Thursday, April 18, 2024

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an incredible story: ‘The money is not real – it’s a feckless level of wealth’: the inside story of the biggest art fraud in American history

This is stunning: The urban-rural death divide is getting alarmingly wider for working-age Americans.

From DQ Creative Advisor John Harwood, a terrific read: My formal 2024 solar eclipse apology.

From Wally, and no one should ever steal these: Police arrested four people over $300,000 of stolen Lego kits. This is so depressing: Incels and the Gaming-Radicalization Nexus. Sherlock Holmes nerds, your day has come: Sherlock Holmes Manuscripts: A Census Summary. This looks intriguing: An Indie Studio Just Dropped the Best Sci-Fi Anthology You Haven’t Seen For Free. An analysis: Somalia April 2024. McSweeney's! MY NEW TUPPERWARE HAS DEADASS RIZZ, BRUHew-tupperware-has-deadass-rizz-bruh

From C. Lee, and is anyone really surprised?  MONEYWATCH Lunchables have concerning levels of lead and sodium, Consumer Reports finds. An excellent read: Why Jesus Never Ate a Banana. An obscure bit of history: The Ancient Female Alchemist Whose Name Is in Your Kitchen. Unnecessary and also fantastic: This Map Lets You Plug in Your Address to See How It’s Changed Over the Past 750 Million Years. A terrific read: ‘With a Strat you can rule the world!’ Nile Rodgers, Bonnie Raitt and John Squire on the electric guitar that changed everything. This seems promising: New Window Film Blocks Heat-Producing UV Light Without Compromising the View. The first line of this interview applies to everything, really: The big Larian interview: Swen Vincke on industry woes, optimism, and life after Baldur's Gate 3. Not a bad idea: Don’t stay mad: Write your anger down and toss it away in the trash.

Baby Reindeer

I started watching Baby Reindeer on Netflix this week.

Most series I watch either make me laugh or raise my pulse. Very few ever move me. Even fewer unsettle me. Baby Reindeer does both, and also includes what might be the single greatest monologue I've ever heard in a series. 

It's much better if you go in cold. I'll just say that the two leads in the show are magnificent, and the show is deeply unsettling. It's nominally about a stalker, but underneath the surface are insecurity and identity and selfishness, and it has a brutal impact emotionally.

It's also very funny, at times, and even lighthearted. What it's about, though is darkness.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Mulch Wars 2024

I have a contentious history with mulch. See here: The Ides of Mulch.

Mulch has a math formula:
mulch you need=mulch you buy * 1.75

This was the formula in 2023. It was also the formula today. 

It doesn't matter how much you buy. You could have a dump truck pull up and dump as many truckloads as you want, and you'd still need *1.75. The trick is that "mulch you need" is not determined until you define "mulch you buy." 

Sure, smarty pants. I know what you're thinking. What if I just buy one bag? Nice try. You can't cheat the system. It's just math.

I bought 125 pounds, then had to go back and buy 100 pounds more.  I spread it all. Theoretically, I never have to spread mulch again. My back is in favor of this plan. 

For dinner I had chocolate cake and Celebrex.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


I fiddled around with Udio last week because of this Ars Technica article: New AI music generator Udio synthesizes realistic music on demand.

I'm particularly interested in AI-generated music because so much of music is artificial already. Algorithms, sampled beats, editing software, etc. There are entre genres of music now that have DJs instead of musicians. No one plays an instrument. It seems logical that AI is the next step, even for professional musicians.

I wrote lyrics for a short parody song for C and used Udio to see what it would sound like. In less than five minutes, I had four different versions, one of which I liked very much, and it was done. I'm not including the recording (for Cs privacy), but it sounded far better than I expected, and generating samples in different genres (I tried used the Beatles, Paul Simon, and Neil Young as keywords for styles) is fascinating. In the end, the recording I chose wasn't any of the above styles--it was Udio's own choice--but it sounded far better than the others.

There are ways to enhance what the AI generates, but I didn't need any of them. It's a powerful tool, and if you're curious, here's a link: Udio.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Photography Day

The photographer came today to take pictures of the house for the listing.

It took hours of work to get every room looking exactly right, and I can't say I enjoyed it, but I was happy to see the result. It's another step in leaving this house, and every step is in the right direction. It'll be a great day when I lock the door for the last time.

Sorting through what to keep is generally tedious now, but Eli 22.8 kept his hospital pass from the last time he saw his mom, and it always puts a lump in my throat. There were bits of joy, though, like Eli's team picture from one of his Bantam years in hockey. Every kid on the team has the tough guy scowl in the picture--except Eli. He has the biggest grin you've ever seen.

I hope it's always there, for his kids to see one day.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Friday Links!

