Thursday, February 02, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, another excellent article from Ars Technica: The generative AI revolution has begun—how did we get here?

This is a fantastic short video: Special effect techniques from the past.

Want to see a 27-minute video from Shonen Knife, the first (1981) Japanese pop punk band? You're in luck: Shonen Knife still pop-punk-rocking after 40 years

From C. Lee, and what a discouraging story (with a nice ending): Yale honors Black girl, nine, wrongly reported to police over insect project. This does not seem seaworthy: Royal Navy orders investigation into nuclear submarine ‘repaired with glue’

From Wally, and McSweeney's has it all figured out: How to Become a A Professional Writer. That didn't take long: D&D won’t change the OGL, handing fans and third-party publishers a massive victory. A cautionary tale about the need for a good building inspector when buying a house: Demo Discoveries - It Should Have Been a Tear Down...... Somehow, I'm not even surprised: Inside The Fascinating World Of Valley Of The Dawn, The UFO-Based Religion Founded By A Brazilian Truck Driver. More interesting developments: ChatGPT can’t be credited as an author, says world’s largest academic publisher.

A Distinctive Flavor

I went to the local sandwich shop near my house to have some lunch. 

The lady in front of me ordered a sandwich with all the toppings. Let's see: lettuce, tomato, onion, black olives, spinach, jalapenos, banana peppers, and pickles. With salt and pepper, of course.

Dressing? Honey mustard, oil and red wine vinegar, ranch, and several others. I couldn't even keep up anymore. 

Oh, and turkey and provolone was the base. 

When she walked out, I turned to the three guys working and said, "Okay, so tell me this: what flavor does she taste when she takes the first bite?"

They all burst out laughing. One threw up his hands and said, "That's the question nobody can answer."

It was a zen koan in a sandwich.

Now I can't stop thinking about the dominant flavor out of that mass of toppings and dressings. If every flavor was a country, it'd be like having the United Nations in your mouth. Which country would emerge? 

Obviously, the next step is for me to order a sandwich with everything on it, so I can figure it out for myself. I can't do mustard, oil and vinegar, and ranch, though. That's a bridge too far.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

A Project

One of my closest friends is going to Austin for a few months to escape the Michigan winter. It's a clever plan.

She's made a profound impact on my life, in all the best ways. I wanted to make her something special before she left.

I can conceive of beautiful things. What I cannot do, however, is actually make them. I see crafty things in my head, but I'm not a crafty person. At all.

As a result, I've often had elaborate ideas in my head that never nearly looked as good when I finished them. 

This time, though, was different. 

Remember I mentioned excitement boxes a few weeks ago? This was a variation on that idea. 

Here's what it looked like from the outside. 

A mystery, right? Also a mystery how I managed to pull this off. 

This was the inside.

This is looking through the little window you can see in the previous picture. There are strings of fairy lights inside, with gold stars painted on the blue, map-color walls. 

I wanted something childlike, as a sense of wonder. 

Suspended in the air are origami birds (to be fair, they're closer to "messigami"). On each of the birds, if you unfold them, there's a message inside. Mostly Winnie the Pooh quotes, but a few others as well. 

It's art that's meant to be consumed, particularly on a blue day. 

It made me happy when it was done. My friend, too. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Wiper Wars: Sisyphus Edition

I do some things so seldom that I forget in the lengthy interval how to do them at all. 

This came to mind today, because it was time to change one of my windshield wipers. 

I do this every 2-3 years, if that often. You take the wiper arm off by turning and sliding a doohickey in certain directions, then you attach a new doohickey into an arm and the doohickey clicks in some manner. 

That's the technical explanation, anyway. 

This should be easy, but I make it hard. The doohickey is plastic, so I'm always concerned about exerting too much pressure and breaking said doohickey. It all feels so simple when I'm done, but I forget everything by the time I need to do it again. 

Then there are instructions. 



















Representing rotation in 2D is inherently impossible for me to understand. It's also a very nice touch that the actual doohickeys are so dark in the picture that's hard to see exactly what attaches where. 

