Wednesday, May 31, 2017

An Interesting Possibility

I hate loyalty cards.

Everybody has one now, and everybody forces them on you. They make you use them to get the regular price on an item. They bombard you with marketing emails.

It's garbage.

However, there is one exception, and surprisingly, it's Dave and Buster's.

I hadn't gone in a few years because it always seemed too expensive. However, as it turns out, there's a way to beat that.

First off, register your Power Card at one of the terminals. That gets you a "10 for 10" coupon, so you're getting $20 worth of credits for $10. Also, get the D&B app for your phone, and you'll get semi-regular "20 for 20" coupons.

Half price is solid.

Then, if you only play on half-price Wednesdays, it's even better. Now you're effectively playing for 25% regular price. I was getting 25 tickets per credit at one of the coin machines, and that's almost breaking even. I could buy a Switch game I wanted anyway at the redemption center with tickets and it basically means I'm playing for free (I would spend $50 for the credits to earn the tickets to buy the game, but I was going to buy the game for $50 anyway).

I'm going to keep track of this over the next few weeks and see if it's actually realistic, or if I'm leaving something out. But I would totally enjoy some "free" entertainment.

On Wisconsin

There's a story out about the most misspelled word in each state, based on some Google data: Google reveals top misspelled words in America.

The most misspelled word in Wisconsin is--"Wisconsin".

That is not a good look, Badgers.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Eli 15.10 jumped 9' 5 1/2" at a workout tonight. He said he felt he left at least 2 inches on the table, too.

 9' 5 1/2" would have been eighth-longest at the NHL Combine last year. For all players, not just goalies.

I told him when he jumps 10', I'll  only drink one diet soda a day, a consumption reduction of probably 75-80%.

He's not that far away.

President, General, Spy #3

I've been spending quite a bit of time the last few days working on how information gets presented to the player. I've played geopolitical sims that practically looked like giant quote screens.

Not what I want.

I need to be able to distill that information into a higher layer, with the ability to click through and see the detail if someone wants. But for most of the decision making, it won't be necessary.

Here's what I've come up with. Sorry for no images yet.

There will be two areas on the screen: a map panel, and an interaction panel.

The map panel will take up roughly take up 3/4 of the screen. The scenario's map will be displayed, which goes without saying (even though I just said it).

The bottom 1/4 is the interaction panel. At the beginning of the player's turn, there will be three buttons across the panel: President, General, Spy.

When the player selects one of the unit buttons, they all hide, and are replaced by the action options (based on the unit type selected). The possible actions are represented by static images (with text in the middle).

Ugh, I can't do this without images. Okay, I mocked up two of the ugliest, jankiest shots ever to illustrate what I mean.

First image, when the user starts his turn:

Those three "buttons" at the bottom represent President, General, and Spy (and there will be less space between them).

The user clicks on one of the unit buttons, and now he sees this:

Now, those six buttons represent possible actions for that unit type. And they're static images, but when they're deployed on the board, those images turn into animations (so it's a "live" action).

There are plenty of issues here. What about the map aspect ratio? What if the map gets too crowded with live actions? How does the user get more information?

I can only answer one of those right now. If the user wants more information, all he has to do is click on the animated panel on the map, and he'll see when the action was initiated, how long it lasts, etc. So abstracted top layer, detail layer underneath.

I haven't designed the display of information for the user at the start of their turn yet. I see how the AI turn flows, but when it ends, there needs to be the ability to review information at will until the user is ready to act (Briefing documents? Or maybe a CIA fact book sort of thing?).

What's encouraging is that everything I've encountered so far is clearly solvable. I even have an early model for in-country revolts.

Monday, May 29, 2017


I am reading an absolutely riveting book called "Below."

The best way I can describe the writing style is to say it's sure-footed. Everything fits. There are no awkward bits. It's just rock-solid, eminently readable prose.

It's also well-drawn. I have a vivid sense of what the world feels like, and the prose make it feel absolutely tangible, which is not an easy thing to do.

