Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hanging On

We've been playing quite a bit of tennis lately.

My body continues to decompose. Something is floating around in my left knee, and it occasionally makes its presence known with a jolt. Legs hurt the day after. Feet hurt almost immediately.

Still, though, Eli 14.9 can't quite beat me.

He should. His power is so extreme now that I hit a ton of shots at my shoulders. His serve is ridiculous. Plus, I have to hit three winners to win one point, because he'll hunt everything down.

If I change spins enough times, though, and depth, and trajectory, I can get him to make a mistake often enough that I can squeak by.

I think I lose the throne by the end of summer, but until then, I'm living large.

We were walking out of the courts this weekend (I'd played pretty well, for once), and I saw half a pencil on the ground.

I picked it up.

"Here, take this," I said, handing it to Eli.

"Okay," he said. "I know something's up here. What's this for?"

"If I hit too many winners, just put this in your mouth and bite down so you don't swallow your tongue," I said.

"You'd have to hit one first," he said.

We played at a local high school during a gigantic percussion contest. The entire parking lot was packed with trailers and buses, and there were about a thousand kids, all wearing black (apparently, you wear black to percussion contests). So we were serenaded with snare drum solos and the lovely xylophone, which was strangely peaceful and soothing.

Monday, May 30, 2016


In the "make better decisions about endorsements" category, I give you James Harden and an arm sticking out of his beard:

If you've spent much time in the mountains, this view from the airplane is no big deal, but if you've never (or only rarely) been there, it's still hugely impressive:

"Dad, if this hockey thing doesn't work out, here's my backup plan," Eli 14.9 said while we were in the hotel lobby in Salt Lake City:

I found this while going through a good mountain of things Eli 14.9 has given me over the years:

Still made me smile.

Not Necessary

I heard an advertisement on the radio last week for a tutoring/educational franchise.

This was the sales pitch for franchise buyers, not customers of the service. Under 100k to start, very turnkey, and then the big one: no educational experience required. 


That implies quite a bit, doesn't it? Nothing like divorcing education from the education business.

Five years from now, in peak-tutoring business frenzy, they'll make a small change: No education required. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: How to make Victorian Nectar Drop candy and why are Lemon Drops called Drops? Next, and this is a terrific read, it's How Epic Fortunes Were Created During the California Gold Rush. This is incredibly interesting: Why You Never Heard About the Largest Disaster in Maritime History. Battle of Jutland fans, this is for you: The Battle of Jutland Animation.

From Wally, and this is hilarious (and the comments below the article are even funnier): Neighbors said to fear 'transient academics'. Next, and this is fantastic: 20 Gifs That Teach You Science Concepts In Seconds. Here's the Japanese version of Enigma: Purple. Next, and this is excellent: These Lizards Have Been Playing Rock-Paper-Scissors for 15 Million Years. This is excellent, too: New York’s Elevators Define The City.

From Steven Kreuch, and this is so outstanding: This is SEGA TEST (1996).

From Jim Bradley, and this is so entirely delightful: Woman’s pure joy over Chewbacca mask goes viral.

From 3Suns, and this is a long read, but it's very interesting: HYPER VISION: The world’s hottest startup isn’t located in Silicon Valley—it’s in suburban Florida. KEVIN KELLY explores what Magic Leap’s mind-bending technology tells us about the future of virtual reality. And a related video: The Untold Story of Magic Leap, the World's Most Secretive Startup.

From Brian Witte, and this is fascinating: Mapping touch to sight takes time to learn.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


One of my best friends told me earlier this week that his daughter (18, ultra-high achiever, freshman in college in some kind of honors program) was still having post-concussion symptoms two months after an idiot on a snowboard hit her from behind on a snow slope during spring break.

I know I talked about this when Eli had his concussion four years ago, but it's worth repeating, because if you or someone you know has a concussion, there are a few incredibly important procedures that need to be followed.

My friend's daughter did none of these things, because she went to an emergency clinic right next to the slopes, and the information they gave her was not very helpful. So she went right back into high-volume studying, etc., and her recovery was delayed by months. She still hasn't recovered.

First off, and this is the most important, by far: for the first 48-72 hours, your brain needs complete rest. Turn off your phone. No videogames. No reading. No music. Have your living area as dark as possible. If you have to watch something, watch Noggin (the preschool children's network) at half brightness and half volume.

Does that sound excessive? It's not. Your brain is trying to heal itself, and you need to remove every bit of stimulus you can.

After that first critical period, the key thing to remember is that you don't reintroduce anything all at once. Once you resume an activity, you resume it for a much, much lower period of time. If that goes okay, you can very gradually increase the time each day.

It's the same for physical activity. You walk, then you walk faster, then you lightly jog, but you don't do more than one particular step on a single day. If you have any symptoms, you don't go back down the ladder by one day--you go back to the very beginning.

That's a real key. No matter the activity, if you're gradually stepping it up and you start having symptoms (headaches, sensitivity to  light or noise, trouble focusing, any spatial issues), you immediately go back down to zero activity until you're symptom-free, then you start back at day one.

Don't screw around with this. If the post-concussion recovery isn't managed correctly, you open yourself up to symptoms continuing for months or even years.

The other important thing--especially for kids, since this is fairly readily available--is to do some baseline testing that establishes the normal level of brain functioning/mental ability. Something like ImPACT testing, or something similar.