The pictures are fascinating: Probably the world's worst amusement park - Beijing's Disney/Universal combo ripoff.

From Wally, and it never ends: The Scam of “Book Licensing”. Not great for what I like to write about: Nobody Wants to Buy the Future: Why Science Fiction Literature is Vanishing. This is ugly: We Need to Talk About Trader Joe’s. This is what it's come to in the world of conservatism: Louisiana HB 777 Would Criminalize Librarians and Libraries Who Join the American Library Association.

From Ken P., and Jack Welch is the anti-hero: The dismantling of GE, once America’s iconic ‘everything company,’ is now complete. Bizarre, and I wonder if additional studies will confirm this: Huge Study Confirms Viagra Cuts Alzheimer's Risk by Over 50%. This is an astonishing story: Suicide Mission: What Boeing did to all the guys who remember how to build a plane. This is promising: Pacemaker powered by light eliminates need for batteries and allows the heart to function more naturally − new research. Who knew? White House directs NASA to create time standard for the moon. This is both fascinating and deeply flawed: The new science of death: ‘There’s something happening in the brain that makes no sense’

From C. Lee, and it's an incredible story: Man pleads guilty to stealing former coworker’s identity for 30 years. Unbelievable: NYC’s AI chatbot was caught telling businesses to break the law. The city isn’t taking it down. One of my favorite phrases, and an interesting read: 10 Modern ‘Mechanical Turks’: When Automation Is Just Humans in Disguise. This is sad: The Supertalls Have Walled In Central Park: Even from deep inside the park, the supertalls are impossible to not see. This may be paywalled: These Are the 10 Hardest Math Problems Ever Solved. Almost disastrous, and a terrific read: What we know about the xz Utils backdoor that almost infected the world. Alarming: The Fescue Fighters: A toxic grass that threatens a quarter of U.S. cows is spreading. Can it be stopped? This is remarkable if confirmed: Depression tied to virus infection during infancy, researchers say Supplier gouging: How a viral $22 burrito explains inflation in the US. Interesting: Eating Like a Salmon Is Better Than Eating Actual Salmon, Study Finds

O.J. Simpson (no longer breathing)

I was six the first time I saw O.J. Simpson.

I huddled in front of a little color TV and watched USC-UCLA in 1967. It was the game of the season, and I rooted for UCLA, even though they were the underdogs, because I was already the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.

What I learned that day was you couldn't catch O.J. Simpson, and if you ever did, you couldn't tackle him. He moved like water, in a kind of upright, quirky style that no one else ever had.

He broke UCLA's heart, and mine, and then he went to the pros, and he gained yards like no one before him. I watched him break 2,000 yards in a 14-game season (against the Jets). It was preposterous. He was larger than life.

He was superhuman for a long time. Like any legend in that era, though, he had to stay until there was absolutely nothing left of his greatness, until the spotlight was gone. The long decline into the shadows was always painful to watch (as it was painful for Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath as well), and seeing him broken and plodding for the 49ers was nothing but sadness.

There was evil to come, and murders. What happened after his career ended is so well-documented that there's no need to recount it here. As a boy, though, the pure joy of seeing O.J. Simpson run was wonderous, a miracle on a tiny screen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Almost 80 Days (part two)

Well, he made it. 

Eli 22.8 called from Oxford, and he sounded as relieved as I've ever heard him coming back from a trip. Not from the trip itself, which was great, but the traveling home part. I got some more details.

Sunday: in Mongu, the hotel has no electricity when he arrives. In itself, this is not surprisingly, because off-loading happens all the time, and the power comes back on a few hours later. In this case, though, it didn't come back on until 5 a.m., and he was leaving in two hours. One night of burning hot sleep (no fans).

Monday: I was wrong about the overturned vehicle being a truck. It was a bus, and it overturned while swerving to avoid an elephant in the road. The eight hour bus trip to Lusaka took fourteen hours. He arrives at the hotel. No power. The power never comes back on. Two nights of burning hot sleep.

Tuesday: He goes to a movie in the morning (power is back on), and then heads for the airport, where he's told he's flying stand-by from Nairobi to Paris. He talked to every person in the Kenya Airways office, and finally they called Nairobi and put everyone on speaker. The issue gets discussed for over an hour, at which point an office employee prints out a boarding pass and hands it to him. 

Wednesday: He needs to take a train from Paris to Lille (something about getting to the Chunnel), and it's announced that the train will be two hours late, which means he'll miss the train to London entirely. Fifteen minutes later, a train pulls up and they suddenly announce it's leaving. He literally jumps on board as the train is leaving and the door are closing.