The story? Well, here's an excerpt from the Amazon page, and I've edited it on purpose:
The late wizard Visak left his fortune hidden in the vast underground ruins of the Elder Kingdom, safer than any bank. Brenish, a mediocre highwayman but a brilliant liar...

That may sound a bit standard, but believe me, the execution is everything, and this is an absolutely ripping yarn. I've read half of it in two days and find it extraordinarily difficult to put down.

Now, as good as this all is, here's an even better part: one of you guys wrote it. Lummox JR, to be exact, who is a semi-frequent links contributor.

Enough. Here's an Amazon link: Below.

An Idea

We were at the rink by 8:30 this morning.

Eli 15.10 sees a holiday as a day to move up in the standings, so to speak, when everyone else is taking the day off.

I had an idea while I sat in the parking lot after he went in.

I took a picture from the front of the rink, facing into the parking lot. And I'm going to take one every time we go to a rink for the next year.

That should make an interesting time-lapse video, eventually. In the meantime, here's the very first picture:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Links!

From Wally, and this is really quite wonderful: An AI invented a bunch of new paint colors that are hilariously wrong. Next, and these are beautiful, it's These rare color photos of Paris were shot 100 years ago, and they’re amazing. This is very impressive: Image-to-Image Demo.

From C. Lee, and this sounds very promising: Hitachi’s breast cancer screening method promises less pain. Now, a slew of links:
“I misspoke”, a weaselly phrase
Dangerous shortage of essential antibiotics is all about $$
The animals that look helpless but are secretly fearsome

Also from C. Lee, and it's widespread (I think George may have this, actually): The Mystery of the Wasting Housecats.

From Lummox JR, and this is a fascinating story: The Lost Typefaces of W.A. Dwiggins.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and I think Eli is going to try this: Watch a boxer beat up a tennis ball hanging from his hat. Also, and this is utterly fascinating, it's The colors of Mister Rogers’ cardigan sweaters, 1979-2001.

From Steven Davis, and this is very fun: Makin’ Moves: A Wild Animated Dance Short by Kouhei Nakama.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is a happy update to a sad story: Whatever happened to Star Wars Kid? The sad but inspiring story behind one of the first victims of cyberbullying.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Poor Choices

We were accidentally watching a baseball game for a few minutes last night. That's what happens when the NBA and NHL playoffs are having an off night.

Gloria saw this:

"What is going on there?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Those socks," she said.

"Maybe that's a personal fashion choice," I said.

"I don't think so," she said. "Look there are two other guys just like that."

"Good god," I said. "Do they take a little car from the dugout to home plate?"

By the way, if you can't stand to watch baseball anymore, but wish you could, try the Sunday night telecast on ESPN. The announcing team is Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone, and Jessica Mendoza, and combined, they are incredibly entertaining.

A Temporary Team Picture

Eli 15.10 took a picture with his random team at the Muskegon Futures Camp:

Nobody even tried that cool scowl look. They were all too happy to be there.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

President, General, Spy #2

I wanted to go a little bit more in-depth today about what I see in this project that appeals to me so much.

For one, I find geopolitical sims fascinating, but very intimidating to play because of interface complexities and the minutia of rules. So I would like to play a game with complex AI, but not a complex interface. I also like the idea of having to make decisions with limited information and managing the consequences.

Also, I like the idea of a two-layer system. The first layer is the basic rule set that defines how the user takes actions and their effects. The second layer consists of many, many exogenous events that must be responded to, and these events (along with starting values) are what customize any scenario.

In a geopolitical sense, I think regional conflicts have been severely underrepresented. And I find many of those regional conflicts to be far more interesting than global ones. Researching and releasing these regional scenarios periodically for a small cost ($.99 or $1.99 a pop) would keep the game fresh and make it possible for me to continue working.

Plus, researching these scenarios would be a blast. Users could even suggest scenarios.

