Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Not as Useful, Perhaps

I sent an email to myself with the subject "Thinker" and nothing else.

Roger Bannister

When I was a kid, I read a book about Roger Bannister breaking the four minute barrier in the mile in 1954. 

The book had a mythic effect on me, because it was incredibly gripping, and it was written by Bannister himself. I still remember him describing the cinder track he ran on. 

Bannister was an Oxford medical student. 

Today, Eli 20.5 told me that when his hockey team does off-ice training and runs sprints, they're doing it on the same track Bannister ran on. Resurfaced, of course, but the same track.

I can't exactly explain why, but that makes me very, very happy. 


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Vampire Survivors

I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about this game, even though it's in Early Access, and an attorney for a large gaming company who will not be named emailed me yesterday and told me I needed to try it immediately. 

His opinion has historically been impeccable, so I did. 

As usual, he's right. This game is incredible, stupid fun. All you're doing is guiding your little person around the screen, and all the weapons auto-fire. You collect experience and choose power-ups. There can be hundreds of enemies onscreen at one time, and the constant dopamine hits you get playing this are fantastic. 

It's on Steam, and it's only $2.99, so it's an unreal bargain: Vampire Survivors.

I've been thinking about why this works so well, even though the graphics aren't great in any way, and it's almost even crude in places. It just works, though. The framerate stays high, no matter how many enemies are onscreen. It's also comprehensible. I always understand what's going on, and what I need to do. It's just a simple concept that is wonderfully executed. 

The true test of a game is whether you can still enjoy it when you're not good at it. I'm not good at this game at all. I consistently make it to ten minutes, and then die quickly when the difficulty spikes. I can't get enough of it, though, because it's still incredible fun. 

Also, choose garlic whenever you have a chance. Trust me. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

NFL

Because of my age, I am uniquely positioned to have seen almost every playoff game since the AFL-NFL merger. 

I watched the first Super Bowl when I was five.

I watched the Ice Bowl, believe it or not, when I was six. I was already a huge football fan (I can't remember why). 

Since then, I might have missed a handful of playoff games in the five-plus decades following, but only a handful. 

Until Sunday, I thought the Dolphins-Chargers 41-38 overtime game in 1982 and the 49ers 28-27 win over the Cowboys (also in 1982--incredibly, those games were eight days apart!) were the best playoff games I ever saw. 

The Chiefs-Bills game topped them both, though. 

It was the greatest combined quarterback performance I've ever seen. The entire game was great players making great plays. The last two minutes of regulation, and then overtime, were beyond description. 

So many games are exciting because of mistakes, or because players choke. There was none of that here. It was just hours of non-stop brilliance. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's obviously low-hanging fruit, but here you go: Pre-pandemic cognitive function and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: cohort study

The University of Michigan president was fired this week for cleverly conducting an affair with a subordinate using his work e-mail. And the university released the emails. Hilarity ensued:
lonely m - a love song.

This is from Meg (more links from here below), but it's important enough to have its own space: After opposition to her MLK Day speech, Nikole Hannah-Jones swapped her words for his.

Here's a terrific read: We don’t know why, but being in space causes us to destroy our blood

This is very, very bad: The trouble with Roblox, the video game empire built on child labour

From Wally, and it's utterly delightful: Mechanical Masterpieces. Here's an excellent bit of history: The Movies and Stories than Inspired Dave Arneson to Invent the Dungeon Crawl

From David Gloier, and dogs are amazing (even though I'm a cat person): Who’s a clever dog? Scientists study secrets of canine cognition

From Jonathon Wood, and it's an entertaining read: How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained

From Meg McReynolds, and I hear he's been working quite hard for years: Spain: Badger thought to have found Roman treasure. This is amazing: Scientists Capture Airborne Animal DNA for the First Time

Next level from C. Lee. First, and this is a touching article, it's VOX POPULI: Poetry can be a powerful coping mechanism when tragedy strikes. This is fascinating: From Greek to Latin: Visualizing the Evolution of the Alphabet. This seems like Pandora's box: Rytr Reviewed: How the GPT-3 ‘AI Writing Assistant’ Performs In Real Life. Ex-policemen now: “Aw, screw it”: LAPD cops hunted Pokémon instead of responding to robbery. This is so bizarre: The Metaverse Is Already Here For Cows And It’s Very Sad. Something you didn't even know you needed: Someone Made a Seatbelt for Bags, and It’s Actually Kind of Genius

Hmm

So here's the thing. 

If you say reading a book out loud and making edits based on line rhythm is no big deal, and you've never actually read a book out loud, you run the risk of looking really stupid when you find out that it's much, much harder than you thought. 

You might even be working harder than you've worked at any point in the last five years. And you might have to keep doing it for another eleven days.

Not that I know anyone in this situation, obviously. Purely hypothetical. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Only Scale

Several of you emailed me and expressed your disappointment over Bobby Kotick making an additional bajillion dollars because of the merger with Microsoft. 

I'm right there with you. 

I'm disappointed in my country for many reasons--most of them already documented here at some point--but one that I find particularly difficult to accept is that we have an economic system where morality is never, ever a factor. 

Morality is never rewarded in this country, only scale. 

