Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Links! (Update)

From multiple readers: Nobody Found Mayan Ruins In Georgia.

Friday Links!

We're traditionally a little light this week every year, but there's still a hearty selection of whatnot.

From David Gloier, and this is a tremendous story: Decades later, a Cold War secret is revealed.

From Griffin Cheng, and these are quite astonishing: Insanely Detailed Book Sculptures. Next, and these are also astonishing, it's 2011 as seen from space. One more, and it's fantastic: Creatures found at deep-sea volcanic vent.

From Sirius, and this is remarkable: Perfect camouflage. Also, and all I can say is "whoa": 1,100-year-old Mayan ruins found in North Georgia.

From Jeremy Fischer, and some of these are amazing: 20 Extraordinary Photo Manipulations. Also, and this is a must-see, it's Mars Pictures: NASA's Most Extraordinary Images. Next, and these are fantastic, it's Wild Allusions Photography, including a picture of the remarkable Thor's Well, which you can see more of here.

From Steven Davis, and if you enjoyed Hugo Cabret, this is a must-read: the Maillardet drawing automaton. Also, and this is very cool, it's Swimming Koi Scanimation Table / Rug Illusion.html. Next is a fascinating video about ultra-efficient construction: Precut - Modern Japanese Timber Construction. It's a giant wooden Lego kit, basically.

From David Byron, it's "buttmetrics": Engineers unleash car-seat identifier that reads your rear end.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This Guy Died This Year

I would normally post this as part of Friday Links, but it's so well-written that I'm making an exception. It's a Deadspin post titled This Guy Died This Year: Bil Keane, Comics Paterfamilias. That's Bil Keane of Family Circus, and it's an awkward, moving, and wonderful piece of writing.


One of Eli 10.4s Christmas gifts this year was a program called Claymation Studio 3.0. Eli's been interested in claymation/animation in the past, but we never found anything simple enough to get him started.

This program, though, is terrific, and it's easy to use. He made 8 videos today in just a few hours, and the program is well-guided and very user-friendly for kids. It's really captured Eli's imagination, and here's a sample of his work:

The program comes with its own camera, and the camera is instead a little plastic dog with poseable legs. That means the camera has its own tripod, essentially, and can be set up any way you want.

If one of your kids is interested in animation, I highly recommend this program as a great way to get them started.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quite The Storm

I had other things to write out today, but this story is just too interesting to pass up.

Here's the basic setup: a customer service/marketing person from a company called Ocean Marketing went full-on 'roid rage/douchbag with a customer via e-mail, and the customer sent the e-mail to Gabe (Mike Krahulik) of Penny Arcade.

Gabe posted it, and you can read it here (and you need to, if you want to understand what a gigantic ass Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing made of himself). If you're lazy, though, here's a choice excerpt:
Son Im 38 I wwebsite as on the internet when you were a sperm in your daddys balls and before it was the internet, thanks for the welcome to message wurd up. Grow up you look like a complete child bro. I Don’t have my controller so im gonna cry to the world … Really ?? Hey take that free time and do something more productive. All you had to do was check the like everyone else , people have inquired but you’re the douchiest of them all J

Nothing says "genuine holiday spirit" like a reference to daddy's balls.

Of course, Gabe posting the e-mail is Russell Crowe in Gladiator saying "At my signal, unleash hell." It guaranteed that Paul Christoforo was going to get an Internet ass-whipping of epic proportions.

If you're expecting me to say it was undeserved, you will be waiting fruitlessly. I have a very, very unforgiving spot inside me for bullies, who are a perversion of human nature that has diminished us all. Paul C. enjoyed being the hammer to people who were wholly dependent on him for information--in other words, helpless. Then he found out that he was, in fact, not the hammer. He was the nail, being infinitely pounded.

There's more to this story, including an absolutely bizarre set of information posted by The Examiner (thanks, Qt3), which makes the story considerably more complicated (and possibly fraudulent) than just a random jerk being a jerk.

That was quite a lead-in to the real subject of this post, which concerns Penny Arcade, or rather, the dizzying rise of Penny Arcade. In 1998, they started an Internet comic. Thirteen years later, they have over three million readers, raised millions of dollars for charity, and last year they were in Time's 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

The world.

In Internet terms, they're the Beatles.

Thirteen years ago, they were unquestionably some version of the nail. Now, they are the hammer to a degree that cannot be overstated.

Here's my question: do you think they ever get tired of this?

I think one of the reasons it's often so difficult for people who become famous is because the transition from nail to hammer is difficult. Some people are nails, and by nails I mean underdogs. The odds are against them. They lack resources. They must prevail through their will.

When a nail becomes a hammer, though, how does that work? How does an underdog adapt to being an overdog? I can't imagine ever being able to do that in a psychological sense--it would be like wearing a coat that just doesn't fit right.

I'm a nail. I grind like an underdog, I root for almost nothing but underdogs, and I've always been that way, even as a kid. I draw an enormous amount of energy from being an underdog. I have no idea how to be a hammer. I could never adapt to being one. I would fail.

Somehow, though, Mike and Jerry have adapted, and far more gracefully than most. One of the reasons I respect PA is that nothing ever seems to go to their heads. They are who they are, which is who they've always been. I don't always agree with them, but I respect that there are no hidden agendas.

I do occasionally wonder, though, if they enjoyed it more ten years ago than they do today.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Raspberry Pi

This is really quite astonishing.

In 1956, this is what a 5MB hard drive looked like (thanks Engadget):

No, not the plane, smart guy.

Combined with the computer, which was even larger than that hard drive in 1956, and you had quite a computing beast.

That was 55 years ago. Yesterday, I saw an article about a computer called the Raspberry. It looks like this (thanks Venture Beat):

That motherboard is the size of "two credit cards laid side by side." Here's a description of the computer:
The Raspberry Pi, the little $25 computer that can run Quake 3 Arena and play HD videos, is scheduled to go into volume production in January. If you want to splurge, you can also pay a $10 premium for the fancy Model B that comes with an ethernet port and 256 – instead of 128 – MByte RAM.

There's more here, and it's absolutely incredible functionality that they've managed to pack into such a tiny board.

The Upsell

The upsell is driving me insane.

A few days before Christmas, I was in line at a Target, but I couldn't check out because the cashier spent (literally) 10 minutes explaining how a loyalty card worked to a customer in front of me. It didn't matter that there were half a dozen people in the same line with me--the upsell was more important than customer satisfaction.

Checking out at a grocery store? The cashier will ask you if you want to buy a toothpaste, or breath mints, or spend a minute explaining that your receipt entitles you to 2c a gallon off gas.

Now, though, it's gotten worse.

We went to a restaurant on Christmas Eve, and when the waiter came to greet us, he said, "Before I take your drink orders, I want to tell you about the special New Year's Eve event we're having here."

Holy shit--restaurant upsell!

I see no positive end game here, because clearly it's profitable for all these retail businesses to do this. So it's not going to stop.

Do they upsell at funeral homes? If not, they will soon.