This encompasses many of the things I talked about last week. Rapid prototype with early-stage feedback. Lower costs. A longer tail. And I do think there is a solid market (niche, but solid) for a sim like this, particularly with all the crazy things going on in the real world right now.

Now, for this not to be a giant fraud (to myself), I need to actually have a working prototype by next weekend. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Truly One of the Most Moving Speeches Ever

This speech is remarkable and incredibly powerful:
Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments.

President, General, Spy

A geopolitical simulation where there are only three units: President (diplomacy), General (military), Spy (espionage).

One action per turn with one of these units can be taken. Actions might last several turns, some actions can be linked with others, and new actions can be initiated while others are still ongoing (but only one new action per turn).

Both regional and global levels of play, with the regional modeling historical conflicts involving 4-8 countries.

Individual countries start with asymmetric ratings in the following categories:
--government stability
--military power
--diplomatic ability
--espionage network
--food supplies
--relationship level with other countries

This is a very, very small subset of what I want to do, but I've purposely limited scope right now in order to get a nasty looking prototype up and running by next weekend. The prototype will only have 4 countries.

The objective is to model both regional and global conflict with a smaller learning curve than current geopolitical sims, but with a deep AI.

If you're wondering about the AI, I feel pretty strongly that I won't have problems with that. There is a surprising amount in common with the Gridiron AI, believe it or not.

Actions available to the player in the prototype, based on unit type:
--ask for food
--give food
--visit country
--propose alliance

--build army
--reduce army

--gather intel
--defend from sabotage

All actions have positive and negative consequences.

Gridiron was, at its heart, a situational management game, and that's what a geopolitical simulator should be--a situational management simulation.

Okay, there's lots more, but that's enough for now. Just let me get a prototype up and running, and then we can really get to work.

A Question of Ownership

I have a laptop, but it's not mine.

I'm at the rink while Eli 15.10 is working out with his trainer.  It's an hour workout.

That's the perfect length of time to write about President, General, Spy. I was looking forward to an hour of uninterrupted concentration.

Then Microsoft started installing f-ing updates. Not downloading, just installing.

Twenty-seven minutes later, they were done.

I'm not kidding when I say that I spend more time installing updates on this laptop than actually using it for something. It's just an update kiosk, basically.

Oh, and then there are the Dell updates.

The perfect PC for Microsoft: a computer that will only install updates and allow purchases. No actual productivity is allowed, because while you're producing, you can't be buying.

After I get home, I'll try to write up the PGS post.

Monday, May 22, 2017

President, General, Spy

Coming tomorrow. Please wonder.

Well, This Is Surreal

It was only 14 months ago that Eli 15.10 was playing for the Texas "A" Championship in hockey.

Last weekend, he went to an invitation-only USHL Futures Camp with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

He belonged, too. He didn't get get an invitation to the main camp, because a 15-year-old who's 5'11" 3/4 and 137 lbs. isn't physically viable in major juniors, but his level of play was very strong.

Just needs to keep working and getting better, and I think he might actually get a chance in a couple of years.

Plus, his team this upcoming season is looking downright beastly. Four kids made it to Nationals, and two others were drafted by the USHL.

Crazy times, for sure.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off, this is an entirely fascinating read: Terrifying 20m Tall Rogue Waves Are Actually Real. Also, this is an incredibly powerful story: My Family’s Slave.

From Steven Davis, and this is a terrific video: 1953: Who Wouldn't Want to be a Miller? Next, a Grammer Nerd Alert! 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice. This is fascinating: How British and American Spelling Parted Ways. This is a great story: Strong Coffee, Stronger Women. These are simply astonishing: The Incredible Sand Sculptures of Toshihiko Hosaka.

From C. Lee, and this is an excellent read: Why You Should Re-read Paradise Lost. This is a great read: The X Factor of Ancient Athens. I still love fried chicken: A Fried Chicken Bender in South Korea. Next, and this is concerning: Sullied seasoning: Sea salts come with a dash of microplastics.

