Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and this is quite an interesting read: The problem with the skyscraper wind effect. Here's a series of BBC articles on elements from the periodic table, and they're excellent:
Calcium, building block for the world
The world's insatiable hunger for phosphorus
Flourine (How 1970s deodorant is still doing harm)
The fatal attraction of lead
Technetium (The element that can make bones glow)

More links from C. Lee, and this is excellent: Why the falling cost of light matters.

From Steven Davis, and this is very cool: How to make Leonardo da Vinci’s self-supporting bridge. This is very clever: Paper Cutouts by ‘Paperboyo’ Transform World Landmarks into Quirky Scenes.

From Theo Halloran, and this is a fascinating article: Hockey’s biggest shift: Fifty years of evolution in NHL coaching.

From Wally, and these are amazing: COLLECTABLE HIERONYMUS BOSCH FIGURINES. This is thought-provoking: The Like Button Ruined the Internet. This is a very, very large rooster: The Biggest Rooster You'll Ever See.

This is an amazing story: The Man Who Used His Nose to Keep New York’s Subways SafeThe Man Who Used His Nose to Keep New York’s Subways Safe.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Women's Worlds

We have tickets to the Women's World Hockey Championships next week in Plymouth, which is two hours from our front door.

Plus, as a bonus, the Finnish National Team trained in Grand Rapids in preparation for the tournament. Monday night, we went to see their scrimmage against the Czech National Team.

Yes, it was fully awesome, and as an additional bonus (lots of bonuses here), we got to see the best female goalie in the world.

Sorry, very crappy picture, but that's Noora Räty, who is an absolute beast in goal. She's only 5'4", but her technique and ability to read the play are impeccable.

Eli 15.7 and I were both very, very impressed.

We have fifth row seats for the semis and finals next Thursday and Friday, and now that the U.S. Women's National Team has resolved their issues with USA Hockey, it should be a great tournament.

What baffles me, though, is the degree of resentment against the women for wanting better treatment and more promotion of the women's game, along with more youth programs for girls. USA Hockey has always been a 100% old boy's network (along with most of this country in general), and women have always had to fight like hell to get anything.

And they did fight this time, and when USA Hockey tried to replace them with lower level players, they couldn't find anyone who would play for them. That's incredible solidarity.

Good for them.

The Wrong Direction

I went for a walk down by the lake today, on the running track next to the high school. It was sunny, but that sun was deceiving.

"Oh man, it was COLD out there," I said.

"That happens a lot," Gloria said. "You warm up after a while."

"I would if I was running," I said. "But walking, that doesn't really happen. For half the lap, it was fine. The other half, I was freezing."

"Maybe you could do some kind of warm-up on the track before you start," she said. "Like calisthenics."

"I can look like a 70-year-old man instead of a 55-year-old man," I said. "Excellent."

Gloria laughed.


She was still laughing.

"I could also wear white athletic shorts and a jock," I said. "Perhaps a corded whistle."

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Zelda BOTW Impressions (20+ hours)

All of these statements are true:
1. This is the best game I've ever played.
2. I've enjoyed this game as much as any game I've ever played.
3. This game is infuriating.

Let's go in order, roughly.

This game is magical. There's no other word for it, both in design and in presentation.

Design? The presentation of information to the player is a masterclass in convenience without intruding on the experience. The controls are powerful without being overwhelming. The amount of environmental feedback is absolutely unsurpassed, but given in entirely organic ways.

The environment is unmatched. It's all incredibly natural, and beautiful, and convincing, with an endless amount of nuanced details. The world feels like a physical place. I have never seen the wildlife, and the forests, and the birds. I've never heard the sounds. It's just all so beautiful.

All of this is so tightly integrated, woven so well, that it feels entirely seamless. It's a wondrous, incredible adventure, and I can't even count how many times I've been stunned.

Oh, and did I mention it's laugh-out-loud funny?

The Bobolink are bad guys descended from Wile E. Coyote, and their antics are downright hilarious at times, including the excellent planning decision to occasionally have casks of dynamite in their camps.

Did I mention that you can parasail? Yeah, that's awesome. Oh, and the climbing is better than Crackdown's, with better animation. You can also sail.

Did I mention shield-surfing?

It's just spectacular, really, all of it, and that brings us to the weather.

Never, even remotely, have I seen the kind of weather systems they have in this game. The weather feels absolutely, entirely real, and getting lashed by sheets of rain, or seeing a gusty wind, is a singularly stunning experience.

Thunderstorms? Incredible.

So the weather is brilliant, and also, a very bad design decision.

There are multiple problems here, and it's unfortunate, because the weather is so beautiful. First, the rain affects you functionally. That's logical, but it becomes extremely frustrating, because you can't climb in the rain, and when you see lightning, you have to remove metal objects you've equipped (sword, bow, shield).

The first time it happened, I was blown away. Unequip or get hit by lightning? How cool is that?

Then it rained again. And again. And again.