When you have a baseline, it's easy to take the test post-concussion and see when normal mention function has resumed--or, if it hasn't, what areas are still deficient. Particularly for kids on team sports that involve checking/tackling, etc., it helps you understand when it's safe for them to resume practice.

I'll say it again: don't screw around with this.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oculus Rift: The Indifference

It should be an indication of how much we've been using Oculus Rift that it's taken me weeks to write this.

That's not a terminal disapproval or anything; time and life and what have gotten into the way. But I both find Oculus Rift extremely compelling and not worth bothering with very often at the same time.

Eli 14.9 is the same way, although he has finals this week and studying is mostly what he's doing now. Well, except for goofing around on a track last Friday and running an 11.6 100 meters (with a truly terrible start, too).

Truly, I don't have one substantial complaint about OR. The retail package is totally slick. The installation (for me) was terrible, but no one else seems to have had that experience. The games themselves have been quite impressive. In a few cases (Apollo 11 VR, in particular), I've been truly awed.

Still, though, I'm not using it much.

For Eli, the awe experience was with The Climb, and he played it for several nights in a row. Then he, too, just fell off and kind of forgot about it all.

So it's puzzling, really. I find nothing factual to complain about, but I'm still not compelled, even though I feel like I should be.

I'll keep you updated as I try out new programs over the next few months. Maybe I just need one in particular to really grab me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Playing Football

Ross Tucker was the guest host on the Dan Patrick Show today, and there was a discussion about youth football. It was focused on concussions, but Ross (who was a journeyman guard in the NFL) asked the Danettes if any of them had regretted not playing organized football.

I did play organized football--once--and there's a story. I've probably told you this before, but after nearly fifteen years, who can even remember?

I was a huge football fan growing up. HUGE. I wanted to play football so bad. In our extremely small town, though, there was no youth football until sixth grade, and that was just a few practices and one game.

No matter. I couldn't wait for sixth grade.

For some reason (I think it was a tight end on the Packers, maybe), I wanted to be a tight end. This was good because every single other kid wanted to be a running back, a wide receiver, or quarterback. So I got my pick of position.

That's good. Other things, though, weren't so good.

For one, I was skinny. Fast, but really, really skinny. So skinny that when I put on my helmet and pads for the first time, it felt like they weighed more than I did.

And hot! You cannot imagine how hot it is in Corpus Christ, Texas, in September, and how humid. Wearing a football helmet and pads made it feel like my body temperature was four thousand degrees.

I could have gotten past all this, though. After all, it was football.

On the first day of practice, the first drill we did was the Nutcracker. That's a drill where two kids face each other about five yards away, with the rest of the team lined up close on each side.

The objective of the drill? Run into that other kid at top speed and destroy him. Seriously, if you knocked the other kid out the coaches would laugh and pat you on the back.

Good hit, boy. Maybe you've got a future.

So I faced off in the Nutcracker against Mike Hall, who weighed twice what I weighed and was probably five times as strong. I was faster than he was, but when you're in such a small area, speed means nothing. Plus, the express purpose of the drill is to NOT avoid the other player.

I think I might have juked when I ran toward him. Hell, I must have done something. But all I remember is him hitting me in the chest with his helmet at approximately two hundred miles an hour and my entire body disintegrating.

I didn't black out or anything. But there was the kind of pain that comes from an explosive hit. It consumes your body, for at least a few seconds. Your brain is paralyzed.

I'd never been hit like that before. And I knew, immediately, that I never wanted to get hit like that again.

I played through the rest of the practices, and played in the game (where we threw exactly zero passes, so all I did was run block on every play).

It wasn't much fun, really.

After that game, I hung up my helmet for good. Canton never called.

Supplement to Fighting Eleven Design

Selecting your deck before each game, so if you have fifteen "player" cards on the team, you can choose twelve before each game.

Downside: slows things down.

Upside: you can tailor your deck to the team you're playing that week.

That was suggested by one of you guys, by the way, and it's excellent.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fighting Eleven College Football #1: Okay, This Would Work

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about an idea I had for a college football game.

The basic premise: play an entire season in 15 minutes. Recruiting mini-game, plus individual games resolving at the quarter level instead of the play level. Individual games would play in less than 90 seconds.

However, I had a problem, and it was a big one: individual games were hot garbage. Resolving a game at the quarter level just doesn't work.

If there's a points card that each player bids on, it "works" in the sense that a final score results after four rounds, but it has nothing to do with football. Everything at the quarter level, no matter the rules, felt nothing like football.

Well, that won't work, obviously.

Resolving a single game in less than 90 seconds only works if there's a football feel. Without that, it's just a random card game with images of football on top. Those images could be Vikings or giraffes or whatever--there's no actual connection to anything.

So I thought about that, and thought about it some more, and then got pissed off at myself because I couldn't solve this little problem that was much bigger than it originally seemed.

Saturday, I sat in a car in a parking lot for three hours. It was a nice day outside, not hot, and I needed to pick up Eli 14.9 from a school event at a certain time, so I just went ridiculously early and stared at my design notebook for a long, long time.

Then, suddenly, I realized what was wrong.

Resolving by quarter doesn't resemble football because it's not football. Quarters are just a way to organize time.

