Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Trap is Sprung

I returned from writing at the Gardens about noon. I still had one foot on the threshold.

"Is New Year's the dumbest holiday?" Eli 18.4 asked.

"Oh, hell yes!" I said. Eli burst out laughing.

In the corner, glowering, a woman. "I don't see why people can't just let other people enjoy the holidays," she said. "#**@#*(@#***."

"I had no idea this was a trick question," I said, Eli still laughing. "A holiday purity test, apparently."

"The holiday is just more fun if other people in this house enjoy it," she said.

"Sorry, Mom, it's lame," Eli said.

"Wait, I'm not forced to enjoy New Year's more if you like it," I said. "Why would you enjoy it less if I don't?"

"You people," she said. She was one step away from bringing out the rowdy fists and shaking them, which is always a very funny moment.

It's true, though. New Year's is incredibly lame.

Other big holidays celebrate something that (allegedly) happened, generally, but with New Year's, we're celebrating the turn of a calendar. If I had my way, that calendar would never turn. I'd still be seven, playing football in the front yard, throwing the ball a mile, but still so fast that I couldn't outthrow myself. Now, after fifty-one of these alleged holidays since that time, I'm only only step ahead of the people trying to catch me and take me to the glue factory, and I don't mean a full step.

Of course, I gave up some of that youth for The Enthusiasm Engine, and who could ever regret that? So I'm old and crumbling, and expected to celebrate it, but I've also been very, very lucky.

Monday, December 30, 2019

FlipSide: A Word Game

DQ reader Michael Picerno (and his studio Maker Mischief) have released their first game: Flipside: A Word Game. 

Here's a screenshot:

Screenshot Image

What you basically do is spell words with the bottom row of tiles, choosing which letter drops from the row above after a letter is used. You can also turn letters into wildcards, or flip certain letters ("p" becomes "b", for example). The rule set is clearly defined and easy to understand.

It's clever to play and quite relaxing, with a game lasting about ten minutes. It's also free, with just a small ad that plays in-between games. 

Links: Android and Apple. Enjoy.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Friday Links!

Space nerd alert! Apollo Flight Controller 101: Every console explained. This is truly the best video: This Rescued King Penguin Loved Going To The Fish Market So Much That His Family Taught Him How To Buy Fish On His Own.

From Wally, and seriously, the Smitch? Check out the Nanica Smitch, a terrible Nintendo Switch rip-off. These are fantastic: Best Illusion of the Year Contest. This is excellent: The 1968 sci-fi that spookily predicted today. Only for the very, very brave: And now, eight hours of vintage department store holiday music. Truly, this man is the best of us: Delivery Driver uses Icy Driveway against itself. A terrific story: Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy.

From C. Lee, and it's a remarkable technology (and images): Historical Photos of Japan Brought to Life Using Artificial Intelligence Colorization. This is quite interesting: Sucker bet (a thought experiment). Fascinating: This Watch Is Made for the Blind but Is Wildly Popular with the Sighted. Hmm: Ewoks Are the Most Tactically Advanced Fighting Force in Star Wars. I'm all in: How Brazilian Chefs Are Using the Fruit That Can Turn Anything Blue. Amazing in both versions: 18th Century ‘Wind God and Thunder God’ Painting Recreated in LEGO. This is such an awesome story: Andrew Garrido taught himself piano on a paper keyboard.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

This is what happens when it's 50 degrees in December in MichiCanada

Our little municipal golf course (the hidden jewel) was going to start their winter season on December 14.

Up here, "winter season" means that people crosscountry ski/snowshoe/fat tire bike on the golf course, because it's covered in snow. Which it usually is, by the middle of December.

This year, though, is a strange one.

So instead of snowshoeing on December 23, we played golf. Well, I just chipped and putted around the greens, because my elbow still isn't cleared to hit full shots, but Eli 18.4 played and I walked along with him, which was the nicest, most relaxing time.

He went +4 for nine holes after not hitting balls for three months. This kid.