I can't even remember how many times I've said "More f-ing rain". Or how many times I've just let Link stand there, waiting for the rain to stop.

It rains far too often, and for far too long. It feels real--really, it does--but it doesn't feel fun, because it's not.

How could this have been better? Well, it's simple, really--have a few fun things that you can only do when it rains. That way, the rain feels like a reward instead of punishment.

Seems kind of basic, really.

Now, having said all that, I still love the game. There are an incredible variety of things to do, a Zelda game has never been this accessible before while still retaining its challenge.

It's wonderful, really.

So while I will continue to curse the rain (note: this is after the rain-related thing that some of you have already played through), I will keep playing as often as I can.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Switch

These are impressions of the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode. I've spent 20+ hours using it that way, and I don't know if I'll ever use it with the television.

The explanation for why is the review.

I enjoy handheld systems, but there's always been something that hurt the experience. With the 3DS/Vita, the screen was never quite large enough, and on the iPad/Android tablet, the screen turned into a dirty mess over time.

Wait, there's a third reason. Tablets never offer the ability to interact in a complex way, because the control schemes are necessarily limited. So the experience you can have is limited by the nature of the device.

That's why I'll probably never use the Switch with the television: as a handheld, the Switch is perfect. Just perfect.

For my hands, the Switch fits exactly right, and I mean exactly. It's incredibly comfortable, and the larger screen size makes the viewing distance just what I wanted.

Because I'm holding a controller in each hand, my interaction with a game can be complex, and each hand can comfortably reach every control.

Plus, and this is quite an experience the first time it happens, there's a tilt sensor, so I can make small aiming adjustments in games just by slightly moving the screen.

It's wondrous.

How long did it take me to realize this? Seconds. That's how good the Switch feels in your hands, and how fast you understand.

There are other niceties. The sound is very, very good. The screen is beautiful.

Most importantly, the ability to pick the system up out of the charging dock and be playing a game in five seconds is fantastic. It's so easy, and so convenient.

Sure, that's true of the 3DS/Vita as well, but the screen on the Switch is so much larger. It fills enough of your vision that you feel like you're playing a big game instead of a small one. It feels more consequential.

Look, the Switch is going to have the same issues every Nintendo console has had in the last decade: finding third party support that consists of more than gimmick games and shovelware. Probably, you're buying the Switch for first-party titles and a few terrific ports.

Is it worth it? Hell, yes.

I'll have thoughts on Zelda tomorrow.

Monday, March 27, 2017


"Oh hey, that guy's a kayaker," I said. "Pretty neat."We were behind a car at a stop light, and there was a sticker of a kayak in the back window.

"He's driving a Hummer, though."

"What's the business case for buying a Hummer, exactly?" I asked.

"There isn't," Eli 15.7 said. "They just want one."

The traffic light turned green, and the Hummer pulled into a parking lot.

"Oh no!" I said.

"Payless Shoes?" Eli said.

"Come on, man," I said. "You just bought a Hummer and you're buying shoes at Payless?"

Eli laughed. "That's all he can afford," he said.

"There's a marine store three doors down. At least park there, so people think you have a boat, too."

Life is complicated.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's an absolutely fantastic read (thanks, C. Lee): Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel.

This is such a remarkable and touching story: Father Who Quietly Maintained A Memorial To His Son For 12 Years Gets Permanent Tribute From Property Owner.

From Tim Lesnick, and these are amazing videos (now declassified):  LLNL Atmospheric Nuclear Tests.  Also, and boy, was anything we learned in American History actually real?  It wasn't just Greece: Archaeologists find early democratic societies in the Americas.

From Wally, and I'm posting this entirely for the baby throwing money .GIF, which is a total classic: 5 Reasons Why Tabletop Gaming Is The Best Mid-Life Crisis You Can Have. Grammar nerd alert: A missing comma keeps Oakhurst Dairy labor lawsuit alive. Even more grammar nerdness: Comma comeuppance: When rogue punctuation proves costly.

From C. Lee, and this is very, very useful: Informed Patient? Don’t Bet On It. These are very, very striking: Beautiful ukiyo-e tarot cards are East-meets-West in more ways than one. This is an excellent read: Hot Food, Fast: The Home Microwave Oven Turns 50. This is quite funny, unless your name is Kevin: Why it's hard to be a Kevin in France. This is fascinating: The real reasons why childbirth is so painful and dangerous. This is quite interesting as well: The hidden strengths of unloved concrete.

From Tim Jones, and these images are extraordinary: Extraordinary colourised images bring to life the horrors facing French soldiers during the First World War.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Motorsports Manager

The day got away from me, but I do have one thing for you, and it's good: Motorsports Manager is free to play on Steam until Monday.

And it's good. Very good.

This is a very well-designed, attractive game, and it gives you decision sets without overwhelming you with information (like Football Manager can do). Plus the tilt-shift images are phenomenal.

