Thursday, February 28, 2019


"This is the idea," I said to Eli 17.6. "The big one."

"Oh, boy," he said. "All right, let's hear it."

"Pasta sauce in a squeeze bottle," I said. He burst out laughing. "Stay with me here. It would be just like the squeeze bottle that hot fudge sauce comes in for ice cream. Put it in the microwave, heat it for thirty seconds, then squeeze it onto your pasta."

"That is a terrible idea," he said.

"For you, yes," I said. "For an older person who lives on their own, though, or for a college student who likes pasta but doesn't have the time to make fresh sauce, it would be incredibly convenient."

"Oh my god, this almost makes sense," he said. "You could sell it in the lobby of your 'Hot as Hell' franchises."

"That's my boy," I said. "Always thinking one step ahead."

Slay The Spire

I finally beat the end game of Slay The Spire with all three characters.

The Poisoner (or whatever he's called--he's the middle character) was, for me, the most difficult. If you're stuck on that character, let me mention something I didn't realize until my last few runs: Blur stacks.

Blur is a card you can play where block isn't removed at the start of your turn. If you have a 20-25 card deck with 3-4 Blur cards, and you also pick up a few Dexterity cards and upgrade them, you can wind up with 50-60 block per turn, and when an enemy doesn't attack, you'll stack that block for the next turn.

It's incredibly powerful, and you need that kind of blocking power when you face both the two on one battle and the final boss.


Yes, I might have picked up George the cat and danced to Chromeo's "I Get Jealous." What of it, sir?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Text

I sent this to Eli 17.6 last week:
I just saw a bulldog wearing black booties and a puffy vest. Dogs dress better than I do. 

Some dogs are quite stylish in winter up here, and they know it. They put their little vests on and they are dog proud, walking like they own the city. Chihuahuas are particularly sassy, as well as other small dogs. Fashion influencers.

They are not the alphas, though.

The alphas are the Huskies who never need a vest or booties or anything. Those dogs own the snow. If somebody drove up with a dogsled, they'd just harness in and get to damn business.

Sorry, this has been a really long, difficult day, and I'm beat. I'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

National Merit Doofus

"Oh, I forgot to tell you, but I'm officially a National Merit Finalist," Eli 17.6 said.

"Wait, what?" I asked.

"They e-mailed me two days ago," he said.

"That seems to merit a mention on the same day," I said.

"It's really not a big deal," he said. "You basically have to murder someone to not go from semi-finalist to finalist."

"Leave their shoddy investigative work out of it," I said.

This semester, he's taking the capstone class for Spanish majors at a local college. Pushing forward, as usual.

Ivy League acceptance/rejection day is March 28, as far as he knows. 31 days to go.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Utility Work or Hasty Body Disposal? We Won't Know Until Spring!

60+ MPH gusts last weekend and heavy snow. Not quite a blizzard, because the snow needed to be heavier, but "not quite a blizzard" is still very harsh.

For example, this is a highway on Sunday afternoon:

A friend of mine was driving back from Iowa. Absolutely terrifying.

Also, a pro tip about wind chill. If the wind chill is -10, and the wind is blowing 20+ MPH, that means it's about +10 when you're snowshoeing with the wind and -30 when you're snowshoeing into the wind. That into the wind portion will not be fun.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from DQ Reader My Wife, and it's so staggeringly clever: Ph.D. Student Breaks Down Electron Physics Into A Swinging Musical.

From C. Lee, and this is terrifying: Inside the UAE's Secret Hacking Team of American Mercenaries. Ah, shorthand: How to Write 225 Words Per Minute With a Pen. This is fascinating: The two-pizza rule and the secret of Amazon's success. Not what you'd expect: Italy's Practically Perfect Food. This is very promising: This Smartwatch Can Help Detect Seizures in Kids. This is amazing: Potato or Hand Grenade? A Rusty Bombshell at a Chip Factory.

From Wally, and this is interesting: How meal delivery apps are killing your favorite restaurants. This is utterly ridiculous: Amazon caught selling counterfeits of publisher’s computer books—again. What a find: Man discovers working 30-year-old Apple IIe in parents' attic. These ducks should be on a plane to Cancun: Oh Canada.

From John Enzinas, and this is so bizarre: The Lonely Life of a Yacht Influencer.

From Joshua Buergel, and this is fantastic: A Detailed Map of Medieval Trade Routes in Europe, Asia, and Africa. I'm skeptical, but this is amazing if it actually works: Death metal attracts sharks as it mimics "struggling fish".

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's outstanding: The Political Cartoon That Explains the Battle Over Reconstruction (and some people are still using the racist attacks of Andrew Johnson, 150+ years later).

