed it. Mostly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

DemonCrawl

I'm not writing about games much because I'm not playing them much. 

Trying to finish the book is like wrestling a whale. When I'm not actively working on it, I'm still thinking about it. So my gaming time is pretty minimal right now. 

However, I did find something interesting today: DemonCrawl.

It's a combination of Minesweeper and and a rogue-like, and it's relaxing while it engages your brain in interesting ways. 

There are a number of different game modes (including daily challenges) and 600+ items to discover, and it's one of those games where the developer supports it with a ton of patches and improvements on a very regular basis. 

Basically, you're trying to clear game boards by marking off spaces with monsters, and if you're wrong, you take damage. If your health goes to zero, you're done and have to start the run over (which can consist of 10+ stages). However, there are various items to restore health, etc., so there's more strategy involved than a straight Minesweeper game.  

Pixel graphics warning, if that bothers you.  

It's $14.99, which is undeniably pricey for a game of this type in the current market, but like I said, the developer has added a remarkable amount of content post-release and is still adding things almost a year after release. 

It's a nice way to spend some time while you're also thinking about why that paragraph you've rewritten seven time still doesn't sound right. As an example.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Resources of Good Buy Versus the Bad Guys

The Nvidia RTX 3080 launch was a disaster. 

Not the announcement, mind you. The card performs on the scale of superheroes and mythical beasts, even though it takes up three slots and consumes enough power to heat the entire state of Michigan in winter. 

Still, though, those performance numbers. Sexy. 

When pre-orders opened up, though, they were immediately consumed by bad actors who just want to buy cards to resell them on Ebay. When large numbers of these bad actors succeed (narrator: they did), actual consumers can't get the cards through actual retailers. 

This is a bad thing. 

It used to be fun, getting a new card or console on the day they launch. Now, though, it's a miserable and frustrating experience. 

This happens all the time now, and it makes me wonder: why do the bad guys always seem to have more resources than the good guys?

You'd think that huge companies would be able to build order systems that could detect this kind of activity. But no matter what kind of security they add, it's defeated in a trivial amount of time.

I don't like the implications for the future--in general--if the bad guys can always defeat the good guys.

The other thing I wonder is why some white hats can't write their own programs to immediately bid on RTX 3080 auctions, driving up the prices into the thousands, then simply not pay. Over and over again.  

It would be nice to see the bad guys get their comeuppance. For once.

Monday, September 21, 2020

RBG

In a year of great sadness and unspeakable tragedies, Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday night.

The world is full of the selfish and the self-absorbed people, but RBG dedicated her life to making the world a better and more decent place. I can't think of anything more honorable.

She was a pioneering and powerful advocate for gender equity under the law, and served with distinction as a Supreme Court justice.

In a world where public service is only seen as a way to self-enrichment, she sacrificed for the public good.

The world is a better place because of her life, and we are all diminished by her passing.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Friday Links!

 Happy One More Friday Closer To Something Better. I hope.

From Meg McReynolds, and I hope they have this every year: Hilarious Finalists of the 2020 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. Also, get ready: It's Fat Bear Week In Alaska's Katmai National Park — Time To Fill Out Your Bracket.

From Wally, and these are astonishing: Astronomy photographer of the year (2020) winners – in pictures. This is an astonishing (if suicidal) technique: The Superman's Return - Michael Guerra is back... Cyclist. This is scanning electron microscope deep: Book Cover Trends Through Time (via Dune). Pull out the credit card: Here's how much it would cost to purchase everything on Steam at once.

From C. Lee, and what a surprise (/s): How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled. This is a great story: The colossal scam of Finland’s fake lovers. This is very cool: Japanese artist’s puzzling “spot the killer” murder mystery has net baffled. These are amazing: Art in lockdown: Making anthotype plant prints. A fascinating technique: Nanoclay: the liquid turning desert to farmland. A terrific article: The Mountains Where Manna Flows From Trees. This is incredible: Aided by Modern Ingenuity, a Taste of Ancient Judean Dates. This is disgusting (and not surprising): A Secret Recording Reveals Oil Executives’ Private Views on Climate Change.

The Grinder

Eli 19.1 and I are both grinders. It's a big part of how we perceive ourselves. 

Actually, I should clarify. Eli taught me to be a grinder, because even as I was trying to set examples for him, he was setting examples for me.  