Just think about that for a moment. Is doing the right thing ever even discussed? Not really. How often do you see a CEO get rewarded for taking a moral stance on anything?  Scale is rewarded, though, and massively. Just grow so big that you can crush everyone else, no matter how you do it, and you'll get paid.

Discouraging.

And if you want to ask "Why should morality have anything do with being a CEO?", I'd just ask you "Why not?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

That's Quite a Lot of Money

Well: Microsoft buying Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard for nearly $70bn.

First off, that's a lot of damn money for a company that basically puts out one game a year (and remasters a few old ones). 

Second, maybe this will dilute the douchbro factor at Activision Blizzard. It can't hurt. 

Third, even though Microsoft wildly overpaid, what do they care? They're drowning in money, and it's a smart acquisition. 

Why? Because console hardware is going to become less and less relevant over time. Streaming gaming is the future, and in that future, hardware won't exist. All that matters is content. Microsoft has done a terrific job of being a content aggregator via Game Pass, but locking down some of that content as exclusive is increasingly important now.

It's bad for the consumer, of course, but isn't everything? That's what it feels like, anyway.

I doubt Microsoft is done throwing money at people, either. Just pay a king's ransom and buy Take-Two while you're at it. 

A follow-up

Here's an excellent follow-up to yesterday's post (thanks to DQ Film Advisor and Nicest Guy in the World Ben Ormand): MLK is revered today but the real King would make white people uncomfortable.

Of course he made people uncomfortable. That was the point.

Monday, January 17, 2022

MLK Day

I started making this post over a decade ago, and I'll be making it every year for as long as I do this.
__________

Today is a national holiday in the United States to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's easy to forget the kind of hatred and stupidity that King was fighting against, but a good place to start is here: What was Jim Crow. The Wikipedia entry for Jim Crow laws also has detailed information. And the Wikipedia entry for King is here.

We're still fighting against that hatred and stupidity today.

Also, here's a link to a 2006 post when Eli asked me about Martin Luther King for the first time. It's still one of my favorite posts.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a story that sounds like something out of a Mel Brooks movie: A man arrested in Russia is accused of building a fake border with Finland 15 miles from the real one and charging migrants $11,000 to cross it.

From DQ Artist Fredrik Skarstedt, a fascinating story: The forgotten medieval habit of 'two sleeps'

From DQ Story Advisor and Finder of Things John Harwood, and this is a big bite: A Web Around the World, Part 1: Signals Down a Wire

From David Gloier, and it's a spectacular read: Beverly Hills Spy: How a WWII-Era James Bond Betrayed the Allies

From Wally, and I have so much fondness for the Fallout series: Fallout: A Deep Dive Into Nuka-Cola. These are excellent:If you got LEGO for Christmas, this post is for you (34 Photos). The stop-motion animation is excellent: Milk Crate

C. Lee with his weekly boatload of quality links. First, and this is a terrific read, it's In the Midst of War, He Gave the World Electrifying Fairytales. Hard pass: In Norway, Kids Slice Out Cod Tongues for Serious Money. This is a fascinating story: The Bug That Saved California. This is a fantastic Q and A: 20 Questions With a U.S. Navy Vet Who Served on a Nuclear-Powered Attack Sub. Fortunately, this isn't happening to mine: Honda Clocks Are Stuck 20 Years In The Past And There Isn't A Fix. An interesting, scrapbook-adjacent idea: Using the Weeks as a "Cultural Techo". A wonderful article about a magnificent actor: Sidney Poitier, trailblazing Hollywood icon who broke barriers for Black actors, dies at 94

We've Hit the Runway (and by hit I mean landed, not gone into the ground like a dart at 600 mph)

After struggling with Impostor's Syndrome every morning for five years, it looks like I landed the damn plane. 

I'm still cleaning up a small list of things, but the last major edit of The Man You Trust is done. Now I just read it out loud over the next two weeks, make line edits based on what I hear, and send it off to the copy editor. 

That's not to say it's good, mind you. But I clearly got every single ounce out of my writing ability. I overestimated my writing ability when this started, but I underestimated my ability to learn. Knowing less but learning more worked out much better in the end. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Peace Corps

Eli 20.5 and I had a discussion about his next few years last night, and he said he was seriously considering taking two gap years before grad school and joining the Peace Corps. 

It makes sense. Otherwise, he'd be starting a doctoral program at 22.1, which means he'd be quite a bit younger than most of the other candidates. And the mission of the Peace Corps aligns very strongly with his values (and mine). 

So the question is, have any of you ever been in the Peace Corps or known someone who has? If so, please take a moment and send me your impressions of your experience, and any advice you might have. 

Thanks very much for your time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

It's a Life Tool, Not Just a Game

The energy tornado is in town.

Eli 20.5 is blowing through on his way to going up north to ski for a day, then back to Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and London on his way back to school. 

While he was in Vancouver with his girlfriend, they ate at a restaurant in the Lookout (which is kind of like the Space Needle). Eli told the waiter that it was their first anniversary (it's not), and the waiter asked a series of probing marriage questions that resulted in Eli saying they'd honeymooned in South Africa (he had no idea why he said that). When asked where they went while they were in South Africa, his back against the wall, he reeled off a series of locations with no difficulty. 

Why? Because of GeoGuessr. 

This resulted in two very special deserts, both at no charge. 

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