Thursday, April 26, 2018

Eli 16.9 on Piano, With a Special Appearance by Evan the Inappropriate Elf

Eli 16.9 started noodling around on keyboards about a month ago.

Watched some videos for instruction, started playing, liked it. We have friends moving into a smaller house, they needed a place to store a piano, etc., there's a piano downstairs now.

The piano is out of tune, and Eli has only been playing for four weeks, but here's what he's doing.



Doesn't surprise me anymore, but I can hear the difference in how he plays every day now.

[Update]
I recorded that three weeks ago. Now he's taking a lesson a week and working on things like Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer". I'll put up clips occasionally, plus it's a nice excuse to showcase Evan (as if I needed an excuse).

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Dark Rabbit Hole

A few weeks ago, I sent my mom a copy of Tangerine, a staggeringly brilliant piece of writing that evokes both Patricia Highsmith and Harper Lee.

I've read all of Highsmith's Ripley novels, and I read a bit of true crime, and then today I saw the headlines, and welcome to the rabbit hole.

The headlines were about the "Golden State Killer", a serial burglar, rapist, and murder who was active from 1975-1986. He committed crimes in both northern and Southern California, prolifically, and was never caught. Over fifty rapes and twelve murders have been attributed to him, and the investigation has been going on for over forty years.

In a remarkable twist, Patton Oswalt's deceased wife, Michelle McNamara, had obsessively investigated this case for years, had done much valuable work, and was in the process of writing I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer when she died suddenly at age 46.

McNamara's work, and the work of a group of "Internet detectives", generated an incredible number of leads and additional information about the case.

Of course, I bought McNamara's book and spent much of the day reading it, and it's an intricate, detailed look at the case and her investigation. It's fascinating.

So, the punchline: they caught him. Story: Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, Arrested After 40-Year Hunt, Authorities Say.

He was a former policeman.

Many more details will surely be forthcoming, but it's incredible that he's finally been caught.

Another story: Suspected Golden State Killer, a former police officer, arrested on 'needle in the haystack' DNA evidence.


Unfortunately

My plan yesterday was to wipe my For The King saves and start the game from the beginning, then write up a guide for your first two hours, but I couldn't get the Lore Store to reset, which meant I had access to all kinds of characters, items, and events not available to a new player.

Still trying to figure out how to wipe it, but in the meantime, making a quick run through the forums revealed that there are some annoying bugs (that I never even saw in earlier builds) that need to be tidied up, so I'm probably going to wait for the first patch.

Plan B was to play BattleTech for two hours and give first impressions, but it's apparently also a bit rough and in need of a patch. BattleTech appears to have every single thing I want in a game, so I'm hoping that first patch comes out sooner than later.

Two things coming, then, in the short term, and I'm working on something else for later today,

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

This Kind of Day

Eating an ice cream cone in my car.

Several drips escapes the cone and hit my jacket. Yuck. What a mess.

A minute later, I'm opening a bottle of water with my free hand, but squeeze too hard (Hulk Rage argggggghhh!), and the water splashes out and hits my jacket. In the exact same spot as the ice cream drips.

Final: wet jacket, but a clean jacket. I'm taking the small 'W' and moving on.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Personality Revealed

We have indoor cats. The neighbors have an outdoor cat.

"Sometimes I see Henry sitting in the yard and I think about how nice it would be to be an outdoor cat," Gloria said. "Warm sun, soft grass, kind of sleepy."

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "If I'm an outdoor cat sitting in a yard, all I'm doing is wondering when a dog will come by and wreck my shit. Because I know it's gonna happen. I'll be half asleep, sprawled out--OH SHIT, GOTTA GO!"

"But cats are fast," she protested. "I see them outrun dogs all the time."

"Do you know how many races you can lose as a cat?" I ask.

"How many?"

"Zero," I said. "Tight hamstring, a little groin pull, maybe just ate treats--boom, your shit is wrecked."

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Link Bonus!

