Wednesday, September 30, 2015


This is one of those rare days where I didn't write earlier, just got back from hockey practice, and I'm running on fumes. So I'm going to turn in and I'll be writing again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Discrete Streams

I saw a couple when I was at lunch today.

He was eating his food. She was sitting beside him, on her cellphone, surfing the Interwebs or whatever. I've seen this so often lately, and it's become a concern.

What I am concerned about is people being together but being apart.

I don't mean for loners like myself. I have always been together but apart in many ways. It's very fundamental inside me. I only rarely feel connected.

Out there, though, are huge swaths of people who have always been connected. Cellphones and the mobility of data have increased their remote connections to people, but their intimate,  in-the-moment connections have been transformed into something far less rewarding.

I've noticed this very much with parents in the last six months, as part of my daily breakfast trip to P. Terry's. Parents are with their children, or at least in physical proximity, but they're not paying attention to them at all. Instead, they're fiddling on their cellphones for long stretches of time.

I don't understand how you bond with another person if you're not engaged with them when you're together.

I never thought that anything would fundamentally change how people communicate with each other, but this seems to be a collateral aspect of cellphones making so much of the outside world available at any moment.

I'm not sure where this ends up, but I know it will be somewhere else.

Kickstarter: Yes, Indeed

Jordan Weisman, the creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior, is back with the first turn-based BattleTech game for PC in over two decades.

That's all I needed.

Battletech Kickstarter.

Monday, September 28, 2015

As A Quick Update

Yeah, I sort of broke my wrist about two months ago.

I was riding and went to step off forward. The pedal, somehow, rotated around and I stepped on the pedal, even though my entire body was in the process of stepping off the unicycle. So--and this is almost impossible, because it's never happened to me in five years of riding--I fell off backwards.

Put my wrists down to break the fall because it's instinctive. I was wearing wrist guards, which helped, but my left wrist still hurt like hell a few days later.

Bad timing, though. We were leaving for Detroit the next week, and I was trying to finish the new version of GS, so I just didn't have time to have a cast on that was going to limit my ability to work. So I went and got one of those flexible braces at the drugstore and started wearing that around.

About three weeks ago, I went to the doctor for a sore throat, and thought I'd go ahead and get my wrist x-rayed while I was there.

I was lucky, though. I did break it, but it was a "chip fracture", meaning the bone broke, but the break didn't extend very far into the wrist (like it normally would). The doctor showed me the calcification where it was healing.

Haven't ridden since then, but it's better to the point that I'll probably start again in another couple of weeks.

Looking more closely at the wrist guards, I think I found the problem:

The hard plastic and the bend is designed to absorb the stress of impact, but I think if I had added a 1/2" layer of shock absorbing foam on top of the plastic, I probably wouldn't have broken anything. It's hard to know how much protection you need, though, until you actually fall and test what you're wearing. So I'm going to mod the glove before I ride again and hopefully that will be the end of bones breaking.

Well, Mars

Mars Shows Strong Signs of Flowing Water, Researchers Say.

I did not see that coming.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Jonathan Arnold, and what a read: MAN VS. MACHINE THE TRUE STORY OF AN EX-COP’S WAR ON LIE DETECTORS.

Next, and this is a brilliant story that I highly recommend reading, it's A Long Walk's End: when fugitive James T. Hammes went on the run, he went for a hike.

Steven Davis had a ton of links later in the post, but this one deserves special consideration: What Happened After My Kidnapping.

This is a long, fantastic read: How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars. Lots and lots of good history here.

From 3Suns, and this is just stunning: Scientists have programmed robots to build bridges without human help. Also, and this is sobering but not surprising, it's New: 87 Deceased NFL Players Test Positive for Brain Disease.

From Michael Gilbert, and this is tremendous: The High-Tech Toilet That Sank a Submarine. Also, and this is quite useful, it's Urinal Decisions. One more, and it's terrific: Nano Niagara Falls (Time-lapse, Tilt-shift, 4k).

From Craig Miller, and this is fantastic: To Scale: The Solar System.

From Steven Davis, and this is excellent: The Brilliant Doctor Behind My Favorite Obscure Website. Also, and this is fascinating, it's The 550,000 miles of undersea cables that power the internet. Next, and this is a wonderful article, it's Why the Best War Reporter in a Generation Had to Suddenly Stop. One more, and it's a bizarre optical illusion: The McCollough Effect. And even one more: The Ultimate Hybrid War Strategy: Attack Deep-Sea Fiber-Optic Cables.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is terrific: The Hardest chess problem in the world?

From C. Lee, and this is an utterly fascinating story: Brazil's Cancer Curse.

From Joshua Buergel, and this is sheer insanity: Kenny Belaey's Balance.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lumino City

I don't know how I missed this when it first came out, but I did.

Lumino City is an adventure game, with the backgrounds and NPC's actual miniatures filmed in the tilt-shift style. It's staggeringly beautiful and entirely endearing.

I don't even like adventure games, really, but I'm playing this game quite often in 20-30 minute bursts. The puzzles are clever, the help system is the best I've ever seen in an adventure game, and it's one of the most charming game worlds I've ever seen.

You can see the trailer and everything else here: Lumino City (Steam).

The Cough

Eli 14.1 is going for allergy testing tomorrow.

We went to a specialist last week who seemed entirely reasonable. There are several tests, had some bloodwork done, and allergy testing is just another piece of the puzzle.

When we find out about the allergies, I'll post an update in case you or your kids are having anything resembling what Eli's had. You guys sent in a ton of excellent information when I asked for help, and I'll pass all that along as well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


This morning, a man and his wife sat down three tables away from me at P. Terry's. The tables are small and close, so they were about eight feet away from me.

I didn't really notice them at first.

