Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday Links!

Out of nowhere, a pretty substantial week.

This is a fascinating story: Why a college football coach hid his bipolar disorder diagnosis for 30 years. What an idea for a science fiction story: Mystery as 60 peculiar cubes with inscriptions pulled from Coventry river.

From Wally, and among others, Instacart appears to be the devil: Sick Days. This is so bizarre and such a good read (and a staggeringly great headline): A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question. It's all very, very strange (but kudos for wearing a mask): 28 of the most creative face masks from around the world. Terrifying: I Can't Believe I'm Still Alive After Using Facebook Dating.

From Ken Piper, and this is fascinating: Gears of war: When mechanical analog computers ruled the waves. Next, and this is so strange, it's This Lickable Screen Can Recreate Almost Any Taste or Flavor Without Eating Food. This is excellent: The Science of Temperature is Weirder Than You Think.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and these images are amazing: You Can Lose Hours Looking at These Old Photos of Car Dealerships From Decades Past.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is wonderful: Your Guide To Not Getting Murdered In A Quaint English Village.

Tremendous links from C. Lee. First, and it's an excellent read, it's How We'll Live on the Moon. This is such a terrific story: Teen who lost all video games on 3/11, buddy, win award for app. A warning, to be sure: Warren Harding Tried to Return America to ‘Normalcy’ After WWI and the 1918 Pandemic. It Failed. Well, one party feels this way today, at least: The 1924 Law That Slammed the Door on Immigrants and the Politicians Who Pushed it Back Open.

From David Gloier, and it could be useful: Washing Your Hands Triggers Trillions Of Tiny Molecular Explosions.

From Geoff Engelstein, and it's amazing: Cleveland Indians Hid Nicolas Cage in 39 Lineup Graphics in 2019, and No One Had a Clue.

Closing out the week, from Brian Brown, and it's a fantastic read: The sprawling, must-read history of Maxis’ former “serious games” division.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

This is Short Today, but a Netflix Recommendation

I need to write the last four chapters in a continuous stream, instead of considering them as separate chapters, so I'm essentially locking myself in until Eli 18.9 gets back on Sunday. Maybe I can Daniel Day-Lewis this thing to the ground. So this is going to be very short today. I hope to get back to normal on Monday, when I will discuss Redneck Sophie's Choice.

In the meantime, I finished watching Call My Agent! two nights ago, and it's one of the funniest shows I've seen in a long, long time. It's French (plenty of subtitle options), and it is unbelievably clever and witty. I laughed out loud half a dozen times each episode, at least, which is unheard of for me. Three seasons, six episodes a season, and it's consistently brilliant. Well, except maybe the first episode of the first season, when they have to set everything up. After that, though, it's all aces.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Lost In The Ether

I was stumped for a topic today.

I have plenty of topics, but most of them are involved (my favorite is "The Concept of the Other in Conservative Politics"). It's a barn burner, really.

However, right now I'm trying to rewrite the last four chapters of the book. They're gut-wrenching, hopefully, and writing them is a gut-wrenching process, so I'm pressed flat by the time I'm done each day.

In one of my Gmail folders, though, I found little notes I'd hidden for myself. Of course, I'd hidden them so long ago that I no longer have any idea what they mean, but it's almost better that way. I can only imagine what I would have written about the following:
The tiger wranglers
He counted out ninety-nine cents in change
The myth of the whole day free
It's very difficult to be a person who understands things
People who survive on only the scent of applies

I think they're little snippets of other things I read, and I can figure out two of them ("the myth of..." and "It's very difficult to be..."), but the rest are a mystery.

On the topic of "It's very difficult to be a person who understands things," how ironic is it that understanding science and how dangerous COVID-19 is somehow being interpreted as a political declaration?

We live in a strange, strange time.

And Another Series of Texts From Up North

we found buy two get three  big
bags of chips at meijer so we 
bought 30 large bags. holy

                    That's just called smart shopping.

30 bags for 13 dollars. Couldn't pass it up. 

                     It's the investment of the century.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Greatest Moment

I left Dell in 2000, but I still occasionally have a dream about working there.

Last night, my boss was a real idiot (unlike in real life, where I was very fortunate) . He moved my cubicle to this open area where I had to sit at the end of a long conference table. I went off for something, and when I came back, he was having a meeting at that table. He saw me and complained that there weren't enough chairs, and that I should go get some immediately.

Instead, I went off looking for any of my old bosses so that I could get another job. Then I went back and he saw me (meeting still going on) and complained again.

The greatest moment is that moment when I realized it was all a dream, I didn't work for an idiot, and I didn't have to go get those damn chairs.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Ultimate Contest

Eli 18.9 never saw Shaq in his prime.

Shaquille O'Neal was the most physically dominating player I've ever seen. If he wasn't the strongest player in history (maybe Wilt Chamberlain), he was a close second.

I've talked to Eli about Shaq and his place in history, but I can never explain how totally dominating he was.

Recently, though, the lack of live sports has done my work for me. There are plenty of Shaq moments in viral distribution now, including a few where he absolutely terrorized defenders on overwhelmingly powerful dunks.

Today, we had a text exchange (started by him).
How many Shaqs in his prime would it take to beat 
a silverback gorilla?

