Friday, March 29, 2019

Friday Links!

I found this mesmerizing: The Dreams Of A Man Asleep For Three Weeks. Also, and this is sad but very on point: How Much Longer Will Baseball Stadiums Be For Baseball Fans? This is astonishing: There’s this new 4K Falcon 9 video you probably want to watch. This is fascinating: The Worst Disease Ever Recorded.

From C. Lee, and this is an excellent read: How Designers Engineer Luck Into Video Games, I still remember that smell: Who Still Buys Wite-Out, and Why? This is quite interesting: Mercury Is Actually the Closest Planet to Every Other Planet. Not surprising: Amazon gets an edge with its secret squad of PhD economists.

From Wally, and it's a long list: Apps Killed By Google.

From Maxime Tremblay, and Canada is so remarkably clever: AS-02 Various Administrative Wizardry Positions - INVENTORY.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is an excellent way to end the week: Rowan Atkinson & Hugh Laurie - Shakespeare and Hamlet.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Bad Night

One absolutely gutted kid. Cal put him on a waitlist and that was it. Rejected by all the other schools

A kid who is demonstrably elite in every way, but he couldn't get in to any of those schools. Man, that is really, really rough.

Decision Day

Today is the day that Eli 17.7 finds out about his college applications.

The Ivy League schools, apparently, respond all at once. Cal, too. I think Stanford is tomorrow, but that's a 60-foot putt, at least.

He probably won't hear anything until late in the day, because the schools announce at 7 EST, but he'll be in his Spanish class then, and he said he wants to wait until class is over to check. So that means it could be 9:30 before we know anything.

Plus, and here's the real horror, he could get waitlisted. So it might not even be the final decision today, though I'm hopeful.

I'll update when I know something.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

New TV

I finally stopped overthinking everything and picked up a Sony XBR X950G late last week.

LCDs don't have the black levels of OLED, and the color isn't as buttery. Plus, there's a very small darkening of the panel in each corner (very small, though).

Having said all that, though--boy, does this look great.

The colors are just beautiful, and the picture is razor sharp. With lousy source material, of course, it suffers, but everything else is stellar, and 4K content looks absolutely amazing.

Plus, for the 55", it was $1299, which is mid-range, so it's not even in the top tier of LCDs, and it still looks fantastic.

Overall, I'm incredibly pleased, and I don't have to worry about score tickers and bright sunlight and a bunch of other little things that I don't have time to mess with.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

I Will Help You Organize Your Clothing Bin*

*I have no idea what any of those words mean.

I Want This Sign On The Door Of My Study

Seems like it would solve some problems.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Never Watch Monty Python, Girls

I was in line with Eli 17.7 for ice cream.

There was a woman in front of us who had two girls (age 10, roughly) with her. They were giggling. Constantly. They just couldn't stop, and the longer the did it, the sillier they got.

At first, it was mildly annoying, but happiness is infectious, and before long, we were both watching them and laughing.

"Stop laughing at everything!" their mother said. "Why is everything so funny to you?"

I looked at Eli. He looked at me.

They cleared the line. "Yes, kids, stop being happy," I said.

Eli laughed. "Why is everything so funny to you?" he asked.

"Maybe because we're not a sour old shrew like you, mom," I said, and he laughed again.

It's so discouraging to see things like that. Kids are only silly when they're comfortable and feel safe, so their mother was taking a really positive situation and turning it into something negative and sad.

As the mother paid, though, we saw the kids outside, and they were laughing their butts off. "Fight the power," I said.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's an excellent read: How The Crooks, The Cons, And The Legends Built America's Largest Stadium For The Beating Of The Century.

From C. Lee, and this could come in handy: Grate Your Butter to Soften It Quickly. Next, and it could also be useful, it's The tiny breaks that ease your body and reboot your brain. If you can afford to live there: Vienna's recipe for living well. This is a remarkable story: In race for fluency in time for Olympics, Tokyo great-grandmother proves it's never too late to learn. This is so clever: Japanese Kaiju Figurines Apologizing at Press Conferences. Quite a lifespan: Faxing is old tech. So why is it also growing in popularity?