There's a hospital across the street, and many people will pass through P. Terry's as they visit someone in the hospital. I assumed that's what this couple was doing. I know all the regulars, because I have breakfast at PT every day.

I briefly looked at them before I resumed reading. They looked to be in their sixties, probably early sixties. The man was clean-shaven, and had on a gray knit shirt and slacks. The woman had dark hair, not quite to her shoulders, and she was wearing a simple dress.

They were Japanese.

I turned back to reading, Nothing to see here.

After a few minutes, I started hearing something. Their conversation. The man was speaking Japanese in a low, soft voice, and it was beautifully melodic. Occasionally, his wife spoke, and it was in the same soft, beautiful tone.

I didn't feel like I was eavesdropping, because I didn't understand what they were saying. So I just listened.

There were other people, and the music loop in the background, and the ice machine, and I heard nothing but their voices.

I did that for fifteen minutes, maybe longer, reaching a very still place inside me, and then they stood up. When the man began to walk, I was shocked, because he was clearly much older than I thought, his gait stiff and pained.

The man I thought was in his early sixties was a decade older, at least.

His wife looked at me as she walked back from putting away their trash. I nodded, and she gave me a flicker of a smile.

I stayed a few minutes longer, then got up to leave.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Being Evel

Here's something else you might be interested in: a documentary of Evel Knievel titled Being Evel.

What you need to know about Evel Knievel, first and foremost, is that he was an asshole. A giant, unrelenting asshole, a truly despicable person.

He also wasn't a great jumper. Somehow, though, the fact that he wasn't a great jumper actually played in his favor, because the possibility that he might crash made him exponentially more entertaining.

There are three facets to the documentary, and they're all well done. The first chronicles his jumps and the phenomenon he became, and there is a ton of outstanding footage (remember that Caesar's Palace jump, or the one in Wembley Stadium?). The second facet focuses on his personal relationships, which were uniformly disastrous. The third facet, which I'd never even considered before, is the incredible influence Knievel had on the development of extreme sports. Kids started copying (on their bicycles) what Knievel was doing on a motorcycle, and everything went from there.

If you know who Knievel is, and remember him, then this is a must-see. If you don't, but you're curious, this is an excellent introduction.


Eli 14.1 and I went to see Everest on Friday.

Here's an interesting double, if you have time. Go see the movie, then read Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air. They both describe the same events, but from a radically different perspective.

Krakauer's book came out in 1997--it's a riveting read--and was immediately embroiled in controversy, because the families of the deceased climbers were unhappy with how their children/spouses were portrayed in the book. A Russian guide name Anatoli Boukreev, who Krakauer held more responsible for the disaster than anyone, was incensed.

Boukreev wrote his own book (also mired in controversy for outright misstatements), and some of the families wrote books, and it's been an angry mess.

The result has been the Rashomon effect, where everyone involved has a substantially different perspective. The film is told from the collected perspective of the families. The book is told from Krakauer's perspective, of course. And Boukreev's book (The Climb) is yet another perspective.

Seeing these different perspectives in a compressed period of time is fascinating. I reread Krakauer's book after seeing the movie, and it adds several layers of details (not always corroborating) to what can be shown onscreen.

The film, by itself, is bleak but excellent. In the IMAX format, the power of the mountain is overwhelming. It doesn't convey its true power--that's not possible--but it's impressive nonetheless. And it does an outstanding job of conveying just how painful it is to climb Everest--incredibly, unbelievably painful.

Krakauer's book does this as well, establishing that anyone near the summit will have some kind of debilitating physical problem by the time they get there. It's hell, and hell isn't even an adequate description.

It's not an uplifting experience, so be warned. But it is worthwhile.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gridiron Solitaire #Unknown: The Championship

I did something that was quite gratifying this morning: I won my own game.

I've won it before, many times, in testing. The one thing I hadn't done, though, was win it on Veteran after playing all the games during a season.

When I started the 1967 historical league, I found that having teams and ratings based on historical stats was totally compelling. It's not anything I can do on a wider scale beyond personal use, because the NFL has to defend its trademarks, but for personal use, it's the best.

I started playing with Kansas City, which was a team that could be considered just above the midpoint of the league. And I got involved. Very involved. So involved that I played 132 games in the franchise, all in the quest to win that final game.

Last season, I had an incredible combination of circumstances. I would have clinched the home field advantage for the playoffs (very, very important, because the home field advantage in this game is real, and there are no neutral-site games in the playoffs) with a win at Detroit, and I was leading 27-17 with less than a minute left.

Detroit had the ball, and they scored with less than 30 seconds left. Then they recovered an onside kickoff with 12 seconds left. I didn't have any big play presses left, and Detroit proceeded to throw a 58-yard Hail Mary and beat me 31-27.

Brutal. And my own fault, too, because if I'd saved one Big Play press on defense, I most likely would have stopped the Hail Mary. Even though it was incredibly unlikely, my own mistake made it possible.

So I had to go on the road to San Diego, and I was leading until very late in the 4th quarter, when they scored to go up 27-24. Still, though, I had about two minutes left to go down the field and win or send the game into overtime.

Then I fumbled the kickoff return. San Diego recovered and my season was over.

I upgraded my Special Teams in the offseason. Went 11-4 in the regular season. Had to go to San Diego again, but this time, played an excellent game and won 31-24.

For the Gridiron Bowl, I was at home, because my record was better than Baltimore's. And while eight games during the season were decided by a touchdown or less, I dominated this time.

I've learned after many seasons that winning in professional football (and GS) is not just about generating opportunities for your team, but denying opportunities to the other team. You'd think one would equal the other, but that's not always the case, and it's important to understand what's more valuable at any point in the game.

Here's a really poor-quality photo of the confetti falling in the post-game celebration (yes, I marked out the team names on the scoreboard and in the end zone in consideration of NFL trademark lawyers. Nothing to see here.):

That's my Surface Pro 3, which Steam runs fine on, and GS is fully touch-compatible (with the small exception of not being able to change the team names when you start a new franchise).

