Monday, January 31, 2011

A Request

I received a note from Mike Stinchfield:
I know sometimes you can get the word out to more people on some important things. Hopefully the following resonates with you.

I don't hear you talk much about board games so you may or may not be familiar with Board Game Geek (BGG) or the podcast called "The Dice Tower."

Tom Vasel is quite the prolific reviewer for BGG. His contributions to cardboard gaming are significant. Recently, their family suffered a terrible tragedy when they lost their infant son. He has all daughters and this was his first son. He actually posted this video when he found out they were going to have a boy. Anyway, just a horrible tragedy.

I got to know Tom when I was stationed in Korea, away from my wife and kids for a one-year long unaccompanied tour. He and his wife were very gracious, and introduced me to many great games. Going to his house to play games was a nice reprieve from duty in Korea separated from my family.

Anyway, to get to the point...The Vasel family now lives in Florida. As you can imagine, they have accumulated large bills associated with the care for young Jack the last few months. There has been a charity auction set up here to help the family. Tom's response can be found here.

If you can get the word out through DQ, I am sure it might allow some to help a worthy cause and possibly get a great game in the process.

I don't think there's anything I need to say, other than to thank you guys for the generosity you show when people need help.

The Best Idea Ever

From Game|Life, a story about 8-Bit Funding, and here's an excerpt:
Want to make a game? You might have a hard time finding the money if you don’t have a multimillion dollar studio. Or a trust fund. Or a rich uncle.

That’s why Geoff Gibson created 8-Bit Funding, a site that helps finance indie game developers. The site, which launched Monday, is easy to use: Developers put up some information about their games — a description, photos, maybe a video — and viewers donate any amount they’d like. Each game has its own financial target, and based on how much a contributor donates, he or she can earn anything from credit in the game to a personal visit from the developers.

Go take a look at the site: it's bloody fantastic. What a first-rate idea for everyone with a dream.

Teachers (Part 112)

I have one missing teacher story, I think, that was sent in around last Wednesday by someone with a Scandinavian name (if I remember correctly). So if that's you, it was lost in the accidental e-mail purge, so please resend it.

In the meantime, as we head down the homestretch, here's a story from Donny Plumley:
In my case, it wasn't a teacher, but my Boy Scout master. He DID teach us, as scouts, and was supposed to be an instrumental role model in the development of impressionable youth, but in my case, he scarred me for life.

A little background about me, and why this guy was such a monster. I grew up raised by overly indulgent grandparents. My mom passed away when I was 8, and they raised me after she passed. I never stuck with sports or other activities, always quitting after a short while, but never with scouts. I LOVED being a scout. I entered cub scouts around the age of 7, and stayed until I had every badge and they literally made me move on. Our Den Mother, Delores, was the sweetest lady. She wore too tight sweaters and jeans, and way too much musk perfume(so much so you could smell her coming a mile away), but she had endless hugs, and tissues to wipe our snotty noses, and was truly a mom to all of us. Unconditional love and encouragement was the way of our pack.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a boy scout troop in my area. A friend of mine wanted to join a troop that was across the county, but had a great reputation. They did a lot of camping, usually went to the national jamboree's every year, and the scout master, Mr. Ogre(obviously not his name, but i'd rather call him AssHat), a prominent local attorney, was known to make boys into men.

Mr. Ogre was a short, squat, bespectacled man, who really didn't seem like he wanted to be there. Whenever he taught a skill, like a new knot, or how to pitch a tent, he acted as if we were slow, talking down to us with contempt. He expected us to know how to do any task after one demonstration, with no screw ups. He would start a timer, and expected us to be able to do the same task in less time than it took him to teach us. To this day i'm not sure why he was a scout master, since he seemed so miserable.

At the end of one camping trip, everyone was breaking down tents, putting away supplies, etc. I was still in the mess hall, looking for something to drink. I had developed a pretty nasty head cold and sore throat over the weekend, and was dying of thirst. All of the cups and things were packed, and there were many jugs of water, so I did what I knew I wasn't supposed to do, but didn't have much of a choice; I drank straight from the jug. Mr. Ogre saw this, and went apoplectic. He coldly asked what did I think I was doing, then informing me how inconsiderate I was, how I was going to spread my sickness(all the while getting louder, face getting redder). How he wanted a drink but now he couldn't because I'd contaminated the water. He screamed at me til I was a blubbering mess, then left the mess hall kicking the water jug out the door. Worse, all my friends stopped, and watched me stand there, crying.

So, thanks to Mr Ogre, I quit scouts for good. never went back to another meeting.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Okay, This Is Just Ridiculous!

NFL Training Camp is now $39.99 at Gamestop. looks like it's already sold out.

Friday Links!

Loaded, or more appropriately, Loaded!

Here's an epic article about how the legendary chase scene in "Bullitt" was filmed.

From Sirius, and this is a mind-blowing concept, it's Quantum Entanglement Could Stretch Across Time. Also, and this is a signature moment if you've read about the history of comics: the Comics Code is dead.

From Clayton Lee, a link to another remarkable Danny MacAskill video. He does things with bicycles that humans just shouldn't be able to do.

From EvilTimmy, some absolutely spectacular images that show the extent of the recent floods in Australia. Also, and this is impossible to get out of your head, it's a cello cover of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal".

From Kevin, and this is very cool: The anatomical features of Gamera and his foes.

From DQ reader My Wife, a remarkable video about LSD Research in the 1950s.

From Max Weinstein, an incredibly ingenious invention called the “Bottom’s Up Draft Beer Dispensing System” that will fill several large warehouses with money someday: The Death Of The Beer Line. Also from Max, a man who was a fitness badass before Jack LaLanne: J.P. Müller.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and I'm speechless with this one (but it's very funny), it's gun holster review.

From DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand, a video that's full of information (and a bit of self-congratulation, too): IBM looks back on 100 years of history, finds plenty to be proud of.

From John D'Angelo, a follow-up to last week's link "How Science Saved My Soul": The Pale Blue Dot - Carl Sagan.

From Jacob Jaby, and this is entirely, ridiculously amazing, it's Excel art.

From Ben Younkins, and this certainly doesn't happen every day: Mysterious grand piano found on Biscayne Bay sandbar.

From Caleb Forney, and this clearly should be impossible, it's a train that lays its own track. Also, and this is a video that demands to be seen, it's deep sea hunter fishes underwater for five minutes--on one breath. Next, it's an unusual and interesting phenomenon called Frazil ice.

From Brian Witte, a fantastic read about the greatest inventor of his time, Hero of Alexander.

From Dan Quock, the entirely fabulous Let's Play Super PSTW RPG 2009, with an equally amusing rebuttal of the game titled Dot Dot Dot.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sony NGP

There are so many undercurrents in the new PSP announcement (officially called the "NGP", or "Next Generation Portable") that I'm going to think about it over the weekend before writing anything. There are many different trends colliding here.

In the meantime, Wired|Gamelife has excellent coverage, as always, and here's a sample.

London Calling!

All right, the peripheral cock-up with Rock Band 3 has driven me crazy, but then they do something like this: next week's DLC is "London Calling", the Clash's signature album and one of the greatest albums ever. That is absolutely spectacular.


I saw an announcement for a new game yesterday, and when I first saw the title, I thought it was this:
King Arthur: The Fluids

That's it, I thought. They've officially run out of ideas for games.

Teachers (Part 84)!

I lost some of these in the accidental in-box purge, but I managed to find a few in my "sent items" folder when I had originally responded. So here we go.

First off is a story from Dustin Chinn, which is notable for two reasons: one, his sister is awesome, and two, he titled it "Me And Mrs. Jones", and if you've never heard that song, have a listen, because it must be one of the greatest, most soulful songs ever recorded.

Here's Dustin's story:
My fifth grade teacher Ms. Jones had it in for me since day one. By then I had built a precocious reputation among the teachers of Whitworth Elementary (I'd tried to teach my classmates the basics of poker during third grade free time). One day she was instructing the class in the usage of greater than/less than/equal to symbols and called me up to the overhead projector present my answers. Luckily for me an older sister had given me a primer on this subject, so I was absolutely confident about the results.

