Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Maybe Not As Much Spring As I'd Hoped

It's the first day of Spring and I can't feel my fingers.

It's beautiful and sunny, temperature 38F (wind chill 24F), and I'm wearing three layers plus a heavy jacket, flannel jeans, and heavy shocks and shoes. And gloves.

Still, after about twenty minutes, the feeling starts to leave my fingers.

I'm in the backyard with Eli 16.8, feeding balls into a pitching machine. There's a hockey net in the yard, and he's standing in front of it, catching ball after ball with his glove.

This is a real pitching machine. It can throw 70+ MPH at 46 feet, and Eli is about 10 feet closer than that. We have 50 7.5" baseballs (about 20% smaller than a regular baseball), and I feed him 300-400 balls in a regular session.

This machine is straight-up amazing. The pitches it can throw:
left-hand curve
right-hand curve
left-hand slider
right-hand slider

That's right--it can throw a knuckleball. A good one, too.

The nastiest pitch for him to catch seems to be the splitter, because it has a filthy drop at the end. Pucks do that, though, so we're basically creating every combination of speed, spin, and location we can, so that when he's on the ice, he's seen every trajectory that can possibly happen.

We even have an inflatable bopper (ninja on one side, boxer on the other) that can stand a few feet in front of Eli and act as a screen.

Standing. Butterfly. Half-split. Glove side. Blocker side. Ball. Next ball.

We have a screen behind the net so that these little baseballs don't go flying into the neighbor's yards, although once or twice a session, one gets through.

1,500 balls a week all spring and summer will be 25,000 balls by the time school starts in the fall.

Limited Utility

The only reason anyone should ever, EVER use Amazon's Silk browser is if they're feeling suicidal and want one more thing to push them over the edge.

Monday, March 19, 2018


I was walking to breakfast this morning when I saw a women on the other side of the street.

You know the hardcore walking type--thin, arms high, eyes focused like a laser straight ahead. She was moving, too.

Behind her were three dogs: a boxer, a terrier, and a schnauzer.

The boxer and terrier were (on leashes) directly behind their owner, with the boxer on the left. They, too, walked with absolutely no wasted motion, looking only straight ahead, perfectly in stride with their owner and each other.

Behind them, with about three more feet of leash available, was the schnauzer. Incredibly, he was also looking directly ahead, although with the shortness of his legs, he was running, not walking.

It was a dog peloton.

They turned off at the next intersection, but I saw them again ten minutes later. The boxer, given more leash from his owner, had dropped back with the schauzer, with the terrier solely in front now.

Still, they moved in perfect harmony. With expert timing, as it's been said.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and I always thought this was true: How Strength Training Makes You Faster. In the same vein: Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Olympian? Also related: Muscle loss in old age linked to fewer nerve signals. Boy, this is topical: How to Buy a Gun in 15 Countries. Smugglers! What turns some law-abiding Canadians into smugglers? The high price of imported cheese. Yes, it did: The 1968 Kerner Commission Got It Right, But Nobody Listened.

From Meg McReynolds, and here are some details on one of the most poignant songs ever written: Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman: The unfinished song that became a classic. More: Behind The Song: “Wichita Lineman”.

From Wally, and this is very clever: 8 Bit Door Chime Plays Africa By Toto. This is fascinating: Bug Gaits for Animators. You don't see this every day: Motorcycle Helps Rider Recover Runaway Horse. What, my World Famous Fish Stick recipe is under scrutiny? The Dirty Secret of ‘Secret Family Recipes’

From Steven Davis, and this is certainly chilling: The Grisly Origins of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Empire.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister passed away last week.

He was the first person to run a sub-four minute mile, and he did it in 1954. Mount Everest was climbed for the first time almost exactly a year earlier.

Sixty-five years later, more people have climbed Mount Everest than run a four-minute mile.

Anyone who runs knows the feeling of your body just shutting down after running near peak speed for too long, like an engine seizing up. Pushing into this pain is brutally difficult, and Bannister pushed more deeply than anyone ever had.

He wrote a book about it all, and I still remember reading it for the first time. It was superbly written and unbelievably gripping, and I still remember individual passages decades later.

