Thursday, January 31, 2019


I snowshoed for half an hour in the late afternoon yesterday, in wind chill of -35.

When it's wind chill of zero, I'm fine. I get hot, even, after half an hour.

At -35 wind chill, you will not get hot. You will get just warm enough to keep going. Plus, and here's a bonus, this is what your glasses will look like when you're done:

Yeah, that's ice. It's like looking through a periscope, and not a good one.

Just a bit of snow in the last few days:

It's quite beautiful, though:

In the middle of all this weather, George unexpectedly had a moment of near-greatness. I let him out to pad around in the snow, which he likes:

While he was doing this, the fattest robin I have ever seen landed on the on the lowest branch of a tree in the backyard. George was walking back across to come in the house, and that robin flew about a foot over his head, and George gave chase.

The world's fattest robin being chased by the world's slowest cat.

It's the first time George has ever tried to attack a non-human, and it was thrilling, even though it all looked like it was happening in slow motion. George didn't catch him, but he was spirited, and I only wish I'd gotten video.

He was exhausted with that ten seconds of effort and quickly retreated to his unfolded laundry lair:

I assume he'll wake up by Saturday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Snow Day!

I wound up at the mall yesterday, because both the public library and the other place I usually work at were closed.

I was telling Eli 17.6 about the Simpson's episode where Bart prays for a Snow Day because he didn't do his homework, and it works, but then it's the most fantastic day ever and Bart needs to do his homework, and when Lisa finds out she points her finger at Bart and says, "Prayer. The last refuge of scoundrels."

Anyway, after two hours of editing at the mall, that memory inspired me to take a snow day.

I went to On The Border at 11:30 and had nachos with plenty of jalapenos, just to convince myself I lived somewhere else. Of course, when I looked out the window and saw this, it was hard to keep that imaginary warmth going:

Kind of harsh, really. I think the wind chill was about -10 at that point. Then Eli sent me this picture from school, where they somehow didn't have a snow day:

He did however, have a snow day today and tomorrow (already called). Two-day school weeks are highly enjoyable.

It just kept snowing yesterday, so we've had about 15" in three days. That's okay, though, because after On The Border, I went to see a movie.

The movie was great until it started snowing in the movie. The snow is coming from inside the house!, I thought immediately.

It was the best snow day, but driving home was this:

By 5 p.m., the wind was blowing so hard that the visibility was below fifty yards in quite a few places.

This morning, it was -5 with a wind chill of -25. And we were lucky, because we have friends in a Chicago suburb who had wind chill of -60 this morning!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Not a great picture, but if you look in the center, that's Eli 17.6, giving the thumbs-up as he goes to play golf yesterday.

Indoors, this time.

It snowed about 8 inches yesterday (most of it in about four hours), and the roads were so bad that he got a snow day from school. I think we're supposed to get another foot in the next three days.

I snowshoed yesterday, and the snow was so deep that I couldn't stay on the sidewalk, because there was no sidewalk. Everything was just snow, with no way to tell where anything ended (not even the curb). The positive, though, was that I didn't need to go anywhere to snowshoe. I just walked out the front door.

Also, it's going to get cold. Really cold.

Wind chill of -35 forecast for tonight, which probably means that Eli won't be going to school on Wednesday (good for him).

I think tomorrow is supposed to be one of the five coldest days in the history of Grand Rapids, or something like that.

They said yesterday that non-essential personnel should stay off the roads. "I'm essential until I have breakfast," I said.

Monday, January 28, 2019


"Mom, where are my gloves?" Eli 17.6  is going out to play spikeball with his friends. In a foot of snow.

"Look in the hat bin," Gloria says.

"We have a hat bin?" I ask. I've only lived here for three years.

"I thought they were in the closet," Eli says. "Why would they be in the hat bin?"

"I think I put them there last week," Gloria says.

"Wait," I say. "If gloves are being put in the hat bin, shouldn't it be renamed 'the Hat and Glove bin'?"

"Oh, here they are," Eli says. "They were in the Hat and Glove bin." He walks downstairs, then comes back up, now wearing a jacket.

"I hope you didn't get that out of the Hat and Glove bin," I say. "Or we have another issue."

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday Links!

Two fascinating stories to to lead off. First, The 20-Year Quest to Track Down Every Bird-of-Paradise Species Before They Vanish. Next, it's The Painful Price of Becoming Jackie Chan. One more, a cautionary tale: How to Lose Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Amazon.

Okay, one more still. I keep running across terrific articles this week: The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson's Archives.

