Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Here are a couple of things to watch/read while you're stuck in the house.

First is Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster. I'd read several books on Chernobyl previously, but this is by far the best, with loads of additional detail and sources. You wouldn't think that a book about a 30+ year old disaster would be riveting, but that's definitely the right word to describe it.

Next, and boy, this delivers in every way: "Tiger King" Murder, Mayhem and Madness" on Netflix. I don't even want to discuss the story, because spoilers, but I will say that there's no good guy. None of them. And it's wildly entertaining. A truly phenomenal piece of documentary filmmaking. Oh, and when you've finished watching it, a complementary article with some extra detail: Tiger King Joe Exotic and His American Animals.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Ostriv and the Ignorant

Rock, Paper Shotgun posted a glowing story about Ostriv today.

It's a city-builder set in the 18th century, and it's fantastically detailed. It focuses on small towns, not enormous ones, and it looked like it was right up my alley.

Since it's in Early Access, I went to look at the forums. Oh, no.

Someone politely asked why certain worker roles were gated off for women, and then it started. "SJW! SJW!" shouted assorted manbabies. "Not historically accurate if women can do XYZ!" shouted more.

I'm really tired of this shit.

One, I'm tired of the reaction. People who don't know a damn thing about history are the first ones to start yelling about historical accuracy. They want to so badly to keep women out of gaming entirely, whether it's as characters or actual players. It's gross.

Two, they're idiots. To believe that women's roles were so rigidly defined, you'd have to believe in amazingly even population distribution, as well as an abundance of workers.

The 18th century, though, wasn't an Excel spreadsheet.

Population distribution was even more likely to be uneven in smaller locales, which is where much of the game seemingly takes place. It was also most likely in smaller towns to have an imbalance of workers.

Villages have to function. If they don't, people die.

So while it wasn't common for women to be carpenters or laborers or whatever, of course they were when it was necessary. Here's a conversation that literally never happened:
"We have a critical shortage of workers. If we don't finish the harvest/complete housing before winter/etc., many people will die."
"Damn, I guess we better pray that six more men move in quickly."

Good grief.

I'm not saying it was common for women to fill those roles, but it wasn't unheard of, either.

Here's an idea. Maybe let people choose who they want to do which job. If someone wants to create a village of super women and have them take on every physical laborer role, they're not hurting anyone. If you wanted to get really ambitious, there could be different body types (even frail/stout would be enough), and body type, not sex, would determine the job type.

That doesn't seem so difficult.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday Links!

Here's the story we all need to lead off this week: an Italian man doing yoga with his chihuahua (and the dog, Pancho, is better at doing yoga than I am): Nic and Pancho.

Here's a fascinating story: 3,400-year-old Mesoamerican ball court sheds light on origins of the game.

From C. Lee, and this is the kind of incompetency that is making this much worse than it needed to be: How one woman fought to get her husband tested while her state was applauded for having no coronavirus. This is excellent: What Misinformation Has to Do With Toilet Paper. Curious: Divorce requests soar in China after lifting of lockdowns. Our times demand it: The first lines of 10 classic novels, rewritten for social distancing. Also: Okay, now the LAST lines of 10 classic novels, rewritten for social distancing. This is spectacular! New App Lets You Hear Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales in Original 14th-Century English. I had no idea this happened: When the Stanley Cup Final Was Canceled Because of a Pandemic.

From Scott Gould, and these are so clever: This commentator’s got no live sport so he’s commentating on everyday life and it’s brilliant.

From Rob C., and it's riveting (and chilling): The Chilling Mystery of High-Altitude Suicides.

From Wally, and it's a Star Trek nerd alert: Commercially Available Chairs in Star Trek. Here's something for while you're stuck inside: 5 digital board games for PC, mobile, and console to play together at home and online. An interesting side-effect (I also saw an article about mountain lions in Boulder): Emboldened wild animals venture into locked-down cities worldwide. Some of these are just amazing: The Overlooked Wonders of Soviet-Era Industrial Design. A Rod Serling radio play: O'Toole From Moscow.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


I played basketball with Eli 18.7 yesterday on a court that had baskets in the shape of a staple (pre-use). One basket at each end, two on the long axis.