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Consumers Ice Company

There's a nice exhibit outside the library this week in recognition of "Icebreakers," which is a beautiful mural of the employees of Consumers Ice Company, circa 1910. Here's the mural:

It's on a wall, and there's not much space behind the wall, and the sun was in the wrong place (etc.), but if you click on that to enlarge, you'll see an absolutely beautiful pencil rendering.

Consumers Ice Company cut ice out of Reed's Lake, which is the lake right behind the library (I posted a picture of the frozen lake earlier this week).

Here's info on the company itself:

Sorry, you're going to be clicking to enlarge all these images, but it's worth it. Highlights:
--open from 1893-1924
--up to 500 men employed
--ice was cut into large sheets, then into 22x22" cakes that were delivered to homes and businesses.
--ice was sent as far away as Chicago via railroad (for the meat packing industry).

There was also an article at the little exhibit, which I took photos of for you (click to enlarge). Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


We were watching Price is Right, and a new contestant came down to Bidder's Row.

"That woman's mouth is HUGE," I said.

"What am I seeing?" Eli 17.6 asked.

"I assume this is an optical illusion, but it looks like she could eat her own head," I said.

"Oh! That's too much!" Eli said, as the camera zoomed in.

"It's like an Escher where people are endlessly climbing stairs, even though the stairs aren't going up," I said. "That's her mouth."

I'm not including a picture, because somehow, someway, someday, it would get back to her. No question. That's how the universe works. So let me just say that I have never, in my entire life, seen a larger mouth relative to someone's face.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Don't Do it

Last week, I was typing on my phone and autocorrect changed "fixed length irons" (golf) to "fixed length urine."

That immediately shot to #1 in the category of "Phrases I Will Never Google."

I'm a Fan

This is Reed's Lake on a rare, sunny day in winter:

My camera doesn't do justice to the colors. Sparkling snow, pink tinged light, the moon rising--truly beautiful.

It's not 77 inches of snow a year that's hard to handle. Or the cold. It's the lack of sun here (6th cloudiest city in the country). Especially in winter--day after day of absolutely no sun at all.

When you move up north, you get to like things you never cared about.

Like melting.

I never thought one way or the other about melting when I lived in Austin. Up here, though, I'm a huge fan. There is nothing better in winter than the sound of water dripping, because it means snow and ice are melting, and that means the roads will be clear and maybe even your driveway.

Oh, come on. We all know that the driveway will never be clear.

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Difference of Meat-pinion

"I saw that you and Eli were cutting up your steak," Gloria said.

"The steak scissors were dirty," I said. We like cutting steak with scissors. Snip-snip-snip and done. Geometric precision. Knives are much less fun.

"There's a way to cut steak," Gloria said. "What you want to do is cut against the grain."

"I will literally never remember that," I said. "But I thank you for your good intentions."

"When you cut across the muscle fibers, the meat will be more tender," she said. "It makes perfect sense."

"Sure," I said. "To a meat cutter."


I admit it, I don't like steak that much.

Steak is just fussy. There are rules. Techniques. FIVE degrees of done-ness.

Ground beef? Throw it in a skillet. Brown it. Put it in a form factor (hamburger, taco, Sloppy Joe, etc.). Eat away.

The next day? Warm it up, and it's just as good. It's the zero-hassle meat.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a fascinating story: A suspense novelist's trail of deceptions.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's an excellent obituary: Goodbye, Opportunity Rover. Thank you for letting humanity see Mars with your eyes.

From Matt Kreuch, two excellent musical links: Choir! Choir! Choir! Epic! Nights: David Byrne + NYC sing HEROES and choir! choir! choir! sings The Smiths - There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

From Wally, and it's fluff, but still interesting: 17 Things No One Tells You About Being On "Jeopardy!". Critical information (Shake Shack and Chic-fil-A are rated far too low): The official fast food French fry power rankings. Absolutely NSFW, but also very funny: I've No More F***s To Give.

From Brian Witte (about Austin, and in my experience, Austin talks much more about being liberal than actually being liberal): The Truth About Being a Black Woman in a Liberal City.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and these are lovely: Valentine's Day and the Romance of Cobwebs.

From Ross Richey, and it's a Radiolab about John Scott and the NHL All-Star Game: The Punchline.

Another set of excellent links from C. Lee. First, and this is quite moving, it's The state that accepted Japanese-Americans. This is terrific: The 'miracle mineral' the world needs. This is very helpful: The Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool. Lemonade, indeed: Turning fat from the sewer into fuel. This is fascinating: Why Evolution Reversed These Insects’ Sex Organs.

From Steven Davis, and it's a delightful bit of Futurama: 1010011010 - Numberphile.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

When to Back Away

When a children's toy (and a cheap one, at that) has both a "preparation" section and a "troubleshooting" section, it's time to move along. Quickly.

