Thursday, April 30, 2020


Gracie the cat is the only pet in history who is so clumsy that she can fall up stairs.

I'm a Skeptic

There was a contestant on "Jeopardy" (Netflix episodes) last week, and from her verbal bio and category focus, she was interested in the following:
--Roller Derby
--Bible Rhymes
--Zodiac Signs

Successful combination?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Play in the time of COVID

There's a huge playground right next to where we play basketball, and we took some pictures the last time we were there.

Eli 18.8 with the artsy angle:

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Draft Bingo

"Wait, he just said 'throwing talent.' Does that count for 'arm talent?'" Eli 18.8 was playing NFL Draft Bingo with me.

"'I don't think so," I said.

"Oh man, I needed that square."

"He DID NOT just say 'arm length,'" I said. "How could he say that instead of 'wingspan?'"

Watching the NFL draft with bingo cards is exhausting. We were literally hanging on every phrase, and dying every time someone said a phrase on the card, but with a minor variation that made it not count.

I should have put these up before the draft, but they weren't finished until seconds before it started. Save them for next year, though--it was a blast.

Monday, April 27, 2020


I've been working on my shot.

"That is the ugliest shot I've ever seen," Eli 18.9 said. We were playing basketball at the magical 4-hoop horseshoe. "I think it's as ugly as it can possibly get, and then it gets uglier."

I hoisted the ball up with one hand. "It's a shooting drill," I said.

"It looks worse," he said. "It's actually worse now. This is going to be a total blowout."

Twenty minutes later, he was down one game.

"Your follow through looks like you're giving someone a high five," he said. "You're just pushing the ball toward the basket." A pause, I made a shot. "And it goes in."

On loose balls, I'm not running after them because my calf is a bit strained. It's not a pretty walk, kind of like the world's worst racewalker. I sometimes point only one finger after a shot instead of all four. I also often look like I'm going to fall over after I shoot.

Eli's shooting form is basically perfect.

He's down three letters in the second game. "I think it's all just gotten to me. The speed walking, the finger pointing, the high five, the falling forward. I've been overwhelmed by jank."

He misses another shot. "You've got the COVID," I said. "Take your free throws."

The first free throw bounces on the rim twice and goes out. The second is perfect, except it's two inches too long and bangs off the back rim.


"What just happened here is totally impossible," he said.

"That's all I know how to do," I said.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday Links!

This is a gripping read: They Were Promised Coding Jobs in Appalachia. Now They Say It Was a Fraud..

From Wally, and this is an amazing story: Liangzhu: the 5,000-year-old Chinese civilisation that time forgot. Watch lovers, your ship has come in (well, that's confusing): This Watch Helped Sean Connery Become James Bond. Oh boy, the results of this will be interesting: You Can Now Check If Your ISP Uses Basic Security Measures. Stunning photos: After the end of the world: the eerie silence of the Las Vegas Strip.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and it's lovely: Photographer Captures A Shot Of Two Widowed Penguins Overlooking The Melbourne Skyline Together.

From C. Lee, and it's a pet classic: Cat vs. Dog Challenge. A fascinating story: How Coca-Cola Came to China, 40 Years Ago. This is a beautifully written story: The Storytelling Robot. This is fantastic: Study with jazz improv musicians sheds light on creativity and the brain. The tip of the iceberg: 5 Myths About Food You Believe Thanks To Jerk Companies. Remarkable: Why Octavia E Butler's novels are so relevant today. Disquieting, to say the least: New model looks at what might happen if SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay. This is tremendous: How One Chef Is Feeding LA’s Hospital Workers, 100 Enchiladas at a Time.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Any of this sound vaguely familiar?
Left to their own devices, most citizens - by one count, 90% - refused to wear masks. Businesses concerned about Christmas sales opposed. So did the Culinary Workers Untion.

Christian Scientists objected on constitutional grounds. So did civil libertarians.

An op-ed ran in the local paper with the headline "What's the Use?" after a man got sick despite following public health guidelines. 

On Dec 19, public officials voted down a mandatory mask order.

In a three weeks, new cases went from 20 a day to 600. A mandatory mask law was approved.

Over 2,000 people attended an event formed by "The Anti-Mask League."

Almost an exact match to today, right? Except this was San Francisco. In 1918. 

There's a long Twitter from someone who did an enormous amount of research on public reaction to San Francisco's incredibly successful mask campaign, and you can find it here.

It's a stunning read, and it's easy to draw one overwhelming conclusion: stupid doesn't change. The same jackasses pressed up against the glass in Ohio were pressed up against the glass in San Francisco a century ago. 