On days we don't play tennis, we'll shoot baskets for an hour and play HORSE. Anything to get moving and get out of the house for a while, because both the rock gym and the regular gym are closed.

"This raises some interesting scoring possibilities for HORSE," I said. "I have an idea."

Eli nodded. "So do I."

"Tell me," I said.

"No, you go first," he said.

"When a player makes a shot, the other player can shoot to the basket he used, just like normal. But if he shoots to the next closest basket and makes a longer shot instead, he not only doesn't get a letter, he gives his opponent a letter."

Eli burst out laughing. "That was EXACTLY my idea. I had this great idea and you had it word for word."

"We do that," I said.

He shook his head. "Not even surprised."

I laughed. "I hope it's always like that."

He smiled. "Always will be."

This made HORSE incredibly strategic. You had to consider how far your shot was from two baskets, not one, and whether you wanted to add that temptation, or shoot from a spot where it wasn't really an option. It was a hundred times more fun than regular HORSE. And it was even more fun that we both invented it at the same time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

This was overdue

This has to be the most on-brand thing a football coach has ever said:
WMU football strength coach expects coronavirus stoppage to reveal team’s character

Linguistic Transference

Here's a side effect of watching British procedural crime dramas every night. I just sent an email to someone with this line:
I'm keen to get this sorted out as soon as possible. 

I am absolutely sure I have never used the word "keen" in my entire life.

On deck: It's a bit shit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Through the Mirror

I have an enormous amount of empathy for extroverts right now.

Shelter in place is kind of my wheelhouse. I work out with Eli 18.7 every day, we hang out, it's almost totally fine.

I'm okay with not enough. I'm not okay with too much. That's why I'm in introvert.

If I was forced to go out to a club every night and be in a crowd with fifty strangers, though, I'd be so stressed out I could barely breathe. Especially if you told me I had to do it every night for a month.

I figure that's kind of how extroverts feel right now. Their whole lives are centered around stimulation. Too much is just enough for them. Now, a huge chunk of what they focus their lives around has been removed.

I always envied extroverts because they drew energy from other people. I can do that, but only with one or two people at a time. Anything beyond that, and I start feeling drained almost immediately. It makes me out of place in many situations that are totally normal for most other people.

So I feel bad for extroverts right now. I'm kind of their mirror image, and I've struggled with the same feelings they're having right now, just for inverted reasons.


Here's one of the great things about Broadchurch: every season, there are a huge number of suspects. And every one of them has OH, I'M DEFINITELY HIDING SOMETHING eyes, which gets progressively funnier the more times you see it. By season three, it's hilarious.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Seems Reasonable

I've been walking for at least 30 minutes a day, in addition to whatever I do with Eli 18.7.

I'm walking down a street on Saturday and see the new age of children's art:

The first word at the top of this one, in case you can't read it, is "Stay":

Well, that's very nice.

Today, it was announced that we a have a stay at home order for two weeks, starting at midnight.

I went to the grocery store. I was in the self-check area (two registers arranged vertically), and there was a woman in front of me, scanning her items. She looked to be about 70, and she was wearing a face mask. She looks at me, PULLS DOWN her face mask (double violation), leans over to get closer (violation), and says "Starting tomorrow, we all have to stay at home," like she's handing me the nuclear codes or something.

Maybe the ten-year-olds should be running things, instead of the olds. They seem to have more sense.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday Links!

With expanded spacing, all posters are kept six feet apart this week.