Three problems into the worksheet Ms. Jones stopped me. "Shouldn't they be the other way around?"


"Greater than and less than."

Now sis taught me a mnemonic device, that you can draw teeth on the symbols and pretend that they're alligators, and that gators will always attack the bigger numbers first. When I repeated the tip to the class, Ms. Jones said something along the lines of "I don't care what your sister said," and asked the entire class, "Show of hands, who thinks I'm right?" I looked straight into my best friend's eyes, and can still remember his "what else do you want me to do?" look and shrug before joining the crowd. It was unanimous. I don't remember if Ms. Jones spared me the indignity of having a follow-up vote after that, but somehow the fake democratic process made the situation even worse than if she said "It's the other way because I say so."

After recess, Ms. Jones quietly informed us that she had consulted another teacher, and that my answers were correct. It was one of the best and worst feelings of my grade school career.

That's a bittersweet story, in the moment, but I believe that in retrospect, Dustin totally kicked that teacher's ass. Kicked it.

Now, a story from Zarathud:
My teacher from hell lived across the street. Every time we were caught running through her yard or flower beds as 8 year old children, our parents warned us that Mrs. Beef eventually would be our High School English teacher and we would pay for every misdeed with interest. Being kids, we ignored the warning.

My fateful year was 11th grade when my assigned seat was the second chair in front of Mrs. Beef’s massive wooden podium. The podium must have made it easier to beat us into submission with literature, and it put me always squarely within her sight. I remember dreading those classes and comparing her to the Eye of Sauron looking for this hobbit’s slightest misdeed as if they were the precious One Ring itself. Mrs. Beef once asked the class if I always misbehaved, telling a story about remembering me being regularly grounded and staring out my bedroom window as a 5 year old. I remember the dread and humiliation from Mrs. Beef’s class more than any literature we covered that year.

I wasn’t the only victim of her emasculation. When another student gave his sarcastic oral book report on “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche,” Mrs. Beef softly informed us we would bring eggs to class next week as if nothing had happened. We had no idea of her diabolical plans for revenge. We were marched during the next class to the school kitchen, where we were forced to make and eat our own hellish creations. There’s nothing more disgusting than barely cooked plain quiche, especially made by amateurs. More than a few of us retched and become horribly ill from food poisoning that day.

Mrs. Beef was so hated that her house wasn't just egged regularly. An athletic team one night actually cut down one of the massive evergreen trees in front of her house with a chainsaw. Guys would smack each other in the nuts with an underhanded cock-punch during gym class, yelling the battle cry “Mrs. Beef” as fair warning. The physical pain wasn’t far from the emotional pain we shared that year.

It turns out that Mrs. Beef was a good friend of my best High School teacher. Somehow I think it was karma’s way of evening the scales because High School is supposed to suck.
Okay, the idea of guy's yelling the teacher's name as warning before they crotch shot somebody is totally classic.

Now, one last story for the day, and it's from Chris Kohler:
I never had to suffer through any truly bad teachers, but my fourth grade teacher had some serious problems. Examples:
- Classmate pulled my chair out as I was sitting down, causing me to fall backwards and crack my head painfully on the desk. I had a bump on my skull. Her response: Did not bother to punish the kid who did it, told me "I'm not sending you to the nurse just because of a bump on your head" and had the two of us "sit down and talk through our differences" while my head was still killing me.

- Related incident: My chest was starting to hurt, not sure why. Told her about it. Response: "Fourth graders don't get heart attacks. Sit down."

- Kept track of everyone's spelling tests on a big sheet of cardboard hung up near her desk, and told the class at the beginning of the year that the students with the three top overall scores would win a silver dollar. I was totally pumped about this because I collected coins at that time, and to have a silver dollar would be amazing. I think I missed one single spelling question that year. End of the year rolls around, and she hands me a fucking Susan B. Anthony dollar.

But here is the grand slam.

Fourth grade spelling bee. Every class is in the cafeteria, everybody is participating. As mentioned above, I feel totally confident that I am going to nail this, insofar as I know how to spell every single word in the spelling book backwards and forwards. The teachers are taking turns reading spelling words to us out of the textbook, and it just so happens that my teacher reads me one of the words.

I stand up, ready to ace it.

"Root beer," she says.

"Root beer?" I think. That's two words. How do I handle this?

"R-o-o-t," I say, then pause, then "b-e-e-r."

She stands there, saying nothing, a smirk on her face.

"R-o-o-t," pause, "b-e-e-r." I'm sure I'm right. This is easy. Why is she smiling and not saying anything?

She speaks. "Sorry, that's incorrect."

"What? Why?"

"Root beer is two words. You should have said: 'R-o-o-t, space, b-e-e-r.'"

I couldn't argue my way out of it. I was 10. I was so confused. I left the stage, sat there angry about the injustice of the whole thing without being able to articulate why I had just gotten screwed.

I didn't understand the spelling bee story at first, but this morning it hit me, and it hit hard: just like Chris, and all of you guys, I had teachers who seemed to enjoy it when I made a mistake. They relished the failure.

Even today, thinking about that is a way to get my blood pressure way up, way fast. And those were always, without exception, the worst teachers I had.

I'm A Dumbass!

In an entirely remarkable move, I managed to delete about 40 e-mails from my inbox today (and this was with shift-delete, so I don't know how to undo it--at least, I think that's what happened). Unfortunately, that includes some e-mails that had answered and kept there to remind me to watch podcasts, etc. So if I promised you something along those lines in the last couple of weeks, you might want to resend the original e-mail. Also, if you e-mailed me in the last couple of days and hadn't heard back from me yet, that e-mail got blown away and you need to resend it.


Sony announced the successor to the PSP, and I'll have details for you later today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Teachers (Part 79)!

Our first story today is from "shaggydoug":
I was in kindergarten at a private Catholic school. Kindergarten not being part of the "normal school", the classroom was in the basement. The teacher (yes, a nun) would threaten us that if we misbehaved, she would hang us by our thumbnails from the hot water pipes that hung from the ceiling.

One day I was sitting at my desk. The desk was one of those slanted deals that you could lift the whole top up and all your books would be inside. At the top of the desk was a groove in the wood that you could put your pencil in while you weren't using it. The groove would keep the pencil from rolling off your desk. We were watching a movie of some sort in class. I was bored. I decided to try to get my pencil into the groove by putting the pencil on the desk and without using my hands, blow it up the desk and get it to land in the groove. It was tricky because it had to be parallel to the groove to land in it and stay. If it was not parallel to the groove, it would fall over the top edge of the desk and land on the floor.

Concentrating on the task at hand, I didn't notice when the teacher came up behind me. She slammed her hand on the desk scaring me to death. She picked up the pencil and me by ear, took me to the edge of the class, and put the pencil on the floor and me on my hands and knees. She told me that I had to blow the pencil around the whole classroom.

I did it. Kids were snickering and laughing. I cried the whole time.

Can't remember her name. I never needed therapy. ;)

The sheer brutality and cruelty of teachers in some of these stories is remarkable, and it's uncomfortable as well. I honestly don't understand how humiliation is supposed to teach anyone a lesson about anything.

Now here's a story from David Gloier, with a decidedly lighter tone, and it includes a football legend:
This guy was my history teacher and football coach from grades 5-8: Ox Emerson.

At the time, he was in his seventies. He looked just like you'd imagine a guy who played football in the 1930s would look forty years later. A big man (even though he slouched with age) with a granite face molded by ancient football-helmet technology. He was a wonderful man and a great coach. We were definitely the only team in the parochial school flag-football league that had a coach with college and pro experience and it showed.

During bad weather days when we would have to be inside during P.E. or practice, he'd pull out the film projector and show us coaching breakdown films of Detroit Lions and Texas Longhorn games that seemed to date from around the invention of the movie camera. It was our own, personal, live "Tom Landry Show". He would run the film through a play, reverse it, and run it forward again, explaining every intricate detail of what we were seeing on screen. He's the reason I'm a football junkie.

Anyway, as nice of a guy as he was, he could blow his top when a kid was getting out of line. I'm not even going to go into what some of the worst punishments he dished out were, but I'll share my favorite. The classrooms had cubbyholes on one wall into which kids could keep their possessions (lunch box, jacket, books, etc.). The punishment for being a distraction while he was teaching was having to stand at that wall with your head in a cubbyhole for the rest of the period. Humiliating, but effective. Pretty funny, too.