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: How Kaleidoscope Mania Seized 19th-Century England. Also, and this is very cool, it's The Secret of Parabolic Ghosts.

From Wally, and this is fantastic: Photographer Captures Toys In Amazing Action Shots. This is mind-boggling: The Embroidered Computer.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's a great read: Rascal Flatts restaurants failed nationwide. Did a Mafia soldier pull the strings?

From David Gloier, and it's bizarre: The U.S. Army Once Blew Up Tunnels In A German Town To Chase Away A Ghost.

From Geoff Engelstein, and it's incredible: Nile shipwreck discovery proves Herodotus right – after 2,469 years.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Welcome, Spring

Damn it.

I don't know if you can see it that well in the picture, but it's coming down hard.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What the Hell is This? (Vol. 1)

When I'm about to go to sleep, I'll pretty frequently get phrases of dialogue or descriptions in my head, so I've tried to train myself to reach over and write the phrase down on a Post-it note.

However, given how sleepy I am, I often struggle with deciphering what I wrote.

Usually, I look at it the next morning, and I can remember, but this time, it was under another sheet, and I didn't see it for a week. Now I'm lost. Here, have a look:

The first part that's circled is "She favors bright pastels." The next two words kind of look like "and serves," but that doesn't ring a bell at all (the bright pastels do, though).

The second circled part is "I saw him."

The rest is gibberish, but I remember feeling that those phrases were going to be useful in some piece of writing, so I'm crowd sourcing the detective work.

If you can figure out what the rest says, you will receive both my eternal gratitude (in lieu of actual compensation) and a mention as a first-rate sleuth here on the blog.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Burger King Continues To Provide

DQ reader Syndi R. sent in these pictures, because Burger King is the gift that keeps on giving.

What I love about these photos is the composition, because it makes this Burger King look like it exists somewhere inside the former Soviet Union. Well, except for the cars in the parking lot. Need a few GAZ-24 Volgas and ZAZ-965s there instead.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Yes, I'm Wading Into This

Sorry, but nothing is funny today. I'll be far more restrained than I feel, though.

Please read this: White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots. Hate: it's always been one of our biggest exports.

After a terrible, terrible tragedy in New Zealand, it's incredibly important to remember the kind of framing and language that white nationalists use, because when people use that language, and those terms and phrases, they are weaponizing people.

If a person is weaponized, and can obtain weapons of war, that's what they will do: wage war.

So when a politician uses the phrase "invasion" to describe immigration (yes, our "President" uses this all the time), it's not just racist. It's straight from the white nationalist playbook, and it's language that is extremely dangerous, because it's describing a regulated process as an act of war, and stupid, unthinking people will respond to declarations of imaginary war with real war.

Pay attention. Listen to how these people talk. And vote them into oblivion. Because if you don't, this is going to happen again and again and again.

It will never stop, unless you help stop it.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday Links!

This is quite a story, and quite bizarre (thanks Wally): Fantasy's Widow: The Fight Over The Legacy Of Dungeons & Dragons.

Hopefully, you don't need this, but if you do, here goes: How a Bitcoin Evangelist Made Himself Vanish, in 15 (Not So Easy) Steps.

Also from Wally, and they're actually quite good: Vienna's Unpredictable Vegetable Orchestra. This is quite amusing: Exploding Chocolate Teacakes. This is quite a rabbit hole: The Curta Calculation Page.

From Steven Davis, and it's a fantastic read: How a Sneaky Furniture Expert Ripped Off the Rich and Tricked Versailles. And another fascinating article: Lessons from the Afghan Women Who Weave Modern War into an Ancient Tradition.

From C. Lee, and it's good information: Hundreds of hospitals punished for lax safety. Here’s how to see if yours is one. This is concerning: Your landlord turns your apartment into a smart home. Now what? This is incredibly interesting: Why parrots can talk like humans. These are stunning: New Masking Tape Paintings by Nasa Funahara.

From Ken Piper, and my brain exploded: Massive Attack album stored in a painting using DNA.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thursday, In Which I Still Wish I Was Talking About Burger King

The Panasonic VT50 Plasma (2012) needs replacing.

It wasn't the best plasma ever made (Pioneer Kuro), but it was close. And it's been spectacular, but after seven years, it's starting to lose light output to a significant degree.

