Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from DQ Guitar Advisor David Gloier, and it's a wonderful read: 'Our Saturn years': Cassini's epic journey to the ringed planet, told by the people who helped make it happen.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: How Banking Innovations Helped Fuel Art History’s Greatest Moments. A thought-provoking essay: You Are the Product.

From Wally, and this is utterly fascinating: 1812: The Bitter End. Here's a forgotten piece of hockey history: NHL came close to shutting down during World War II. This is tremendously interesting: How Do You Decode a Hapax? (Also, What’s a Hapax?) Fun from start to finish: How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster.

From C. Lee, and this is concerning: Space-Mutated Bacteria Could Be Bad News For Humans. A good explanation of bad science: The new study suggesting sitting will kill you is kind of a raging dumpster fire. Ass-kicking: DNA evidence from a female Viking warrior’s grave shows bias is in the eye of the beholder. This is genuinely awesome: This Clever Math Trick Makes It Easy to Check Your Work.

A second block of links from C. Lee. First, it's Think Correlation Never Implies Causation? Not So Fast. This is remarkable: A condom to save a new mum's life. This could be quite amazing: Every childhood vaccine may go into a single jab.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


I've been discovering lately that price has almost literally no meaning anymore.

It's an ephemeral thing, seemingly changing by the minute. Airlines have always done this, but Amazon has put so much pricing pressure to bear that everyone has to respond.

As a result, I've almost developed a small amount of discipline when it comes to buying things, just because the savings are frequently 40% or more.

This started off, believe it or not, because of the Steam wishlist. I just put games on the list, and when they had a significant discount and I was notified, I felt like a kid opening up a present.

Last week, after watching the Logitech Harmony Smart Control for a few weeks, I saw a one-day sale on Amazon where it was almost half off. Bought it, and it's terrific.

It's not just electronics, either. It's clothing and sporting equipment and everything else.

If you're not doing this, but you want to save a ton of money, keep your eyes on Amazon and Slickdeals, plus if you read Deadspin or any of the Gawker sites, they list deals all the time.

The Good Boy

I was working at the library and decided to go to the downstairs snack area.

A very little boy, maybe three, was sitting at a table with his mom. They were having an interesting conversation. "Mom, what are those big chairs for?" he asked. There are adult-sized chairs and tables mixed with the smaller ones.

"Those are for the big kids," she said.

"Where are the big kids?" he asked.

"They're at school," she said.

"For story time?" he asked.

That totally cracked me up, so after I got my drink, I walked over to him and said, "Little buddy, do you have a piggy bank?"

He looked very, very serious and said "I do."

I handed him the quarter. "This is for your piggy bank, for being a good boy."

He quietly said thank you, then talked to his mom in low tones as I started to walk up the stairs. Just as I got to the top, he bellowed "THANK YOU!" at the top of his lungs, and everyone on both floors of the library could hear him.

I had the biggest smile.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

William Morris Harris, Jr. (1934-2017)

My sister called on Sunday and said that my Dad died.

We left the rink on Sunday in separate cars on the way back from Detroit, and I stopped in Lansing for a quick bite. That's when I saw that my sister had left a message (unusual), so I called her back and we talked. I tried to make sure she was okay (Dad left when she was 6, I think, while I was still in the 0.8 range).

Then I had an hour to think about things on the way home.

I didn't know what to feel. It's strange, hearing about the death of someone who should be so important in your life, but who was only defined by their absence. I remembered, though, that whatever feeling you have about death is okay.

So I stopped at Smashburger for a shake on the way home. I like those shakes, and I always find them comforting.

My Dad was a disappointed, bitter man. Disappointed about some of his choices, and bitter about everything else. Or not, because he was also a very skilled liar, so it has hard to know what part of the truth you were getting.

He was also a racist, and a real bastard. And selfish. Did I mention he was an alcoholic?

I thought today if I could remember any personal moment we ever had together when he made me feel good, or happy.

I can't.

We fished together a few times, which I enjoyed (he was a big fisherman), but even then, our conversations were awkward and strange. He always seemed annoyed, but then, he always seemed annoyed with everyone.

He might have been genuinely trying when we were together, or he might have just been checking a few boxes. There was no way to know.

So I feel like I should have some sense of loss, but I've already carried that loss. Still, though, it's strange.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We Hit Peak Hockey Trip Weirdness

Well, we've been on 100+ hockey trips over the years, and I think we hit peak weirdness last weekend.

