Friday, October 31, 2014

Costume Count 2014!

Okay, send in those spreadsheets tonight and tomorrow! I'll have results early next week.

If you've never done this before, just send in an e-mail/spreadsheet/napkin with the following information:
--costume character (as best you can determine)

My favorite, from several years ago, is still the little girl whose costume I couldn't identify. I asked and she said--proudly--"I'm Paris, France."

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Guy Byars, and what a counterfeiting story: The Great Paper Caper. Also, and the headlines just keep on coming: Man drops cigarette, runs over own head.

From Roger Robar, and this is one great dad: Dad Plays Leia to his Daughter's Hans Solo.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: Bolts from the blue: the history of life in the universe may have been governed by the frequency of giant stellar explosions.

From the Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is a terrific read: The man with the golden blood.

From Steven Davis, and this is beautiful: The Xylothek ~ A Wooden Library. Also, and the link title is no exaggeration: The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made.

From Jean-Francois B., and while this might not be the greatest headline ever (dwarf stripper pregnancy, hello!), it has to be close: Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers.

From J.R. Parnell, and this is fantastic: What’s Harder Than Skiing at Night in an LED Suit? Filming It. Also, and these would make for an interesting vacation: Ghost Islands: Eight of the Eeriest Abandoned Places on the Seas.

From Dan Willhite, and this will really bring back some memories: hand-drawn gaming maps. Also, and this is one of the most remarkable stories you'll ever read: Welcome to the Jungle (a story of persistence).

From DQ Reader My Wife, and these are some of the best product reviews ever (including the phrase "Satan's Diarrhea Hate Bears", which you just have to respect): Haribo Sugar Free Gummy Bears 5LB Bag.

Here are two links that are quite remarkable. The first is Why every newborn you see on Facebook is wrapped in the same baby blanket, and the second is one of the coolest inventions I've ever seen: Synthesizer transforms weather into live streamed ambient tunes.

From Craig Miller, and as it turns out, they actually had a point: Why Van Halen demanded "no brown M&Ms".

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oculus Rift DK2

The future of reality is blurry. For me, at least.

I received the DK2 and spent several hours installing it today. There were several little janky things I had to overcome, but overall, I'm very impressed with the build quality in general.

Unfortunately for me, though, the headset comes with two different lenses: "A" and "B". The "B" lenses are for nearsighted people, but apparently, not as nearsighted as I am. No matter which lense I use, and no matter the distance, I can't get even modestly sharp text. Actually, I can barely even read text, which is not how I've seen the unit described in various places, so this is obviously a me problem.

Wearing glasses makes everything tremendously clunky, so I'm trying to avoid that, but I'm kind of at an impasse at this point.

I did take a look at the demo scene included with the configuration utility, and even blurry, it's pretty mind-blowing. This is a very impressive piece of hardware. And I'd be willing to spend the time necessary to get Elite or Euro Truck Simulator 2 working, but the blurriness would make it relatively pointless.

Eli 13.2 used the "A" lenses, because he has 20/15 vision, and he said it was "kind of" sharp. Plus, he was blown away by the little demo scene.

I'm going to spend some time tomorrow trying to get more things to run. There are several different modes, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to find things that would run in "native" mode, but almost nothing does. So I'll try some of the other options and see how I do, then report back.

If I could just get past the blurriness, though, everything else would just be details. The headset is comfortable, the effect is amazing, and I desperately want to get this working.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

This is Big News

Thanks to Rhett Dornbach-Bender, I just found out about this:
For fifteen years, people have been asking about a sequel. We’re really excited to be working on a new game, tentatively called Six Ages. It’s an equally ambitious game, and won’t be out until 2016. 

But wait, you ask. Who are these mysterious developers who are now working on a sequel? What original game are we talking about here?

King of Dragon Pass.

That's right. One of the most interesting, original games ever made is getting a sequel. Boom goes the dynamite.

Here's a link to the post: Happy Birthday!

I have an Oculus Rift DK2 unit in my study, and a sequel has been announced to one of my favorite games of all time. Should I run out and buy a lottery ticket?


"Hey, have you decided who you're going to vote for in the mayoral race?" Gloria asked.

"Um, I like Bumgardner," I said. "And I like that Bleeto fellow for City Council."

"Bumgardner? Bleeto?"

"I meant Bamgurdner and Bletsper," I said.

"You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, do you?" she asked.

"Less than that," I said.

Cleaners and Bandits and Rats, Oh My

There's a station on Sirius XM called "Electric Area" that is dedicated to electronic/dance/house music.

Actually, there are several, but Eli 13.2 and I listen to this one in particular. If he's headed to practice and needs a little energy, we put on that station and listen to music at 128 beats per minute.

Instant energy transfusion.

Plus, and this is the best part, as soon as the music starts playing, we both start bobbing our heads like we're in "Night at the Roxbury." I like that feeling so much that I will occasionally put the station on, even when Eli isn't in the car with me.

It's not really music that I enjoy. It's just the energy that can be drawn from the music.

Today, I turned it on, and incredibly, I actually heard a song I kind of liked. I looked on the display and it read "Clean Bandit-Rat". Okay, that's kind of an odd name for a band, but this is house music. So I forced myself to remember, because I wanted to hear the whole song.

Clean Bandit-Rat. What a name.

When I got home and looked up the song, I discovered that there is, in fact, no band named "Clean Bandit-Rat". There is, however a band named "Clean Bandit", and they have a hugely popular song called "Rather Be".

