Thursday, March 04, 2021

Friday Links!

I have no words: The Dark Legacy Of The CIA’s Bungled Plot To Have Famous Climbers Plant Nuclear-Powered Sensors In The Himalayas (also, Curtis LeMay was the inspiration for General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove). 

Also, a more in-depth article from David Gloier: Did nuclear spy devices in the Himalayas trigger India floods?

This is an unforgettable piece of great writing: The Way We Live Now; 11-11-01; Lost and Found.

I'd take two, if I could (back in the day). Still a legend, even after all these years.: Video Cards 3dfx Voodoo 5 6000 quad-GPU reverse engineered and working

One of the greatest Twitter threads of all-time: Lots of us learned classical music from watching old cartoons, so I’m going to identify the pieces that frequently popped up.

From C. Lee, and this is astonishing: The Ancient Art of Painting on Water. And this is Starry Night, painted with the same technique: Van Gogh on Dark Water. This is a terrific read: The Efficiency Dilemma. The Digital Antiquarian with brilliance again: Ultima VIII (or, How to Destroy a Gaming Franchise in One Easy Step). Remarkable: The Curious Strength of a Sea Sponge’s Glass Skeleton. This is both poignant and brilliant: Am I a Conditional American?

From Wally, and he clearly deserved it: Rooster with blade kills man during cockfight in Telangana. This is the ultimate Star Trek nerd post: Trek-Lit Reading Order Flow Chart. I don't know what this is called, but it's handheld and it cuts up cars: SAVETOOL - 4. I don't know how the lockpicking lawyer has any time to be a lawyer: Pocket EMP Generator Opens Timer Padlock.

Fraud Question

Mom 90.9 got tricked by a Windows pop-up screen into calling a number that seemed like her bank and she gave them the last four digits of her SS# and the last four digits of her bank credit card number.

I know she needs to cancel the credit card, but how vulnerable is she from disclosing the last 4 digits of her SS#? And who does she need to contact?

I'm researching this now and I'll post an update myself if I find any information. Thanks.

More Musical Moments

Here are a few more musical moments. 

This is from Dave:
While reading your post about shared music moments, I had an immediate recollection of a moment in my life that I fear might never happen again for anyone, but it is ingrained in my mind.

It was late 1991, and I would have been a sophomore in high school.  One of my friends had a New Year's Eve party every year where we all went to his house, stayed up all night, playing D&D, basketball, etc. (it was a very wholesome party).

While in the car with my mom on the way to the party, I was listening to the rock station here in Dallas, and this magical, entrancing song came on the radio. I was transfixed. Nothing had ever quite grabbed me in my life up to that moment.  I didn't even really understand what was happening, but I HAD to talk to someone about it.  I arrived at the party moments after it ended, and ran into the house ready to proclaim that I had just heard the greatest thing ever.

Everyone in the house was just sitting there.  They had the same radio station on in the house, and had just experienced the same thing I did.  

"Did you guys just hear that??"

We were all stunned...that collective moment that we all shared together, thanks to terrestrial radio, was a game changer for all of us.  

That was our introduction to "Smells Like Teen Spirit.

These next memories are from Ian:
Regarding your post about music, I find that it is far more disposable to people in this day and age.  

My son is not dedicated to bands for life.  He listens to a group for a few months, and then they are old news.  The songs on his phone are disposable because he has no skin in the game.  He doesn't have to buy his music one album at a time.

For an old guy like me (49), I still cling to that permanence of music.  It means something.  I still buy cd's of my favorite bands.   I look at the liner art.  I try to make that first listen a dedicated listen, where I'm not working, or playing video games, or doing the dishes.  I've got special headphones that are for the dedicated listens. You have to give the music a chance to connect with you, or to hear lyrics that might mean something.  

Of course, I am a musician (a lapsed one at least), so I put tremendous value on music and what it does for our lives.  

Music is so powerful. I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard a certain song.  

I still remember being in my friend's bedroom, as we tried to figure out how to play Led Zeppelin's Black Dog on his guitar.  

I was in the car, driving to see my mom in the hospital who was dying of cancer, when I heard Fade In/ Fade Out by Nothing More.  It's a song about a parent who recalls watching their kids fade into life, and now the kids are watching the parent fade out.  I bawled my eyes out.  