Just published today, and it's a thorough deconstruction of one of the biggest bullies and frauds in the history of sport: The Ridiculous Saga Of Lance Armstrong, The Cheater Who Became An Enemy Of The State.

Friday Links!

There are some very, very strong long reads this week.

This is a truly incredible story: The Mobster Who Bought His Son a Hockey Team.

This is terrific read and a tragic story: The father who went undercover to find his son’s killers
This is a tremendous read: OLPC’S $100 LAPTOP WAS GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD — THEN IT ALL WENT WRONG. Also, this is absolutely the most delightful music video I've ever seen: Watch This Energetic Lady Fake Hula Hoop Across Town.

I'm linking to this, with hesitation, because it made me sick to watch it, but it's also important. It should be called "American Cancer": Path To Radicalization: A Mother Turns to Hate.

From Chris Pencis, and this is extremely topical (and an outstanding podcast as well): Guys, We Have A Problem: How American Masculinity Creates Lonely Men.

From Griffin Cheng, and this is a gripping and poignant read: The murder that shook Iceland. Also, and this is such a well-written piece, it's Monsieur Bébé: The Brief, Strange Life of Raymond Radiguet. This is fascinating: The Secret Language of Ships.

From Wally, and this is a staggering article: The rise and demise of the AAirpass, American Airlines’ $250k lifetime ticket.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is very clever: If You’re Not Sure How a Male Author Would Describe You, Use Our Handy Chart.

From Adam Williams, and how could this not be fascinating? Dwarf Fortress: What Happens When It Becomes A Game? The Zach and Tarn Adams Interviews.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and this is quite amazing: Crowded Fields.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

For The King

For The King emerged from Early Access today, and the discounted launch price is $15.99.

Steam shows that I played the Early Access version for 45 hours, and the only reason I stopped playing was to wait for the finished game.

Here's the description from the store page:
For The King is a strategic RPG that blends tabletop and roguelike elements in a challenging adventure that spans the realms. Set off on a single player experience or play cooperatively both online and locally. Every play through offers new challenges, opportunities, and rewards.

That's a really crap description of an absolutely phenomenal game. It's incredibly creative and whimsical, and musicians are a character class (with multiple kinds of musicians, believe it or not, and they're hilarious as well).

Basically, you're trying to save Whateverlandia from Foozle. Ignore that. Just focus on the gameplay (nicely crunchy combat, hex-based movement outside of combat), the visuals (absolutely wonderful, almost a vaguely 3-D papercraft feel), and the music (which is inspired).

This is not an easy game, by any means, and once your party dies, their progression during that run contributes to "lore points" that you can then use to unlock additional events, weapons, and characters that can then be pulled (possibly) for your next playthrough. All of these additional items are extremely interesting and well-conceived, and make an already interesting game even more so.

I'll tell you one thing to remember: armor. Armor strength is more important than weapon strength. Do not forget this.

Now, a collection of screenshots shameless ripped from the store page.

Overworld:



Combat (above ground):



Combat (below ground):



Steam link: For The King

Migraines

I know that some of you have issues with chronic migraines, and even though you probably know about this, I thought I'd put it up just in case: A ‘Breakthrough’ Injection Could Reduce Number of Migraines Patients Suffer by 50 Percent.

Migraines are strangely individualized, so to find something that appears to be so broadly effective is remarkable.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What Lurks Beneath


"What unholy marriage is this?" I ask. "Be thee neither beast nor fowl, yet full of evil."

"Oh, for god's sake, it's butternut squash," Gloria says. 

"That's no vegetable of this world," I say. "It has device-like qualities, or perhaps it could be used as a weapon."

"This is what I get for trying to add some variety," she says. 

"Back, foul creature!" I say. "Back from whence you came."

"All right," she says.

"Note to self," I say. "Seal portal to underworld."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Grand Rapids or Kópavogur, Iceland (Episode One)

I read a terrifically interesting article about a murder in Reykjavík, Iceland.

This sent me down a rabbit hole.