Then, there were the nuns...

No one has an epic name like "Ox" these days. And if I had him as a teacher back when, being able to break down game film would have been the greatest thrill ever. I'm the kid who got a set of Vince Lombardi books as a Christmas present (I was either seven or eight), and I spent hours trying to memorize the assignments for each player when a play was diagrammed. Even now, I remember the books and how they felt when I opened them for the first time. It was thrilling.

I digress.

The last story today comes from "Soha":
Let's call her Mrs. Zitna, because I can't quite bring myself to use her real name. She was the same kind of obsessive control freak as your Ms. Limon - every homework assignment had a format, and if you failed to follow the format you failed the assignment. Didn't skip two lines between writing down the question and writing down your answer? Failed. Didn't put the teacher's name above the class period in your header? Failed. Each student was assigned a unique number which they had to write in the top left corner of every page, as though we were inmates and that was our ID. She once yelled at a kid for failing to put a "hat" on his number 1 - then praised me for my "European" 7. I felt like a traitor to the cause.

Mrs. Zitna thought she was a fantastic teacher, though, and used to brag to us about how she sat down with her children's teachers and helped them devise better lesson plans. She believed they were "very grateful" - I believed they were very grateful when she left. What're you gonna do, though? Mrs. Zitna was very... protective of her children. Which leads me to my story.

She told us one day that she'd decided to move her children into a new elementary school (tired of bringing the old one new lesson plans, I guess), but she was torn between the local public school and the local private school. The local public school, she said, was closer to home and had an excellent reputation. The local private school was a bit far away and their reputation was nothing special. Okay, so the class smartass voiced the obvious question: "Why not choose the public school?"

"Well," said Mrs. Zitna, "I just feel that parents who send their children to public school really don't care enough."

The funniest part is that she didn't think there was anything wrong with what she'd said until the smartass pointed it out. "Oh, but that's different. This school has an excellent reputation!"


Exclamation Point Week surges into it's third day (dare I say "day!").

I took Eli 9.5 to see "Gulliver's Travels" on Martin Luther King Day. I'm one of those people who loves Jack Black, even in a bad movie. The first time I saw him was in "High Fidelity," and his role in that film generated a lifetime of good feelings from me.

So I'm biased.

Now, I don't know how much a solitary adult would enjoy this movie, because it's tremendously silly. However, I can say with absolutely no question that if you see the movie sitting next to a boy of model 9.5, you will both absolutely laugh your asses off and have a great time.

Also, when we came back from the Laredo trip, Gloria's car was incredibly dusty. This was a gift from Eli 9.5:

I think she should just get one of those spray cans of sealant and never wash that part of the car again.

Badass From Beyond The Grave!

Gloria sent me an article today with the title Nabokov Butterfly Theory Is Vindicated, and since Evgeni Nabakov (a goalie) is currently involved with a free agent dispute involving the New York Islanders, and since the butterfly is a major component of modern goalie technique, I thought it was a hockey article.

I don't think I'm turning Japanese. I'm turning Canadian, apparently.

The actual story, though, is considerably more fascinating. Vladimir Nabokov (author of "Lolita", among others) was also a self-taught expert on butterflies.

Hell, that alone is incredible.

What's even more incredible is this:
And in a speculative moment in 1945, he came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned them coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves.

Few professional lepidopterists took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. On Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right.

I think that's one of the most amazing things I've ever read.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Teachers!

I'm just going to keep putting these up, because they're all interesting.

Leading off today is Mike Kolar:
I definitely had that teacher- Mrs Santangelo. She was my sophomore English teacher. Never smiled, and didn’t seem to respect us much at all. She always had a stern, disapproving look on her face. When she answered questions her demeanor always conveyed that she couldn’t believe she had to handle all these foolish questions from these ungrateful kids.

I remember one particular assignment, where we were to write a descriptive essay--one page where we picked one particular thing and described it to the best of our ability. I chose to describe Mrs. Santangelo. I wrote about how she was of an indeterminate age, how she was just tall enough to tower over a student who was sitting down, how she strode about the room and glared sternly at everyone, how the class had a gloomy prison atmosphere. And if that weren’t enough, I turned it in a day late. The day after it was due we walked into class and I handed it to her. She put it down on her desk and told everyone to sit down for a pop quiz. She handed it out and we all got to work, then to my horror she went over and picked up my essay, stood off to the side of the room, and read it right then and there! I could hardly concentrate on the quiz; I was terrified of what would happen next. She read through the whole thing without much reaction, then pursed her lips and turned and looked at the ceiling for a few minutes. I was sweating bullets, but to my surprise, she never made eye contact, never said a word about it, and I never got my essay back. Class went on for the rest of the year as if nothing had happened.

I ran into her in the mall a few years later, and was shocked when she called me by name and proceeded to chat me up about this and that for a good 15 minutes. It was like she was some other person that I had never met, animated and friendly in a way that I had never seen her. The only conclusion I can draw from that encounter is that the teacher I had known that year was a role she played. Perhaps that role was modeled after teachers she had as a student, or perhaps it was the only way she felt she could effectively control a group of uninterested, hormone-ridden 10th graders. I’ll never know for sure, but it makes me wonder about her true reaction to my essay. Was she really insulted, or maybe hurt, or did she crack up inside when she read it? Either way, her role wouldn’t permit her to show me.

Mike, even in high school, had some stones.

Now, here's a story from Tim Hibbetts that will blow your mind:
It was reading a couple of other teacher tales that recalled to my mind our German teacher. I had volunteered the year previous (8th grade) to be the teacher's assistant to one of the coolest teachers I had, and he had accepted my application (I don't recall what he taught, but it wasn't German). It was the one bright spot I had as the new school year closed ominously through the hot, carefree summer days of idle tension (August); all of my other classes were unknown variables of social awkwardness, but in this class (I can't even recall it now), I was going to hold a position of power and would be the lackey instead of one of the tortured.

Much to my surprise, when I got my schedule, I was TA for an entirely different and new teacher. A little detective work uncovered that my original teacher had moved on late in the summer and was replaced by another teacher who didn't want a TA. The new German teacher, it seemed, did. It was not an auspicious day as I rolled in, ready to beg out of his service and move on to my #2 choice. Herr Eine-auge (his real name escapes me, but was much less interesting) had a full beard, a dime-sized divot in his forehead (which reached to his back head) and an eye patch. So, color me Jim Hawkins, but I wanted out of there. He was very stern at my request to quit his service and indicated he would need a TA. I was to be more of a minion to his cruel ministrations than a lackey able to lord my slightly higher status over the poor 1st year German non-speakers.

This went on for a couple weeks, with a great deal of mindless drudgery (he didn't need me very much, but I had to be at his beck and call, limiting my running-around-free time). Then, one evening at dinner, my step-father, a local police detective, very casually remarked that they'd gone that afternoon and arrested my German teacher for killing his wife upstate over the summer. Exclamation mark! I don't know if I did a spit-take (I doubt it, but am going to start inserting that in my memory), but needless to say, I was floored. Making copies for a killer! A one-eyed killer!

Even now it seems kind of fantastic, but my step-dad confirmed it...the dude offed his wife and came down to the desert in hopes of getting away with it. I don't know the rest of that part of the story, but the important thing was that I moved on to be TA to the coolest PE teacher in school and spent my hours handing out basketballs and pretty much having a great time slacking off.


It doesn't happen often, but I'm speechless.

The Original Badass!

Jack LaLanne passed away on Sunday at the age of 96.

Many of you guys who are younger than my decrepit 49 may not be familiar with Jack LaLanne, but he was the original fitness badass. Deadspin linked to a terrific profile of LaLanne when he was 80, and here are a few excerpts:
In 1954, when Jack was half his current age[40, at the time this article was written]--not long after he won that year's Professional Mr. America contest and something called the Best Chest award--he began to attempt a series of midlife feats of Herculean strength and uncanny endurance that were designed to call attention to his cause. He did 100 handstand push-ups in under six minutes. He swam through the powerful currents between Alcatraz Island and Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed. He towed a 2,000-pound boat the length of the Golden Gate Bridge while swimming underwater with air tanks but no fins, and he somehow did 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes during an appearance on TV.