1. At the rink, there was a cat show. Sorry I didn't get a picture, but here's a description: lots of pissed-off looking cats and owners who looked far less exotic than the cats.

I watched one lady load her cats into an SUV after the show, and she was a machine: folding metal card to load all her gear, cat carriers with shades, Tupperware litter boxes, and a baffling assortment of gear.

She was totally on point, and would have made a good hockey mom.

2. At the hotel, there was this:

Sorry that's so dark, but it says "GROW & GROW RICH ACADEMY". That's right, it's a pot-growers convention. 

3. Also, when we got to the hotel, here's the corridor where our room was located (and my cellphone makes this image look much brighter than it was to the human eye):

I thought I was in an Inception sequel.

4 This doesn't qualify as weird, just a shitty piece of design, but have a look at this:

Yes, the image is vertical. It's the rare time when it was warranted.

That shower, which was clearly part of a Raddison redesign, is a non-sliding door. That little cut-out is so you can turn on the water without getting wet, which wouldn't be necessary if the door could move. 

Also, water sprays out of that cut-out while you shower. Nice. 

Water also sprays out the back half of the shower onto the floor, and since there's no ventilation in the bathroom, every surface in the bathroom is wet by the time you leave the shower. 

It's a stunningly terrible piece of design, and I guess they save money this way, but only up-front, because they're going to have to replace the flooring and wallpaper on a regular basis. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

I've Been Gaming Since the Mid-1970s, and This is the Dumbest Thing I've Ever Heard a Developer Say

Take a bow, Chris Roberts!
Most of our stuff is related to the ships you have, and dollar to the actual in-game cost, the money cost is significantly less than the in-game cost. Some of these ships, like the Idris, are massive capital ships. As an individual, maybe Bill Gates could afford a carrier. Nations buy those things, not individuals. That's part of the appeal - ships in Star Citizen are so fully-realised. I would love to be Roman Abramovich hanging out in the south of France but I don't have that much cash...There's a very small number of people in the world who have that. But in Star Citizen maybe you've got yourself a billionaire's yacht. It's a big-ass ship and you can have all your friends over to hang out.

The Idris, in case you're wondering, costs $1000-1250.

Tantalizing Doughnuts, You Say?

I'm intrigued, Mrs. Freshley's. Tell me more.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Links!

If you want to see a busker destroy a subway, it's your day: Subway performer stuns crowd with Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide"- Chicago, Il- Blue Line, Washington S.

From Lummox JR, and this was a long time coming: Voynich manuscript: the solution [Note: except now this interpretation is also being disputed. Here you go: Has a Mysterious Medieval Code Really Been Solved?]

From Brett Harper, and this is an absolutely amazing story: The last surviving sea silk mistress.

From Steven Davis, and this is utterly fascinating: The Curious History of the Magic Lantern—and the Man Who Collected Hundreds of Them. Incredibly whimsical: The Renaissance Artist Whose Fruit-Faced Portraits Inspired the Surrealists.

From Brian Witte, and here we go again: A Simple Design Flaw Makes It Astoundingly Easy To Hack Siri And Alexa. Next, and these are so spectacular, it's Bird Photographer of the Year 2017.

From D.F. Prosser, and this is certainly flawed, it's thought-provoking:: THE QUESTION OF CULTURAL APPROPRIATION.

From Wally, and these are outstanding: Truth in Advertising: The Funniest Car Names. This seems appropriate, given current trends: ‘Bring pencils’ and 49 other things hurricane pros know. A long and excellent read: What’s it like going from Jurassic Park to directing TV? If you ever want to see nature in concert, here you go: Hey!

From C. Lee, and this is wonderfully cool: Origami-inspired clothing range that grows with your child wins Dyson award. This is useful: Writers unblocked? Happy music boosts imaginative thinking, say researchers. A remarkable story: How one girl's illness changed what a nation eats. A fascinating read: The mystery of the lost Roman herb. This is quite interesting: The Secret to a Good Robot Teacher. A terrific read: To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now.

From Eric Lundquist, and this is a handbook to bad decisions: Woman trapped in window trying to retrieve poo after Tinder date. Also, and this is absolutely stunning, it's 30 Days Timelapse at Sea | 4K | Through Thunderstorms, Torrential Rain & Busy Traffic.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Most Excellent East German Amusement Park

I wrote about Kiddie Acres once before.

It was an "amusement park" about two miles from our home, and it was so decrepit and stark that I called it something like "Most Excellent East German Amusement Park". It was a dumpster fire masquerading as an amusement park.

Of course, we all went there.

