Monday, February 18, 2019

A Difference of Meat-pinion

"I saw that you and Eli were cutting up your steak," Gloria said.

"The steak scissors were dirty," I said. We like cutting steak with scissors. Snip-snip-snip and done. Geometric precision. Knives are much less fun.

"There's a way to cut steak," Gloria said. "What you want to do is cut against the grain."

"I will literally never remember that," I said. "But I thank you for your good intentions."

"When you cut across the muscle fibers, the meat will be more tender," she said. "It makes perfect sense."

"Sure," I said. "To a meat cutter."


I admit it, I don't like steak that much.

Steak is just fussy. There are rules. Techniques. FIVE degrees of done-ness.

Ground beef? Throw it in a skillet. Brown it. Put it in a form factor (hamburger, taco, Sloppy Joe, etc.). Eat away.

The next day? Warm it up, and it's just as good. It's the zero-hassle meat.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a fascinating story: A suspense novelist's trail of deceptions.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's an excellent obituary: Goodbye, Opportunity Rover. Thank you for letting humanity see Mars with your eyes.

From Matt Kreuch, two excellent musical links: Choir! Choir! Choir! Epic! Nights: David Byrne + NYC sing HEROES and choir! choir! choir! sings The Smiths - There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

From Wally, and it's fluff, but still interesting: 17 Things No One Tells You About Being On "Jeopardy!". Critical information (Shake Shack and Chic-fil-A are rated far too low): The official fast food French fry power rankings. Absolutely NSFW, but also very funny: I've No More F***s To Give.

From Brian Witte (about Austin, and in my experience, Austin talks much more about being liberal than actually being liberal): The Truth About Being a Black Woman in a Liberal City.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and these are lovely: Valentine's Day and the Romance of Cobwebs.

From Ross Richey, and it's a Radiolab about John Scott and the NHL All-Star Game: The Punchline.

Another set of excellent links from C. Lee. First, and this is quite moving, it's The state that accepted Japanese-Americans. This is terrific: The 'miracle mineral' the world needs. This is very helpful: The Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool. Lemonade, indeed: Turning fat from the sewer into fuel. This is fascinating: Why Evolution Reversed These Insects’ Sex Organs.

From Steven Davis, and it's a delightful bit of Futurama: 1010011010 - Numberphile.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

When to Back Away

When a children's toy (and a cheap one, at that) has both a "preparation" section and a "troubleshooting" section, it's time to move along. Quickly.

Please Specify

"Have you heard about the Drake curse?" Eli 17.6 asked.

"Is that the explorer, the rapper, or the university?" I asked. "I think there are curses associated with all three."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Of Men and Manatees

I took off my glasses and got in the shower this morning.

It's drafty in the house, and a little cold. This is Michigan. So I was looking forward to a few minutes of very hot water and steam, because I would be warm.

I was just feeling nice and toasty when I realized that the soap was a sliver. Barely a sliver, really.

Thus ended the toasty feeling.

I turned off the water, opened the shower curtain, stepped on the mat, and reached way over to open a cabinet that had the soap. No problem. I could get back in the hot water in ten seconds, tops.

It was a package of eight bars of soap, sealed with cellophane. Unopened.

All rightie, then. I just needed to get this open--well, I couldn't get it open, because my fingernails are incredibly soft, and I needed to work a nail under where the cellophane folded over to open it up.

I was holding this package of eight bars of soap about three inches in front of my face, because I'm blind without my glasses, and I was soaking wet, and cold, and I couldn't get this package open, and and I realized that without my glasses I was basically a manatee on land.

Then I wondered, as I stood there, now freezing, what did people do in the "old days" when glasses weren't available?

I looked up the percentage of people who need vision correction. It's 75%.

No wonder people only lived to their thirties in medieval times. By then, some kind of vision-related death (a fall, run over by a horse-drawn cart, etc.) would surely claim them. Or a predator that they never saw coming. 

