Thursday, May 31, 2018

Calling All Evans

We were walking to the tennis courts last week. These particular courts are part of an elementary school.

Beside the courts there's a half-sized basketball court, and four half-sized boys were playing. One boy caught a pass, then walked at least three steps before shooting.

"That's traveling!" said one boy.

"Evan pushed me!" said the traveler. "He pushed me REALLY hard. He totally pushed me! That's a foul!"

"Even totally didn't push him," I whispered to Eli 16.10 as we walked past.

"Evan wasn't even close," Eli said.

We started playing, and I saw a piece of blue chalk behind the baseline, with art all around. I stopped and started writing. "What are you doing?" Eli asked.

"Come see," I said.

Eli started laughing. "Why did you do that?"

"On the small chance that one of those boys will walk past and see it," I said. "They would be amazed."

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Main Camp

Main camp. For a USHL team.

That's a big deal, right? A chance to make a USHL team? Well, not all is as it appears, my friends.

30 players would be rostered at the end of camp. There were 120 skaters and 16 goalies in camp.

It was easy to figure out that there was a main camp, then a MAIN camp inside the main camp. The real main camp consisted of returning players, draft picks, and players on the protected roster. That represented about 40 players, maybe 45. The team would basically be picked from those players.

Sure, a kid outside that group might crack the roster. Conceptually.

No matter. You don't go to one of these camps as a relative outsider and make the team. You go to play your ass off and hope that a scout from another team (plenty of scouts there) notices you. Plus, since Eli 16.10 is a 2001 birth year, you want to make an impression for the 2019 camp, when you're old enough to be taken seriously.

I wanted to string this all into a nice narrative, but it's impossible, because everything was so fractured. Four games in three days, Eli playing half of each, and when I say "games" I mean "scrimmages". Roster distributions such that three out of four games he played were wildly non-competitive.

So, let's just count them down.

Game one (Thursday). In half a game, he faced 22 shots (his own team got 6), gave up 5 goals, wanted 1 back, and played really well, even though the numbers didn't show it. He made at least half a dozen highlight reel saves, because he had no defense in front of him. Good puck control, good technique, and 3 of the goals were bar down.

Give kids at this level wide-open, uncontested shots from in close, and they're going to score.

"Man, you've improved. Four years ago you were getting shelled in 'B' league in Texas, and now you're getting shelled at a USHL camp, " I said. "Too soon?"

I didn't actually say this, but told Eli on Sunday that I almost had. "That definitely would have been too soon," he said, bursting out laughing.

Game two (Friday). Again, a wildly non-competitive game. He faced 20 shots, gave up 4, and wanted (maybe) 1 back. Made another set of beautiful saves in crazy circumstances. "I've given up nine goals in two games, and I know it sounds crazy, but I feel like I've actually played pretty well," he said.

"You have," I said. "You gave up four, and the other guy gave up six."

The crazy thing about Friday was that they moved kids around to different teams after the game, and Eli's new team played the very next game. So he finished a game, stripped off his jersey, put on a different jersey, and walked back onto the ice.

He was playing the second half in this game, and the first half was pretty even--we were only down 2-1 at halftime. So I had hopes, although I was wondering how much energy he'd have left.

Plenty, as it turned out. A hell of a lot of energy, and he was unbelievable. 14 shots, no goals, no rebounds. Difficult shots, but not constant. Terrific scrambling on a few wild plays. When he plays well, really well, every movement he makes is sharp, not rounded. It's hard to explain in words, but it's easy to see, and he snapped everything shut and looked impossibly good.

His team won 4-2.

"I ride on the competency of my teammates," he said, laughing.

One game left, on Saturday morning, and he was on the same team, so things were looking good. Except they moved two of his competent defensemen to another team, and there were only two defensive pairings.

The game started at 8 a.m., and after five minutes, it was 4-0. In the wrong direction. Those new defensemen, who were skating in the same pairing? In 6 shifts, they were -4.


This was a goalie's nightmare. No team in front of you, the other team happy to pile it on. Mentally, it's a staggering burden.

I thought they would score 10.

They didn't. Incredibly, and I don't even know how, Eli clawed his way into the game. He raised his level of play, then raised it again. Pucks were sticking to him like glue.

They did score 1 more, on a pass to an uncovered player at the far post where he had no chance, but that was it. To anyone who understood the position, it was a hell of a performance.

The other goalie on his team was Canadian and had been called up to the OHL for a cup of coffee last season (didn't play, but was on a roster).

He gave up 9.

That's how much of a disparity there was between teams. And he was good, too.

"Well, I came here and played my butt off," Eli said after the last game.

"You did," I said. "And you made some lifelong friends." Eli burst out laughing, because I was talking about the referee.