Then the doohickey came off the new wiper blade. it was pre-installed, so now I had to figure out how to put it back on, but no matter how I put it together, it never seemed tight like it was at first. I was also supposed to rotate the doohickey into a vertical position, which seemed impossible. 

It was 15F outside, so perfect weather to be screwing with this for an extremely long time. 

After squinting at the illustrations from a distance of approximately 3" for several minutes, I punted and watched a YouTube video. This is the first thing I should have done. This is the first thing I should always do. 

After watching the video, I realized where the rotation was supposed to take place (I just needed to squeeze harder than I had been to release the part to rotate). Then I sort of held the doohickey in place and slid the hook around the doohickey and pushed something in some sort of way and everything clicked into place. 

Gee, that was easy. I'm sure I'll remember next time.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Ruthless Efficiency

I drove to Ann Arbor on Sunday to give Eli 21.5 his passport (with the Liberian stamp), along with a few other things.

We'd had heavy snow for two days, including much of Saturday night, so I was expecting some difficulty on the drive. 

What I didn't expect, though, was for the first forty miles to take over an hour.

Those early miles were extremely difficult. One usable lane had been gouged out of the interstate by snowplows, but it wasn't entirely clear. In some places, there wasn't even a lane, really, just packed snow. 

A strange thing happened after the first forty miles, though. The road started getting better, and quickly. By the time I'd traveled the last twenty miles to Lansing, both lanes of the interstate were entirely clear. 

It felt like a damn miracle. 

For the last hour into Ann Arbor, the roads were perfect.

On the way home, about five hours later, I braced for what could be difficult driving after I went through Lansing. It was as if that snowstorm never happened, though--the roads were perfect until I got back into Grand Rapids.

It's incredible that a 40+ mile section of interstate went from nightmarish to pristine in five hours. No excess snow. No ice. That's how incredibly efficient the snowplow infrastructure is up here. It's staggering, really, on a scale that's difficult to even comprehend. 

The Midwest, perfected. 

Eli was terrific, as always, and his girlfriend came to breakfast with us. She's a wonderful, caring person. They're an emotional health power couple, and it makes me very happy. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Friday Links!

We're super-light this week. 

If you're bored, go buy a book! The Man You Trust.

This is a fantastic read: Researchers look a dinosaur in its remarkably preserved face

From C. Lee, and these are spectacular: Our Favorite Student Artwork From Japan’s Graduating Class of 2023

From the previous website: Waguya: a 300-Year Old Cavernous Arts & Crafts Shop in Mie Prefecture.

My favorite Civ, and the Digital Antiquarian is so brilliant: Sequels in Strategy Gaming, Part 1: Civilization II

The scientific process here is remarkable: Scientists identify rare lead compounds in Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.

Of interest in relation to what we've been discussing recently: Do AI images violate copyright? A lawyer explains the Stable Diffusion lawsuit.

This is such an odd story, but it's genuinely amazing, too: Building a boat to sail around the world when you don't know boat building or sailing.

From David Gloier, and this is depressing: How Auto-Tune DESTROYED Popular Music. It's an interesting path from auto-tune and drum machines to music generation programs. 

From the Past to the Future

This is what it was like every day in our house for years. Still is, when Eli 21.5 is home.
___________________

Eli 6.7
"I want to be a God," Eli 6.7 said as he sat down at the kitchen table.

"Who doesn't?" I asked.

"If I was a God, I could fly in P.E.," he said.

"You're a God, and all you're going to do is fly around the gym? Dude, you're a GOD--you don't even have to go to school anymore."

"I don't?" he asked.

"No," I said. "You'd know everything already. Probably."

"Oh, now I REALLY want to be a God," he said. "Dad, what would you do if you were a God?"

"I'd wrestle a whale," I said.

"WHAT?"

"I could talk to him in his language, so he'd know that we were just playing," I said. "But definitely the first thing I'd do is wrestle a whale."