Unless they were living in Australia, where the average life expectancy was probably ten.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Another pony runner was sighted today.

This guy was fast and fit, though. He was doing 7 minute miles for half an hour, at least. Running on his toes, hands flapping in front.

Clearly, this is what a pony would do after he discovered that he could stand and run on his hind legs. What do these flipper things do? I'll just let them flap in front of me until I figure it out.

The best part of all this was when the pony ran past me on his warm-down. He was cantering, I swear.

I had no idea until now that I've discovered a secret American demographic: the pony runner.

Soon, there will be books like The Pony Runners: The Incredible True Story of a Delightful Gait and How It Changed America and Clip-Clop, Don't Stop: How You Can Find True Love by Running Like a Pony.

New York Times bestseller list, all of them.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Wait

We went to a restaurant on Saturday night. It wasn't expensive, and the menu had lots of things on it that I wanted to try.

We got there at 6:15 and were told it was a 30-40 minute wait. I hate waiting, but every place was crowded (no one had been able to get out for days because of the weather), so we decided to stay.

Time passed.

I grew melancholy in my old age. I'd seen so much, and I had much to reflect on as my life was winding down.

The woman at the desk said it would be "soon." Big things were happening just out of our view, she assured us. Then she said "soon" again. And again. It was a haunting refrain as I struggled to remain conscious.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, we were seated. I wouldn't wait an hour and fifteen minutes for a lifeboat.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Friday Links!

It's the low power, high ice, low temperature, high wind edition of Friday Links.

This will infuriate you, as it should: How Baylor Happened.

From Jim Riegel, and these are tremendous: 50 Rosa Parks Quotes Honoring Civil Rights That Are Still Relevant.

From Wally, and this is an incredibly touching story: My disabled son - ‘the nobleman, the philanderer, the detective’. A bit confusing: Indian man to sue parents for giving birth to him. I just assume airlines don't do anything the right way: The Better Boarding Method Airlines Won't Use. This is absolutely savage: Six Takeaways from the Authors Guild 2018 Author Income Survey.

From Brian, and this is remarkably entertaining: Marble Race: MarbleLympics 2019 Qualifiers.

From C. Lee, and this is brutal: Japan's Working Mothers: Record Responsibilities, Little Help From Dads. This is fascinating: How Michigan Became the Epicenter of the Modernist Experiment. And if you're ever in Detroit: What to See, and Where to Eat Square Pizza, in Detroit. I've always wondered how this happened: The Accidental Invention of Bubble Wrap. This is alarming: For some whales, sonar may provoke suicidal behaviour: study. I say "yes": Will our future homes build themselves?

From Phil, and it's a follow-up to the MIT Mystery Hunt stories last week: The joyful, perplexing world of puzzle hunts.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

That's a Wicked Googly

Michigan in winter is just like Australia, except instead of creatures trying to kill you every second, it's the weather.

Exhibit A:

That's ice, so thick that when I lowered my window, it decided to stay. That's what's been happening here the last two days--ice storms--after 15" of snow last week melted into a sodden mess.

1/4" of solid ice. That's a lot.

How did I get to my car? Our driveway is sloped, so I literally stood in place and just coasted down to the driver side door, where I grabbed the handle and hung on for dear life.

Exhibit B:

That's the power outage map. All those colors are bad. About 60,000 people in the map area didn't have power yesterday. Now it's over 100,000 and climbing.

It's going to be 10 degrees tonight. This is the weather literally trying to kill us.

We've lost power twice in the last two days, but only for an hour each time (there's no way we escape the colored labyrinth today, though. It's going to get us, at some point.). Eli 17.6 got two more school holidays, because the school hasn't had power for almost 48 hours. He's had 9 days off from school in the last 5 weeks.

Why is this happening? The ice has caused thousands of branches to snap off old, huge trees. That's downed power lines, plus the sheer weight of the ice has downed quite a few more.

Exhibit C: Snowshoes.