Listening to the album "The Incurable Tragedy" by Into Eternity, which is about the guitar player losing 3 people in his family in a few months to cancer.  It's one of the most depressing albums I've ever listened to, but also one of the most personal.  I had my headphones on and listened to it the first time, not having a clue what it was about.  When it ended, I was into the ugly cry, because I wasn't ready for how hard it hit me.  At the time I didn't know anybody in my life that was sick, but I felt all the emotions though every song.  Now that I actually have lost my mom and grandmother to cancer, I can't listen to that album at all.  I tried and it was too intense for me.

I was just about to enter a Limp Bizkit concert, and a group of girls started yelling "System of a Down!" and ran into the arena.  System of a Down was one of the opening bands at the time.  I walked in and was transfixed.  One of most different bands I had ever heard.   I remember being entranced by them, how could such a fantastic band have been completely unknown to me?  They ended up becoming one of my favorite bands after that, I still remember waking up in the morning and I went to the HMV and bought the CD before doing anything else.  

I was at a King's X concert and they played one of their main hits "Over My Head", it's about feeling the music around you.  "Music, music, I hear music/ Music, over my head."  It was almost a religious experience, I would turn around and look around at the crowd and they were all singing, soaking up the energy and sharing it.  Something like that is a unifying moment.

One of my friends once asked me if it was okay to go to a concert alone.  I said of course, because you're going somewhere where there hundreds (or thousands) of other people that have shared experiences with you and are potential friends.  I've gone to many concerts on my own, and it's easy to make friends, because you just need to turn around and talk about the band, and then you're all the same.  

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Here's a Blast From the Past

Eli 9.3 or so. Look at that form. Frickin' athlete.  

This May Apply to Donkeys as Well

I have a preview function with the Post Office where they send me scanned images of my incoming mail (envelopes only, of course). 

Today, my image preview included an additional message:

Kids, don't be a mule. 

Overnight Sensation

 Sometimes you just strike gold on the sixteenth edit of a chapter since last Thursday. 

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Festival du Voyageur

The Festival du Voyageur is an annual 10-day winter festival that takes place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The event is held during each February in Winnipeg's French Quarter, Saint-Boniface, and is Western Canada's largest winter festival. 

Thanks, Wikipedia. 

Garret sent me these images. They were taken by Taras Maluzynsky, and they are absolutely magnificent.

When we first moved to Michigan, there was a 4" snowfall and Eli 15.4 ran out into the yard to make a snowman. 

I mean, it seems reasonable. Snow = Snowman, right?

This is when we learned that dry snow does not a snowman make. It was the first of many lessons.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Artisans (1530--2021)

Sunshine go away today, I don't feel much like dancing

Until I heard an ad for "small-batch pork rinds."

How much does it cost? I'll buy it!

Artisans died today. 

I thought they died with artisan bagels, but I was wrong. A tiny flame still flickered for weavers and carpenters, for glassblowers and blacksmiths. 

Even, for a time, the humble cheesemaker. Or a chocolatier.

That tiny artisan flame lived in my heart, and I fed it scraps of locally sourced wood chips and farm to table salad greens, and I thought that someday, it would burn brightly again. 

Then the small-batch pork rinds came, and the flame extinguished. 

It burns in me no more.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Friday Links!

A little light this week, but what's here is strong.

Trust me, just put this on as background music. It's uncanny. Reo Brothers / The Beatles Studio Compilation 2.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is absolutely clear: Survivorship Bias. This is an excellent read: Measuring the geoid. What is the geoid?

From Wally, and this is an excellent list: 10 Mind-Bending Alternate Histories. This is quite fantastic: Wildlife Photographer Captures ‘Never Before Seen’ Yellow Penguin. To no one's surprise: Do Blue Light Blocking Glasses Really Work? This is surreal: Icicles Form on Ceiling Fan Amid Freezing Temperatures in Texas

From C. Lee, and it's extremely thoughtful: The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships. A retrospective on a charming, touching movie: Groundhog Day. "Thoughtful" must be C. Lee's theme this week: The Importance of Social Trust. This is amazing; Fruit Trenches: Cultivating Subtropical Plants in Freezing Temperatures. I mean, don't we all need our own Bayeux tapestry? I turned my art history students loose with a make-your-own-Bayeux Tapestry app. Ingenious: Ever Notice That Converse Chuck Taylors Have Fuzzy Soles? Here’s Why

Please Note (COVID Vaccine)

 It is now legal to cross county lines in Missouri to obtain a COVID vaccine. That is all.


I meant to post this earlier, but it's been a bit of a dumpster fire this week. Not in bad way (wait, how is that even possible?), just busy. I'm happy I remembered it today, though.