The next level up from resolution at the play level isn't resolution by quarter--it's resolution by drive. The drive is a fundamental part of football.

Once I realized that, ideas started coming very quickly. It only took about forty-five minutes to sketch out a rough design for the in-game mechanics.

Instead of trying to summarize it and inevitably skipping some stuff, you can just look at the whole thing here (click for the full-sized image):

This actually feels like football, and using the "players" you recruit in the game gives a direct connection to the value of the recruiting process. You'll develop a much more personal relationship with your players.

There is a ton of work left to do on the design, but I think at the conceptual level this makes complete sense. So I think this is the correct approach, and I think it will be much, much simpler to get a prototype running than it was with Gridiron Solitaire.

If you have ideas, send them. I didn't involve you guys in Gridiron because I hadn't done a game before--didn't even know how to program--and I was incredibly self-conscious about saying "Hey, I'm making a game!" until I had an actual game to show. This time, though, I'm not concerned about any of that, and the game will be much better if I incorporate your ideas as development goes along.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Links!

This is the strongest week of links we've had in a long, long time.

Leading off this week, and this is an utterly fascinating article. Who knew that the history of sumo was so rich in data? The Sumo Matchup Centuries In The Making.

Wally appears later, as he usually does, but this is a tremendous, mandatory read: Looking For Tom Lehrer, Comedy’s Mysterious Genius.

From jdv, and this is a beautifully written, heartbreaking article: The cave divers who went back for their friends.

Who knew Nigeria was a Scrabble hotbed? For World’s Newest Scrabble Stars, SHORT Tops SHORTER: Nigerian players dominate tournaments with the surprising strategy of playing short words even when longer ones are possible.

From C. Lee, and this guy is a complete badass: Listen up: James West forever changed the way we hear the world. Also, and I'm going to let him describe this: this YouTube channel interviews Japanese creators from a number of fields and has them give a tour of the places that inspired their work. Here's Swery65, creator of Deadly Premonition: Swery65. Also, Kenji Kawai, who scored Ghost in the Shell: Kenji Kawai.

From Steven Davis, and the detail here is just staggering:
Peter Jackson's Massive Gallipoli Diorama Part I
Peter Jackson's Massive Gallipoli Diorama Part II
Peter Jackson's Massive Gallipoli Diorama Part III

Also from Steven, and the numbers on Curry are just ridiculous: The Year of Steph Curry. Plus an absolutely terrifying mixtape: MVP Stephen Curry’s Ultimate Career Mixtape (2016), Do you know who Steph Curry reminds me of? Pete Maravich without the turnovers.

From Marc Klein, and this is provocative: Why you shouldn't exercise to lose weight, explained with 60+ studies. Also, and this is a mesmerizing read: My secret life as a high-functioning drug user.

From Wally, and this is utterly clever: How to complain about your Internet provider. Also, and this is a terrific read, it's The Curious Case of the Weapon that Didn’t Exist. Quite aggressive, really: Crazy squirrel stalks selfie woman. These are beautiful images: The places the world forgot.

From David Yellope, and this is quite the headline: Japanese vagina kayak artist found guilty of obscenity.

From Brian Witte, and this is fascinating: The Mind-Boggling Challenge of Designing 120-sided Dice.

From Jeff Fowler, and this is quite fantastic (it's in the style of a James Bond title sequence): Star Wars - Episode V “The Empire Strikes Back” Homage (Title Sequence).

From Meg McReynolds, and this is incredibly interesting: A Better Way to Read: In the era of attention deficits, the new text will not be black and white.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Eli 14.9, Juggling Fire

Well, passing torches that are on fire, which is even more difficult than juggling three torches on his own.

This is a phone video sent through something or other, so the quality is poor, but you can still see what's going on. Man!


One of Gloria's friends took this picture last weekend, and it's just beautiful. Click for the full-sized version.

What's Wrong, Accuweather, is Your Second-by-Second Forecast Not Available?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

And Fixed, Apparently

Through random Googling, I stumbled onto a link that is the actual Asus fix for my specific issue. Which no one on earth would have thought to try--well, very few people on earth, anyway.

I did have a quite interesting conversation with the photographer, who used to be a Radio Shack manager in the late 80s. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.


I shut down my system last night when I heard fierce rumblings in the distance.

This morning, I turned it on and saw this in a red box on the center of my screen:
Invalid signature detected. Check Secure Boot Policy in Setup.

Every Google result I see on this indicates that Windows Update screws something up and then this message appears out of nowhere. Also, that disabling secure boot in the BIOS might fix it, which I'll try as soon as the photographer is done taking pictures of our house.

In the meantime, I'm working on the Surface on a ping pong table in the garage, with two cats in their carriers beside me, worrying that they must be going to the vet because that's the only reason they get put in their carriers.

Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and heard a man in his sixties talking to (probably) his mother, who was in her eighties. I didn't hear the entire phrase, but what I caught was "...a monstrosity of women."

Immediately I wondered: is this an actual thing? Is it similar to a murder of crows or a cast of falcons? A parliament of owls, perhaps?

What would the equivalent phrase be on the male side, anyway? A bro of men?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Here's some dialogue I heard while listening to Radio Classics on Sirius XM last week. "M" is the man and "W" is the woman.