There was a referee who Eli talked to all weekend (scrimmages being much less formal than games), and they got along. Both were laughing every time they talked, and they talked a lot. Incredibly nice guy. After Eli's shutout, when his team was in line congratulating him, the referee got in line behind them and tapped Eli on the chest with his fist. "Was there a referee in your handshake line?" I asked.

Eli started laughing. "There was! He was the best ref ever!"

That's a nice way to end this story. Not with making a USHL team, but with his personality.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Prospects Camp

This is a USHL team prospects camp: 90 skaters, 12 goalies, only a few taken to main camp. Lots of money for the team (these camps aren't cheap) in exchange for slivers of opportunity.

If you want to understand how something works in youth/junior hockey, remember that, at it's core, it's a financial engine. Money must flow. So every team has a prospects camp, and its primary purpose is to generate money for the team to fund other parts of the operation that aren't profitable. Its how some teams survive, and the size of some of these camps is legendary.

Think 6 teams and 90 skaters is a bit much? Try 16 teams and 240 skaters. There's a NAHL team that does that (maybe more than one). For many teams, these camps are the only thing that keeps them alive.

"We talked about this before," I said, as we drove to Detroit, "but the way to get a chance is not to play great one weekend, or be the best goalie for one tryout, but to be the best goalie at every tryout, and eventually, someone is going to notice."

"I know," Eli 16.10 said. "That's how this works."

"I think I may understand part of this now," I said. "I thought that goalies would get evaluated from the bottom up, where you have a checklist and every skill gets evaluated. You'd come out ahead of almost anyone if it was done that way. Instead, though, it's top down, where they watch for a few minutes, write down a thing or two, and move on. And if it's done that way, size is always going to be one of the things."

Eli has a problem, and it's not how he plays. Even though he's 6' 1/2", he's starting to look small next to older goalies. And no matter his level of technical skill (very high), or his game management (also extremely high), or his athleticism (off the charts), he has a hard time getting noticed.

The four games he played are easy to describe: he was terrific. Shutouts in the first three, two goals in the last game. He dominated, and he did everything. He played the puck. He made defensive calls (and his teammates listened). He controlled the puck. He scrambled. He just looked better.

No hesitation. 100% certain with every move he made.

They didn't take him.

I saw the other goalies, and some of them were good. They weren't as technically skilled, though, and they didn't manage the game. He was clearly better, and I say that as someone who understands what his limitations are, because I've seen every game he's ever played.

No matter.

Like I said, that's his problem right now. Enormous command of the position for someone his age, but no one is noticing.

So the weekend was a huge positive, for him, because he was so dominant, tinged with real disappointment that he wasn't going to main camp, because what else could he possibly need to do?

On Tuesday, I opened up my email and saw this: 2018 MAIN CAMP INVITATION.

Probably, someone canceled. Didn't matter. He deserved it.

This was Tuesday night. Camp started on Thursday morning.

"Hey, looks like you're going to have to rearrange a few things," I said.

"Why?" he asked.

"Um, because you just got an invitation to main camp," I said.

"What? No way!"

"Look for yourself," I said, and showed him the email.

Looks like someone is going to main camp.

This is not a good look

This is a really, really bad look for the NHL:
Years into concussion lawsuit, Jacobs and other NHL owners deny knowledge of CTE

This is part one of a multi-part story from TSN, and boy, it makes the NHL (the league, not the players) look like real assholes.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Dear Michiganders

Please do not put rice on nachos. This is morally wrong.
Thank you,
New Resident

Stop the World, I Want to Get Off

I am in total chaos today, with a hockey list about one mile long, so please enjoy a few pictures from last weekend.

This is certainly clear and easy to keep track of:

Okay, then.

The small city that hosted the camp had a few houses from the 19th century that were quite majestic, almost wizardly. They were built by a lumber baron or some kind of baron. This was his family's house for multiple generations:

Just struggling to get by, obviously.

This is the city library, and it wasn't built as part of a Harry Potter theme park:

Today's Sports Headline

LeBron James Leads Bag Of Balls And Sack Lunch To NBA Finals

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Links!

From Ken Piper, and this is such a bizarre bit of history: What We've Learned from Giving Dolphins LSD. Also bizarre: Hawaii’s volcanoes: How George S. Patton took on the lava with bombs.

From Paul Meyer, and here's a Badass of the Month: Montreal WW II hero, largely unknown at home, honoured as Dutch town's saviour.