"This is one of my favorite nine holes ever," I said as we walked up the 9th fairway.

"Really?" he asked.

"Sure," I said. "Golf at the end of December? I feel like I'm stealing."

I guess I can keep golf shoes and snowshoes in the car for a while, just so I'm covered.

Eli 18.4 had possibly the happiest first semester any college student has ever had. He made a ton of great friends, played intramural flag football and soccer, made the rock climbing team and qualified for regionals, grades were A or A+ for all his classes, and he applied for a UN internship this summer. Oh, and I think he's going to be classified as a senior by the first semester of his third year.

None of that surprises me, in isolation, but for all of it to be going so well makes me so happy. The place he wasn't sure he wanted to go turned out to be the place where he belonged.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Can You Spot Santa's Penis?

We were on our designated mandatory holiday fun event, a drive-through Christmas light display at $25 per car.

We started off in an area that was optimized for inducing epileptic seizures, as the displays were flashing so quickly that I felt like my brain was disintegrating. "Might want to dial that stuff down a bit," I said. "That building in front must be a medevac area."

"Is this it?" Eli 18.4 asks. "This can't be it."

"That's the big finale," Gloria said. "They peaked so soon."

After a lengthy discussion of holiday light car bingo and what the squares might be, we came upon another heaping dose of holiday spirit.

"That's nice, but I preferred the more daring composition of 'Lights Off, Please,'" I said.

"Oh my god, that's the entrance," Eli said, after thirty minutes. "We aren't even inside yet."

We saw a booth. "I think that's where we pay the entrance fee," Gloria said.

"That's not to get in," Eli said. "It's ransom."

"You don't pay to enter the park," I said. "You pay to get out."

Then, a magical moment:

"It's full of stars," I said, ripping off 2001: A Space Odyssey for perhaps the fiftieth time, because I love that line.

We saw two people walking. "What are those people doing?" Eli asked.

"Looking for the Red Cross," I said. "Humanitarian aid."

"I feel like twenty-five dollars might be a little too much for this experience," Eli said.

"It's only a little over eight dollars an hour," I said.

And then the murders began. The dinosaur just moves his head back and the little guy disappears.

The road kept going, winding back and forth, and forth, and forth. "All right, start looking for the penis," I said.

"Wait, what?" Eli asked.

"Every display like this is eventually going to have a penis somewhere," I said. "Guaranteed."

Eli thought I was crazy, as he often does, but I'm also a seasoned veteran of this type of thing. Then we drove up on this.

No one noticed anything amiss. At first.

"Can anyone find Santa's penis?" I asked. "Because his left eye is definitely not a left eye."

Laughing. Much laughing. Remember: there's always a penis.

We reached the exit, eventually. "Dad, you're awful quiet back there," Eli said.

"I'm trying to claw back my soul," I said.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Thomas, Not Your Family

We were eating out after the despair of yet another holiday light display (more on this later in the week).

After eating, we walked out of the restaurant, past a group of people standing outside. There was a boy of about eight with them, and he had on a reindeer antler headband and a red light on his nose.

We were walking toward the car when this boy came dashing after us. "Thomas, not your family," said a woman. He turned around and went back to his herd.

I think it's fair to say that we were all stunned by the efficiency of that phrase.

"Do you think she has to say that often?" I asked.

"That would be one of the greatest indie band names of all time," Eli 18. 4 said.

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Rose Would Smell As Sweet

"Do I smell funny?" Gloria asked.

"I've been waiting for years for you to ask that question," I said.

"I'm serious," she said.

"Do you mean like you think you died but you go on living kind of undead smell?"


"Old woman with plastic covers on her furniture smell?"

"Also no."

"Well, what kind of smell?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said.

"How do you know you smell funny if you can't smell it?" I asked.

"I just can't identify it," she said.

"Motor oil? Kind of a garage smell?"

"No. I shouldn't have brought it up," she said.

"Pesticide? Cleaning products?" I asked.

"I'm not talking about this. Don't put this in the blog."

