Monday, October 22, 2018

Tennis On The Table

Eli 17.2 hit a serve, a good one. I hit a clean return winner.

"That was terrible," he said.

"What? That was a clean winner!"

"Wrong swing," he said.

"Oh, come on!" I said. "That was dirty."

"You don't get to say 'dirty'," he said. "You get to use old person words like 'good'."

"Noted," I said.

He hit an underspin serve. I hit it four feet long.

"No," Eli said. "When I hit underspin, you loop swing."

"Oh, that's helpful," I said.

"I told you that before."

"Did you?" I asked.

"Did you forget?"

I paused.

"Well, if I forgot, how would I remember that I forgot?"

He paused.

"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

"Is it?" I said.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Links!

This is just utterly wonderful: My Common App Essay: "Every School Reading This Except Dartmouth Sucks Ass"

Leading off, from Steven Davis, a seasonally appropriate and fantastic link: These Artists Are Carving Incredibly Detailed, Art-Historical Pumpkins.

From Wally, and this is interesting: This Artist Sorted Famous Characters By Color And Here’s What She Found Out. These are very, very funny: These Brazilian Candy Ads Are Undeniably Dark Yet Surprisingly Entertaining. This is both informative and strangely mesmerizing: Spinning a Lego Wheel FASTER. This is so goofy and very clever: Best ALIEN Remake I have ever seen!

Excellent links from C. Lee, as always. First, a unique study: Cats v. Rats? In New York, the Rats Win. This is terrifying: What the tests don’t show Doctors are surprisingly bad at reading lab results. It’s putting us all at risk. Some of these are amazing: Good Design Awards go beyond industrial design (in particular, these). This is pretty fantastic: How a bench and a team of grandmothers can tackle depression.

This is also from C. Lee, but I'm giving it it's own frame because it's a story of an utterly fearless, courageous man: The Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting.

From Scott Sanders, and this is a beautiful, painful obituary: Madelyn Linsenmeir, 1988-2018.

From Steven Davis, and this is happily amazing: The Art Practice Dr. Seuss Kept Hidden from the World.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Darkest Winter

DQ reader Nick Johns has published his first novel. It's titled "The Darkest Winter", and the Amazon page is here: The Darkest Winter.

I've read it and thought it was very entertaining.


I took this a few weeks ago, and it won't look like this again for about six months (this is from behind the library, where I spend a ton of time):

Question: does pro golfer Ariya Jutanugarn have a super fan?

Yes. Yes, she does.

Is this a fishing lure or a Christmas ornament? What does it catch--shopppers?

Tools of the trade (for gardener Gloria):

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Moonlighter (15-hour impressions)

I've been playing this quite a lot lately, so let's discuss.

Moonlighter is a mash-up of Stardew Valley and Recettear, to put it simply. You live in a Stardew Valley-type village (though less fleshed out), you have an item shop as in Recettear, and you stock that shop by going out at night and fighting your way through dungeons.

Hence, "Moonlighter."

Pixel graphics. Charming (very charming, actually). Lovely music.

With all games of this type, there's a grind, and if you like the game, you find the grind compelling. I do, very much.

Combat feels very clunky at first (tip: upgrade your weapons and armor ASAP), but smooths out once you start to feel out enemy patterns (I feel like Bruce Lee at times now). Stocking the item shop and selling items is incredibly satisfying and very low-stress (unless Recettear, where I felt like I was always trying to make enough money to make a loan payment).

When you place an item in the shop, you set a price, and you'll see customers react to the price you've set. The process of setting the "right" price is very drip-drip-drip enticing, and the entire shopkeeping experience is excellent.

The dungeons are quite interesting, too. Like I mentioned, combat is clunky and unintuitive at first, but when it clicks in, it gets really good really fast.

Starting advice. You can go to the blacksmith's shop (once you bring one to town), find an equipment upgrade you want, and select it. Then, any item needed for that upgrade will show up as starred in your inventory. The game has lots of little quality-of-life touches like this, and they make the game more pleasant to play.

Work at the shop during the day, raid dungeons by night. It's all terrifically fun, and I only wish I could play more often than I do.

Here's a Steam link: Moonlighter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Loyalist



"What would happen to the cats if we disappeared?" Gloria asked. A hypothetical, obviously.

"George would live on the porch," I said. "He would attack the mailman every day, and when someone bought the house, he would attack them until they went away. The house would be abandoned, and he would live on the porch forever, waiting for us to come back."

"That does sound like George," she said.

"Gracie would roll over on her back in the driveway when a new car pulled up. All she wants are treats, belly rubs, and a lap to sit on. The identity of the person who provides those things is totally irrelevant. That cat's as loyal as a skillet. "

The ironic thing is that George is around us less often than Gracie. He likes to go downstairs and sleep in Eli's room, and only comes up at intervals. Gracie has to be around us every second. But George is the one who would miss us.