Jonathon Wood sent this to me last week in response to my post about special music moments and how those moments don't seem to happen anymore. I was going to edit it, but it's so beautifully written and genuine that, in the end, I didn't change a word.

Your post today about the lack of big moments in the modern age, is something I've been discussing with my (grown) kids over the last few weeks. The conclusion we've come to is that having this very personal, highly impactful kind of moment - be they music related or art generally - require a key component that is fleeting in the world of constant distraction. You have to fully invest yourself in the moment. With my kids, the only such events they could personally recall, all involve being at an event - concert, play/musical or festival, where they are completely in the moment. In every other circumstance, there are too many calls on one's attention to get that same immersion. 

The ones that stand out in my own mind share that same component of being totally in the moment:

Early August going into my senior year of high school, evening. Some close friends were over and were just hanging out in my (above ground) pool. "Nightswimming" by REM was on and it hit me that our collective childhood was about to end. This was one of the last times we would ever be together as a group without the pressures of adult life weighing us down. I can remember everything about that moment - what everyone was wearing, how the girl I liked had her hair pinned up, the smell of the hot summer day bleeding into the cool of the night, the slight crackle from the left speaker with the small tear in the tweeter.

Several years ago, working on a project in Honolulu - great place to be, but missing my family. Had a rough day at work plus dealing with some personal grief. I was sitting on my hotel room balcony, with a beer in hand, as the sun sank into the ocean. Across the road was a church and this evening the choir was practicing and the church had all the windows and doors open and circumstances were just right for me to hear them perfectly. That moment, with those transcendent voices, man... my worries and anxiety and fears just evaporated, for a little while.

Sitting with my wife at the CIBC Theatre in Chicago, as the opening number to Hamilton ended. While caught up in the euphoria of the moment, I recall clearly thinking how this was going to change everything - expectations of who the theatre is for, expectations of history being boring, new ways of looking at the circumstances of life and choosing to push boundaries. Some of that optimism has faded, but much of it has stayed with me.

One personal note I remembered after reading Jonathon's email. The first time I listened to the R.E.M. album "Reckoning," it blew me away. Maybe it wasn't quite in the Hall of Fame moment category, but it was really, really close. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Fry's (1985-2021)

I come to bury Fry's, not to praise it. 

Fry's was a joke in the last few years. Almost everything in the stores was on consignment, like some strange electronics thrift shop. All that square footage, and what was mostly on display were "seen on TV!" items and junk. 

There wasn't even much of that, at the end. 

Fry's was the embodiment of the death of retail. It was too big, had too much inventory, and was doomed to die as online took over. 

And yet. 

When Fry's first opened the Austin location, it was a happening. 50,000 square feet of electronics. 70 checkout lanes. 

It had everything electronic. Everything. If it plugged in, Fry's had it.

The Austin store had a theme, and it was music, and it was all so beautifully done and utterly spectacular. It was absolutely the single best retail location I've ever seen. 

It was also a three minute drive from my house, and I used to just go over and walk around. Didn't even always buy something. I just wanted to be there. 

As a demonstration of the power of retail, it was a colossus.

Which is what killed it, of course. Fry's couldn't adapt to changing consumer behavior, no matter how they tried. 

Still, I wouldn't trade those memories for anything. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

An Exceptional Day

It's been below freezing here for about two weeks, and there was about 20" of snow in that time. There were huge piles of ploughed snow everywhere, and parking lots were slowly losing spaces as the snow took up more and more room.

Yesterday, it peeked above freezing. 

Today, it's 42F and sunny, and the city has come out of hiding. Everyone is outside, and every low point has a pond of melting snow. It feels like I escaped something, which is how it always feels on the first day when winter retreats.

I went for a walk, like everyone else, and on the other side of the street I saw a grandfather and his granddaughter walking down the street, singing.

In other very important news, I received a call today from "The Department of Visa and Mastercard." It's apparently quite prestigious, or so I'm told.

Monday, February 22, 2021

We Have An Incident In Sector 9

I went snowshoeing last Thursday. 

15F. 8" of fresh powder. A snow-covered lake. Man, it was beautiful. 

I normally stay along the shoreline, no more than fifty yards away from land, but I saw plenty of fishing huts much further out, so I decided to go as far as I could across the lake. 

I'd gone about a mile or so, basically halfway, and decided that my goal in the future was going to be to cross the lake and return. 

Almost ready to turn back, I went about another ten steps or so, just to be sure I'd gone more than halfway. 