I said it before: this country is too stupid to be free. Let's hope these idiots don't kill hundreds of thousands of us, because that's where we're headed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Hot Hot Hot

We've been watching sports documentaries lately: F1, soccer. Four different ones in total, most of them with multiple seasons.

Then, the well ran dry. On Netflix, anyway. And so the search began.

"I found our next sports documentary!" I said.

"I already know," Eli 18.8 said. "It's the cricket one, isn't it?"

"Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians!" I said.

"Oh, my god," he said, laughing. "We think exactly the same. What's really terrifying is that as soon as I saw it I knew we were going to watch it."

"Of course we are," I said. "How could we NOT watch it?"

All we need now is a Kabaddi documentary (watch the video--it's incredible).

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Good Mom

I haven't told this story, and since there isn't much happening during the Zombie Apocalypse, I'm glad I forgot to use it.

A few months ago, at Meijer Gardens, I saw a joyful expression of parenting.

I see lots of parents reproaching their children, or controlling them to an extreme degree. It's hard for parents of younger children, in particular, to understand that it's very important to give children structure, but not controlling them inside that structure. So you give them boundaries, but inside those boundaries, they have free reign. They need it, to develop their own sense of both freedom and responsibility.

I don't see many parents doing this well, and it's discouraging.

So I was walking out of the Gardens one day, and there were was a mom up ahead with two children. They were both preschool age, but walking fine on their own, so they were probably three or four. One of her children was a girl, and she stopped walking beside her mother and started crying because she didn't want to leave. The cry turned into a wail, and the mother didn't stop for her, because her other child (a son) was walking ahead.

A difficult situation.

After a few more seconds, the mom started walking back to the daughter. In a single motion, she swept her up and put her under her arm, then walked forward while carrying her. She didn't yell at her, or get angry, and had a lovely smile on her face the entire time.

After a few seconds, the girl started to laugh. The mom, laughing, said 'What was THAT?" and the little girl laughed harder.

That was a situation that could have gone terribly wrong, and this mom defused everything with an enormous amount of grace. And I'm sure her children will grow up with grace, because she shows it to them.

Monday, April 20, 2020


Like an idiot, I forgot to post a picture. It looks even sharper than my phone can capture.

(click on the image to enlarge)

Yes, it's that beautiful. Frequently.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The sun put this on the wall yesterday

I'm not going into the inter-dimensional portal. You go into the inter-dimensional portal.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off, and this is genuine genius: Game of Bones.

From Brian Witte, and it's mind-blowing: Brain Cells Share Information With Virus-Like Capsules.

From Frank Regan, and this only involved about 50 rolls of toilet paper, which must be about 10% of what the average American family has in storage right now: The Quarantine Machine.

From C. Lee, and what an employee disaster: How a Premier U.S. Drug Company Became a Virus ‘Super Spreader’Wait, don't you just buy food from the store? What is this sorcery? How to Grow Vegetables From Kitchen Scraps. It really does apply in all situations: Come on down to the Darkest Dungeon, we got all kinds of crazy. Well, this is amazing: More Than 30 Million Years Ago, Monkeys Rafted Across the Atlantic to South America. This is so, so good: 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki. Wait, what? Your Backpack’s Chest Strap Has a Hidden Feature That Could Save Your Life. This is excellent: War Stories: How Homeworld brought the third dimension to real-time strategy.

From Wally, and some people are making good use of their free time: Wood Carving Orc Head with Chainsaw Carving Tools. These lion cubs are pesky: Small Lion Cubs Annoy Their Sleeping Fathers. Interesting: Judging a science fiction movie by its spaceships. It's too late for me to try this approach: I am using my free time to not write a novel. Lengthy and interesting: [APRIL 10, 1965] FURNISHING THE HOME OF THE FUTURE: INTERIOR DESIGN FOR THE SPACE AGE. This is a delightful short film: Rebooted.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Bingeing During The Zombie Apocalypse Recommendation #2


Kingdom is on Netflix, and it's a two-season, twelve episode (in total) series. It takes place in medieval Korean times.

Basically, it's all the political intrigue of the medieval era. With zombies. Fast zombies.

One word to describe the series: a feast (okay, that's two words, but you know what I mean). It is extravagantly beautiful, probably the most beautifully filmed series I've ever watched. The storylines are rich and detailed, as is the character development. Yes, there are battle scenes, but they are sumptuously choreographed, almost lyrical.

Let me mention the cinematography again, particularly the colors and lighting. Spectacular.

One note: the dubbing in English is genuinely terrible. Far, far better to turn on English subtitles (there's an option for English subtitles without describing sounds, which are excellent) and listen to the original language, which is quite beautiful in itself.