From Theo Halloran, and this is an absolutely phenomenal article: Riding the Bus with Jagr.

From Wally, and this is unbearably witty: NOS Lucas Replacement Wiring Harness Smoke Kit. Well, this is certainly something: The boss who lives as a medieval knight. If you ever want to know why you should drive a newer car instead of an older one, here you go: ANCAP crash 1998 Toyota Corolla in to 2015-built counterpart.

From DQ Live Advisor Garret Rempel, and this is essential information: Origins of 'eh': How 2 little letters came to define Canadians.

From Tim Lesnick, and this is incredible: 3-D printed ovaries produce healthy offspring.

Closing out this week, from Christopher Scott, and mole rats are amazing: Researchers Find Yet Another Reason Why Naked Mole-Rats Are Just Weird.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Manhattan Project (of tennis)

Well, it's come to this.

I beat Eli 15.2 6-2 on Monday, but my time is running out. I just softballed him and he kept making errors, but that crap is not going to work all summer. I'm going to get my head handed to me if I keep doing that.

An aside: I'm hoping that at some point in the summer I can say to him, "If you come at the king, you best not miss." Best line ever.

So, in order to beat back the marauder for another few months, I'm doing something unthinkable: I'm working on my serve.

My groundstrokes and volleys are solid. Very solid, for an old man, at least. My serve, though, has always been terrible, from the time I was 15 and had just started tennis.

Forty. One. Years.

That's a hell of a long time to do something wrong. My terrible serve spans five decades and two centuries.

Now, though, the competitive imperative demands that I stave off defeat as long as possible. So I'm now taking secret lessons from Eli's tennis instructor, much to his delight.

Here's how this goes. About every eight serve or so, it feels something vaguely like it should. In rhythm. Comfortable.

Or maybe it's every tenth serve. It's not very often.

Plus, I've been trying to practice this in a freaking hurricane. Today there were 25+ winds steady, with gusts to 45. I'm trying to hit a knuckeball with a tennis racket, basically.

Do that 100 times and it wears on you.

That's okay, though. This is the one time I could see this through. If my arm doesn't fall off, this is happening.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Two Stories In One Picture

Story #1: Please refer to the cake on the plate. 

"The cake totally crumbled," Gloria said after she took it out of the oven. "I don't know what happened. It just fell apart."

"I call this the 'Land War In Asia' cake," I said. 

Story #2: Please refer to the flowers. 

Those flowers are not hidden--they're protected. George loves to eat flowers, and I had to improvise a wall to keep him away until Gloria got home and she could safely position them. He sat by the paper towel holder for half an hour, just looking. 

Also of note: the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection is both historically significant and far too weighty for a cat to push out of the way.

A Fine Fellow (Eli 15.10 before Prom)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fighting 11 #21: Malaise

Well, this is going poorly.

It's not going poorly because of lack of interest. I'm still interested in what I designed. I think it's interesting, and looks like fun.

Still, though, it's going worse than Gridiron Solitaire went at any point, and this week, I think I figured out why.

I've been struggling for months (years) with the notion that I want to develop games as a career and not a hobby. Lots of people can make one game, working part-time as a hobby. Far fewer can make multiple games and turn those games into a legitimate career.

What I realized this week is that I'm going about it all backwards.

Everything I do starts from ideas that turn into designs. Big, complex designs.

The single most important element of the design, if I want this to be a career, is time. Which is the one aspect I never consider.

Doing a multi-year project to move three thousand units is absolutely not credible in a professional sense. Doing a multi-year project that's a sports game is even worse, because indie sports games have exactly zero traction. That audience isn't going to grow.

So why am I doing it that way?

I think a big part of the answer is comfort. Even though GS was a very unusual design (and extremely niche), I knew I could make it realistic, because I have a fairly deep understanding of sports, particularly the stats aspect. I contributed AI to several projects in the distant past.

In order to succeed, though, I need to stop being myself and become more like Garret.