It goes back further in the family tree than us, though. 

Mom 90.6 has been a grinder for as long as I can remember. It comes with growing up in the Depression and WWII and having a husband abandon you with two children that you have to support. 

She was setting examples for me all along, but I was too dumb to notice, at least for a long time. 

She's still doing it, too. 

Her hip was replaced in March, which went incredibly well after a medication issue for the first ten days, and now she's active again. She told me yesterday that she's walking a mile a day. 

Inside her house. 

This is a small house, mind you. Maybe 900 square feet. 

How on earth do you walk a mile a day in a 900 sq. foot house? Well, if you're watching t.v., you get up and walk during every commercial break. If you're reading a book, you get up at the end of every chapter and walk. The longest path in the house is from the bedroom to the kitchen, and that's what she walks. Over and over again. 

Every day. 

Two grinders salute the Master Grinder.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

I Watched the PS5 Reveal So You Don't Have To

Honestly, this is the important info:
$499 PS5
$399 Digital Edition PS5 (no disc drive)

Released November 12, mostly (November 19th in UK plus Australia, probably, because Australia always gets screwed)

Long trailers of games that looked an awful lot like a lot of other games. Gameplay that was identical to the last generation, and the one before that. White guy talking, game, white guy talking, game, game, white guy talking. 

You get the idea.

I think one of the real issues for console gaming right now is that it lacks so few voices beyond males of a certain demographic. Without fresh voices, the ideas have just run out. They're making essentially the same games they made a decade ago, and there are no new ideas in the AAA space.

I mean, how many ways can you kill something? Haven't we exhausted the possibilities by now?

Here are a few game titles that are more accurate than the actual titles

Square Enix Presents Crystals Fighting Crystals: Gibberish Unbound. 
[Character quote for box, also inaccurate: "My hair will look realistic if it's the last thing I do."
Spiderman: You Know The Drill
Asshole J.K. Rowling Exhausts Her Only Good Idea
Black Ops: Shooter Oatmeal VII
Capcom Presents Resident Evil VII: Village. At Least It's Marginally More Interesting Than The Rest of This Shit.
Devil May Die of Boredom V
Oddworld Soulstorm: It Wasn't Easy, But We Made It Look Dull
Demon's Souls: Different, We Swear
Deathloop: We Took An Interesting Idea And Did Nothing Interesting With It
God Of War Ragnarok: Hey, I Look Like A Viking now

You get the idea. 

Oh, Sony did announce a new bonus for Playstation Plus members called "Playstation Collection," which is a solid variety of AAA games released in the PS4 era that you can download and play on the PS5 for free (with a PS Plus subscription, of course). 

The most important development in the history of gaming was the democratization of access to distribution on PC. This isn't true of consoles, generally, and it never happens with big developers, but on PC it allows people with actual ideas to make games.

Otherwise, we'd just be playing the same recycled game over and over and over. And it would suck.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Importance of Perspective

I have a loop that I walk several days a week. I do it twice, and the second loop is reversed.

This morning, I saw this chalk drawing on the sidewalk:









That's awfully cute. A little cat. Adorable. 

I finished the first loop and started in the opposite direction. Then I came upon this:









Egads, what is this monstrosity? A double penis waving a scarf? 

Check your work, artists.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Charmed

When I went to see Eli 19.1 two weeks ago, we spent some time in an amazing comic/board game shop in Ann Arbor. 

It was huge, and the selection was both high-quality and enormous.

Eli spent a long time looking at Catan Starfarers, which is (obviously) Settlers of Catan in space. He played Settlers with his friends several times this summer and really enjoyed it, so he was interested in the spacefaring version.

It was expensive, though. $90, if I remember correctly. Not in his budget, or mine. 

He called me on Saturday.

"Hey, remember that Catan game in space?" he asked. 

"I do," I said. 

"They had a drawing at the store. It only cost a $5 donation to a children's charity for a ticket."

My brain came unhinged all at once. 

"You-you-I." I was spluttering. 

Eli burst out laughing. "You can't even get the words out!"

"I can't-what-" by this time, I was laughing so hard I couldn't even talk, and so was he. 

"They called me this morning and I won," he said. Then he starts laughing again, and so do I. There's just laughter on the phone, and the longer we laugh, the funnier it gets. 