Also, this show is spectacularly athletic, particularly in the fight scenes. It's all just stunning to watch.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Under Surprising Circumstances

We have a schedule.

On T-T-Sat, we play tennis. On M-W-F, we play basketball.

This is a nod to Eli 18.8's school schedule, which is in effect until the end of next week. He's much busier on M-W. Basketball doesn't take as long as tennis (an hour versus and hour and a half), so the shorter workout is on the busier days.

It's April, and we can't go to the gym, so we just go. Cold weather? Doesn't matter.

It seemed quite cold yesterday, but hey, whatever. We don't even look at the temperature anymore. We played tennis for about an hour and a half. I take about 20 minutes longer to warm up than Eli (both hands and legs), so it was pretty stiff out there for a while, but I made it through.

The thing about playing tennis now, particularly with him, is that the adrenaline kicks in and I generally feel decent. The minute we step off the court, I'm exhausted, and everything hurts. I'm just trying to survive until my body gets in better shape. If it can.

We got back to the car and I checked the weather. "Hey, I think we just set a record."

"What is it?" he asked.

"Wind chill of 18," I said, laughing.

Eli shrugged. "Didn't feel that cold." A true Midwesterner, though transplanted.

I laughed. "Did to me."

There were a few snow flurries while we played--not the first time--and the last night it started snowing hard. It's still snowing, 14 hours later. I think we've gotten 4-5 inches, although it's going to melt quickly, which is great.

Still, though. 14 hours of steady snow in April. That's something.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A Treat

Since we're all desperately looking for something to do that isn't what we're actually doing, this should be a pleasant diversion. Sent in by C. Lee, it's a personality quiz, but the twist is that the results compare you to famous characters of film/television/literature.

It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes, at most, and the results are far more interesting than your standard psychological profile.

Here's my top 11 (in order):
Arthur (Inception): 89%
Glenn Rhee (The Walking Dead): 88%
Samantha Carter (Stargate SG-1): 86%
Lucius Fox (The Dark Knight): 85%
Leonard Hofstadter (The Big Bang Theory): 84%
Abed Nadir (Community): 83%
Rachel Chu (Crazy Rich Asians): 83%
Dr. Ellie Sattler (Jurassic Park): 83%
Janet Fraiser (Stargate SG-1): 83%
Charlie Young (The West Wing): 82%
Bruce Banner (Marvel Cinematic Universe): 82%

I included 11 because Bruce Banner (the Incredible Hulk) was #11, and given that I have never been either "incredible" or "a hulk," I wanted it publicly known.

Number one for Eli 18.8 was Harry Potter. Yeah, that totally checks out.

Here's a link: Statistical "Which Character" Personality Quiz.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Worst Birthday

I'm not going to identify the reader, for obvious reasons, but this is definitely the best worst birthday story I received:
Mine was last week and actually probably the worst I've ever had due to no cards, no gifts and not treats. I say no treats because my girlfriend told me not to bake myself a nice cake, she wanted to make me a cake... of some sort. 

To put this in context, my girlfriend is not an accomplished cook and certainly not for sweet things. So i advised her to go to a reputable cooking website in order to get a guaranteed recipe. She ignored my advice but did eventually take my request for blueberry muffins. 

The blueberry muffins she made were like leather and tasted of cardboard. 

I spent the week, slowly working through them like a chore (one a day) with her complaining all the time that they were terrible and that she felt really bad for making them so terribly, at the same time i was reassuring her they weren't too bad and I liked them.  Well, I was telling the truth, kind of - cardboard is at least bland, so I didn't /dislike/ them!

The slow but steady disposal of the crime is what makes this story so great for me.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Friday Links!

It's Coronavirus week something or other.

From Wally, and here are some rarely seen WWII propaganda posters: ‘Me travel?…not this summer’: These WWII-Era Posters Are Eerily Spot On. This could come in handy: Remote D&D Tips and Tricks. Plenty of time to read now: The Top 10 War Books of All Time. I had no idea: Gene Roddenberry, Co-Pilot, B-17 41-2644 LOS LOBOS Of The 394th BS. These are amazing: Bringing Sci-Fi to Life: The Walking War Machines of ARPA and G.E. Well, we've found the origins: The Birth of Cosplay. These are stunning: Coronavirus: Photos show deserted lockdown locations at high noon.