From Wally, and this cat is a superstar: Goalkeeper Cat Blocks Ball Every Time. This is an excellent read: The secret travel club that's been everywhere. This is incredible: Meet the workers who build an entire city of ice every year.

From Steven Davis, and I'd never heard of this: Skyfish Rods.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is a touching, incisive essay: Her Left Hand, The Darkness.

From C. Lee, and it's provocative: Science funding is a mess. Could grant lotteries make it better? This is interesting: What People Actually Say Before They Die. A unique kind of therapy: What It’s Like to Visit an Existential Therapist. This is intriguing: The Brain Maps Out Ideas and Memories Like Spaces. Okay, I will: An Ancient and Proven Way to Improve Memorization; Go Ahead and Try It.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and maybe it's time for me to appreciate Ringo a bit more: What makes Ringo a Great Drummer - Tribute by Sina. This guy sounds like a lot of other guys in tone, but what he says about trends is thought-provoking: Gradually, Then Suddenly.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Undisputed Good

I'm really sick of nothing being good.

I mean the kind of good that no one argues with, the good that is so obvious it is beyond dispute. Systems of thought, or beliefs, that are universally regarded as helpful.

I know. It's a small list. I want to make one, though.

So far, I only have two items on the list:
--Method of Loci

Anyone have anything else?

A Bit Of New Knowledge From A New Michigander

I didn't need to know what "cold cranking amps" meant when I lived in Austin.

When it's -5 outside, though, and your car starts to let you go somewhere, then won't start when you're ready to go home, it becomes a thing.

More. You want more thingies. That's the general takeaway.

I had 300 units of CCA with the battery that came in my 2014 Accord Hybrid, and now, with a new battery, I have 500. And it didn't even cost much ($150, on sale, including installation).

Now, with 500 thingies in my battery, I shouldn't get stuck anywhere. All hail the cold cranking amp!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Eli 17.6 was reading a book for his literature class.

"Why is Dante going through hell?" he asked.

"A series of poor personal decisions?" I said.

Tailwinds Past Florence

Most of you will remember that DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh (and his wife) went on an around-the-world cycling tour a few years ago.

They didn't quite make the whole world, but man, they went a long way. And Doug sent in occasional updates that were always incredibly interesting.

Well, he wrote a book.

Not a non-fiction book about the trip, but he weaves the trip into a fictional story, and it came out yesterday. It's called "Tailwinds Past Florence," and here's the Amazon page:
Tailwinds Past Florence.

I've read it, and it's ambitious and very entertaining.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Dice Portsmouth

I saw this Kickstarter campaign almost five years ago:
Board game cafés are opening all around the world - yet there is still nothing similar on the South Coast of England. We want to bring this fantastic concept to Portsmouth and provide people with an exciting and new environment to socialise!

I have no idea why this struck such a cord with me--"cafe" and "socialize" are strange words to me--but there was something about the general enthusiasm of the pitch that I appreciated, so I backed the project.

The projected opening was December 2015.

From that point on, it seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong. The building search was endless, and on multiple occasions, when finding a suitable location, someone else swooped in at the last minute instead and took it away.

Update after update, talking about a location and how it didn't work out. It got to the point that even I was discouraged for these guys.

And yet, they persevered.

They got their building: Three years on: Dice Portsmouth find their home in Albert Road. They got some nice press coverage: Delight for families as board games cafe Dice opens in Southsea’s Albert Road. Finally, after an inconceivable amount of effort, and the building fully renovated, they're open.

They also have a website: Dice Portsmouth.

I have so much respect for people who refuse to be defeated.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Martin Luther King

I make this post every year on Martin Luther King Day, and it's more topical than ever.

Today is a national holiday in the United States to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's easy to forget the kind of hatred and stupidity that King was fighting against, but a good place to start is here: What was Jim Crow. The Wikipedia entry for Jim Crow laws also has detailed information. And the Wikipedia entry for King is here.

Also, here's a link to a 2006 post when Eli asked me about Martin Luther King for the first time. It's still one of my favorite posts.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Eric Lundquist, and it's one of the saddest stories you'll ever read:
Todd Marinovich is learning to be human again. Next, and this is so, so clever: Alt-1977: We Are Not Time Travelers.

Irony, and also remarkable: For the NFL and all of football, a new threat: an evaporating insurance market.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: The Italian Art Supply Shop That Keeps Renaissance Painting Techniques Alive. I had no idea this was a thing: The Quirky, Endearing Tradition of “Duck” Architecture.

