Tuesday, September 25, 2018

FAR: Lone Sails

I recently played a beautiful, affecting game.

As you can guess from the title, it's FAR: Lone Sails. Here's a description from the Steam page:
Traverse a dried-out seabed littered with the remains of a decaying civilization. Keep your unique vessel going, overcome numerous obstacles and withstand the hazardous weather conditions. How far can you make it? What will you find?

There's no combat, just obstacles that act as puzzles, and solving them is entirely reasonable. The animation is butter, and the music is beautiful.

It becomes an almost entirely meditative experience, keeping your ship moving, and there are many moments of sheer beauty or surprise that left me very, very happy.

It's all remarkably peaceful, but never boring, because it's clever--very clever--which makes it both funny and engaging.

It's $14.99, but goes on sale occasionally, and for an experience this genuine, it's well worth it. About four hours, at least for me, and I took my time to enjoy everything.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Local Man Rues Unfortunate Hunting Accident


The Last Twenty Minutes in Our House

Reviewing senior pictures. Participants: Eli 17.1 and Gloria.

"Nope."
"That's good!"
"Nope."
"Nope."
"Oh, come on, that was a good one!
"Nope."
"That one's good!"
"Nope."
"Nope."
"I'm going through these myself later."
"You do that. Nope."

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Links!

If you didn't see this on Wednesday, here's another chance. It's delightful: Small Dogs Aim High When They Pee.

Golf Digest, P.I.: Golf Digest Helped Free An Innocent Man From Prison. Here's the original article, and the drawings are stunning: Drawings From Prison. Also, this is astonishing: Meet the Accidental Genius.

From Wally, a story about WWII's little-known bomber: Martin Baltimore. This is an absolutely fascinating story: Bones of Contention: A Florida man’s curious trade in Mongolian dinosaurs. I had no idea: How the Romans invented the Swiss Army Knife. This is amazing: The giant hangar built for an Arctic airship. This is quite incredible: Mind-Blowing LEGO Recreation of LOTR’s Helm’s Deep Battle.

From Brian Witte, and I'm linking to this as much for the headline as anything else: Texas grandma kills 12-foot gator, says she's finally avenged her miniature horse.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is not a good look: This hurricane weatherman was gloriously found out by the people walking behind him.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is a fantastic story: Making $35,000 Bonsai Scissors.

From Dan Fitch, and while it isn't "Stairway to Heaven", it's pretty fantastic xylophone: Thunderstruck for Percussion Ensemble.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Get Down Here!

Eli 17.1 was doing homework at the dining room table, while Gloria and I were watching an episode of "Kidding" (not that good, Bill Hader should have had the lead instead of Jim Carey and it would have been terrific).

Slap.

"What was that?" Eli asked.

"Your mom just saw a mosquito," I said.

"Indoors!" she said. "What are they doing indoors?"

"FINISH HIM!" Eli said.

"She did," I said. "Clean kill."

"FLAWLESS VICTORY!" he said.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

High A-pee-ers

There's a wonderful study out now that is entirely comprised of all the best things:
Small Dogs Aim High When They Pee.

If you ever see a small dog out on his walk, you'll notice that most of them are sassy. Ultra-high energy, ultra-excited, "Hey, everybody, here I am!"

They have status.

When they stop to pee, though, they want more status. They want to compete with the big boys. And they do so by increasing their leg angle so that they peed higher than their size.

That one fact makes me willing to fund all research forever.

I told Eli 17.1 about this, and he thought it was both hilarious and weirdly profound, but neither one of us could figure out how to use this knowledge properly.

Last night, he was talking about applying to colleges. "It's kind of odd," he said. "Some of my friends are super smart, but I'm the only one applying to Princeton and some of the other Ivy schools."

"Well, if you want to aim high, you have to pee up," I said.

"That's it!" he said, laughing. "That's perfect!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Foxes

In 1959 Russian geneticist Dmitri Belyaev began an experiment that attempted to domesticate foxes.