W: What do they call you?

M: Which they?

W: Your friends.

M: My friends call me Speed.

W: Why do they call you Speed?

M: Because I like to get places.

W: I like to go places.

M: It's the same thing.

W: Maybe it is, Speed. Maybe it is.

I can only hope that actual people talked like this.

Monday, May 16, 2016


There are lots of these around the house:

We're not actually moving until the second half of June, but since the house goes on the market this week, lots of stuff has to get removed as part of the effort to make the house look as large as possible.

Pre-packing actually works really well. I'll be almost mostly done packing for the move by the end of this week, which will make the actual move a little less stressful as it gets closer.

As I looked at this unformed box this morning, a question struck me: who invented the cardboard box?

Yes, a question you never knew you wanted answered. Until now!

From Wikipedia:
The first commercial paperboard (not corrugated) box was produced in England in 1817. Cardboard box packaging was made the same year in Germany. The Scottish-born Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard or paperboard box in 1890 – flat pieces manufactured in bulk that folded into boxes.

Also, and this is from Today I Found Out (which is an excellent and interesting website, by the way):
The Scottish-born Robert Gair owned a paper bag factory in Brooklyn. In 1879, a pressman at his factory didn’t see that the press rule was too high and it reportedly cut through thousands of small seed bags, instead of creasing them, ruining them all before production was stopped and the problem fixed.

Gair looked at this and realized if sharp cutting blades were set a tad higher than creasing blades, they could crease and cut in the same step on the press. While this may seem like an obvious thing, it’s not something any package maker had thought of before. Switching to cardboard, instead of paper, this would revolutionize the making of foldable cardboard boxes. You see, in the old way, to make a single sheet folding box, box makers would first score the sheets using a press, then make the necessary cuts with a guillotine knife by hand.  Needless to say, this made mass producing foldable boxes prohibitively expensive.

In Gair’s new process, he simply made dies for his press such that the cutting and creasing were accomplished all in one step. With this modification, he was able to cut about 750 sheets in an hour on his press, producing about the same amount in two and a half hours on one single press as his entire factory used to be capable of producing in a day.

Also, as a bonus from Today I Found Out, the story of one of the rarest movies in history (in terms of people who have actually seen it): Jerry Lewis and the Crying Clown.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and this article is both mammoth and compulsively readable, it's Lionhead: The inside story.

From Matt, and this is hilarious: Police to drug users: Stop calling Steve the dealer; we have his phone.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: If You Are What You Eat, America Is Allrecipes: The nation’s most popular recipe site reveals the enormous gap between foodie culture and what people actually cook. Next, and I did not see this coming: VIRTUAL WEAPONS ARE TURNING TEEN GAMERS INTO SERIOUS GAMBLERS. Next, and let me warn you that this story is kind of disgusting, but very interesting as well: A BITTER PILL Josiah Zayner’s gut was making his life hell — so he embarked on an extreme DIY fecal transplant.

From C. Lee, and this is quite amazing: Getting the pulse racing: A cleaner, sharper way to weld and shape metals. This is an excellent read: Primate fate: Chinese fossils illuminate key evolutionary period. Yeah, this crap is happening now: Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight.

From Daniel Willhite, and this is a remarkable story: Cthulhu Company Kickstarted Itself to Death, Then This Happened.

From Wally, and this seems ill-advised: Chainsaw Blender. Next, and this seem seriously useful, it's How to find out everything Google knows about you. Next, and this is somehow wrong and yet so funny: People In Toronto Created A Memorial To A Dead Raccoon After The City Forgot To Pick It Up. This is entirely outstanding (DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand alert): Paramount Studios' 1927 Map for International Shooting Locations in California.

From Jim Bradley, and this is 100% awesome: 100 Year Old Breaks World Record.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Olympics

The International Olympic Committee, just like the military industrial complex, exists only to make itself grow.

It seems that almost every Olympics now appears to be a looming disaster a few months before the opening ceremony, but man, Brazil seems like an actual disaster this time.

Little things:
1. The president is being impeached. Oops!
2. The water is horrifically polluted. Sorry about that, water events!
3. That little thing called the Zika virus. No problem!

Then, of course, there are the actual competitions, where an inconceivable number of people are cheating. Like this: Russian Insider Says State-Run Doping Fueled Olympic Gold. Oh, and it's not like the Russians are the only ones. The U.S. had an absolutely massive doping scandal of its own a few years back.

I still enjoy watching the Olympics (if I can skip through the one billion commercials and special features), but I find it impossible to be invested in them anymore. There's just too much rotten in Denmark.

That may just be day five of the plague talking, but probably not.

Perhaps the Most Misleading Headline Ever

Major new gameplay features are being introduced with Madden NFL 17

Yes, Charlie Brown, those are all new features, and you'll actually be able to see them in the game instead of it just seeming almost exactly the same as last year and the year before that and...

I've always suspected that Madden has had more work done on slow motion mode than any game in history, because it looks absolutely incredible in replays. Of course, when it's at regular speed it looks awkward and cruddy all too often, but those replays!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Fly

E;i 14.9 was in the bathroom, which is right next to my study.

"Hey Dad, can you get me a piece of paper?" he asked through the door.

I looked on my desk. "Would a post-it note work?" I asked.

"I think so," he said. "Bring it in."

