Thursday, November 26, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's mind-blowing (to me, at least): Running DOS off a vinyl record is wildly impractical but deeply hip. Space pranksters: How a Thanksgiving Day gag ruffled feathers in Mission Control. This is an emotional and riveting piece of writing: 100 Years On, Bloody Sunday Still Bleeds.

From Wally, and its bittersweet: I Miss My Restaurant Family, Unfortunately. These are board games submitted to the Finnish National Library (it's not in English, but the images are interesting, and I know we have a few Finnish readers): Viimeksi syötetyt Lautapelit. This is an excellent read: My Hunt for the Original McDonald’s French-Fry Recipe. Hmm: 12 Very Haunted Roads.

From Geoff Engelstein, and this is just silly: Football agents "tried to bribe" Football Manager into giving better ratings.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's entirely delightful: Why Are These Sea Urchins Sporting Cowboy and Viking Hats? There's Science to Their Hot Looks. This is very, very good: I am an artificial intelligence dedicated to generating unlimited amounts of unique inspirational quotes for endless enrichment of pointless human existence.

Excellence from C. Lee. First, and this is a wonderful story, it's She Helped South Korea in Its Time of Need. In the Pandemic, It Repaid Her. This is quite helpful: Stop Glasses From Fogging Up With a Band-Aid on Your Mask. An interesting read: Covid-19 Mutated. Can Vaccines Keep Up? This is a wonderful site and a fascinating article: Ethics in Strategy Gaming, Part 1: Panzer General. This is thought-provoking: The Prosperity Hoax. I'm not going to get lost walking the three minutes back home from Jimmy John's, but for some of you, this could be incredibly useful: How to Turn Your Watch Into a Compass. This is excellent: How The Princess Bride Built Film’s Most Beloved Sword Fight.


Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving (disturbing historical legacy aside) to U.S. readers today, and I hope you were all able to spend time with your families safely. 

If not, here are a few pictures for you. 

First, I was invited over to the house for what has become the traditional Thanksgiving breakfast:


Gloria said that the turkeys were a little frantic this year, and maybe they were having a bit of a bad hair today, but they were still delicious. Cinnamon rolls on Thanksgiving for late breakfast are an unbelievable luxury. 

Around noon, Gloria asked what time sports were coming on. I said, "Well, the Lions game is on soon, so I guess that's sports adjacent?"

After the traditionally delicious lunch, Eli 19.3 made a raspberry souffle (with a shaved chocolate outer shell), and it was delicious. The view from above:


I know. And it was his first time doing this, too. Here's the head-on view:


It was delicious.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Chef!

 Eli 19.3 made dinner tonight. 


He sent a picture of this dish last week (I posted it), but seeing it in person, and the process he went through, was really something. 

The pasta dough was made last night. Tonight he used a press to flatten it and make it the right thickness. He made a pea farce and used a pastry bag to distribute it evenly onto the sheets of pasta. He tucked the pasta over, made crimps to separate into individual pieces, and cut them at the crimp. Then he put them into the freezer for a few minutes so that they wouldn't fall apart when they were cooked.

The whole process was mildly hypnotic, because it was very slowly and carefully done. Very procedural. 

He also made a parmesan crisp, which had a little lattice shape, and that was cut into pieces. 

There was also the frying of bacon and a sauce for the pasta. 

The pasta cooked in boiling water, then it was transferred to a skillet that had the sauce and continued to cook for a few minutes. 

I'm not mentioning the peas for obvious reasons. 

What was amazing about the taste of this dish was the number of flavors in one bite. If you put a piece of bacon and parmesan crisp on top of a piece of pasta, the combination was remarkable--the base flavor of the pasta mixed with the salty taste of the bacon, with the airy taste of the parmesan crisp. It was all balanced, with no flavor stronger than the rest, but they were all strong enough not to be overwhelmed by each other. 

I've had pasta in restaurants that wasn't nearly this good.

Obviously, I have quite a bit of skill in the "remove bag from freezer and set microwave timer" culinary school, but this was so impressive. And it was my boy making it. So wonderful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

COVID ate my brain

I think 2020 finally got in my head. 