Monday, December 26, 2011

It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like The Day After Christmas

This is one of the nicest gifts I've ever received:

I framed it today, and it's going up on the wall in my study. Whenever I feel grouchy, I can just look up and be reminded why it doesn't matter how tired I am.

Eli 10.4 needed a new goalie mask, and Christmas seemed like a good time. I did some research and discovered that Hackva masks were generally considered to be the safest. Expensive, but very safe, and with the added bonus of some absolutely beautiful designs. Eli went through the list and picked this one:

That's the top view, obviously. Here's the side view:

Those are beetles on the front of the mask, I think, and the whole mask is beautifully painted, with all kinds of detail.

I didn't know how well it would fit, but as it turned out, it fit almost perfectly, needing only minor adjustments, and Eli wore it today at a stick and puck.

It's a good thing, too, because he took shots (and a lot of them) from Midgets today. In hockey, the midget age group is for ages 15-16, and when the stick and puck started, most of the kids were in high school.

Eli was about half their size, in goal, and what always happens in situations like this is that the kids take a few shots, find out the goalie can't handle it because he's too young, and they drift down to the other end of the ice.

That's not what happened today.

They took a few shots at half speed, and Eli stopped them. Then they came in on him and deked a few times and he stopped them. Then they started shooting harder. They got to the point where they were shooting at about 80-90% of their normal speed, and he was doing just fine.

He was having an absolute blast, and the older kids seem to be having one as well, because they would skate by and tap him on the pads after a good save, plus they all started talking to him after about half an hour. By the end of the session, they were old friends, and two of the best kids (who had been particularly nice to him) skated off a few minutes early.

"Hey, you guys," I said, "thanks for giving my son so much work and not being too tough on him."

"Are you kidding?" One of them said. "He can really play. How long has he been a goalie?"

"A year and a half," I said.

The other kid laughed. "That's ridiculous!" he said. "Man, he is QUICK."

We talked for a few minutes. They were nice kids--it seems like almost all hockey kids down here are--and as they walked back toward the dressing room, Eli skated off. He'd been on the ice for 90 minutes and had faced 250+ shots.

"I can hardly stand up," he said, laughing.

Two hours later, we were on the tennis court.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Links!

From Frank Regan, an article about the "unluckiest ship ever to sail the seven seas": Ghost Ship.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is a subtle and excellent stop-motion film: Proteigon: A Geometric Stop Motion Short.

Also from Frank Regan, and this is a tearjerker, but it's pretty wonderful: Sung-bong Choi performs on "Korea's Got Talent".

From Griffin Cheng, and this is a cuteness overload: HTTP Status Cats. Also, and this has a ton of additional links that are also excellent, it's Top 24 Deep Space Images of 2011.

From Mike Tokarski, and this is quite the headline: Woman's Plastic Testicles Trial Delayed.

From Hogie Chang, a stunning version of pond hockey: Windy Arm, Yukon.

From Jesse Leimkuehler, and this is quite amazing: Comet Lovejoy Survives Fiery Plunge Into Sun. Here's another, and this fellow is, well, insane: Highliner's Heart-Stopping Walk Over Yosemite.

From Tateru Nino, and this is incredibly clever: A Never Before Seen Optical Trick Creates Ultra-Secure Cash.

From Mike Stinchfield, and how unintentionally hilarious: The Ugliest Civil War Monument?.

From Sirius, and this is going to blow your mind: Kelvin-Helmholtz instability.

Here's a pretty fascinating article about actor James Franco, who's also studying for his PhD at Yale.

From Steven Davis, and this is pretty amazing: ultra-high performance double pendulum. Also, and if you're a fan of Calvin & Hobbes, you have to see this: snowmen. One more, and it's spectacular: Impressive Lighting Display in Ukraine. Wait, it's a four-pack, and this is terrific: Subversive Finds: Hidden Cross Stitched Messages from a Nazi POW.

From Lael Jones, and this kid is phenomenal: 15 yr. old guitarist.

From Juan Font, and this is both NSFW and very funny: Darth Schwarzenegger.

From D.F. Prosser, and this is a fascinating bit of musical history: The Beatles - The REAL First Chord of "A Hard Day's Night".

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I rejoined the human race today.

After two weeks of being sick as a dog, with a cough that just never got better, I woke up this morning feeling better. Much better, actually.

Eli 10.4 had a typical day today: two hours of Kinect, an hour plus skating lesson, and an hour and a half of tennis.

Holy crap.

Eli had a skating teacher today who's really something. She was on the national ringette team, back in the day, and she is the warmest, kindest person I know. She's also a wicked good skater, and she worked Eli's ass off today. Eli would skate through a wall if she told him to, and when he came off the ice, he was so tired that he was wobbly.

Of course, we were playing tennis two hours later. We hit for a while, worked a bit on stroke technique, then played a set, which I won 6-1. To put it in perspective, he just started playing in June, I could have played in college (my roommate at the time played on the team, and I beat him consistently), I taught for several years, and he's ten. Ten! But he won that one game fair and square--I wasn't trying to help him.

When we rally now, I hit out, almost never trying to groove the ball for him, and I hit the ball all over the court, at all different heights and spins, trying to disrupt him as much as possible. It's the "Rocksmith" approach, generally--after he developed good mechanics for the forehand and backhand, I want to present him with as many different situations as possible, so that he learns to adapt.

I'm going to take some video next week, which I'll put up for you. He's a superfreak on the court, getting to balls that there is no way anyone should be able to reach.

Of course, after playing two days in a row, he's still bouncing all over the place, and I'm busted up. Bad hamstring, something in my left foot kind of popped yesterday, and my right knee hurts.

In other words, pretty much a regular day. But a good one.

Not Allowed

"Dad, is there more than one bad word that starts with 'F' and has four letters?" Eli 10.4 is watching 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic. I tape the "sanitized" version for him, which airs during the day and bleeps out the curse words (and adds *** when there are subtitles).

This means that when the coach of the Rangers (John Tortorella), says anything, there's bleeping. In this case, there were subtitles, and "F***" had come up about four times in two sentences. Tortorella is one of those old-school asshole coaches, who seems like he's basically yelling at his guys all the time.

Since we're huge Penguins fans, and head coach Dan Bylsma is intelligent, rational, and composed, Tortorella isn't coming off very well with us. "He just says the same thing every time," Eli says. "How many times is it going to work to just yell the same thing at people?"

Good question.

There's only one problem with the 24/7 series, which we're both really enjoying: it's making the Flyers seem likable.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Console Post Of The Week: All Over the Place

Now there's this:
Sony Tablet S update lets you play with PS3 controllers, cable adapter required

An excerpt:
The latest update to the company's divisive Tablet S will let you connect your DualShock 3 PS3 controllers with those 32-bit games of yesteryear.

Announcements like this seem to be coming about every 15 minutes now as everyone races to turn phones/tablets into auxiliary game machines. But why not design a custom Android controller, for example, for Android tablets? A controller that might be less bulky than a 360/PS3 controller, but with a reasonable subset of the functionality.