Replacing a TV is easy, right?

Not so fast, my friend. Upgrading creates a nightmare of dominoes. 

First off, we can't get an OLED (damn it), because the lighting and usage in the family room are utterly abusive, so an LCD is the only reasonable choice.

I found an LCD I could live with.

Here's the process:
--buy LCD
--buy multiple certified hi-speed HDMI cables
--buy new 4k Blu-Ray player and install (be sure it's compatible with soundbar)
--reprogram Harmony remote to work with new LCD
--calibrate new LCD
--upgrade DirecTV receiver to 4K
--buy new stand because legs on LCD don't fit on stand
--build new stand
--run Ethernet cable through house down to router (it's quite a ways) because wi-fi is garbage for streaming 4k consistently

I'm probably leaving five things out, at least.

So I was at Best Buy, finding out I had to go 20 minutes to another Best Buy because only they had it in stock, and then I pulled on one of these threads and my confidence sweater began to unravel.

Now I'm just huddled in the upgrade corner, weeping.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday, In Which I Wish I Could Have Talked About Burger King All Week

To read:
1.  College Coaches Took Cash Bribes As Part Of Multi-Million Dollar College Admissions Scandal
2.  These Are The College Coaches Accused Of Turning Rich Kids Into Fake Athletic Recruits
3.  Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman among 50 charged in college admissions scheme

Yeah, that's depressing. Also, why is it that coaches are always in the middle of every shitty thing? Boy, that's a tell.

The alleged scam focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to the indictment.

Authorities said the FBI investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid thousands of dollars to a California man who boosted their children's chances of gaining entrance into elite colleges, such as Yale University and Stanford University, by paying people to take tests for their children, bribing test administrators to allow that to happen, and bribing college coaches and administrators to identify the applicants as athletes.

Everything in this country is about two things: wealth or race. Anyone who says it isn't is deluding themselves. There are elements of merit in our country, but it is not merit-based. It never has been.

Basically, rich parents who had kids with every conceivable advantage decided that wasn't enough and flat-out bribed people to get their unmotivated kids into prestigious colleges. They also got their kids classified as athletic recruits (lower admissions standards) or claimed some kind of disability so that they'd get extra time to complete standardized tests.

I can't imagine why their kids would be lazy. Teaching kids to be responsible for their actions and learning about consequences--oh, wait.

We're not talking about small amounts of money, either--anywhere from $15,000 up to $500,000, from what I read. $250,000 seemed to be the average payout for the athletic recruitment scam.


I've talked to Eli 17.7 on more than one occasion about what I call the Intent To Deceive rule. In short, it's that any situation where you're doing something with an intent to deceive is probably a very bad decision. It's always worth asking why you need to be deceptive in the first place.

Most situations like this have low risk but very high consequences, and it's hard for kids to understand that scenario. But this time, some very famous people revealed themselves to be absolute dirtbags and have been utterly humiliated, and they (and their children) are going to mocked for a very long time.

High consequences.

Big News (Dwarf Fortress)

Here's the announcement: Dwarf Fortress coming to Steam and, free version always updated and available,

In addition, the paid Steam version is going to include a new tileset (no ASCII) and enhanced graphics and audio.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tuesday, In Which Burger King Becomes A Koan

DQ Guitar Advisor David Gloier sent me this email:
The Burger King by my house burned to the ground, and for almost a year, the burned out shell remained, with the sign still standing over it, proclaiming "Now Serving Flame-grilled Hot Dogs."


They finally rebuilt it. Shiny and new. Nice store, but you're right, nobody is ever there, and when someone is, they look miserable. This includes the employees.

I told him he should have taken a picture, but he was way ahead of me:

Then he sent me something incredibly profound:
I just realized...I guess I must look miserable when I'm in there, too. 

That's a Burger King koan.

Monday, March 11, 2019

There's Always Parking At Sears

"Have you ever been in a Burger King where people don't look despondent?" I asked. I'd stopped with Gloria on the way back from a hockey trip to Detroit, and Eli 17.7 was traveling with his team.

"I don't remember," Gloria said.