Garret isn't a one-idea person, and he's not particularly wedded to any of his ideas. They can all be prototyped quickly, he sees what works, and he moves on. What works gets refined and turned into a commercial project. What doesn't work isn't totally discarded--there are usable pieces that can be used in something later.

THAT is the way to be a successful designer and developer. Many ideas. Rapid prototyping.

Expandability, too. I want a modular approach to content so that the game can be expanded as long as it makes financial sense to do so.

Right now, if you release a game on Steam, it disappears almost within minutes. The one-time release approach is usually suicide. There's a much higher chance of success with a game that gets regular content updates and can develop an audience over a period of months or years instead of a few days.

I think Early Access is great for something like this, to develop an audience to shape the game (and promote it) while it's still in development.

To do all this, though, I have to radically change my approach. I know I need to, but that doesn't mean it's any easier.

It's Been A While

I'm almost certain that's an EGA monitor.

Monday, May 15, 2017


"We have to walk across the blue bridge," Gloria said. We were downtown.

"We do?" I asked.

"It's kind of a thing," she said.

"Okay," I said, and we started walking. When we reached the end of the bridge, we turned around and started walking back.

"That was it?" I asked.


"I guess I can mark that off my 'Didn't Know To Do' list," I said.


We walked past a restaurant that was downright raucous, and through the glass, every person I could see had gray hair. "Those over fifties are tearing the shit out of that place," I said.


"Didn't she date an astronaut?" I asked.

"She did, but it ended badly."

"Doesn't matter," I said. "When you can name drop dating an astronaut, that's next level."


"This must be what it's like to play tennis at The Masters," I said. 

Yes, it's that sloped. Incredibly. Four inches from left sideline to right sideline, at least. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Links!

From Christopher Scott, and this is a fascinating read: Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria.

From Tim Lesnick, and man, this is just incredible: Brain Mapping Tech Inflates Tissue 20x to Reveal Remarkable Detail.

From Dan Willhite, and this is substantial: Microsoft’s bid to bring AI to every developer is starting to make sense.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating; How the British Library Digitized One of the World’s Largest Books. Next, and I had no idea that awesome manhole covers were a thing, it's Manhole Covers: Drainspotting Adventure & Factory Tour ★ ONLY in JAPAN. This is both quite funny and strangely mesmerizing: Tire ski jump. This is remarkable: India Is Winning Its War on Human Waste.

From Meg McReynolds, and AC/DC really sounds tremendous on bagpipes: Bagpipes AC/DC "Thunderstruck" with flames Bad Piper.

From Wally, and it's a Maine lobster roll red alert: Get used to paying $20-plus for a lobster roll. Next, and odd WWII stories never seem to run out, it's The Mysterious Case of the Radioactive Toothpaste. I had no idea: The man who salvaged Hitler's toilet: Vast collection of Nazi and military memorabilia used in Hollywood blockbusters. This is  remarkable: Effective guardrail is effective.

From C. Lee, and this is so witty: Why the 'I Hate to Cook Book' Stands the Test of Time. Intriguing: Why Do We Eat Eggs for Breakfast, Anyway? Informative: What All of the "Cage-Free" Stuff on Egg Cartons REALLY Means. This is both interesting and amusing: How Tube Stations Got Their Unusual Nicknames. This is an excellent read: The Greatest Music Teacher Who Ever Lived. This is very cool: The History Of The Pocket Knife. I'd never heard of this before: The History of Maldon Salt, the Stuff You Already Put on Everything.

Finishing off the week, from Brian Brown, and it's fascinating: A 750-Year-Old Secret: See How Soy Sauce Is Still Made Today.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Rakuen (2 hour impressions)

Well, this is a delightful little game.

I had a post-it pad next to me while I played the game, and here are the words I wrote down:
wonderful dialogue

If you only had seven words to describe Rakuen, those are a solid seven.