I walked into the bathroom and he had one of those little Dixie paper cups pinned against the wall. "I caught a fly and I want to get it out," he said.

I handed him the post-it note and he carefully slid it under the cup, then held the note against the cup with his hand. "Got it," he said. "Would you open the back door?" he asked.

I did, and he walked out and pulled the paper away from the cup. "Go on," he said, and the fly flew away.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fast Cafe

The Rocky Mountain Development Camp took place at the Utah Olympic Oval in a suburb of Salt Lake City.

There was a snack bar there called "Fast Cafe."

They have the best snack bar signage ever:

That is quality.

The other thing about this snack bar is that it was, by far, the best rink snack bar I've ever seen. Chicken teriyaki bowl? Check, and it was delicious. Pulled pork sandwich? Check, and it was also delicious. Everything we ate at this place was fantastic.

Running the place was this soft-spoken guy who said he'd been doing it for 12 years. He legitimately cared about the quality of the place--a snack bar artisan, if you will--and his commitment really stood out.

Here's to you, craftsman of snacks.

Gaming News Posted by Walking Death

Yeah, it's worse today. Super.

DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh, among others, e-mailed and DEMANDED that I play a 3DS title called Pocket Card Jockey. It's a crazy mash-up of solitaire and horse racing, along with horse breeding and about a hundred other things.

It's also totally addictive, and the perfect thing for someone with the Ten Days Of Death Virus™ while they stare at the wall and wish they weren't sick.

What makes this game so good (for me) is that the individual races have a huge amount of strategy involved in addition to the card play. So if you have a 3DS, you need to check it out immediately if not sooner.

The other big news: NVIDIA Announces the GeForce GTX 1000 Series: GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 Arrive In May & June. These cards are built on TSMS's 16nm process, and they should be extraordinarily fast and efficient. I will eventually be getting one to replace my 970, which has been fast and cool beyond all expectations.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Grease Fire!

We got back from Salt Lake City on Sunday night.

I caught the plague while I was there. No rest, though, because there are a ton of people in the house fixing little things so that we can put the house on the market next week. Plus Gloria is leaving on Wednesday to go to Grand Rapids to look at houses.

So I'm sick, I can't get rest, I can't get any work done, and I'll still be sick when Gloria leaves, because the doctor said 7-10 days and I'm only on day 3.

On the positive side, Eli 14.9 played very well. Only 3 goals given up on 56 shots (.946 save percentage) over four periods. He also fought off being sick (he'd been sick for three days before we left, and I probably caught what I have from him).

The bad news? There were 12 goalies at camp, and they're only taking 1 to Nationals. I'm guessing it's between him and 3 other kids, and they're going to notify us by Thursday. Everyone at the camp--staff, parents, and kids--were tremendously nice and it seemed like everyone had a great time.

Here are a few pictures to hold you over until I can actually write again.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an absolutely mind-blowing story from Brian Witte: Forest discovery: Trees trade carbon among each other.

From Meg McReynolds, and how amazing is this? AFD uses robot to help save people stuck in fast moving water. Next, and this is an excellent read, it's Wear Patterns: How What’s Missing Can Help Us See Data Better. I swear I really just care about the wait: What really drives you crazy about waiting in line (it actually isn’t the wait at all).

From Wally, and this is a mesmerizing video: Ever Wondered Why A Rolex Was So Expensive? Watch This… This is excellent: Taste of a decade: 1880s restaurants. Next, and some of these are downright terrifying (although I do think "Chicken & Donut Skewer" is long overdue): Ballparks keep unleashing insane gut-busting food creations. This is very cool: How To Move Barrels.

From Steven Davis, and this is a touching tribute to a great, great talent: Bruce Springsteen's Tribute To Prince Is A Lesson In Public Mourning. Next, and this is will make you both angry and sad: Hillsborough disaster: deadly mistakes and lies that lasted decades. This is beautiful: Kung Fu Motion Visualization.

From C Lee, and this is fascinating: The leap second: Because our clocks are more accurate than the Earth.

From Roger Robar, and this is wonderful: I fly 747s for a living. Here are the amazing things I see every day.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

This is From the Way, Way, Wayback Machine

We're going through everything--everything--before we move, getting rid of anything we don't need.

Many of you won't even know what this is, but the old school guys will know:

I never wanted to wear the shirt (at the time), because I didn't want to wear it out. Eighteen years later, though, it's going into the rotation.

A Nice Picture

This is probably my favorite picture. Me and Eli 14.8 walking through the snow in Detroit in early April. Gloria was a little ways behind us and took the picture.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Crazy Trip Dispatch: Aftermath from Doug Walsh

I asked Doug to write about what it felt like when his incredible trip was over, and here's what he sent me.
APRIL 26, 2016

It took more than three months before I felt comfortable being home. Three months before I was able to finally get my thick-headed subconscious to understand that I needn’t spend my waking minutes wondering where we’re going to sleep, where we’re going to get food and water. Three months before I was able to quiet a mind that had run at full throttle for two years.

That’s right, we’re home — and have been since December 12th. I’ll explain.