Monday, October 15, 2018


Here's a thought experiment to start us off this week. I don't know why this popped into my head last weekend, but it did, and I thought it was interesting.

You can have one of these three things: wealth, a spouse, or children. They are mutually exclusive. Which would you choose?

A few distinctions here. "Spouse" means any committed, theoretically permanent, relationship. Don't assume that you get the perfect spouse or perfect children if you choose them, or that wealth would would come without any problems. Assume they all have problems, to some degree.

I'm curious about how people would answer this, particularly as they get older. I know I would have picked wealth when I was younger. That would be the least important of the three now.

If you want to share your thoughts on this, send me an email and I'll use excerpts in a follow-up post (anonymously, so people can speak freely).

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's so incredibly clever: Banksy painting 'self-destructs' moments after being sold for $1.4 million at auction.

From C. Lee, and this is an excellent read: My Favorite Psychology Study: The good samaritan is in the situation.

From Wally, a look back at a long-lost automaker: Graham-Paige. This is adorable: Meerkat babies are too freaking cute.

From Ken Piper, and this is amazing: Extreme heat of Vesuvius eruption vaporized body fluids, exploded skulls.

From Geoff Engelstein, and it's terrific: Viking Chess Pieces May Reveal Early Whale Hunts in Northern Europe.

From Griffin Cheng, and this is incredibly moving: One last goodbye.

From Scott Sanders, and this is a wonderful obituary: Rick Stein Obituary.

Good grief: Bogus homeopathy data published in top journal sparks outcry, facepalms.

This is an interesting read: An insider’s perspective on Fukushima and everything that came after.

We can only hope: The Little College Where Tuition Is Free and Every Student Is Given a Job.

Closing out this week, from Brian Witte, and it's encouraging: Mushroom with antiviral properties could save the honeybees.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Profound And Amazing Discovery

DQ VB.Net Advisor And Idea Factory Garret Rempel was doing some renovation on his house (this is apparently a multi-century project) which included some demolition. In the process, he found a crumpled-up newspaper in the wall.

I'm not going to transcribe that for you, because it's mind-blowing to read. Click on the image for a larger version.

Garret found this on October 5, and here's that date in history:
The Munich Agreement ceded the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to avoid an armed conflict with Hitler's Germany. The speech took place on 5 October 1938 in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Popular West Michigan Fall Sport

It's called "The Last Mow."

It gets wet here very, very fast, and when it does, it's like mowing a swamp, because it's not warm enough to dry out anymore.

That means getting in one last mow before it's too late is crucial unless you want to look at a shaggy yard all winter. Our next door neighbor is Perfect Yard Guy (he's also really nice and has an excellent assortment of flags), so the yard can't be shaggy all winter.

The tricky part, though, is that you have to do it at just the right time, as close to the weather changing as possible. If you mow a week too early, or even 3-4 days, the grass will have grown to that awkward in-between stage.

Today, it was in the 70s, but this looks like it, because the highs starting tomorrow will be in the  low 50s for the next week. With lots of rain.

That's why, this morning, I was doing the last mow, even as it started to rain when I got to the back yard. Just finished, looks good, and now I can put the mower away for six months, at least.

Well, This is Something

As Michael barges ashore as a Category 4 (almost 5) hurricane with winds of 155 MPH, I saw something I'd never heard of with hurricanes.

The circulation of a hurricane can be so powerful that birds wind up trapped in the eye of the storm.

(click on image to enlarge, courtesy of Matthew Cappucci)

Those non-blue objects in the eye? Lots and lots of birds. They just fly along in the eye of the storm until it weakens or they can find shelter.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

A Thing That Happened

I've talked before about how kids--if they want to play D1 hockey--have to delay starting college by two or even three years because most programs aren't interested until they've seen them in juniors. And, for most kids, they won't play in juniors, or even have a chance to play, until they're 18.

Semi-standard process is this: play 18U for one season, start trying out for junior teams. Make one at eighteen, if everything breaks right. If it doesn't, maybe wait until 19 or 20.

D1 scouts are going to focus on two leagues: the USHL and the NAHL. There are plenty of "pay" junior leagues, but those are juniors in name only, not part of a legitimate talent pool that D1 scouts will find players from.

For goalies, in particular, this system is brutal. There are so few spots on "real" junior teams, and so many colleges that won't look at you unless you're playing on one, that it's incredibly difficult to get through.

Eli 17.2 has a friend from Elite camp who is a phenomenal goalie. He's 20, and he's put his life on hold for several years because he wants to play D1 hockey. This spring, though, he made a juniors team (a real juniors team, and I'm leaving details a bit vague on purpose). Huge deal, right? All that hard work--and believe me, it involves thousands and thousands of hours--finally paid off.