Leading off, links from C. Lee, who belongs in the Link Submitter Hall of Fame. First, an article about a despicable man: How J. Edgar Hoover Used the Power of Libraries for Evil. This is an excellent read: Martian language, emoji, and braille: How China is rallying to save a coronavirus story online. This is fascinating: Your Fancy Honey Might Not Actually Be Honey. This is a wonderful story: Albert Camus Wins the Nobel Prize & Sends a Letter of Gratitude to His Elementary School Teacher (1957). Animal orchestras are comforting in these troubled times: Maestro.

From Ken Piper, and it's a a terrific story: ‘Wash your hands’ was once controversial medical advice. Genius level comedians: What the stars of Monty Python are doing 50 years later. This is highly
concerning: This Small Company Is Turning Utah Into a Surveillance Panopticon.

From Wally, and these are amazing: Cinema Poster Live Auction March 202. If you're looking for a wargame: Best Games Reviewed in 2019. An interesting read: To Forecast Spring Flooding, NOAA Planes Fly Slow And Low. Next level: Driving wheel. This is entirely fantastic: Penguins openly explore aquarium closed due to coronavirus. Ah, the Razzies: ‘Cats’ Wins Razzie Award for Worst Picture, John Travolta Wins Worst Actor. Here's a documentary for when you're tired of bingeing Netflix: The Russian 2nd Pacific Squadron - Voyage of the Damned.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Hopefully Useful

I've been thinking about hand washing.

That seems to be the most substantial line of defense here. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.

After a few days of doing this, though, your hands get pretty raw, even with lotion on them all the time. Mine do, anyway.

Plus, you're washing your hands to fix something that already happened (getting the coronavirus on your hands). And you might wash your hands, but if you don't do it correctly, it might not work.

You can use hand sanitizer, but the same problems exist, plus it's almost impossible to find and the prices are often jacked up.

I was thinking about this, and then it hit me: Subway. At Subway, and most food places, workers wear those single-use plastic gloves. They don't touch anything.

Okay, those are probably sold out on Amazon, right? Nope. There are unlimited supplies. And they're cheap, around four cents a glove.

I ordered some, and they work great. I went to the grocery store last night, put them on as I walked in the store, didn't worry about touching things, checked out put them in the trash can as I walked out of the store. No worries about touching keypads, or anything else.

My cost for peace of mind? Eight cents.

You still have to remember not to touch your face, but with the gloves on, you don't really think about touching your face, because it feels just different enough to remind you.

Here's a link: Gorilla Gloves.

Yes, that's in quantity 1,000, but it's boxes of 100, and there are several people I wanted to give them to. I also noticed when I put up the  link that size large is out of stock, but there are several other vendors, so you should still be able to find them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

I Forgot the Picture

Like I said, besides being a father, this is the hardest I've ever worked at anything in my life. By far.

Six chapters to go.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

In Good News, Believe It Or Not

I finished rewriting the second part of the novel on Sunday. 131 pages now.

I believe it is very strong, and hopefully, your mileage will not vary.

I have about 60 pages to go, I think.

Word Tangles

"What about her bitches?" I asked.

"What?" Gloria asked.

"The song. What is she concerned about? Lotta booty and bitches."

Gloria looked at the display in the car and laughed. "Oh, it's a Beyonce song."

"Lots of booty bitching going on," I said.

Coronavirus humor #1

Gloria was wound up very tight on the way to pick up Eli 18.7. So tight that she didn't stop talking for the first 40 minutes.

"You've got a lot going on there," I said.

"What? Am I talking too much?" she asked.

"Maybe a bit."

"Well, I have a lot to say."

"I'm totally sympathetic to that," I said. "I'm just trying to flatten the curve."

Monday, March 16, 2020

Bingeing During the Zombie Apocalypse Recommendation #1

We're all going to be watching more television than usual, and it damn sure won't be sports, so when I watch a series on Netflix that's worth recommending, I'm going to do so.

Recommendation #1: Broadchurch.
An unbelievably good detective show with an incredible emotional range. It also has fantastic writing.

Welcome to the New Strange

Well, that was an interesting four days.