Here's the link: Motorsports Manager on Steam. Plus, if you like what you see during the free period, you can buy the game for 50% off.

One more: Football Manager is free to play through the weekend as well, and has the 50% off deal as well. Very, very clever on Sega's part. Here's the link: Football Manager 2017.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fighting Eleven #20: Choices

About two weeks ago, I decided I had to make a decision about the programming language I was using.

Like all languages, VB.NET does some things very, very well, particularly when used in a WPF application.

Other things, though, it does very poorly, often in an infuriating way.

Plus, it won't compile to a mobile platform (unless you count Windows Phones, which seem to be dead).

I decided that the easiest move would be to C#. It's supported in Unity, I thought it was relatively close to the scripting language in GameMaker (wrong, as it turned out), and it's easy to port C# to iOS. I wasn't sure about how well the XAML would export, but it felt like a step in the right direction.

So I started reading. And I had progressed to the point where I was going to start taking the existing code I had and convert it to C#.

However, I decided to email Garret first, because Garret is one of the smartest people I know, and even better, he explains things in an incredibly clear way.

His answer to my e-mail was so good that I'm quoting it below:
I'm afraid I must disabuse you of the notion that C# will give you the portability you are hoping for.

You are correct that .NET will only give you the tools to develop on the Windows Mobile platform, but I would strongly recommend that if there is a direction you want to go, you find a scripting platform or tool that will allow you to cross-compile between platforms and make the jump (or graphics platform or whatever) instead of spending time struggling to work in C#. And I will explain why I believe this below.

The idea of there being a "C-family" of languages is... misguided. A reasonable comparison would be an archivist comparing a coffee stained Playboy magazine with the Magna Carta and concluding they are similar because they are both yellow.

Maybe a bit extreme, but you get the point.

VB.NET has more in common with Java than C# has in common with C++.

The C-family appears to be a thing because what you are seeing is 50 years worth of developers being influenced by a revolutionary new programming language called "C" (which is based off a language called "B") that dates back to the moon landing. These developers were inspired by the ideas of a high-level language that abstracted away machine code, could be compiled and run on different chipsets without being modified, and decided "I can do it even better".

Some people took more extreme paths than others - a subset of them decided to build their own languages, but since they were familiar with "C" and (often) were building their compilers IN "C", they decided to make their language look like C.

You know how evolution works - we didn't evolve from monkeys, but Monkeys and Humans did have a common ancestor. Well, Perl and Java are the Pit Viper and 3-toed Sloth that just happen to share a common ancestor, a soft-shelled slug, called "C". As a result you can identify some characteristics in common that they share (they have eyes!) but that is where the similarity ends.

The "C" family is defined by a few commonalities (as I see it)
1) The use of braces "{" and "}" to denote the start and end of a block.
2) The existence of certain named control blocks: "if..else,, for, while" of which ALL can actually be accomplished solely through the use of a "while" statement if you are being truly masochistic.
3) The use of a dot "." to denote accessing a component property of a structure
4) Use a ";" to separate instructions (traditionally used at the end of a line).

That's about it.

Fascinating - I know.

But what it comes down to, is that I could write a summary that would outline the syntax changes that would result in VB.NET being classified as a "C-family" language, and it would take me fewer characters than I've already typed in this email to do it.

Lets try!

1) Braces: replace all blocks that begin with a keyword [complete list: class, do..loop, if..else, for each, for, function,, structure, sub, try..catch, while] and end with another [end* or loop] by adding a "{" after the initial keyword command (ie "for i = 1 to 10 {") and replace the end keyword(s) with a "}"

2) No change (all VB keywords and control structures are modelled after "C-family" languages)

3) No change (VB uses the "." accessor)

4) Add a ";" after each declarative line, command, or instruction that is not the beginning or end of a block "{" or "}"


VB.NET is now in the C family!

The point of this is that the differences between "C" and "C++" and Perl, and PHP, and AWK, and Squirrel, and NYM and Noop... are enormous compared to the differences between VB.NET and C#.

The problem is that every language behaves differently under the hood, they do different things, they have different libraries, they have unique features, unique strengths, unique conventions, unique operators, unique platforms. That although they have some vague similarity in appearance, that is all they possess.

C is a structured procedural language that shares many commonalities with Assembly (in fact, you can execute Assembly instructions within C if you'd like) while Java is a virtualized byte-code object-oriented language that just happens to appear kind-of like C.

For you to take advantage of any new mobile application platform scripting language, it is far more important that you understand the concepts that underlie Object-Oriented systems and how to structure, organize, and implement code effectively - which is something shared by all modern platforms (and co-incidentally, doesn't exist in C), and then how to do what you want to do in your destination platform of choice (understanding the libraries, idiosyncrasies, and structures of your target language) than it is to understand C-style.

When you get right down to it - once you understand how to program, the syntax rules become trivial.

I often reflect on how incredibly lucky I am to have people like Garret advising me on all different kinds of things, not just programming.

