Friday, June 28, 2019

Friday Links!

Leading off, a slew of excellent links from C. Lee, as always. First, it's 30 Vintage Comics Mashed With Disappointing Modern Love. Gee, what a surprise: Women outperform men after Japan medical school stops rigging exam scores. This is fantastic! How to Access NASA's Media Library of Videos and Images For Free. Remarkable: ‘Not Just a Maid’: The Ultra-Running Domestic Workers of Hong Kong. This is terrific: Visualizing the Daily Routines of Famous Creative People.

From Wally, and this is fascinating: The U.S. Island That Speaks Elizabethan English. Silly and slightly fantastic: Join the Dark Side With This Star Wars Furniture. This is quite interesting: What do Goodreads ratings say about sales? I can certainly see the appeal: Meet The Residents Of A Norwegian Island Who Want To Kill Time — Literally.

From John Willcocks, and this is amazing: Azulejos.

From Tim Steffes, and this is an absolutely fascinating story: The 70-year-old retiree who became America’s worst counterfeiter.

This should be criminal. It's incredible that there's even any debate about this anymore: What a foul ball can do.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

I paid $16 for a milkshake that was worth $5

A new shop opened up at the Domain in Austin last week. "The Yard Milkshake Bar," it's called.

Well, that sounded great. Milkshakes!

I was staying across the street from the Domain, so I walked over, all the while looking forward to a delicious milkshake.

I walked into the store and picked up a menu. Holy crap, all kinds of stuff on there. Brownies and breakfast cereal on milkshakes. Here, have a look.

There was one odd thing, though: no prices. No prices anywhere in the store. Kind of strange. Still, milkshakes!

I made my order and went to the counter. I still didn't know what it would cost, but it's a milkshake, right? So $10 for a large and $5 for a small, and I ordered the small. "$16.24," the cashier said.

"Really?" I asked.

She grimaced. "Yeah," she said.

At that point, I'm under lots of retail pressure--people in line, cashier staring at me, etc. So I say okay and pay. That's incredibly deceptive, though, and clearly unethical.

Fifteen minutes later, I get my milkshake. It takes several minutes to excavate through the breakfast cereal and the brownie, but finally, I hit milkshake.

And it was--okay. Certainly nothing exceptional. The brownie was good, though.

The milkshake came in a Mason jar, and when I was done, I asked an employee what I should do with it. "It's yours," he said. "It's a souvenir."

Yes, that's exactly what I want: a souvenir of the time I was stupid enough to spend SIXTEEN DOLLARS ON A MILKSHAKE.

Well, unless the Mason Jar says "BE ASHAMED" across the front. That would be a useful reminder.

If you want, I'll write "My friend paid $16 for a milkshake and all I got was this lousy Mason Jar" and send it to you. Just let me know.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


First off, look at the top of this image and you'll see some very cute baby birds:

Here's a real blast from the past! Kid was always a baller, even at age six.

Ultra-short putters: the next craze. 

Just a painting I thought was interesting:


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Reasonable Question

"Is that street legal?" Eli 17.10 asked. 

Monday, June 24, 2019


I swear they just paged "passenger Mitten Moscow" and I think I'm hallucinating.

While Watching a Movie

A text to Eli 17.10:
Why is it that every time someone is running from a serial killer, they trip? Seems unlikely. 

The response:
odd but very fair observation.

I Think This Is It

I'm in an airport in Austin.

I've been here for almost six hours because of flight delays. The only place in the state it was lightning (or even raining), of course, was Austin.

I've been rerouted, so instead of getting into Grand Rapids at an already late 9:50 p.m., I fly to Midway from Austin in another two and a half hours and then (entirely theoretically) make a connecting flight to GR and arrive at 12:50 a.m. Which will have taken me, all told, fifteen hours. I could actually drive it in twenty-two!

This is the third trip in a row where I either missed a connecting flight and had to stay overnight somewhere or had a flight delay of over four hours.

At this point, I seriously doubt I'm ever taking a connecting flight again. Not even kidding. I'd rather drive 2-3 hours from an airport into Austin than take a non-direct flight, because it seems like those just don't work anymore.