"Everyone in a Burger King looks like the revolution failed and they're just waiting for the police to arrive," I said.

It's true. Burger King has surprisingly good food, usually, but everyone looks like it takes all their effort to draw their next breath. It smells like onion rings combined with your grandmother's house, greasy and musty at the same time.

Plus, most Burger Kings are sadly enormous, with seating for 20X more people than will ever eat there at at one time. The parking lots are vast, empty tracts.

On our way out, walking across the asphalt wasteland, I had an insight.

"Burger King is the Sears of fast food franchises," I said.

Gloria laughed.

"There's always parking at Sears," I said.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Friday Links!

We are very, very light this week, so enjoy and the deluge will resume next week.

This is a terrific read: The Psychiatrist Who Believed People Could Tell The Future. I could definitely do this: The People Who Eat the Same Meal Every Day. This is an absolutely great read: Still Waiting For a Savior: Before GM Left, Avanti Sold an Ohio Town an Impossible Dream.

From Ken Piper, and this is fascinating: Fierce, Feared, and Female: The WWII Pilots Known As The 'Night Witches'. Also, and it's alarming: The Ocean Is Running Out of Breath, Scientists Warn.

From Wally, and this is very cool: Live in the ‘House of Tomorrow’ from the 1933 World’s Fair. Welcome our new robot overlords: Backflipping MIT Mini Cheetah.

From C. Lee, and I never thought of this: Robotic vacuums can push heaters and cause fire, authorities warn. This is interesting: Remembering When Only Barbarians Drank Milk. This is incredible: This Perpetual Calendar Hidden in an Italian Chapel Is a Mathematical Marvel.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Villain, Denied

I have a list of topics, and they're all depressing as hell. So instead, let's talk about super villains.

Eli 17.7 has mentioned over the years that I'd make a terrific villain. I'm thorough. Organized. I know how to plan, and to execute that plan. I would not make amateur mistakes like telling the hero my life story and every detail of my plan before I sent him to his death.


It's not you, it's me, I'd say to the superheroes as I sent them away, dejected. The ones I didn't kill, anyway.

Plenty of autonomy (I'd like that). Growth opportunities (seriously, look at the world right now--villains are doing great!).

One thing, though, would stop me.

Not moral qualms. Not the workload. Not staffing issues.

The reno. The reno would kill me.

Think about it. A high-end villain needs an evil lair. Instant credibility with one, and reeking of poser wannabe without one.

It's got to be big, too. Basements are out. Even McMansions, because 4,000 square feet just isn't much room after you bring in all the terrifying equipment and staff.

Plus, what kind of layout? Open floor plan? A castle? Backsplash tile in the kitchen? All questions that need to be answered.

10,000 feet would probably be adequate in terms of regional villain credibility. That's enough for me. I don't want to chase worldwide status. The email alone would kill me.

Here's where it all breaks down, though. Buy that 10,000 square foot dream lair, and realize immediately how much renovation it needs. I mean, you're not going to buy an evil lair and let it be the vision of the villain that preceded you, right?

Your vision. And that means years of renovation.

Construction crews all over. Constant noise. Power outages. I wouldn't be able to keep my enthusiasm for evil while I decided if the blinds should be fabric or wood slats. 

You have to love what you do.

Plus, there are health and safety issues. Cape closet? Don't need that, because I'm not one of those idiot villains who wears a cape that causes their death. Narrow stairs? I'm not going to fall down a sixty-foot staircase because I was too cheap to have stairs safely sized.

An evil villain apartment, in a new building. That sounds promising.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Scrabble, Strongly Modified

"Only band names are allowed," I said to Eli 17.7. "And you must announce the band's backstory before playing the tiles."