A torrent of excellent links from C. Lee:
Bach at the Burger King
To Build Truly Intelligent Machines, Teach Them Cause and Effect
Who was called 'a great cow full of ink'? (snippy authors)
Lost, stolen, blown up and fed to pigs: the greatest missing masterpieces
The Vineyard Where Retired French Soldiers Make Wine
How a Special Diet Kept the Knights Templar Fighting Fit
Google Removes 'Don't Be Evil' Clause From Its Code of Conduct
Missing microbes 'cause' childhood cancer (this is huge)

From Wally, and this is striking: Image Comics Had Seven Different Artists Color a Black & White Todd McFarlane ‘Spawn’ Drawing. An interesting bit of history: Torpedo [Sea Mine].

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Hotel House of Horrors Interlude

I know we're in the middle of a story this week, but Garret sent this to me, and it demands to be read. So here's an excellent sidebar about hotels, and I'll continue about the prospects camp on Monday.

Badeck Saskatchewan is one of those places that you remember vividly. A little out of the way stop-over that you remember every detail of... but has vanished into thin air like a ghost, and you begin to doubt whether or not it was ever really there. There is no trace of it on the internet, no presence, its not even on the map. I've kept an eye out for it the few times I've driven through along the same route in the intervening years... but I've never spotted it again.

Badeck was not a village, not even an unregistered hamlet. It was a roadstop somewhere an hour southeast-ish of Saskatoon consisting of a single motel (probably long since demolished) and a couple of farm houses. Only the motel sign circa 1960-odd even gave the place a name, one of those old fashioned signs with neon tubes and advertising Color TV. The only reason we stopped there was out of exhaustion and desperation.

We had been visiting family in Edmonton and were on the road back to Winnipeg, a 15 hour drive but we left late planning to stop mid-way in Saskatoon for the night. A nice easy trip home. Unfortunately when we arrived in Saskatoon the first hotel had no rooms left. Nor the second, nor the third. They called around for us, but there was not a hotel room to be found in the city thanks to the double-impact of an agricultural convention and a hockey tournament taking place that weekend. By time we decided to move on down the road it was already getting dark, and we were all exhausted and my younger sister had begun to cough.

At that age my sister had been suffering a lingering illness that by my impression seemed like it had been going on forever. When she tired she would begin to cough, and whether it was mucous or the continual dry hack it would keep her awake and unable to sleep for hours. Sometimes she would cough until she had difficulty breathing or expel that and sometimes her remaining dinner as well.

So in desperation my parents decided to stop at the next opportunity, whatever it was, just long enough to rest so that we could continue the drive the next morning.

This is when we found the Badeck Motel.

A dingy little roadside motel with and bar with a gravel lot in the middle of nowhere, not a service station or anything in sight save a couple of nearby farms. My parents procured a room as far from the bar as they could get, by planning or chance I could not say. This is not a place where I expect anyone ever came to stay intentionally. It was a place where locals came to get drunk, and if they couldn't walk out the door they could sleep it off before slinking back home.

The room stank of cigarette smoke, sour beer, and garbage as it was fortuitously located with the only window and air intakes both overlooking the overflowing dumpster behind the door to the kitchen. The thickly carpeted floor stuck to our shoes and moved of its own accord from the creatures that happened to live in it. Pulling back the covers showed sheets so filthy and stained that the covers were replaced and we were instructed to sleep in our clothes, with our shoes on, on top of the covers.

I only remember trying to sleep and failing as my sister had a difficult night coughing and retching, unable to rest and being continually disturbed by her cough, the revving of four-wheel drive vehicles in the lot outside, and the blaring music from the bar that continued until nearly 3am. What little rest we got was then broken by the kitchen doing whatever preparation work they were going to do for the day starting at 6am at which point my parents decided they were not staying another minute.

We climbed into the car, exhausted, disheveled, and itching, and left with the intent of finding breakfast and gallons of coffee somewhere further down the road.

Anywhere further down the road.

I've driven the same route a number of times in the intervening years, and I have never again seen any sign of the Badeck Motel, though I look for it every time I pass by.

Did it really happen? Was it really there?

I can't say for sure one way or another. But I do remember.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Revelations Inside Barnes and Nobles

We had time on Saturday between games, and Eli 16.10 needed a Psychology book.

He wandered off, I started looking at board games, and then I went over to where he was standing.

"This is kind of father you're stuck with," I said.

"Okay, go ahead," he said.

"I walked past the board game area, saw that they had a Hnefatafl set, and got annoyed that it was only $70, because mine cost $150."

He burst out laughing.

"Now ask me what 'Hnefatafl' is," I said.

"Okay, what is Hnefa--whatever?" he asked.

"Asymmetric chess, designed and played by Vikings," I said.

He burst out laughing again. "Oh, Dad," he said.