People have substance in this game. The dialogue makes it feel like real people are talking to each other, and when characters aren't people, they still have distinct personalities. They have troubles, they have frustrations, and they're just trying to get through.

I've burst out laughing several times. It's a gentle game, but that doesn't mean it can't be funny, because it is, and quite often.

The world is full of thorough and rich detail. There are so many small details in the opening setting (a hospital) that meticulously create a sense of something that is real.

Another layer to this game is the sound, because it's spectacular, both the music and the sound effects. the music, in particular, is exceptional.

It's a relief, really, with how crazy the world is right now, to play a quiet, warm game like this.

I don't want to say more, because I don't want to spoil anything, but Rakuen is very much worth your time. Here's a Steam link: Rakuen.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

AI And Who It Comes For

I've seen several articles recently about AI being developed to replace people.

Management sells its salaried employees on automation and AI with pure greed. If fewer people are employed, then the firm makes more money, and if the firm makes more money, then an employee's stock and options will be worth more.

It's a simple equation.

Sure, people are going to lose their jobs, but you won't. And breaking eggs for omelets, amirite?

This time, though, the AI being developed is expressly to eliminate managerial positions, even middle managers.

I think most expected AI development to be a limited, controlled event. Compartmentalized. If they weren't entry level employees, the AI and automation were all good for them.

AI isn't like that, though. It's not a discrete event. It's a long, long carpet, and it's unrolling.

It's not going to stop unrolling.

Unless we have a greater awareness of how it impacts people, and actually care about those outcomes, we have a societal tragedy in the making.

Don't get me wrong--I think AI is awesome. It's incredible. But there have to be ethical considerations, and right now, that doesn't seem to be happening.

Rakuen is Out

Rakuen launched today, and I just downloaded it, so I will have impressions for you in a few days.

Here's the Steam link: Rakuen.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

On Design

Garret wrote a very interesting post today about game design and color.

Here's a brief excerpt, and I encourage you to read it in full:
For the most part I don’t dream in colour... I can’t visualize colour either, I can’t see it in my mind’s eye. 

Which leaves me wondering why I need to work and design in living colour.

It's a fascinating post on the creative process and how it's influenced by what we see in our mind. Which made me want to write about the same subject, but from a slightly different perspective.

Creation comes in all different kinds of forms to all of us. Sometimes I see essentially an end product in my mind (like an image representing something bigger), and then need to work back from the end to the beginning.

Sometimes it's not an image. It could be a one-sentence description of an idea. It could be anything that's a conclusion, then I go back and tease out the details.

Here's an example of how this works. For Fighting Eleven, I want there to be a campus upgrade screen where users can spend upgrade points and improve the beauty of their campus, purchasing and placing all sorts of objects.

This is a 100% gratuitous part of the game, except that you can improve your campus beauty rating (which would have an effect, but only a marginal one, on recruiting). It's not the rating that I care about, though--it's the meticulous process of designing this little tilt-shift world.

That's what I saw in my mind, and eventually, all the details filled in around the image. So I have a robust design for that part of the game now, and it all started with that image.

And Sim Golf. Sim Golf must have influenced the emergence of that image in some way.

This can be a trap, too. I've made it to the recruiting battle screen (not part of campus beautification, obviously) in the development of the game, but it's much easier for me to almost finalize art, then work toward the image in my head. It's hard for an artist to work that way, though, and if Fredrik gets backed up, I'll use the delay as an excuse to to stop working.

Bad, bad habit.

The biggest difference between myself and Garret, though--well, besides the fact that he's a genius--lies in quantity of ideas. His brain is the like the ball pit at Chuck E Cheese, and every ball is an idea.

It's packed.

I'm not like that at all, unfortunately. Ideas come to me much, much less often. So while Garret is frequently working on three or four projects at once, I'm never working on more than one, and there are long gaps between mine.

I'd be very curious about the creative process for someone like Tarn, who has created a world so complex and intricate that it defies explanation or description.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Logical Labyrinth

Gloria was outside at a tulip festival yesterday, and it was a bit colder than usual for this time of year--low 50s and quite breezy.