I had a physical schedules last Tuesday. I thought seriously about not going, given how most of the state seems to have COVID right now, but I wanted to make sure my C+ diet wasn't having a negative effect on my health (I didn't think so, but a series of numbers from blood tests are always comforting to look at). 

So I went. 

I was careful, of course, and except when I was in the room with the doctor, I wasn't anywhere long enough to have any real exposure to anyone. Still, though, I was within range of far more people than I've been since March. 

Thursday morning, I felt congested and my sinuses hurt. 

This is a thing that I've always struggled with since we moved up here. It's dry in winter, like 20% relative humidity dry. It's so dry that your sinuses can get inflamed and start to hurt, which mine do every year when it gets cold. 

In other words, it's nothing new. 

It's 2020, though, and every symptom is a possible precursor to COVID. Cough? COVID Congestion? COVID Leg wound? COVID.  

It took three days before I finally accepted that I was totally fine. 

I also realized that I could close the door to the TV room (which is actually a bedroom that attaches to a bathroom with shower), turn on the hot shower for ten minutes, and raise the humidity in that room over to over 30%, which is much more comfortable for breathing (and my sinuses). 

The pandemic has had such a corrosive effect on carefree moments. Everything involves a risk assessment, and the more often you have to do it, the more difficult it becomes to be objective. 

Homestretch, though. We just need to hang on for a while now as the vaccines ramp up into production. We're all going to get through this.



Monday, November 23, 2020

Things I've Learned About Cooking (#2 in a series): Frozen Vegetables Are Like Wildlife Parks

#1 in the series was vent the package of Spanish rice before putting it in the microwave. We've covered that already. 

When you buy a package of frozen vegetables, there will always be an inviting picture on the cover of the vegetables in roughly even quantities. For instance, let's say the package contains carrots, corn, and green beans. That picture is going to look like a national flag with three equal stripes: orange, yellow, and green. 

This is exactly the same marketing as the wildlife park that proudly advertises over 275 animals, and has photos of all manner of exotic beasts. What a wonderful experience!

When you drive through the wildlife park, you realize that 260 of the animals are different varieties of deer.

When you open the frozen vegetables, the deer are the green beans.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an in-depth look at the processor wars: A history of Intel vs. AMD desktop performance, with CPU charts galore.

This is utterly calming and I would watch a livestream: a variety of wild animals visiting a water fountain. I have never of this before: This drone flies via the Coandă effect.

From Wally, and this is an unbelievably great read: The Town That Went Feral: When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in.

From C. Lee, and this is both brilliant and hilarious: German public health advert COVID 19. This is a terrific profile: Sarnath Banerjee: The Full Texture of a City India's premier graphic novelist on street hustlers and the perils of cosmopolitanism. I don't necessarily agree with this, but it's definitely thought-provoking: The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse. Yup: Dwight Schrute was a warning. This did not go well: Spanish statue bodge-up is a new rival to Borja's Monkey Christ. This is a fascinating read: Porsche Once Designed A Car To Put Itself Out Of Business. I hope this actually works: New device puts music in your head — no headphones required. The first instant soup: Erbswurst anyone? That’s pea soup sausage to you..

We've Crossed Over to the Other Side

There is a game in Early Access now.

The name of the game is Shardpunk: Verminfall. It's is a turn-based RPG. 

I'm not here to discuss whether it's a good game, because I don't know. 

I'm more interested in knowing whether we've passed the point of no return when it comes to naming games. 

Shard. Punk. Vermin. Fall. Four words that are words on their own, seemingly combined entirely at random. We're now just throwing four tiles into a bag and drawing them out one at a time.

How about Fallpunk: Verminshard?  Or maybe Shardfall: Verminpunk?

The incredible thing about these four words is that using them in any combination, with a colon in the middle, makes for an equally suitable name. It's sorcery.

Verminpunk: Fallshard. That works, too.

Two words on the left, two words on the right, a colon in the middle. It's just science.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Pictures!