Remarkably, not long after he broke four minutes in the mile, electrifying the world, he retired from competitive running to become a neurologist (an outstanding one, by all accounts).

The New York Times has a nice obituary, and in it they mention that his training base for the race was twenty-eight miles a week.


There's also footage from the race itself (it was actually a time trial, not a race, but whatever), and it's mesmerizing.

Also, in a world that seems defined by crudeness and downright dickery these days, Roger Bannister was a good person. I've never read one negative word about him, never found one person or incident that made me think less of him. He was universally respected and beloved.

That was the real triumph of his life.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I thought of a way to describe to Eli 16.7 how games unfold.

Expectations are performance killers. Expectations of how a game should go, expectations of how you should perform. Expectations of fairness. Anything not focused on the present--without comparison--interferes with an athlete's ability to perform at the highest level.

It's a trap almost everyone falls into, including Eli.

"Here's a metaphor," I said.

"Uh-oh," Eli said, laughing. "Go ahead."

"A game is like a rope," I said.

"Explain that."

"There is a rope in front of you, and it's nearly the same length every time," I said. "You know that every length of the rope will have knots, but they will be always be in different places, because no two ropes are exactly the same. You pull on the rope and look for the knots, and when you find them, you dissolve them."

"Untie them?" he asked.

"Not exactly," I said. "This is more of a Zen thing. You seek the knots, and you focus until they fall away."

"Wow," he said. "That's actually good."

"A happy accident," I said.

Remember the Guy Who Was Leaving to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

He made it.

None of his friends did--they all wound up with altitude sickness--but he did. He also said he'd never do anything like it again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

This is the Greatest Game Theme Song I've Ever Heard

Super Daryl Deluxe makes a case for rock-opera themes



The sound is coming from the kitchen area.

I walk in and see Gloria pounding some sort of animal flesh with Thor's Hammer.

"I don't want you to have to get into food beating," I said. "Can't we buy pre-beaten food?"

She laughed.

"Did you just shoot that and fillet it or something? Food comes in packages, not the backyard."

A Text

It's snowing Dippin' Dots.

Monday, March 12, 2018


My Mom turned 88 today.

I capitalize "Mom," no matter how I use it grammatically, because she always deserves the capital letter.


She was born just after the beginning of the Depression. Survived. Was raised by one of the meanest women I ever know. Survived. Her asshole husband--my father--left her. Survived. Raised two kids by herself. Survived.

After she retired, she converted from surviving to enjoying. We were out of the house. For the first time in decades, she had time to herself. She was able to think about herself again.

This is one of my favorite stories about Mom.

She started smoking when she was 15, or maybe it was 14, and smoked into her 60s. It was a fundamental quality of her life. She didn't smoke that much, but she smoked.

I tried to get her to quit. For decades.

One day, I went to see her, and she said she had quit. I was astonished.

"How was it?" I asked.

She said, "Hard."

I can't say enough good things about Mom (they're all good things). That old saying about character winning out is very true, at least when it comes to her. She is tough and principled and loving.

That's a very good combination for raising children, or being a human being.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Friday Links!

This is one of the best links collections we've ever had.

This is one of the most beautiful and poignant pieces of writing that ever existed. I'm not even going to tell you what it's about, but it's a sledgehammer, and if you only read one link this entire year, read this one: The Fourth State of Matter: A week in the author’s life when it became impossible to control the course of events.

This is a wonderful story on hacking the lottery: Jerry and Marge Go Large.

This is an amazing story, and it's not the first time: Is The Freshman Dominating Maryland High School Basketball Actually 20 Years Old?

This is both fascinating and useful to all of us who have a design interest in these little things: The Shape of Ancient Dice Suggests Shifting Beliefs in Fate and Chance.

From DQ Reader My Wife, this is a powerful and incredibly moving story: A 'Bright Light,' Dimmed in the Shadows of Homelessness.

From Steven Davis, and this is remarkable: Biological Pest Control: Bat Towers. Next, and this is stunning, it's World's Oldest Cave Art Found—And Neanderthals Made It.