Oops. Maybe they'll consider changing their name.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Costume Count Friday

Don't forget. Pestering will continue.

Make Better Decisions, Him and Her Edition

Him (this was sent to my phone yesterday, for some reason):

Her (the only two items purchased):

Oculus Rift DK2

It looks like the OR DK2 will be in the house later today, so if you guys have any setup tips or must-sees, please let me know.

I've got so much else going on that I don't think I can set it up until tomorrow, but of course I'll give you full impressions when I have them.

Believe it or not, I bought one of the early Sony Glasstron models way back in the 90s. It had SVGA resolution, weighted a ton, was incredibly uncomfortable, and was a total failure in terms of user experience (for me, at least).

So I've been waiting for 15 years for a decent virtual reality experience. I'm very much hoping that the wait is over.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The New Generation

I could have sworn I wrote about this, but I can't find it in the archives.

Eli 13.2 came up to me a few months ago and said, "Dad, can I play Grand Theft Auto?"

"No," I said.

"But my friends are playing it," he said.

"No," I said.



"Why not?" he asked.

"Well, here's the short list," I said. "It's misogynistic, homophobic, and racist."

"Oh," he said. He takes all three of those things seriously, as he should.

"Plus," I said, "in many ways, they're not even good games. There's a huge amount of content, but lots of it is just filler. I don't even mind you playing shooting games at your age, but I don't want you playing crappy shooting games."

"Well, is there an open-world game that I could play?"

I thought for few seconds and said, "Yes. I can think of a game that's a little older, but it's open world and it's incredibly fun."

"What is it?" he asked.

"It's a game called 'Crackdown'," I said.

This is how Eli 13.2 learned about Crackdown, and he began playing the next day.

Today, after about a two-month interruption for school, he finished the game. The ending--with the deflating twist--blew his mind.

He did have to call in the old professional to finish off Zuang Lun Wang, but other than that, he did it on his own. With some consultation.

Now, if Crackdown 3 is good, we'll have to buy an Xbox One. Maybe they'll include a co-op mode.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Addendum

Alan Eustace Jumps From Stratosphere, Breaking Felix Baumgartner’s World Record

Whoa. And what a simple approach, too.

Also, DO NOT FORGOT about Halloween Costume Count 2014. It's still a week away, but it's coming.

Friday Links!

Leading off, from Meg McReynolds, and this is a stunning piece of writing about Mississippi: A Ride Down Paradise Road: Ole Miss and State are undefeated, and Mississippi can't explain what it all means.

From Dan Willhite, and this is fantastic: The Physics of the Death Star. Also, and these images are absolutely stunning: Breathtaking Aerial Landscapes of Iceland by Sarah Martinet. Another, and it's tremendous: New destinations past Pluto for New Horizons: A scan with the Hubble locates some Kuiper Belt Objects for it to visit. One more, and here's a spectacular comeback: Pluto Is a Planet Again, According to Harvard Astronomers. Wait--incredibly, there's one more, and it's fantastically strange and wonderful: Bears and Mechs in 1920.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and these are terrific: 40 maps and charts that explain sports in America.

From Marc Klein, and this is a glimpse into a secret, bizarre world: The Adultery Arms Race.

From C. Lee, and this is amazing: Gauss Gun. Also, and this is hilarious, it's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Supreme Court Animals.

From Michael O'Reilly, and this is fascinating: The Stuntmen Who Blacklisted Blackface.

In anticipation of Halloween costume-counting, J.R. Parnell sent in this link: Popular Halloween Costumes of the Last 25 Years.

From Jonathan Arnold, and of course I want to stay here: The Deepest, Darkest, Oldest, Loneliest Hotel Room in the World.

Here's an interesting business story about craftmanship from Steven Davis: Noticed: J. HILL’s Standard.

From Matt Kreuch, and this is fantastic: Texas kindergartner gets 3D printer Iron Man hand.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


You guys sent in some terrific radio show information after yesterday's post.

First, Doug Perini e-mailed about The Vintage Radio Place, which has a huge collection of vintage radio shows.

Roy Seney let me know that there is an online archive for every episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater, and it's here: CBS Radio Mystery Theater. I'm listening to an episode right now, actually, and it's excellent.

Geoff Engelstein sent in this entirely terrific remembrance:
I remember when I was probably around 17 (~1980-81) I was playing with my radio and bouncing around the dial, and then stumbled on a science fiction radio show - that turned out to be the first episode of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, being broadcast out of NYC.

I was (understandably) just blown away, and tried as hard as possible to be around each week at the same time to listen to the next installment.

The thing about radio dramas like that back then is that they weren't really advertised anywhere. You just had to discover them. Plus it was completely enhanced by the fuzziness of the signal and the way it faded in and out. You had to work for it back then, and really LISTEN, which I think just amped everything up.

The books came out years later, and many folks still don't know or haven't heard those original radio dramas. But to my mind they are still the best rendition of that story, by far.

I was so happy when I was able to get them on CD - special ordered from the BBC and shipped from the UK - and was able to relive those days curled up in bed straining between the static to hear what happened next to Zaphod Beeblebrox.

Also, Chris Volny sent this in:
1. I started listening to Radio Mystery Theater exactly the way you did; I was playing (illegally) with my brother’s radio, found it and was hooked. I was probably about the same age too, at 13 years for me it would have been 1975. Several years later, 1982, I had joined the US Air Force and stationed in Japan was put on the midnight to morning shift. I walked into the shop and heard Radio Mystery Theater on the Armed Forces network! That was awesome, but I was the only one who appreciated it.