 I was greeted by this lovely sunrise this morning:


While fall is over, I saved one picture to share with you:


Fall is so beautiful here. I'm definitely going to miss it when I'm wearing shorts in December somewhere else.

The trails I walk on at the local college campus sometimes have little art installations on the paths, which is always very cool. Here's one of them:


Those are regular-sized dominos, in case you're wondering. 

Sir, I'd like to offer to be your Weight Watchers sponsor!


Somebody's been spending a lot of time at the Squirrel Corral buffet. 











Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Almost Identical

Eli 19.3 has really gotten into cooking, and he sent this picture last night:


This was his description:
Agnolotti with a pea farce topped with a butter sauce, peas, bacon, and a Parmesan crisp.

I sent him this picture:

Rising above a bed of carrot strips and wild rice, an assembly of mini-tater tots with sliced avocado and frozen chicken strip medallions.

I mean, that's basically a draw, right?

Monday, November 16, 2020

Hopefully Soon

 I'm really looking forward to the post-vaccine day when I never have to use the phrase "viral load" again.

This is now possible

Mini-tater tots are an actual thing. 

Buy them for all those times when regular tater tots are just too damn big.

And I thought this country stopped innovating after we went to the moon. 


The Exception That Proves the Rule

I can't seem to quit Tiger Woods.

In recent years, the quality of an athlete's character has affected who I root for. I used to tell myself it didn't matter, but as I got older, I realized that it does, at least to me. So I try much harder to find good people who happen to be athletes and root for them. 

Then there's Tiger Woods. 

He infamously blew up his life and the lives of his family with a series of reprehensible and selfish indiscretions in 2008. He is almost completely unwilling to use his massive platform to advocate for anything or anyone. He doesn't even seem to have close friends.

It certainly seems like he's lacking in character. 

But when he takes a 10 and hits 3 balls into Rae's Creek on Sunday, then birdies 5 of the next 6 holes, I can't look away. It was the most Tiger Woods thing to do ever. 

Or chipping in an impossible shot to win the Masters. Or make a 20 foot putt on the last hole of the PGA to get into a playoff with Bob May (he won, of course). Or win the U.S. Open with a stress fracture in his leg. 

His highlight reel might be more spectacular than every other golfer combined. 

I don't think I've ever seen another athlete who has a greater ability to rise to the moment. When he was younger, it was almost inevitable. and it was electric. 

Other guys of questionable character? No thanks. Tiger? I still can't look away.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a fascinating story: A Nameless Hiker and the Case the Internet Can’t Crack. Also, this is quite interesting (at least to me--I had no idea): The most contentious transition before Trump and Biden: Hoover and FDR.

From Wally, and it would certainly keep me away: Japan Is Using a Robotic ‘Monster Wolf’ to Scare Bears Away From People’s Houses. This is an interesting read: Which publishers are the game subscription believers? This is phenomenal: The Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships Are Difficult. A remarkable discovery: Military carrier pigeon message turns up 110 years after it was sent.

From Jonathon W. and it's fantastic: How to Make the 'Canard' Paper Airplane | WIRED.

Excellent links from C. Lee, and they start off with this: Old bay, new money: the economics of Maryland’s favorite flavor. And here's its origin story: Old Bay seasoning bears its Jewish roots. The story is fascinating, but the title is Hall of Fame worthy: The Legend of Old Tom and the Gruesome "Law of the Tongue". This is a surprise: Why Reports of Legionnaires’ Disease Are on the Rise in the United States. What an odd problem: Panasonic to assist Japanese railway companies in removing dropped wireless earbuds from train tracks. This is terrific: The truth about British stoicism

It definitely works

I stumbled onto the Clever Hans Effect this week.

Hans was a horse (of course) who appeared to perform mathematical calculations. He was quite a celebrity.

In 1907, a scientific inquiry concluded that while Hans was indeed quite clever, he was actually responding to physical cues given by his trainer (who wasn't consciously giving the horse clues). 

This is often cited as a potential pitfall when researching animal cognition. 

I thought that was quite interesting, but what really captured my imagination was the realization that "The Clever Hans Effect" would easily be the greatest indie band name ever. 