Please Specify

"Have you heard about the Drake curse?" Eli 17.6 asked.

"Is that the explorer, the rapper, or the university?" I asked. "I think there are curses associated with all three."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Of Men and Manatees

I took off my glasses and got in the shower this morning.

It's drafty in the house, and a little cold. This is Michigan. So I was looking forward to a few minutes of very hot water and steam, because I would be warm.

I was just feeling nice and toasty when I realized that the soap was a sliver. Barely a sliver, really.

Thus ended the toasty feeling.

I turned off the water, opened the shower curtain, stepped on the mat, and reached way over to open a cabinet that had the soap. No problem. I could get back in the hot water in ten seconds, tops.

It was a package of eight bars of soap, sealed with cellophane. Unopened.

All rightie, then. I just needed to get this open--well, I couldn't get it open, because my fingernails are incredibly soft, and I needed to work a nail under where the cellophane folded over to open it up.

I was holding this package of eight bars of soap about three inches in front of my face, because I'm blind without my glasses, and I was soaking wet, and cold, and I couldn't get this package open, and and I realized that without my glasses I was basically a manatee on land.

Then I wondered, as I stood there, now freezing, what did people do in the "old days" when glasses weren't available?

I looked up the percentage of people who need vision correction. It's 75%.

No wonder people only lived to their thirties in medieval times. By then, some kind of vision-related death (a fall, run over by a horse-drawn cart, etc.) would surely claim them. Or a predator that they never saw coming. 

Unless they were living in Australia, where the average life expectancy was probably ten.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Another pony runner was sighted today.

This guy was fast and fit, though. He was doing 7 minute miles for half an hour, at least. Running on his toes, hands flapping in front.

Clearly, this is what a pony would do after he discovered that he could stand and run on his hind legs. What do these flipper things do? I'll just let them flap in front of me until I figure it out.

The best part of all this was when the pony ran past me on his warm-down. He was cantering, I swear.

I had no idea until now that I've discovered a secret American demographic: the pony runner.

Soon, there will be books like The Pony Runners: The Incredible True Story of a Delightful Gait and How It Changed America and Clip-Clop, Don't Stop: How You Can Find True Love by Running Like a Pony.

New York Times bestseller list, all of them.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Wait

We went to a restaurant on Saturday night. It wasn't expensive, and the menu had lots of things on it that I wanted to try.

We got there at 6:15 and were told it was a 30-40 minute wait. I hate waiting, but every place was crowded (no one had been able to get out for days because of the weather), so we decided to stay.

Time passed.

I grew melancholy in my old age. I'd seen so much, and I had much to reflect on as my life was winding down.

The woman at the desk said it would be "soon." Big things were happening just out of our view, she assured us. Then she said "soon" again. And again. It was a haunting refrain as I struggled to remain conscious.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, we were seated. I wouldn't wait an hour and fifteen minutes for a lifeboat.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Friday Links!

It's the low power, high ice, low temperature, high wind edition of Friday Links.

This will infuriate you, as it should: How Baylor Happened.

From Jim Riegel, and these are tremendous: 50 Rosa Parks Quotes Honoring Civil Rights That Are Still Relevant.

From Wally, and this is an incredibly touching story: My disabled son - ‘the nobleman, the philanderer, the detective’. A bit confusing: Indian man to sue parents for giving birth to him. I just assume airlines don't do anything the right way: The Better Boarding Method Airlines Won't Use. This is absolutely savage: Six Takeaways from the Authors Guild 2018 Author Income Survey.

From Brian, and this is remarkably entertaining: Marble Race: MarbleLympics 2019 Qualifiers.

From C. Lee, and this is brutal: Japan's Working Mothers: Record Responsibilities, Little Help From Dads. This is fascinating: How Michigan Became the Epicenter of the Modernist Experiment. And if you're ever in Detroit: What to See, and Where to Eat Square Pizza, in Detroit. I've always wondered how this happened: The Accidental Invention of Bubble Wrap. This is alarming: For some whales, sonar may provoke suicidal behaviour: study. I say "yes": Will our future homes build themselves?

From Phil, and it's a follow-up to the MIT Mystery Hunt stories last week: The joyful, perplexing world of puzzle hunts.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

That's a Wicked Googly

Michigan in winter is just like Australia, except instead of creatures trying to kill you every second, it's the weather.

Exhibit A:

That's ice, so thick that when I lowered my window, it decided to stay. That's what's been happening here the last two days--ice storms--after 15" of snow last week melted into a sodden mess.

1/4" of solid ice. That's a lot.