My last dispatch, dated September 15th, was from the middle of Turkey. We were en route to Istanbul before returning to Piraeus, Greece where we’d catch a cargo ship to Malaysia. We did all of that. But right before getting on that ship, my wife’s former employer emailed her an offer we couldn’t refuse. Instead of spending the winter cycling north through Southeast Asia, we pedaled 50 miles to Singapore, had the bikes and gear shipped home, and then returned to Bali for a month of relaxation and celebration. That we didn’t look back or shed a tear as we left our bikes to be boxed up was all the indication we needed to know the time was right. The trip had come to an end.

And now we’re back in the Pacific Northwest, renting an over-priced townhome a mile from our old house, a house now worth nearly thirty-percent more than we sold it for just two years ago. Oh well. We’ve seen all of our friends, shared meals with everyone who ever took an interest in our trip, and have finally run out of questions to answer and tales to tell. My wife had gone back to work at her old employer in downtown Seattle, albeit with a promotion, and I spend my day’s working on the novel I began brainstorming while cycling through the Pyrenees. I’ve also resumed writing video game strategy guides for my old publisher. My first book since coming home will release in two weeks.

Somehow, through a blend of hard work, luck, and Providence, we managed to step right back into our old lives as if we never left. Perhaps even better.

But what about the culture shock of reentry? Wasn’t it hard to spend all that time abroad and then return to the United States?

The challenges we faced returning to the United States had very little to do with culture shock. And the reason I say that is because, in some ways, we never truly left. Because of our blog, social media, and regular phone calls with family, we never actually got that isolation from American culture and news that we had anticipated. Part of it is because the world has grown smaller with technology and much of the world stays abreast of International news — news often dominated by U.S. politics and shootings. Also, we spent the first several months of our trip cycling across North America. Then, six months later, we returned to spend time with my wife’s ailing father. A few months after that, we returned again for his memorial service.

The profound culture shock long-term travelers expect is, in my opinion, very hard to experience in this digital age unless you do one of two things. One option is to truly commit yourself to going off-line: no Facebook, no regular contact with friends and family back home, and no YouTube or cable news. Another option, and one even more difficult for overland travelers like ourselves, is to jump directly between countries that are known to have vastly different cultures.

By bicycling west to east we were able to wade into the varying cultures of the world and see the subtler shifts and influences culture and history have on a given region. It was only in those times where we transited directly between two different, distant, countries that we encountered true culture shock: Morocco to Italy by ferry; Italy to Florida after spending six months in Europe; loud, brash New Jersey to Japan; and clean, peaceful Japan to chaotic, noisy Indonesia. I’ll never forget spending a month in rural Morocco, getting on a ferry, and then 72 hours later waking up in a Christmas village in downtown Livorno, Italy. A complete mind-melter.

No, returning home didn’t provide much culture shock. It was more like cultural disappointment, particularly when it came to food. We often find ourselves longing for the higher quality and lower cost of Mediterranean produce. We stare at the paltry baked goods on sale at cafes here in the USA and think about the decadent pastries on offer in France for a fraction of the cost of a factory-made muffin. And don’t get me started on the amazing fruit in Indonesia. Other difficulties involved the socio-political disappointments we felt highlighted by the — ahem — quality of the discourse surrounding the current Presidential election.

But the hardest part about returning home, for me, was allowing the stress to dissipate. For the better part of two years, the pressure of navigating foreign countries enveloped me. Every day, usually in areas where few people spoke English, I was responsible for navigation, finding safe shelter, food and water. My wife assisted, of course, but day-to-day logistics fell under my list of responsibilities. And even when we were holed up in a hotel for a few days and knew exactly where our daily necessities were being fulfilled, my mind still raced with the anticipation and anxiety of where we were headed next.

What’s next? What’s next? Every day over and over, for two years I worried about what was next.

As much as I enjoyed our travels and am terrifically proud of having undertaken such a trip, the day-to-day stresses weighed on me like a lead blanket in the dentist’s chair. And though many of the areas we traveled through were very conducive for bicycle touring, there was always an uncertainty bubbling beneath the surface, kept simmering by the need to constantly monitor our spending and out of concern for family, for employment, and for our future. Even home, back in our old town, it took me several months to finally quiet my mind and allow myself to relax, to adjust to the comfort and security of this life we enjoy.

The act of simply being in the moment proved far harder than the 13,000 miles we cycled, more difficult than the nearly 500,000 feet of hills and mountains we ascended.

I sometimes get asked if I’m sad the trip is over. The first time someone asked this, I didn’t know how to answer. After a couple of weeks of fielding questions about our trip, I found myself sharing stories about the struggles and lowlights. Part of it was a self-effacing instinct to deflect attention and jealousy — I could never get comfortable hearing people say they live vicariously through me. But more than that, I was reminding myself of the difficulties we faced in order to postpone my mourning it was over.

For nearly seven years we saved our money, researched gear, and planned our route. And for twenty- one months we traveled. Like few people ever get to do. And then… poof! It was over. And we’re back home. And life goes on. And the trip gradually becomes a distant memory.