The experiment was simple. The breeding pairs from each generation were selected for one trait only: friendliness toward humans.

This has gone on for almost 60 years. Belyaev passed away in 1985, but colleagues continued his work.

Remarkably, the results have been dramatic. The foxes aren't tame to the degree of dogs--they're still foxes--but they're tame foxes. It's incredible that behavior could change so much in what is seemingly a short period of time.

There's video and more information here: These domesticated foxes were 60 years in the making.

It gets even more interesting, though. Anna Kukekova, a behavioral geneticist at the University of Illinois in Urbana, started looking for a genetic basis for the foxes' behavior.

After 16 years of research, she discovered a gene--SorCS1--which consistently explained the behavior of individual foxes.

Mind-blowing stuff, and here's the other article (with video, and the difference between the aggressive and friendly foxes is staggering): These docile foxes may hold some of the genetic keys to domestication.

Monday, September 17, 2018

More Than Five


I saw this and said to Eli 17.1, "Wait, are there five more?"

As it turns out: yes. Yes, there are five more. 

Here's the story. Jeongeun Lee #6 plays on the LPGA of Korea Tour, and when she arrived, there were already five other players on tour with the name "Jeongeun Lee." 

To keep things sorted, the KLPGA gave her a number. Her fan club in Korea is called "Lucky Number 6."

Fine swing, too. 


Thought Process

Cat playing on bongos=>animated cat playing on bongos meme=>sub keyboards for bongos=>cat playing pixel tune on keyboards=>sub "Africa" for chiptune=>hear xylophone in bridge=>what is the equivalent of "Stairway to Heaven" for xylophone?

Bringing the "A game" this week. Hard-hitting questions.

An Analysis: Is Eli Manning More Or Less Mobile Than A Sofa?

Investigation
Does the sofa have wheels?

Answer "yes"
The sofa is more mobile.

Answer "no"
The sofa and Eli Manning are equally mobile.

There was a play in the third quarter last night where Manning ran past the line of scrimmage and got wrecked, and he looked exactly like the drunk guy who climbs out of the stands, runs across the field, and gets decked by a player. No difference.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday Links!

Here's a super creepy, evocative story to start us off: Sinister 'Hunger Stones' With Dire Warnings Have Been Surfacing in Europe.

Next, excellent links from C. Lee, as always. First, and this is thought-provoking, it's Why Technology Favors Tyranny. This is a magnificent and fascinating read: The Women Code Breakers Who Unmasked Soviet Spies. This is remarkable: Exploiting Decades-Old Telephone Tech to Break Into Android Devices.

From Wally, and this is a nifty bit of history: Rosie the Riveter isn’t who you think she is. McSweeney's is so damn funny: I AM PART OF THE RESISTANCE INSIDE NYARLATHOTEP’S DEATH CULT. Good freaking grief: The FBI’s Spying on Writers Was Literary Criticism at Its Worst. This is remarkable: This new blood test can figure out what time it is inside your cells. This is fantastic: Thailand's incredible Folding Umbrella Market.

From Brandon Reis, and I've linked to this before, but man, Florence looks amazing: A global map of wind.

From Paul Meyer, and this is thoughtful: Escape the echo chamber.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Swarms

I mowed the lawn today.

"We have a situation out there," I said, coming in after about fifteen minutes.

"What's that?" Gloria asked.

"Mosquitoes. Waves of mosquitoes. I could cut out a solid brick of them with the proper tools."

"We have repellent in the bathroom." She went down the hall and brought back a bottle.

I scanned the label.

"I don't see DEET or Picaridin," I said. "There's a picture of a baby turtle in sunglasses."

"It's eco-friendly," she said.

"The active ingredient appears to be unicorn dust mixed with mint," I said. "I'll be back."

I returned from the store with a can of DEET-based repellent and proceeded to douse my clothes, then doused them again. I finished the lawn.

"How was it out there?" Gloria asked as I walked in.