An Announcement

I'm going to go ahead and rip the band-aid off, because it's going to surprise you and there's no way for me to edge into it. 

Gloria and I are no longer together. We've actually been divorced for a few months now. 

It felt very, very strange to not discuss any of this as it was happening, because I've been an open book to you for the better part of twenty years, but this was so deeply private that I just couldn't share it until now. We'd grown apart over the years, and it reached a point where there was no way forward for us.

Gloria has been gracious and amicable through the process, and I hope that I have been as well. 

If you're wondering about Eli 19.3, he's great. When we told him, he hugged us both and said that he loved us and supported us. 

This is what you'd expect, coming from the single best person I've ever known. When we went to the range later that day, he said, "Dad, nothing will ever happen to change us," and he's right. 

I live in an apartment five minutes from the house, and I see Eli every day when he's back from school. Our relationship is the same that it's always been, which makes me very, very happy. And I still see Gloria and Gracie every week as well.

There are quite a few funny things about living in an apartment by myself after so long, and now I can start telling you about them. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Costume Count (damn it, 2020)

Well, it's not a thousand costumes this year. 

In many places, trick or treating was cancelled. This seems prudent. 

Garret Rempel got my hopes up with "Costume Count 2020!" as the subject of his email. 

The exclamation point got me. Whimsical Canadians. 

This was his email:
Costume Count by Type

(nothing)    0

That is all.

You read that right. 80 kph winds, below freezing, plus COVID. There was only one other house with lights on for my entire block and there was not a single kid to be seen. My kids stayed home, ate candy, and watched movies.

Social distancing like a BOSS.

I feel like our better northern half should appropriate that and turn it into a slogan: "Canada: social distancing Like a BOSS."

Moving on. 

There were only two submissions this year (along with quite a few "no costumes this year" emails):
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Fate, Texas (which is about half an hour northeast of Dallas)

58 costumes in total (in alphabetical order)

Alice in Wonderland
Among Us characters
Anime Girl
Assassin's Creed character (Ezio)
Baby Tiger
Bumblebee Transformer
Captain America
Cat
Caterpillar
Clown
Cow
Creepy green mask
Day of the Dead 
Dinosaur
Dorothy
Draculas Daughter
Dragon
Fireman
Football Player
Fortnite Character
Fox
Frankenstein
Garbage Truck
Grim Reaper (2)
Halo Master Chief
Harley Quinn
Hazmat suit
Jasmine (2)
Mandalorian
Micheal
Mushroom
Nerd
Ninja (3)
Panda
Police Officer
Popeye (Sweet Pea's dad)
Princess
Pterodactyl skeleton
Rooster
Scarecrow (2)
Skeleton
Sock Hop Girls
Spiderman (4)
Sumo Wrestler
Sweet Pea
Tin Man
Unicorn (2)
Vampire
Wizard

Costume of the year must be the garbage truck:
The kid had a safety vest and hat on, with a large cardboard garbage truck around him. What made it awesome was that when he got candy, he put it in a receptacle in front of him. He pushed a button, and just like a real garbage truck, it lifted the candy in a basket up and over his head and dumped it into the back part of the truck behind him

That's next level.

Next year will be back to normal, I hope. Stay safe, everybody. 




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

I Swear I Wasn't Going to Buy it

A very good friend of mine texted this morning and said he'd ordered an Xbox Series X last night, even though he wasn't even sure he wanted it. He said he didn't expect it to be available, but it was, and he panicked. 

I started laughing because I actually have a name for this. I call it the "Scarcity Imperative."

Console launches (with the exception of Nintendo) are usually pretty poor. Developers haven't had enough time to fully understand the power of the new console, so the games are usually not that impressive. Companies compensate for that by releasing as many launch games as possible. It's basically Golden Corral. 

For some reason, though, that doesn't matter. 

Consoles I've purchased on launch day:
PS1
3DO
PS2
Dreamcast
Xbox 360
Wii
PS3
Wii U
PS4
Switch

Honestly, it could have been more. That's just what I remember. And the only one I regret is the Wii U. 