2. Fallout 3 has a mod for the in-game radio called X Minus One! I’ve listened to all those episodes while wandering the Washington DC wasteland. 

Seriously, that is the best gaming mod ever. It makes me want to fire up Fallout 3 again, just to install that mod.

Wings! Remastered

I've written many times about my fondness for the Cinemaware games that came out for the Amiga 500. They're a wonderful collection of worthy games.

Wings! was one of my very favorites. Flying in a WWI-era plane was an amazing experience because it was so incredibly personal. Dogfighting was very close quarters combat, and it was real seat-of-the-pants flying, because instrumentation was so primitive.

Didn't know the Immelman Maneuver? You weren't going to last long. Couldn't accurately shoot the gun? Same.

Wings! also wound through a deeply personal story of war, so both the flying and the time in-between missions felt personal. And for the era, the gameplay was tremendously engrossing. There were three types of missions--dogfighting, strafing/bombing ground targets, and destroying weather balloons--and they held my interest for the duration of the game.

If all that wasn't enough, Wings! also has one of my absolutely favorite endings to a game.

That's a lot of gaming love in one package.

So when I saw a Kickstarter for a remastered version in HD, I backed it, of course. It came out a couple of weeks ago, and I'm very happy to report that (through fifteen missions) the development team has done a terrific job. The game looks great, the solid gameplay feels unchanged, and I'm just as sucked into the experience as I was twenty years ago.

This is an important piece of gaming canon, and if you've never played it, you should rectify that immediately. Here's the Steam page: Wings! Remastered Edition.

The Fight

I would normally put up a link on Friday, but this is such a soaring, gripping piece of writing that I'm going to mention it now instead.

If you're not familiar with James Baldwin (1924-1987), he was an American poet, essayist, and playwright. He was tremendously influential, and his writing is concentrated and powerful. I was fortunate to read his poetry a long time ago, and I still remember the effect it had on me. Still does.

Anyway, in 1963, James Baldwin was sent to Chicago to write a story about the Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston fight. Back when boxing was still influential, all kinds of non-sportswriters were sent to write about boxing matches.

What emerged from this assignment is simply one of the most utterly memorable essays ever, written with an incomparable rhythm. Anyone who loves words and how writers put them together must begin reading immediately.

Here you go: The Fight: Patterson vs. Liston.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


When I was 13 (man, I was the same age as Eli 13.3!), I was fiddling around with the radio one night and stumbled on a program called CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

I still remember sitting in the dark, listening to this program, the only light coming from the radio dial.

I'd never listened to a dramatic program on the radio before, and I was mesmerized. There's a measured pace to radio programs, a kind of breathing between beats, that lets the plot develop in a manner that can be quite gripping.

I listened to this program every night for weeks, then eventually went on to other interests, but I never lost the fond memories.

I have satellite radio in the Accord Hybrid, and a few days ago I stumbled onto a station called "Radio Classics" (Channel 82). It has a ton of old-time radio programs, and they're just as absorbing as when I was a kid.

Driving to pick up Eli 13.1 from school today, I heard an old program called "X Minus One". It's a science fiction program, and here's an interesting note about the shows:
The stories for the show came from two of the most popular science fiction magazines at the time; Astounding and Galaxy. Adaptations of these stories were performed by Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts. They even wrote a few original stories of their own. The writers of the magazine stories were not well known then but now are the giants of today. These stories came from the minds of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Poul Anderson to name a few.

The episode I heard in the car today was called "A Logic Named Joe" (episode 31), and if you want a good example of the genre, there's a full archive of the show here.

If you have satellite radio, and want to listen to something relaxing (but engaging) in the car, this might be right up your alley.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What the Hell Tuesday

Double content tomorrow, because today featured no food from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and two and a half hours of standing in a rink watching hockey practice, so I'm shaky from hunger and freezing cold. Double bonus.

Tomorrow, though, you'll be updated on the improbable career of Enormous Bottoms as he tries to reach the major leagues with the most unbalanced ratings in the history of baseball. Plus, a new rule for developers (in addition to the now-canon "Don't be a dick"): don't make death threats.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Niche Scammer

My name is Jeff Wilson and i will like to know if you carry (SAW BLADES) for sale.If yes , reply me back with your website so that i can select the one that am interested in purchasing from your company also i will recommend a freight company for the picked up.hoping to hear from you soon.

Thank You

What I'm curious about here, obviously, is what else might be in capital letters. If SAW BLADES are one possibility, what are the others?



First off, in reference to the insurance application (asking if I was engaged in any dangerous occupations), here's more information from Jens Fiederer about explosives (via Wikipedia):
"The use of explosives in mining goes back to the year 1627, when gunpowder was first used in place of mechanical tools in the Hungarian (now Slovakian) town of Banská Štiavnica. The innovation spread quickly throughout Europe and the Americas."

That's much, much earlier than I thought. And probably much more dangerous as well.

Joshua Buergel sent in some interesting information in regards to the "reviewer affinity" tool I wanted to see:
While such a thing doesn't exist for video game reviews (as far as I know), such a thing does exist for board games. BoardGameGeek has the excellent "GeekBuddy" feature. Yes, that's what it's called. If you identify a user with similar tastes, you can add them to your list. Then, looking at any game, you can call up what your buddies rate it, instead of the general population.

Okay, this doesn't qualify as an update, but here's C. Lee with some important information:
Up until now, I’d always assumed “disinfect” and “sanitize” were synonyms, and then I happened to read the label on a bottle of toilet cleaner:

“To disinfect: Let stand for at least 10 minutes.”