"The front lines held," I said. "Mutually assured destruction and all that."

Foreboding

A cheerio just fell out of my jacket. Clearly, a portent.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Pictures!

Maybe someone hit into his backyard:



Audrey's jersey doesn't have a number, it has a mission:



Also, I believe, from Audrey, although there is no "SWIM" above the fish (come on, Audrey, step your game up):



But who, pray tell, will think of the rural cats?



Lion's fans with Lost Season Face--in week one:



Here's something very nice from the Wayback Machine, of the boy who went 720+ on his SAT Subject Tests in both Math and Spanish:




















Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fireworks Expert Needed

Please check in at the desk if you can answer a few questions. Thanks.

Mastery

I'm going to make some chicken soup," I said. This is wholesome chicken noodle soup, out of a package.

"Okay, well just get a pan and boil water, then put in the package and simmer for five minutes or so," Gloria said.

"I see microwave instructions," I said. "I'm just going to use a big Pyrex container."

"Well, you'll want a bowl to serve it," she said.

"No bowl for me," I said. "Zero footprint. I'm all about the eco."

"I'm sure you are," she said.

Once it was done, I waited. And waited.

"That Pyrex is hot, isn't it?" Gloria said, laughing.

"Cooling slowly," I said.

"That's why you use a bowl to serve," she said.

"Sure, but I'm thinking outside the box," I said. "And I just thought of a way to cool it off."



"That's it," I said. "Cools burning muscles and burning soup."

"I better go," she said. "Your brilliance is overwhelming me."

"Yeah, it's probably safer to take off before you get a BRAIN BURN," I said.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Castle (F.O.B, Moat not Included)

This is an actual thing:


Not only is it an actual thing, it's an actual thing fifteen minutes from where I live. 

A monstrosity? Yes. An eyesore? Certainly. None of that matters, though, because it's a castle. An apartment complex that's a castle. Well, sort of an "inspired by castles" castle.

It gets better. 

A few details:
One fountain, near the building's entranceway, is expected to be topped with a large, glowing flame. 

The other fountain is expected to be 20-feet tall, carved from marble.

Work is underway on a library, complete with a two-sided staircase, which, according to developer Roger Lucas, is modeled after one found in the Walt Disney classic film Beauty and the Beast.

There are plans for an 8-foot digital cuckoo clock.

A life-size lion statue is expected to be mounted atop the peak of the castle, just shy of 200 feet. 

That all pales, though, in comparison to this bit of magnificence:
Lucas also wants to build a stable on the grounds that would house miniature horses.

Boom. My #1 Most Wanted Feature In An Apartment Complex.

"It sounds like a six-year-old inherited $100 million and decided to build a castle," Gloria said.

"I think you nailed it," I said. "I'm just waiting for the announcement of a roller coaster that will wind through the building at 60 MPH, because if that happens, we're moving."

If you're wondering about the target demographic of a castle builder, I've got you covered. Here's developer Roger Lucas:
I think there's a huge selling thing here, and the huge selling thing is that girls want to be a princess and guys, well - the power thing.

Greetings from the future, sir, as I assume you're writing us from 1955.

All is not well, though, which I'm sure will leave you stunned and disheartened:
Construction on the castle started in June 2016, with the initial opening date set for last summer. But that opening date has been pushed back multiple times, most recently to mid- to-late October.

The delays, in part, were caused by the expansion of the project. Initial plans called for 400 units but was later expanded to include 522 units, Lucas said.

"When you add 120 units, it takes a few minutes longer," he said.

I'll take your word for it, developer Roger Lucas, as I trust your particular form of madness. 

I will keep everyone updated on this delightful story.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's a terrific, thoughtful read: Sally From Peanuts Made Me A Better Teacher.

From J. Simms, and a fine example of Unfortunate Juxtaposition Theater, it's Couple Subjects Girl...