"You had a really good run of not smelling funny,"I said. "Many years. It's a shame it had to end."

Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday Links!

Some very strong stuff this week.

Leading off, from Wally, and it's a magnificent piece of writing (and what a story): "As An Added Bonus, She Paid For Everything": My Bright-Lights Misadventure With A Magician Of Manhattan.

Here's another long read that's fantastic: Ponzi Schemes, Private Yachts, and a Missing $250M in Crypto: The Strange Tale of Quadriga.

One more: My Dad Was a Spy, Maybe.

From C. Lee, and there's so much stupid to enjoy: Worst Wellness Trends of the Decade. This is fascinating: This AI is a perpetual loser at Othello, and players love it. A deep, deep rabbit hole: The Age of Instagram Face. So extremely creepy: The chilling story of ‘Frozen Charlotte’ and the corpse-like dolls that bear her name. A great read: How to Permanently End Diseases. I have a few overexcited neurons, let me tell you: Longevity Linked to Proteins That Calm Overexcited Neurons. Yeah, this is bad: Toxic Coastal Fog Linked to Dangerously High Levels of Mercury in Mountain Lions. This is just incredible: How the U.S. hydrogen bomb secrets disappeared.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's an fascinating read: Mush! One Day in the Life of a Dogsledder.

From Wally, and it's excellent: Invicta: How Did Wargaming Shape the War in the Pacific? Wargamer alert! 10 Wargames to Buy Your Wargamer for Christmas – 2019 Edition. This is awesome: Stonehenge 1875 family photo may be earliest at monument. This is a very, very nice story: This Bangor man got Christmas cards from Big Bird for nearly 40 years.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Diamond ads during the holidays used to be pretty straightforward. Husband or fiancee, surprising wife. She'll love you ever so much more if you give her a big diamond. Please ignore the brutal and bloody backstory of the diamond business.

This year, though, that's all been thrown out the window. Now they're targeting two new demographics:
1. Grandpas
You're dying soon, old man, so spend your damn money on a diamond for your granddaughter. Maybe she'll come visit more often.

2. Kids who play games and probably still live with their parents
Give your girl a diamond worth at least $1399 and we'll throw in a free Xbox AND Madden. Leet!

I think that the next logical step is to target the terminally ill. Go out with a bang!

You Knew This Was Coming (Fire Fox)

From Garret Rempel, one of my favorite people:
The Fire Fox is has both a restaurant and a bar attached together, but separated for security and privacy. The restaurant is called Moz-illa after their menu featuring predominant use of Mozarella cheese. The bar is called the Chrome Bar featuring expansive views of the nearby wilderness out of massively overwhelming Windows in order to attract Explorers as their target demographic.

There's a groaning bucket to your left. Please exit via the gift shop.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

An Observation

Sometimes when people put on a suit, they lose all regard for the rest of the human race.

This is a Costco item, and I am not kidding

That's a grand piano, or a baby grand. Costco sent the email.

The only question, of course, is whether you have to buy them in a four-pack.

What I Would Do If I Could Travel Back In Time

I mean, after I killed Hitler, because if you travel back in time and don't kill Hitler, he becomes the #2 biggest asshole in history, and you go straight to #1.

So after I killed Hitler, I'd only have one more goal: destroy auto-tune.

Everything else can get sorted out on its own.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


"I'm looking at a list of books for Christmas presents," Gloria said.

"Let's hear them," I said.

"The first one is The Untold History of Burma," she said.

"I don't even know the told history of Burma, so that would be lost on me."

"You know, Burma. What is it called now?" Gloria asked.

"I don't remember," I said.

"Sure you do," she said. "It's hard to pronounce."

"Oh, Myanmar," I said. "Wait, I knew that and I didn't even know I knew it? This seems like a problem."

"Here's another one," she said. "The Untold History of Chernobyl."

"I actually do know the history of Chernobyl fairly well, so I would be interested in the untold version," I said.

"I'll get that for you."