It was, somewhat surprisingly, a jubilant and satisfying moment, even after playing the game so often in its many different versions.

What was also very pleasing is how well the game holds up, even after hours and hours of play. Every game still has its own dynamic. Nothing feels canned (and it shouldn't, because nothing is predetermined).

It still feels fresh.

What a Photograph

Hennie van Loggerenberg sent in this beautiful photo of his recent trip to West Coast National Park in South Africa:

It is very much worth clicking on to get the full-sized image.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and this is outstanding: 8 Memorable Comics Screw-Ups.

From DQ VB.Net Advisor and author Garret Rempel, and this is fascinating: You'd have to be smart to walk this lazy... and people are. Also, and this is entirely wonderful: P.K. Subban donates $10M to Montreal Children's Hospital.

From Maxime Tremblay, and this is going to significantly change pro sports: How the NFL—not the NSA—is impacting data gathering well beyond the gridiron.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and none of this is surprising: 20 Laziest Things That Students Have Ever Done.

From Brian, another excellent video of artisanal spoofery: Timmy Brothers – Water Makers.

From Steven Davis, and this is scary: Zero Tolerance for Childhood. Next, and this is a fascinating (and cautionary) article: How to build a sports superstar in 2015: The engineering of 15-year-old Josh McKenzie. Also, and this is sobering, it's When you can't play ball for your school because you're poor.

From Marc Klein, and this is a cautionary tale: You Aren't Good Enough to Win Money Playing Daily Fantasy Football.

This is a very sad story with poignant images: Ansel Adams’ Rare Photos of Everyday Life in a Japanese Internment Camp.

This is an astonishing (and fascinating) story: The Trials of Ed Graf. One more, and it's excellent: Palm to Palm with an Ancient Human Relative.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Rise of the Content-Free Internet, Among Other Things

I've noticed a terrifically discouraging trend in the last few months: the Internet has less and less content. The focus of the content has also changed, and much for the worse.

I like reading Deadspin. For years, it's been a hell of a sports website--funny, brash, almost muckraking, and sometimes doing investigative pieces that no one else would even think of doing.

It's part of Gawker, though.

Gawker seems to be hell-bent on doing nothing on its websites other than advertising and referring people to content on other Gawker websites.

Here's a recent example of what Deadspin looks like now:
Sports post
Ad ("sponsored" post)
Sports post
Ad ("commerce team")
Relationship post
As ("sponsored" post)
Sports post
 Link collection (to other Gawker sites)

That's three sports posts out of nine pieces of content. 33%. So you go to a genre-specific website, and you see content in that genre a third of the time.

What the hell?

Then there are the websites who redesign themselves into complexity oblivion.

Here's an example. I've always enjoyed the NBC sports-specific sites Pro Football Talk, College Football Talk, and Pro Hockey Talk. They presented information in easily-readable format, and I read every word of content on those three sites for years.

Very recently, they redesigned those sites, and they're damned near incomprehensible now. There was such an outcry at Pro Football Talk that they backed out the changes. Here's what all these sites used to look like:

You can click on that to enlarge it, but the basics are that stories are stacked with full text. it's very, very easy to read, and there's no real navigation necessary--all the news is in one panel, and you just scroll down.

To me that's damned good website design, because it makes it easy for me to read everything, and I do.

One other note. While the posts do have pictures, they're small, so the page loads quickly.

Now, let's look at Pro Hockey Talk, which used to use the above design, but now has completely changed:

Oh, crap. What the hell is going on here? You have a big "Top Story" panel, then below that you have "More Top Stories", then beside Top Stories you have "More Headlines", then next to THAT you have "Fantasy Player News".  On the far left, you have a bunch of promos for other NBC events that I don't give a crap about.

You have to click on each of those panels to load the set of stories for that particular panel, so instead of having information in one panel that's scrollable, you now have information in FOUR panels.

It's freaking gibberish.

What the new design has made me do is just look at the top-level article summaries instead of clicking through to read everything, because it's annoying. So I read far less content than I did previously.

What I can't understand is how the people who design websites somehow evolved into using the kinds of guidelines that produce messes like this. Instead of presenting information, websites now seem to be intent on hiding as much of it as they can.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Crazy Trip Dispatch #9: Kaman, Turkey

DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh sends in another trip report. This one, by far, is my favorite.
SEPTEMBER 16, 2015
Seven hundred miles into the Turkish portion of our journey we find ourselves slowly running out of things to be surprised by. Take today, for example. We were pedaling through one of the myriad small towns that dot the center of Anatolia when several older, well-dressed men come running to the side of the road, waving their hands frantically, and shouting, “Çay! Çay!” I turn to Kristin and ask her if she wants to stop for tea. There’s not really a choice: to pedal on would not only be rude, but we’d miss out on an opportunity to meet some new people. Which, after all, is what this trip is about.

We swing the bikes around and are soon seated on a bench outside the office of a small town bus depot, having tea with eight gentlemen bus drivers, each in dress slacks and a nice dress shirt. We go around in a circle, making our introductions while stirring the petite silver spoon that comes with every tulip-shaped glass of tea in Turkey. We answer the inevitable question about where we’re from – they guess Holland and Germany, as many Turks do – and are shocked when I tell them we are American. By bicycle, they ask. Yes, by bicycle. Finally, after 18 months on the road, we got around to printing a copy of a world map upon which we’ve drawn our route. I show them the map and watch as eight sixty-year old heads explode. A second glass of tea arrives and, with our shared language skills exhausted, we fall into our own private conversations.

We stand to leave after our second glass of tea is empty and utter our thanks. Teşukkür ederim, we each say. Thank you. Teşukkür ederim.