Do I remember a really memorable launch game for any of these consoles? NFL2K was fantastic on the Dreamcast. That definitely got my attention. Wii Sports was spectacular. And Legend of Zelda: BOTW was incredible. 

Everything else, though, is easy to forget. 

Knowing all this, and knowing that I am absolutely not purchasing one of the new consoles at launch because I'm in heavy editing mode, I still spent a few minutes last night looking for a PS5 pre-order, just because I didn't think I could find one.

I don't even think I would have followed through with it. I just wanted to know it was there. 

In Soviet Russia, people automatically got into a line whenever they saw one. It was the prudent thing to do. 

In 2020, I'm glad we're in line for consoles instead of shoes. 


Monday, November 09, 2020

A Day to Remember

I will always remember Saturday as a very special day, though not for the reasons you might have imagined. 

A couple of months ago, Eli 19.3 applied to be in a program at the University of Michigan for people who want a minor in writing. It's specifically not creative writing--it's for people who want to write better in their careers. 

Only 25 students a year get accepted into this program. 

Long odds, but Eli was upbeat about it, saying that he could apply two more times in other semesters if he didn't get in this time. 

Friday morning, he called. 

"Hey remember that writing minor? I got in," he said laughing. 

I don't even remember what I said. I was so excited and so happy that I'm sure it was a word salad. And I was surprised, even though I should know better by now. 

Saturday was going to be in the mid-60s and one of the last nice days to hit golf balls before winter hell descends, so I was already planning to go to Ann Arbor to see him. 

When I pulled in, he came out to the car with a huge smile on his face. I could just feel happiness radiating off him. 

We went to the range. I'd been working on my swing one-handed for several months, because my left wrist has been so jacked up, but I was going to to let it fly for the first time. 25 balls with both hands, which is more than I'd hit in total from late-August to now. 

I didn't expect the one-handed swing work to have much of an effect, but I was wrong. 

It was the best range session of my life. A totally controlled swing with a draw on every shot. I couldn't believe it. Eli was watching and just laughing, because it was impossible, and yet it was happening. He hit the ball great, too, and it was so relaxing to be out there together, talking like we always do. He told me about learning how to cook and his classes and everything else under the sun.

On the way back into town, our phones blew up with texts that the election had been called. I told him I wasn't surprised because all kinds of good things happen when we're together. He laughed and said it had always been that way.

We went into downtown Ann Arbor for lunch and sat outside to eat tacos. Everyone was honking their horn, and people were running in the street, dancing and celebrating. One person, in particular, had a boom box and a little pinwheel that he held up as he went by. It was strange and memorable. 

I'm usually tired on the drive back home--it always feels like four hours instead of two--but it wasn't like that this time. 

I don't usually tell Eli I'm proud of him, because I don't want him to feel like I see his life as a contest to please me. I always tell him I'm happy for him instead, and I am, but there is so much pride as well for the person he has always been. 

On Sunday, I picked up the jeans that I'd worn the day before. I hadn't put them in the laundry. I had the strangest sensation that those jeans were covered in happiness from the day before, so I put them on and felt happy all over again. 

Good Job

 It took a long time to count the votes because so many people voted. Way to do the democracy, America.

One Sentence Short Stories (#4 in a series0

 Cutting the mango became unexpectedly messy.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and don't miss the fellow on the bicycle: Watch this snowball fight from 1897 for a jolt of pure joy. Also, and this is a spectacular read, it's How Sierra Was Captured, Then Killed, by a Massive Accounting Fraud.

From Wally, a long and interesting article about the Battle of Britain: The ‘Few’ Four Score On. This is remarkable: 60-year-old limit to lasers overturned by quantum researchers.

From Matthew T., and I can't even imagine what that war was like: 'It was cold, we got muddy': Sask. high school class digs 9-metre long WWI trench.