The Vita (not a console, so we're in sidetracked mode now) launched in Japan last week and, according to Media Create, sold 325,000 units in the first two days. That's out of a total shipment of either 500,000 or 700,000 (Sony may have boosted the launch shipment at the last minute, but there's no hard confirmation). Here are a few more launch details:
Media Create boss Atsushi Hosokawa blamed the relatively slow start on Vita's price, which, when you include a game and the required accessories (a memory card is required to play most games), means the system costs 40,000 yen (£328). He added a lack of a system seller at launch hampered its appeal.

"The shipment was abundant," he said. "So it seems that there were hardly any reports of inability to buy due to shortages. Regarding sold units, to be honest we would like to have seen it sell a bit more, but you can say that it reached a certain level of success."

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but there's no question that the Vita is a hardware powerhouse, and there will be plenty of software support, so if it does fail, it will be price-based, not "lack of ass-kicking" based.

Community Assistance

If you're familiar with sound editing software, and would be able to remove a "whistle" from a longer sound clip, and have nothing but free time to do this, please let me know. It would save me lots of me (that makes more sense than you might think) and would earn you the title of Official Sound Editor Of Dubious Quality.

Not that you necessarily want that title, but it's there for the taking. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Notes

I brought back some kind of coughing plague from Shreveport (surprising), and this is usually a slow gaming week, but here are a few notes.

First off, Steam is basically just giving shit away this week. It's definitely worth your time to check it out to fill in gaps in your backlog.

Next, Kairosoft has release Epic Astro Boy for Android. Here's the Android Market description:
Pioneer an untamed planet, building roads and houses for your fellow denizens of the future. Cultivate your quaint colony into a stellar space citadel, and you'll pull alien tourists from everywhere this side of Alpha Centauri!

Careful though, not all intelligent life seeks souvenirs. Prepare to engage in heated battle with all manner of cosmic creatures! Win--and you just might be rewarded...

What that means is that there are some party-based exploration elements in the game, and your characters can actually level up. It's very much an "RPG Lite" element, but it does provide additional flavor beyond the regular Kairosoft formula.

Also, Kairosoft expert John Harwood gives it his unconditional seal of approval.

Lastly, since we went on a trip, I decided to buy a game I've wanted to try for a while: Professor Layton and the Last Specter. This game is unique in that it has both the standard Professor Layton experience and an additional bonus game called "London Life" that's a role-playing game (U.S. and Japan versions only). Here's a trailer, and it's all quite charming as your character explores "Little London." Be cautioned, though, that it's quite slow-paced (which is one of the things I like, actually--having something to play that's zero-stress is very refreshing, especially after the last few weeks).

Finally, the PS3 and 360 versions of Rocksmith are on sale for $59.99 at Amazon. That's $20 off the regular price and quite a deal for what might be my favorite game of the year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Safe Return

We left on Friday for our annual holiday trip to Abandon Hope Town (also affectionately known as "Slowville").

Today, we returned.

I've given up trying to describe how hideously difficult these trips are, or why. Let me just say that by the time we get back to Austin, I feel like a Chilean miner who sees the sun after months trapped underground.

Now, a few pictures.

I like to call this first picture "welcome to East Texas":

It was even more disturbing in person, believe me.

On Sunday morning, I took Eli to Krispy Kreme, and we had an interesting discussion about this picture:

What we discussed was whether the snowman was right-handed or left-handed. Based on the position of the scarf, we concluded that he was left-handed. Actually, it would be fair to question how he could have a scarf on at all, given that he has no hands.

Finally, we went to the children's science museum in Shreveport, and in the gift shop, I saw this:

That's right--your eyes are not deceiving you. That is Count Chocula lipgloss. And Lucky Charm lipgloss was on the next row. Who knew?

On the way home, while we were eating lunch, Eli 10.4 asked Gloria why some of the cheeses she likes smell so bad.

"I'm not sure," she said. "I think they might actually put little bits of mold into bleu cheese."

"That would certainly make me want to eat it," I said.

That made her curious, so she looked up bleu cheese on Wikipedia. Here's an excerpt:
Blue cheese (or bleu cheese) is a general classification of cow's milk, sheep's milk, or goat's milk cheeses that have had cultures of the mold Penicillium added so that the final product is spotted or veined throughout with blue, blue-gray or blue-green mold, and carries a distinct smell, either from that or various specially cultivated bacteria. Some blue cheeses are injected with spores before the curds form and others have spores mixed in with the curds after they form. Blue cheeses are typically aged in a temperature-controlled environment such as a cave.

...The characteristic flavor of blue cheeses tends to be sharp and a bit salty. The smell of this food is due both to the mold and to types of bacteria encouraged to grow on the cheese: for example, the bacterium Brevibacterium linens is responsible for the smell of many blue cheeses, as well as foot odor and other human body odors.

Gloria read this out loud. Eli and I both said "EWWWWW!" At roughly the same time. "Mom, you like stinky foot cheese," Eli said.

On the basis of this description, I believe there would be a market for cheese deodorant. Maybe Dr. Scholl's would be interested.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and who knew that Heddy Lamar was such a badass, it's This 1940s Hollywood Actress Made Wi-Fi Happen.

From Daniel Quock, and this is both very funny and NSFW, it's "The Website is Down".

From Steven Davis, the obituary of one of the most incredible watchmakers ever: George Daniels, master watchmaker, died on October 21st, aged 85. Here's one more: Passing of a master watchmaker, George Daniels.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is a fascinating, article, it's What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447. Also, and this is fantastic: Cambridge gives Newton papers to the world.

From Griffin Cheng, a remarkable discovery: When Predator With 16,000 Eyes Roamed The Earth. Also, and this is quite fascinating, it's The shape of things to come: when products are printed, they often look like nature intended.

Another entirely adorable animal video: Lil' Drac: Orphaned Short-Tailed Fruit Bat Rescued By Bat World Sanctuary.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is quite brilliant: Santa's Christmas Eve Workload, Calculated.

From Sirius, and this is quite a discovery: Microraptor-the four-winged dinosaur that ate birds .

From Tateru Nino, and I'm pretty sure you don't need this camera for holiday portraits: MIT builds camera that can capture at the speed of light. Also noted is that ATP synthase is the smallest rotary engine known to man.

From Geoff Engelstein, and this is quite cool: Lenticular Street Art: Trick Graffiti Works only at Angles.

From Neil Sorens, and this is a tremendously cool idea: What children’s drawings would look like if it were painted realistically.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, another fascinating TED lecture: Mark Raymond.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Tour guide David Gloier weighs in this week. It's all him from here on out.
Well, I've been too busy to actually get any time in with Rocksmith for the past three weeks, but thought I'd at least show up and give out a few bits of advice for those of you just getting underway with your guitar careers. Again, this is all my opinion and your mileage may vary.