From C. Lee, and look, it's an actually competent government that's prepared: Finland, ‘Prepper Nation of the Nordics,’ Isn’t Worried About Masks. Battlestar Galactica is streaming free for the next three months: Battlestar Galactica -- Watch Online. Remarkable: 6 Small Math Errors That Caused Huge Disasters. An excellent read: Semiconductors: the humble mineral that transformed the world. This is fantastic: All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization. Clutch: Norway's hazmat booksellers: keeping Oslo reading during coronavirus. Absolutely no surprise: Study looks at how Russian troll farms are politicizing vaccines.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Just Cause 4 Reloaded

The only game I've ever refunded on Steam is Just Cause 4.

I didn't even buy it launch. I waited a few months for several patches, played it, and it was still shit. Just Cause 3 was a top ten game of all-time for me. I mean:
--grappling hook
--parachute (to use with grappling hook)

It was fantastic, loads of fun, and it was absolutely beautiful. Eli 18.8 (then 14.5 or so) played through it all as well.

So there was literally no way they could screw up Just Cause 4. Just more of the same stuff and slightly better looking, and it's a 95 from me right away.

Somehow, though, they absolutely ruined it all.

The explosions were off. Physics felt way, way off. That's the core of the game, so screwing that up is a huge problem. Plus, it was fugly. It just looked terrible. The character models looked like late-era PS2 quality in many places. It was just unfathomable.

So I refunded.

Last week, though, I saw a key for $7 (I think at GMG). Plus, it's going to be free on the Epic Game Store next week.

Well, it had been a year and a half, so surely they fixed it, right?

Not really.

It still looks terrible. Physics are still way off. I see videos that Square Enix put out and they look nothing like the game I'm playing.

The story is goofy, but the story in Just Cause is always ridiculous, so that's not a big issue. But none of the big issues look like they've been fixed, even after over a year.

I said when the game was released in December 2018 that its current state was late alpha. There's no way the game ever should have been released at that time. Now it seems like they pumped out some DLC and made a halfhearted attempt to fix some things, but it's not nearly enough.

Hey, there's always Just Cause 5.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020


Well, to me, at least.

Espionage fascinates me, and I've read a few books (okay, a lot of books) on the subject. I'm reading one now called The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service. This is post-WWII, at the start of the Cold War, so it's a different era than I normally read about.

Inside this Cold War narrative, though, was a story about the service's inception in World War:
During the first World War, networks of agents behind enemy lines would watch coaches move down the rail tracks as they did their knitting. Drop one for a troop car, purl one for something else. Send the resultant pullover back for analysis. 

I never thought I'd hear about a use for knitting in espionage, but there you go. An amazing anecdote.

I fully expect to read about crochet-related counterintelligence any day now.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Just a Normal Day

Eli 18.8 had three video lectures yesterday. Studied for 2-3 additional hours. Worked on a paper for several hours. Studied French (trying to learn a second language on his own). Played basketball with me for an hour.

He also did this thing called the "1,000 Rep Challenge," which consists of 100 x pushups, squats, situps, leg raises, lunges, planks, and a few others (I can't even keep track of it all, and I'm not even doing it).

I worked hard yesterday, and I feel like I never even got out of bed.

Oh, and I forgot, he also worked out on the hangboard, which is something rock climbers use to practice different finger grips. I think this is the one:

Trango Rock Prodigy Training Center Review | GearLab

It's surprisingly technical, and all the grips have different names. Watching him work on it is just unbelievable.

I seriously wonder what it would feel like to be that strong, even for a day.

Molly Lixey, the Hero We All Need

Tim Lesnick sent in this video, which expertly shows how fast coronavirus germs (and germs in general) can spread if you're not very careful, even when wearing gloves:
This nurse demonstrates just how fast germs spread even if you're wearing gloves

Okay, I Have Enough Readers

Many thanks to all who volunteered.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Thinking About Writing

I was trying to explain (to myself) this weekend how I'm trying to write in The Man You Trust. I  couldn't really figure it out until I started thinking about programming.

You've seen how many edited pages I have. I'm gone through pass after pass, simplifying diction, removing a sentence whenever I can, even removing individual words whenever possible. I'm trying very hard to remove any distractions between the me, the reader, and the page.

I realized that what I'm trying to do is write in assembly.

For instance, adverbs. There aren't many of them, and I'm constantly editing them out whenever possible. Every superfluous word needs to go.

I'm going to need a few readers (who didn't read the first version, and thanks to everyone who volunteered for that) in a day or so to read the revised first act (about 60 pages). I'd like to get impressions from someone who hasn't read it before. So if you like science fiction and can take the time, please let me know.