For some reason, I wanted to see if there were any American fast food franchises in Reykjavík. There weren't (kudos, Icelanders), but there was a TGIFridays in nearby Kópavogur .

Now I had to find out what it was rated.

3.3.

Then I had to read the reviews.

As I did, though, a strange and nightmarish awareness grew inside me. I flipped over to Grand Rapids on Google Maps and looked up a TGIFridays north of us.

Score? 3.4.

Then I read the reviews. It confirmed what I feared: I couldn't tell them apart. 

Go ahead, you try. Four of these reviews are from Michigan, and four are from Iceland.
★ 7 months ago
Wow what an awful experience this was.

★ a month ago
Just as a heads up for anyone else who may be dining there. I hope that they can improve this location and find new management.

★ 3 weeks ago
Walked in at 5:15 And was told there was a 20 min. Wait. Looked in at the bar area and there were at least 7 empty tables.

★★ 6 months ago
Waited 10 minutes to be seated. Waited 15 more minutes for a server. Went and got my own drinks from the bar. Waited another 20 for food. There was a maximum of maybe 15 people in the restaurant.

★ a month ago
The staff is awful. Nobody cares about the guests. The food is not bad, but still if you want to get a good service - don’t come here.

★ 4 months ago
The burgers are great if you can ever get your order served. Bad service.

★ 8 months ago
I have been to other Tgi's and been satisfied. But NOT HERE.. the food was soggy and the service was terrible.

★ 7 years ago
Service is really bad

At a minimum, I suggest that TGIFridays adopt a new slogan: "No matter where you are, here you are."

Monday, April 16, 2018

NO


NO.

Back in the Day

Scanning through channels, we saw rugby. When you see rugby, you're required, by law, to watch for a few minutes.

I think this was a rugby league game. Thirteen players a side. Also, they were enormous.

"I can't believe how big these players are," I said. "It seems like the small player is out of the game now. This is nothing like back when I played."

I look over at Eli 16.8, and he's looking at me in astonishment. He's actually considering it!

"What?" he asked. "You played RUGBY?"

"I was a pretty effective center half quarter back," I said.

"All right," he said.

"Ha!" I said. "You actually thought about it for a few seconds."

"I did," he said, laughing. "How did I forget who I was talking to?"

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Links!

This is an absolutely brilliant piece of writing: Porambo: How a fearless journalist who wrote a seminal account of police brutality during the 1967 race riots in Newark, New Jersey, wound up on the wrong side of the law.

From C. Lee, and this is concerning: How Android Phones hide Missed Security Updates From You. This is fascinating: The Natural Enemy of the Librarian. A most excellent read: All rise and no fall: how Civilization reinforces a dangerous myth. A useful bit of history: Even Though He Is Revered Today, MLK Was Widely Disliked by the American Public When He Was Killed. Fascinating: Inoculation theory: Using misinformation to fight misinformation. Oh, my: How Older Widow Spiders Seduce Younger Males—And Eat Them.

From Wally, and while the freshness date on this article may have expired, it's still excellent and informative: I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here's How. I have no idea: America’s least-favorite candy is suddenly its most sought after. This is quite interesting: Inside the world of instruction manuals. This is forward-thinking (as it remembers the past): The new Fog Creek office. This is excellent: Stunning photos of abandoned Soviet tech. These are striking: Itchiku Kubota – Kimono as Landscape, Kimono as Art.

From David Gloier, and "perished primate" is great alliteration: 'Mummified monkey' found in Minneapolis department store.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Also Not An Unreasonable Question

We were looking for a craftsman, and this guy was available.

"Bad news," Gloria said. "I did some research and he apparently spent a few years in prison for dealing meth."

"That's a hard pass," I said.

"There might have been extenuating circumstances," she said.

"Replace the words 'meth dealer' in your head with the words 'murder slinger', because they're the same thing," I said. "Hard pass."

"All right, I agree," she said.