From Meg McReynolds, and there are brilliant: 2018 McGingerbread Hell Competition Winners.

From Wally, and this is an interesting look: French Air Force 1940 – Analysis. This is a terrific read: The Metal Detectorists Who Find Lost Wedding Rings. This will blow your mind: Food Industry Machines That Are At Another Level. Still crazy after all these years: The Weekend Warriors of the Crown Province of Ostgardr (Otherwise Known as New York City).

From C. Lee, and this is puzzling: Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why. This is fascinating: Why new things make us sad. Concerning: How salmonella-tainted food gets in your fridge. This is good news: The molecule that helps exercise protect the brain from Alzheimer’s.

From Brian Witte, and this is provocative (Oumuamua): If True, This Could Be One of the Greatest Discoveries in Human History.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Nightmare Fuel

We were watching a bowl game last month (yes, this was on a list to write about, and the list disappeared for a while).

"Oh my god, what is that sound?" Gloria asked.

"It's a chainsaw," I said. "Oregon St.'s mascot is a beaver, so I guess they're cutting down the forest to deny him habitat? Very confusing message."

"It's annoying," she said.

"This would be me in hell," I said. "A fan of Oregon St., having to listen to a chainsaw even more often than I do already."

"Good thing you're not a fan," she said.

"I wonder if any college has a leaf blower for a mascot?" I asked.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Elephant in the Room

In Friday Links last week, I mentioned this story: The Weight I Carry: What it’s like to be too big in America. It's a beautifully written, poignant piece.

What was particularly moving about the article, for me, is that it made obesity into a very personal thing. As someone who has always been on the thin side (6'1", 140 in high school, 160-165 for the last 25 years), even though that's required substantial adjustments in how I eat over the years, it's always been very difficult for me to identify or empathize with someone who's obese.

This article, for the first time, connected with me very deeply.

As it turns out, what I read was an excerpt from a book that came out yesterday: The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America. It came out yesterday, and I read it yesterday.

The book is just as well-written as the article, and penetrates even more deeply.

Even more surprising: I recognized myself at times. Some of the behaviors and habits I've struggled with for years. I used to think I didn't have anything in common with people who were obese, but that's not true. There are universal behaviors that we all struggle with, no matter what we weigh.

Here's an Amazon link: The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Lacrosse Player or Professional Bull Rider? (Update)

They are, in fact, ALL professional bull riders.

The perfect way to close the circle here would be to come up with a list of bulls who could also be lacrosse players, but I was unable to do so.

Also, in local news, Grand Rapids is a solid sheet of ice today. No family injuries have occurred.

A Change of Fortune

Your life is a dashing and bold adventure. 

"Looks like I got your fortune," I said to Eli 16.5. "If your fortune says 'You are old and decrepit', there was definitely a mix-up."

He laughed.

He opened his fortune five minutes later. "Read it," I said.

"Your luck is entirely spent," he said.

I burst out laughing. "That's definitely mine."

A few minutes later. "Wait, did you change that fortune?" He burst out laughing.

"Just one word," he said. "It was actually 'Your luck is entirely changed'."

"That's a quality revision," I said. "Good work."

Monday, January 14, 2019

Lacrosse Player or Professional Bull Rider?

We were watching golf, and there was a commercial break, so naturally, we turned to professional bull riding.

We both saw it at the same.

"WHAT?" I shouted.

"That did NOT just happen!" Eli 17.5 shouted. "That bull JUKED!"

That bull--"American Pride," I believe--did indeed juke. We watched it over and over again, and it was just as stunning the fifth time as the first.

It was stunning to the rider, too, because he fell right off.

A few minutes, a name flashed across the screen.

"Wait, that guy should be a lacrosse player," I said.

Eli laughed. "That is actually true."

This merited further investigation, so I researched both professional bull riders and lacrosse players, and have a compiled a list of ten. Who is a bull rider, and who is a lacrosse player?
1. River Stephenson
2. Colten Jesse
3. Coleton Greninger
4. Hunter Salter
5. Tanner Bothwell
6. Dakota Buttar
7. Thor Hoefer II
8. Gannon Ivy
9. Chandler Blownds
10. Daylen Swearingen

Answers tomorrow.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and boy, it's stunning: How At the Gates took 7 years of my life – and nearly the rest.

This is a gripping, genuine piece of writing: The Weight I Carry: What it’s like to be too big in America.