First, I'd recommend getting your guitars properly set-up. The difference between a properly set-up guitar and one that isn't is night and day. Chances are many of you bought an inexpensive guitar to start with and it likely could use a little help in this department. Find a luthier in your area and get it done, or do it yourself. If you don't know where to find a luthier, start at your local guitar store and ask them. They may have someone or they can recommend someone. It shouldn't cost you more than $40 or $50 and it's money well spent. A basic set-up shouldn't take too long and I've had guys let me watch what they were doing so I could learn. If you want to learn on your own, I'd recommend picking up a copy of this book:
How to Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great

It's full of invaluable information. If you're going to play, you should know the ins and outs of your instrument. This will help you. If nothing else, learn to properly change your strings. It needs to be done and if you are putting in serious time with your guitar, it likely needs to be done regularly.

Next, even though we'd all like to be rock stars and play with our guitars slung low, I'd recommend getting yourself a comfortable stool and playing Rocksmith sitting down. Sitting puts the guitar in the proper position and it will make learning easier and will put a lot less strain on your hands and wrists. Playing with the guitar down around your waist is a different beast altogether and you might want to learn what you're doing before you start imitating your rock idols. I have a basic, wooden bar stool I picked up at Wal-Mart for $20. It does the trick. Anyway, if you're going to put in long stretches of time in with your guitar and Rocksmith, you might as well be comfortable.

Get a strap and some strap locks. You don't want to drop your new investment and, if you decide to channel your inner Jimmy Page, you don't want to have the thing pop off the strap and fall to the floor. I use the Dunlop strap locks, but several brands are out there. You will have to replace the existing strap buttons on your guitar, but that is simple enough. Just Google "replacing strap locks." You'll find write-ups and videos to guide you through the process. Locks should only set you back about $15. Or, you can go the MacGyver route and buy a six-pack of Grolsch beer. After you finish the first two, remove the rubber gaskets from the locking bottle tops and place them over the button where it comes through the strap hole. Like so:

You get security and a buzz. You can't beat it, and honestly, they work really, really well. I have a friend that gigs with these as his locks after I showed it to him and he's happy with with the security they provide. They should be more than secure enough for sitting around the house playing.

Buy a tuner. The tuner in the game isn't very accurate and it pays to be in tune. You can spend a bunch of money on a tuner pedal, but I've been more than happy with my little clip-on Snark. You can get them for around $10 on Amazon or $20 in the stores. They are surprisingly accurate and really easy to use. They just clip on to your headstock and use the vibration to tune. They are perfect for doing a quick tune. I think Bill will vouch for the usefulness of the Snark.

In order to protect your guitar when you aren't playing, I'd recommend getting a case, a stand, or a wall hanger. If you have pets or children, get a case or a wall hanger. I have pets and prefer wall hangers. They also allow your guitar to double as wall art. Plus, if your guitar is out and visible, you're more likely to play it. Trust me on this. If you plan on leaving the house with your guitar, get a case as well. I'm not a fan of soft gig bags. They're cheaper than hard cases, but hard cases are cheaper than repairing or replacing a broken guitar.

Play away from the game. Get to know your instrument. Just fool around and see where it takes you. If you don't have an amp, look into getting a little practice amp. It's easier to get five or ten minutes in and you avoid the load times. (Well, if it's a tube amp, you do need to let it warm up a bit.) Some inexpensive modeling amps are available that let you play with different sounds without paying a bunch of money.

Finally, if you have the opportunity, play with others. It can be daunting when you're just a newbie, but the rewards are worth it. You'll pick up and learn a lot of things you wouldn't otherwise. Anyway, everybody has been where you are at some point and they all understand. Fellow guitarist love to give advice, and some of it is good. ;-)

Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying their new hobby. Hopefully, the payoffs are better than the frustrations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The top item on Eli 10.4s Christmas list this year was Kinect.

The only place we could put Kinect, though, was in the exercise room, which was so crowded and cluttered that it was an exercise in despair to even enter. When Eli got strep throat last week, though, plus the broken nose, I realized he might be out of hockey for quite a while (I was wrong, fortunately), and in lieu of hockey, Kinect would at least be something he could have fun with.

Three days and quite a few hours later, the exercise room had been made habitable (more or less), and we had room for Kinect.

We also needed a television, and I was fortunate to see this: a well-rated 37" JVC LCD with 1080P resolution for $349 at Costco. It was a terrific deal, and I have been very impressed with the quality of both the video and the sound. And they're still selling them, so if you need an extra television somewhere in your house, I highly recommend it.

Alright, back to Kinect. We've played it fairly extensively for the last four days--oh yeah, I should've mentioned that we totally suck when it comes to waiting for Christmas--and I have some impressions to share with you.

First off, I totally understand why kids love this thing. Eli loves using his entire body to play a game, and the Kinect Sports series is right up his alley. And it is tremendously cool to be in front of a device that can read your full body position so accurately. So there's definitely a "WOW" moment when you first start using Kinect.

Having said that, everything we've played has been limited and somewhat insubstantial (although we haven't tried Dance Central yet--that's actually off limits until Christmas). The games we've tried are fun, but not in any long-term kind of way. We played Wii Sports every day for months, and there's no way Kinect Sports (either version) will be like that.

In terms of functionality, Kinect is exponentially more powerful than the Wii controller. However, and I think this is a big however, it must be incredibly, mind-blowingly intimidating to design a game for Kinect. It really is disruptive technology, and it forces paradigm shifts in design.

Think about it: design a game without using a conventional controller in anyway. No buttons. Every action in the game, every menu item, must be controllable with the user's body. That must be incredibly difficult, and I think it explains why the vast majority of Kinect games are mini-game collections.

I've also noticed that connect is quite good when it comes to "goal motion" detection. In other words, a game wants you to perform a single specific action, or a series of actions that are defined for you. Almost every game we've tried takes this approach. What must be much more difficult, from a hardware perspective, is allowing unlimited actions, essentially, and detecting which one you've made.

That would be necessary if you wanted to use Kinect in an RPG, at least if you wanted a reasonable amount of freedom. On the 360 controller, it's possible to press in a combination of 14 different buttons/directions, and that's not even including the two analog sticks. There is no way that Kinect can allow that many possible inputs at the same time.

Does that mean it isn't cool? No--it's very, very cool. But developers are going to have a hell of a time using it in "real" games.

There is one category of game however, that seems tailor-made for use with Kinect: fitness games. I picked up Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012, and it's a blast. It's so much fun to see exercise connected with a game-type outcome, and with the sensor able to detect your body position, it greatly increases what a fitness program can do in terms of interaction with you.

As an exercise device, I'd give Kinect an "A". As a gaming device, not so much, although it's a fantastic piece of hardware. Actually, the hardware is an "A", but the games aren't. I do think that eventually will see some groundbreaking titles, but it will take someone who is an absolute badass to produce them.

Please note, however, that Eli gives it an "A+".

A Seismic Shift

Engadget had an interesting post about the latest NPD data for the smartphone market.

You may remember that we had an extended discussion about this a few months ago, and in particular, in response to my belief that the Android OS was on its way to dominating the market, you guys made the fair point that there are many different kinds of Android devices--some extremely capable, some not so much. So it's sort of an apples to oranges comparison to iPhones.