From Ken Piper, and this makes sense: How ski warfare created biathlon.

From Griffin Cheng, and this is fascinating: What the world’s largest family tree tells us about marriage and death in the West. Next, and this is quite a story: The French Cruiser ‘Emile Bertin’ Escaped Halifax With a Belly Full of Gold. I do not want to have this job: Japan is trying to get doddering drivers to give up their licences.

From Wally, and this is interesting: Time Travel Cheat Sheet. This is truly fascinating: Voyages in sentence space. The title sounds dry, but this is really interesting: Average Annual Population of NYC Neighborhoods, 2010-2014. This is very, very nice: Delaware Linemen Help Get The Power On in Puerto Rico.

From Brian Witte, and this is incredible: New study tracks the evolution of stone tools.

From Fredrik Skarstedt, and don't blink: The Rubik's Contraption.

Thursday, March 08, 2018


DQ VB.Net Advisor Garret Rempel is a version of Alice in Wonderland, except instead of believing in six impossible things before breakfast, he does six impossible things before breakfast. He recently renovated his house, and the story is pretty remarkable. 

First off, here's the old space upstairs (third floor).

It was 300 sq. feet of usable space, with awkward ceiling issues in places. 

First, the demolition:

I'm not sure what person looks at that and says "Oh, I can do that myself," but Garret did. His notes:
I did the interior demo myself, though I had help carrying the debris out - in one 6 hour day I did over 1000 flights of stairs (up plus another 1000 down) carrying two large buckets of what was essentially cement (plaster).

Yeah, get away from me, crazy man. That's cyborg territory.

More details: The exterior demo tear down + new structure build + roofing took 3 days start to finish. 

Yeah, no words. I had a bunch of bad jokes on what takes me longer than three days start to finish, but consider yourself spared.

Next, the obligatory large piece of machinery bringing in something photo: 

Here's the new exterior in progress:

Inside in-progress:

Details: The interior (from studs to finished) took 2.5 months.

Here it is finished:

Inukshuk and secret door:

If you think that's a lot more space, you're right:
It increased our 3rd usable floor space from 300sqft to 600sqft, the room is now 21ftx27ft (with 6x10 cut out for the ensuite) features a new cubby crawl space (the inukshuk picture is a hidden door - the entire white part of that wall opens) and the vaulted ceiling is 6ft at the edges, and almost 10 ft at the peak.

I need to lie down.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Actual Life

A note from DQ Reader My Mom:
Do you have redbud trees in Michigan?  The ones here are in full bloom and are beautiful.

My response:
I have no idea. Do they grow in rinks?

My Mom is wonderful, by the way. Definitely a Badass of the Week.

Not the Best Student

She takes excellent notes, but lacks dedication to the task.

The Sound of One Paw Clapping

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Eli 16.7 had practice at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, but he wanted to go in early for some extra work. Very early.

I don't even think I've ever seen the moon that high when I was getting up to go fish! It was 6:05, in case you're wondering. 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

This is Bad Customer Service


I love La-Z-Boy. We have a couch that has two recliners and it's the best piece of furniture I've ever owned.

Each side of the couch has a little recessed handle, and when you pull that handle, the recliner lets pop up. It's fantastic.

Two weeks ago, Eli 16.7 pulled up on the handle on his side--and nothing happened. Well, a little piece of plastic tinkled out.

The handle itself was fine, but nothing happened when you pulled it out.

I called La-Z-Boy and talked to a customer service person. He asked which part broke. I wanted to say, "I bet it's the part that breaks on every single couch after about three years," but I didn't. So I gave him the information, and he sent a follow-up e-mail asking for pictures and whatnot.

Sent it all back the same day.

Oh, and the part was free, but shipping was going to cost $13. For a part that weighs a few ounces.


Two weeks pass. No part arrives.

I call back today, give my case number, and they confirm that they have my email. They also confirm that absolutely nothing has happened.


Now, does La-Z-Boy do anything different in response to their mistake? Absolutely not. It's still going to take an additional 5-7 business days for me to receive the part, and they're still going to charge me $13. No expediting, no waiving of the charge, nothing.