“To sanitize: Let stand for 30 seconds.”

I feel like a great light has been shed, like I’ve gained a glimpse into the hidden workings of the universe, and now I wonder if I will ever stay in a hotel where the paper strip informs me that my toilet has been disinfected for my protection.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a masterfully written story by Michael McKnight: The Split: Twenty-five years after Donnie Moore's death, it's time to dispel the myth that the pitcher killed himself because of a playoff home run. The truth is both darker and more relatable.

From Stephen Davis, and you must read this (DQ Film Advisor and Nicest Guy in the World Ben Ormand, this particularly means you): Bunville Weenies (the story of a toy line that should have been huge, but wasn't). Also, and this is terrific: Interactive Origami Sculpture. One more, and it's excellent: NYC's Steamy History.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is fascinating: Rating Chili Peppers On A Scale Of 1 To Oh Dear God I’m On Fire. One more, and these are stunning: Beautiful Chemistry.

From Daniel Willhite, and these are both excellent: Can't do math? Dance it out, and SHINE for Girls: Every girl is good at math. Some don't realize it yet.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is mesmerizing: French soldier’s room unchanged 96 years after his death in first world war. Also, and this is fascinating: ‘Without his shoes, I couldn’t walk’: a cobbler with a mission.

From Chris Pencis, and wow wow wow: Drone racing is a thing, and the first-person video is spectacular.

From Aaron Ward,  and drones are everywhere: Cirque de Soleil Deploys Drones for Art.

From Jesse Leimkuehler, and Doug Walsh will particularly appreciate this: One Man’s Photos from an Epic Road Trip Spanning 26 Years, 177 Countries, and 500,000 Miles.

I know I've said this before, but the competition is over. This is the best headline ever: Dwarf stripper gets bride pregnant on her hen night.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is epic: Hawk vs. Drone! (Hawk Attacks Quadcopter). I'm a big fan of hawks.

Ending up this week, and I know I've linked to it before, but man, it's so much fun: PULP-O-MIZER: the customizable pulp magazine cover generator.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I really didn't want to write about this, but it's gotten so stupid that I've had enough.

This is in reference to--and I'm breaking up the name so that I don't get idiotic e-mails from Google vigilantes--the group identifying themselves as "Gamer" plus "Gate".

A "movement" ostensibly dealing with ethics and integrity must itself have ethics and integrity. If it doesn't, it's not a movement. It's a mob.

Also, please remember that people who bully others, and enjoy it, are broken in fundamental ways. People who make threats to harm others are even more fundamentally broken. These threats are reprehensible.

I have an idea. Maybe the people threatening physical harm to women could go mention this to their moms. Just explain the situation. I'm sure they'll be very understanding.

Now, if you extract the incoherent rage from the alleged point--the ethics of gaming journalists--maybe we can unpack something that isn't entirely idiotic.

Not idiotic. Just dumb.

First, we need to distinguish writers who discuss games as an entertainment medium, or discuss them at a level about single games. They can be honest.

At the game review level, though, with a big gaming website, it's impossible.

I'm not saying that everyone is compromised, but the entire structural foundation of the "gaming website" industry is a wink wink, nudge nudge with gaming companies that provide them with the revenue they need--via advertising--to survive.

Big gaming websites live inside a box. That box is their financial dependency on the industry they cover. They are as honest as they can be inside the confines of the box.

Gaming websites depend on gaming companies for both revenue and access. If they lose either, they won't exist. They're not hunting for Pulitzer Prizes. They're Entertainment Tonight.

This is why I haven't gone to IGN or Gamespot for years. It's just not financially possible for them to be objective. It's not rational to expect them to be objective.

Let's say IGN decides on full transparency. This means that when they did a preview, they'd have to state up front where the preview was done, and whether the developer/publisher flew them out to see the game. Was their hotel paid for, and what about food? Were they taken out for some kind of event that night?

You might think that would be enough, but it wouldn't be--not for full transparency. In addition, IGN would have to disclose any advertising revenue realized (or anticipated) from the game.

Even then, it doesn't account for everything. It would be simple for advertising for Game X and Game Y to be tied to the review score of Game Z.

Is that kind of transparency ever going to happen? No.

That's why I read sites like Gamers With Jobs. Rock, Paper, Shotgun (which is no longer small, but their writing resonates with me). Pocket Tactics.

Here's a tool that someone needs to create. You would go to this tool, select your favorite games, and you could find reviewers who rated these games highly. Then you would have an idea of which reviewers had similar tastes. That would be far more useful than Metacritic, because it would be tailored to your preferences. You could also set alerts when these reviewers had new reviews come out.

This would help you filter out static and tune the Internet gaming radio to your particular frequency.

Make Better Decisions, #9 in a Series

Submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

I worked at a grocery store for much of high school.  A young man (no older than 21, and maybe not that old) came through my line with three items:  (1) a pregnancy test; (2) a 6-pack of Cost-Cutter (yes, that was a brand) beer; and (3)  a pack of condoms.   

This was before ubiquitous debit / credit card access, and in any event this gentleman looked like perhaps he would have continued to subsist in an all-cash economy into the future. So he began to dutifully count out his change and discovered that he hadn't accounted for tax; accordingly, he was roughly 75 cents short.   He looked at the three items on the belt and then solemnly pointed at the pregnancy test.  "Put that one back."   

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rebel Galaxy

Remember two weeks ago when I said I had played a space game that was going to be huge?