From C. Lee, and it's a fascinating bit of history: The 200 Millisecond Mission: Inside the Secret CIA Plan to Steal Soviet Missile Data. I really enjoy articles on somewhat obscure subjects like this: The cheap pen that changed writing forever. This is a great read (it's not anti-vax): The strange ingredients found in vaccines. I would definitely shop here: Shoppers at Dublin Grocery Store Glimpse Viking History Beneath Their Feet. A terrific article (she recently passed away): Cecilia Chiang, in Her Own Words.

From Brian, and these are both terrible and occasionally hilarious: Upcoming Oreos.


I Don't Even Need to Identify the Game Anymore

Last month, the Social AI Team moved the first version of the mess hall scenario into a state that allows other teams to better iterate on animations, props, and the technical setup. At the moment, the scenario supports usables that provide cutlery, food, and drinks. NPCs can iterate on food lines, retrieve anything their sustenance behavior wants, and then take the food to tables and can consume it. This involves both systemic animations and mo-cap created for specific scenarios.

I will say that if the mo-cap specifically supports a food fight that I am all in favor of this functionality.


I Feel Like This is Accurate

 I saw a little boy riding a bike take off his helmet and complain to his Dad that he didn't want to wear it because "It's sweating my hair."

And It Goes On

Man, I'll tell you, when you have six browser tabs open on your phone and they're all political, maybe you should think about losing your phone for a while. And by "you" I mean "me."

I didn't really think about this until today, but the job done by election workers in this country is nothing short of incredible. Some of these people are probably working sixteen hours a day, at this point, under unbelievably stressful conditions. 

It also would be very helpful for 2024 if the federal government actually provides enough financial service to state election boards that they can staff properly.

Memes are very, very strong right now. I'm not linking to any of them, but they're easy to find. 

Hopefully, this will be over soon and we can go through the same process in four years, which is:
1. Make a plan for healthy election watching. 
2. At 9 p.m. on Tuesday, scratch off one item on the healthy election watching process. 
3. Two hours later, throw the list in the trash and and compulsively look for updates every fifteen minutes.
4. Continue.  

Hypothetically. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Loons

Here as an interesting and calming fact about loons. 

They hunt for fish in pairs. 

One hangs out on the surface while its partner dives down. These are long dives, and when the surface loon feels like it's time for the fishing loon to come back, they'll call out. 

That's how they find each other again, which can be tricky with winds and currents and whatnot. 

So that's why the loon's call is so loud and distinctive. And quite beautiful, I think. 

Start Planning Now

After being on the Election Terror Train for about 10 hours last night, I think I might be out of the country for Election Night 2024.

Not permanently. Just for that night. 

A beach without an Internet connection would be nice.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Just Breathe, Everybody

To provide an Election Day distraction, here is a sequence of Eli's life (1.2-8.2, approximately) as told by Halloween costumes.




I would like to note before this next image that Eli's smile perfectly describes his entire life (and is still completely accurate today). Double-click on it to enlarge and you'll see what I mean: 



An underrated part of these images is how fantastic Gloria's costumes were every year. 

Why aren't you seeing me? Well, I was taking the pictures every year. 

Again, just keep breathing. The election is going to be fine.


Monday, November 02, 2020

Not at All, and Then All at once

I woke up yesterday, had breakfast, and started working. 

About 30 minutes in, I checked the weather, because I wanted to get an approximate time of when I'd go for a walk (a sad workout, but it's 2020). 

I pulled up the weather page and it said "Snow starting in 6 minutes."

Wait, what?

Then I looked out the window and saw trees bending like bows. 

35F, 30MPH steady wind, gusts up to 50. Wind chill of 15F. And snow. 

I walked anyway, which is just what you do up here. As long as it's not icy, you do your business. 

It was a stark reminder, though, of how quickly winter can descend up here. 

Except, and this is very nice, winter went away again, and it's going to be in the 60s for a few days this week, which almost never happens in November. I may even go to Ann Arbor on Sunday and hit golf balls with Eli 19. 3.

A Note About the Costume Count

I was concerned this year that pushing the Costume Count might distract people from other issues (like not catching COVID), so I didn't mention it. 2020, damn it.

However, if you kept a count and send it in, I will absolutely compile the numbers and put out a post. I have a few responses already. 

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