Dream progressing.

Playing in juniors is a big deal, for many reasons, but it involves a huge amount of personal upheaval. Moving to a new city, billeting with a family, basically being on a pro hockey player schedule, but without getting paid.

Doing that really requires a personal commitment, and it's stressful, even if you're happy about doing it.

So this kid (he's a man at 20, really) moves to a new state. Gets a billet family. Totally uproots his life.

That's all okay, though, because he made the team.

Training camp goes great. He starts one of the first games of the season.

Gets shelled.

He gives up four goals in the first period and gets pulled. Devastating, but it happens. Goalie is such an incredibly complex position, and sometimes your team is overmatched, and everything goes wrong.

Three nights later, he plays again. Faces 45+ shots, gives up only three goals. Absolutely stellar.

They cut him. He played two games.

Eli went to a lesson in Detroit and he was there, which is when he told Eli the story. Said he might quit hockey, because he's 20 and all of his friends are starting their junior years in college, and he doesn't even have a team to play on now.

It hurts to even type that last paragraph.

What is so excruciating about this whole system is that while it does contain elements of merit, it's also staggeringly arbitrary, particularly when it comes to goalies. Coaches who don't understand anything about the position can see one moment that sticks in their mind, and they decide on a kid right there.

The kicker is that the team that cut him is terrible. They're legitimately going to be the worst team in the league, based on the first month of the season. And neither goalie they kept has a save percentage above .875, or a goals against average below 4.00. 

Hard. Very hard.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Now, the Wait

Eli 17.2 finished his application to Princeton.

Submitted, won't hear anything until mid-December, if I understand the process correctly.

The thing about schools like Princeton is that for every kid who gets accepted, there are plenty of kids like that kid who don't. So it's merit based, but there's also an element of good fortune that you need as well, because the difference between applicants can be very, very small.

The first time I wrote about Eli was when he was version 1.0. I was putting together something called the "Rock 'N Bounce Zebra" for his birthday, and it was the first column I ever wrote for Gone Gold. I can't believe I've been writing about him for over sixteen years now, and he'll be going to college soon.

It all happened so quickly and so slowly.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Friday Links!

Leading off, here is a wonderful short film: Hand-Pulled Noodle School.

This is a fascinating read: Strands of hair shed light on doomed 19th-century Arctic expedition. So is this: What 61,000 hidden structures reveal about Maya civilization.

From Tim Lesnick, and it's miracle any of us are still here: Stanislav Petrov, 'The Man Who Saved The World,' Dies At 77.

Multiple links from Scott Sanders. First, in case you're curious, it's the Fall Foliage Prediction Map from the U.S. Parks Service (Michigan: patchy). Ah, The Onion: Mr. Autumn Man Walking Down Street With Cup Of Coffee, Wearing Sweater Over Plaid Collared Shirt. Here's the McSweeney's version, and it is 100% NSFW (language, and lots of it): It's Decorative Gourd Season, Mf-ers.

From Ken Piper, and go get your damn flu shot: CDC: 80,000 People Died From Flu Last Season (that's the worst in forty years). Also, and I'd probably fail this, it's Guess Which Single Word Will Convince Other Humans You're Not a Robot.

From Wally, and I never get tired of Rube Goldberg machines: Brilliant Rube Goldberg - Keep the blue marble in play. Also, and I'm definitely not Welsh, it's Why Wales is Known as 'The Land of Song'.

From Brian Witte, and this is fascinating: He Got Schizophrenia. He Got Cancer. And Then He Got Cured.

From Steven Davis, and this is excellent: The Sordid Truth behind Degas’s Ballet Dancers.

Ending this week, C. Lee with always stellar links. By the time you finish this story, you will be full of white-hot rage: A Surgeon So Bad It Was Criminal. Tip of the iceberg: GM tracked radio listening habits for 3 months to better target in-car advertising. Well, this is something, all right: Proof that Americans are lying about their sexual desires.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Jurassic Narc

We were all sitting in the living room.

"Scientists are going to bring back the dinosaurs," Gloria said. "I think that's terribly unethical."

"It's kind of the dark frontier of ethics," I said. "Uncharted territory. Besides, the mammoths would be first."

"But what if they bring them back and a predator escapes?"

"Duh, just put them all on an island behind electric fences," I said.

Eli 17.2 laughed. "Sure," he said. "We know that will work."

"Well, what if one gets loose and eats a tourist?"

"If I'm paying a fortune to go to a dinosaur theme park, I'm going to be very disappointed if a tourist doesn't get eaten. Besides, we have nukes. If we have to, we can drop nuclear weapons to destroy the island. Where's The Rock?"