It makes me less stupid, and that's always a good thing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Gloria left this morning to go to Shreveport for a few days.

While she's gone, I have to do stuff+. Including making the bed, which I've never liked doing.

This morning, though, I figured it out: I only had to make HALF the bed.

Before you email me and say it would just be easier to make the entire bed, let me assure you, sir, that it is not.

Fortunately, my cutting edge interest in laziness has been passed on to Eli 15.7. While we were in Detroit for MAHA, we went to a mall and relaxed for a while. The boy had a smoothie, but didn't want to actually hold the smoothie. No problem:

Now, this next image isn't related to laziness, but I didn't want to pass up a chance to show you the world's saddest mall kiosk:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Tape Measure

We drove past an apple orchard on Sunday.

A nice feature of Western Michigan: fruit-related activities.

"Hey, they have a vineyard, too," I said. "What are they making--apple wine?"

"Maybe," Gloria said. "A boy took me on a picnic by the lake with a bottle of apple wine when I was in high school."

"Apple wine? How old were you?"

"I was in high school," she said, protesting. "He was the first boy I ever kissed, because the picnic was so sweet."

"Naive teenage girl, romantic picnic, apple wine--that's how you get 'with child', young lady," I said.

Eli 15.7 started laughing in the back seat.

"It was all very innocent," she said.

"So how far did he get--second base?" I asked. Eli burst out laughing.

"He was swinging for the fences," Eli said.

"Hey!" Gloria said.

"Dinger," Eli said.

"Giancarlo Stanton at the plate," I said.

"This family," Gloria said.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Links!

From Wally, and this is brilliant madness: The amazing flying machines of Chinese farmers. That would make a great title for a novel, by the way. This is also madness, but of a different sort: Pricey parking spot in Brooklyn on the market for $300,000. This is fantastic: Awesome Lego Garden Railway. This is crazy: How to Clear a Path Through 60 Feet of Snow, Japanese Style. These are just staggering: Some kind of model with incredible detail (seriously, can't categorize it).

From Steven Davis, and this is amazing: Yukino-otani, the huge snow walls of the Tateyama Snow Corridor. This is very, very silly: Weekend Watch: “Stupid Robot Fighting League” Brings Silliness to Combat. This is pretty amazing, and watching someone play the theremin at a high level is mesmerizing: Rimsky-Korsakov - The Flight of the Bumblebee - theremin and piano.

From C. Lee, and this is a clarification of a longstanding belief: The True Story of Kudzu, the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South. This is depressing: The Toxic Truth Behind Mardi Gras Beads.

Remember WordStar? Control KD to save? You'll love this: WordStar: A writer’s word processor.

From Ken Piper, and it's just one of many reasons to unreservedly love George Harrison (as I do): How George Harrison Saved Monty Python. On the other end of the spectrum, this is pretty terrifying: NFL abuse of painkillers and other drugs described in court filings.

Ending this week, a very serious article about an incredibly disturbing problem in this country. Sorry, it's not a feelgood moment (there are updates at the front, the full article is a bit down from the top): Everything You Think You Know About the Death of Mike Brown Is Wrong, and the Man Who Killed Him Admits It.

Actually, after reading that last article, we could all use something to cheer us up (thanks to Daniel Levine): Drink up the majestic hair on these Minnesota high school hockey players.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

MAHA (part three)

"Well, you got carried out on your shield tonight," I said to Eli 15.7 on the way back to the hotel.

"What's that?" he asked.

"In ancient times, when a gladiator was killed in battle, they carried him out on his shield," I said. "Which raises some questions, because how big could those shields possibly be, and how small were those warriors, but I said it mostly for the valiant image."

Of a very small person getting carried out on a shield, I guess.

The nice news--cutting to the chase--is that his leg recovered after a few more days on crutches, and a week later, he's back to almost 100% and skating tomorrow night.

The second piece of good news is that he's on a daily stretching program now--with a phenomenal coach (Maria Mountain)--because it was long overdue, and this injury was a wake-up call.

"Can you commit to doing this daily?" I asked him.

"One hundred percent," he said.

"Turning short-term weakness into long-term strength," I said. "Stretching will be another strength."

"You and the slogans," he said, laughing.

It's true, though. When something bad happens, if you use it to evolve what you're doing, you can convert it into something good.

There was one other nice moment, and it happened the next day. Eli's team couldn't advance out of pool play, but they still had one more game to play (Eli didn't even dress out).

I was standing in the other rink, watching the game of one of our friends, when a coach from one of the other teams walked up. I knew him from tryouts last spring, and he'd always been very nice to Eli.

Eli played him twice this season, and in the second game, he had 39 saves on 40 shots. At the time, it was probably the best game he'd ever played.

The coach shook my hand, smiled, and said, "Do you know what's the best part of my week?"

"What?" I asked.

"I don't have to play your kid!" he said, laughing. "He was the only goalie I was worried about."

I laughed with him.

