Monday, May 21, 2018

The Hierarchy of Nasty

This beauty:


I thought, at the time, that it was a custom paint job. 

"I respect that this guy owns it," I said. 

"What do you mean?" Eli 16.10 asked. 

"If you're going to paint a cougar on your car and put the word 'Hellcat' on the side," I said, "then I say go all-in and get a 'Nastie 1' personalized license plate."

"I can't argue with that," he said. 

"But there's a question," I said. "If your license plate says 'Nastie 1', how nasty are you?"

"Pretty nasty," Eli said. 

"Sure," I said, "there's some degree of nasty. But what about the guy who just has 'Nasty' custom plates? Is he nastier?"

"I'm thinking he is," Eli said. 

"Exactly," I said. "So I'd put 'Nastie 1' behind 'Nasty', 'Nasty 1', and 'Nastie'. That's quite a few nasties in front of you, relatively speaking."

"But still nasty," he said. 

"Definitely," I said. "Still nasty."

What a Weekend

The next few days are going to recount last weekend, when Eli 16.10 went to a USHL Prospects Camp with a team that will remain unnamed. Lots to unpack, and no, he's not going to the USHL.

Not yet, anyway. Hope springs eternal, as they say.

You Have One Job

I woke up this morning with Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" stuck in my head. Priority one today is getting it out of my head as soon as possible.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Links!

Leading off, and this is important to understand: How Shoddy Statistics Found A Home In Sports Research.

Here's an interesting climate-related article about my new part of the world: The Midwest Is Getting Drenched, And It’s Causing Big Problems.

From Wally, and this is an odd and almost forgotten literary genre: Turning Pages: The literary joys of juvenile delinquents. These are just amazing: 12 famous photographs recreated in tiny models. Not surprising at all, but an excellent read: Inside The Ecosystem That Fuels Amazon’s Fake Review Problem. Yeah, that's not supposed to happen: Maleficent the Dragon bursts into flames during Disney Parade. This is an excellent read: ILM Modelmakers Share Star Wars Stories and Secrets.

From Steven Davis, and it's a fascinating video hosted by a woodblock printmaker: David's Choice - Episode #6.

From Michael O'Reilly, and this is obviously wonderful (and what alliteration): Pumpkin prank perpetrator puzzle persists 20 years later.

From Ken Dean, and if you ever wondered: How It's Made - Hockey Rink.

From Roger Robar, and this is a very interesting case (I agree with the commenter who said he should be locked up for 'crimes against literacy'): The Curious Case of the Fortnite Cheater.

Excellent links, as always, from C. Lee:
How Bacteria Help Regulate Blood Pressure
How Post-Revolutionary France Grew Obsessed With Gardens and Gadgets
Own an Android Phone? You Might Not Get That Loan: Algorithms could determine our creditworthiness based on data we didn’t know was available or relevant
Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll

From Ken Piper, and this is amazing technology: Researchers Uncover Two Hidden Pages in Anne Frank’s Diary.

Closing out this week, lummoxjr sent in two excellent links. First, and I could certainly use this, it's How to Fall Asleep in 2 Minutes or Less. Also, and this is certainly good advice, it's The Eisenhower Decision Matrix: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important Tasks and Make Real Progress in Your Life.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Well of Moments

DQ Reader Lee Gaiteri (author of the phenomenal Below, has a new book coming out on Sunday, and it's called The Well of Moments.

Day one purchase for me.

Also, from May 20 to 24, the first book in the series is free: The Affix (Paranormal Curio Book One)

Lee is an outstanding writer, and "Below" was one of my favorite books last year. Can't wait for this new one.

Xbox Adaptive Controller

Holy cow, this is stunning: Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is designed entirely for players with disabilities. Here's an excerpt:
The Xbox Adaptive Controller’s simple design belies the level of depth and customization options it offers. Its rectangular frame, which is about a foot long, features two large, slightly domed buttons on its face that can be mapped to any function through the Xbox Accessories app. Because a Windows 10 PC or Xbox One will see the device as a standard Xbox One controller, it’s compatible with every game at the system level.

On the back, there’s a line of 19 3.5 mm jacks — the standard connection for assistive input devices. These are the foundation of the controller’s adaptability; each port corresponds with a different button, trigger, bumper or D-pad function of the Xbox One controller. Players can plug foot pedals, fingertip-sized microswitches, additional large buttons or other peripherals that they may already own into these ports.