"I can't wait for the next level," I said. "In five years, I look forward to reading The Untold History of The Untold History of Chernobyl."

Monday, December 16, 2019

A Game I Want to Play

The last time I said this, it was about a football game using cards for gameplay. We all know how that turned out.

This time, there is absolutely no way for me to ever get good enough at programming to make this game. But I still want to play it.

It's a strategy game. Phases:
1. In phase one, you explore the continent of Africa. At the end of phase one, you choose an area to colonize (stay with me here).
2. The colonization phase. You bring in big industry, exploit resources, do everything you can to absolutely control the population and make the country as weak as possible so that it depends on you.
3. In phase three, you switch sides. You are now a tiny rebel uprising, and your long-term goal is to overthrow the colonial government and declare independence. This requires managing both resources and people, making deals with other factions to grow, and finally, succeeding in war. This phase ends when you declare independence.
4. Now you are the ruler of a brand new African country, and independence is now replaced by sustainability. Can you build this fledgling country into something that can survive? And can you raise the standard of living and education so that your country can improve its standing in the world order?
5. The final goal of the game is to improve your country enough to receive an invitation to join the United Nations. To do so, international relations and diplomacy are added to your country's basic goals in phase four.

This would be a very big game, so big that no one will ever make it. But I like how you get a chance to experience everything: exploration, colonialism, freedom fighting, independence, and international relations.

Dear Local Restaurant Opening Soon

I see that your restaurant is named "The Fire Fox." Allow me to congratulate you on such an excellent choice for search engine optimization. I look forward to seeing your restaurant on page 37 of search results.

Also, why did you not name your restaurant "Chrome?"

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday Links!

This has been a long-term problem in this country that no one wants to talk about: At War With the Truth.

This is magnificent: Chili's Menu, by Cormac McCarthy. This is excellent: Short documentary about famous live concert bootlegger.

Just so many, and more to come: Five charged in alleged $722 million cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme.

From Geoff Engelstein, and uh-oh: When a DNA Test Says You’re a Younger Man, Who Lives 5,000 Miles Away.

From Wally, and it's a good way to enjoy a short but happy life: MotoBASE jump. This is both fascinating and strange in every conceivable way: Inside the outrageously prestigious world of falcon influencers. These are amazing: Sci-Fi Inspired Cardboard Sculptures by Greg Olijnyk Feature Fully Articulated Limbs and Working Motors. Here are some terrific solar system pictures that give you a sense of scale: 27 Pictures That Will Make You Reevaluate Your Entire Existence. This is unquestionably niche and strangely mesmerizing: 1929 Air Compressor Restoration - Restored to New Condition.

From Ken Piper, and it's a terrific read: Why the ‘Queen of Shitty Robots’ Renounced Her Crown. This is an incredible story: The Influencer and the Hit Man.

From Guy Byars, and it's a lovely, touching story: Lovers in Auschwitz, Reunited 72 Years Later. He Had One Question.

A load of quality links from C. Lee. First, and it's a great read, it's How William Gibson Keeps His Science Fiction Real. This is a wonderful and delightful story: The Lie That Helped Build Nintendo. This is pretty damned alarming: Only 9% of 15-year-olds can tell the difference between fact and opinion.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

I Am Freddy Mercury, Destroyer Of Worlds

Just click on that screenshot for a larger image. It's uncanny.

I'm burnin' through the sky, yeah
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm traveling at the speed of light.

Ideally, I would have named my captain Mr. Fahrenheit, but Enormous Bottoms is still my go-to character name, because it's never not funny. 

In ironic conjunction theater, I'm also having a colonoscopy today (routine). 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Star Citizen and the Curse of Abundance

I occasionally read about Star Citizen "development."

Development began in 2011. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the game still isn't complete in 2026. No one else would be, either.

I started thinking about Star Citizen's fundamental problem, and it's abundance. That sounds strange, right? Well, stick with me, and I'll explain.

Creating anything involves making decisions. Lots of them. And many of those decisions are based on constraints. Haiku is an obvious example. Those constraints are part of the process that creates art, whether it's writing or music or art.