Finally, I take several deep breaths. "I don't even have words," I said. "HOW DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO YOU?"

It's been like this his entire life. We have no answers.


The Humble Buffalo, Long a Symbol of Fellowship

 




Thursday, September 10, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this, and I'm typing this with my shocked face, it's Russian vaccine trial data has some odd-looking data (hint: because it's not data). Sid Meier has a book, and here's a chapter: From Pong to Civilization: How I made “one more turn” work on consoles. This is a remarkable story: The Oldest Cookbook in Korean Was Written by a Genius Noblewoman.

From Wally, and this is an interesting explanation: The 'brushing' scam that's behind mystery parcels. This is very clever: The Daily Heller: The U.S. Constitution in Pictures.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and the headline says it all: Now there are candy canes flavored like shiitake mushrooms: "Thanks, 2020".

From C. Lee, and this was inevitable (and 100% an indictment of the school system that uses this): These students figured out their tests were graded by AI — and the easy way to cheat. A remarkable story: The tragedy of art’s greatest supermodel. A warning from the past: The Long Shadow of the 1976 Swine Flu Vaccine ‘Fiasco’. A horrifying story: The 1995 Okinawa rape that shook U.S.-Japan ties. More useful than I want it to be: How Do People Actually 'Die From Old Age'? I missed one on this very fun quiz: https://www.metv.com/quiz/sorry-millennials-only-boomers-will-know-how-to-operate-this-television.

Those links seemed a little darker than usual, so let's close out with something sunny: AnimalsBeingDerps/r. This is also entirely hilarious: Carol Burnett Show outtakes - Tim Conway's Elephant Story.

Ultimate Game Pass

I consume games differently now. 

I'm not sure why, but I bounce off more games than I used to. I try them, but find out very quickly that they're not for me. 

Old man syndrome, perhaps, or low attention span, or Do I Even Have Time to Play Games While I'm Trying To Finish This Damn Book syndrome.

Because of this, a subscription-based service has become increasingly appealing to me. With Microsoft announcing that EA Game pass was being added to Ultimate Game Pass, I decided to sign up.

This is supposed to cost $14.99 a month. 

That's not a bad price, not when Crusader Kings 3, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Spiritfarer (and many, many others) are available to play. 

As it turns out, though, Ultimate Game Pass can be had for much less than that. 

DQ Unpaid Advisor John Harwood let me know about a workaround that saved me a ton of money, and now I have Ultimate Game Pass for two years for $5 a month, not $15.

For this to work, you can't have an active Xbox Live Gold subscription. If you already have one, it's not available. Sorry about that.

I didn't, so here's what I did. 
1. Signed in to my Microsoft account.
2. Purchased two years of Xbox Live Gold for $59.99 a year.
3. Once you have XBL Gold, you'll see on option on your subscription page that invites you to try out Ultimate Game Pass for one month for $1. Select this, and it will convert your Xbox Live Gold subscription into an Ultimate Game Pass subscription--for the entire period of your current XBL Gold subscription, not just one month. 

That means I now have 24 months of Ultimate Game Pass for $5 a month. That's a crazy deal. 

A couple of notes, if you want to try this. 
1. You can do this for up to a three year XBL Gold subscription, but you only get one shot to do it. You can't add a year, convert, then add another year. I took two years as the middle ground option.
2. As far as I can tell, this isn't some kind of abuse of Microsoft. It's well known, and sites like The Verge (How to convert your Xbox Live subscription into Game Pass Ultimate) explains the method in detail (and if you want to do this, reading the article is a good idea, because there are specific screenshots, etc.).
3. The price of Game Pass is going up on September 17, so you have one week to take advantage of this, because it's not supposed to work after that. 
4. This worked for John and me, but that's a small sample size. I don't know if there are any circumstances that might prevent it from working.

I enjoyed Spiritfarer this afternoon, and it all worked fine. Download speeds were okay, nothing seemed janky (sometimes a problem with Microsoft), and  even if there do turn out to be a few rough patches, I can put up with it for the price. 

Now I just have to figure out a way to build a new system next year so that I can play Microsoft Flight Simulator in high-resolution glory. When Eli 19.1 gets out of school, I may not stay in Grand Rapids, and what better way to look for a new place to live than flying all over the world?

When Captions Go Wrong


 

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