My snowshoes felt a little strange. 

It's a difficult sensation to describe, but it felt like I was getting bogged down a little. It kept happening, and finally, I looked down and saw that there was slush around my snowshoe. 

Slush. Hey, that's not ice!

I could see the headline: "Moron Drowns on Small Lake." I figured it was possible that there was slush on top of solid ice beneath, but as I had no competency to evaluate the situation, I decided to back the f--- up and go directly back to shore. 

Which I did. 

It's disconcerting, seeing slush under your snowshoes. And to be clear, it was definitely more on the water side than the ice side. 

Since this is Michigan, there wouldn't have actually been a derisive headline. They probably would have started a GoFundMe for funeral expenses.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a badass: Scottish superheroine pushes enormous milk truck up icy hill

For anyone who designs usable UIs, I salute you: Citibank just got a $500 million lesson in the importance of UI design.

This is a terrific read: Two visionaries: Marie Curie forged a friendship with dancer Loïe Fuller.

From Scott Sanders, and this has been on its way for years: Hockey Has a Gigantic-Goalie Problem.

From Wally and the Department of Magnificent Navigation, it's Everyone wants to be the captain till there is captain stuff to do.

From C. Lee, and this is a fascinating story: Madeleine L’Engle’s Private Correspondence With Ahmad Rahman. In retrospect, a poor deal by the Dutch, and an amazing story of resistance: The Hidden History of the Nutmeg Island That Was Traded for Manhattan. This is curious: The Mystery of Mistletoe’s Missing Genes. Pay attention, Texas: Winter survival shelters you should know how to build. I do not want to live in a world where this is true: You Should Definitely Propose to Your Bridesmaids With Olive Garden Breadstick Bouquets.

The Door (not to be confused with The Room, although there is a resemblance)

I spent ninety minutes opening a door today. 

Just a door. 

Not a door in my physical space, but the book's space. And this character had to go through a door, and I couldn't get it right. 

For an hour and a half. 

Why, no, that's not annoying at all. Thank you for asking. 

There's a thing that I have accidentally developed as a result of writing every morning three centuries. I can hear rough edges so clearly now that I can't stand to have one. 

The consequences of this "skill" is that I can write an entire page of door opening sentences and know immediately that every single one of them is wrong. It's like fingernails running down a chalkboard. 

Thus concludes this edition of The Monkey's Paw.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Music Moments

The Dubious Weather blog is on leave and will return soon.

One of the things that I think has changed due to streaming media is that it reduces the opportunity for big moments. There is such an incredible amount of content that the singular, unforgettable moments are reduced. 

I thought about that yesterday, and I remembered three moments with music that were incredibly powerful, the kind of moments I haven't had for a long, long time. 

So here they are. 

The first happened when I was in college. I had a friend with a nice stereo and an excellent collection of records, and I used to go over there and listen to records when he was in class. 

Beanbag chair, too. Ultra. 

One night, he was going to a party and he told me to listen to Dark Side of the Moon. He also very specifically said to use headphones. 

I put on the headphones and closed my eyes.

I can't image a better way to listen to that album for the first time. It was so incredible, so overwhelming, that I was speechless when it was done. 

In my memory, there was a full moon that night, and it was pouring into his room, but that may be a case of me embossing history. 

Either way, I didn't need the moon for that to be a moving, unforgettable moment. 

The second moment happened when I was living in the hill country in Texas a few years after graduation. It was a little cold in late fall, and I remember having jeans and a jacket on as I went to do a little fishing at a nearby lake. 

I was just on the bank, casting an artificial worm, and I had headphones on, and I was listening to Neil Young's Harvest for the first time. I think I was a little melancholy that day, and the combination of my own emotion and the palpable melancholy of the album was so beautiful that it took my breath away. 

Part of that memory is that I was listening on a cassette Walkman or similarly huge device, and it was such a weight in my pocket, which was nicely symbolic for how the album affected me. 

The third, and (unfortunately for me, the last) happened a few years after that, when I bought a compact disc player for the first time. The first CD I ever bought was Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits, and it was also the first time I'd ever listened to a CD player through headphones. 

Oh, my god.

It's a superb album, and the mastering was absolutely incredible, and it felt like the band was playing in my living room. I know that CD mastering eventually became an exercise in manipulating music instead of presenting it faithfully, but at first the sound was so unbelievably pure. It was totally transformative.

I've had some nice moments since then with music, and I still listen to it all the time, but nothing's ever matched those three. 

Meanwhile, in Austin


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