I wandered off and saw a ton of children's toy aisles. Barnes and Nobles looks like it's turning into one of those stores where vendors buy space to put all kinds of crap that B&N normally wouldn't carry.

Eli had been gone for quite a while, so I started looking and found him in the Spanish section. "Boy, they've really expanded the toy section," I said.

He started laughing. "I'm looking for high-level cognitive skills book--in Spanish--and you're looking for toys. Okay, that seems about right."

"And we're both happier that way," I said, laughing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Hotel

Following the weekend's theme of "nasty", the hotel was, too.

These prospect camps assign you a hotel, and it's a hotel that kicks money back to the team in exchange for the flood of occupants they receive. The problem is that these are generally not nice hotels, because the nice hotels don't need to do this.

Our hotel was built in 1964, then allegedly renovated two years ago. It wasn't a hockey hotel +, or even a hockey hotel. It was a hockey hotel -, which is pretty depressing.

I awarded it the "Best Western Most Likely To Get Robbed In", and I believe it's earned that award for several years running.

Hotels like this are just depressing. They're always cramped, they're dark, there's not much room to put anything, and they're never clean. I vow that I will never stay in a hotel like this after Eli 16.10 finishes hockey, but as long as tournaments and camps make you stay at a certain hotel, we're stuck.

On the plus side: I tipped the nice maid, and she looked like she hadn't been tipped since 1964, and that got us five bath towels each day, which we usually wind up needing.

There was a restaurant, and we went down Saturday morning for (possibly) breakfast, depending on how it looked. We walked in and it looked reasonably clean, and people were sitting at tables. "This looks okay," Eli 16.10 said, and I started walking around. "Dad!" he said (I'd give that half an exclamation mark if one existed). "Dad, what are you doing?"

I came back a few seconds later. "Eight parties seated," I said. "Zero parties eating."

"Let's go," he said. "McDonald's. Nice catch, Dad." We walked toward the lobby. "Man, that was next level," he said, laughing.

On a side note, we looked at reviews of the restaurant later, and one of the most recent ones said that a bug had been baked into their pizza.

Definitely dodged a bullet. Or a bug.

After The Emergency Apple Redemption Meeting, A Consensus was Reached

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Hierarchy of Nasty

This beauty:

I thought, at the time, that it was a custom paint job. 

"I respect that this guy owns it," I said. 

"What do you mean?" Eli 16.10 asked. 

"If you're going to paint a cougar on your car and put the word 'Hellcat' on the side," I said, "then I say go all-in and get a 'Nastie 1' personalized license plate."

"I can't argue with that," he said. 

"But there's a question," I said. "If your license plate says 'Nastie 1', how nasty are you?"

"Pretty nasty," Eli said. 

"Sure," I said, "there's some degree of nasty. But what about the guy who just has 'Nasty' custom plates? Is he nastier?"

"I'm thinking he is," Eli said. 

"Exactly," I said. "So I'd put 'Nastie 1' behind 'Nasty', 'Nasty 1', and 'Nastie'. That's quite a few nasties in front of you, relatively speaking."

"But still nasty," he said. 

"Definitely," I said. "Still nasty."

What a Weekend

The next few days are going to recount last weekend, when Eli 16.10 went to a USHL Prospects Camp with a team that will remain unnamed. Lots to unpack, and no, he's not going to the USHL.

Not yet, anyway. Hope springs eternal, as they say.

You Have One Job

I woke up this morning with Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" stuck in my head. Priority one today is getting it out of my head as soon as possible.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Links!

Leading off, and this is important to understand: How Shoddy Statistics Found A Home In Sports Research.

Here's an interesting climate-related article about my new part of the world: The Midwest Is Getting Drenched, And It’s Causing Big Problems.

From Wally, and this is an odd and almost forgotten literary genre: Turning Pages: The literary joys of juvenile delinquents. These are just amazing: 12 famous photographs recreated in tiny models. Not surprising at all, but an excellent read: Inside The Ecosystem That Fuels Amazon’s Fake Review Problem. Yeah, that's not supposed to happen: Maleficent the Dragon bursts into flames during Disney Parade. This is an excellent read: ILM Modelmakers Share Star Wars Stories and Secrets.

From Steven Davis, and it's a fascinating video hosted by a woodblock printmaker: David's Choice - Episode #6.

From Michael O'Reilly, and this is obviously wonderful (and what alliteration): Pumpkin prank perpetrator puzzle persists 20 years later.

From Ken Dean, and if you ever wondered: How It's Made - Hockey Rink.

From Roger Robar, and this is a very interesting case (I agree with the commenter who said he should be locked up for 'crimes against literacy'): The Curious Case of the Fortnite Cheater.