Spurred on by the supercharged Turkish tea (many Turks actually water the tea down, as it is customarily made very strong) we pedaled on into a strengthening headwind, wondering when our next impromptu tea party might occur. We’ve been invited to have tea with road construction crews, honey sellers, gas station attendants and now a team of bus drivers. It’s no wonder the Turkish-English cheatsheet we were given in Bodrum helpfully explained the pronunciation of Teşukkür ederim as “Tea sugar a dream.”

We went the rest of the day, until dinner, without tea, but there will likely be many more tulip-shaped glasses of tea in our future as we head towards Istanbul. We should be there in seven days, Inshallah. However, contrary to our original plans, we are coming from the east.

When I project into the future and look back on this adventure of ours, I know I’ll often think about the lessons we learned. There will be many, of that I’m sure. But chief among them is the need to embrace flexibility. Seven years ago, when we were busy squirreling away our dollars and eagerly planning this trip, we had come up with a route that we felt, at the time, was brilliant. One of the places we couldn’t wait to visit, a phenomenal place to cycle through according to those who went before us, was Syria. Several weeks ago we took a ferry from the Greek island of Kos to Bodrum, Turkey. Anyone following the refugee crisis will undoubtedly have heard of these places. Suffice to say, we are no longer headed to Syria. The people of Syria came to us, sadly with little more than the clothing on their backs.

From Syria, we intended to cut back across Turkey to the north and continue through Georgia to Azerbaijan and across the Caspian Sea and the Central Asian countries to China’s western border. But now, twelve thousand miles into this trip? I could tell you that the approaching winter weather and political instability adds too much risk or that we’re not sure if we’ll get a Chinese visa for overland entry from Kyrgyzstan, but the truth is we’ve come to realize that another five thousand miles of desert landscape just doesn’t interest us anymore. It’s time to hit the fast-forward button.

We spent eleven days cycling west from the seaside city of Bodrum to Cappadocia in central Turkey and are now circling back to the northwest, to Istanbul. Later next month we’ll retrace our tracks back across the Aegean Sea by ferry and ultimately board a freighter for a 19-day journey to Singapore. Spending the winter months cycling north from Singapore to Bangkok is the exact opposite of our original plan, but as a friend of mine so eloquently put it one day, ”This was never about have to, but about want to.”

And right now we want to skip ahead to Southeast Asia. Together we’ve decided that enjoying these next four months, part of which will be on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is more important than being able to say we cycled around the world continuously. Because we know the former will be far more enjoyable than the latter. At least for us. The phrase your mileage may vary never seemed more appropriate.

Cycling these distances affords one a lot of time with their thoughts; too much, perhaps. And today I found myself wondering if I would have had the wisdom/courage to abandon the original plan in favor of the cargo ship ten or even five years ago. Would I view this shortcut as cheating? Would I look at the trip as a failure? Would I think myself a quitter? Like a lot of people, I carry a handful of regrets with me through life, memories of less-than-noble decisions and behaviors from my younger years. Times when I didn’t “man up” as folks like to say. I thought about this a lot today and I realized, finally, that there is a big difference between stopping doing something that you don’t enjoy and being a quitter. Twenty years ago? I was immature and a quitter. Today? Seattle to Istanbul is still pretty damn far. I can live with that.

I'm Guessing This Means Something

P. Terry's has a music loop. For the several years I've been going to breakfast there, the music loop hasn't changed.

I've noticed that everyone except me sings along to "American Pie." I sing along to "Wish You Were Here."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Eli 14.1 and the Case of the Curious Cough

Eli 14.1 has big dreams about everything.

As unlikely as it sounds, he has a chance to achieve them, because to him, they're not dreams. They're goals, and he approaches them that way. So whether it's hockey or card magic or school or anything else, he works hard.

However, there's one thing that could stop him.

For years, he's had periods where he develops a cough. That's not unusual, necessarily, but the details seem quite unusual, which is why I'm writing about it today, because I hope that one of you guys will recognize the description and help me understand what's going on.

Here's the deal. On day one, he'll cough. On day two, he might cough twice. There then commences a period where the cough progresses at micro-velocity.

No matter how slowly, though, it does progress. It's unstoppable.

By day ten or so, he'll be coughing quite a bit. It's a dry cough. It might bring on some kind of infection, though, in which case it becomes "productive".

If it doesn't turn into bronchitis (sometimes it does), it will take another ten days or so for it to finally come to an end.

We've seen this enough times that we can see it coming from miles away, but we can't stop it. Pediatricians have prescribed inhalers (Flovent and Albuterol), but we can't tell if they help at all. He takes Flonase (a nasal spray for allergies).

Nothing that we've tried seems to be effective.

It's exhausting, because he doesn't sleep well at night, so he drags through days until it finally gets better. He's so robust and energetic on regular days that it's hard to even describe how tired this makes him.

It's possible that he has cough-variant asthma, but it's not exercise induced, which is normally one of the causes.

Regardless, this is driving us nuts. You guys have helped me figure out all kinds of things in the past, and if you can help me figure this out, you will have made an enormous contribution to my life (and to Eli's).

Thanks in advance for any detective work you provide.

Monday, September 14, 2015


The video by Clark Elliott that's mentioned in the "Pete and Dale" post is just stunning.

Pete and Dale

When I first started writing the blog, I knew a guy  named Pete.

I knew Pete because he was the boyfriend of Eli's babysitter Emily (who, after all these years, is still his favorite, and we're all still friends).

Pete was a good guy. If you looked up "good guy" in the dictionary, as the saying goes, you'd see his picture.

He and Emily eventually broke up, he moved, he got married to a terrific woman, and they have a little boy now.

He's still a good guy.

He sent me this e-mail over the weekend:
I wanted to tell you about a book that you might find interesting. Several people in my family have read it, and it's changing our lives.  I'll get to why.