"Now THAT is an idea," he said.
_____________________

"Dad, do you want to play Super Mario Galaxy?" Eli was sitting on the couch. I sat down beside him.

"Sure, little man, I'll play," I said. We have a constant rivalry about turning on the Wii, because we have the controllers inside the stereo cabinet with the Wii, so someone has to walk over and turn it on. "Go turn on the Wii," I said.

"No, you turn it on," he said, laughing.

"No, YOU turn it on," I said.

"No, YOU," he said.

"The only 'you' in this room is 'you'," I said. "So you turn it on."

"No, you turn it on," he said.

"Oh, for God's sake! I'LL turn it on," Gloria said. She had been sitting at the kitchen table, and she walked over to the stereo cabinet and turned on the Wii.

"Thanks, Mom," Eli said. "Thanks a lot."

"Yeah, thanks, honey," I said. Gloria walked back into the kitchen and sat down. "Okay, buddy," I said, "go turn the receiver to 'Video 1'."

"No, YOU go turn it to 'Video 1'," he said.

"No, you," I said.

"ARGGHHHHH!" Gloria said.
________________________

Eli (aka The Enthusiasm Engine) was notified yesterday that he's a semifinalist for the Fulbright, which means the U.S. committee has recommended him and forwarded it to the country who would be hosting him (Colombia). It doesn't mean he's selected, but it's a good sign. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

IGF Finalists 2023!

Here are your finalists for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize:
Betrayal at Club Low (Cosmo D Studios)
IMMORTALITY (Sam Barlow, Half Mermaid)
Neon White (Angel Matrix)
Not For Broadcast (NotGames)
The Case of the Golden Idol (Color Gray Games)
TUNIC (TUNIC Team)

Honorable Mentions: Citizen Sleeper (Jump Over the Age), Hardspace: Shipbreaker (Blackbird Interactive), Roadwarden (Moral Anxiety Studio), RPG Time: The Legend of Wright (DeskWorks Inc.), Terra Nil (Free Lives), Tinykin (Splashteam).

Having made one, I can say without hesitation that making a game is hard. Making a game that is innovative and has broad appeal is much, much harder.

I've been meaning to pick up Betrayal at Club Low for some time, and I think this is the kick in the pants I needed. 

Oh, and there are many more categories of awards, and you can see them all here: 2023 INDEPENDENT GAMES FESTIVAL FINALISTS.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Cooking

I know. It's a highly unusual title for a post in this space. 

I made salmon last night for the first time. Why haven't I made it before? I don't know. I guess I was busy.

This is all part of the new healthy eating regimen, which basically means eating nothing I like and replacing it with things I don't. 

I'm learning, though. Slowly. 

I sent a picture of the salmon to Eli 21.5 last night, along with this text:
I feel like Christopher
Columbus, but without the
colonialism.

He's been incredibly encouraging, as he always is, and he's a fine cook, so he's also been very helpful. He made salmon with a dijon rub while he was home for the holidays, and I was trying to copy that, except I made a dijon/brown sugar rub. 

The rub didn't cook off like I expected, so it remained a bit enthusiastic:









One thing I'm struggling with while cooking multiple dishes is the need for six arms.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Goal!

I meant to write about this World Cup story months ago. Then stuff happened, etc. 

Eli 21.5 told me about this, actually. He mentioned that Bangladesh had one of the most devoted fanbases to Argentina. 

This made no sense, obviously, so I spent some time tracking down why. 

It's a complicated tale, but mostly, it involves English colonialism. 

Bangladesh was an English colony for almost two centuries, and their hatred of the British continued well after independence. Argentina beat England 2-1 in the quarterfinals on their way to winning the tournament, and Diego Maradona was a riveting presence on the field. 

Sticking it to the English, along with having the most exciting player in the world. That's when it happened. 

It's been said that Bangladesh has the fifth largest fanbase of Argentinian soccer, in a country slightly smaller than Iowa. Astonishing, really, and the fanbase is incredibly passionate. They ride or die with Argentinian soccer. 