There are also USB ports on either side of the unit that map to the left and right analog sticks. Kumar and Kaufman demonstrated a nunchuck peripheral manufactured by PDP, a joystick commonly used for flight simulators and a 3dRudder foot controller as plug-and-play options that are compatible with the Adaptive Controller.

I give enormous credit to Microsoft for spending the time and money developing a product that will never be profitable. It's such an enormous contribution to a part of the gaming community that never gets enough attention, or oftentimes, no attention at all.

If you normally don't click on links, this time you should. It's a Polygon article with a wealth of detail, product images, and video. It's a staggeringly versatile device, with almost infinite options in terms of customization.

I think there's an additional market for this product, and it's people like me who can't use a controller for very long anymore without their hands hurting. Mapping buttons and triggers to foot buttons and whatnot would be incredibly helpful.



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Here We Are Again

Robinson Cano (until yesterday, a future Hall of Famer) got popped for a masking agent for steroids yesterday.

Performance enhancing drugs are still a big problem in major league baseball. They're a big problem in every sport. It's a cat and mouse game where the mice have always been very, very successful.

The reason is simple: money.

Jason Giambi is the poster child for how profitable it is to cheat. He was 26, playing for the Oakland A's, and his stat line was .293/20/81. That's for a first baseman, which probably has higher power numbers than any other position. And he never showed more power in the minors.

That's who he was, a guy who was going to hit 20 home runs and 80 RBIs a season. Medium power, better batting average.

The average time for a pro athlete to start declining is age 28. So he was hitting like this near the peak of his career, athletically speaking.

Then he started taking performance enhancing drugs (lots of them). Puts on ridiculous amounts of muscle (you always hear people say "that guy can't be cheating--he trains like a maniac" when someone gets caught cheating, but one of the most important aspects of steroids is that it greatly improves your ability to recover, so you can train much harder). Two years later, he starts putting up stats lines like this:
.315/33/123
.333/43/137
.342/38/120
.314/41/122

In 1997, he was making $205,000. In 2001, he signed a 7 year, $120 million dollar contract with the Yankees.

In fairness, once his rookie deal expired, he would have made about $2 million a year. That's still one hell of a raise, though. Who wouldn't cheat with that kind of money in front of them?

The question: is there any way to stop this? Is there a way to remove the financial incentive to cheat?

Sure.

How about this? If a player tests positive for a performance enhancing drug or a drug that's in the class of masking agents used to hide usage of same, in addition to the player being suspended (currently, that's 80 games for the first violation), you take two additional measures:
1. The player, for the rest of his career, is no longer eligible for the All-Star game or consideration for any postseason awards.
2. For the rest of his career, the player's maximum salary is capped at $2 million a year.

If they get caught, they lose the two things that make cheating so tempting: accolades and money.

Make no mistake, some players would still cheat. But the stakes would be incredibly high.

Yes, there would (rarely) be "honest" players who test positive, but there are institutions in this country (the jury system, for one) that are far, far more problematic, and no one's trying to get rid of them. And the appeals process (even now) for positive tests is exhaustive.

It'll never happen, but I think it would work. At least the risk would be more equal to the potential reward.

That's Certainly Tempting

I haven't picked up Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire because Slay The Spire is absolutely murdering my free time lately.

However, on the GWJ Podcast this week, it was mentioned that the game has sea shanties.

Well, that's an automatic buy. How could a game with sea shanties not be an automatic buy?

Even better, there's a setting in the Options menu to "disable sea shanties." That's next level.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On That Most Special Day

"Nature just attacked me," I said. Eli 16.10 laughed.

The branch, it seems, was guilty.

It was Mother's Day, the source of many a doomed expedition worldwide, and we were at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Water Park. Okay, there's not actually a water park, but that would be killer. Instead, there are sculptures, many of children in various terrifying postures.

We were skeptical, but then we saw this:


















"My respect for this place has gone up dramatically," Eli said, and I agreed.

"How many teenager morons have tried to feed potato chips to these plants?" I asked.

"Oh, hundreds," he said.

We walked. "This feels like a zoo," he said, "but where are the animals?"

"Hiding," I said.

