Wednesday, August 04, 2021


Activision's actions so far remind me of Midwestern Mexican food: they use all the right words, but it doesn't really mean what you think it does.

Things Activision is willing to do:
1. Loudly proclaim that they want the best culture for all employees.
2. Appoint a law firm to investigate 
3. Fire executives.

What they won't do:
1. Hire a law firm that focuses on harassment instead of union-busting.
2. Fire Darth Vader, whose human name is Fran Townsend.
3. Eliminate arbitration, which would be an actual, huge benefit for employees.
4. Stop actively trying to prevent unionization.

What this all means is that Activision is willing to do anything as long as they don't lose a scintilla of control. 

So the words describe all the right flavors, but the flavors don't seem to actually be in the food.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

A Film Project

I'm getting to do something deeply fun. It's the kind of thing you get to do when you're older, if you're lucky, and life slows down a little. 

I asked DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand where I should start if I wanted to gain a deeper appreciation of film. He suggested the British Film Institute 100 Greatest Films of All Time, and I've been trying to watch one a day (not always, but that's the general idea). 

I've seen seven films so far (starting from the bottom), and here's where they come from, along with the year:
Imitation of Life (U.S., 1959)
Madame de... (France/Italy, 1953)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK, 1953)
Fear Eats The Soul (Germany, 1974)
Touki Bouki (Senegal, 1973)
A One And A Two (Taiwan, 1999)
The Seventh Seal (Sweden, 1957)

It's an amazing range of cultures as well as styles (Toukie Bouki uses French New Wave techniques, which is fantastic, although there are two scenes with animals being killed that are both meaningful and terrifying). 

Tonight is Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog). Then 92 more to go.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Dear Aardvark

There's a Dear Abby ripoff called "Dear Annie." I look forward to Dear Angler and Dear A-Train, which should both be coming soon.

I saw this headline today:
Dear Annie: Our friend is deep in debt, asked us for money and hasn’t told her husband. What should we do?

Is this really a situation where we need to bring in Annie? Shouldn't we be saving her Yoda-like wisdom for more complex matters? When I try to answer questions, I always use the Run Like Hell threshold. Before I spend any length of time trying to evaluate a situation, I ask myself if the question is above or below that threshold. 

If it's below, I know exactly what to do.

I feel like in this particular situation, the situation is obviously below that bar.

Actually, I could use that concept to start my own advice column. 
Dear sir or madam,
In answer to your question, run like hell. 
The Aardvark

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Friday Links!

It's a big week out of nowhere. Happy weekend, everybody.

This is unbelievable: American Cars Are Now Almost As Big As the Tanks That Won WWII.

From Mark H., and it's amazing; Computers Will Be Able to Read Images From Your Brain Within a Decade. A brief history of a remarkable fellow: Jack (baboon). This is a spectacular way to misrepresent data: Average women's height around the world. These are fascinating, and beautifully illustrated: 37 Comparisons Of The Sizes Of Prehistoric Animal Ancestors And Their Modern Relatives By Roman Uchytel

From C. Lee, and I blame drinking on the job: Robot Collision Sets London Warehouse Ablaze, Delays Orders. This is a terrific read: When Americans Dreamed of Kitchen Computers. It's incredible how lucrative this is (more lucrative than mining cryptocurrency, I bet): The 3,800 PlayStation 4 Consoles Were Actually Used As FIFA Bots, Not As Cryptocurrency Mining Systems. These all sound interesting: The Indie Video Games Bringing South and Southeast Asian Food to Your Screen. This somehow doesn't surprise me: A War Thunder player leaked classified documents to show that an in-game tank's model was wrong. Not nearly as bad as Michael Stipe: A Springsteen Mystery Solved. I am all in favor of this (and as often as possible): Fukuoka to Paint Giant Port Crane as Giraffe, Hopes it Will Cheer up Children in Hospital

From Meg McReynolds, and it's surely one of the greatest headlines ever: A Lesson in Decaying Victorian Architecture From Scooby-Doo.

From Wally, and this is very cool: The Soviet spy steam railway that's still running. I really don't understand the wealthy: Billionaires Can’t Get Enough of 220 Central Park South. It's incredible what these are worth now: Space and sci-fi memorabilia breaking records at auction.


I understand that some of you really enjoy these "personal discovery" posts, while others are groaning in pain every time you see one. Your patience is appreciated.

Like many of you, I was always "the smart kid" growing up. In a very small town (7,302), I stood out. 

There's nothing wrong with that, but it made me think I was singular. 

That seems like a good thing, on the face of it. Feeling that you're singular can drive you to achieve, to attempt things. To pee high, as I always tell Eli. 

For me, though, it was a trap.