In his sixties, Jack began to wear shackles on his legs as well as handcuffs for the swimming feats. He used the "flopping butterfly" stroke he developed to tow 13 boats symbolizing the original colonies across a southern California bay as a 1976 bicentennial feat, and he towed 6,500 pounds of wood pulp across a lake in Japan the year he qualified for Social Security. At the age of 70, he towed 70 friends sitting in 70 different boats across Long Beach Harbor near Los Angeles, despite heavy winds.

...he trained for the push-up feat with endless reps using 140-pound dumbbells and by climbing a 25-foot rope three times in a row with 140 pounds of extra weight strapped to his belt.

That is a large picnic basket filled with awesome.

Jack LaLanne didn't brush his own teeth. He made Chuck Norris do it for him.

2010 Favorite Games Of Year Ranking Revision!

After finishing the "true" ending of 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, I need to revise my rankings for my favorite games of 2010. Even though Just Cause was wonderful, exuberant fun, there's something about 999 that is just more rewarding, and I'm retroactively awarding it #1.

Wait--I think I know how to explain it, at least to a degree. Even though the translation can be a little clunky at times, and there are awkward moments that make you scratch your head, there are also a ton of moments that feel tremendously consequential. The game world is vivid, I cared about the characters, and I was both profoundly moved and deeply shocked, depending on the moment.

It's a tremendously ambitious game, but it holds together remarkably well, and I have deeply grooved memories, not unlike how I felt after playing Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterly (Director's Cut). 999 isn't as elegant as that game, but it is a tremendous, inspired piece of work.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Super Bowl!

Eli's favorite NFL team, by far, is the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has a Troy Polamolu jersey that he faithfully wears to school every week now.

Some of you already know that, and some of you have e-mailed that I should take him to the Super Bowl in two weeks.

Yes, Dallas is only three hours away. Yes, this would be the surprise of a lifetime. I get all that. I'm way out front on this one, because believe me, I've thought it about it in detail for the last few weeks.

However, and you better be sitting down, do you know what the worst seats in The Palace Of Jerry Jones are going for on StubHub today? $2,600. Oh, and don't forget that $40 for parking, either.

Seriously. That's for the shittiest seat in the stadium. To sit somewhere where you could actually watch the game instead of just watching the gigantic HD screen, it's closer to $7,500 a ticket.

I'm just going to go out on a limb here and say that's a bad value. So I could take Gloria and Eli to the Super Bowl and sit in decent seats, or I could buy a car.

Sure, those prices will come down, and everyone always says that you can just show up at an event and get much better prices. But there's no chance I could take Eli up there and tell him we "might" get tickets, and if we didn't, we'd just come back home. That won't work.

Plus, if I have to choose, I'll take him to the Stanley Cup Finals, where there are exponentially cheaper tickets and a much, much more intense experience. I always thought that the Super Bowl, in comparison to the Conference championships, was somewhat sterile. Neutral-site games just don't feel the same.

So instead, I'm going to find the very, very best seats in the stadium (C136, I think) and make a section sign for our couch. Then I'm going to make imitation Super Bowl tickets, showing him that we're sitting in the best seats, right at the 50-yard line. That will be fun, and Gloria will make guacamole, which will be awesome (she is the Guacamole Queen).

Best of all, parking is free.


I may just start every post with an exclamation point this week.

DQ reader Richard White sent me this advice when I posted earlier today about my back killing me: stop looking at your skates.

Well, he's entirely correct. I've always looked down at my skates, mostly because ice is so freaking slippery and I never felt stable. Which turned my upper body into a fish hook shape.

I went today and looked straight ahead instead, wore a back brace, and it made a HUGE difference in how I felt. I still suck, but my back wasn't screaming in pain every second I skated, which means I can get more work in and get past those first 15-20 hours sooner. Those hours are always the toughest.

Teacher Story Blowout

Okay, let's start getting into more of these teacher stories. First, from Dan Quock.
I honestly can’t remember a single mean-spirited teacher. (Of course, I could be unconsciously blocking the memory.) I recall teachers I couldn’t relate to, apathetic teachers, and strict teachers, but I don’t recall any that were necessarily mean. One teacher, though, stuck out in my mind.

He taught all three courses in Aerothermodynamics.


His classes had a high-failure rate: about half would pass. As you could guess from the name, it’s a challenging course without having the odds stacked against you. For the quarter, the total class points one could earn was in the neighborhood of 120 and they were all in the tests and final. A test was worth about 15 points and usually had only 2 or 3 questions, so if you skunked a test, that was an automatic grade reduction.

No curve. He did not believe in “D”s, claiming that you either knew the material sufficiently or you didn’t. Test scores usually had an inverted bell curve distribution. Homework did not earn you points, but you had to do homework just to learn the material.

Tests were open-book, but they were designed to be used for reference only. You had no time to learn during the test. I still remember this one exam that covered different engine cycles and the question was for a type of engine not covered in class. A lot of people failed that one. When you took the test, he would call out “time” when the hour was over. Then he would pack up his valise and walk out the door. I’ve heard of a few students who didn’t immediately notice and had to chase him down the hall to turn it in. If he got too far from the classroom he would refuse the test and you’d get a zero. On the other hand, if you hand the test in early, he would immediately start marking it up in front of you. He graded quickly, too. Sometimes we would stand a few paces from the desk, sort of flip the paper at him, and then quickly turn away so you wouldn’t see his red pen bleeding all over your paper (and thus ruin a perfectly good day).

Which reminds me - classes were only offered at 7 am and 8 am and office hours were at 5:30 am. I think he might have had office hours occasionally at 9 am, but I don’t recall. The only times I remember being at his office was when it was still dark out – eyes bleary from a few blessed hours of unconsciousness – struggling to understand the workings of Brayton cycles.

He was very fair – in a Machiavellian sort of way. One time two students made a similar mistake on a problem and was scored differently. The student with the lower score grabbed the other test (without the other’s permission) and showed him the two tests. He admitted his mistake and took points off the other test. Needless to say, we never approached him with scoring abnormalities again.

In spite of all this, many students worked hard to rise to the occasion. Despite all the struggles, people took it as a badge of honor to be able to claim that you had made it through all his classes. I would also say that you knew the material VERY well at the end of the year. Your knowledge in other classes may have suffered, but you were a whiz when it came to thermo. He was a legend to the students. At my job interview, my interviewer saw we went to the same college and she immediately asked me if I took classes with him.

I needed a LOT of help from friends smarter than me to get through it. I’m thankful that they were good enough to explain it to me three, four, or more times to help it get into my thick skull. Ultimately, I think most students admired him because he was fair. He made his expectations very clear and he didn’t waver from it. He wanted his students to be the best.

That's a terrific story, and I think all of had demanding teachers who challenged us, but with a spirit of fairness.

Here's another story with a darker tone, from Bob Iannucci.
8th grade, 1977. Retainer that caused me to sound like a lisping duck with an asthmatic problem. Puberty ravaging my mind and body.

I was a fairly smart kid, loved math, easy going, very shy. 8th grade brought Algebra, and Algebra brought Mrs. Monster (name changed). Mrs. Monster was married to the beloved coach of East Haven High School's football team, the man the football field was named after, a small scale demigod in the small scale Italian enclave that was East Haven.

She was old, had a face creased like a raisin gone too long in the sun, and she was mean. I've never met anyone who had the ability to smell fear on a person before or since. Perhaps time has colored my memory, but I think not.

Got an answer wrong? You were mocked--without humor, without the slightest shred of humanity.

Had a question about your homework? Mocked.

Didn't answer a problem in your homework? Mocked.

On bad days, really bad days, if you answered a question wrong, she would throw an eraser at you.

All i wanted to do in the 8th grade was not be seen, not be noticed, blend into the walls. It was impossible to do that in her class. I think she reveled in picking out the most insecure kids - and I was no doubt one of them - and mercilessly deriding them. I can remember every day the knot that formed in my gut before class...I remember, as she went up and down the rows asking my fellow tortured souls the answer to the next homework problem, desperately trying to figure out which one I was going to get called on to answer, and the feeling of despair if I hadn't been able to answer it, or suspected it was wrong. My stomach is aching just thinking about it, 33 years later.