On Wednesday afternoon, the University of Michigan went online only. Within the span of about an hour, Eli 18.7s summer study in Geneva and the rock climbing regionals were both cancelled. That night, the major professional sports leagues in America were suspended.

On Thursday, he was notified that he'd been awarded a $3,500 scholarship for the summer program that had been cancelled. Yeah.

Eli wanted to stay on campus, for a while, but the President advised everyone to leave if they were able to, so we're picking him up on Monday. Just trying to get their before someone tests positive and they quarantine a dorm for two weeks.

I'm going to do my best to be entertaining and help take your minds off all this for a few minutes a day, but don't think this isn't scaring me. Anyone who isn't scared at this point is very, very foolish, so if someone tells you this is going to blow over in a month, they are completely misinformed.

In the meantime, a text I sent to Eli after the President's announcement:
U of M statement today, final draft: "We advise all students to return home as soon as possible. First draft: THE ZOMBIES HAVE BROKEN THROUGH OUR DEFENSES. RUN."

He also texted me with what he said was the last NBA highlight of the season (a wicked crossover), and I said the guy had been "filthifized," which totally should be a word.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off with the always strong links from C. Lee. First, it's The Long, Winding History of Rock Paper Scissors. And, in true C. Lee, fashion, a complementary article: Biodiversity May Thrive Through Games of Rock-Paper-Scissors. This is remarkable story: Meet Maya, who piloted one of Tokyo cafe’s robot waitresses. I have them on a regular basis: How the humble potato changed the world.

From Wally, and this is very clever: 50 Of The Most Evil-Looking Buildings In The World. This is both amusing and interesting: The Anglo-American Restaurant Criticism Divide. These people are astounding: The Ice Beard Surfers of Lake Superior. This is an incredible story: The invisible city: how a homeless man built a life underground. An amazing video: Kilauea's Fissure 8 Eruption - Lava Flow in Leilani Estates.

From Meg McReynolds, who traditionally sends an Iditarod link every year: Meet Quince Mountain, the Iditarod's first transgender dog musher. This is a beautifully written and powerful essay on the South: I Make Of You What I Will.

From Mark H., and this is a tremendous article (about the USS John S. McCain): Collision Course. This is entirely delightful: For Decades, Cartographers Have Been Hiding Covert Illustrations Inside of Switzerland’s Official Maps. More whimsy, fewer zombies. That's what I always say.

From Paul Adams, and this is an amazing bit of history: Meet the Liverbirds, Britain’s First Female (and Now Forgotten) Rock Band.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

What a Comedown

I read a study yesterday where the signature conclusion was that 30 minutes of walking a day "significantly reduced the chance of death."

I'm still trying to rehab that torn muscle in my back, and walking 30 minutes a day has been my target for low-level exercise while it heals (it's much better now, and I've strengthened my abdominal muscles in the meantime, which should help).

So I'm reading the article about this study, and I'm pretty pleased. That's when I realized that my workout goal in my younger days was getting fit enough to win competitions, and now my goal was "reduced chance of death."

I mean, if not dying is a competition, maybe I can still make that work.

And Vice Versa

Remember when I said never confuse ambition with failure. Hey, it works in the other direction, too!
Louisiana couple accused of stealing $1,000 worth of beer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

It's a Strange World

Boy, there's a bootcamp for everything now.

I wanted to peek inside and see if there was a bro in a muscle shirt with a gallon of water, but (like E.B. White) I declined, for secret reasons.

I've told you before how cherries are in everything up here. Even crazier, these were delicious:

I'm pretty sure that isn't a superpower:

Public Service Announcement

There was a deal on frozen vegetables last weekend, so I picked a bag of "Mixed Stir Fry."

Have you been to one of those drive-through wildlife parks where they advertise "over 100 different types of animals!" and it turns out that 79 of them are different species of deer?

So it turns out that the deer in "Mixed Stir Fry" is broccoli. There's one monkey, one elephant, two lions, and ninety-six deer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Climbing Pics

Here are a few more pictures from Eli 18.7s trip to Las Vegas over spring break. So beautiful.