It was officially announced today. It's called Rebel Galaxy.

This is the first project from Double Damage Games, which is is the new company of Travis Baldree and Erich Schaefer. Travis was extremely nice and let me play an alpha build of the game, which consists primarily of sandbox mode.

First off, this game is just gorgeous (click on the screenshot for a larger view--it's worth it):

That's my ship heading to a mission waypoint, traveling at warp speed.

I've played for a few hours, and here are some early impressions. First, space feels substantial. It also feels independent and unscripted. I've run across all kinds of harrowing situations on my way to accepted missions. Second, the control scheme on a game pad is just terrific. Everything you need to do is mapped to a control. This means the control scheme is not as complex as Elite: Dangerous, which will make it more pick up and play. Third, some of the alien encounters definitely give off a Star Control II vibe. That's always a good thing.

The Torchlight series (and Fate before it) is vibrant and full of life. The mind reels at what the creative forces behind these games could do in an open-world environment. I absolutely can't wait.

Here's an excellent preview at Polygon: Rebel Galaxy, the newest game from the men behind Torchlight and Diablo.

Food Stuff

First off, an update on the Schlotzsky's post last week--at least, the part where I mentioned Chipotle. This is from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous:
Just a side clarification from someone who was living in Denver at the time.

Chipotle wasn't started inside McDonalds.  It was started in 1993 in Denver by a chef(Steve Ells) who is  still CEO of Chipotle.  AFter it had quite a few restaurants in Colorado (16 according to Wikipedia,) McDonalds became a minor investor in 1998 and  a major one by 2001.  This investment helped Chipotle expand into other states.  In 2006 the IPO happened and shortly thereafter in late 2006, McDonalds divested itself from Chipotle as part of an effort to get rid of non-core businesses.

Also in regards to Chipotle--where I had dinner last night--sofritas are now available more widely. Here's the description (from Chipotle's website):
We start with organic tofu from Hodo Soy that we shred and then braise with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices. 

Why would you eat this? Well, the saturated fat content is very low, so it's healthier. Plus, it's a pretty convincing imitation of "Chipotle meat", that particular seasoned flavor common to every meat/chicken option. Very spicy, nice flavor, and once it was in a taco, I never noticed that it wasn't meat. It's vegan, too, in case that's important to you.

We went to a new pizza place on the way back from a practice last week. It's called Pieology, and--conveniently enough--it's the Chipotle Grill format with pizza. You stand in line, choose the ingredients/sauce for your pizza, and they put it in the oven.

It's ready in four minutes, which is pretty remarkable.

The pizza tasted great, too.

This is mostly a California franchise (only one in Texas), but if you're near one, it's tasty and not expensive.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Front Office Football On Greenlight

Jim Gindin is still trying to get Front Office Football Seven on Steam. This is incredibly ironic, given that the recently released (and by all accounts, catastrophically bad) Front Page Sports Football made it to Steam with no problem.

If you haven't voted yet, please do. Jim is the dean of football simulations, and he more than deserves this support. Here's the Greenlight page: Front Office Football Seven

Make Better Decisions, #8 In A Series

I heard a story today that blew my mind.

On a local radio station, there was an interview with Bobby Patterson. Patterson, born in 1944, is a regionally popular soul singer who always deserved a wider audience and more fame than he ever received.

Patterson talked about his entire career, but what stunned me was when he talked about Shreveport (my arch nemesis). He said that there was a time when Shreveport was the regional hub for music in the South, bigger than Nashville (country) or Memphis (blues). I think he was talking about the mid 1950s, because he mentioned The Louisiana Hayride (Elvis Presley performed on the show/tour, among others).

He said that Shreveport would have been the music capital of the South, but that no one was willing to build the recording studios and associated infrastructure. Memphis and Nashville did, so musicians drifted away from Shreveport to those cities instead.

Make Better Decisions, #7 In A Series

The professionally dressed woman in front of me at Walgreen's purchased the following three items:
--"giant" Slim Jim
--string cheese

Monday, October 13, 2014

Card Dungeon Released for Android!

Card Dungeon is now out for Android, and here's a link: Card Dungeon on Google Play.

Also, the patch to address memory issues (and add some new features) is out for iOS.


Comfortable anywhere:

Fearless explorer:

Easily the most embarrassing picture Eli 13.2 has ever taken, and that's saying something:

This man is not good at driving:

Really--Mariah Carey water is a thing?

It makes sense that George would be a fan of this particular magazine:

Well, um, if you say so.

Earth View Extension For Chrome

There's a post at Gizmodo today that talks about an Earth View extension for Chrome. After you install it, whenever you open a new tab in your browser, you're treated to a new satellite image. It's easily one of my favorite browser extensions ever--the little thrill of seeing a beautiful image each time I open up a new browser tab is a great treat.

Even better, if you want to explore the image in more depth, there's a little icon in the bottom right that tells the location of the image, and you can click on it to open the image in Google Maps.

Here's the Gizmodo article: Earth View From Google Maps Chrome Extension. There are also images taken from the extension.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Frank Regan, and this is terrific and thought-provoking: 10 of the world's biggest unsolved mysteries. Also, and this is potentially a huge discovery: Scientists discover cancer-fighting berry on tree that only grows in Far North Queensland.

Here's another in the ongoing series of "headlines caused by stupid people": Coast Guard Rescues Man Running Across Ocean in Bubble.

From Jonathan Arnold, and these are quite beautiful:Here Are 30 Gorgeous Bridges That Are Making The World A Little More Magical.