Obligatory views:





Then we saw a big horse:



"The most frequent comments on Twitter," Eli said, "are 'Where are the animals?' and 'That's a big horse.' "

"I'd like to thank the stars for this horse not being anatomically correct," I said, and then we walked around the side. "Uh oh," I said, and Gloria started laughing. I'm not going to circle anything in red, but if you enlarge and look closely enough, you can see some basketball-sized testiculos de caballo:



Have a palate cleaner:


"Are you ready to go over to the sculpture section?" Gloria asked, after about an hour of walking.

"I think I need a little time to reflect on what I've seen," I said. "In the cafe."

Of nature but not in nature is how I like life. Seriously, look at this view from the cafe window (a little dark, too--just how I like it):


















Here's a nice picture of two excellent people:



Monday, May 14, 2018

Whoa

From the oddity closet, I bring you Cotard delusion. Read:
Cotard delusion is a rare mental illness in which the affected person holds the delusional belief that they are already dead, do not exist, are putrefying, or have lost their blood or internal organs.

Take that in for a minute.

Have a little more:
On Nov. 5, 2013, Esmé Weijun Wang came to the remarkable conclusion that she was dead.

In the weeks prior to this, she had begun to feel increasingly fractured — like being scatterbrained, but to such an extreme that she felt her sense of reality was fraying at the edges. She had started to lose her grip on who she was and on the world around her. Desperate to fend off what appeared to be early signs of psychosis, Wang went into a soul-searching and organizational frenzy. She read a self-help book that was supposed to help people discover their core beliefs and desires; she ordered and scribbled in five 2014 datebook planners, reorganized her work space and found herself questioning her role as a writer.

Then one morning, Wang woke her husband before sunrise with an incredible sense of wonder and tears of joy to tell him it all made sense to her now: She had actually died a month before, although at the time she had been told she merely fainted.

I know if I thought I was dead, I'd turn to self-help books right away, not to mention immediately watching Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead.

This is one of those discoveries, for me, that means I will never be the same. Sometimes you find out about things that mean the world is different than you understood, and this is one of those things.

This illness isn't understood all that well, but it appears that there's usually a precipitating event where the sufferer could have died, but didn't, and they become convinced that what happened was actually fatal. It's a mental illness, obviously, but it can lead to some interesting metaphysical considerations:
“I began to believe I was in perdition, or some kind of hell,” said Wang, who wrote an essay, “Perdition Days,” during and after the experience. “I was trying to figure out what I had done wrong, what had condemned me to this afterlife that looked like my real life before I died but wasn’t real — that was the torment of it. I kind of described it once as feeling like I was on fire inside.”

This condition can last for months or even years. Remarkably, though, it's treatable, both via pharmacological means and (if necessary) electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, which is generally more effective).

I'd like to know why someone hasn't used this as the basis for a film (paging DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand).

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and stories like this are why my enthusiasm for the NFL has waned: What It's Like To Navigate The NFL's Concussion Settlement Hellscape.

A palate cleanser after that last story: These Sweet Elderly Elephants Are So Good at Yoga. Also, and this is quite a read: The Billion Dollar Bank Job.

From Steven Davis, and these are stunning: Horrifying 1906 Illustrations of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: Discover the Art of Henrique Alvim Corrêa. This is wonderful: A New Immersive Installation in Paris Lets You Step inside Klimt’s Masterpieces.

From pb, and no matter how smart I exercise, I seem to be losing ground: Extra time: how smart exercise keeps you younger for longer.

From Wally, and I've never heard of this before: All About Pork Roll, New Jersey's Own Cheap Eat. This is a riveting story: eating military base stew. I am definitely not "litt": Feeling litt? The five hotspots driving English forward. This is entirely fantastic: Ducks in Germany wait for the green signal at a crossing.

A slew of quality links, as always, from C. Lee (they're all excellent):
These historical menus show how drastically the way we eat has changed
Download Over 16,000 Free Sound Effects From This BBC Archive
Robot claw shows intricacies of crab courtship
‘À La Mode’ Is a Lonely Survivor of a French Culinary Code
Knitting the Future by Hand Tamako Mitarai (there's an Earthbound connection here)
Tales from inside 90s Nintendo - from the man who made Mario's face
How to Be Better At Reading Books to Kids

From Ken Piper, and this is astonishing: Particle Physics Resurrects Alexander Graham Bell’s Voice

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is provocative: Fasting boosts stem cells’ regenerative capacity.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Cryptic


"This fortune," Eli 16.10 said. "I have no idea."