I still have the scars, physically - she is the reason I bite my nails, to this day. And I left 8th grade hating a subject I used to love and never did well in again. The cynic in me today thinks that any other teacher without her connections would have been canned, but I could be wrong. All I know is that my boys are under strict instructions that if a teacher ever treats them with anything less than respect, they are to tell me right away. No Mrs. Monster for them.

Those lines about his boys really struck me.

Now, and this is both slightly ribald and awkwardly funny, a story from Mike.
Over the New Year one of my best friends from High School (early 90s) and I were discussing the one teacher who always gave us trouble: Ms. Jackelope (name changed, obviously).

Now, a quick little aside. Before I had her as a teacher (I believe, sophomore year), I always saw her pushing a cart all over the halls. I quickly made the assumption that our school was nice to hire someone with obvious handicaps to do menial office work like return books to classrooms and such (seriously, there was always a huge book cart with maybe two books on it; remember, this was freshman year in high school, so some slack required). Everyday I’d see this person barrel through packed halls, not looking up, driving this book cart with determination. Until the next year, when I realized that this person was, in fact, my Algebra 2 teacher. So I guess I had some predetermined bias.

This was Ms. Jackelope. Short (5’2” at best), gruff, built exactly like those thankfully-out-of-style Troll dolls (same face) but with a 1960s librarian haircut. She wore white, silk blouses and long skirts every single day. Her distinguishing feature? Huge breasts. HUGE. The clincher? Her nipples were always, um, “happy”. And just as enormous, like a baby’s fist. This was every single day, regardless of the weather. Now, you can see the confusion; I was a sexually charged sophomore (I don’t think I could have gone a minute without thinking about something sexual), confronted daily with what should have been, at the time, awesome. Instead, it was a thing of nightmares; something that would sneak its way in whenever I had “alone time”, something I can still picture clearly today (I can barely remember people’s phone numbers, but, by god, I can remember these novelty pencil erasers like I am still in class--seriously, I am breaking out in anxious sweat just typing this). Her boobs and accruement were so large if she had to write high on the chalkboard she would accidently erase whatever was at boob level or below.

On top of all this? She was an awful person. She seemed to formulate quick opinions and never change, treating you the same on day 50 as on day 2. She hated boys in her class and over-praised the girls. Girls talking? Ignored. Boys talking? Shut up or detention. Girl needs help? See me after school. Boy needs help? Do your homework. This was all year. At one point, I answered a question and followed it up with a stupid comment; the whole class laughed. She announces that the next person she hears laugh will get detention. I write on a note card “This class blows goats” and show it to the guy sitting next to me; he laughs. Gets kicked out of class and thee days detention. Now, of course, we were probably disruptive, but come on. There was no laughter in her class at all. It was what I imagined a private school in 1903 to be like. We quickly adopted the nickname “Troglodyte” for her after that (we were big into D&D). The negativity she spewed was really counter-productive for many in her class.

Apparently, though, she was well liked by the other teachers, and the girls in the class loved her. Go figure.

After that story, there's nothing I could possibly add.


I love that exclamation point in post titles, because it makes the title sound different and more exciting in my head.

The secret skating project is now nearing the end of its second week, with four trips to the rink so far, and it's going very well except for two things:
1) My back is killing me.
I know I'm leaning too far forward because I'm totally paranoid about falling backwards and hitting my head (even with a helmet on and every conceivable type of padding), but I've apparently compensated by leaning forward in such a way that my back pays a severe price. Not good. So I need to figure that out, and soon.

The good news is that my legs don't hurt at all. The jillions of squats required by "NFL Training Camp" have clearly helped. And I could skate much more than I am if I could just do so without straining my back.

2) I have a lesson on Thursday at 5:30, which means I have to leave the house while Eli 9.5 is home and not return until about two hours later. I've told him it's a super-secret project, and that "big changes" are coming soon, but it's bothering him, because I almost never leave when he's home after school unless I'm going to pick up dinnner.

"Dad, how long is this going to last?" he asked me last Thursday. "I'd rather have you here than big changes."

That's one of the nicest things he's ever said to me, really, which made it very tough for me not to tell him right there. Plus one of his teammates saw me last Thursday at the rink and I had to tell him what's going on, so information leakage is ongoing. It's hard to expect a 10-year-old to keep a secret, even though he said he would. So I'm in a race to become competent before he finds out, and without winding up in traction.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Links!

From Robert McMillion, and even if you've read about it the video is even more impressive: IBM's Watson on Jeopardy.

From Jonathan Arnold, and if you love trigonometry, this is the best link ever: Touch Trigonometry.

Matt Sakey's Culture Clash column has a new installment, and this month, it's The Innovation Piñata. Also from Matt, the beautifully-written chapter he wrote about the Stalker series (for Well-Played 2.0) is now available online: Alone For All Seasons: Environmental Estrangement In S.T.A.L.K.E.R..

From Jeremy Fischer, and lots of you will want to read this: Skynet meets the Swarm: how the Berkeley Overmind won the 2010 StarCraft AI competition.

Here's a fascinating article from Ben Younkins: In Nuclear Silos, Death Wears a Snuggie. Also, an interesting look at a seemingly obscure subject (also linked from RPS): In praise of the sci-fi corridor.

From Sirius, and this is quite amazing: 34,000-Year-Old Organisms Found Buried Alivee. Also, the most incredibly beautiful wasp's nest you'll ever see.

David Byron sent in several links in regards to the Monster Krupp bucket excavator link from last week. First, the video from which the photograph in last week's link was taken. Next a video titled Bucket Wheel Excavators that includes some jaw-dropping stats. Want an example? One of those excavators does the equivalent work of 40,000 men with shovels.

From JKrepps, a very clever idea: teaching history with music videos, and they're both clever and amusing.

From Michael Clayton, a terrific article on Soyuz 5 and the incredibly unlikely survival of cosmonaut Boris Volynov: Soyuz 5's Flaming Return.

From Igor Nedeljkovic, a fascinating video: Science Saved My Soul. An additional note from Igor: "The first five minutes are a must see. Militant atheism warning for the rest... One profanity at the end."

Geoff Engelstein, with a vido proposing a new way for 3-D with no glasses (and the fellow in the video seems quite nice, but this is still funny).

Another link from Robert McMillon, and this is an article about an extremely disturbing trend: prosecution of citizens for videotaping police officers while on duty. Oh, and here's the hat trick: Evaporating Water in -30C in Yellowknife, NWT.

From Brandon Reis, and this is spectacular, a unicycle riding lady called the Red Panda Acrobat. No, I cannot do that.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is so entirely tremendous: Paper Half-Life 2.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Small Correction

From last week (this post):
"The reason that [Sea Launch] was conceived was to provide a launch platform to get the maximum energy from being at the equator. Another example of this is the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana."

This week, from Matt Teets:
Actually it just takes less energy to launch from the equator. Since less energy = less launch mass = less weight = less energy it's very beneficial. You actually posted the answer for this one time when you posted an article on "What if the earth stopped spinning". I could have linked it, but like you, I am lazy.

That man has style.

More Teachers!

What surprised me when reading some of your mean teachers was the intensity of your memories, although I shouldn't be surprised, because Marge Limon like I was still in high school. Here's a story from Nathan McClaud, and it's intense.
Reading your last post about a tribute to the meanest teacher ever brought back traumatic memories of my high school days with a Mr. H.

Some background to begin. I went to a small town school. My high school had barely more than 100 kids in it. My graduating class was 15 people. That meant that all our teachers pulled double and sometimes triple duty with multiple classes. Mr. H was one of them. His classroom was right at the top of the stairs on the right, where he could see and hear everything that happened in the upper hallway. It was right across from water fountain. His door was the only oak door left. After going there for four years, you'd remember all these details because they were associated with dreaded Mr. H.