So here's the latest market share data (for January through October of this year):
Android 53%
iOS 29%
RIM 10%
Windows Mobile 3%
Windows Phone 2%

Android and iOS have 82% of the total market, in other words. Here's what's remarkable, though--take a look back at 2007:
Android 0%
iOS 11%
RIM 35%
Windows Mobile 42%
Windows Phone 0%
Palm 9%

Only four years ago, Android didn't even exist yet, and iOS had 11% of the market. What an incredible change.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Console Post of the Week: a Turn of Fortune

Some numbers.

November 2008 NPD
Wii: 2,040,000
Xbox 360+PS3: 1,214,000

November 2009 NPD
Wii: 1,260,000
Xbox 360+PS3: 1,529,500

November 2010 NPD
Wii: 1,270,000
Xbox 360+PS3: 1,900,000

November 2011 NPD
Wii: 800,000
Xbox 360+PS3: 2,600,000

At the peak of the Wii craze, Nintendo outsold the 360 and PS3 combined by an almost 2-1 ratio. Three years later, the ratio is now 3-1 in the opposite direction.

That doesn't mean that the Wii didn't "win" this generation. They have, and resoundingly, in both units sold and profits. The crater, though, has left a sour aftertaste.

With the Wii U launching sometime in 2012, what does Nintendo need to do to recapture the boundless enthusiasm that enveloped the Wii for much of its lifespan? The combination controller/tablet is interesting, but the U controller is "dumb", only capable of receiving content from the console. It's not a standalone device, and given the spectacular growth of tablets as content devices, it already seems a bit dated. Nintendo had a very, very interesting idea, but I also don't think they can take it to its logical conclusion.

Let's try to do that ourselves.

Consider a next-gen console with the standard capabilities (1080P output, etc.). Also consider that, like Nintendo, the console supports two types of controllers: a conventional gaming controller and a tablet.

Not a "tablet-like" controller. An actual tablet.

The Kindle Fire is selling for $199. Two years from now, that same tablet would sell (easily) for under $150. Why not include a real tablet with a console?

Think about it. Now the console's tablet becomes your primary media device, because it also has standard tablet functionality: Web surfing, standalone gaming, movie viewing. It works with your console, but it also works fine by itself. Plus it has access to exclusive gaming content that isn't available anywhere else.

Also think about this, and I know this is far into the future, but bear with me. Let's say you're playing a great game on your console, one that is absolutely consuming your time, and when you leave the house, you want nothing more than to keep playing it. What if your tablet could play a 2D version of that game, and your progress was synced with the console version? So you could continue playing on your tablet, and your progress would be synced with the console.

And it wouldn't have to be a 2D version--as powerful as tablets are getting, maybe it would just be a slightly "reduced" version in a graphical sense (I know, storage space would be an issue, at least today). Maybe it would be a series of mini-games or alternate quests that could contribute to your progress. It could be a sports game, and you could do all franchise simulation activities on the tablet, even if you weren't at home to play the individual games in a season.

I'm trying to think of the word for this, and all I can come up with is "continuation." No matter where you are, you should be able to progress in the game that you primary play on the console.

I would be happy to ditch my Samsung Galaxy tablet (which I'm quite fond of) if something like that was available.

Everyone likes to talk about convergence, and convergence devices. The 360 has turned into a media server, basically, in addition to its gaming capabilities. So why not extend that one step further, and turn the tablet controller into a media server/gaming platform as well?

I strongly feel that someone will do this in the future. Both Sony and Microsoft are already in the tablet market in some form, and this is a logical step that is in line with what they're already trying to do. Sony is actually the perfect company to do this, but they would charge $1200.

Rim shot.

The huge advantage of doing this is that it encourages consumers to single-source content. At home, your console provides all their content. When they're away from home, your tablet provides all their content.

That's the kind of brand loyalty that prints money.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Perfect Website

I couldn't possibly ask for anything more: Old Spice wins the holidays.

Fishing Resort


It's our traditional holiday Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer display--in Dexter terms, a tableau (without the dead bodies). Also please note the headless reindeer, my favorite Christmas tradition.

You might also note that an interloper has been added: "Fishing Resort" for the Wii, a game I have been looking forward to since the day it was announced. I have a long-standing affection for fishing in games, be they fishing-themed (Sega Bass Fishing, Reel Fish'n, Virtual Deep Sea Fishing) or just incidental (Dark Cloud 2, Fate, Everquest). Plus, it was developed by Yuji Naka (Sonic The Hedgehog, Nights Into Dreams...).

Why do I have time to play this one I don't have time to play Skyrim? A fair question, and the answer is that Eli 10.4 and I can play this together. Since he was out sick all last week, we passed some of the time playing Fishing Resort.

How is it? In a word: fun. The world is bright, the weather is warm, the beach is always clean, and there are plenty of fish to catch. Or you can bicycle around the island, if you prefer, or go kayaking, or travel on a submarine. If you'd like to stay indoors, you can look at the aquarium, which is stocked with the fish you've caught. Oh, and you can expand the aquarium, if you'd like, and aquarium visitors pay admission prices, and you'll get a portion of those proceeds.

The aquarium is a good example of why Fishing Resort works so well: the gameplay may be generally familiar, but there are infinite combinations of that gameplay drilled down to substantial depths. And it's a very well-designed game, with a simple but effective structure of multiple locations along with a hotel bulletin board in each location serving as an activity hub.

If you're wondering about the fishing, it's very solid. Float or lure fishing, many choices for rods and reels, even more choices for bait or lure type, and a gigantic array of fish to catch. Plus, even in the first location, you can fish from the beach, a pier, a charter boat, a kayak, or rocks/cliffs near the beach. Basically, any place there's water, you can drop a line.

The game is also absolutely stuffed full of personality--it's a happy island, full of life. There are plenty of people to talk to, who offer both challenges and useful information, and even with the Wii's limited graphics capability, the island is quite beautiful.

What shines through, in particular, about this game is the loving attention to detail. The degree of polish is very high, and the world is very full. This also makes it more engaging, and both Eli and I have very much enjoyed our time with the game. We've spent roughly 6 hours on the island's first location, without exhausting all the quests and mini-games. Of course, you don't have to do any quests or mini-games unless you want to--what you do is entirely up to you.

Oh, and remember what I said about the beach? Well, there are plenty of locations in the game, and most of them aren't beach at all. Some are saltwater, some are freshwater, some hot, some cold, some deep water, some shallow water. If you're thorough, I could see playing through the full game taking upwards of 50 hours.

John Harwood let me know that there is a co-op mode (the second person only appears when fishing, but both player's points from catching fish contribute to the point total), but we haven't even tried it yet. This is the kind of game where it's very pleasant to watch someone else playing, so Eli and I have just passed the controller back and forth.

One note: there is an optional "fishing controller" that comes with the $29 game package (by itself, the game is $19, which is quite a bargain), but trust me, you don't want the controller. It's a bit clunky, it adds nothing to the game, and it actually makes it harder to reel than if you just used the regular controller and nunchuk. So save yourself $10, and go for the standard edition instead.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Friday Links (Addendum)

I somehow forgot to mention the best link of the week, which came from Dubious Quality Visual Basic Advisor Garret Rempel. Believe it or not, it's an ass-kicking version of "Little Drummer Boy".