Both incredible and idiotic: How Cartographers for the U.S. Military Inadvertently Created a House of Horrors in South Africa. This is amazing: Blue Pigment in 1,000-Year-Old Teeth Links Women to the Production of Medieval Manuscripts.

From Tim Jones, and it's wonderful: London Medieval Murder Map (pay special attention to the altercations).

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's terrific: Buddhist Monks Are Flexing on Twitter to Protest a Japanese Traffic Law.

From C. Lee, and this could be huge: Scientists Have 'Hacked Photosynthesis' In Search Of More Productive Crops. This is terrifying: Study Shows Precisely How Nazi Infrastructure Enabled the Worst of the Holocaust. I'm game: The Norwegian Art of the Packed Lunch. George Orwell was an optimist: Learning China’s Forbidden History, So They Can Censor It.

From Wally, and this is very clever: Out-of-this-world spaceship designs based on everyday objects. I may never eat again: Buttered Popcorn Oreos Are in the Works, and TBH, I Don't Know What to Feel. The title doesn't sound like it, but this is quite poignant: ‘Can We Honor Your Service with a Steak, a Malibu Chicken, or the Jumbo Crispy Shrimp?’

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Sure, If You Say So

"I'd like for it to be 9:45, but it's actually 11:30," I said. "I think we have a clock problem."

Gloria looked up from her computer. "It just needs a new battery," she said.

"Does it?" I asked. "Is it really that simple? Or are you covering up for an under performer?"

"It's a battery," she said.

"I've had my eye on that clock for a while," I said. "A veteran, played at a steady level for years, but now struggling at the end of its career. Should we keep it for one more year in the face of declining performance? Or should we cut the clock, trade for a high draft pick, and draft a new clock with a brighter future? Telling time is a results-based business."

"I'm putting in a new battery," she said.

"It happens so fast," I said. "Just last week, it was still accurate."

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


Eli 17.5 came home for lunch.

"I've decided that I caught the plague," I said, and he raised an eyebrow. "I'll be dead in a few days, so I need to give you some instructions."

"I'm listening," he said.

"First: stay out of the bathroom," I said. "Use the one downstairs. We don't need multiple victims."

"I'll do that," he said.

"Second," I said. "I'd like an Evan-type memorial put up whenever you watch Major League Fishing or women's volleyball."

"Not a problem," he said.

"Third," I said. "Bury me, but only for two months. When you've decided which college you're going to, buy a hoodie, dig me up and put the hoodie on me, then steal the casket and take me somewhere for a Viking funeral."

"Yup," he said.

"I think that's it," I said. "Oh, and play in my honor for the rest of the season. 'Local goalie dedicates season to dead father'. With that kind of backstory, you'll be in D-1 in no time."

"Are you kidding me?" he asked. "I'll get drafted into the League with that backstory."

"I can just hear your first interview," I said. "My dad wasn't even that sick, but he died just so I could pursue my dream of NHL glory."

"Gamer," he said.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The Wizard Next Door

Here's how a good wizard moves in next door.

"I'm Tom. I'm your new neighbor! Oh, and I'm a wizard. I know, I know, but don't worry. I don't do any research at night, and I don't need a tower over fifty feet high, so no zoning issues. Plus, on Halloween, all the kids can come for a tour and have all the candy they can carry. Oh, and if you have a college-aged son or daughter, I'm looking for a summer intern. Great experience, looks fabulous on a resume. Well, the tower will be going up tomorrow, so please don't be alarmed. Really, it only takes about five minutes--just a summoning from a prefab tower dimension, so you'll hear a "POP" and it will be done."

You don't know a bad wizard is moving in next door until you hear an explosion, and when you walk outside you see a flaming cow carcass dropping from three hundred feet onto your lawn. With cheering.

[these are the kinds of things I think about, apparently, when I'm too sick to get out of bed.]

Monday, January 07, 2019

From a News Article

"Holt was a free spirit --  self-employed selling bait, exotic animals, more than 100 snakes and his own inventions and had years’ worth of food stored up."


On Thursday, I woke up with slight congestion  and a tickle in the back of my throat.

Then the murders began.

On Saturday night, after going to bed, I started shivering. I added a second blanket. Still shivering. I put on a Patagonia base layer. Still shivering. Put on pajama pants. Still shivering. Put on a heavy jacket. STILL shivering.

Finally, at some point, I fell asleep, then woke up two hours later in what felt like a sauna, which is a normal response for a body that has multiple layers of clothing on and is under two blankets.

Now I've advanced to the "every time I cough it sounds like a car wreck" phase, so hopefully this will end soon.