He taught three classes. One of them you were forced to take, the other two were basically electives. English Literature was his primary subject. He also taught the Journalism class that was responsible for the Yearbook (which was the sacrifice you made for wanting to work on the Yearbook), and Mythology. He also ran one homeroom session in the morning, and woe to the poor kids who were randomly assigned to that homeroom. He was a rotund man with white hair and pocked face. His teeth were very yellow, although the only time you ever saw them is when he leered at you. He had worked there for sixteen years, and gained the reputation that scared the pants off most Freshmen.

His main issue was that he could not control his temper. Ever. We could all be reading quietly at our desks, and something he was doing would start a small angry flame. Someone would look up or cough or anything, and he'd come out of his chair yelling. He'd yell so much that his face would turn beet red and he'd literally rock on the balls of his feet as he told you exactly what he thought of you and all kids your age. That was usually the theme of his rage - you kids at your age. He'd go back to his desk and angrily throw books down on it. He'd pull out a yardstick and slap the blackboard where he had written something on it. He'd knock over things leaning in the corner (a projector screen, a stack of maps, whatever was unlucky enough to be sitting there). He'd stomp around loudly, swearing under his breath. It was like watching a little man-sized 4-year-old Godzilla.

I was in his class when he finally lost what was left of his sanity. We were reading A Tale of Two Cities. I remember one of my classmates reading out loud when he mispronounced something. Mr. H was immediately livid. He launched out of his squeaky chair and flailed his arms as he crossed the room in a hurry. He was ranting about "us kids our age" ruining the spoken English language. With surprising speed that I had never guessed he would possess, he grabbed my classmate and lifted him off the floor. He had rage strength going, so he tossed my classmate over the desk behind him onto the poor girl sitting there. He raced back to the blackboard and grabbed his yardstick. He proceeded to hit the table I was sitting at repeatedly while screaming that a piece off the end broke off with every strike, flying past our heads to hit the wall. A football player in my class made the call to bail, and we poured out of the classroom. He ran down the hall after us, waving half a yardstick like a crazy samurai. We fled to the Office, where the Principle, the gym teacher and a bus driver had to restrain him until the cops came to pick him up.

After that, he was forced into retirement where he spent the next ten years being mean ole Mr. H on 6th Street. Soon afterwards he died. I don't know if anyone missed him or not, but I know that I felt relief for the kids going to my school for years to come.

I know that sounds horrid, but honestly - he scared the crap out of us.

That's quite a story--I think Mr. H might have been (incredibly enough) even worse than Marge Limon.

Apropos of nothing, thanks to Monty Python, I can't hear the title "A Tale Of Two Cities" without immediately converting it in my head to "A Sale Of Two Titties."

Now, a lighter note from Scott Gould:
Not a horror story, but a teacher anecdote to share. In the British system, everyone does the same subjects in Forms 1-3 (the equivalent of junior high, I suppose). Forms 4-5 are GCSEs, which is half core and half elective, and Lower and Upper 6 (hey, I didn't name them) are entirely elective. So going from Form 3 to 4 is a huge step, because with the exception of general English, Maths and Science, you can finally drop subjects that don't interest you.

My French teacher was Mrs Godfrey. She was on the stricter side with a rarely-used but cutting sense of humour. She wasn't exactly mean, but you didn't want to test her.

She was an amateur actress and got a part in a very clever play called Black Comedy, along with my father. This was awkward enough, but my father's role was the Colonel -- and Mrs. Godfrey's his daughter, whom the Colonel exclusively and frequently called "dumplin'".

I probably don't even need to tell the rest of the story. Yes, it ended with me calling her "dumplin'" in class one day. The silver lining was I got to miss the rest of it. The tarnished edge of that silver lining was that my school, built halfway up Hong Kong Peak, was simply five seven-storey buildings in a staggered clump, with outdoor corridors to ensure that any student ejected from class for misbehaviour was in full view of a good portion of the student body.

I dropped French at the end of third form, and she just had to get the last word in. I always assumed I was fairly good at French; I am skilled with accents, and my memory for vocabulary is above average. Granted, I was a B/C student in French, but I had figured that was more due to my lack of interest in it than any lack of natural talent.

I got my report at the end of third form -- my last report, interaction, *anything* ever with Mrs Godfrey! -- and read through to the end of the comments section:
"I am confident Scott has made a wise choice in deciding not to continue with French next year."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We went to Laredo for a hockey tournament last weekend.

Laredo is on the Mexican border (right across the border is Nuevo Laredo), and it's less than a 4 hour drive from Austin.

In theory.

If it's raining, and misty, and sucky, it's almost an hour longer, because getting through San Antonio becomes much more difficult. "We're befumbled," Eli 9.5 said, as we drove endlessly through the rain.

Why, yes. Yes, we are.

We didn't finally get to Laredo until it was dark. I hate reaching a new city in the dark, because it's impossible to see any context. It could be Mars, for all I can tell, and it's claustrophobic as hell. So our first look at Laredo was no look at all.

Eli played at 8 a.m. on the next morning, and he was playing in goal, we left for the arena at 7 a.m. on Saturday.

In the dark.

It was raining, and a little foggy, and we're trying to drive through a city we've never seen, on a very tight time limit. It was stressful as hell, but we did find the arena, and we were the first ones from his team there.

For this tournamnet, Eli's Squirt team had split into two teams, and their first game would be playing each other. Plus, the way their round-robin looked, this game would probably determine which of the two teams made it to the finals (there were four teams, and one had no chance, while the Laredo team was almost guaranteed to make it). So this was essentially an 8 a.m. game for a spot in the finals the next day.

Eli had played two games in goal in the last tournament (if you've been around for at least a few months, you already know that). He got burned alive 8-2 in the first, and had a 0-0 shutout in the second game (but only faced three weak shots). So this was the first game he'd ever played in a tournament that was suited for his skill level, and I was hoping he would do well.

I always talk to him before I leave the locker room after helping him get dressed in his goalie gear. "Stay on your angle," I said, my hand on his shoulder. "Don't hide in the net. And don't let anything under you." I tapped him on the helmet. "Most important, though, have a great time."

I actually had double goalie anxiety for this game, because the goalie of the other Squirt team is one of Eli's best friends, and since his father was on a business trip, I dressed him out, too. And it was his first game playing in a tournament.

I would have been pretty thrilled by a 1-0 game, with Eli's team winning.

In the first two minutes, one of the other team's best shooters unleashed a surprise shot from near the face-off circle. It was the kind of shot that surprises Eli sometimes, but he went down into the butterfly and made a textbook save.

It was on.
In the first period, his team was getting blistered. They couldn't clear the puck, and the flow of play was completely against them. Eli made six saves before giving up a goal on a great shot that no one would have stopped.

I was afraid he was going to tighten up, get nervous, and get blasted. His team expected to win this game fairly easily, because they thought they had the better players, but it wasn't turning out that way.

Eli stayed on his game, though, and as he kept makings saves and the score stayed 1-0 against, the tide slowly began to turn. His team scored a sloppy goal on a mosh pit near the crease, and it was 1-1.

With about 5 minutes left in the third period, it was still tied, and both Eli and his friend had played terrific games. Now, though, Eli's team had really taken over, and they were putting on a ton of pressure in the offensive end. Then, from beyond the faceoff circle, one of his teammates (who rarely scored) took a long shot that, incredibly, slid untouched past all the other kids and into the corner of the goal.

Bang. It was 2-1.

I thought Eli might get tight, trying to hold a lead in such a tight game, but during a break in play, he heard a song he likes by Vampire Weekend and started dancing in the crease.

Hmm. Not tight.

He faced only one shot for the rest of the game. Then the horn sounded and he was mobbed by his team, both in celebration and relief, I think. I didn't quite catch the pile, but here's his team skating toward the post-game handshake:

It's hard to explain how happy and relieved I was for him. It's asking a lot for a kid to be able to handle the responsibility of being a goalie when they're so young, and the pressure was really, really on in this game. They're just little kids, but man, they care, and they wanted to win. His team would have lost without him, because he made some great saves. So he finally got to experience what it felt like to win in goal, and know that he had made a difference.