In alphabetical order:
--Aged Dr (Former doctor plays hip-hop at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.)
--Brats (Girls band similar to the Go-Go's. Popular at Six Flags.)
--Crank (Speed metal band. Norwegian. Two members currently in prison.)
--Defame (Black metal band. Lives in a van in the woods of North Carolina. Burned down the stage in their last appearance. No, they literally burned down the stage.)
--Douxlit (Cajun hip-hop based in Metarie. One member lost recently in gator attack).
--EIEIO (Band that only wears overalls and plays at county fairs)
--Elwis (Children's band that does Elvis covers)
--Evo (Band made up of scientists fighting disinformation. Rarely play in front of more than five people).
--Grinz (Similar to "Up With People." Primarily appears at churches and fairgrounds.)
--Isour (An angry rapper or a folk duet. Your call.)
--KBI (Bisexual rapper from Detroit. Recent hit song "Open For Bidness.")
--Nadir (Death Metal band from Winnipeg, Canada. Also refers to winter in Winnipeg.)
--Nags (Housewife band, plays locally at bookstores.)
--Nutter (Band made up of practicing psychologists. Plays at local bars.)
--Reefson (Surfer Band headed by son of local fisherman. Mostly gets high in the van.)
--Share (Band that plays the high school assembly circuit, with songs about the importance of sharing and good citizenship.)
--Sincipee (Slightly risque children's band "Sin Sippee", tile shortages were a problem in spelling)
--Trejo (Cover band that only plays songs from movies with Danny Trejo. Based in southwest.)
--VTOL (Band of ex-military pilots, shows Harrier footage in background of VFW shows.)
--Yadig (The hip-hop artist formerly known as "Yadown")
--Yeah (Slacker band. Plays twenty-minute jams.)

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Genius in Design

John Harwood sent me this picture yesterday:

That is one of the smartest pieces of design I've ever seen.

Local Weather Terminology

"Partly cloudy."

Monday, March 04, 2019


I hit a milestone last week in a project I'm working on (well, I'm calling it a milestone), and I have a self-imposed ten day "don't work on this" period.

Okay, I can work on it a little, but not much. So I guess it's actually a self-imposed ten day "don't work on this much" period.

I decided to play Hexcells.

For your convenience: Hexcells Complete Pack. This includes Hexcells, Hexcells Plus, and Hexcells Infinite.

Here's the game description from the Steam page: Hexcells is an ambient logic puzzle game for PC, Mac and Linux.

You know a game is badass when that's all you get in the description.

To me, Hexcells is basically Minesweeper with much, much more complex rules on top of the foundation. For instance, here's the most difficult puzzle in Hexcells Plus (click to expand):

Those numbers all over the freaking place? They're rules. Many rules, all governing what cells must be filled in. 

I think this level took me 20-30 minutes (and I didn't solve it the first time, not by a long shot), and this game gets you into a flow state like you wouldn't believe. Somebody could drop an anvil behind me and I wouldn't hear a thing. 

This is not a typical level. Most of them are quite a bit simpler, and as far as I can tell, they require no guessing (although figuring out why you don't need to guess can be very, very difficult at times). 

I worked my way through the first two games in about a week, then started in on Hexcells Infinite a few days ago. 

Yeah, this is supposed to be my break, and I'm grinding levels on a math game. I used to be able to relax, but at some point after Eli 17.7 was born, I lost that ability. So this is both relaxing and taxing, which is what relaxation is for me now. 

If you've never played this series of games, they are just amazingly good. Oh, and they also have ambient soundtracks that make you sink even deeper into concentration. 

Now back to that level I can't solve.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is heartbreaking: Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps.

From Matt Kreuch, and this is amazing: 3D Printed Bridge Was a Labor of Love for Army Engineer.

From Wally, and I had no idea: Is Japan losing its umami? This is incredible: Pilotless: Three Planes That Landed Themselves. This is absolutely remarkable: Why Japan’s mission to bring space rocks to Earth is so incredible.

From C. Lee, and this is very helpful: (If you don’t see all the numbers) Here’s how to switch on Windows 10’s secret Colorblind mode. This is amazing: A Visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships. What a headline: The Celebrity Tortoise Breakup That Rocked the World. Useful information: SSD 101: How Reliable are SSDs?

C. Lee's links about this next subject deserve a separate space.
This is fascinating: Unsolved Mysteries: The Mpemba Effect.
Does hot water freeze faster than cold water?
Seven wonders of the temperature scale: Helen Czerski answers your questions on hot, cold and everything in between
Is it true that hot water freezes faster than cold water?

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's a data delight: These Maps Superimposing Underground Subway Lines Onto Aerial Views Of Cities Are Fascinating.

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