I think of the trip not only as this amazing thing we did but as having had a life of its own. It became a friend, a lover. And then it passed from our world. But unlike when a family member or a pet dies, I don’t find comfort in reminiscing about the good times we shared. That only makes me miss it more. It makes me want to pack up the bikes and head right back out onto the road again. Maybe south this time? Instead I think of the hard times, the times when it wasn’t really all that fun. The times when the sun was setting and it seemed like we’d ridden eighty miles without finding a suitable place to pitch our tent. The times when it was a hundred and ten degrees, we were out of water, and the earsplitting chirp of the cicadas kept us awake all night long. I find myself dwelling on these more trying moments to remind myself that I am glad to be home and, lest I forget, that endless travel is hard. Sometimes much harder than ordinary living.

But those times were few. They really were. Every aspect of the trip went as well as we had any right to ever hope for. And we are glad to be home; we love it here. Bicycle touring around the world is a hell of an adventure. But it’s not the only one. We’ve got plenty of bite-sized adventures in store for this year and years to come.

Though not nearly as exciting as making it from Seattle to Singapore by bicycle and ship, I have begun work on a novel inspired by our trip. I first came up with the idea while in Spain and then spent most of our time at sea and in Bali working on the outline. You can lean more about my upcoming work-in-progress, Tailwinds Past Florence, and my experience as a first-time novelist at www.dougwalsh.com.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Salt Lake City!

We leave for Salt Lake City early tomorrow, and I'll have limited access to e-mail until late Sunday.

Gloria is staying at home this time to help supervise some work being done on the house to get it ready to put on the market in a few weeks.

You have an excellent guest column on Wednesday, Friday Links is already written and cued up, and I'll write something from SLC on Thursday, hopefully with pictures.


When I wrote about my creeping anxiety a few weeks ago (it's better now, thanks), I didn't really understand anxiety in general or even thought I knew someone who struggled with it.

I did, though.

A longtime DQ reader, someone who I very much respect, sent me a deeply personal e-mail about his own struggle with anxiety. I immediately realized that this might help someone, and he agreed, so he graciously allowed me to share what he wrote.

I thought I would provide you a little more insight into the anxiety problem from another person's experience.  I spent a good portion of my life only vaguely aware that I had problems.  For the most part, I was fine.  But when stressed or unhappy, I changed.  I thought maybe I suffered from mild depression, but in my mind it was never that bad.  When I was in graduate school I hated it.  It was so different compared to undergraduate school.  Now the pressure I felt to excel came from outside sources and not just from my own desire.  I also depended entirely on my assistantship to live on, which meant I did not have a penny to spend on anything fun.  I paid rent, utilities and food.  I found myself staying in bed until 4:00 to 5:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday because there was nothing to do but study, and I was sick of studying, so I just slept all day on the weekends.  I almost dropped out once and was talked out of it.

My first presentation to the entomology department's students and faculty was on the history of entomology.  I got up and started.  It was suppose to be 30-35 minutes long.  I gave the entire talk but afterwards had no idea what I had said or how well I had done.  The entire time, I was focused on the door at the back of the room and fighting the desire to run for it.  I thought ... would someone try to stop me,  would they stop me?  All I could do was stare at the door and fight the desire to run.  Other students later told me I did okay, although I did mix dates up (sometimes saying 1967 when it should have been 1867 and vice versa).  It was all a blur.  I had no idea that I was having a full-blown panic attack.  Same thing happened at my oral exams.  I absolutely flunked it.  I barely knew my own name, much less the answer to even the most basic question I was asked.  I had straight A's and they all knew I knew the material.  They were totally perplexed at what had happened.  They passed me even though I am pretty sure I flunked it.  Again, it was a blur.  I do remember asking if I could take my jacket off because I was so hot.

After that, things calmed down for a while.  The biggest problem I had was like you, a racing mind when I got stressed or worried.  When it happened, I found it impossible to sleep for nights until I finally slept from exhaustion.  I simply could not get my mind to slow down, even at night.  I never really thought of it as anxiety, it was just normal stress to me.

Finally, about 20 years ago, all 3 things converged at once.  Depression, anxiety, and panic.  I suffered for about three weeks.  Could not sleep, could not eat, I was barely functional.  I suddenly realized I was like a drowning victim.  I felt like I was being pulled under and that my system was being pumped full of adrenaline.  I felt the fight or flight instinct, but there was nothing to fight or flee from but my own mind.  At that point in my life, I had a rather poor opinion of psychology as a science, but I realized I needed help.  I called about three offices, and the first two calls were answered by a receptionist who said they could set me up to see someone within the next week or two.  I wanted to scream I was drowning and that was too long.  The third call was answered by the psychologist himself.  He immediately knew from my voice that I was in trouble and asked me to come to his office in the next couple of hours.  I walked out of his office some 3-4 hours later feeling like a different person.  Just having it all explained to me was a relief, and he was fortunately a very good psychologist.  Over about six months, I learned more about depression, panic attacks, and anxiety.  I learned that what had happened to me was almost exactly what occurs with people suffering from PTSD.  The "incidents" that I had experienced throughout my life finally made sense.

After discussing my own experiences including the death of my mother from suicide, he suggested the problem very likely originated with my brain chemistry, and that I likely inherited some deficiency in neuro-transmitters from my mother.  I also apparently did not have a good understanding of how to reduce stress.  What I had always thought of as stress reducing and relaxing was not necessary reducing stress.  He recommended I speak with my doctor and start taking Zoloft to reduce anxiety and to keep some Xanax on-hand for acute attacks.  My doctor agreed.  I stopped taking Zoloft at one point years ago thinking I could handle it better.  I did okay for several years but then found myself with mild depression and anxiety symptoms.  When I talked to my doctor about it, he took out his Rx pad and said, go back on the Zoloft.  You tolerate it well and you can take it the rest of your life without worrying about it.  So I did.  I do occasionally take a Xanax for the racing mind problem but only after I have had difficulty sleeping for several nights.  I describe it as taking my mind out of gear so it can wind down.