"Now that made me think of something else," I said. "Do you think that 'Breaking Bad' was appointment viewing for meth dealers? Were they sitting around each week saying, 'Oh, shit, Walter! What have you done now?' "

Not An Unreasonable Question

"Here's a headline," Gloria said. "Louisiana law to ban sex with animals wins Senate vote 25 - 10."

"Was that a party-line vote?" I asked. "That would really clear some things up for me."

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Let's Forget This One

Big cities in the Northeast hit all of my stress buttons.

I was reminded of this when we went to Boston, because I was in a constant state of extreme stress for basically forty-eight hours straight (with the exception of the trip to the mask maker, which was outstanding).

If I was going to use one word to describe this, it would be "suffocating".

In Boston, there's no place to park. You're an idiot if you're driving a car, anyway, but if you do, forget about parking.

In Boston, there's no place to sit. If you want to sit somewhere, every place is crowded, and most of them are small.

In Boston, there's no place to stand. On many streets, you can't even stand still for a few seconds and figure out where you're going, because masses of people are constantly flowing in both directions.

Combine all this with us not knowing what the hell we were doing, and you have a recipe for disaster. Plus the weather was insanely horrible, so we were walking around Cambridge for hours in 35F and heavy snow/rain.

I do find one thing incredibly interesting about big cities in the Northeast: there's a bigger gap between people who give a shit and people who don't than any other place I've ever been to (this is true of New York City as well).

There are people who are absolute geniuses at what they do, and it might be some kind of mundane job, but they're brilliant, and clearly care very much about the quality of their work. At the other end, there are people who have a staggering display of indifference to what they're doing.

It's baffling, really, although I will say that I remember the absolute geniuses far longer than I remember the indifferent (many of the utterly indifferent seem to be United Airlines employees, actually).

I think if I lived in one of these cities, I could optimize the situation, and I would gradually see some degree of order in the chaos. Coming in cold and feeling overwhelmed, though, was a miserable experience.

There's also a degree of aggression required on a minute-to-minute basis that I simply don't have. It's a level I'd normally only use in a sporting event, but just crossing the street requires tournament levels of aggression.

Boston is a remarkable city. Just not for me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Yankees Injury Report

Brandon Drury (severe migraines)
Ben Heller (bone spur)
Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique strain)
C.C. Sabathia (beached)

Boston!

We went to Boston for two days last week to get a head mold done on Eli 16.10 for a custom mask. If you see a Vaughn mask on an NHL goalie, this is the guy who makes it. He's amazing.

Everything else about the trip was a complete disaster. I'm not kidding when I say it was the single worst trip I've ever taken.

However, I did get some nice pictures.

George (nearing 13.0 now) is a big fan of tissue paper, so before we left, we made sure he had a nice supply:



Leaving with a nice sunrise, before everything went to hell:



Don't email me about portrait mode, because Gloria took the next two pictures:






Here's Eli getting the mold made of his head.



Like I said, the mask maker was an amazing guy, and incredibly generous with his time. The mold only took 15 minutes, but we stayed and talked for an hour. Best story: he still plays in a men's league (as a goalie), and one night two years ago, he took himself out after the second period because he felt like he was getting stabbed in the back.

His friends found him after the game, sitting in the locker room, with a grey face. They called an ambulance, and when the EMT's arrived, it was quickly established that he was having a heart attack.

After he told the story, I asked the obvious question: "Did you leave the game with the lead?" He laughed and said he did, and they won.

He had a heart attack, but got the "W" first. That's the most baller story ever.

Monday, April 09, 2018

#UnitedSucks

I will never, ever fly on United Airlines again.

Ever.

However, instead of giving you the gory and unfathomable details, I will try to produce enjoyment at a higher level instead.

Here are the three most important things you need to know about United Airlines.

#1 THEY PROMOTE AEROBIC FITNESS
Go to any United Airlines terminal and you'll see a convincing impersonation of an indoor track meet. Doughy middle-aged-men run like Usain Bolt as they desperately try to make a connection that they are guaranteed to miss by seconds.