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Caleb Forney, a story that anyone interested in space will love: The Math That Saved Apollo 13 Just Sold for $388,375.

From Josh Eaves, and I guarantee this will blow your mind: Touchable Holography.

From Dave Tyrell, and this is quite remarkable: British Library digitizes 300 years worth of newspaper archives, brings 65 million articles online.

From Steven Davis, a fascinating device called The Wave Glider.

From Griffin Cheng, a remarkable little wasp: Fairy Wasps Are Smaller Than Amoeba. Also, this is quite a big story this week: Mythbusters Goofs Up Good. We love that show.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is stunning: 2011 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar.

From Chris H., and this is one of the coolest sport stories you'll ever see: a 51-year-old amateur goalie signed as an emergency backup for a few hours with the Minnesota Wild. Paul Deutsch: Rags to riches to rags.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, a bizarre and fascinating story: Dave Sanders: Fiber-Optics Exec by Day, Defender of Justice by Night. Also, and this is equally bizarre: Pablo Escobar's drug cartel spent $2500 a month on rubber bands for bricks of cash.

From Jeremy Fischer, and the first minute of this video is entirely classic: Achievement Hunter: Joel and Jack meet the Kinectimals.

From Michael O'Reilly, and this story is quite chilling: When Rebecca Coriam vanished from the Disney Wonder in March, hers became one of the 171 mysterious cruise ship disappearances in the past decade.

From Scott Hillis, and this is so creative and so striking: Drowning Beautiful.

From nin, and these are fantastic pictures, it's Most Intimidating NHL Goaltender Masks of 2011.

From Bill Sanders, and this is incredibly striking: Gwyn, Lord of Cinder (Dark Souls) on two pianos.

Here's quite a story: 6'5", 245 pounds, and trying to pass himself off as a 15-year-old. It's baffling, and it's Coaches puzzled by man who tried to play football at multiple Dallas high schools.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Even More Bizarre

One more e-mail from Frank:
So my cousin, who married the lead singer of the Trishas, lives in Austin. The other day he's driving and pulls up to an intersection. A guy on his phone/ipod isn't paying attention and walks right in front of his car. Fortunately, my cousin sees him in time and slams on the brakes. It was Robert Plant. Imagine that story: Robert Plant killed by the husband of the singer whose album is being produced by the guy who produced Robert Plant's last album.


I didn't mention this earlier, because it was too depressing, but here's what else we were dealing with this week:

That's a technician setting Eli 10.4 up for an x-ray of his nose. His idiot seven-year-old niece kicked him in the face at a birthday party, and he wound up with a small fracture in his nose (up high, almost between his eyes). Worse, she had been rough-housing with him and he had been trying to get her to stop, but he had been gentle because he didn't want to hurt her. Good grief.

So that was horrible, plus he's had strep throat and has been out of school all week. Misery.

Today, though, he got good news. He went to an ear/nose/throat doctor, who cleared him for hockey. So he's not going to miss any hockey because of his nose, which would have been incredibly shitty and unfair, and would have ruined his holidays completely. And we can still play tennis, too.

Life raft.

The Trishas

A few weeks, longtime DQ reader Frank Regan sent me this message:
So I'm in Memphis...With friends of Graham Wilkinson. Small freakin world.

If you don't know who Graham Wilkinson is, you haven't been around long enough. Go here. Or here, and listen to "Ragamuffin".

So it's very cool that Frank is hanging out friends of GW. A little later, I got another message:
It gets better. They're trying to talk him into playing my wedding.

Here's the story, and it's quite the seven degrees of separation, only it's much less than seven. A few days later, Frank sent me an e-mail asking me to listen to a band named "The Trishas". Then he explained why:
 This is an all girl band, the lead singer of which married my cousin and is one of the friends of Graham Wilkinson that I was with last weekend. Regardless, she has an amazing voice. They're in Nashville recording their first full album right now with the guy that produced Robert Plant's last album.

The Trishas are in the folk/country/bluegrass genre, and they have collectively beautiful voices, both striking and slightly haunting. So I am happy to make them the "little sister" band of Dubious Quality, and please give them a listen. Oh, and here's their website: The Trishas.

'Tis the Season, Indeed

I got this e-mail yesterday:
"So have you got to the point in your gaming career that Pop Chips and Jem and the Hooligans are more important than impression you have of the latest games (ie. Skyrim)?"

This was from someone who's e-mailed for a long time, and he was kidding, but it's actually a fair question, given how little I've written about gaming in the last few weeks. And the answer would be "not more important, but more possible."

I think the last four weeks have been the most difficult stretch I've had in years. Gloria was out of town for three days one weekend, then we had two weekends in a row with hockey tournaments (away from home three and four days, respectively), and last weekend, Eli got strep throat. He's missed school all week, which is how I saw Gem for the first time, because we were so desperate to find anything new to watch, and the program description sounded so, well, outrageous.

Those Pop-Chips? That was what I had for lunch one day, and it reminded me of how much I like them.

Next weekend, we're going to Shreveport (oh no), which will take us away from home for another four days. It's been an incredibly difficult stretch, and I've been so busy that I haven't even installed the replacement video card that I've had sitting by my computer for two weeks.

In short, I've been hanging on by my fingernails. I have managed to play Rocksmith for 20-30 minutes most days, but Skyrim has fallen by the wayside, even as I know it would be breathtaking.

I know this is going to ease up eventually, but for now, I'm just scrambling to find anything to write about that's at least (hopefully) mildly entertaining. That's how my lunch and the worst show I've ever seen wound up in posts this week.

Hopefully, things will be back to normal levels of craziness soon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


That mystery screenshot I posted on Monday of people in tuxes and formal dresses sitting in a hot tub is from a show called "Jem."

See what they did there with a "J" instead of a "G"? I know you did.

Here's the basic set-up for the show (taken from the Wikipedia entry:
The series revolves around Jem who is the mysterious lead singer and front-woman of the rock group "Jem and the Holograms". She is also Jerrica Benton, owner/manager of Starlight Music. Jerrica adopts this persona with the help of a holographic computer, known as Synergy, which was built by Jerrica's father to be "the ultimate audio-visual entertainment synthesizer" and is bequeathed to her after his passing. Jerrica is able to command Synergy to project "the Jem hologram" over herself by means of the remote micro-projectors in her earrings, thus disguising her features and clothing enabling her to assume the Jem persona. While disguised as Jem, Jerrica is able to move freely without restrictions and on several occasions other people have been in direct physical contact with her without disrupting the holographic projection. Jem, through the use of her earrings, is also able to project holograms around her and uses this ability throughout the series to avoid danger and provide special effects for the performances of her group.

Incredibly, the show had a nice run from 1985-1988, with 65 episodes. Even more surprising was this (also from the Wikipedia entry): 1987 it was the 3rd most watched children's program in syndication with 2.5 million viewers weekly.

You guys sent me some very funny e-mail, which I will share, but I'm not going to bust anyone by using their names. Oh, and for some of these to make sense, you need to know that the signature line of one of the characters is "OUTRAGEOUS!"