Or games, which have some of all three in them.

Star Citizen, though, has no constraints. They've already blown through $250M, and there's always more pouring in. "Joe, we need two million dollars by Friday. Make a JPEG of a spaceship shaped liked a Funyon and sell the hell out of it."

If someone is going to pay you to make a computer game for an unlimited length of time, why not just continue making it? Add any feature you want, as long as it's cool. Don't worry about it being necessary, because the whales will pay.

If somebody was paying me $100,000 a year to write The Man You Trust, I can guarantee you that I would never finish it. There would be no constraints to force me to make decisions. It would just keep getting longer and longer and longer. I'd really enjoy the lack of creative stress, but the finished product (if I ever finished it) wouldn't be very good. It would be bloated and incredibly indulgent.

In other words, it would be a lot like Star Citizen.

As long as adequate funding is available, Star Citizen is going to exist in some strange paradox where the funding that makes development possible also makes it impossible to complete.   

An Interesting Work Environment

For some reason, the Christmas music is playing at death metal volume today.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Question

Has anyone ever been to the National Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa? If so, please email and share your impressions. Thanks.

Parking Lots

I got lost in a parking lot last week, for a while.

I do that all the time. I get distracted, I'm thinking about ten different things, and I wind up with only the vaguest notion of where I parked.

In a normal place, that's not a problem. In MichiCanada, though, it's a big mistake this time of year.

So I started thinking about it, and I came up with a solution. For me, at least, and if you have the same problem, maybe for you.

When I'm in a big parking lot, I never leave the car and angle to my location. I either walk across the rows, or down a row, but it's always a straight path. I've always done this, but I realized that could lead to a very simple method.

There are two different approaches.

If I walk down a row, when I reach the end of the row, I do a row count. When I come out, I just count to the row and walk up. It doesn't matter where my car is along the row, because I'll get to it eventually.

If I'm walking across rows, I count how many spaces I am from the end of the row. When I leave, I just count to that number, then start walking across. I'll run into it at some point.

Depending on what direction I exit, there's only one piece of information I need to remember. The other piece is really not important. I'm not finding an intersection anymore, I'm just finding a line. Somehow that's much less likely to fall out of my head, no matter what else is rattling around in there.

Yes, This Is My Gaming News Holiday Cheer

Nintendo announced a sequel to Golf Story on the Switch.

Golf Story was bonkers in absolutely the best way, one of my favorite games of 2017. It was a solid golf game with character progression and a charming and wacky story, and all I wanted was more of it.

Enter Sports Story. The same framework, but more sports, and the trailer is predictably crazy (hit the link). At least six different sports, combined in unlikely ways, as well as a "Decathasportathon" or something like that.

Mid-2020, allegedly.

Obscure References, Vol. 4

NFC East Division games are like watching 22 men on Ambien run around in full pads.

Monday, December 09, 2019

More Than You Expect From A Matinee

[I'm using "*" in an attempt to avoid setting off work filters. You'll see why.]

We went to see Knives Out yesterday.

This is a default holiday movie for the olds, obviously, so I had certain expectations. One of those expectations was definitely not to hear a woman arguing with someone about fifteen minutes into the film. That person walked out, and the woman continued to berate him as he left, then she stood up, smoker's voice full of fury, and began berating the rest of us. "Enjoy your piece of shit racist, anti-Semitic movie," she shouted. She walked across the theater, then yelled, "He*l H*tler, motherf*ckers," and gave the Naz* salute on her way out.

"I didn't see that coming at all from the preview," I said.

As far as I can tell, there were no Jewish characters in the movie and no references to Jews or Jewish tropes of any kind. She also appeared to be the only person in a 100+ person audience to take offense,  and no one knows what actually offended her, so I'm still a little baffled as to what was going on. Deep in her cups, perhaps. Very deep.

Two hours later, the movie ended and we walked out. "The people next to me were talking the whole time," Gloria said.