Eli's never bothered by anything that happens while he's traveling--always even-keeled, never really annoyed. When I was in Mexico with C, I called to tell him of our multiple disasters and he said, "Dad, congratulations. You're really traveling now!" with his customary good cheer. 

Everyone, though, has an exception. 

He did say everything except the return trip was fantastic, and sounded very happy that he went.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Almost 80 Days

World traveler 22.8 is having an interesting experience returning from Zambia.

First was an eight-hour bus trip to Lusaka that took over twelve hours because of several unexpected issues, including this one:

That's a derailed truck smack in the middle of the road.

After some free time this morning in Lusaka, he went to the airport (Lusaka-Nairobi-Paris) and found out he was on standby for the flight from Nairobi to Paris for no apparent reason. This required an extended discussion with every Kenyan Airlines official in the airport. Incredibly, after over an hour, a boarding pass was printed and the problem was resolved.

If you're keeping score, he's still two planes, one train (the Chunnel), and one bus from his home base. He did send me a lovely picture of himself with his new Zambian mom, and I'll post it if he gives me the okay.

Monday, April 08, 2024


I admit it: I've got eclipse fatigue. It hasn't even started yet.

Grand Rapids sees a 94% eclipse, and incredibly, it's sunny today, and 94% is fine. It would be cool to be in the middle of a total eclipse, but it's a three-hour drive (one way), at least, and probably a five-hour drive today. Plus Eli is in Zambia and C is on an airplane, and it would be much more fun sharing it with someone.

Still, though. 94%. Not bad. I'll take a walk around 2:40 and get to see the peak around 3:10. 

It's easy to think that events like this bring out the worst in Americans, and they do ($1,000 hotel rooms, conspiracy theories, etc.), but they also bring out the best in many people, and those moments never get enough attention.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a remarkable story: Friendly family man’s deathbed confession reveals his role in massive 1969 bank robbery

Carl H. was kind enough to provide a gift link for anyone who wants to read the Kim Mulkey profile: The Kim Mulkey way

From Wally, and it's very, very clever: If Bach (and others) Wrote The "Cantina Band" Song (Star Wars)

From Sean R., another bullshit grift variation: Soup to nuts: Chicken Soup for the Soul was almost as big as the Bible. Then it lost its way.

From John W., and it's genuinely beautiful: The Eagles - Hotel California - Reimagined on the Traditional Chinese Guzheng | Moyun.

From C. Lee, and it's an unending decline: RNC asks job applicants if they believe 2020 election was stolen in ‘litmus test’. Next, a fascinating read: Photographer steps inside Vietnam’s shadowy ‘click farms’. What a massive mistake: Users ditch Glassdoor, stunned by site adding real names without consent. An interesting read: How AI could explode the economy (and how it could fizzle).. A fascinating man and an excellent article: William Baumol, whose famous economic theory explains the modern world, has died. Uh-oh! Sexually transmitted infection rates have risen sharply among adults 55 and older, CDC data shows. Another phenomenal read: Lane’s Gambit: the onetime chess phenom walked away from the game years ago. She was happier for it. Every one of these links is an excellent read: The Artful Spy who Stopped Hitler from Emptying the Louvre. It's a strange, unsettled situation: Do you still believe in Shohei Ohtani? I’m not sure

A Sad Moment

My neighbors who live in the Wizard's Tower next door had a guest on Easter. 

It was a family about their age, with a boy in the 3-4 range. I was coming in from the car and heard a loud voice coming from their driveway. I looked over and saw the visiting guy yelling at his child in the car. Angry, ugly yelling. I don't know what the boy had done. I'm not sure it really mattered. 

It was such a sad moment. The Dad was a hyper-aggressive prick (boy, do we have enough of those already or what?), and I doubt the boy understand anything beyond that his Dad was humiliating him. 

The father was in his early 30s, and I wanted to say something, but I didn't. I wanted to tell him that children are mirrors, and they reflect back what they see around them. And that humiliation doesn't make them listen, it just makes them want to humiliate someone else. 

I saw a situation like that when we were in Austin. One of Eli 22.8s friends had a Dad who was ultra. He was on him in the sharpest, most cutting way. He wanted to make his son tough. It didn't make him tough, though. It just made him an angry kid. It broadened his anger so that it was his first response to everything. That almost never ends well.

Eli's the hardest kid I've ever known, and I never yelled at him. Not once. He's gentle and loving, and he's tough when it matters. He also understands, though, that it doesn't always matter.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

This Day

I had multiple possible topics today, but that was before I spent 1:15 at Gamestop trading in three consoles, followed by 1:45 at Firestone to have them tell me they couldn't repair my tire.

That's where my time went today. Blech. What a waste.

Plus taxes, house preparation, bank appointments, etc. You get the idea.

I did get to be a stuntman in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth. Highlight.

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