Excellent links, as always, from C. Lee:
How Bacteria Help Regulate Blood Pressure
How Post-Revolutionary France Grew Obsessed With Gardens and Gadgets
Own an Android Phone? You Might Not Get That Loan: Algorithms could determine our creditworthiness based on data we didn’t know was available or relevant
Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll

From Ken Piper, and this is amazing technology: Researchers Uncover Two Hidden Pages in Anne Frank’s Diary.

Closing out this week, lummoxjr sent in two excellent links. First, and I could certainly use this, it's How to Fall Asleep in 2 Minutes or Less. Also, and this is certainly good advice, it's The Eisenhower Decision Matrix: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important Tasks and Make Real Progress in Your Life.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Well of Moments

DQ Reader Lee Gaiteri (author of the phenomenal Below, has a new book coming out on Sunday, and it's called The Well of Moments.

Day one purchase for me.

Also, from May 20 to 24, the first book in the series is free: The Affix (Paranormal Curio Book One)

Lee is an outstanding writer, and "Below" was one of my favorite books last year. Can't wait for this new one.

Xbox Adaptive Controller

Holy cow, this is stunning: Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is designed entirely for players with disabilities. Here's an excerpt:
The Xbox Adaptive Controller’s simple design belies the level of depth and customization options it offers. Its rectangular frame, which is about a foot long, features two large, slightly domed buttons on its face that can be mapped to any function through the Xbox Accessories app. Because a Windows 10 PC or Xbox One will see the device as a standard Xbox One controller, it’s compatible with every game at the system level.

On the back, there’s a line of 19 3.5 mm jacks — the standard connection for assistive input devices. These are the foundation of the controller’s adaptability; each port corresponds with a different button, trigger, bumper or D-pad function of the Xbox One controller. Players can plug foot pedals, fingertip-sized microswitches, additional large buttons or other peripherals that they may already own into these ports.

There are also USB ports on either side of the unit that map to the left and right analog sticks. Kumar and Kaufman demonstrated a nunchuck peripheral manufactured by PDP, a joystick commonly used for flight simulators and a 3dRudder foot controller as plug-and-play options that are compatible with the Adaptive Controller.

I give enormous credit to Microsoft for spending the time and money developing a product that will never be profitable. It's such an enormous contribution to a part of the gaming community that never gets enough attention, or oftentimes, no attention at all.

If you normally don't click on links, this time you should. It's a Polygon article with a wealth of detail, product images, and video. It's a staggeringly versatile device, with almost infinite options in terms of customization.

I think there's an additional market for this product, and it's people like me who can't use a controller for very long anymore without their hands hurting. Mapping buttons and triggers to foot buttons and whatnot would be incredibly helpful.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Here We Are Again

Robinson Cano (until yesterday, a future Hall of Famer) got popped for a masking agent for steroids yesterday.

Performance enhancing drugs are still a big problem in major league baseball. They're a big problem in every sport. It's a cat and mouse game where the mice have always been very, very successful.

The reason is simple: money.

Jason Giambi is the poster child for how profitable it is to cheat. He was 26, playing for the Oakland A's, and his stat line was .293/20/81. That's for a first baseman, which probably has higher power numbers than any other position. And he never showed more power in the minors.

That's who he was, a guy who was going to hit 20 home runs and 80 RBIs a season. Medium power, better batting average.

The average time for a pro athlete to start declining is age 28. So he was hitting like this near the peak of his career, athletically speaking.

Then he started taking performance enhancing drugs (lots of them). Puts on ridiculous amounts of muscle (you always hear people say "that guy can't be cheating--he trains like a maniac" when someone gets caught cheating, but one of the most important aspects of steroids is that it greatly improves your ability to recover, so you can train much harder). Two years later, he starts putting up stats lines like this:

In 1997, he was making $205,000. In 2001, he signed a 7 year, $120 million dollar contract with the Yankees.

In fairness, once his rookie deal expired, he would have made about $2 million a year. That's still one hell of a raise, though. Who wouldn't cheat with that kind of money in front of them?

The question: is there any way to stop this? Is there a way to remove the financial incentive to cheat?


How about this? If a player tests positive for a performance enhancing drug or a drug that's in the class of masking agents used to hide usage of same, in addition to the player being suspended (currently, that's 80 games for the first violation), you take two additional measures:
1. The player, for the rest of his career, is no longer eligible for the All-Star game or consideration for any postseason awards.
2. For the rest of his career, the player's maximum salary is capped at $2 million a year.

If they get caught, they lose the two things that make cheating so tempting: accolades and money.

Make no mistake, some players would still cheat. But the stakes would be incredibly high.