"Let me see," I said. He handed me the paper. " 'Being an able man. There are always.'  Hmm."

"Right?"

"That is profound," I said.

"How?"

"Well, there's the puzzle," I said. "Teasing something profound out of serious grammatical errors."

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

A Good Thing

So this happened a few days ago:
The Boy Scouts program is becoming Scouts BSA in February 2019 to reflect the decision to include young women, the Boy Scouts of America announced on Wednesday.

The organization's name will remain the same; only the program for older youth will change its name.

The Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, announced last fall that it would begin allowing girls to become Scouts — much to the frustration of the Girl Scouts, which has advocated for single-gender scouting.

The Cub Scouts program for younger children was the first to open up to girls. Thousands of girls have already joined under an early adopter program.

Other Boy Scouts programs for older youth — such as an outdoor adventure program called Venturing — were already open to girls. But those programs didn't offer girls the chance to attain the highest rank of Eagle Scout.

By next year, older girls will be able to join Scouts BSA and try to become Eagle Scouts, just like the boys.

Some people are all freaked out by this.

Look, I know boys and girls are different. But why would we want same-sex exclusive programs that accentuate those differences? Putting boys and girls in situations where they share common goals and need to work together is a bad idea?

Maybe if boys are girls are together more often, in environments that demand respect, then boys will have more respect for girls as they get older. Maybe that's always been a big part of the problem, that our culture has elevated the status of boys (particularly "white" boys) and created a sense of entitlement in them that's turned into cultural cancer.

Just put boys and girls in situations where if they help each other, they both succeed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Hulk

Eli 16.10 had just finished a 5+ hour AP Spanish Test and was playing Fortnite on the couch.

"I went to the YMCA today and went to the bathroom before I worked out," I said. "I looked in the mirror, and at just the right angle, wearing the right clothes, it almost looks like I have an upper body."

"NO way!" Eli said.

"The vaguest, most obscure hint of muscles you've ever seen," I said.

Here's a Little Spring For You

Monday, May 07, 2018

The NBA Playoffs

"Hey, did the Utah Jazz employ a shaman to help them win playoff games?" I asked.

"What?" Eli 16.10 said as walked into the living room. "That's ridiculous."

I paused live t.v. "Upper left corner," I said. "Look closely."


"Whoa," he said, then paused. "All right, I'm going to say that's plausible."

****
Sadly, this picture lacks some of the fine detail that would show prominent hair ridges, but you get the idea. 


"Whoa, that's some gator tail," I said. 

"What?" Gloria asked. "What are you you talking about?"

"Look at his hair," I said. "That's a perfect example of a gator tail hairstyle."

"That is not a thing," she said. 

"Oh, it's a thing," I said (it's not a thing). "Just look up 'gator tail hair'."

She started fiddling with her phone. 

"What are you doing?" I asked. 

"Looking up 'gator tail hair'," she said. 

I burst out laughing. "Oh, you ass," she said. "But I actually found something."

"No way," I said. "I totally made that up." 

"There's a gator-tail braid," she said, and then proceeded to show me pictures. 

"Wait, something I made up actually exists?" I said. 

"It appears so," she said. 


Friday, May 04, 2018

Friday Links!

There are a ton of long reads this week, and they're uniformly excellent.

This is a terrific read: The Young and the Reckless: A gang of teen hackers snatched the keys to Microsoft's videogame empire. Then they went too far.

From Guy Byars, and this is an amazing story: I was a teacher for 17 years, but I couldn’t read or write.

From Mark H, and here's a mind-blowing bit of history: The Long Way Round: The Plane that Accidentally Circumnavigated the World.

From Wally, and this is an excellent read: The Digital Vigilantes Who Hack Back. This is so, so bizarre: HOBBITS GONE WRONG: A few Oregonians' love for Lord of the Rings landed them in a strange saga of their own. This is fascinating: Why sports sound better in your living room. Here's your Scottish candy info for the week: Soor Plooms.