I'm consistently stunned by what an awful experience it is to fly now. It's gone from just being inconvenient and annoying to downright hellish.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday Links!

We're light this week, but that means people are on vacations, so it's a good thing.

Leading off this week, a couple of connected links. First: 1957 Pacoima mid-air collision,  involving planes and schoolchildren and raw tragedy. What distinguishes this particular incident, though, is that CBS Radio Workshop did an episode where they interviewed the parents and children. It's mesmerizing, and it's here: Heaven is in the Sky.

An excellent read: How many people did it take to colonize Australia?

From C. Lee, and this is thought-provoking: The mindfulness conspiracy. This is fascinating: 3 Brothers From Baghdad and Their Remarkable 9th-Century Book of Inventions. Spooks! A CIA-Issued Rectal Tool Kit for Spies. This is terrific: ‘Bread is practically sacred’: how the taste of home sustained my refugee parents. This is amazing: How modern life is transforming the human skeleton.

From Wally, and it's quite clever: Synchronized Screen Juggling. This is excellent: The mystery of the famous lost author. This is fascinating: India's City Where People Come to Die.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Fake Meat

Beyond Meat has been getting all kinds of attention because they did an IPO and their stock jumped to a million.

The taste, however, has generally been considered inferior to the "Impossible Burger," which is less widely distributed.

I was able to try an Impossible Burger last week, and as someone who loves hamburgers, it was pretty amazing. Once you put it between a bun and added lettuce/tomato/cheese, I could barely tell the difference between it and real meat.

Okay, I added bacon, but still.

It was lighter in my stomach, too, after the meal. So I had a full hamburger experience (it was a big burger), but without the heaviness that I often feel after eating a big burger.

So this is the real deal, at least for me, and it's still plant-based. Once the technology to grow meat from cells matures and the price comes down, look out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Valuable Resource

"If I'm addressing an envelope 'The Johnson family,' do I capitalize 'family'?" Eli 17.10 asked.

"Yes, you would capitalize 'Johnson'," I said. "That's correct."

"No, I know that," he said. "Do I capitalize 'family'?"

"Well, I wouldn't know anything about that," I said (I do know about that, actually).

"Did all of the Johnsons come to the grad party?" he asked.

"Who are the Johnsons?" I asked.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Epic Store

Allow me to play devil's advocate.

There are some baffling incongruities with the Epic Games Store. It launched as a skeleton, really, missing even basic features. Certainly, it wasn't the kind of polished storefront you'd expect.

Then there's the aggression. Epic has been incredibly aggressive in terms of buying exclusives and giving away free games. In some ways, it's fair to say the exclusives are actually anti-consumer, even though Epic is presenting itself as pro-developer and pro-consumer. They've also been staggeringly aggressive in giving developers an 88% cut of the revenue.

Everyone is interpreting this aggressiveness as a sign of strength. There are times, though, when ultra-aggression masks weakness, and the more aggressive Epic gets, the more I wonder.

Something about this just doesn't smell right.

Why launch the store at least six months before it was ready? Why take such a small cut? Why be so aggressive in buying exclusives? Giving away a free game each week?

Is it possible that Epic doesn't consider their core business model sustainable? Is it somehow possible that this is a Hail Mary to establish another revenue source on the services side? What if they only have 12-18 months for this to reach critical mass or they run out of money?

Let me be clear that I don't have any sources on this. There's a smell, though, and I don't need a source for that.

Monday, June 17, 2019


I tried to do an E3 post, but there was almost nothing to talk about.

I have seen a pattern, though, and I don't like it. Here's the sequence:
1. Big Company ABC buys very innovative small studio Blam Games.
2. Blam Games is coming out with a new game that's incredibly creative! This game was already in development before Big Company ABC was involved.
3. The new game comes out and it's terrific! Everybody talks about the synergy of the partnership.
4. Blam Games announces their next game, which is a sequel.
5. During development, Blam Games announces that their most valuable creative talent is leaving.
6. Blam Games releases their sequel. It's not nearly as good.
7. Wash, rinse, repeat. The games keep getting worse.
8. Big Company ABC touts the next game by Blam Games, which is now called Big Company ABC Vancouver.
9. Big Company ABC closes Big Company ABC Vancouver.