A slew of fine links from C. Lee. First, and it's concerning: Get Your Coffee Before Boarding a Flight. This is amazing: The sky is the canvas: Tokyo startup looks to launch world’s first artificial meteor shower. This is fascinating: Harry Potter and the translator's nightmare. How do I sign up to be part of the thirty percent? The Secret to Ant Efficiency Is Idleness. This is ingenious: A New Trick to Keep Barnacles From Sticking to Ships. This is excellent: Biomimicry in action. This is terrifying: Life-Threatening Heart Attack Leaves Teacher With $108,951 Bill. For California readers: Angelenos might have an earthquake early warning app by the end of 2018.

From Wally, and yeah, right: Like you're actually going to read this paper on computerized sarcasm analysis. This is interesting: Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound. It's come to this: A Private Investigator on Living in a Surveillance Culture. I had no idea:  Greco-Turkish War, 1919-22.

From Kai M, and this is discouraging: Inside The Bunker Where Global Produces Local Newscasts For The Entire Country

In closing for the week, these are quite amazing: Pablo Picasso’s Masterful Childhood Paintings: Precocious Works Painted Between the Ages of 8 and 15.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Mr. Rogers and the Calculus of Character Building

We all went to see the Mr. Rogers documentary ("Won't You Be My Neighbor?") on Monday.

I thought I knew quite a bit about Mr. Rogers, but I learned a number of new things yesterday, and it was extremely worthwhile.

It's powerful and moving, for many reasons, but there was one moment that was particularly powerful for me. Mr. Rogers, in an interview, said this: "Those who would try to make you feel less than who you are--that is the greatest evil."

That's one of those statements that is so purely true that it takes your breath away, doesn't it? Just let that sink in for a moment.

Now, think about coaches.

For decades (or centuries), coaches have sold the notion that they "build character." The problem is how they define character, because, to them, "character" is synonymous with "obedience".

That's not character. 

I didn't understand this for a long time. The idea that a coach would "break down" a kid to "build him back up" in the coach's image deeply bothered me, but I could never quite understand why. I mean, everyone says it works, right? I want my kid to have character, right?

What bothered me wasn't that a large number of coaches are reprehensible assholes. That's a given. What bothered me was that they got a free pass because of "character building", and I knew that was wrong, but I couldn't clearly explain how and why it was wrong. 

Well, this is why its wrong, and please remember this every time a coach talks to you about your child: character implies agency. 

Children (and grown-ups, too) must have agency to develop character. The vast majority of coaches don't give agency--just the opposite, really. Agency gets you into trouble. 

Without agency, though, it's not possible to develop character. They're bound together.

Coaches so epitomize the kind of person who "makes you feel less than who you are" that it's something, as parents, you need to watch carefully. It's the worst, most heinous kind of bullying, and many coaches are professional bullies. 

They'll try to bully you, too, and unless you are willing to stand up, they'll succeed. 

So when a coach tells you he (or she) is "building character" in your young person, ask them how they do that, and ask them if there is agency involved. If they start talking about "breaking them down to build them back up", they are genuinely full of shit. 

At that point, it's a good idea to start looking for another coach.  Keep looking until you find one that genuinely cares for your child.

You will be very glad that you did. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

A Text

I don't know if we can afford to take a vacation this year, but I found an exciting alternative:

Nike (not a political post)

Instead of looking at Nike's Kaepernick commercial from a political perspective, let's look at it from a strategic and tactical one, which is much more interesting.

In case you're living in a tree deep inside the forest or something, Nike started showing a new ad on Monday for the 30th anniversary of their "Just Do It" campaign, and it features Kaepernick with the tagline "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything."

Predictable response. People melting their Nike shoes in a microwave. Cutting off Nike logos from their socks. Swearing a lifetime ban of Nike. Etc.

Let's start with one overriding principle: the NFL and Nike don't give a damn about patriotism or social justice. They only care about either of those things in the context of making as much money as possible.

Capitalism isn't principle-based. It never has been.

For Nike to even consider putting this ad out, they must have done extensive demographic testing and concluded that it's going to make them more money than it loses them.