Dan Willhite sent in a link to "Talbletop Whale", a blog with fascinating science illustrations. Here's a sample (and everything there is interesting); Flight videos deconstructed.

From C. Lee, and this is oddly mesmerizing: Forty Portraits in Forty Years: The Brown sisters have been photographed every year since 1975.

From Shane Courtrille, and this is just entertaining: Absurd Creature of the Week: The Vicious Duck That Beats the Crap Out of Anything That Moves.

Two tremendous links from Meg McReynolds--the first, and this is quite amazing: The black Victorians: astonishing portraits unseen for 120 years. The second link shows more portraits: Hidden histories: the first black people photographed in Britain – in pictures.

This brings back some absolutely excellent memories: NBA Jam Teams, Ranked. Yes, the original.

Here's a fascinating look at intersex athletes in track and field (I didn't understand the details previously, but this is quite interesting): A Brief History of Intersex Athletes in Sport.

I've written about Tuvan throat singing before, and this is stunning: Woman sings two notes simultaneously in amazing display of voice talent. And she's German. Same thing, though.

From DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh, another unbelievable Danny Macaskill (mountain biking) video: The Ridge.

From Rogar Robar, and believe me, you have to see this: How dangerous are magnetic items near an MRI magnet?

Here is an absolutely fascinating two-part article about Mercenary, and if you don't remember the game, the title says it all: The First Open World (Part One)The First Open World (part two).

From Steven Davis, and this is remarkable art: How Cindy Made Her Paper Mache Dragon.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


Last week, I applied for an update in my life insurance policy.

This updated application required a phone interview, which took so long that I almost wanted to kill myself (thus triggering the policy itself, potentially) before it ended.

One question, though, was quite interesting.

I was asked if my profession was any of the following hazardous occupations:

There are endless question trees in these interviews, but I assume when it comes to explosives, a simple "yes" would have terminated the branch.

I also had no idea that being a carny (amusement) was considered such a hazardous occupation. That rabbit hole, led to The Life of a Carnie (a stunning photo essay) and IamA Former Carnie (reddit), which are both worth reading.

What struck me about the different occupations listed in the question is how little that list has probably changed over the years. An insurance applicant in the 1800s had some of the same occupations (logging and mining, certainly), and it's a little puzzle to figure out when the various categories were added. Dynamite was invented in 1867, but I don't know when it was first widely used. The first rebreather (for commercial diving, potentially) was the Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus (what a band name!) in 1910. Spindletop heralded a massive expansion of the oil industry in 1901.

I looked online to see if I could find any life insurance applications from the 19th century, but no luck. I did, however, find this little little snippet:
The first insurance company in the United States was formed in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1735, offering fire insurance.  Life insurance wasn’t added until 1760. In the early years that life insurance was offered in the U.S., it was not nearly as popular as flood and fire insurance, and was even preached against as wicked by religious leaders.  Their argument was that purchasing life insurance was akin to gambling and betting against God.

Maybe chimney sweep and knacker were on the list at one point long, long ago.

I found one other interesting bit while I was poking around: Victorian Occupations: the 1891 London Census. Here are just a few of the occupations listed (seriously, the list is absolutely huge--this is just from the early "A" listing:
Alblastere--crossbow man
Ankle Beater-- A young person who helped to drive the cattle to market
Antigropelos Maker--A person who made waterproof leggings
Armiger--Squire who carried the armour of a knight, or one entitled to bear heraldic arms

If you're also nosing around in this list, and see something interesting, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


This is a tale of two brothers. Brothers with big dreams.

Eli Random is 6'10", 180 lbs. His father, legendary NBA journeyman Lester "Dub" Step. Eli is 20 years old. Here, have a look:

That's right: Eli Random is a professional baseball player, currently tearing up AA for the Erie SeaWolves.

He also has a brother. A half-brother, actually.

His half-brother's name is Enormous Bottoms. He is 5'5, 260 lbs., and he's 18 years old. His father was legendary sumo wrestler Ōzutsu Takeshi. He also dreams of being a professional baseball player, and he's hitting tape measure home runs for the AA Montgomery Biscuits. Here's Enormous:

Eli is playing Eli, naturally enough. I'm playing Enormous Bottoms. So we both have new careers in the Show, but this time, I'm trying to actually role play.

When I created EB, I poured everything I could into power. Once I started gaining training points, I put every single one into right-handed power. So here's a sample of his ratings:
Contact vs. left-40
Contact vs. right-40
Power vs. left-45
Power vs. right--80

I also never use the contact or standard swings. Power only.

What this means is that Enormous Bottoms leads the league in Home Runs. And strikeouts. A standard line for him would be something like this: K, DP, K, HR. Those home runs are usually of the tape measure variety, too (against right handers, at least). Here's a sample:

You can see the ball just to the left of the flag in the center. It's heading well over the scoreboard and into the water--on the fly. That's a bomb.

Plus, EB is a left fielder. A very, very bad left fielder. So all in all, he's a fairly realistic character: huge power, no plate discipline, and a lousy fielder. There are a ton of guys like that in the real minor leagues.

We'll see how this goes, but playing a role instead of trying to min-max the ratings is very, very fun.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


We're going far, far off the grid today.

Schlotzsky's is a sandwich restaurant in the fast casual category. It's one tier above Subway/Jimmy John's/etc., and because the company started in Austin in 1971, I've been eating their sandwiches for most of my life (and they're really, really good).