Even worse, when I asked if they'd send me some kind of notification that the part shipped out--so that I'd know they'd actually, you know, done something--that wasn't possible. I have to call back into their Customer Service center, wait on hold, and then prod them for verification.

That's stupid.

If you don't notify the customer, then they don't know if you actually shipped the part for over a week. Then they'll wait a few more days before they call, like I did. So anytime the company makes a mistake, it's magnified.

It's so easy to avoid those annoyed customer service calls, just by having the correct process in place, but they don't.

Monday, March 05, 2018


I'm opening it up to the floor.

I'm going to describe something to you, something very early, that's stuck on one thing. Please, if you think you have a solution, let me know.

You, the player, are a god, and you can see an adventuring party you're shepherding as they enter into battle. You're seeing the battle as if looking through a snow globe into a diorama.

You can create a global effect via the elements, or you can cast specific effects on one person.

What I can't figure out, though, is how the player knows when to intervene.

1. No numbers. No hit points decrementing.
2. No status bars.

In other words, status has to be conveyed without the conventional methods by which status is usually conveyed.

I've had a few ideas. For one, have each adventurer represented by a card (which blows up the diorama, doesn't it?), with different poses for different conditions. You could see the expression on their face (with about eight different ones possible) for their mental state, and the condition of their body as the physical state. That's a variation on the system used in "Guild of Dungeoneering", but without the hearts to show health.

Like I said, though, this blows up the diorama idea, and I know the diorama is right. So I need a visual way for the player to get information about how the battle is going, and to further complicate things, since he has the snow globe view, it's not a zoomed-in view, either.

This isn't a mechanics problem. It's strictly a visual one.

Thanks for reading this and thanks for any ideas you wish to share.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Friday Links!

This is a long and tremendous profile of a powerfully talented person: Donald Glover Can't Save You.

From Griffin Cheng, and this is remarkable: How a Sneak Attack By Norway’s Skiing Soldiers Deprived the Nazis of the Atomic Bomb.

A plethora of links from C. Lee:
Why Are These Hamsters Cannibalizing Their Young? (a staggering bit of detective work)
How a Library Handles a Rare and Deadly Book of Wallpaper Samples (fascinating)
The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM (fascinating and strange)
These Are Not Your Father’s GMOs (also fascinating)
The brutal world of sheep fighting: the illegal sport beloved by Algeria’s 'lost generation' (brilliant)
You Should Thank Maurice Hilleman for Helping You Live Past the Age of 10 (a genius)

From Wally, and this looks like a mess: Here Come The Copyright Bots For Hire, With Lawyers In Tow. Not quite yet, maybe, but I think they're getting closer: The meatless Impossible Burger bleeds and sears, but wasn’t a crowd pleaser. Holy crap: Florida bass fishing can be dangerous. Not effective: Recovery team colossal fail. This is an absolutely amazing story: China’s American Imperial General. This is brilliant:  Encounter: Mark Twain Toasts Ulysses S. Grant.

From DQ Film Advisor and Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand, and it's both beautiful and a bit haunting: Skating on thin ice creates unusual sounds.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

What a World

It's hard to imagine a time when this was possible (from a book I'm reading):
Her father was a prospector, Will Ryan, burn in 1866 in Connecticut. His fortune always seemed one step ahead of him. He had worked on a whaling ship, been a surveyor, and spent much of his life prospecting for gold. 

Engineering Marvels

George likes us and children. He also likes one friend of Eli 16.6 who lives in Austin.

He will attack anyone else on sight.

Gracie likes most people, but doesn't like some females. She will, with the entirety of her seven pounds, try to intimidate anyone she doesn't like.

Cats. Mystery.

When Eli's girlfriend comes over, we have to take elaborate measures, using child gates.

"Okay, get the first gate and we'll put it at the top of the stairs," I said. "Wait a minute--we want the first gate to be at the front of the hallway. We don't need the second gate until they go downstairs."

"Do we want to put both of them behind the first gate, or just George?" she asked. "Where is Gracie?"

"Good grief," I said. "We're running a Panama Canal for Pets."

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