Do you think that would have been true when Kaepernick first took a knee? Not a chance.

Nike has concluded that the momentum of this issue has changed, and changed substantially.

I think I know the reason why, and that's an interesting discussion (YMMV, obviously).

Colin Kaepernick, outside of everything else, did one very, very smart thing: he stopped talking. He explained why he was doing what he was doing, and then he stopped talking.

Meanwhile, people exhausted themselves saying the filthiest and most disgusting things about him imaginable. They talked and talked and talked.

But you know what? Other people were listening. 

In the 1960s, people protested, and the organized protests were peaceful and resolute. Marching. Talking about justice.

Meanwhile, white people were spitting on little black girls going to elementary school in Arkansas, or unleashing water cannons on unarmed, peaceful protesters in Alabama. Or saying they'd rather shut down the University of Mississippi than accept an African-American student.

There were thousands of moments like that.

That was an undeniably brilliant tactic on the part of civil rights leaders. Refuse to react. Let the other side reveal who they really were, and when they did, large parts of the country were repulsed.

On a smaller scale, that's what's happened now.

I'm not saying that anyone who disagrees with Colin Kaepernick is a bad person, and I would never say that (T.H., I mean you specifically, because I have the highest respect for you).  What I am saying, though, is that sometimes you look around and see who's on your side, and it makes you want to change sides.

To some degree, I think that's what's happened here.

I will also say that, regardless how you feel about Kaepernick, he's lost a significant amount of money by taking this stand, and it is a stand.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Frozen Controversy

"Do we have two pints of vanilla at home?" I asked Gloria.

"No, just one," she said. Eli 17.1 and I looked at each other.

"Then we're stopping at the store on the way home," I said, and Eli nodded.

"Why? Why can't you just share the pint?"

Eli and I burst out laughing. "Not happening," Eli said.

"A pint isn't enough ice cream for two people," I said. "That's a one-serving container. Telling us to share a pint is just frozen despair."

"Fine," she said. "Buy another pint, then put your initials on each one."

"Done," Eli said.

"I don't want your stinky pint, anyway," I said.

"Well, I don't want your stupid pint, either," Eli said.

Gloria rolled her eyes.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Sports Real and Virtual

Sunday almost broke me.

Two hours of tennis in what felt like a swamp, then hitting golf balls later. This was after playing tennis and golf the day before, and my body said "No, sir," quite firmly.

It was all worth it, though.

I know that we don't have that many weekends left, because this time next year, Eli 17.1 will be in college or playing juniors.

So we finished off the weekend playing 9 holes of best ball (by shot) this morning, and shot +2, which is easily the best we've ever done.

"Okay, if we're hitting two shots from the same place on every shot, then we need to hit them at  the SAME TIME," I said.

Eli burst out laughing.

"Double the excitement," I said. "Checking to see if either ball is heading toward the hole."

I didn't persuade him, but I will next time.

Oh, and we thought for two hours on Friday that he'd broken his forearm, which was exciting in not a good way. He was in a lesson, taking shots from a guy who played in the AHL last season, and the arm sleeve on his chest protector rode up just a little and he took a shot off his forearm.

X-ray was negative, though (man, it was swollen), and he's like me--if the x-ray is negative, it's a clean bill of health, not matter how much it hurts. High pain tolerance family.

In between various exhaustions, I played a fair amount of Golf Club 2019, and I can safely say now that it's the best mouse swing ever included in a golf game (and I've played every single one of them). It models swing tempo unbelievably well, and every single shot is modeled more accurately than in the previous iteration.

I finished the Web.com tour and got promoted to the PGA tour, where I'm a scrub (on Hard difficulty). My most serious complaint is that the fairway/green/green speed conditions have been the same for all seven events I've played (6 on the Web.com tour, and 1 PGA). It would be so easy to set up a percentage chance for various conditions based on region and time of year that it seems like a major miss by the developers (who have been so smart about so many things).

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