This is called a chimney route:

I get dizzy just looking at this:

This is just breathtaking:

This last picture demonstrates pretty clearly that he's the same goofball he was fifteen years ago:

16 Years of Despair, Then This

2K is making NFL games again and the first will be out in 2021

That's a miracle. Hopefully it will be released before we are all consumed by the zombie apocalypse.

Monday, March 09, 2020

No Epiphany In Act Three

Well, this is going to be bad.

A government whose entire strategy appears to be not testing in order to say that confirmed cases are low does not inspire confidence.

Washing our hands regularly (and correctly) is one small thing we can do to reduce our chances of being infected.

Some absolutely delightful people from Fossilheads (a performing arts group) did a mash-up of a WHO hand washing graphic and a very famous passage from Macbeth. Another benefit: if you say this out loud while you're washing your hands, you should have no problem getting a 1-meter safety zone around you.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and what a story: This backpack has it all: Kevlar, batteries, and a federal investigation. This is a terrific article (most Chinese chefs have shoulder problems--who knew?): Georgia Tech physicists unlock the secret to perfect wok-tossed fried rice. An incredible story: How a Hacker's Mom Broke Into a Prison—and the Warden's Computer.

From C. Lee, and it's good information: Coronavirus lingers in rooms and toilets but disinfectants kill it. This is horrifying: Report: China Sells Minorities Into ‘Forced Labor’ to Benefit Apple, Foxconn, Others. I was wondering about this: Clicking Buy on Amazon? It’s Trying to Prevent a Coronavirus Caveat. What a fantastic idea: Finland's answer to food waste: 'Best-before' is actually good later — with a discount. This is intriguing: Australia's Radical Idea to Send Sunshine to Asia Through a Giant Cable. Useful: How to Enable DNS Over HTTPS in Your Web Browser.

From Ken Piper, and it's fantastic: NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Snaps Its Highest-Resolution Panorama Yet. This is both heartwarming and incredibly sad: Albany lets Vermont player who overcame car crash, coma score first career points on senior night. This is quite fascinating: Empowering, alluring, degenerate? The evolution of red lipstick.

From Wally, and there are some interesting data points here: The Verge Tech Survey 2020. Man, it's about time: Is This the End of Oversharing? Amazing: Sand Art From Senegal. It feels a little Don Quixote, but I admire his persistence: Mats Järlström’s victorious 6-year battle over yellow lights. This is utterly mind-blowing: Incredible Optical Illusion Bookstore Looks Like a Real-Life M.C. Escher Painting.

From Meg McReynolds, a story about very good dogs: These dogs scare bears away—to protect them.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

A Bad Decision

I found a way to flummox Google search. Just type in the words "vegetable plate."

This is a thing that barely exists anymore, much to my regret. Instead, it's all vegan restaurants that have a surprisingly small amount of vegetables on any one dish. One carrot, cut into a spiral, interlaced with zucchini lace and sprinkled with essence of vegan. Or something like that.

I'd just like to have basic vegetables, freshly prepared. And corn.

I was desperate today, after spending half an hour googling various search terms and digging through the menus of dozens of restaurants, all unproductive. I remembered that Eli 18.7 and I had gone to a Cracker Barrel for the first time three years ago, and it was strange, like a Hoarders episode combined with a funeral home. Plus, their nostalgia vibe seemed to hover on the knife's edge of "man, this country was great before black people could eat with us, am I right?" Creepy, gross, and offensive.

Still, it had been three years. We hadn't been in Michigan. Maybe the franchise had moved in a positive direction. And they had a vegetable plate. So I went.

Oh, no.

Armies of old white people, grimly devouring fried meats and vegetables drenched in butter before shuffling off this mortal coil. The description of my meal as a "vegetable" plate was technically accurate, but only if butter has recently been designated a vegetable.

Nostalgia? Still super creepy, still incredibly uncomfortable.

The fried okra was good, though.