The book is called "The Ghost in My Brain" by Dr. Clark Elliott, a professor of artificial intelligence at DePaul University.  In it, he tells about being in a car accident and suffering a traumatic brain injury, the debilitating symptoms he had as a result, and how he eventually found a new form of treatment called Brain Plasticity. Here's an Amazon link: the Ghost in My Brain.

This is a video of a talk he gave describing his injury, symptoms, and eventual treatment to a full recovery:  Cognitive Rehabilitation after Traumatic Brain Injury via Retinal Stimulation.

If you watch the video, and it's fascinating, you'll get the jist of the book.

I thought you might find it interesting because I remember you writing about Eli getting a concussion a few years ago and some of the treatment that he needed to do to help his brain heal.

Four years ago, my dad was hit by a drunk driver and suffered a traumatic brain injury.  As a result he's been in a steady decline in his ability to function.  Last year he lost the ability to practice law because he just can't remember to do basic things while representing his clients.  A few months back he stumbled on this book by chance and realized as he read it that he was basically reading about himself.  So we're going to get him the same treatment as Dr. Elliott in Chicago.

My family has started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money to help him cover the costs of his treatment.  You can read more about my dad's story in the link.  I was hoping you might consider sharing the link to your readers, or maybe just to some friends.  We need to spread the word as far as we can.  We're already half way to our initial goal, which I never thought we would hit, but at this rate we may be able to fully cover the years of treatment he will need.

Here's the link: Fix Dale's Brain.

Thanks. If Dale is anything like his son, he's a very good fellow, indeed.

Make Better Decisions (Personal Grooming Edition)

You should probably click on this image to enlarge it. It may be the world's most complicated combover:

That just doesn't work, sir. It looks like a bagful of squirrels are having a fight on top of your head.

On our way to Dallas for the leveling tournament, we saw this machine in a bathroom:

Here's a phrase you never, ever thought you'd hear: a coin-operated cologne vending machine with a spray nozzle. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Links (Bonus!)

This is truly one of the funniest videos I have ever seen: Hilarious video about handmade firewood skewers every artisanal video.

Friday Links!

Sorry, for the light week--holiday weeks seem to go that way.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: Why people in the United States are still dying from the bubonic plague. Also, and this is so stunning: Explore This Staggering, Remote Norwegian Archipelago. One more, and it's excellent: Conversations with Neil deGrasse Tyson and E.O. Wilson. Oops, I forgot there was one more, and it's quite a good read: Let's throw the dice: what video games can learn from board games.

From Katy Mulvey, and this is fascinating: Man Spends 14 Hours Riding the Longest NYC Subway Route.

This is a link, but it's to a Flash game. An archaeology game, believe it or not, and it's interesting (thanks to Matt): Excavate!

From Jaby Jacob, and this is an interesting bit of history: The DJ Who Helped Kill the USSR.

From Steven Davis, and while I think I might have linked to this before, it's spectacular and worth doing so again: The Annual ‘Corso Zundert’ Parade Honors Van Gogh with Monumental Floats Adorned with Flowers. Also, and this is excellent, it's How Louis C. K. Became Funny and Why it Matters. One more, and it's absolutely outstanding: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (that's a city).

From Craig Miller, and football nerds, rejoice! Football 101: Why Power Running Works/

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Tournament: Part Three

Eli 14.1 carried his gear into the rink for the finals.

We watched a game together for a while, then I left him with one of his friends. I've consciously tried to gradually step back as he gets older. There are things he has to do on his own.

I walked around the rink and saw a nice spot where he could do his stretching warm-up. Didn't mention it to him. I have to trust him to find a good spot on his own.

He did.

When he came out on the ice, he was electric. I've never seen him look as quick taking pucks in warm-ups.

The other goalie was very, very good, and the teams seemed similar. I expected a low-scoring, tight game.

Eli looked like he could play two games, or three, and no one would ever score on him. About halfway through the first period, though, one of his defenseman had the puck behind the net and tried to skate up the center of the ice.

He hadn't gone ten feet before he was stripped, and a kid ripped a shot past Eli from about three feet above the top of the crease. No chance.

This defenseman had played great all weekend, and it was his only mistake in five games. But we were behind 1-0.

The longer the game went on, though, the more apparent it was that Eli was in control. He looked so confident, so absolutely certain.

There were no second shot opportunities. Zero rebounds.

His team was still behind, though. They had plenty of chances, but nothing would go in. The other goalie was very, very good, and while he was giving up rebounds, his athleticism helped him recover.

The crowd started to grow. There had been maybe a hundred people at the start of the game, but now it looked like there were twice that many, at least. The Midget finals were next, and all the players from those teams were dressed out and lining the glass, watching.

1-0. End of the second period.

Eli knew that if he gave up another goal, the game would be over, and the third period was his best. And his team was playing furiously in front of him, but they still couldn't score.

With just over two minutes left, he wound up out of position for the only time all day, and a shooter had the puck on his stick from a few feet above the crease with a wide-open net in front of him.

Game over.

Then I heard the puck hit the boards, and realized that the shooter, in the pressure of the moment, had shot wide.

It was loud in the rink, very loud now, and soon after that missed shot, Eli's coach motioned him to the bench.

Goalie pulled. Ninety seconds left.

I felt so bad for him. What a tournament he'd had.

Then we scored.

One minute left, and I still don't know what happened, but somehow we poked a puck in. And with that, it was 1-1.

Regulation ended. Eli had given up 1 goal on 25 shots.

Overtime began and ended.


By now, the crowd seemed absolutely huge.

The shootout was a minimum three rounds, and the other team shot first. The first kid made an excellent, quick move, but Eli was sitting there waiting for him.

And the second kid. And the third. Eli looked like he could stop as many kids as they sent out there. He looked towering, and still as quick as he'd been when he skated out for warm-ups.