How did I get to my car? Our driveway is sloped, so I literally stood in place and just coasted down to the driver side door, where I grabbed the handle and hung on for dear life.

Exhibit B:

That's the power outage map. All those colors are bad. About 60,000 people in the map area didn't have power yesterday. Now it's over 100,000 and climbing.

It's going to be 10 degrees tonight. This is the weather literally trying to kill us.

We've lost power twice in the last two days, but only for an hour each time (there's no way we escape the colored labyrinth today, though. It's going to get us, at some point.). Eli 17.6 got two more school holidays, because the school hasn't had power for almost 48 hours. He's had 9 days off from school in the last 5 weeks.

Why is this happening? The ice has caused thousands of branches to snap off old, huge trees. That's downed power lines, plus the sheer weight of the ice has downed quite a few more.

Exhibit C: Snowshoes.

I don't have a picture for this one, but I snowshoed last week in about 15" of fresh, powdery snow.

I managed to do two laps around a track, so half a mile. I've rarely been so exhausted. It felt like an equivalent effort to sprinting, just to move forward at any pace, because the snow was so deep.

Now I know why Shackleton didn't make it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019


"I have a question," I said. I'm unloading the dishwasher, and I'm holding a variety of coffee machine pieces. "Does this thing fit on this thing? And if it does, then how does this thing fit?" 

I should note that I don't drink coffee. 

Gloria laughed. "Okay, the plastic piece fits on the carafe," she said. 

"Thanks," I said. " Now I just need to google 'carafe'." She laughed again. 

"All right, that works, but the mesh dunce cap needs to go somewhere," I said. 

She walked over and opened up the TOP of the coffee machine. "Okay, now my mind is totally blown," I said. "Whoosh." 

Later, she was coming up the stairs. "I have some discrepancies," I said. 

"Go ahead," she said. 

"First, these two spoons are disturbingly larger than the rest, but they seem to go in the same drawer," I said. 

"That is correct," she said. 

"Then there's this small food flinger," I said.

"That's a butter knife," she said. 

"Then there's this stabbie knife," I said. "Everything else in this drawer appears to be for eating food, but this appears to be for killing."

"Not tonight," she said. 

Fixing Basketball

Okay, you may not think that basketball is broken.

The best teams in the NBA--many of them, anyway--play a beautiful, free-flowing, highly skilled game now. It's incredibly entertaining to watch.

Then there are the free throws.

Free throws slow the game down to a crawl. It's brutal. You have this excellent game, and then a sub-game inside it that's absolute ass. Plus it's glacial.

So why don't they just shoot one free throw?

If a player gets fouled on a three-point attempt, they get one free throw that's worth three points. On a regular shot, one free throw worth two points, etc.

One and ones? They're gone. One free throw worth two points.

Yes, it's a radical change, but just think how much faster the game would become if free throws were handled this way.

A brief note

Brussels sprouts smell like a corpse farm. That is all.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019


Last week, as I drove down a snow-packed highway, I saw a red bumper in front of me.

It didn't look like it was damaged. No, it was just sitting free in the middle of the road.

That's the trouble with bumpers, really--they're one-dimensional thinkers. They can escape, but after that? No clue.

Stupid bumpers.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Local Humor

This was making the rounds in Grand Rapids last week:

Now, compare that to Garret in real life, walking to work in -50 wind chill last week:

That's pretty close, really.

How does he see? Well, he doesn't need to, because he's a superhero. That is a true thing, and anyone who knows Garret understands why.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Friday Links!

From DQ Reader My Wife, and it's a fascinating read: Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?

From Meg McReynolds, and it's terrifying: O' Moldy Night. Clearly, a critical resource: Movies where the dog dies.

From Wally, and it's stunning: Steampunk Computer. This is provocative: I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.

Australia! Tourist in Australia Goes Viral Holding 'Beautiful' Octopus That Can Kill Within Minutes.

This is sickening, but important: Portland Police Sergeant to Cops: ‘If You Come Across a Black Person, Just Shoot Them’.

This is an amazing story: How a Stroke Turned a 63-Year-Old Into a Rap Legend. And one more: Inside the 30-year quest to find a new state of matter.

From Scott Sanders, and it sounds like a blast: The MIT Mystery Hunt. Here's a video: The MIT Mystery Hunt: A Documentary. Here's a Radiolab about how John Scott got selected for the NHL All-Star game: The Punchline.

From Geoff Engelstein, and this is deeply worrying: Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’.

From C. Lee, and it's a remarkable story: Runner found to be a hitman after GPS Watch ties him to crime scene. Next, and this is fantastic, it's Microsoft creates physical programming language for low vision students. This is fascinating: Why Do We Hurt Robots? Oops: Auto thieves outwitting smart key systems in ‘relay attacks’.

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