The menu has always been simple. Toasted sandwiches (with fresh-baked bread) and salads. For decades. In the last few years, they added Cinnabon and pizza. Still, though, it's a small menu. Here, have a look (thanks, Urban Spoon):

Sandwiches take up over half of the menu board. Pizzas, salads, and soups have about 40% combined.

Like I said, it's been like this as long as I can remember. A small, focused menu.

Last night, I walked into a Schlotzsky's and saw this:

Overnight, they've added 40+ menu items. It's incredible. They've added a series of pasta dishes, flatbreads, "specialty" sandwiches (that use a different kind of bread than the signature bread Schlotzsky's is known for), "Knife 'N Fork" sandwiches (not a clue), and an entirely new dessert menu.

I've never seen a restaurant's menu expand like this. And I think I understand what they're doing.

The category directly above "fast casual" is "bakery/bistro", and it includes restaurants like Panera Bread and Corner Bakery. This tier can charge more for food because the restaurants usually have slightly more upscale menus and nicer seating plans. It looks like Schlotzsky's is trying to move up a tier in order to justify higher prices/profit margins, and they had to dramatically modify their menu to do so.

I don't remember a restaurant ever doing this successfully. Usually a restaurant in one tier will create an entirely separate brand (often with an entirely different genre of food) to enter a higher tier (McDonald's/Chipotle, for example). So what Schlotzsky's is trying to do--change tiers with the same brand--seems relatively unprecedented.

Well, it's unprecedented in terms of someone succeeding.

Schlotzsky's is betting the future of the company on this new menu, because I don't think they can go back. They have one substantial problem, though, in terms of customers accepting this "new" bistro concept: the seating plan is still fast casual.

Bakery/Bistros have seating areas that emphasize "nooks". There are little places for privacy almost everywhere, and every seating location feels somewhat private. Schotzsky's, though, has a mass seating area with absolutely zero nooks. So there's a big mismatch in terms of the food they're serving and the seating.

I can't imagine that they can pull this off successfully, but what nerve it took to even try.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Card Dungeon Impressions (3 hours)

Next week, Mondays will go back to Gridiron Solitaire, but I wanted to give Card Dungeon another post, this time with impressions.

I had played development builds of the game as it progressed, but playing in a window on your desktop (Unity) is different from having it on your device. It's an entirely new experience, playing on the iPad (3).

Let me just say this up front: obviously, because Fredrik is the artist for GS, and because he is an absolutely terrific guy, I'm rooting for this game to succeed.

And it should succeed, because it is a genuinely distinct experience, something that is true for very few games nowadays. And I want to talk about its distinctness today.

First off, it's an absolute visual feast. The tightness of the camera (and yes, that does require to rotate the view more often, but I think it's worth it), in combination with the flat characters, creates an almost diorama effect that is quite wonderful, and that effect grows the longer I play the game.

Second, it's truly funny. There is a persistent whimsical quality to the game that is entirely delightful. It's a game that makes you laugh both with images and with words, and that is rare. I don't burst out laughing when I'm playing a game--at least not often--but I've done so several times while I played Card Dungeon.

Third, as you progress through the levels, the card play becomes an engrossing experience. The sheer variety of cards is staggering, as is their effects, and finding better and better cards the further you travel in the dungeons is addicting. Having only three cards that can be used at any one time feels very limiting at first, but the more I play the game, the more I see how the limitation forces me to make more challenging decisions than I would with a less restrictive inventory. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about each card--it's current condition, it's effect, the card type--when I have a chance to replace it with another.

Fourth, I like that the game pace isn't frantic. It's turn-based, and given the limit on the number of cards you have in your hand, the pace is measured. At first, I wasn't sure I liked that, but the more I play, the more I understand how appropriate the pace is for this game.

Fifth, I am so impressed by the coherence of the design and the game world. It's consistent. I don't stumble on things that don't make any sense. I haven't had any moments that broke immersion. It's a tightly-constructed, coherent game world, and that's not easy to do.

I've had one technical issue so far: occasionally, the game has closed and sent me back to the iOS desktop. It's not happening all the time, but it has happened a few times. Fredrik mentioned today that they're working on a patch to address this, so it's a short term issue, but it still needs to be mentioned.

I also think that the first dungeon (three levels) is less interesting than everything else. In part, this is to give the player a chance to breathe and understand the game before it gets more difficult, but new players may mistakenly play the first level or two and not realize how much more the game has to offer.

There are so many games coming out on iOS now that it's tremendously difficult for any one game to get attention. That's 10x true for indie developers.

I'm hoping Card Dungeon will be different.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, the fascinating story of John T. Downey: “Your Future Is Very Dark”: The incredible story of former CIA agent John T. Downey, the longest held American captive of war.

This is quite incredible: Ever See a Dolphin Eat a Shark? Also, there's a bonus link in the comments to the documentary "The Whale that Ate Jaws", about killer whales attacking great white sharks.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is hilarious: "MORE NFL" — A Bad Lip Reading of The NFL. Also, and if you're a Krakatoa nerd (my hand is raised), this is tremendous: The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times.

This is a mesmerizing recounting by Steve Wozniak of his relationship with John Draper (aka "Captain Crunch"), as well as a plea for help: The man who made Apple possible is in trouble—and you can help him.

From John Trujillo, and sometimes I feel like we're already living in the 25th century: A Wearable Camera That Turns Into a Drone and Flies Off Your Wrist.

From Jeff Fowler, another movie podcast you might enjoy very much indeed: Not Playing ("A podcast where two guys fill the gaps in their pop-culture knowledge by watching classic movies that they haven't seen before.").