These big companies have basically become venture capitalists. They buy a studio, strip it of all value, and toss the husk aside.

This is one of the reasons I didn't write about E3. The chances that a big company will release something more interesting than what three people in an apartment are making is almost zero. Part of it is just math--there are thousands of those three man teams, while the big companies release almost nothing that isn't a sequel anymore--but part of it is just being willing to take chances. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday Links!

From Steve West, and this is a fascinating read: The Day the Music Burned.

From Ryan Brandt, and this is in response to the mowing post: The Lawn Care Nut.

From C. Lee, and this is terrific: George Orwell's 1984: Why it still matters. This is unbelievable: “WHAT HAPPENED????” How a remote tech writing gig proved to be an old-school scam. This is excellent: A tale of lost WW2 uranium cubes shows why Germany’s nuclear program failed. Fascinating: The slippery genius of the Cinderella story. A terrific read: By night Oakland's pothole vigilanties repair damaged streets. Thought-provoking: Improbable research: why random selection of MPs may be best.

From Wally, and this is very technical (but interesting), it's How Allied Planes Got Their D-Day Invasion Stripes and other “Retro-High Tech” Secrets of the Normandy Invasion. I might leave Chrome over this: Chrome-derived browsers threaten to fork from Google, refuse to eliminate ad-blocker features. GoT wonks, rejoice: The Army of the Living’s Battle Plan Wasn’t So Bad. This was excellent: The unique culture of Japanese convenience stores.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Zen Paradox

We were watching the NBA Finals.

"Andrew Bogut just got called for a blocking foul," I said.

"So what?" Eli 17.10 asked.

"You can only get called for a blocking fall when you're moving, like when you're trying to draw a charge and don't quite get set," I said.

"Okay," Eli said.

"Andrew Bogut is a stationary object," I said. "How can he be called for a blocking foul?"

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

To Mow Or Not To Mow

I mow the yard on a pass-fail basis. 

I do not receive a letter grade. I do not do extra homework to raise my grade. I only show up for class when I have to. 

This is fine, because the grass in my yard has survived for decades, and it will continue to survive, no matter how poorly I care for it. Long after I'm gone, that grass will continue to do its thing. 

My next door neighbor, though, is in Honors College. 

He's a great neighbor. Couldn't ask for a nicer guy, or a better family. Super cute kids. Just good people. 

When it comes to his yard, though, we sit in different classrooms. 

He has a leaf blower that could clear a football field. He carries around the fuel in a giant backpack. He's so dedicated to his yard that in the event of the apocalypse, he would siphon fuel from his car to be able to keep his yard spotless. 

He edges at the 1/16 inch level. It might be 1/32 inch, but I can't see to that level of detail. He edges beyond the visible spectrum. 

When he's done, his yard looks like a feature in Southern Living. It's majestic, really. It almost makes you want to take up arms against the North, because the Civil War wasn't about slavery, it was about lawn care. 

He mowed twice in four days this spring. He mows in the rain (which is a thing in this area, believe me). He mows, mows, mows.

His lawn is a masterpiece. My lawn is the inferior painting that the artist painted over because he couldn't afford a new canvas. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

He Didn't Say Anything About Burger King, Which Is Probably Already On Fire

"Uber Eats is going to deliver McDonald's," Eli 17.10 said.

"Oh, that's a terrible idea," I said.

"Why?" Eli asked. "I think it's pretty cool."

"Because McDonald's has to be eaten at a champion's pace or it tastes like Styrofoam," I said. "Every McDonald's order should come with a countdown timer that starts as soon as you open the bag. After three minutes, the bag incinerates, along with the food. That's the only way to be protected."

"Fair point," Eli said.

Monday, June 10, 2019

We're Looking Into Advanced Statistics to Resolve This

Eli 17.10 and I are big fans of rotisserie chicken.

We had chicken and pasta Sunday night. We asked for rotisserie chicken, but were denied. Gloria wanted to cook chicken in an original way.


"I have a question for you," I said.

"Go ahead," Eli said.

"If rotisserie chicken was an NBA player, which player would it be?" I asked. "I mean, it's not Michael Jordan or LeBron, but clearly, it plays the game at the highest level."