From Griffin Cheng, and it's fantastic: The Triple Homicide in D.C. That Laid the Groundwork for Americans' Right to Remain Silent. This is just entirely brilliant: The Gambler Who Cracked the Horse-Racing Code. This is absolutely amazing: Over 10,000 years ago, weapons at White Sands were aimed at giant sloths.

From C. Lee, and I guess no one should be surprised: You could be flirting on dating apps with paid impersonators.

From Dan G., and this is a great read: THE ISIS FILES: We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Overheard

A little boy, maybe three, was walking out of the rink with his dad last weekend. "What if the DINOSAUR was in outer space?" he asked.

Coming Around

Eli 16.9 was getting his SAT score today. This is from last night.

"Well, it's probably going to be awful," he said. "I guess there's always Clown College."

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "Every AP test you took for Clown College would be a five. You'd start with fifty credit hours."

"Not helping," Eli said.

"Card Magic, Juggling, Unicycle, Plate Juggling, Pie Throwing..." I said.

"Really not helping!" he said.

We sat there for about fifteen seconds.

"I really would probably start as a Junior, wouldn't I?" he said.

He got his score this morning. 1470.

Disappointed, because he wanted to knock out a 1540 or something and not need to take it again, but that's a really high score for the first time taking the test. He's taking it again in early June and we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Commerce (Acoustic Edition)

"Have you ever thought about opening a local business?" Gloria asked. We were at a restaurant.

"Yes, I'm going to open a restaurant where I tell people I don't like to leave," I said. "I'm going to call it 'No Remorse'."

"I think what this town needs is a music venue," she said. "Acoustic, with coffee and maybe baked goods. And outdoor seating."

"So you think the hole in the local commercial portfolio is the exact place where you would most like to hang out," I said.

She laughed. "That's right."

We sat for a while.

"This place isn't going to make it," I said. "5:30 and it's almost empty. And the few people who are here look like they're at least sixty."

"Remember when it opened and it was packed? Every person in here was a blonde in her thirties," she asked.

Three very old people walked in.

"Oldies!" I whispered. "The oldies have taken over. Now no one younger than fifty would be caught dead in here."

"Oh no," she said, "that means we're so old we still belong."

"Welcome to your fifties," I said. "A grim, dystopian future."

"Uh-oh," she said. "I just thought of something. How do I keep them out of my new music house?"

"They're like sugar ants," I said. "One shows up, then one more, then they're everywhere, and you can't get rid of them."




Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The Process

Eli 16.9 is going through an interesting phase right now in his pursuit of higher level goalie play.

We were at a USA Hockey District tryout camp last weekend. If he's selected he gets to go to a regional camp, and if he were to be selected again, he'd go to National Camp.

He played well, and I think he's got a good chance (won't know for a week), but right now, he's a hard kid to evaluate.

98% of the time, he looks unbelievable. Every single skill a goalie should have, excellent decision making and communication, and an unreal level of polish.

The other 2% of the time, he's letting in clunkers.

The good news is the 98%, and we agree on the 2% he needs to work on. But it's agonizing to see him play at such a ridiculously high level, then occasionally fail to make much, much easier saves.

The other good news, in terms of addressing this, is that his best ability is refining his game based on repetition. We've done probably 4,000-5,000 reps on the ball machine in the last five weeks, and his glove was rock solid all weekend. Same thing needed now, just with different drills.

He did an interesting thing a few weeks ago. His goalie coach criticized his play at times last year as being too mechanical. He didn't scramble well, partly because his game is built on technique and control, so pucks aren't bouncing in front of him very often.

I thought this was a mental thing, not physical.

Two months ago, he was on the ice with his trainer (who also played college hockey and works with him on-ice in drills that Eli organizes), and I saw him doing something I'd never seen before: he'd created a scrambling drill.

That blew my mind.

It was very specific, and incredibly athletic, and after he got off the ice I asked him about it. He said, "I think the reason I don't scramble is because I don't practice scrambling. I just need reps where I'm overloading on scrambling, and when I have enough reps, a desperation save isn't desperation anymore--it's a specific type of save that I can put into my toolbox and use when I need it."

Well, he was right, because he scrambled better last weekend than I've ever seen him, and I think it was due to that drill that he's been practicing in every on-ice session.

It's exhausting, watching this. The amount he's needed to improve every year is overwhelming. He's been able to do it, though, and he's only going to be out of chances when it stops.

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