Because I was so introverted, and always felt a little distance from the world (which meant I didn't feel like I belonged), I used what I thought was my own singularity to justify that distance. 

Instead of looking at myself to explain that distance, I looked at the world. It gave me a grievance. The world just didn't appreciate me. 

Because of that, I waited for the world to reach out to me, instead of reaching out to the world. It gave me an excuse to withdraw even further.

In truth, I'm no more singular than anyone else. Loads of people have all of my individual qualities. It's only in combination that I become distinct. But that's true for everyone else, too. I wasted so much time holding myself apart.

I really wish I had understand this thirty years ago, but I didn't start thinking about these kinds of things nearly soon enough. It does feel good to be more self-aware, though, even if it's late.

Playdate Pre-Orders Open

Order link 

I was in and out in less than a minute. Wait...

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

I Should Be Writing About Anything Else Today , So Let's Talk About Tally Marks

I was struck by a thought (with significant force, right across the forehead) about tally marks. You know, these:

My question concerns the fifth tally mark after you've already made four: why do tally across or diagonally? 

I understand that sets of five are easier for people to count. What I can't find, though, is when this started. Incredibly, Google has failed to enlighten on this subject. 

I did find a very interesting article about tally marks in different cultures: “正”, the Chinese Tally Mark And Other Kinds of Tally Marks from Around the World. Different systems, obviously, and some with ingenious variations. 

There is one interesting fact in Wikipedia (Tally marks):
Counting aids other than body parts appear in the Upper Paleolithic. The oldest tally sticks date to between 35,000 and 25,000 years ago, in the form of notched bones found in the context of the European Aurignacian to Gravettian and in Africa's Late Stone Age.

Also Bobby Kotick apparently reads Dubious Quality, if this is any indication: Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick’s letter addressing the harassment allegations. Thanks, Bobby!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Correction (Prince)

This album apparently doesn't get released until Friday. I streamed what was listed as a 3-song preview on Amazon Music last night, but the entire album played instead. I assumed they messed up the track listing, but it was the reverse: they uploaded the entire album instead of a preview. Thanks, Amazon!

Sadly, it's been fixed now.


Prince was an amazing guy, for reasons I've discussed more than once in the last two decades. 

A new album was posthumously released this week. Welcome 2 America, it's called, and it's an album he completed in 2010, but never released.

Synonyms for hot: ardent, burning, fervid, fiery, scalding, scorching, searing, sultry, torrid. Welcome 2 America is all of those words. 

If you want to know where it ranks among Prince albums, I'd say very close to the top five. It's really, really good.

Available to stream at all the usual sources. 

Prince was 5'3" and 120 pounds. In pejorative terms, he was a shrimp, but he had more swagger than any man on the planet. 

Why I Was So Angry Yesterday (and still am)

This country has soul cancer, and Activision Blizzard's response drips with it. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Is It Getting Hot In Here?

Over 1,000 Activision Blizzard Employees Sign Letter Condemning Company's Response To Allegations

Blizzard executives: 


You might want to put your flame-retardant clothing, because this is coming in very hot.

The State of California filed suit against Activision Blizzard last week over "allegations of rampant sexual discrimination and sexual harassment." Here's the article: Activision Blizzard sued by state agency over alleged widespread discrimination

Wait, widespread sexual discrimination and sexual harassment in an industry that has had this exact problem since it's inception fifty years ago? How is that possible?

The allegations appear to be well-documented, and they are reprehensible. So Activision responds in an adult, well-spoken way:
Activision Blizzard issued a statement following the lawsuit, going so far as to accuse California State's Department of Fair Employment and Housing of "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past." After claiming that the DFEH didn't engage in "good faith discussions" prior to filing its suit, it then called the suit "irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that [is] driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California."

Well, that seems reasonable. 

I think libertarianism (and conservatism) have reached the post-principle stage. Their "philosophies" are just invoked by racist, sexist d-bag pricks to justify being racist, sexist, d-bag pricks. 

Here's what you say if you actually care:
We are stunned and disappointed to learn of the State of California's lawsuit against us. We have taken concrete steps in the last few years to improve our corporate culture. However, it is clear that we need to undertake a far-reaching evaluation of our working environment, because we don't want our company to be a place where some employees feel they don't belong. 

We will be immediately setting up an anonymous channel for all employees to share their experiences in regards to these issues, and there will be an additional and comprehensive investigation of company culture. 

That took me five minutes to write. One draft. 

Oh, and after you publish that statement, you actually do it. All of it.

I'm just a an old yahoo in an apartment, and yet I'm way better at this than all the strategic flacks that Blizzard gathered in a conference room to hash out their response. 

You'd think someone might actually be concerned about that.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Friday Links!