By decrepit, I mean that there was baling wire holding various pieces of rides together. The Ferris Wheel I renamed "Fatality Wheel", because every trip looked like it should end in death.

And rust. Lots and lots of rust.

On the plus side, though, there was a pony. We all really liked the little pony.

Incredibly, Kiddie Acres stayed open for 38 years. Almost four decades of endangering the life of every child that went there. It was awful, but wonderful, too.

A friend of mind sent me this article yesterday: Austin man buys Kiddie Acres carousel, brings it home. I have no idea why anyone would buy the bones of Kiddie Acres, but this man wanted the carousel so much that he paid over $13,000 for it. $13,000!

Think he might refurbish it and sell it for a profit? Nope. He just wants to put it in a big, vacant lot next door to his house and let his grandchildren ride on it.

Just like Kiddie Acres, it's a ludicrous and wonderful idea.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sports and School

UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen said in an interview recently that going to college and playing football are not compatible:
Look, football and school don't go together. They just don't. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs... No one in their right mind should have a football player's schedule and go to school.

Rosen is an Economics major, and he's right. Here's the kicker, though: in high school, it's even worse.

Eli 16.1 goes to school from 7:40-3:00, five days a week. Taking out the hour for lunch, that's about 36 hours a week for school. Nearly a full-time job, by itself.

Wait, add 2 hours a night for homework (four AP classes out of six). That makes it 46 hours a week.

Now, the hockey schedule:
Monday: Practice 6:20-7:20 + 1 hour driving time
Tuesday: 1 hour off-ice workout at rink + 1 hour driving time

Wednesday: Film 5:40, Practice 6:30-7:50, Off-ice workout 8-8:40 + 1 hour driving time
Thursday: Practice 8:30-9:50 + 1 hour driving time

The rink is 30 minutes away, and Eli has to be at the rink 30 minutes before practice, plus it takes him 15 minutes to get out of his gear after practice. Add all of that time together, and it's roughly 12 hours a week. 

We're just getting started, though. 

This weekend (and it's not atypical), we're going to a showcase in Detroit, and his team will play four games in three days.

It's 5 hours round trip to/from Detroit. For each game, here's the time involved:
--roughly 15 minute drive to rink (30 minutes total)
--arrive at rink 90 minutes before game
--game lasts roughly 2 hours 
--in locker room for 30 minutes after game

So for a single game, that's 4.5 hours. Add all that together for 4 games plus to/from, and it's 23 hours total. 

That's 35 hours a week on hockey. 

Combined, it's 81 hours. 80+ hours a week, and that doesn't include vision training or stretching. Like Rosen said, it's two full-time jobs.

That's what elite high school athletes have to do. 

Incredible, isn't it? And for college, I'm sure it's worse. 

Eli is very, very disciplined about all this, and I know he can handle it, but man, it's tough. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Poor Decisions

"Hey, how was practice?" I asked Eli 16.1 when he came home. He drives to practice on his own at least once a week now.

"Good," he said. "Coach bet us that the Vikings would win tonight, because he's from Minnesota. We took the Saints. We have to bag skate next Monday if we lose."

"You did WHAT?" I asked.

"We bet the Coach that the Saints would win--"

"You bet on the Saints? Have I taught you NOTHING?" I said.

A Prolific, Poetic Plagiarist

I read an absolutely mind-blowing article in The Guardian just now, and it's about plagiarism in poetry, which I had no idea was even a thing.

It's a thing. A big thing.

The article is about a plagiarism sleuth, and focuses on his investigation of Pierre DesRuisseaux, the fourth parliamentary poet laureate of Canada. DesRuisseaux, in an astonishing number of poems, basically just stole an English-language poem and translated it into French, from sources as wide-ranging as Maya Angelou and Tupac.

That's right. Tupac.

It's shocking, really, and DesRuisseaux isn't the only plagiarist. The entire article is a great rabbit-hole read: 'Plagiarists never do it once': meet the sleuth tracking down the poetry cheats.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Appropriate Usage

"We saw a license plate today that said 'Game Changer'," Gloria said.

"You did not," I said.

'We did," Eli 16.1 said.

"G-M-C-H-N-G-R," Gloria said.

"Was it in on a 1995 Mazda?" I asked. "Because there's no un-ironic use of that license plate that's appropriate."

"No, it was a nice car," Gloria said.

"I want to get Granny one of those license plates," I said. "Picture this: you pull up next to an 87-year-old woman driving a 1984 Corolla with a 'Gamechanger' license plate."

"I want to see that," Eli said.

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