"You know, I'm just sick of wearing coats. And I'm sick of being cold."

"I would try putting on more clothes until you're not cold," I said. "It's worked pretty well for me."

"No, I don't want to do that," she said. "Maybe if I just go without a jacket it will toughen me up."

"I know of literally no one who does that," I said. "Just wear more clothes."

"No, I think my way will work," she said.

"This is the Occam's Razor of Not Occam's Razor," I said.

My Mother-In-Law is Visiting From Shreveport

"I don't think I could ever trust a self-driving car."

"Why not?"

"Well, they can't use logic."

Friday, May 05, 2017

Friday Links!

This is a terrific read: The BMW Addiction That Completely Destroyed This Man’s Life. Also, this is fascinating: Ancient stone carvings confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC, sparking the rise of civilisations.

From Wally, and I entirely agree with this analysis: The Sandwich Alignment Chart (I think I'm True Neutral). This is utterly spectacular: The H.O. Studley Tool Chest. This is incredibly unsettling, even today: The Nazi Board Games of World War II. This is tremendously interesting: The Struggles of Writing About Chinese Food as a Chinese Person. This looks fantastic: Heroes Of The Comics. This is fascinating: For aerial challenge, Spruce Creek Fly-In pilot travels back to WWI.

From Ken Piper, and yes, this is scary: AI can now imitate any human voice with just one minute of training.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is very clever: Stephen King's Stranger Love Songs.

From Joshua Buergel, and this is incredible:  The Greatest Break In Snooker History Was Even Better Than Anyone Realized.

From Roger Robar, and this is an incredible story: The FBI translator who went rogue and married an ISIS terrorist.

From Robert Nicewander, and this is quite amazing: The Only Playable Stradivarius Guitar Left in the World “The Sabionari” Made in 1679. Also, here's a link to the video that is still active: video.

From Chris Pencis and this is incredible: FlightLapse #01 – MilkyWay, a time lapse view from the cockpit.

From C. Lee, and I'd never heard about this: The little-told story of the massive WWII pet cull. This is tremendous if verified: 'Exciting' blood test spots cancer a year early. This is a stunning story: Postpartum haemorrhage: Cheap lifesaver 'cuts deaths by a third'. Not good: China’s Appetite Pushes Fisheries to the Brink. This is a terrific read: George Washington’s Congress Got Off to an Embarrassing Start. This was an incredibly remarkable person: Florence Finch, Unsung War Hero Who Took On Japanese, Dies at 101.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

No Longer The King

Years ago, I tore my right meniscus.

While bowling.

Ironically, this happened only five days after I'd run a marathon.

Until last week, this was the most embarrassing injury story I'd ever heard.

Please note the phrase "until last week."

Also, until last week, I never asked the question "Can you tear your ACL playing hopscotch?"

Now, I never need to, because I know the answer to that question is "yes."

It wasn't me, in case you're wondering. But someone I know was warming up for a workout by playing hopscotch (much longer story), landed poorly, and boom.

It wasn't even his workout.

He was helping a friend who has Parkinson's disease in a non-contact boxing workout. Believe it or not, this kind of exercise helps slow down symptom progression (see more here).

If I understand correctly, there are many types of exercise that can have this effect, particularly those focused on balance.

It's all remarkable, but hopscotch claimed its first victim. Collateral damage.

He Majored In Head Trauma

We did something very unusual last Saturday: we watched a boxing match.

"He graduated from the University of Adversity," said the announcer.

Eli 15.10 and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

"Is that an accredited institution?" I asked.

"I'm pretty sure it's not," Eli said, laughing.

"Online school," said Gloria, and we both laughed.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Spring And Stuff, Including A Most Unusual Restroom

Here are a few images of what's been going around here for the last few weeks.