First in:
Is she truly outrageous...truly, truly, truly outrageous? ;)

I deleted this email about 5 times before I couldn't resist any longer.

Is that picture from Jem? The 80s band Barbie thing? I don't know what to be more ashamed of; that I can still remember that show, or that I might be wrong but admitted to knowing about Jem anyway.

I'm going to bury my head in my hands and pretend none of this ever happened.

And more:
Is that… Gem and the Holograms?

Bad? Yes. Worst EVER? No. Mr. T. had his own cartoon, which featured a dog with a mohawk.

Still more:
Jem is truly, truly, truly outrageous.

One of my favorites:
How can you say that about Jem?

Jem is excitement, Jem is adventure, glamor and glitter, fashion and fame, Jem is truly outrageous!

That's taken from the theme song, by the way. Well played.

Another favorite:
That is TOTALLY Jem and the Holograms. That's Kimber in the hot tub!

Um, I shouldn't be admitting that I know that, should I? That's quite the odd coincidence, too, because I just ordered the DVD collection from Amazon. For my girlfriend. For Christmas. Really.

This, though, was the absolute best:
Not a fan of Jem? But she’s truly outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous.

And yes, I knew which show that was a shot from without looking it up. Don’t judge.

I actually copied down some dialogue from the episode we watched:
Unaware of his feelings, Kimber was going to marry Jeff.

I've got my guy, he's got the ring.

I began to wonder if I could give up my carefree lifestyle.

Of course, with such lovely ladies, we always travel first class.

Wow! Look at that long limo.

Totally awesome, stylish, and hip.

I know that you are now begging for more, so watch the opening of the show.

Yes, it's all just as bad as that.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

For Your Consideration

I bought a bag of these chips while at Fry's, and they're quite tasty. A husky version of Munchos, essentially.

Console Post of the Week: Sony

Chris Kohler sent me a link to a fascinating article about Sony titled What Is Sony Now?.

It's a fair question. Sony was once identified as being the cutting edge of cool, later transformed itself into a money-printing giant, and today it's neither. Plus here's one more shocker:
For the past nine years, the business that has accumulated more profit than the rest of Sony combined is financial services, mostly life insurance, with some auto insurance and banking.

Didn't see that coming, did you? Well, neither did I.

The basics, though, are not complicated. Other companies make televisions and computers and video game consoles with the same degree of innnovation and quality as Sony, but at lower prices. The huge profit drivers of the 1997-2000 era (televisions and video games) are gone, and there's nothing to take their place.

Sony, though, isn't giving up. Here's a clue:
Hirai says Sony has lowered TV sales targets and will continue to shed assets, cutting staff and factory capacity as it outsources more production. Echoing Stringer’s view that Sony needs to produce a “different kind of TV,” he says Sony is working on prototypes that replace commodity LCD and plasma TVs. “We’re going to move onto these new technologies sooner rather than later,” Hirai says. Sony hopes to get its cool back with ultralow-power, glasses-free 3D sets that double today’s resolution, though they’re not expected to be mainstream until at least 2013.

In other words, Sony can't win selling standard HD sets against Samsung, etc. What they are hoping to do, apparently, is be a leader in 4K-HD technology. With a standard resolution of 3840×2160, one of the early benefits of 4K-HD would be to enable 3D displays that could show full 1080P resolution to each eye. Also, many films and sporting events today are shot at 4K resolution, and a 4K display would theoretically be capable of displaying them at full resolution (I say theoretically because compression has an effect on image quality, and 4K programs would require more bandwidth or disc space, hence potentially more compression).

Sharp will have 4K display at CES in January, and the early buzz has been extremely positive. So Sony will (again) have stiff competition.

Interestingly, though, it's not just 4K tech moving forward. OLED seems to have come back from the semi-dead (at least on anything larger than a cellphone screen). 55-inch screens from both Samsung and LG will allegedly be at CES as well.

Does this mean you'll be able to buy a 55" OLED display next year? Probably not, unless you want to pay a gigantic premium. But a year ago, OLED looked like it might never be used in much more than cool cellphone displays. Now, with Samsung's significant investment in the technology, and cost breakthroughs in the manufacturing process, it looks like OLED for large HD displays is apparently "real" this time.

Back to Sony, and let's move on to the Vita. A still-unconfirmed report this week indicated that buying a Vita title through PSN and downloading it will cost 40% less than buying the physical disk. If true, this will be an interesting experiment in pricing, since a discount of that depth would be very tempting, even with losing the ability to resell the game.

Course, given the price of the proprietary memory cards ($120 for 32GB), it could be argued that Sony's willing to discount the games heavily because people still have to buy the memory cards to store them. At the top level, though, a 40% discount would at least qualify as something substantial.

Sony has to stop the bleeding, basically. And at least they're not sitting around and watching the future hit them in the face, which I've accused them of doing in the past. Swing the sword.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Quite A Find

I believe that I have truly discovered the worst television program in history. Your clue:

Unbelievable, Or All Too Believable

I think this is a reasonable way to establish when a policy is utterly idiotic: when the worst person you can think of shouldn't be treated that way.

From Rock, Paper, Shotgun (in this case, John Walker):
For the last week I’ve been sending quite a few emails to various people within EA, trying to get to the bottom of why gamers receiving forum bans are finding they do not have access to their Origin online gaming. My goal has been to get a clear understanding of their current policy on the matter, since the company’s actions don’t appear to match the statements made in 2008, and March this year. On both occasions they have made it clear that forum bans should not affect access to games, and yet it’s quite obvious that’s not the case. So what is going on?

...I’m building up quite the portfolio of affected gamers, who find after a forum violation they’re unable to access their Origin games. And within this is a more disturbing trend – those who are finding that their forum bans are, without explanation, becoming permanent bans. Permanent bans from accessing their Origin accounts, their Battlelog accounts, and therefore downloading purchased games, and playing online.

Wait, here's the kicker:
Most exceptional perhaps is Aaron, who after receiving a 72 hour ban was told by EA support they couldn’t help because “the game developers control this”. Pardon? His crime? Someone else swearing on the forum, with his username in their post. Trying the live chat support instead, he was then informed that his account was permanently banned, and that “all property, items, and characters associated currently are or will soon be deleted.” Followed by, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Aaron tried again, pointing out that forum bans shouldn’t affect games. And then came this incredible reply:
“Please be informed that your account not only suspended, But it is also Banned, So you will no longer to play the game in single player.”

In an era where gaming consumers are getting less and less from big companies, this may set the new standard of shitty.

Look, here's the first reason that this policy should never exist on a practical level: you're giving forum mods of uncertain qualifications 300 tons of power. It's like letting a 5-year old drive an 18 wheeler: disaster is guaranteed.

Secondly, though, on a philosophical level, should the absolutely WORST person on Earth be banned from playing a multiplayer game because they're a forum dick? Of course not, because they are entirely separate activities. Banned from the forums? No problem. Banned from anything else because they're banned from the forums? Seriously?