I don't have a picture for this one, but I snowshoed last week in about 15" of fresh, powdery snow.

I managed to do two laps around a track, so half a mile. I've rarely been so exhausted. It felt like an equivalent effort to sprinting, just to move forward at any pace, because the snow was so deep.

Now I know why Shackleton didn't make it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019


"I have a question," I said. I'm unloading the dishwasher, and I'm holding a variety of coffee machine pieces. "Does this thing fit on this thing? And if it does, then how does this thing fit?" 

I should note that I don't drink coffee. 

Gloria laughed. "Okay, the plastic piece fits on the carafe," she said. 

"Thanks," I said. " Now I just need to google 'carafe'." She laughed again. 

"All right, that works, but the mesh dunce cap needs to go somewhere," I said. 

She walked over and opened up the TOP of the coffee machine. "Okay, now my mind is totally blown," I said. "Whoosh." 

Later, she was coming up the stairs. "I have some discrepancies," I said. 

"Go ahead," she said. 

"First, these two spoons are disturbingly larger than the rest, but they seem to go in the same drawer," I said. 

"That is correct," she said. 

"Then there's this small food flinger," I said.

"That's a butter knife," she said. 

"Then there's this stabbie knife," I said. "Everything else in this drawer appears to be for eating food, but this appears to be for killing."

"Not tonight," she said. 

Fixing Basketball

Okay, you may not think that basketball is broken.

The best teams in the NBA--many of them, anyway--play a beautiful, free-flowing, highly skilled game now. It's incredibly entertaining to watch.

Then there are the free throws.

Free throws slow the game down to a crawl. It's brutal. You have this excellent game, and then a sub-game inside it that's absolute ass. Plus it's glacial.

So why don't they just shoot one free throw?

If a player gets fouled on a three-point attempt, they get one free throw that's worth three points. On a regular shot, one free throw worth two points, etc.

One and ones? They're gone. One free throw worth two points.

Yes, it's a radical change, but just think how much faster the game would become if free throws were handled this way.

A brief note

Brussels sprouts smell like a corpse farm. That is all.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019


Last week, as I drove down a snow-packed highway, I saw a red bumper in front of me.

It didn't look like it was damaged. No, it was just sitting free in the middle of the road.

That's the trouble with bumpers, really--they're one-dimensional thinkers. They can escape, but after that? No clue.

Stupid bumpers.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Local Humor

This was making the rounds in Grand Rapids last week:

Now, compare that to Garret in real life, walking to work in -50 wind chill last week:

That's pretty close, really.

How does he see? Well, he doesn't need to, because he's a superhero. That is a true thing, and anyone who knows Garret understands why.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Friday Links!

From DQ Reader My Wife, and it's a fascinating read: Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?

From Meg McReynolds, and it's terrifying: O' Moldy Night. Clearly, a critical resource: Movies where the dog dies.

From Wally, and it's stunning: Steampunk Computer. This is provocative: I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.

Australia! Tourist in Australia Goes Viral Holding 'Beautiful' Octopus That Can Kill Within Minutes.

This is sickening, but important: Portland Police Sergeant to Cops: ‘If You Come Across a Black Person, Just Shoot Them’.

This is an amazing story: How a Stroke Turned a 63-Year-Old Into a Rap Legend. And one more: Inside the 30-year quest to find a new state of matter.

From Scott Sanders, and it sounds like a blast: The MIT Mystery Hunt. Here's a video: The MIT Mystery Hunt: A Documentary. Here's a Radiolab about how John Scott got selected for the NHL All-Star game: The Punchline.

From Geoff Engelstein, and this is deeply worrying: Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’.

From C. Lee, and it's a remarkable story: Runner found to be a hitman after GPS Watch ties him to crime scene. Next, and this is fantastic, it's Microsoft creates physical programming language for low vision students. This is fascinating: Why Do We Hurt Robots? Oops: Auto thieves outwitting smart key systems in ‘relay attacks’.

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