The other reason they won was the kid in the far right of the picture--#24. She's eight, she's tiny, and she has the heart of a freaking lion. She puts on her hockey gear, and she turns into Superman. She's a defenseman, and she plays harder--every second--than any other kid on the team, even Eli. In this game, she must have knocked a puck loose every thirty seconds. It was amazing.

Nice start.

The next game was against a team from Corpus Christi that didn't have enough players (some had gotten sick in the last few days), so they divided up both teams and made two new teams from them. Eli volunteered to play for Corpus, and he skated out in a maroon jersey, which was both strange and very cool.

Early on, I realized he was going to get a ton of ice time, because the Corpus coach was double-shifting him almost every time. That was great, and even better, they would talk every time he came off the ice. It was like they'd been together for years, and I knew that Eli was really enjoying the game, because even though it was unofficial, he was playing like it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

His team was behind 3-2, but they scored twice in the last five minutes to win 4-3, and Eli was jubilant. He was taking off his Corpus jersey after the game, talking about how beautiful it was (they really are completely striking), and his coach said "We have one extra. You can keep that one." It was an incredibly nice gesture, and a good example of how friendly and supportive the hockey community is down here.

Here's a picture of Eli in a jersey that he really treasures:

By the time they finished their third game (against their hosts Laredo, and they lost 6-4), it was already dark outside, and we hadn't left the rink all day. "I'm never going to see this city in the light," I said as we made our way out to the car.

Eli hadn't expected to play goalie for the rest of the tournament, but the #1 goalie was so mad after giving up 6 goals (5 of them to the same kid) that he didn't want to play goalie against the same team in the finals. [A sidenote: when they played Laredo, the fellow sitting in the row directly below us was the uncle of the kid who scored 5 goals, and he was a tremendously nice person. He was very proud of his nephew, but not in an arrogant way, just the kind of warm pride that that everyone feels for their children. We shook hands after the game, and I totally enjoyed talking to him.

Everyone I met from Laredo was like that. They were all very proud of their hockey teams, but they were always warm and gracious, and treated all of us like family.]

So I had to try to prepare Eli to be goalie when 1) he hadn't expected to play, and 2) wasn't looking forward to playing against the team that had scored 8 goals the last time he faced them.

"This is what sport is all about, little man," I said as we ate dinner. "It's about challenge, and it's about trying harder than you thought you could. I know you can do it."

"I know, Dad, but they beat me last time," he said.

"Sure," I said, "and tomorrow is a different day. You're a better goalie than you were then, and you won't be surprised by their star. You guys have played them three times in the last two months--there are no surprises left."

On the way out of the restaurant, he stopped and got a peppermint. "Starting now, we're positive," I said. "That's an enthusi-mint you just picked up. Can you taste the enthusiasm?"

"No," he said, and he started laughing.

The next morning, right when he woke up, I said, "I have an idea. Every time you feel any kind of fear this morning, I want you to think about something positive. Think about Fleury making the save at the end of Game 7 against the Red Wings, and remember the announcer saying, 'Fluery with the save!' "

"Dad, I really like that," he said. "That's a great idea."

It's right here that I'd like to say that he played in goal, stood on his head, and they won the tournament. What happened, though, couldn't have been more different. For one thing, he didn't play in goal. They decided to use the third goalie, on the premise that since he was relatively inexperienced and played very deep in the crease, he would be less susceptible to the multiple deke moves that Laredo's star player used. Since Eli is considered one of the best defensemen, they wanted him skating to help control the flow of play.

And he had a great game, for a while. They were behind 2-1 near the end of the first period and he had made a ton of plays. Then he took the puck away from a Laredo player and they wound up falling in an awkward heap, with the Laredo player on top.

That happens about 100 times a game.

Eli didn't get up, though, lying face down on the ice. I still wasn't concerned, though, because kids always get up. They stopped play, and as the referee skated over to check on him, I was sure he'd get up.

He didn't, though. He didn't even move.

Then his coach started running across the ice, and it was a bad, bad time. Eventually, he was able to stand up, but he couldn't put any weight on his right leg, and with a coach on either side of him, they helped off the ice.

I walked down to the front row of the stands, which were right behind the bench, and I tapped on the glass. He turned around, and I put my hand on the glass. He nodded, and I could see that he was crying. The coach pointed down to where the players go off the ice, and I made my way over there to help him.

One of his coaches is a bear of a man, and as he stepped off the ice (with help from his coaches), he looked at him and said, "Want a ride?" Together, we carried him back to the locker room.

Remember what I said about Laredo? There was a medic there within two minutes of us getting back to the locker room. It was unbelievable. He did a complete structural check of Eli's knee, took him through range of motion tests (which really, really hurt, but Eli did them), and said that all of his ligaments and tendons were intact, and his kneecap wasn't dislocated. He also said that the area just above and behind his knee was extremely tight, and that it was really going to hurt if he didn't gently move his leg up and down. He warned us not to keep his leg extended for long periods of time, even though that would feel like the least painful thing to do.

I helped him take off his gear while a nice lady went to get us some ice. He was in plenty of pain, but mostly, he was disappointed that he was out of the game. He was giving it his all, and how he couldn't give anything.
Another lady came into the locker room and gave him his medal (all the kids got medals), because he wasn't going to be able to go on the ice for the post-game presentation. He put it around his neck and smiled. "My first hockey medal," he said. "I worked a long time for this one."

"You did," I said. "You've worked hard. And I'm really proud of you." I was trying hard not to cry.

We had ice within five minutes, and he sat in the locker room with a bag of ice on his knee, waiting for his team to come back. Every once in a while, we'd get a score update--Laredo had scored just after he left the game, then it was 3-1 for a long time.

By then, Gloria had gone to Walgreens and found one of those ice bags with a cap, and we had ice in a cooler, so he had plenty of cold on his knee to relieve swelling. Plus, Gloria also had brought children's Advil on the trip, and he took some right away.

Laredo scored once more near the end of the game, and the final was 4-1. Every kid came over to check on Eli as soon as they came into the locker room. It was both very kind and very hard at the same time, because he wanted so much to be out there with them.

A few minutes later, one of the parents of the kid who played goalie came over. "Did you hear Eli talking to Mark before the game?" I shook my head. "Mark was really, really nervous, and Eli came over and said, 'Mark, they've never seen you before, so they have no idea good you are. They're going to be really surprised, and you're going to have a great game.' Then he helped him decide which goalie stick to use. He was talking to him just like a coach would, and he was so smooth and confident that he totally settled Mark down, and then he couldn't wait to play. I've never seen a kid his age do anything like that."

That's your collectively adopted son, all right. Even when I think I know everything about him, he manages to surprise me.

Again, it seems like you'd know where this story was headed, but you'd be wrong. I carried him up the stairs and into the stands, and the three of us watched the Mites play in their final. Everyone came over to check on him, including the Corpus coach, who said how much he appreciated Eli's effort from the previous day.

About halfway through the game, we took off the ice and he flexed his leg very slowly. "It hurts, but I can do that," he said.

After the game, we stopped to eat lunch before driving home. "Dad, I swear I think I can walk," he said.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"I think so," he said.

"Well, give it a try," I said.

He did, and he was limping, but he could walk. "I can," he said. "Let's go." We ate lunch, and he kept moving his leg every few minutes, carefully flexing it back and forth.

On the way home, we had to pass through a Border Patrol inspection point. Yes, a knuckhead in our lane (one of only two) got stopped, which made our line halt for at least fifteen minutes while over a hundred cars streamed through in the other lane.

We finally got up to the Border Patrol officer, and these aren't guys you want to mess around with--they're stern, and they are all business. He looked into the SUV and said, "Are you both American citizens?"

"Yes," we both said.

"Is there anyone else in the vehicle?" he asked.

"Hellooo," Eli 9.5 said from the back seat. The BP officer leaned forward to look into the back seat. "Hi there," Eli said, and he waved.

The Border Patrol officer's face broke into a big grin. "Drive through," he said.

On the way home, he alternated ice and leg flexing. "Man, I'm so sorry you didn't get to play the whole game," I said.

"Me, too," he said.

"Sports is about a lot of things," I said, "but one of them is learning to how to handle disappointment. Sometimes, you can't control what happens. Even Sidney Crosby--he had to come out of Game 7, remember?"