Some final comments.  I did spend time learning and practicing meditation.  Read some books.  It really is wonderful, and  I found it altered my whole outlook.  I tended to be calmer in my approach to everything.  I could even drive to work without getting upset about the maelstrom of insane drivers swirling around me.  It really is tremendously helpful in many aspects of life.  I slowly fell away from the practice but keep promising myself to start again. I also made a point of explaining to my children as they got older what I had experienced and that if they inherited any of the tendencies I had, they needed to understand it and never be afraid or embarrassed to talk to someone about it and get help. I'm glad I did because my daughter had problems after the birth of her first child, and when she realized what was happening from our talks, she got help and weathered everything well.

I think your plan is a good one.  Meditation can be very helpful though it may take awhile for its calming effects to begin.  On the other hand, I would also suggest that even in our pill addicted society today, don't suffer needlessly for too long before talking to your doctor again.

Hope this helps a little.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a mind that won't shut down can also be extremely debilitating.

Monday, May 02, 2016


I've been watching the dirtiest political campaign I've ever seen unfold in the last month or so.

I follow politics. I've seen some incredible, foul things over the last few decades. And this campaign is worse.

Who is it, you might be wondering? Uber.

The city wants Uber drivers to go through fingerprint background checks. Uber objects, strongly, but in the blizzard of advertising they've unleashed, I've never heard the word "fingerprint" mentioned once. Instead, they've obfuscated the issue so thoroughly that it's impossible for anyone who isn't paying close attention to even understand what's going on.

Last night, I saw a commercial with a war veteran (including the obligatory picture of him with his squad mates) who said he was proud of his service. Somehow, wrapped inside that was Uber, talking some kind of crazy gibberish about the election.

It's totally foul and reprehensible.

So if you think Uber is some kind of feel-good teddy bear corporation, be advised that that it is, unfortunately, the opposite.

I May Have Something Here

I'm not even sure why this happened, but I had an idea last week and I've been working on it.

Instead of not discussing the ideas I have and then awkwardly announcing a game five years later, when I do another game (maybe this), it's going to be much more collaborative.

Gridiron Solitaire takes 15 minutes to play one game during the season. Roughly 4-5 hours to play one full season.

This is fast, by any sports game standard. Fifteen minutes for one game is very fast.

Times have changed, though, and so have attention spans.

The mechanics of college football have always fascinated me. More than a hundred teams, recruiting, polls, etc. It's crazy.

So crazy that I couldn't make a game about it.

At the per play level, college football couldn't be simulated in a solitaire format. Wait--that's not right. I couldn't simulate the AI at a per play level. The NFL has all kinds of data, and the upper and lower boundaries of behavior were narrowly separated to the degree that I could create a realistic AI.

College, though, is a gigantic goat rodeo.


What if, instead of trying to create a realistic simulation at the per-play level, I did it at the quarter level instead? What if, instead of a single game taking 15 minutes, it took 1 minute instead?

What if one full season took 15 minutes instead of one single game?

I like that. 3-4 minutes for recruiting, then 10-11 minutes for the season.

Totally customizable, so if you want real team names and real bowl games, it would be easy to do.

Why does this (for now) appeal to me more than The Humble Armory?
--it's much less complex. I understand how to code this kind of "thing", generally.
--it's more familiar territory. It maps to a real-world environment that I am very, very familiar with.
--I could prototype something in months, not years.

The basics go something like this. The user recruits players (in a 3-4 minutes mini-game) to replace his outgoing seniors and players declaring early for the pro draft. These players are cards, and there are thousands of of them.

Each of these cards have characteristics. Some are offensive, some are defensive. The more powerful cards have both primary and secondary actions.

At the simplest level, each has a point value. Better teams have better cards.

The user has 11 cards (the number of players on either offense or defense in real football) to use in each game, and the card play needs to use a quarter format.

Here's where I want your suggestions on any kind of existing card game that could be adapted to fit this format, or an entirely original idea.

What I'm working with right now is a modified version of Pai Gow. The user plays either two or three cards per quarter, and there's a "high" hand and a "low" hand (the high hand must have a higher point value than the low hand). The AI does the same, and then the cards are compared.

The highest value wins in both the high hand and the low hand.

If someone wins both hands in a quarter, they get all the points on the cards they played. If the hands are split, each get the point value on winning hand.

If there's a tie on a hand, it goes to the home team (so you can visibly see the home field advantage).

This would play out very quickly, I could add a ton of sound effects and nice framing, and it would be exciting. What I don't know--obviously--is whether this would be balanced, or if it would be a gigantic cluster of randomness. The eleventh card adds some strategy (when do I play that third card in a quarter?) but that may not be enough.

Adding more cards would make the strategy more complex, but it would also make each game take significantly longer. So whatever card mechanic I use, it's going to be extremely simple at first, to keep in that 60-90 second window.

Those are the basics.

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