Still, in the future--forever--a hard pass.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Sometimes, Remind Yourself

I told Eli 18.7 to never confuse ambition with failure.

I didn't tell him this until a few months ago, because I never thought about it before. It would have been really, really helpful to pull that out when he was going to NAHL camps at 16, or when he applied to five Ivy League schools and wasn't accepted.

Sometimes you only eventually know the right thing to say.

It's a good description of Eli's life, though. He's incredibly ambitious, and usually, that ambition has paid off. When it didn't, I think he was much better off for trying. I hope he'll remember this.

I hope I do, too.

If I had known what I know now, writing a novel and having a literary agent at 25, even if the book didn't sell, was ambition, not failure. I needed to get into a writing program and learn, but I am so much of an introvert that I wasn't willing to do that.

So instead of digging in, I just wrote it off as failure, that I wasn't good enough. And I probably wasn't, back then, but that was okay, and I didn't see it that way. I saw it as an end, not a start.

It should have been a start.

Instead, I still wrote, and even finished a few things, but there was always this lack of real commitment. I couldn't quite see past what I thought of as failure to really invest myself, because I didn't want to be disappointed again.

I've been reminding myself of this quite a lot lately, as I just grind through the last seven chapters of this rewrite. Even if this thing lands in the market like a pile of soggy leaves, it's ambition. It's not failure.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Moving On Up

Eli 18.7 is climbing outside Las Vegas for Spring Break.

Yes, that's a bit scary, because this is his first time doing extensive climbing outdoors. But he's totally methodical in his preparation, he's with experienced climbers who are also very responsible, and he's having a great time, so I've stuffed my anxiety in a box and try not to open it.

He sent some amazing pictures, so enjoy.

Like I said, a bit scary. And beautiful.

Monday, March 02, 2020

Yeah, That Was Not So Good

I took a sample version of the Wonderlic test today.

The Wonderlic test is a timed test used to evaluate the mental acuity of NFL prospects at the NFL Draft Combine.

Or something.

It's only 50 questions, so it's hard to understand what they could actually find out. Still, though, it's kind of a big deal. They've been giving the test since the early 1970s.

Who had the highest score? A punter, Pat McInally (Harvard), who has the only perfect score (50) in the history of the test.

So I took the test (again, a sample version). 50 questions. 15 minutes.

I scored a 43.

In actually, that was shitty. I thought I would miss all the problems where they show you a 2D layout of a 3D image, and you have to "fold" it together and figure out which lettered corners touch. My spatial understanding is very poor, so I figured I was dead on all of those.

I only missed 2, somehow.

Instead, I missed 5 not difficult questions because the time deadline was pressuring me, I thought. I actually finished with almost 2 minutes left, so I had more time than I thought, but man, I missed some simple stuff just because I didn't read closely enough.

That made me start thinking about time pressure, and how it affects our decision making.

It's been a long time since I've thought about this. I have been very fortunate in that time pressure in my life has decreased significantly as I've gotten older. I have time to think. I'm able to plan. I feel like I generally make good decisions because I'm able to be methodical.

Of course, I wasn't like that before Eli 18.8 was born.

Being a parent will teach you about being procedural, because your child will closely model your behavior. All the time. So in trying to model good behavior, particularly in terms of making decisions, I actually started making good decisions. I learned how to be methodical, and how to plan.

Eli taught me some of that, too. He always had this meticulous side of his personality (still does) that was incredibly effective (still is), and I tried to learn as much as I could from him.

All of this makes me wonder how many people are making bad decisions just because of the time pressure they find themselves under. Making decisions with incomplete information in a limited time frame is both difficult and stressful, and the stress can lead to bad habits and bad choices.

Not a reflection of the person, but a reflection of their situation. It's easy to label people as unsuccessful or poor thinkers or whatever, but nobody lives in a vacuum.

It also makes me wonder if some kids who struggle are struggling because they're trying to make decisions in time frames that don't suit their personality.

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