"I tell my son at least once a month, 'I wish to god we'd kept him'," he said.

Eli crutched into the rink just then, and the coach shook his hand and said the same thing to him, and Eli got a big grin on his face.

He hasn't even made the 16u team yet--tryouts are next month--and there's still a ton of uncertainty until he's on the roster, but yeah, it's been quite a season.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MAHA (part two)

There were 60MPH winds in Detroit, which caused a power outage to the rink not once, but twice, in the game before Eli 15.7 took the ice.

Oh, and did I mention the bush fire outside the front door of the rink?

Good enough to play.

From the start of this game, I knew we were in trouble. Flat. Which isn't what you'd expect when the season would end with a loss, but we were getting dominated, and this was a team we'd played very evenly in our two previous meetings.

Another top fifteen team, though. Like I said, MAHA is Murderer's Row.

Things happen in hockey, though, and we went on the power play, then scored a beautiful goal out of nowhere. 1-0.

It was like that until near the end of the second period, when a kid shot from behind the goal line, directed it off Eli's back (even though he sealed the post), and it landed on the goal line and went in.

Or maybe it didn't. Eli said it didn't, and he had his glove on the puck, so the referee couldn't have seen it go in, but either way, it was a goal, and the score was tied 1-1.

After two periods, we were getting outshot 29-17. Even worse, we just don't have the puck that much, which is an even bigger problem.

I could see that Eli clearly wasn't 100%, but he was playing great.

We could still win this game.

Then the third period started, and we were playing no better than before. The puck was in our zone too often for too long, and then it happened. Eli made two excellent saves but couldn't control the puck on either, there was no help, and the third shot went bar down.

Just like that, we're behind. 2-1.

There were still almost 15 minutes left, but it could have been 150. We just couldn't get started offensively.

No Chip Hilton moment.

Even worse, with about 6 minutes left, on a breakaway, a kid lost an edge and went crashing into Eli's left leg, the one that was hurt.

He stayed on the ice for a long time, face down. Then he got up, stretched a bit, nodded, and stayed in the game, although he was limping pretty heavily.

I knew then that he was hurt even worse, but all I could do was sit and watch.

The coach pulled Eli for an extra skater with about a minute left, and we gave up an empty netter shortly thereafter.

Final score: 3-1. Final shot total: 44 to 23.

Normally, a kid would be elated with 42 saves on 44 shots, but when Eli finally came out of the locker room, limping hard, there was no elation to be found.


When Gloria makes dinner, we serve from the stove. I was assembling my dinner and noticed something unusual.

"I see what you did here," I announced loudly. "Trying to sneak some broccoli under the cover of green beans. Your nefarious scheme is unsuccessful."

"All I was trying to do was--"

"Veg-pionage!" I shouted.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

MAHA (part one)

"How's your leg?" I asked Eli 15.7 on the morning of the elimination game.

"Good enough to play," he said.

Translating, that meant he knew he was going to aggravate his existing injury, but that there was no way he wasn't going to play in the game that could end their season.

I was okay with that. Worried, but okay.

Teams that win MAHA, which is the Michigan state tournament, get an automatic invite to Nationals. Usually, at least one team from Michigan got an at-large berth as well, but with only 16 teams going, and Eli's team ranked #20, there wasn't going to be an at-large bid.

To go to Nationals, they had to win.

The night before, Eli's team had played its first game in pool play, against the #7 team in the country. The coach didn't start Eli, trying to protect him from further injury, but didn't tell him until shortly before the game.

Eli didn't know he was protecting him, and he was pissed.

What followed was a goalie meltdown.

Of the first five shots (which took the entire first period and two minutes of the second), three went in. Suddenly down 3-1, even though we were outplaying the team, the coach looked at Eli and said "You good, kid?"

"I'm good," Eli said.

"Then get in there," he said.

That sounds like something ripped from a Chip Hilton young adult sports book, but it's the truth.

Like I said, I was worried about Eli's injury, but I also knew he was skating out there pissed, and that he was going to play really, really well.

He did.

There was a moment in the third period, when he exploded across the crease and made a fully extended blocker save, that was one of the finest saves he'd ever made. If that shot had gone in, the game would be over.

It wasn't, though. Not quite.

All these emotions were washing over me as I watched him play. I still couldn't believe that he was playing in "A" league in Texas this time last year, and suddenly he was playing against the best teams in the country under the most intense pressure imaginable.

Didn't matter to him, though. He just played.

With just over a minute left, we (bafflingly) got a breakaway and scored.

3-2. Just needed one more.

And if this were a Chip Hilton novel, we would have gotten that goal, but in the real world, we didn't even get a shot off.

Final score 3-2. Eli had 15 saves on 15 murderous shots.

If they didn't win the next night, there would be no way they could advance to the semi-finals, and they would be done.

That's why "good enough to play" was going to have to be good enough to win.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Tale (of Consumer Woe)

Tomorrow, MAHA.