Yes, there would (rarely) be "honest" players who test positive, but there are institutions in this country (the jury system, for one) that are far, far more problematic, and no one's trying to get rid of them. And the appeals process (even now) for positive tests is exhaustive.

It'll never happen, but I think it would work. At least the risk would be more equal to the potential reward.

That's Certainly Tempting

I haven't picked up Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire because Slay The Spire is absolutely murdering my free time lately.

However, on the GWJ Podcast this week, it was mentioned that the game has sea shanties.

Well, that's an automatic buy. How could a game with sea shanties not be an automatic buy?

Even better, there's a setting in the Options menu to "disable sea shanties." That's next level.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On That Most Special Day

"Nature just attacked me," I said. Eli 16.10 laughed.

The branch, it seems, was guilty.

It was Mother's Day, the source of many a doomed expedition worldwide, and we were at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Water Park. Okay, there's not actually a water park, but that would be killer. Instead, there are sculptures, many of children in various terrifying postures.

We were skeptical, but then we saw this:

"My respect for this place has gone up dramatically," Eli said, and I agreed.

"How many teenager morons have tried to feed potato chips to these plants?" I asked.

"Oh, hundreds," he said.

We walked. "This feels like a zoo," he said, "but where are the animals?"

"Hiding," I said.

Obligatory views:

Then we saw a big horse:

"The most frequent comments on Twitter," Eli said, "are 'Where are the animals?' and 'That's a big horse.' "

"I'd like to thank the stars for this horse not being anatomically correct," I said, and then we walked around the side. "Uh oh," I said, and Gloria started laughing. I'm not going to circle anything in red, but if you enlarge and look closely enough, you can see some basketball-sized testiculos de caballo:

Have a palate cleaner:

"Are you ready to go over to the sculpture section?" Gloria asked, after about an hour of walking.

"I think I need a little time to reflect on what I've seen," I said. "In the cafe."

Of nature but not in nature is how I like life. Seriously, look at this view from the cafe window (a little dark, too--just how I like it):

Here's a nice picture of two excellent people:

Monday, May 14, 2018


From the oddity closet, I bring you Cotard delusion. Read:
Cotard delusion is a rare mental illness in which the affected person holds the delusional belief that they are already dead, do not exist, are putrefying, or have lost their blood or internal organs.

Take that in for a minute.

Have a little more:
On Nov. 5, 2013, Esmé Weijun Wang came to the remarkable conclusion that she was dead.

In the weeks prior to this, she had begun to feel increasingly fractured — like being scatterbrained, but to such an extreme that she felt her sense of reality was fraying at the edges. She had started to lose her grip on who she was and on the world around her. Desperate to fend off what appeared to be early signs of psychosis, Wang went into a soul-searching and organizational frenzy. She read a self-help book that was supposed to help people discover their core beliefs and desires; she ordered and scribbled in five 2014 datebook planners, reorganized her work space and found herself questioning her role as a writer.

Then one morning, Wang woke her husband before sunrise with an incredible sense of wonder and tears of joy to tell him it all made sense to her now: She had actually died a month before, although at the time she had been told she merely fainted.

I know if I thought I was dead, I'd turn to self-help books right away, not to mention immediately watching Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead.

This is one of those discoveries, for me, that means I will never be the same. Sometimes you find out about things that mean the world is different than you understood, and this is one of those things.

This illness isn't understood all that well, but it appears that there's usually a precipitating event where the sufferer could have died, but didn't, and they become convinced that what happened was actually fatal. It's a mental illness, obviously, but it can lead to some interesting metaphysical considerations:
“I began to believe I was in perdition, or some kind of hell,” said Wang, who wrote an essay, “Perdition Days,” during and after the experience. “I was trying to figure out what I had done wrong, what had condemned me to this afterlife that looked like my real life before I died but wasn’t real — that was the torment of it. I kind of described it once as feeling like I was on fire inside.”

This condition can last for months or even years. Remarkably, though, it's treatable, both via pharmacological means and (if necessary) electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, which is generally more effective).

I'd like to know why someone hasn't used this as the basis for a film (paging DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand).

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and stories like this are why my enthusiasm for the NFL has waned: What It's Like To Navigate The NFL's Concussion Settlement Hellscape.

A palate cleanser after that last story: These Sweet Elderly Elephants Are So Good at Yoga. Also, and this is quite a read: The Billion Dollar Bank Job.

From Steven Davis, and these are stunning: Horrifying 1906 Illustrations of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: Discover the Art of Henrique Alvim Corrêa. This is wonderful: A New Immersive Installation in Paris Lets You Step inside Klimt’s Masterpieces.

From pb, and no matter how smart I exercise, I seem to be losing ground: Extra time: how smart exercise keeps you younger for longer.