Should have trained harder, buddy. United isn't for losers.

#2 THEIR MISTAKES ARE A YOU PROBLEM, NOT A THEM PROBLEM
An Actual Conversation With A Customer Service Employee in Newark Airport*
"We missed our connecting flight because our plane sat on the runway for 40 minutes after landing because the jetway was broken. This was after the flight was originally delayed for two hours. We're stuck in Newark for the night and need to be rerouted to our destination."

United: "Airplanes really are a miracle, aren't they? Shama shama shama."

"Will United help pay for the hotel?"

United: "Whoa, we're not a charity here. We're only responsible when shama shama shama."

"Do you, in fact, care at all?"

United: "No, and excuse me, are you still here? I'm just going to shama shama shama. Seriously, you should go find a hotel, which you'll be paying for."

*not an exact transcription, but the gist is accurate. Literally no one we talked to gave us any reason whatsoever to believe that they gave a shit in any way.
** Official Rules of Shama
1. 'Shama' rhymes with 'momma'.
2. The first 'shama' is always spoken with the most emphasis. Go ahead, try it out loud! Don't worry about that woman two cubicles down. Seriously, after she cooked fish in the microwave last week? She's got no reason to be huffy about anyone right now.
3. 'Shama' is in a special class of words known as "tone conveyors."

#3 WHEN YOUR BAG IS MISSING
United will hand you what looks like a restaurant coloring sheet for kids with the ten most likely locations for your missing bag. Included:
Singapore
YMCA Fort Walton Beach
Jennie (?)
A Storage Locker At The Bus Station
Low Earth Orbit
That Boy Down The Street Who Likes To Steal Things

Don't fly with them. We suffered so you could live.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Friday Links!

Here are some astonishing images for you: 23 Incredible Pictures Of The World Over 100 Years Ago. This is a fascinating read: Fixed Menu: Meet the cellblock chefs of Westville Correctional Facility. This is quite fantastic: Hear Beowulf & Sir Gawain and the Green Knight read in the original Old and Middle English. This is an absolutely wonderful story: Meet Doris Jones, a 90-year-old armchair space archaeologist.

From C. Lee, and this is a process mess: How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe: A Special Investigation. This is quite interesting: How Harry Potter Became a Rallying Cry. This is intriguing: The hidden healing powers of sugar. Good grief, it's become The Internet of Dicks:  YouTube is reportedly introducing your kids to conspiracy theories, too. This is totally remarkable: This Affordable Exoskeleton Can Make You A Better Skier. Well, good luck with that: Man has 'world's worst' super-gonorrhoea.

From Wally, a bit of historical review: Crimean Fiasco: Battle of the Alma. This is quite incredible: Water droplets create amazing human-like animations. This is entirely adorable: Please Stop, Human. Here's some obscure naval history for you: The Navy's Flying Cannon.

From Adam W., and this is quite nice: Celebrating International Transgender Day of Visibility!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Revolution

I tried a new dessert last weekend.

It had been speculated earlier in the day that this product would either be great or terrible, with nothing possible in-between.

After I ate it, I sent a text to Eli 16.9:
GAME CHANGER

It's a Betty Crocker product called Mug Treats. You mix it in an 8-12 oz. mug, microwave for a minute, and let it sit for two more.

Then, it's done.

The basic premise here seems impossible, because you can't make baked products in a microwave. So I tried the cinnamon roll with historical trepidation, thinking it would take like goo. It was very simple--pour the mix into the mug, then add three tablespoons of milk or water. Stir to mix, then put into the microwave.

Whoosh.

I pulled the mug out of the microwave, tilted it toward me--and stared at fluffy, tasty-looking cake.

It tasted just as good as it looked, and there was even an included cream cheese frosting packet.

They have a bunch of other flavors (including chocolate chip cookie, chocolate brownie with fudge, and blueberry muffin), so I'm trying them this week. Just the idea that I can make dessert in a only a few minutes is a real luxury.