"Of course they were," I said. "They couldn't hear half the dialogue. This is a known issue with the olds. Look around." She did, and almost everyone was even older than us. "This is why movies made by people should be enjoyed away from people."

I believe this is sound advice.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Friday Links!

It's been a struggle this week, but my elbow has about 90% of movement back (not strength, but I don't need strength for keyboarding), so I should be back to normal on Monday.

How amazing is this? Aerial radar turns up a Viking ship in a farmer’s field.

I always thought this made sense: give money to the people who will actually spend it. What would happen if we randomly gave $1,000 to poor families? Now we know.

From Matt Teets, and it's a terrific listen: The Punchline | Radiolab (John Scott in the NHL All-Star Game).

From Mark H., and somehow it's always the Russians: Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges.

From Wally, and it's eye-opening (sorry): The Great American Eye-Exam Scam. This is delicious: The Case of the Felonious Bread. A fascinating companion piece: A Conversation With the Team That Made Bread With Ancient Egyptian Yeast. This is disturbing: John Barnett on Why He Won’t Fly on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. And then it all went terribly wrong: Crane Operator Fails At Doing His Job So Terribly That It's Actually Glorious. Seems reasonable: I ditched Google for DuckDuckGo. Here's why you should too. An excellent read: What Japan’s love of nostalgia says about its economy.

From C. Lee, and it's a disgrace: Ford workers break their silence on faulty transmissions: 'Everybody knew'. An interesting read: Japan youth sinks in reading skills on global aptitude index.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

A Savvy Use of Alliteration

Could this possibly be about a Hanukkah-observant hamster? I would like to live in such a world.

To find out, all I needed to do was open the book.

I didn't, of course. I just couldn't kill Schrödinger's hamster.

"Party Cloudy" Means Cloudy In Varying Densities

A local meteorologist said that we've had 18 minutes of sunshine in the last week.

Unlike many weather-related claims, this one is 99.82% accurate. It's only off by 18 minutes. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

More Pictures As My Arm Stubbornly Remains Attached

It really is beautiful at times:

It's even more beautiful when it melts.

Gloria made these before Thanksgiving for Eli 18.3. Next level:

That's right: cinnamon roll bacon turkeys, with candy noses.

A true Minnesota fan:

He looks like a character out of a lumberjack adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Holidays Have Officially Begun

Hi, Evan!

When "Partly" Just Never Occurs To You

Resolute In Winter, A Small Horse

Monday, December 02, 2019

Breaking News

Macy's has men's slippers on sale for Cyber Monday. Please stagger your arrival times accordingly.

I Still Have Two Arms

The procedure went fine, but my keyboarding time is still pretty low, so there will be a couple of picture days this week.

If you're wondering how PRP therapy works, here's a quick overview. A surprisingly large amount of blood is withdrawn from your arm, then its spun down until the platelets are concentrated. A local anesthetic (via injection) will be applied to your injured area, then the platelets will be injected into the injury site.

The cool part is that you can watch it on the ultrasound, so I was able to see both the damaged parts of the tendon and the needle as it headed for the area. Super cool.

From start to finish, it only took slightly more than an hour. 

Also, there was no pain during the procedure, other than a tiny bit of pain when they injected the local anesthetic.

That blissful period without pain lasted about thirty minutes after the completion of the procedure. Then it began to spike, and fairly quickly. It felt like I had a big heart in my arm, and it had a steady beat.

I did wind up taking two Vicodin over the course of the rest of the day (my doctor demanded it), but I didn't take any after that. Extra Strength Tylenol worked well enough, along with a little gritting of teeth.

Six days after the procedure, my arm definitely still hurts, but my range of motion is getting noticeably better each day.

I start doing a set of rehab exercises after two weeks, then an additional set at four. Full effect takes up to twelve weeks. In the meantime, I'm supposed to use it as normally as possible, excluding lifting anything that weighs more than a few pounds.

I'll keep you posted. I'm sure plenty of you have various busted bits, so this might be useful.

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