Today, AT&T and Comcast.

I finally hit the wall today with our (at best) 20 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speed. I was going to upload some raw video of Eli's games to the cloud, and it was going to take a week.

Seriously, a week.

So I checked into Xfinity (Comcast), and within 15 minutes on the phone, I got a 150 Mbps package for $60 a month for the first year ($80 a month after that). The very friendly fellow said I could do the install myself--just go to the Comcast office located three minutes from my home, pick up a modem, and boom.

Boom, indeed.

First off, there was no Comcast office in that location. However, there was one 20 minutes away instead of 3. Off I went. They gave me a modem and cables, and gave me a number to call after I had hooked up everything. The people at that number would activate the modem. Two, three minutes top, they said.

AT&T did the strangest Internet set up I've ever seen. Here, have a look:

I know, it looks pretty normal, but it gets a little strange when you find out where those cables are going. The coax cable goes into a DirectTV Genie (the little remote unit in a separate room from the main receiver), and the green data cable goes into a broadband connection at the back of the AT&T modem. The white data cable is a wired connection that somehow magically comes out in my study.

Seriously, I have no idea, although I know very, very little about this kind of stuff.

The coax cable, with the new modem, is the required connection, but if I disconnect it from the DirecTV box, we lose satellite downstairs. I do it anyway, connect everything, and call Comcast. I talk to a very cheery fellow who is from Bogota, Columbia, who is extremely nice, but knows hardly anything at all, seemingly.

Please note, this isn't on him. Companies endlessly subdivide tasks so that almost no one at a company knows how to do anything except a very, very narrow set of tasks. That lets the company pay much less than they'd have to pay to a generalist.

In this case, my two or three minute phone call lasted over 45 minutes, and in the end, absolutely nothing was activated and they're sending a technician on Wednesday--which I get to pay for.

Thanks, Comcast!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Links!

This article just blew my mind: When Prince Made a Chambermaid His Queen For a Day.

This is a fantastic idea: a website for gaming-related stretching. Very solid: Play More, Hurt Less.

From C. Lee, and this is a very worthwhile article that is very uncomfortable to read: America’s Troubled, Contradictory Refugee Legacy. Next, and this is a very interesting read, it's 802.eleventy what? A deep dive into why Wi-Fi kind of sucks.

From Wally, and this is straight out of the 24 1/2 Century: Grafted Ketchup 'n' Fries. Next, and this is unfathomably brilliant (go to about 1:35 in the video--mind blown): Vietnamese Tactical Third Floor Infiltration (Like A Boss). This is quite a story: A storm tore the bow off this ship. The captain still managed to steer it to safety. This is so very true: Improve any novel by changing its second line to “And then the murders began”.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Ask A Developer: 100 Words or Less

I'm very happy to post a new Ask A Developer: 100 Words or Less with Garret Rempel about his new project: Go Fish Fitness.

Describe your game in one paragraph.
Go Fish Fitness is a card game for kids based around the classic rules of "Go Fish" with an added fitness component to encourage them to get up, jump around, and incorporate physical exercise in a fun and competitive way. Players compete to make a match and force everyone else to perform the activity shown on the cards.

What were your objectives (three) with the original design?
Our objectives were to take a game that was fun and familiar to kids everywhere and do the following:
·   add in a physical component to encourage kids to burn off energy in a constructive way when they’ve been stuck inside especially during a long, cold, Canadian winter

·   make it accessible, using colour-blindness friendly colours as well as providing play options (animals to mimic) for younger kids and people with limited mobility

·   make it useful for other games, based on a 52 card deck with 4 suits, the game can be used for any game requiring a standard deck of cards.

What distinguishes your game?
The artwork is absolutely beautiful and appeals perfectly to kids. It is cute, colourful, and humorous in a way that captures the fun and movement that we are trying to encourage. Fredrik Skarstedt did the artwork on the game for us, and he did an incredible job.

How long does it take to play?
Just a little longer than a regular game of Go Fish (to allow for exercising) a round can be completed easily in under 10 minutes.

What is your design process? What would you consider the foundation of your process?
We started with an idea, a solid concept and objectives that we wanted to achieve, and then the process involved experimenting, revising, tweaking, with that objective in mind. We made sure to solicit ideas, opinions, and impressions from as many people as possible – and gave Fredrik a solid concept to work with, but a free hand to put his aesthetic stamp on it.

How do you handle design paralysis? What do you do to move forward?
If something isn’t working for you, try something new – try something radical and then compare it against what you have. Its easier to identify things that work, and things that don’t, and pick the best pieces when you have options.

How has the game changed during playtesting? How long did the playtest last?
The game was built on a solid foundation and concept which didn’t change during the course of development. What changed was the artwork, revising, trying different options, and discovering what worked best and appealed as widely as possible. The playtesting/development period lasted roughly 3 months of back and forth until we got it right.