Plus, the quantity is great for me. Making a full pan of brownies involves a mixer with beaters, milk, eggs, a huge mixing bowl, and a huge pan. That's a lot of crap to clean up, and you also have to monitor the oven.

With this, you clean up a mug and a spoon.

There are only a few places to get this right now, but they're big: Wal-Mart, HEB (in the southwest), Meijer (in Michigan).


Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Will I Ever Wear Shorts Outside Again? A Brief Investigation

Evidence (taken this morning):


Conclusion:
NO.

Questionable

I'm at dinner with Gloria.

"Are you done, or are you just taking a break" the waitress asks Gloria.

Gloria pauses. "Um, just taking a break," she says. Gloria doesn't like saying she's done if there's too much food left on the plate, because she doesn't want anyone employed by the restaurant to think she doesn't like the food.

The waitress smiles and walks off.

"Oh yeah, you're taking a a break," I say, and Gloria starts laughing. "Seriously, who does that? Does anyone wait ten or fifteen minutes, then say 'Okay, back at it!' and start eating again. Who the hell does that?"

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

An Exciting New Band

We're playing tennis.

"What that in?" asks Eli 16.9.

"It was in-adjacent," I say.

This is the first time we've played in temperatures above 40F for months.

I hit a nice little winner. Off the frame.

"Nuance," I say. "That's my game. Buckets of Nuance."

Eli laughs.

"That's a great band name," I say. "Buckets of Nuance."

"Nuance bucket," Eli says. "Much better."

Monday, April 02, 2018

Hey Look! Spring Sun in Michigan


Ouch.

I Have No Words

The American Revolution as a false flag is actually a thing. Someone sent me a link--hell, no, I'm not sharing it--but there's a dark, very crazy rabbit hole out there.

The Final Four

I don't watch sports nearly as much as I used to, unless it's hockey.

Since I don't, I've started noticing things in individual sports that don't make sense (I used to just take them for granted).

Case in point: college basketball.

I don't watch college basketball all year until the NCAA Tournament, but then I watch games when I can, and I always watch the Final Four. I noticed three things this year that stand out and don't make any sense at all.

1. Consecutive timeouts
Nothing kills the flow of a broadcast (and college basketball, like all other sports, is now an entertainment product that drives an economic engine) like consecutive dead ball timeouts. It serves absolutely no purpose except to give control-freak coaches a chance to minutely affect the course of events to an even greater degree than they already do. Yuck.

2. Timeouts on in-bounds plays.
Look, if a guy can't inbound the ball in five seconds, it should be a turnover, because the defense should be rewarded. There's no way there should be a bailout opportunity where the player can call timeout before the five seconds are up. Again, this just kills the flow of the game and is a huge letdown, because the tension rises as the team with the ball struggles to get it in bounds, then everything deflates when the time out is called.

3. Foul Outs and Disqualification
If I was still watching college basketball all the time, I never would have questioned this, but how stupid is it to have an arbitrary threshold of number of fouls that disqualifies a player for the rest of the game? Again, college basketball is an entertainment product, and seeing excellent players on the bench because of bad foul calls by the referee (or having them change the way they call the game after a player has four fouls) is bad entertainment.

Here's an option, and it gives the coaches strategic options that can be questioned later (always fun). After the fifth foul, a player can continue to play, but if he commits any additional fouls, the other team gets two free throws and the ball.

That's easy to understand, and it will really make coaches squirm. They can keep their star on the floor, but fouls become a huge penalty. Is it worth it? It creates interesting and difficult decisions for coaches, and it keeps the best players on the floor (and if the coach takes them out, like I said, it creates discussion).

I'd also like to point out that the car horn is driving me crazy.

For unknown reason, when the scorer's table wants to signal the referee that substitutions are coming in, the sound of the buzzer is a car horn. Why a car horn? Was the sound of a leaf blower not available?


Just a Dream

I want to start a conspiracy website just so I can post this headline:
AMERICAN REVOLUTION: A FALSE FLAG?

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