Breaking News

The top broadcast on Reddit right now is a man playing the accordion. He is somehow riveting.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week a terrific article: The wonderful world of Milton Hershey. Also, and I had forgotten about this, but what a brilliant idea: Kojima’s GBA experiment—and the sunny island childhood it changed forever.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's both impressive and appreciated: How Christian Siriano turned his fashion house into a mask factory.

From Wally, and it's an interesting read: How China Turns Trash Into Wealth. This is fascinating: The Punch-Out Speedrunning Community Spent Five Years Trying To Beat One Player And All His Records. This is quite an incredible story: Historian and family live in groovy 1965 bubble and do the time warp, again. Well, this is is a nice idea: David Hockney shares exclusive art from Normandy, as 'a respite from the news'.

From C. Lee, and it's brilliant but difficult to read: 1968 - the year that haunts hundreds of women. A national treasure: What If Everyone Had Their Own Larry David? An excellent read: How computational power—or its absence—shaped World War naval battles. Oops! The U.S. Navy's Big Beautiful New Carrier Has Hilariously Messed Up Toilets. Also excellent: The Seminal Novel About the 1918 Flu Pandemic Was Written by a Texan. This is a very good idea: How to Help Librarians and Archivists From Your Living Room. So kind: Socially distanced street parade greets US teenager after cancer treatment. Good grief: Doctors hoard unproven COVID-19 meds by writing prescriptions for selves, families.

From John Willcocks, and it's spellbinding: White Balls Juggling Act.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

A High-Quality Read

DQ Reader Lee Gaiteri's books are free on Amazon right now.

In particular, I recommend Below as an absolutely exceptional piece of writing.


If you've ever had a spectacularly bad birthday (not sad or tragic, just darkly amusing), then send me the story. I'll put up a post next week with the best ones.

Worst Birthdays, Ranked

My birthday.

Historically, it's often been bad. Roll a one with a d20 bad.

It's Saturday (hey, a Coronavirus birthday!), and I can't go anywhere, or do anything, so here comes another one. Not important in the slightest, in the context of what everyone is suffering through, but darkly comic.

So I thought about my birthdays over the last twenty years and made a top-three list of the absolute worst. There were some tough decisions to be made.

#3 April 4, 2001: The Bataan Death March (Seaworld Edition)
Five days after arthroscopic knee surgery, we went to SeaWorld in San Antonio. It was blistering hot, in the 90s, and none of the drink stations were open. All around us, the smell of fresh asphalt, almost dizzying. I staggered on one leg, lost five pounds, wished it would end.

#2 April 4, 2010: Jesus Killed My Birthday
Ah, the Easter birthday. Absolutely, nothing, NOTHING was open, much to my astonishment. Lunch? Nope. A little self-gifting at Fry's? Nope. I guess I know how Jesus feels, because nothing is open on his birthday, either. If you're expecting this, it's manageable (I just move  my birthday to Saturday now, if I need to), but I had absolutely no idea the first time it happened. I kept driving to the next place, thinking that surely IT would be open, but no. Nothing.

#1 April 4, 2018: The Boston Massacre
We went to Boston for Spring Break last year so that Eli could get fitted for a custom goalie helmet, and it was also a good chance for him to see Harvard. There's nothing like temperatures in the high 30s and steady rain to rejuvenate your enthusiasm for several days running. Also, half of Boston's roads were getting worked on, so you couldn't get to or from anywhere. At the end of the trip, I flew back home, while Eli 16.7 and Gloria flew out to see more colleges. On my birthday, the flight into Detroit was five hours late arriving (coming in after midnight), I missed the flight to Grand Rapids, and wound up in an airport hotel getting four hours of sleep before waking up to make a 7 a.m. flight. Happy Birthday. Yay.

Now the really excellent news is that my birthday has such a low bar that as long as I don't actually have (or catch) Coronavirus, it won't even come close to cracking the top 3.

I do have a friend that was born on 9/11. That's an even tougher dice roll.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

The Future

"I wonder if hologram video calls are being researched now?" Gloria asked. "Because people might want to see a more realistic representation of someone on a video call."

"It's too realistic for me already," I said. "Plus, what is the first question you'd ask if you had a virtual hologram?"

No answer.

"I'll give you a hint," I said. "Does this hologram--"

"Make me look fat?" she said, laughing.

"So then people spend all their time adjusting their holograms to make them much better looking than they actually are, and then there will be a flood of articles about how people would rather spend time with holograms than people because they're better looking."

"It wouldn't work, anyway," Gloria said. "I can barely get my audio to work on conference calls, let alone a hologram."

"Sorry, guys," I said. "I'm going to have to reboot my data cube and clear the virtualization cache. It should take about an hour."

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