How did you handle the process of getting your game to market?
We are managing the process ourselves, as developer and publisher, but working with amazing partners. Fredrick on the art & creative feedback, Print & Play Games for production (a division of AdMagic – producers of Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens), and FlagShip and Canada Post for distribution.

How do you handle marketing? How much time have you devoted to marketing versus design/development time (in hours, if you know)?
Marketing has involved putting together the Kickstarter campaign and contacting dozens of websites, blogs, and also directly talking to hundreds of friends and acquaintances and encouraging them to help us spread the word about the game. Many hours were spent putting it all together, refining it, and communicating.
But overall, marketing was less than a quarter of the time spent on making the product as good as we possibly could make it in addition to arranging production, shipping, and all the other bits and pieces to turn the idea into reality.

What is the release date of your game and the price? Where can people buy it?
The game is available on Kickstarter now (March 8th at 3pm EST / Noon PST) at Go Fish Fitness
We are only aiming to cover production costs and have tried to strike a balance between having a low funding level to be successful, and keeping the per-copy cost down. All contribution levels are in Canadian Dollars – the lowest tier (one physical game copy) is $15 CAD (~$11.25 USD) but if you are quick we have an Early Bird special that we are subsidizing out-of-pocket for $12 CAD (~$9 USD).

What is your next project?
We have 4 projects currently in development, one which we are planning to announce publicly in early-April after the Kickstarter has ended.
Keep at eye on Tricorn Games or follow us on Twitter @TricornGames, Instagram @tricorngames, or on Facebook at to stay up to date.
We also have a $1 reward tier that includes a printable PDF of all the cards, but also gives you early access to updates and announcements of future projects before anyone else hears about them!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

On Ponies

"Hey Dad, you've still got some muscle in those legs," Eli 15.6.

"I do?" I asked.

"Pretty good for an older guy," he said.

"Not like the old days," I said.

"Yeah, you should have seen him when he was running marathons," Gloria said. "His legs were really jacked."

"Really?" Eli asked.

"Totally," Gloria said. "Back in the day."

"You know what happens when you get older?" I said. "People start talking about like you're already dead. Standing right here, people!"

Eli laughed. "Hey Dad, can I have money for dinner? I'm going out with ****" (girlfriend's name redacted).

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"The mall," he said.

"Here's a twenty," I said.

"Not eating somewhere nice tonight!" he said.

"You know, instead of having a boy, we could have bought a pony," I said. "Just think of how much money we would have saved. And we would have had a pony!"

Tuesday, March 07, 2017


Eli 15.7 was on crutches for a few days two weekends ago, related to his injury.

We went to a high school game to see the goalie we met on the very first day of Eli's first Detroit camp, six years ago. We've been friends ever since, and his family is entirely awesome.

At the first intermission, Eli crutched to the snack bar, and I went with him to assist in carrying stuff back.

The line was long.

"Hey, what do you want?" I asked.

"Spree and a blue slushie," he said.

"Why don't you just go back and sit down?" I asked. "I'll wait in line."

"Do you even know what Spree ARE?" he asked. "They're candy."

"Of course they're candy," I said. "Are you kidding me? Candy is right in my nutritional wheelhouse. I am very familiar with Spree."

"Well, okay," he said.

"Candy and icing," I said. "Two of the four basic food groups."

For some reason, this struck him as so funny that he nearly fell off his crutches.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Philadelphia, part three (photos I forgot)

Flying at night is quite an experience.

It's nothing like flying through the day, when everything is seen. At night, you see constellations of lights near cities, then inky darkness.

Even with a semi-janky cellphone camera, that's still beautiful. 

Eli 15. 4 played poorly in the last game that weekend, but somehow, they pulled out a 4-3 win in a shootout. Even though he started out sick, it was still a great weekend, and I showed him this on the flight home:

There have been ups and downs since then--mostly ups, but the downs are very, very tough. 

I've realized, though, that I have a hard time processing the downs, and I'm more likely to interpret something relatively neutral as something down, so I have to work on that. This process is so incredibly stressful that a calm state of mind is both a huge challenge and a huge benefit. 

Friday, March 03, 2017

Friday Links!

Light in quantity but high in quality this week.

From Syndi Riley, and this is a very moving short film: ESPN’s 30 for 30 Short | I Am Yup’ik.

From Steven Davis, and this is a fascinating NOVA episode: The Origami Revolution.

From C. Lee, and this is absolutely mind-blowing: Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich. This is a fascinating interview: The real causes of the worst drug crisis in US history.

From Craig Miller, and these pictures are fantastic: Action Figures Come To Life In Stunning Images By Japanese Photographer.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and these are outstanding: Artist Shows How To Repackage Junk Food So That Hipsters Would Buy It.

From Wally, and if you're into military history, this is an excellent read: Rorke’s Drift: A Military Assessment.