"He did!" Eli said. "I remember!"

By the end of the day, his limp had gotten much less noticeable, even though I expected his leg to tighten up overnight. When he woke up the next morning, though, he wasn't even limping. "I feel fine," he said.

"You're like Spiderman," I said.

"Maybe I can still go to practice tomorrow," he said.

"When you feel no pain, and you can run and cut on dry land, then you can skate," I said. "Not until then."

That night, he went to the cul-de-sac, and he ran and cut without incident. "Any pain at all?" I asked.

"None," he said. "Practice tomorrow?"

"Looks like it," I said, "as long as you promise to stop if you feel any pain."

"I will," he said. "YES!"

Here's a picture with his second place medal:

He practiced Tuesday night (after going out for early skate, which he always does, even if he has late practice) and was all over the ice making plays. "I felt great, Dad," he said as we drove home.

Me, too.

3DS Launch Details (U.S.)

Game|Life has full details of the press conference, but the two details we all want:
Launch date-March 27

Price win.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Brian Shilling sent in a tremendous story:

I had a Marge Limon. Believe it or not, her name was Ms. Payne. I had the misfortune to have her in kindergarten and then in second grade. In second grade, she told me in front of the whole class that I would never amount to anything. Because I was a smart tyke, I finished my work early, and got into trouble. She pulled me to the front of the class room, desk and all, put a "study carrel" (a cardboard box, the size of my desk) on my desktop, and made me work inside of it. This did nothing to stem more boredom, so, for days, I poked holes in the box with my pencils. This angered my teacher, who sent a bill home for the study carrel. This is when my parents found out that I had been working in a box for a few weeks, and were being asked to pay a significant price for it.

The next day was the day I heard my dad use the F word to the principal's face. I remember it being pretty awesome.

Console Post Of The Week: December NPD And 2010 Review

December NPD numbers:
Wii: 2,360,000
360: 1,860,000
PS3: 1,210,000

Numbers for 2010 NPD:
Wii: 7,051,600
360: 6,753,689
PS3: 4,351,800

Year-over-year growth:
360: 41.57%
PS3: 0.40%
Wii: -26.50%

Those year-over-year growth numbers are dramatic, aren't they? Here's the twelve month rolling sales graph, which is equally so:

That's certainly easy to understand (and if you're wondering, the 360 line is longer because it was launched a year earlier). Oh, and if you're wondering what PS2 numbers were at the same point in its lifespan as the 360, the 12 month rolling sales were 5.03 million. So, incredibly, at this point in its lifespan, the 360 is outselling the PS2 in the U.S. PS2 sales were much more front-loaded--its graph more closely resembles the Wii, albeit with lower numbers--but still, that's surprising.

So 2010 is finished, and it's easy to see who succeeded and who didn't. What's going to happen in 2011?

Well, first off, everyone is going to be bitching about the low number and quality of the Kinect releases. Remember how everyone complained constantly about the quality of Wii releases? Well, here comes Part 2, and guess what? There won't be any highly polished Nintendo games to prop up Kinect. So there won't be enough games, and the games that do get released are generally going to be savaged by reviewers.

In a financial sense, is that really going to matter? No. Count Leonard McPherson's Dance Party Detective Hunt will sell three million copies, and all the critics and analysts will be baffled. That money, though, will go on the books with just as much value as the money that's grossed from a 95-rated game.

I think the smartest single thing Microsoft did with Kinect was allow it to be hacked. It's not only created a generous amount of buzz, it's also enabled Microsoft to see what some really, really bright people can do with the sensors. For Microsoft, it's research that costs them absolutely nothing. And with Microsoft apparently committed to releasing the SDK for PC, that vitality should continue

Next, the Wii has had an epic, epic run--it's easily the most financially successful console in history, and in some ways, the most fun--but it's clearly over. There will still be another price cut, and that will bump sales for a while, but for Nintendo, it's time to focus on the next console. I don't think it will come out this year, unfortunately, with the 3DS launching soon, but I would be shocked if they're not teasing the new console by the end of this year, with a launch in 2012.

Can they duplicate the Wii's success? I don't see how, and I don't see how their next console can be as innovative, either. But I didn't see the 3DS coming, either.

I don't know what to say about Sony. Every time they don't reach the bar, they just lower the bar. The PS3 has been spectacularly unsuccessfuly financially, and in a single generation, Sony has squandered an overwhelming position of dominance in the industry for third place status.

In a gaming sense, it's not like the PS3 has been a total dud. Sony has done a decent job supporting it, and they have some interesting franchises. Someone could own a PS3 as their only gaming console and have plenty of games to choose from. It's just that every time Sony proudly announces "here's the game that's really going to make the PS3 take off", sales spike for one or two months and then go right back to where they were.

Look, the PS3 isn't going to "take off." They've had four years. It's not happening.

Right now, though, they don't have a choice. They've sunk so many untold billions into researching and developing the PS3 that they have to keep flogging it for the next 3-5 years, hoping that sales have a very long tail.

Collectively, that means that 2011, on the console side, is going to be relatively drab. Microsoft doesn't need a new console, Nintendo doesn't want to compete with the 3DS launch, and Sony can't afford a new console. So it seems like the only points of interest this year will be price cuts--certainly, Sony and Nintendo will have them.

Besides that, though, we wait.

Monday, January 17, 2011

This Week

Out of respect for the holiday, I'm not posting anything else today, but tomorrow will have more of your cruel teacher stories as well as hockey tournament stories (we were gone all weekend in Laredo, and Eli 9.5 was in fine form). Lots and lots of (hopefully) entertaining stuff coming.

Martin Luther King Day

Today is a national holiday in the United States to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's easy to forget the kind of hatred and stupidity that King was fighting against, but a good place to start is with this docmentation of the Jim Crow laws in the United States (this is a different source than what I've linked to in the past, and it's much more detailed).  The Wikipedia entry for Jim Crow laws also has detailed information. And the Wikipedia entry for King is here.

It's painful to read about the Jim Crow era, and as an American, it's both embarrassing and shameful, but it's important to learn about the past, even if we wish it hadn't happened.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Michael M., a fascinating story about Vivian Maier, a professional nanny who also spent decades as a street photographer. She took over 100,000 photographs, and in this story, you see some of the magnificent images she took during her life as well as how they were discovered.

This is one of the most moving and stunning stories I've read in a long time: On an upward spiral: Jon Dorenbos, long snapper for the NFL's Eagles, is also a master magician. Illusion gave him a refuge. No spoilers, but this is a story that you really must read.

From Kevin, and I've linked to this image before, it's a monster Krupp bucket excavator. Why am I linking to it again? Because of the bulldozer (just click and see).

From Sirius, and this is seriously one of the cutest pictures I've ever seen, it's bats in blankets. Also, and I've linked to stories about this before, a Scientific American article about Dmitri K. Belyaev's multi-decade experiment to domesticate foxes and what it might tell us. Finally, and this is quite remarkable, a story about an art installation in Croatia that uses "the power of ocean waves to generate sounds from organ pipes embedded in a shoreline structure".

From Michael Huges, and yes, it's about Disney, but it's funny-- Confessions of a Disney Employee.

Here's an excellent story about a subject I've linked to on several occasions: Civil War ironclad's iconic engine gets first look.

From John Rodriguez, and this is absolutely beautiful and very poignant: a NASA promotional video, but made by someone who doesn't work there. It's NASA: The Frontier Is Everywhere.

This is quite spectacular (thanks, John Catania): some of the most beautiful and elaborate papercraft you've ever seen.

From Don Barree, it's the top 14 astronomy pictures of 2010.

From Jim, fascinating photos of Chernobyl-- 25 years later.

From Dib O, it's Sloan data yields biggest colour night-sky image ever.

From Andrew B, a look at the Internet as it was in 1996, as seen through the Space Jam website.

From karmajay, some of the craziest RC helicopter stunts I've ever seen.

From Ed Quinn, more beautiful HDR images, this time from The Daily Portsmouth.

From Riz, and it's touching: the crowd at an AHL game helps an 8-year-old singer when her microphone cuts out during the National Anthem.

From Brad Gehrig, and if you thought the hills had eyes, just take a look at these muppets.

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