This is an extraordinarily beautiful piece of writing: Playing God: I sold my wife's clothes to build a Christmas village in my parents' basement.

I love everything about this: Playdate preview: You won’t believe how fun this dorky, $179 game system is.

This is a fascinating read: Event Horizon Telescope captures birth of black hole jet in Centaurus A

From John Willcocks, and it's so totally brilliant and absolutely bonkers: Pasha and Aliona SURPRISE The Judges With an Unexpected Performance - America's Got Talent 2021.

From Wally, and I don't think just one mind can unpack all of this: Woman who broke into dentist’s office to steal cash also pulled 13 teeth from victim, say police.

From Brian Witte, and these are fantastic images: Earth Restored.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and it's a sign of the times: Save Your Mask for the Next Disaster.

From C. Lee, and I do not feel great about this: MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We’re on Schedule. Also concerning: Sea walls might just make floods someone else’s problem, study suggests. This is amazing; Researchers develop deep-learning method for translating vocal signals from the brain to text. This is a great read: The 18th-Century Cookbook That Helped Save the Slovene Language. Eli 19.11 gets to see where they filmed Harry Potter this fall. He's pumped: The Ultimate Guide to Stunning, Surprising, or Hidden Filming Locations. Ass-kicker of the week: Meet ‘Takimika,’ the fitness instructor going strong at 90.

Deeply Optical

There is so much to talk about today.

The Olympics are a dumpster fire. Blizzard responded to California alleging that they have a frat boy culture that is both sexist and illegal by responding in the most douche-bro libertarian way possible, which seems unwise? Some college athletes are going to be making over a million dollars next season (yay), which raises interesting questions that are worth exploring. 

So, obviously, I'm going to talk about eyeglasses.

I've always subscribed to the cantaloupe-sized lenses philosophy, because my I have to look through the Keck I Telescope to see anything, so I want as much lens surface area as possible.

Recently, though, as I am a single individual, I decided that it might be time to retreat slightly from the Mr. Magoo look. Not completely--hey, I'm not crazy--but just slightly. 

This means, for the first time in a very long time, that I needed to look at frames. 

I had no idea that glasses frames were a rabbit hole. A deep, dark rabbit hole. 

I'm fairly certain that the number of different frames is equivalent to the number of people currently residing on Earth. I'm used to a slightly different era:
"We have six frames. Which one do you like?"
"Uh, none of them."
"To hell with you. Go somewhere else."

It's equivalent to sorting through all the writing produced by an infinite number of monkeys banging away on typewriters and trying to find the one sonnet. 

Plus, who are some of these frames for? An example:

I can't quite grasp the target market for these frames, unless it's circus clowns needing a reliable set of eyewear for their next show. 

Even worse, I kind of like them, which sort of tells me that writing was the wrong profession. 

Other frames are hard to imagine looking good on anyone. A kangaroo, perhaps, or a bear, but tremendously difficult to picture otherwise.

I'm still looking at frames. I may never emerge. You've been warned.

I Got A Surprising Amount of Email About Anal Probes

From Scott M. (no way am I using his last name. Think of the Google Search issues):
Can you imagine if us humans did anal probes every time we discovered a new species?

Captain Robert von Beringe is holding a press conference:
“During our travels my team discovered a new species of ape, the mountain gorilla. As usual with the discovery of any new species, we immediately attempted an anal probing. The beast being so large, we had to attempt it in the field, unfortunately, Dr Gluteus Schtick did not survive.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

I Can't Say I'm Surprised

This: interest in going to the moon.

Even as a handful of billionaires prepare for space travel, Americans don’t seem very interested in participating themselves. Per a recent YouGovAmerica survey, 42 percent of adults said they would not want to take a trip to the moon if given the opportunity and a guaranteed safe return, while half (50 percent) said they would. Notably, men (58 percent) were more likely than women (42 percent) to say they were interested. When asked why not, the biggest reason Americans gave was that they simply weren’t interested, while 9 percent said they rejected the hypothetical question’s premise of a guaranteed safe return; 8 percent said there was not a lot to see or do on the moon. 

I mean, they're not wrong. 

Now we have more "percenters." We already have the "three" dumbasses, a fine example of humanity at its absolute worst. 

I thought those were the only percenters I had to worry about. 

Nope, here comes the eights. 

JFK, rephrased: We choose not to go to the Moon not because it's hard, but because it's boring.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Thank You For Your Patience

My e-mail is a dumpster fire right now. Please bear with me. 

A Claim That Deserves Close Scrutiny

Please review the claim inside the red quare: 

Is it? Is it really?

An Important Note

If you're ever thinking about trimming your eyebrows, it's important to remember the Latin phrase Primum non nocere, which means "First, do no harm."

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