Here are a few long reads, and they're all fantastic:
The Mastermind (master criminal)
Prince of the Forty Thieves (just read it--it's amazing)
The Arc of the Sun (a pigeon race in South Africa)
The Wreck: On the eve of the Civil War, a nightmare at sea turned into one of the greatest rescues in maritime history. More than a century later, a rookie treasure hunter went looking for the lost ship—and found a different kind of ruin.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Philadelphia, part two

Did I mention yesterday that in the few days leading up to the Philadelphia trip, Eli 15.2 was sick?

No, I did not.

He woke up on Monday morning as sick as I've seen him in a long time. Went into the doctor, told him he had a big hockey trick, and the sympathetic doctor prescribed a nuclear-powered antibiotic.

Which worked, incredibly, so even though he wasn't anywhere near normal, we flew to Philadelphia.

Okay, back to the story.

Clearly, the magical appeal of a bowling alley across the parking lot is irresistible, but in the meantime, Eli's team has games to play.

First off, a game against a Pittsburgh team ranked #16 in the country.

This game can be described in one phrase: total goalie meltdown. Not Eli, either--the goalies on the other team.

How much? Try four goals in the first nine shots.

That's quite a cushion to give a goalie, and even though Pittsburgh is getting a ton of shots, and a ton in close, Eli is doing all the right things--getting square, playing big, being patient.

The shot totals keep clicking higher and higher. And Pittsburgh scores, eventually, but not nearly enough.

Final score: 6-3. We were outshot 46-24, but Eli was on his game, and it didn't matter.

Celebrate? Heck, yes. We go back to the hotel, eat dinner, and then go immediately to the bowling alley.

The Palace.

That's a good name, because it's a great bowling alley--small, clean, happy. And popular--so full that we can't get a lane.

That's okay, too, because bowling alleys are a great place to just watch people.

"Bowling alleys are the Golden Corral of humanity," I say, and Eli bursts out laughing.

"Okay, what we're looking for is 'The Hammer'," I say to Eli.

"What's the hammer?" he asks.

"In every bowling alley, there's one guy whose only objective is to throw the ball a hundred miles an hour," I say. "He might not hit a pin three shots in a row, but when he does, it's epic. That guy lives for that moment."

Eli laughs, and we start looking.

"Dad, I don't think the hammer is here," Eli says after about ten minutes. We've thoroughly searched one side of the bowling alley, and we're almost done on the other side.

"He has to be here," I say. "It's a universal constant of bowling alleys. Let's take one more look. I'll take the right side."

"Okay, I'll take the left," he says.

In about ten more seconds, a guy gets up to bowl, just a few lanes to the right of where we're standing. He has a mullet and a mustache, because of course he does, and then he strides up to the line and releases a ball that almost breaks the sound barrier.

I turn to Eli with a huge grin on my face, and he's looking at me with a huge grin on his face, and we both say "THE HAMMER!" and die laughing.

I point out The Hammer to Eli.

"That's not The Hammer," Eli says. "Look over here to the left." I do and there's a second Hammer, throwing just as hard as the first.

"Oh my god," I say. "Do you realize what this means?"

We both say it at the same time: "DOUBLE HAMMERS!"

I don't know how long it takes us to stop laughing, but it's a long, long time.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Philadelphia, Part One

I should have written this three months ago. Life and whatnot.

"This is what a zombie apocalypse will be like," I say, walking through the Grand Rapids airport at 7:30 in the morning. "Only one secure stronghold."

The airport is sparkling clean. Beautiful. And no one is here. Employees easily outnumber passengers, because I haven't seen more than half a dozen other passengers, and we're already at our gate.

"Oh! You scared me!" says a store clerk, as a security guard walks into her vision. He laughs.

"Man, I don't like this," Eli 15.2 says. "It's empty."

"Are you kidding me" I say. "This is the greatest airport I've ever been in. See this? It's my giddy face."

Eli and Gloria burst out laughing. It should be noted that my giddy face is exactly the same as my normal face.

We are the only ones waiting for our plane.

"Nice pants, man," I say. "Did you get the free wrinkle treatment?"

Eli looks down at his pants. "Very funny," he says.

Well, it kind of was funny, really.

The plane is so empty that we all have our own row. It's incredible. For the first time in my entire life I don't feel cramped on a plane.

"I feel more rested than when we left for the airport," I say, as we walk toward the luggage carousel in Philadelphia.

It's a good omen.

I didn't really know anything about Philadelphia, beyond the standard bare collection of facts (Liberty Bell, booing Santa, etc.).

The first thing I find out is that Philadelphia, and the surrounding suburbs, are huge. Mind-blowingly huge.

The second thing I find out is that nothing is in a straight line. We drive 45 minutes from the airport to a suburb, and everything is curve into curve into curve. Grid layout? Not here.

I have no idea how anyone could have navigated this area with a paper map.

Maybe they didn't. Maybe they Oregon Trailed the entire experience.

We do make it to our hotel, which--good omen #2--is just across the parking lot from a bowling alley.

"We need to go bowling, Eli says.

"I'm in," I say.

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