From Wally, and I've never heard of this before: All About Pork Roll, New Jersey's Own Cheap Eat. This is a riveting story: eating military base stew. I am definitely not "litt": Feeling litt? The five hotspots driving English forward. This is entirely fantastic: Ducks in Germany wait for the green signal at a crossing.

A slew of quality links, as always, from C. Lee (they're all excellent):
These historical menus show how drastically the way we eat has changed
Download Over 16,000 Free Sound Effects From This BBC Archive
Robot claw shows intricacies of crab courtship
‘À La Mode’ Is a Lonely Survivor of a French Culinary Code
Knitting the Future by Hand Tamako Mitarai (there's an Earthbound connection here)
Tales from inside 90s Nintendo - from the man who made Mario's face
How to Be Better At Reading Books to Kids

From Ken Piper, and this is astonishing: Particle Physics Resurrects Alexander Graham Bell’s Voice

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is provocative: Fasting boosts stem cells’ regenerative capacity.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


"This fortune," Eli 16.10 said. "I have no idea."

"Let me see," I said. He handed me the paper. " 'Being an able man. There are always.'  Hmm."


"That is profound," I said.


"Well, there's the puzzle," I said. "Teasing something profound out of serious grammatical errors."

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

A Good Thing

So this happened a few days ago:
The Boy Scouts program is becoming Scouts BSA in February 2019 to reflect the decision to include young women, the Boy Scouts of America announced on Wednesday.

The organization's name will remain the same; only the program for older youth will change its name.

The Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, announced last fall that it would begin allowing girls to become Scouts — much to the frustration of the Girl Scouts, which has advocated for single-gender scouting.

The Cub Scouts program for younger children was the first to open up to girls. Thousands of girls have already joined under an early adopter program.

Other Boy Scouts programs for older youth — such as an outdoor adventure program called Venturing — were already open to girls. But those programs didn't offer girls the chance to attain the highest rank of Eagle Scout.

By next year, older girls will be able to join Scouts BSA and try to become Eagle Scouts, just like the boys.

Some people are all freaked out by this.

Look, I know boys and girls are different. But why would we want same-sex exclusive programs that accentuate those differences? Putting boys and girls in situations where they share common goals and need to work together is a bad idea?

Maybe if boys are girls are together more often, in environments that demand respect, then boys will have more respect for girls as they get older. Maybe that's always been a big part of the problem, that our culture has elevated the status of boys (particularly "white" boys) and created a sense of entitlement in them that's turned into cultural cancer.

Just put boys and girls in situations where if they help each other, they both succeed.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Hulk

Eli 16.10 had just finished a 5+ hour AP Spanish Test and was playing Fortnite on the couch.

"I went to the YMCA today and went to the bathroom before I worked out," I said. "I looked in the mirror, and at just the right angle, wearing the right clothes, it almost looks like I have an upper body."

"NO way!" Eli said.

"The vaguest, most obscure hint of muscles you've ever seen," I said.

Here's a Little Spring For You

Monday, May 07, 2018

The NBA Playoffs

"Hey, did the Utah Jazz employ a shaman to help them win playoff games?" I asked.

"What?" Eli 16.10 said as walked into the living room. "That's ridiculous."

I paused live t.v. "Upper left corner," I said. "Look closely."

"Whoa," he said, then paused. "All right, I'm going to say that's plausible."

Sadly, this picture lacks some of the fine detail that would show prominent hair ridges, but you get the idea. 

"Whoa, that's some gator tail," I said. 

"What?" Gloria asked. "What are you you talking about?"

"Look at his hair," I said. "That's a perfect example of a gator tail hairstyle."

"That is not a thing," she said. 

"Oh, it's a thing," I said (it's not a thing). "Just look up 'gator tail hair'."

She started fiddling with her phone. 

"What are you doing?" I asked. 

"Looking up 'gator tail hair'," she said. 

I burst out laughing. "Oh, you ass," she said. "But I actually found something."

"No way," I said. "I totally made that up." 

"There's a gator-tail braid," she said, and then proceeded to show me pictures. 

"Wait, something I made up actually exists?" I said. 

"It appears so," she said. 

Friday, May 04, 2018

Friday Links!

There are a ton of long reads this week, and they're uniformly excellent.

This is a terrific read: The Young and the Reckless: A gang of teen hackers snatched the keys to Microsoft's videogame empire. Then they went too far.

From Guy Byars, and this is an amazing story: I was a teacher for 17 years, but I couldn’t read or write.

From Mark H, and here's a mind-blowing bit of history: The Long Way Round: The Plane that Accidentally Circumnavigated the World.