Eli burst out laughing. "Oh my God, he is the perfect person for that."

"Oh, no, I forgot something," I said. "This is all ruined."

"Why?" Eli asked.

"Because some guy will take a breeding pair back to Florida--"

"Florida Guy," Gloria said. Eli laughed.

"Florida Guy will take a breeding pair back and release them into the Everglades," I said. "To control the python population. Probably while naked."

"I'd go to the Everglades to see that," Eli said.

"Don't need to," I said. "Just wait for the live cam."

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Connected Appliances Have Run Amuck

"My toothbrush just texted me," I said.

"What?" Gloria asked.

"Said I hadn't connected in a week, which is a DAMNED LIE," I said. "I did use the toothbrush. I just didn't use the app."

"Your toothbrush actually texted you," Gloria said.

"Should I ghost it? Can you do that to a thing?"

An Actual Thing That Announcers Said

"These two guys come out of multi generational chopping and sawing families."

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Limit Theory

Josh Parnell, the developer of Limit Theory, sent out an email to Kickstarter backers last weekend.

In it, he announced that the game will not be completed. Not in a spoiled, indifferent way, but in a letter that was both anguished and poignant.

Here are a few excerpts:
After six years, I am finally at the end of my means. Financially, I am beyond the initial investment and have exhausted most of my personal savings. But significantly more troubling is that I am entirely out of energy -- emotionally, mentally, even physically. Every year that passes sees me becoming more desperate to make good on the dream with which you all entrusted me, but each such year I grow less and less capable of doing so as my mindset falls further away from that bright, beautiful hope that powered me from the beginning. I am not what I once was.

No matter how hard I try, it's not enough to bring LT to fruition, and this pattern of failure has evicted all self-confidence and hope from my mind, leaving only doubt, anxiety, and despair. 

It has been the most painful, difficult decision of my life, and I'm sure that there will be no shortage of blowback. But I simply cannot continue to destroy myself in search of a feat of which I am not capable. When I began this project, I felt that anything was possible. Here now, at the end, I must swallow the painful reality that: I, too, am human. I am limited by time, I am limited by finances, and I am limited by mental & emotional stamina.

Limit Theory was going to be a procedurally generated space sim, and it was chock full of interesting ideas. Parnell is clearly very, very brilliant, but most unfortunately, that is often not enough, whether it's games or books or films.

I want to ask DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand (Hey, Ben! Want to do this?) to write a post about scope and how to design projects (in his case, film projects) that are finishable. He knows more about this than anyone I know, because he's been involved in the best and the worst and everything in-between.

Designing something that can be finished is a skill, and it's a skill I never had, at least for a long time. Even now, I tend to start things and they mushroom into something grand (I think I'll add a manned mission to Mars!), which very quickly leads to paralysis and then death. I have to force myself to focus on manageable ideas with a clear time frame (and even then, I often don't follow my own rules).

What struck me the most about Josh's letter is how genuine it feels. I remember how all-consuming Gridiron Solitaire was, and how overwhelming, and how every minute that I wasn't spending working on it felt like a wasted minute. That was a very difficult emotion for me to manage, and it lasted for five years.

This was back when no one but DQ Legal Advisor Lee Rawles even knew I was trying to make a game. I can't begin to imagine the pressure I would have felt if I had a successful Kickstarter and backers to please.

For low-budget indie developers, the early Kickstarter, to me, is a curse. I would never use Kickstarter until I had a prototype at the point where I knew it would be finished. Then, use the funding to greatly improve the art and sound and whatever needs to be better, but not to fund coding.

I'm sorry about the game, but not sorry that I backed it, and I hope Josh Parnell can somehow find peace and continue thinking about games. Maybe he'll still make one someday.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Hey, Aren't You? No.

We have a running gag about how often people confuse me for someone else.

It happens all the time, and the funny thing is, it's usually for someone of status. I've been confused for a member of the House of Representatives (U.S., not some state scrub) and a football coach (again, D1, not D3). Also, Bob, Larry, and Bret, among others.

"So an old guy I've never seen before walked up and started talking to me at the YMCA on Friday," I said.

"No way! What happened?"

"He said 'Hey, where have you been? I haven't seen you in weeks!' "

"What did you say?" he asked.

"I said 'I joined another YMCA, but a guy walked up out of nowhere and started talking to me and I stabbed him'."

He burst out laughing. "No, you didn't!"

"I didn't, but wouldn't that have been something? I think that would definitely get me reported to the front desk."

"It just never stops, does it?"

"Stick with me, kid. If we ever go to Europe, I'll get mistaken for royalty."

He laughed.

"Seriously. 'Duke Archibald, where have you been?', and I'd say 'Fluffing some pheasants.' Is that the right terminology?"

"Oh, definitely," he said.

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