I also managed to acquire a really, really nasty case of tennis elbow AND golfer's elbow at Thanksgiving, and six weeks of home exercises and heating pads (per the orthopedist's instructions) haven't helped in the slightest. This has actually been more pain than when I broke my ankle, much to my astonishment.

So today, I went to a physical therapy place (again, per doctor's instructions) and they did something to my arm called "dry needling." Which sounds like pseudo-scientific crap, after I researched it later, but I'm so desperate I was willing to try it anyway. Basically, they put two needles in my arm and ran electric current through it, making my hand "thump" for a while.

I'll let you know if it has any effect. Supposed to take a couple of days, at a minimum. I need to be able to hit golf balls, and quite a few of them, in another eight weeks or so, so this is Priority 1 right now. Otherwise, Eli 17.5 will be destroying me on the golf course, and I'm not going down without a fight.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Friday Links!

All right, I floated this out early by mistake, so let's just go with it. I'll update it so that it's complete at the usual time, and I'll date stamp other posts until then so that it stays on top.

From C. Lee, and this is beautifully written: Confessions of a Watch Geek. This is stunning: Milestone Experiment Proves Quantum Communication Really Is Faster. Absolutely remarkable sleuthing: Steel worker solves mystery as to why deer cross rail tracks. This is quite thoughtful: A ‘Self-Aware’ Fish Raises Doubts About a Cognitive Test. Who knew? Nordic Quack: Sweden’s bizarre tradition of watching Donald Duck cartoons on Christmas Eve.

More C. Lee links, separated for readability. This is terrific: When Nat King Cole moved in: The entertainer found his dream home in picturesque Hancock Park—but the neighborhood had a dark side. And so it goes: What the Popularity of ‘Fortnite’ Has in Common With the 20th Century Pinball Craze. I heartily agree: December: A month to decide what to stop doing.

From Wally, and this is amazing:  From robot restaurants to automobile vending machines: The e-commerce revolution in China. Also amazing: Mining co. says first autonomous freight train network fully operational. An incredible rabbit hole: British Library photo albums.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

No More College Applications!

Man, that feels good. Eli 17.6 has finished all his college applications.

Princeton--deferred (friend zoned--not good)
Michigan--accepted (#4 psychology department in the country, too)

Pee high, as the little dog said to the man.

There's an important side bet here, too. I bet Eli $100 (and got 2-1 odds) that he'll be accepted by at least three of these schools. So he has to be accepted by two more for me to cash in. This, obviously, is far more important to me than where he chooses to go to school.

If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to look at some online catalogs to see how far my $200 will go.

Not political, just a fact

This is pretty astonishing.

In 1988, there were 23 women in the House of Representatives: 12 Democrats and 11 Republicans. Today, there are 102: 89 Democrats and 13 Republicans.

Live Reporting From the YMCA

Fabio, riding an exercise bike at 20 rpm.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Just Not Surprised Anymore

Eli 17.6 gets good at things quickly.

This is no surprise. I keep meaning to record him playing the piano (he is very, very good), which he just started six months ago or so.

We played golf a few times in the late summer/early fall, and he really enjoyed how relaxing it was for him.

He wasn't very good.

He could hit the ball a mile, but he was incredibly inconsistent. Couldn't break 100.

Started hitting balls a couple of times a week. Got a set of clubs for Christmas (that he got a week after Thanksgiving). Took one lesson.

He's been going to a local golf simulator place here in town, and when he started, he was shooting in the high 90s. That was about two months ago.

I went with him last night. He shot a 75.

This is a 75 with 7 putts on the first two holes combined.

This isn't a 75 in the real world, but he's hitting his drive 290-320 yards consistently (and straight), which means he hits a wedge into most greens. Hit a 4 iron 245 yards like a bullet. Hit a 7-iron 190. So on a real course, he should easily be shooting in the low 80s within a few rounds. Maybe even lower.

He thinks me might try out for the golf team after hockey season is over. He needs to shoot below 90 consistently to make it, which looked like a stretch not that long ago.

Not so much of a stretch now.

He finishes his last college application today. No more college apps to complete. Now he just waits for the end of March to find out where he's been accepted.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year

I originally typed the title as "Happy Hew Year," which is probably a joke lumberjacks tell to each other.

Tangent: I remember when Louis C.K. was funny.

There's lots going on, including Eli finishing his last college app by tomorrow night, so I'm going to take a rare day off and return to writing tomorrow. I hope all of you had happy holidays (or, at the least, survived).

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