It's even more incredible that, in some cases, people can't even play OFFLINE. I don't know about you, but I'm not paying $60 for a *$#damn game when it's apparently nothing more than a product rental based on what EA arbitrarily decides is "acceptable" forum conduct. My ability to play offline could be REVOKED based on my conduct in a forum?

This is what's killing me when I think about how we got to this point: the policy had to be approved by a chain of command at EA. WTF is in that chain? How could you find three or four consecutive people who thought this was a good idea? Do these people live at the bottom of wells or something?


I Don't Know What's Worse

...Finding out that the "tattoo artist put an excrement tattoo on his girlfriend's because he found out she cheated on him" story is an urban legend, or finding out that the picture they used with the story actually IS real.

So that means a woman VOLUNTARILY had a pile of dung tattooed on her back. Interesting times, indeed.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Friday Links!

Crap, sorry. I thought these were posting at 12:13 a.m., and that's how it's scheduled, but somehow Blogger didn't do it.

Steve Davis sent in a link to a wonderful, thoughtful article by Steve Martin titled Being Funny.

From Jonathan Arnold, a fantastic time- lapse video: 'Brinicle' ice finger of death filmed in Antarctic.

From Frank Regan, and this is entirely amazing, it's Octopus Walks on Land at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

From Caleb Forney, and this is quite remarkable, it's Gunkanjima: Ruins of a Forbidden Island.

From Sirius, a remarkable discovery: Four-winged dinosaur fossilized after swallowing a bird. Also, and this is just as interesting, it's Golden orb web spider spins ant-repellent silk. One more, and it's also from nature: Spider web stabilimenta.

From Nate Carpenter, and this will amaze you: World's smallest V12 engine.

From the Edwin Garcia Links Machine, a stunning piece of history: The Royal Anjou Bible. Here's another, and it's equally stunning: the Voynich Manuscript.

From Griffin Cheng, and this is completely entertaining, it's 10 Science Tricks To Make You the Most Interesting Person At Dinner.

From Kadunta, and I find it fascinating that comedy is one of the most difficult things to understand, it's The Joking Computer (hint: the jokes aren't very good, which is quite interesting in itself).

From Jesse Leimkuehler, and surely this is one of the greatest acts of revenge for a strayed love ever: Ryan Fitzgerald and the excrement tattoo.

From Michael Clayton, a glimpse into the future: Contact Lens Capable of Displaying Text and Images Is Almost at Hand.

Closing out this week, from DQ reader My Wife, and this is entirely adorable, it's "Teddy Bear," the porcupine, doesn't like to share....

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Precipice (part three)

I sat down next to Eli 10.3 in the dressing room and put my hand on his shoulder. "I love you, buddy," I said, "and that was incredible."

"I lost the game," he said, crying.

"You didn't lose the game, but it's okay to cry," I said. "I know it hurts. But a little while from now, when you feel better, I want you to celebrate what you did today, because it was special."

A few of Eli's teammates had thrown their sticks as they entered the locker room, frustrated by four consecutive losses, and even more frustrated that the last game had slipped away. But it only took a few seconds for them to notice Eli in the corner, and when they did, a curious thing happened: they stopped being angry.

Over the course of the next few minutes, every single kid walked over to Eli. Some put their hand on his shoulder, a few put their arm around him, and all of them were kind. "Don't feel bad," one said. "We had no chance without you. None."

"That's the best I've ever seen a goalie play," said another.

Each time, their kindness would make Eli cry harder for a little while. And then the moms came in, and most of them came over and hugged Eli. He's a mom favorite, and they did everything they could to make him feel better, but it just made him start crying again.

It's hard, being a father, because there was nothing I wanted to do more than burst into tears. I couldn't, though. I had to be strong and positive for my son, to help him through, and whatever else I felt, I had to eat.

When we had his gear packed, we slowly started our way out of the arena. Eli was just wearing his black UnderArmor and his blue sneakers, his eyes red and swollen.

I was carrying his leg pads, and as we walked out into the lobby, I saw a few parents from the other team (travel team parents usually have "team jackets" that they wear, so it's easy to know who they are). Then another curious thing happened: they recognized the leg pads, and every single parent stopped me.

"Is that him? The goalie?" one parent asked, pointing at my sad little boy with the red eyes. "He was unbelievable. It was amazing." Another parent said, "He should feel great about how he played. He was brilliant." A few of them patted Eli on the shoulder, and he thanked them as he tried very hard not to start crying again.

There was a photography firm that took pictures during the tournament, and we had decided to buy a CD with all his pictures. It was going to take a little while, though, so we packed his gear in the car, then came back into the rink. One of his best friends was in goal for the Peewee final, and we both wanted to see him.

At first, I thought this might be a bad idea, but as it turned out, it was the single best thing to do. Eli was happy for his friend Miles, who played a great game, and we wound up getting to watch the entire game, even seeing the team accept the championship trophy. Eli was much better by the end of the game.

On the way home, we stopped at a restaurant, and we both went to the bathroom before we left. "I wish I could've thought of what to do," he said.

"You have a tool," I said.

He thought for a few seconds. "The poke check!" he said.

"That's right," I said. "And I want you to understand something. I know you were nervous in the shootout, but it wasn't your nerves. Preparation brings clarity, and you'd never even worked on shootouts before. You felt nervous because you weren't prepared. We're going to look at shootouts together, and you'll understand them, and you won't be nervous next time."

"I'll be ready," he said. He was quiet for a few seconds as we washed our hands.

"Hey, what did you feel?" I asked.

"A lot of things," he said. "But mostly, when the shootout started, I felt nervous."

"There are people who reach the precipice of something great," I said, "and when they look over the edge, they see what's in front of them and they get scared. But that's not you. I've never, ever seen a kid handle pressure the way you do. It was just lack of preparation, and when you're prepared, you'll step to the edge, see what's in front of you, and embrace it."

"Thanks, Dad," he said.

"You really were ridiculous today," I said. "Seriously--35 saves?"

He gave a little laugh. "I needed 36," he said.

Almost as soon as Gloria started the car for the drive home, he fell asleep. He slept for almost 2 hours, exhausted, and we were just about to reach Waco when he woke up. I knew immediately that he felt much better, and that the Enthusiasm Engine was already recharging.

We stopped at a Dairy Queen, and we saw what must be one of the greatest murals in history. "Do you see that?" I asked Eli.

"Oh my god," he said, laughing. "That's awesome."

Here's what we saw:

"What makes this totally classic," I said, "is that the cowboy has an ice cream mustache. That is so outstanding."

"Even better," Gloria said, "it's not a cowboy. It's a vaquero."

"You're right," I said. "That is awesome in every way."

We laughed about the vaquero with the ice cream mustache, and in the booth next to us, three cute little girls who were identical triplets sat with their father, eating the same ice cream cones as the vaquero riding trail above them. Eli smiled at the girls, then looked at me. "Ready, Dad?" he asked.

"Let's go home," I said.

We were still on the road when the sun started to go down. The sky was all clear, and the colors were beautiful, blue bending into orange into yellow. It was one of the biggest, loveliest sunsets I've ever seen, and we watched it together as the road unspooled and we headed home.

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