This story went viral during the World Cup, but it wasn't new. It's been going on for over thirty-five years. 

Here's a nice article: A dash of tango in a small corner of Asia: The story of Bangladesh’s love affair with Argentina.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, it's a book! The Man You Trust. I'm trying to work out a deal with the Girl Scouts to sell my book in addition to their cookies, and negotiations are ongoing. There seem to be several sticking points, and I have no idea why. 

Next, a terrific article on the Apple Lisa: Revisiting Apple’s ill-fated Lisa computer, 40 years on

Here's a lovely story on my favorite animal, the capybara: Is this the friendliest creature on the planet? And a video that will be the best 11 minutes you've spent all week: Why are capybaras "so chill?"

The story behind an iconic Simpson's episode: Throw Up Your Hands and Raise Your Voice! Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

I'll tailgate in the parking lot of the pharmacy to celebrate this being available someday: RSV vaccine for older adults is 84% effective, Moderna says

This is a remarkable video: Watching custom, handmade hiking boots being made in a Korean shoe shop

Wally sent in a follow-up to yesterday's post that is quite good: The Machines Already Took Our Jobs

From Chris M., and hopefully this isn't paywalled for you: AI Is Not the New Crypto

ChatGPT and the future of writing (and reading)

I've been thinking about ChatGPT and some of the AI tools available to writers now. 

I don't think the question is how good they are now (even though, for some, they are quite serviceable after a bit of editing), but how good will they be in ten years?

I believe they will be very good, indeed. 

Whether such a tool would be useful for you depends on how you view writing. If you see it as a journey (like I do), then having AI assistance wouldn't be appealing at all. I want to create every word. I want to go through whatever is necessary, for as long as it takes, to be able to call it mine. 

Having said that, John Harwood and my editor were both hugely helpful, and the book would be much the poorer without them. I still feel like it's mine, though. 

So when I ask you to consider purchasing a book, it's me you're purchasing. 

If you feel like writing is a destination, though, not a journey, then AI tools could be extremely helpful. And to be clear, I don't feel like seeing writing as a destination is wrong. There are a ton of professional writers who depend on volume. They're not trying to leave an impression; they're trying to entertain. There's nothing wrong with that. 

Especially if your commercial niche is turning out books every year (or, for some, every six months), having an AI help write them is going to be a life-changer. I was going to say it makes the work more disposable, but that's not fair. It's just a tool to create entertaining content more quickly. 

I just wanted to write something that someone, someday would read and remember. I don't want people to move on so easily. 

Jonathon Wood sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago that reminded me of how there are infinite possibilities with these tools. He used an AI tool to generate images he used to build a short story around. That's a great idea: noodling around with AI tools to inspire creativity in a different medium. He published it on Amazon, and here's the link (the images are incorporated in the story, too): The Path of Knowledge.


Follow-up

As a follow-up to the "On Technology" post I made earlier this week, Jeremy H. sent a link that (once again) shows Carl Sagan was prescient in a remarkable way:
I have a foreboding.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Eli 21.5 Travels the World

After eight vaccinations on Friday, and receiving a visa from the Liberian embassy today, Eli 21.5 looks like he's ready to go to Africa in a few weeks. 

I get stressed out if I'm flying domestic and it's not a non-stop flight. For him, though, this is just business as usual. 

On top of the eight vaccinations, he was given anti-malarial and typhoid pills. The nurse, who was quite funny, also gave him another bottle of pills in case he started "shitting uncontrollably." Then she laughed. 

That's my kind of nurse. 

He normally turns on a location program when he's traveling abroad, which I really appreciate. On days when I don't hear from him, just checking at night and knowing he's back in his residence gives me much comfort. 

For this trip, though, he will have no phone service or wi-fi for days at a time. It's going to be a challenge for me. 

The funny part is that I'll probably feel more anxiety not hearing from him for a few days than he'll feel flying across the world and doing field work in remote areas of Liberia. 

I had that adventuring spirit, when I was young, but he has it in ways that only a few people could ever dream of having. 

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