We couldn't score, either, though. So close several times.

In the sixth round, the other team scored. I couldn't believe it.

Neither could Eli. He looked at the puck in the net behind him and slowly sank to the ice, face down in front of the crease. Stretched out, I had the quickest flash of The Iron Giant, because goalie gear turns children into giants.

I hurt so much for him. What a game he'd played. I still see the little boy inside him whenever I look at him, but today, I saw the man in him for the first time.

It was a moment I'm sure I will never forget.

After what seemed like the longest time, he got up, and he stood blankly by the net, waiting for our shooter to end the game.

The shooter skated in... and scored.

It was tied again.

I didn't exactly know how Eli could stop the next shot, but he did.

Then Eli's teammate skated down, did a little deke, and scored.

Game over.

It was pandemonium. The crowd exploded. Eli threw his glove and blocker in the air as high as any person could ever throw them, and his whole team raced to get to him first.

I wasn't fighting back tears when it looked hopeless, but I had to fight hard to hold them back when they won. He had played so well the entire game, but the one moment when he failed, his team put him on their backs and carried him home.

Sometimes there are larger truths.

I don't know if I've ever seen a bigger smile on his face:

When he came out of the locker room, he was beaming, carrying his gear like it was as light as paper. I hugged him as hard as I could and didn't say a word.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Tournament: Part Two

Like I said yesterday, I was just hoping the team would go 2-2 in this tournament, and looking at the schedule, even that might be tough. Eli 14.1s team would be playing against four teams from some of the best programs in the state, all with far more ice time than his team gets.

Which is why I was so surprised when his team won the first game 4-1.

In the first five minutes of the game, a lob shot bounced off his goalie pants and a kid scored off the rebound, but otherwise, Eli was good. He was giving up more rebounds than usual, and a few pucks popped out of his glove, but he did a good of squaring up in front of those rebounds and not letting them become goals.

20 shots, 19 saves.

Around him, his team was terrific. Skating hard, passing, hitting--it was so much more than I expected or even hoped for. Big smiles all around.

Game two was later Saturday afternoon, and it was a tale of three different games. For the first period and a half, his team was dominated. Eli had only let in one goal--on a deflection where the shooter's stick was clearly above the crossbar, but the referees missed it--but the flow of play was definitely against us, and it looked like it was going to be a long, long game.

Then his team took over.

From the middle of the second period to the middle of the third, the flow of the game completely reversed. Suddenly, his team was up 3-1 and completely in control.

For the last seven minutes of the game, though, it reversed again. The other team scored on a deflection off one of Eli's teammates sticks (the shot was going wide until it was deflected), and then they scored again to tie the game.


Eli had two things in his favor going into the shootout. One, he's had ex-college players shoot on him so much that he's seen a ton of different dekes and moves. Two, he'd watched a shootout the other team had been in earlier in the day, so he'd seen some of their moves.

It was a quick shootout. Eli stopped all three of the shots he faced, and we scored once. Game over.

He played better in this game. Fewer rebounds, better control in front. He gave up 3 goals on 21 shots, but two of those were on deflections where he had no chance. And he'd made some terrific saves.

Then he gave his first post-game interview. This tournament's atmosphere was so jacked up that they did post-game interviews.

"This is crazy," he said after he came out of the locker room. "We may have a chance to win this tournament. What is happening here?" He laughed.

He slept 11 hours Saturday night, then woke up ready to go.

The third game was against the team who I thought was best in the division. Big and fast, they were scary, and we had a tough time keeping up.

Eli was getting better every game, though, and in this game, he was terrific. His team was outshot 34-16, but it was 3-3 and went to a shootout.

Even better, this was the other team in the shootout he'd watched the day before. Again, he'd seen everyone's moves.

It was a carbon copy of the first shootout. He stopped all three shots he faced, his teammates scored once.


The problem after this game was that we only had about two hours before he needed to be back at the rink for the fourth game, so we couldn't go back to the hotel so he could rest.

He was tired. It was a tough, tough game, and playing every game (as a goalie) can be exhausting.

"I really want to go back to the hotel, but we don't have time," he said. We were sitting in a restaurant eating some of the best pizza I've ever had (well, I was eating pizza, anyway).

"Okay, let's check Google Maps," I said, looking at my phone. "Is there a La-Z-Boy store near here?"

Eli burst out laughing. "You're kidding, right?" he asked.

"One hundred percent serious," I said. "I'll find a salesperson and ask them about recliners, and you can take a nap in one."

"Oh my God," Gloria said.

We couldn't find a La-Z-Boy store, but we did find a Mattress Firm.

"I can't do this," Gloria said, both dismayed and laughing at the same time, so she went to a nearby Target.

There were two salespersons in the store, and I wound up with a woman who was the manager. She was super knowledgeable and very courteous, which was good, because boy, I had a lot of questions. We discussed mattress technology of the last three decades, handling the heat issue with the latest foam mattresses, mattress maintenance, competition from direct distributors, how mattress pricing works...

You get the idea.

I also shopped for a new mattress--legitimate, because ours is almost fifteen years old--amidst the wide-ranging mattress Chautauqua.

I think it was all okay, though, because she was a mattress nerd, and I think we both enjoyed the conversation.

Eli found a mattress with massage technology in the far, far back corner of the store, and he relaxed and snoozed happily for about half an hour.

"I don't know if that will help," I said as we left the store, "but if this was a movie, it would for sure."

This fourth game was a semifinal, but it was against the team that they'd beaten in the second game.

This was a different game, though, and not in a good way.

The first three games had been ultra-clean, very well-played, and this game was the opposite. In the first period, Eli's team had 20+ penalty minutes. At one point, the other team had a 5-on-3, scored, and STILL had a 5-on-3. That's how bad it was.