Eli thought for a few seconds. "Kevin Durant," he said.


"Because everyone wants Kevin Durant to play, but he's not available," he said. I burst out  laughing. From the kitchen, Gloria shot laser beams out of her eyes.

I didn't actually see her do it, but I felt the heat.

"I think it's Tim Duncan," I said. "His nickname was 'The Big Fundamental,' and that's rotisserie chicken. Fundamentally sound. Not the flashiest. Shows up night after night and contributes. Always gets its numbers."

Friday, June 07, 2019

Friday Links!

Really stumbling into the weekend after being at parent orientation, but let's have a go, shall we?

Leading off, from David Gloier, and what an incredible story: My Grandfather’s Secret D-Day Journal.

Excellent links from C. Lee, as always. First, it's The Glossary of Happiness. This is an excellent read: The Great British Tea Heist. This is amazing: Civil War Plant Remedies Actually Fought Off Infections, Study Finds. This is remarkably innovative: This Ink Is Made From Air Pollution. Now these are some handbags: Planetario: a Series of Leather Bags that Mimic the Surface of the Moon. This is useful: The five universal laws of human stupidity.

From Wally, and these are spectacular images: These Aren’t Your Ordinary Data Centers. This is an interesting read: Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used to Be. A fascinating story: Edgar Rice Burroughs Hunted the Apache Kid.

From Geoff Engelstein, and who knew? When Bees Go Rogue, Call the NYPD.

From Steven Davis, and this is both amazing and alarming: AI Researchers Created an Uncanny Video of the Mona Lisa Talking.

From author Doug Walsh, and boy, is it dumb: Oh, deer: Documents reveal FBI once tested hair an Oregon man thought was from Bigfoot.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Parent Orientation

I heard two excellent things during parent orientation.

Thing #1: "Nothing brings a community together more than complaining about that community."

Thing #2: "In high school, achieving is about what you can do by yourself. In college, it's about what you can do in collaboration with others."

#2 was said to me by a student, and it's one of the smartest things I've ever heard.

Also, the Honors College is pretty fantastic.

The Room, and a Disturbing Discovery

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Ranking Systems May Vary

"You know my ranking for a bed and breakfast is entirely based on how much it resembles a hotel," I said."A high similarity score is preferred."

"I don't understand that, but okay," Gloria said.

Our room featured a remote control for the air conditioner that had eleven buttons and a screen. "I'm not sure I turned the air conditioning on, but I may have accidentally activated the nuclear launch codes," I said. "And why do bed and breakfasts always smell like your grandma lived here for years?"

I don't know why anyone would prefer it, really, but if you'd rather deal with a vaguely hobbit-like innkeeper instead of a hotel clerk, I know a place.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

I Respect the Commitment to Yoga

This is one of my all-time favorite headlines:

CVS. They're all in.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Battle Brothers: Lone Wolf

As it turns out, Lone Wolf mode in Battle Brothers is not what it sounds.

You start out as a single character, yes, and if that character dies, you lose, but you're still expected to add members to your company.

Unless you're really, really stubborn.

If you are, you eventually wind up with a level 15 dealer of death via both sword and hammer, cleaving and smashing three enemies at a time.

You also run away. A lot. You're basically Sir Robin with a giant sword.

The game really isn't designed to plunge along in this manner, so nothing is scaled to a one-person company. Fortunately, the retreat function is one of the best-implemented features in the game, because it very intelligently gets you out of the battlefield.

Archers? Run away. Ghosts? Run away. Big toad-like creatures? Run away.

That probably doesn't sound very satisfying, but in a role-playing sense, it gets weirdly interesting, because you REALLY have to role-play. So I escorted caravans (one skull missions), because then I had a few people to fight with me. Or I delivered packages, where I could make money while still running away from an ambush if needed.

One of the best things I learned was to head out of town right behind another company, which often consist of a dozen men. Bad guys/creatures tend to stay off the roads when those guys are coming through, and I'd run right behind them.

In a strange, slightly janky way, it was an entirely pure role-playing experience, and it was incredibly satisfying when I won a battle. Not for everyone, because it can be frustrating, but it's an interesting way to try to play the game.

I do have an archer now. I broke down and added one guy. There goes the peace and quiet.

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