From Dan Willhite, and this is just fantastic: Enterprise in Space: Turn science fiction into science fact.

From Simon Jones, and a new version of this wonderful bit of eccentricity is now available: Ordnance Survey maps Great Britain in Minecraft.

From DQ Visual Basic .NET Advisor Garret Rempel, as a follow-up to the Winnie the Pooh link last week: Statue of Winnie the Bear has new home.

From J.R. Parnell, and this brings back some fond memories: How Did the Game Genie Work?

From C. Lee, and this is a fascinating story: An American sculptor’s masks restored French soldiers disfigured in World War I.

And here's another fascinating story from Jonathan Arnold, because "fascinating" is definitely the operative word this week: Searching for the Good Life in the Bakken Oil Fields.

Wait, it's another fascinating story! The Myth of an Untouched Chernobyl.

From Dan Willhite, and this certainly isn't good: Lyme Disease Surges North.

From Simon Jones, and this is quite elegant: New Optical Cloak is so Beautifully Simple You Can Build Them at Home.

Finishing up this week, from Steven Davis, and this will shake you up: Retired NSA Technical Director Explains Snowden Docs.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Crazy Trip Dispatch #5 From Doug Walsh

There is a hilarious but entirely off-color anecdote in Doug's dispatch, so if you are easily offended, please steer clear. You have been warned.

September 30th, 2014

The past six weeks are a goulash of European flavors, sounds, and confusing roadsigns. My mind is a blur with the thousands of miles pedaled, the five languages we’ve encountered, and the complexities of three different currencies. “Let me use up the last of these Kroner before we cross out of Jutland,” I told Kristin as I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, only to confront prices quoted in Euros once inside. Crap. We entered Germany and didn’t even know it.

Europe is awash with too-close cities. In consecutive weekends we visited London, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, and now Paris. By bicycle. With all due apologies to Fargo, North Dakota, the Canadian capital of Ottawa was the first city we hit after two months of eastward cycling in North America. I can only imagine this is how Ichiro must have felt when being traded from the outpost Mariners to the commuter-friendly AL East.

From the UK we took an overnight ferry across the North Sea to Denmark and then pedaled south along the flattest landscape I’ve ever seen outside of southern Florida. With little to see but ultra-modern windmills on our left and the earthen dike to our right, we cranked out some big mileage days, pushing our average distance to over 70 miles per day en route to Amsterdam. These weren’t fun miles either, as Germany and the Netherlands have created a network of cycling infrastructure that is so impressive, the actual cycling becomes boring. Between the lack of hills, the arrow-straight, segregated bike paths, and the absent risk of winding up a hood ornament, I just found the whole region rather dull. The Netherlands may be the most bike-friendly country on Earth, but my love for a more challenging, endorphin-fueled brand of cycling runs too deep for me to ever want to live there.

Fortunately for us, so much of this tour happens out of the saddle. While the riding may have lacked flavor, our route from Amsterdam, south across Belgium, and onward to Paris added plenty of spice. Or, perhaps vice would be a better word?

Germany helped to get the ball rolling with wonderful food and plenty of beer. Nothing great, but better than the UK. Then it was on to Amsterdam where we spent a few nights imbibing the impressive local beers, sampling the fabled “coffee shops” – no need to roll your own – and doing a little window shopping in the red light district. The latter is where we met Sonya, an eastern European beauty in lace bra and panties who called us over to her neon-lit window and not once, not twice, but five times uttered what has now become a catchphrase of our trip. In between telling us that she likes couples, that we’re cute, and she charges one hundred Euro for twenty minutes, she repeatedly stated, as one might comment on the weather, “But I don’t leek the poo-see.” Which is not to be confused with poussez, the French word for opening a door. Yes, she likes couples a lot she swore, but, in that thick Bulgarian accent of hers, she’d immediately reiterate that she “don’t leek the poo-see.” A tempting offer, but a bit rich for our blood. We’ll continue browsing. Thanks anyway though.

Several nights later, perhaps in atonement for our sins, we spent the night at Maredsous Abbey in Belgium, a Benedictine monastery whose monks make really, really good beer. Then it was onward to Chimay the following night. Beer lovers will approve. And from there the Champagne region of France. I think you get the picture by now. So, as I sit here in my surprisingly bug-free budget hotel in Paris with  a bottle of low-rent rouge by my side, cork pushed into the bottle due to a missing corkscrew, I must look back upon the last month and say that Europe is an absolutely wonderful place to blow one’s travel budget. And one’s liver.

 The best souvenirs come in glass bottles,

Doug Walsh

Card Dungeon Giveaway [UPDATE: ALL GONE]

That's right--I have six (SIX) codes for Card Dungeon (iOS), and I'll give them away to the first six callers (so to speak). All I ask is that you provide feedback on the game that I can forward to Fredrik.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

I Guess Today is Micro-Post Day

Tycho mentioned a game called Chariot in his news post today, and it has one of the most charming trailers I've ever seen: Chariot. It's already out for PS4, and it will be one of the free games on Xbox One this month (with a gold subscription).


Okay, I played a build tonight of a game that is going to be huge. A space game. And it's not anything that's been announced yet. That's all I can tell you for now, but there will be more news soon.

Card Dungeon on Pocket Tactics

Here's a very nice mention for the game: Out Tonight. You can also see a trailer if you hit the link.

Card Dungeon Launches Tonight!

Still waiting for the App Store (iOS) to refresh, but Card Dungeon launches tonight.

Site Meter