In the first half of the first period, a puck took a weird bounce off Eli's stick. Goal. He had a puck covered, then the other team poked it out and scored. Goal.

The referee said he'd tried to blow his whistle, but it hadn't worked. Hmm.

Then he was screened and never saw the third goal.

I thought his legs were dead, but he didn't look dead. He just couldn't catch a break.

This was the kind of game in the past where he was likely to crack, a game where everything was going wrong and he couldn't get back on top of it.

At the end of the first period, though--incredibly--it was 3-3. In spite of playing shorthanded for the entire period, the score was still tied.

One of Eli's teammates skated up to him in the middle of the second period, the score still tied 3-3, and Eli told him "We need one more goal and we win. I'm not letting anything else in."

He didn't.

The final was 7-3, and somehow, they were in the finals.

That would be a good story, except Eli had a good friend on the other team (who used to live in Austin) who hurt his shoulder during the game. It was a borderline hit, at best, and Eli felt terrible that he was hurt.

Eli came out from the locker room, and I told him I was waiting to check on his friend, so he went to the car to put up his gear.

I waited outside the locker room, and when his friend came out, it was clear that he was distressed and really in pain. I hugged him and I could see that he was fighting back tears. "Let me carry your bag," I said.

"No, I got it," he said. He was blinking hard.

"C'mon," I said. "Let me help." He nodded and dropped the bag. Just then, Eli walked back up.

"Hey, I'm going to help Danny with his bag, then I'll be ready to go," I said.

"No," Eli said. "I'll carry his bag." He put his arm around his friend, then picked up his bag and we all walked together toward the parking lot.

TOMORROW: The Finals.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Tournament: Part One

We left the house on Friday at 2 p.m. We got home last night at 9:20 p.m. Our air conditioning upstairs had broken, and it was 90 degrees upstairs.

That was all okay.

This was Eli 14.1s first tournament after knowing that he was going to try out for Tier I teams in Michigan in March. Jokingly, he calls it "The March To March", but I know that for all his joking, he wants to make one of those teams very, very much.

We did a workout last Wednesday (he's decided that he still needs to do hard off-ice workouts during the season, and I think he's right). He's been doing a new warmup by a coach named Maria Mountain (who is totally fantastic), and after he warmed up, he said "Man, my hips and legs feel GREAT. So loose. I really want to jump."

He always does four standing broad jumps after he stretches and skips rope, so I set up the tape measure. His PR is 8'6". That is a long, long jump for a kid who just turned fourteen.

I jumped 7'2". For an old fart, not terrible.

He took his first jump. 8'4". "Oh, it is ON," he said. "I've never felt this good before."

Second jump. 8'6". "Seriously, I can go farther," he said. "I've got plenty left."

A friend of his and his dad wandered upstairs and asked what we were doing, so I explained. Eli talked to his friend and stretched a bit. They were watching when he stepped up to jump for the third time.

He took off, and I mean took off. He landed and put his arms in the air, with a huge smile on his face. "That was huge!" he said.

He was right. 8'9".

I can't even really explain how utterly insane that distance is, but it is off the charts. Way off the charts.

There's something else, too, and I don't think I've ever mentioned this before. There's a kind of joy when he jumps, a kind of happiness he feels when he's soaring through the air. There's nothing on earth like seeing that big smile on his face.

There are many kinds of happiness, and many degrees. It's possible to be happy with many things between you and your happiness. If you're very, very lucky, though, at some point in your life you will feel the kind of happiness where there is nothing, not one single thing, between you and that feeling.

That's how Eli feels when he jumps.

"I feel so good going into this tournament," he said after the workout. "I feel strong."

This was what's known as a "leveling" tournament, where all the teams in the state play each other so that they can be sorted into divisions. For Eli's team, there were only two possibilities: "A" and "B".

The only thing I was worried about was winning at least one of the four games so that there was no chance they could be put into B division. If they could go 2-2, I'd be thrilled. Just have no one get hurt, get into "A", and go home.

This was going to be a different tournament for Eli. There's another goalie on the team (he's also very good), but he was hurt, so for now, every game was Eli's.

TOMORROW: Saturday/Sunday

Monday, September 07, 2015

No Words

We just got home at 9:20 on Monday night after leaving on Friday at 2:00 p.m. Sorry, I'm just too beat to post anything tonight, but man, I have a story for you tomorrow.

The Flag Code

I'm a bit late with this, but during the Detroit posts, I mentioned a flag box and how stupefied I was that such a thing existed.

Jim Riegel let me know (as part of a very thoughtful e-mail) that there's such a thing as a flag code.

I knew there was such a thing, back in the day. Flags weren't supposed to touch the ground and things like that. I usually have a very difficult time understanding symbolism (although I'm fairly good at knowing when people are hiding behind it), so I didn't quite grasp how serious the rules are about U.S. flags.

They are, though. Very, very serious.

Here's a link to the U.S. Flag Code. There are 50 titles, with a section for each. It's massive. And if you want the highlights version, try this: Flag Frequently Asked Questions.

I was curious about when this was created, so I did a little research and found out that it was created in 1923 as a general set of guidelines. It was officially adopted by Congress in 1942.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Friday Links!

This is a stunning, beautifully-written article: Life or Death with Lil' Knievel.

From C. Lee, and this is a fascinating story: Dorothy Parker's Ashes. Next, and this is quite a story, it's How 3-D Printing Is Saving the Italian Artisan.

From Steven Davis, and this is quite interesting: Buffalo buffalo buffalo! One-word sentences & how they work. Also, and what a scam, it's Why Do Colleges Give Out “Honorary” Degrees? One more, and it's fantastic: Pixar's Free Online Tutorials.

From Brian, and this is outstanding: Father, son face off at Scrabble.

From Michael M., this week's edition of WTF in Science: Vast Bed of Metal Balls Found in Deep Sea.