When we were out of town for Selects last week (two weeks? I can't even keep track anymore), I saw this when I walked into the restroom:


It was at the right height to pee into (I mean that looks like a mass urinal, right?), but on the other side of the restroom, there were three urinals.

Eventually I figured out this odd contraption had to be the sink.

There was no water coming out, though (unlike the picture). So if that was the sink, how in the hell was I supposed to wash my hands?

As it turned out, there was a foot bar, believe it or not, and when you pressed down on the bar, the magic happened.

I'm old enough to have seen almost everything, but I had never seen this.


A long running conversation between Eli 15.10 and myself:

"Can I get my mask painted?"


"Can I get my mask painted?"


"Can I get my mask painted?"

"Still no."

High quality mask painting is incredibly expensive ($800 and up, generally), and I'm just not willing to do it. Eli, though, cleverly found an online site that prints custom decals--elaborate ones--for only $60.

I would never have the patience to complete the elaborate install process, which included all kinds of trimming and shrink wrapping with a hair dryer, but Eli can be incredibly meticulous about things like this, and he was, and it turned out really, really well:


Spring flowers in our yard:


Remember those trees budding out about ten days ago? Well, have a look now:

Spring in Michigan: a wondrous thing.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

This Is Entirely Amazing

Someone Has Turned Every Song on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Into a Star Wars Parody.

This is just unbelievable, and incredibly entertaining. And there's more than one video at this link--it's a play list, so let it run.

I cannot overstate how clever this is, and brilliant.


I wrote a while back about a future where everyone just plugged their phone into a docking station and used it as their desktop as well.

This would have been easy for Microsoft to do, and I would have bought it immediately. And, conceptually, Microsoft understands this, because they launched "Windows 10 Continuum" a while back, which would do this very thing.

Almost universally, though, reviewers have panned the software. Harshly.

Microsoft is very good at seeing the future. They are not very good about the actual execution of reaching the future.

Today, I saw an article over at The Verge about the Samsung DeX, which has just been released. Here's an excerpt:
On paper, it’s just like Microsoft’s Windows 10 Continuum: a basic dock that you plug the phone into that provides connections for a monitor, power, Ethernet, and USB devices. Hook up a monitor to the DeX’s HDMI port and pair a wireless mouse and keyboard to the phone, and boom, you instantly have a desktop workstation.

The software, however, is where Samsung is making its mark. Samsung has effectively taken Android apps, optimized a few of them for productivity, and managed to make a mobile-meets-desktop experience that actually feels… good. 

There are still limitations, and it's not quite there yet, but what are we looking at now? Two more years? Three?

The biggest obstacle, to me, is how damned expensive high-end phones are now. The flagship phones cost $600-700, and worse, the prices don't even seem to drop in the first 12 months.

At that price, the phone has to be a 100% desktop replacement, which means there has to be full functionality and no rough edges.

Not there yet.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Sorry about that!

I noticed a few minutes ago that the Rakuen release date in the "100 Words or Less" interview was May 5. That is incorrect--the release date is May 10.

I'm bummed I won't get to play it for another week.

Just Your Regular Monday

Greetings from a rink in Farmington, where I'm sitting in the lobby before Eli 15.10s goalie lesson.

Go to school half a day, drive to Detroit, have a lesson, drive home. That seems crazy, I know, but it's only crazy until you get used to it. Then it's normal.

Starting tomorrow, things are going to be easier for a while. No games, no tryouts. Still a ton of stuff to schedule, but more in the building phase instead of the competition phase.

Still very busy, but no pressure.

Eli has said some ambitious things about where he expects to be next year, but I'm long past doubting him. Nothing surprises me anymore.

They still haven't announced Selects yet, but if he made it to state camp, it's two weekends from now, and it's the same weekend as the prom, so that could make for some interesting driving to and from Detroit.

Yes, Eli 15.10 has a girlfriend, and she's super nice and a high-level athlete, too. I'm refrained from writing anything, but they have a terrific relationship and it makes me very happy.

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