From Wally, and this is an excellent read: The Digital Vigilantes Who Hack Back. This is so, so bizarre: HOBBITS GONE WRONG: A few Oregonians' love for Lord of the Rings landed them in a strange saga of their own. This is fascinating: Why sports sound better in your living room. Here's your Scottish candy info for the week: Soor Plooms.

From Griffin Cheng, and it's fantastic: The Triple Homicide in D.C. That Laid the Groundwork for Americans' Right to Remain Silent. This is just entirely brilliant: The Gambler Who Cracked the Horse-Racing Code. This is absolutely amazing: Over 10,000 years ago, weapons at White Sands were aimed at giant sloths.

From C. Lee, and I guess no one should be surprised: You could be flirting on dating apps with paid impersonators.

From Dan G., and this is a great read: THE ISIS FILES: We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long.

Thursday, May 03, 2018


A little boy, maybe three, was walking out of the rink with his dad last weekend. "What if the DINOSAUR was in outer space?" he asked.

Coming Around

Eli 16.9 was getting his SAT score today. This is from last night.

"Well, it's probably going to be awful," he said. "I guess there's always Clown College."

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "Every AP test you took for Clown College would be a five. You'd start with fifty credit hours."

"Not helping," Eli said.

"Card Magic, Juggling, Unicycle, Plate Juggling, Pie Throwing..." I said.

"Really not helping!" he said.

We sat there for about fifteen seconds.

"I really would probably start as a Junior, wouldn't I?" he said.

He got his score this morning. 1470.

Disappointed, because he wanted to knock out a 1540 or something and not need to take it again, but that's a really high score for the first time taking the test. He's taking it again in early June and we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Commerce (Acoustic Edition)

"Have you ever thought about opening a local business?" Gloria asked. We were at a restaurant.

"Yes, I'm going to open a restaurant where I tell people I don't like to leave," I said. "I'm going to call it 'No Remorse'."

"I think what this town needs is a music venue," she said. "Acoustic, with coffee and maybe baked goods. And outdoor seating."

"So you think the hole in the local commercial portfolio is the exact place where you would most like to hang out," I said.

She laughed. "That's right."

We sat for a while.

"This place isn't going to make it," I said. "5:30 and it's almost empty. And the few people who are here look like they're at least sixty."

"Remember when it opened and it was packed? Every person in here was a blonde in her thirties," she asked.

Three very old people walked in.

"Oldies!" I whispered. "The oldies have taken over. Now no one younger than fifty would be caught dead in here."

"Oh no," she said, "that means we're so old we still belong."

"Welcome to your fifties," I said. "A grim, dystopian future."

"Uh-oh," she said. "I just thought of something. How do I keep them out of my new music house?"

"They're like sugar ants," I said. "One shows up, then one more, then they're everywhere, and you can't get rid of them."

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The Process

Eli 16.9 is going through an interesting phase right now in his pursuit of higher level goalie play.

We were at a USA Hockey District tryout camp last weekend. If he's selected he gets to go to a regional camp, and if he were to be selected again, he'd go to National Camp.

He played well, and I think he's got a good chance (won't know for a week), but right now, he's a hard kid to evaluate.

98% of the time, he looks unbelievable. Every single skill a goalie should have, excellent decision making and communication, and an unreal level of polish.

The other 2% of the time, he's letting in clunkers.

The good news is the 98%, and we agree on the 2% he needs to work on. But it's agonizing to see him play at such a ridiculously high level, then occasionally fail to make much, much easier saves.

The other good news, in terms of addressing this, is that his best ability is refining his game based on repetition. We've done probably 4,000-5,000 reps on the ball machine in the last five weeks, and his glove was rock solid all weekend. Same thing needed now, just with different drills.

He did an interesting thing a few weeks ago. His goalie coach criticized his play at times last year as being too mechanical. He didn't scramble well, partly because his game is built on technique and control, so pucks aren't bouncing in front of him very often.

I thought this was a mental thing, not physical.

Two months ago, he was on the ice with his trainer (who also played college hockey and works with him on-ice in drills that Eli organizes), and I saw him doing something I'd never seen before: he'd created a scrambling drill.

That blew my mind.

It was very specific, and incredibly athletic, and after he got off the ice I asked him about it. He said, "I think the reason I don't scramble is because I don't practice scrambling. I just need reps where I'm overloading on scrambling, and when I have enough reps, a desperation save isn't desperation anymore--it's a specific type of save that I can put into my toolbox and use when I need it."

Well, he was right, because he scrambled better last weekend than I've ever seen him, and I think it was due to that drill that he's been practicing in every on-ice session.

It's exhausting, watching this. The amount he's needed to improve every year is overwhelming. He's been able to do it, though, and he's only going to be out of chances when it stops.

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