From Ryan Brandt, and I have no words: A rare detailed look inside the IRS’s massive data breach, via a security expert who was a victim.

From Matt Kreuch, and this should surprise no one: It's not you. Claw machines are rigged..

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Star Citizen and the Value of Containers

Chris Roberts wanted to make a space game.

So far, he's raised over eighty million dollars. Eighty million.

In comparison, the Wing Commander movie, which Roberts directed and was released in 1999, had a budget of thirty million. And it was a complete flop.

With eighty million dollars and counting, it appears that Roberts wants the game to do everything.

That's a problem, and a big one. The budget is so big that the game has no container.

Containers are valuable. They force you to make choices. They force you to have discipline.

Haiku? Three lines, seventeen syllables, five/seven/five. That format, that container, forces the artist to be incredibly disciplined in expression.

Container problems happen to bands all the time. They start off unknown, they record an album in someone's garage or basement, and it winds up pretty damn good. They get signed to a label, they have money, they go to a huge recording studio that's ultra-high in quality--and they can't record anything even remotely as strong as their first album.

Too many choices. Too many opportunities, as odd as that sounds.

Actors, too. When they just play a role, they have a container. Then they decide they want to direct, or maybe even write. Suddenly, no container, and they lose control of their process.

Jack White did an interview once where he talked about the guitar he played with the White Stripes. It was a crappy Japanese department store guitar, and some nights it took him two hours to tune it before a gig. He said he did it because playing that guitar limited his choices. It limited what he could do, so he had to be better at what he could do.

So what do you do when you have $80+ million to make a game?

I'm guessing that without containers, you wind up needing 120 million, you don't get it, and the game is never finished in any real sense of the word.

I hope I'm wrong, though. I'd love to play a completed version of all the things Roberts wants to do. I just don't think it can be done.

Make Better Decisions (Vulture Follow-up Edition)

From DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh:

If it's vultures you're looking to avoid, than you may want to steer clear of the Anhinga Trail parking lot at Everglades National Park. 

How bad can it be, you wonder? So bad, the National Park Service has a large wooden chest filled with blue tarps and bungee cords for you to cover your car with, else the vultures bite, rip, and tear your windshield wipers and rubber trim off the cars, scratch up your paint, and, of course, make a giant mess all over your vehicle.

The best part? Trying to put the tarps on your car while the vultures actively try to attack your windshield wipers. And then, hours later, trying to shoo the birds away so you can take the tarp back off.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

NBA2K: It's A Miracle

I've never been able to play NBA2K for long.

It does many things very, very well, but players slide across the court in so many animations that visually, it just looks like gibberish to me.

I don't care if the cheerleader boobs bounce realistically, or if the player tats are raised off the skin within 1/128 inch of the real tattoos. Could guys just run around on the damn court without looking like they're at an ice rink?

Today, I saw this: Improvements to gameplay for NBA 2K16. In the video they discuss a new foot-planting "system", and in all the gameplay footage I saw, it looked fantastic.

No sliding.

After a decade+, it's a miracle! Now if we could just get rid of all the Madden code from the 1990s and before...

Marketing Avoidance, But Fun

I'm so sick of staring at website lists that I took a break this morning.

In the Steam forums, someone created a real NFL teams file for Gridiron Solitaire that you could use to have accurate ratings, team colors, styles, etc.

That was pretty inspiring, but what I wanted was a team file for my most vivid memories of football--the 1960s. Even though I was born in 1961, I remember all those teams fondly and remember watching every single game that came on t.v.

So I created a 1966 season file. All eight AFL teams in their own division (although I put Miami, which didn't start playing until 1967, in place of Buffalo), plus eight NFL teams (Baltimore Colts, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, and Detroit Lions).

I found stats on both leagues for that season and was able to assign accurate ratings, too.

If you're playing the game and would like a copy, let me know. It's simple to use and I really enjoy seeing the old franchises and team colors.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Painter's Guild

After working through giant website lists for hours, I decided to take a break and saw a story about this game over at RPS: Brushing Up: Painters Guild Comes To Steam.

It's quite a little gem.

It's a management game, but it's tremendously charming and entirely addictive. Managing a guild during the Renaissance is quite fun, as it turns out, and there are a ton of real historical events added into the game that add considerably to the flavor.

It's $7.99, and it's money very well spent if you like these types of games. Oh, and excellent music, too. Here you go: Painter's Guild on Steam.

Gridiron Solitaire: Marketing, cont.

I dropped the price of Gridiron Solitaire to $7.99.

This is probably not a smart thing to do, since demand for a card-based football simulation is almost entirely inelastic. However, the game has been out for over a year, so a price drop seems in order.

I also activated one of my product update visibility rounds in Steam, so I'm showing up on the front page of Steam in the "recently updated" category for a few hours.

I'm having a very strange reaction to sending out press releases and asking for coverage, though.

It's more of a paralysis, really.

I have the press release written, and I've gotten good feedback on content. And I have a second list of 700 websites that is giving me a higher (worth e-mailing) hit rate than the PAX press credentials list. So I'm up to 100+ websites that seem like reasonable places to send the press release.

I don't want to send out e-mails that are totally shallow, though, and that's hard to do when you're trying to market a product. I've received tons of them over the year, and most of them are crap. They're 100% phony and ass-kissing and I really don't want to do that to someone else.

I'd like to write something simple and honest. Maybe I'll get less coverage that way, but I'll feel better about the coverage I do get.

One more complication: Eli 14.1 has a hockey tournament this weekend, so if I send out all these e-mails tomorrow/Thursday, it will be difficult to respond to any questions people have.

So here's the coward's compromise (that seems like a decent name for a book, really): create a ton of e-mail drafts, save them, and them fire them out Tuesday morning. The NFL starts next weekend, so the timing is decent, and if anyone needs anything, I can respond promptly.

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