                                             I think the over/under on that is three. 
                                             Not sure which side I'd take.

A silverback can deadlift up to 1800 pounds. 
It would take at LEAST seven Shaqs for me to 
take him in a fight. I would rather fight an 
armed Shaq  than a silverback.

                                           Shaq could bench press 475, which translates 
                                           roughly to about 800 deadlift. The problem 
                                           for Shaq is the natural athlete factor with the 
                                           silverback. I would pay to watch  this encounter. 

I think if you put five Shaqs in a ring with one 
silverback and put it on tv it would be the most 
watched event in television history. 

                                           Okay, after some research, I'm taking the over.
                                           Wrestling is the gorilla's favorite way to play.
                                           Not good for Shaq.


Just another normal day, for us. And on a side note, I still say that Wilt Chamberlain was the greatest athlete of all time.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a brilliantly written article: The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the Hacker Who Saved the Internet. Wait, this also deserves to to lead, and it's heartbreaking (from C. Lee): This is a fantastic article! The Devastating Decline of a Brilliant Young Coder.

This is a quite the story: FC Seoul hit with record fine for placing sex dolls in the stands.

From Wally, and this is incredibly detailed: The Granicus: Alexander's Conquest of Persia. This is an excellent read: Superheroes are scrapping their secret identities, and it’s for the best. This is an incredible run: The Mountain Biker Who Won Without A Chain. These pictures are just astonishing: The Most Beautiful Flower Garden In The World Has No Visitors For The First Time In 71 Years And I Got To Capture It.

From Daniel Willhite, and it's wildly entertaining: This Word Does Not Exist.

From C. Lee, and people are so strange: During the Renaissance, Drinking Wine Was a Fight Against Physics. This is terrific: The Thonet Chair: How the humblest of chair designs became the hardest-working furniture in film. What a relief: Why Microsoft Word Now Considers Two Spaces After a Period an Error.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Sign That Is Clearly Needed


Meanwhile, There Is No View Like This For Me

Eli 18.9 and his three closest friends have been quarantining and rarely seeing each other for the two months since they all came home from college.

One of the friends has grandparents who have a lake cabin, and all four of them have gone up there to prepare the cabin for when the grandparents come back from Florida (a common pattern up here). He sent a picture:

It's hard to think of a more pleasant place to ride out the zombie apocalypse.

In other news, I finished another new chapter today. I have one new chapter left to write, four original chapters to rewrite, and then I'll be content complete and officially in beta. In this case, "beta" means six months of editing to fix a long list of items. Still, though, it's progress.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Grand Campaign

The advanced version of Fortune and Glory is wildly fun.

As we were playing yesterday, I said that we should design a board game together, and Eli 18.9 said, "I'm way ahead of you." So he's on board.

As a start, we're going to create a grand campaign for Hnefatafl.

Hnefatafl is a fantastic strategy game. Not evenly matched like chess, but a bloody struggle where you're either the King and his men, trying to break out from the center of the board, or you're the dark invaders, trying to contain and capture the troops and surround the King.

A castle siege, basically.

It's not as diverse as chess, because there are only two types of pieces, and the movement rules for every piece are the same, but it's still fascinating.

What it lacks, though, is a sense of something larger going on.

Here's what we decided to do. I'm going to use Inkarnate and create a detailed country map. Here's an example from Inkarnate's gallery page:

That is one sexy map. 

Castles are going to be strung along the border, and the matches will be a series of castle raids. The difference will be that the results will affect the number of troops going forward, so every single piece in every single match matters. Eventually, one of us will capture the other's country. 

When we get this done, I'll make a PDF of the rule set (Eli will type it all up and add images, because he's incredibly detailed about things like that) and share it with you guys. Hopefully, it will be a nice way to spend time during The Endless Days of Plague.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


George is feeling old and tired these days, like a lot of us, but he still enjoys going out onto the porch early in the morning and watching the birds.

Okay, I know this is sub-Van Gogh quality, but he never had to work with food:

Here's another picture of the view from the porch, this one focusing on the beautiful tree in bloom:

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Change Of Fortune

Normally, we'd be doing something outside every day, no matter the weather.

With one functional leg, though, that's not possible, so we've moved indoors. Yesterday, we did this:

That's Fortune and Glory.

"I think the game is actually setting up the board," I said, as setup time stretched past an hour.

"I only have another twelve pages to read," Eli 18.9 said, thumbing through the rules.

That's how it went. Ninety minutes of setup time, and about an equal length of time to play. The difference, though, is that Eli is really into this kind of meticulous process now, so he basically functioned as both the setup coordinator and the rules expert. Which was great for me, because I could just be a tourist and just enjoy the game.

Basically, you're an adventurer traveling the world in the 1930s, trying to collect and sell ancient artifacts to gain fortune. When you have a certain level of fortune, you win the game.

There are a ton of "B" movie touches and just enough cheesiness, including a CD soundtrack that you can listen to as you play. It's a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Next time, it won't even take us an hour and a half to set up the board. Plus, we'll play the advanced version, because then you get to use a red plastic zeppelin.

Zeppelins are next level.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Friday Links!

What a tangled web. Fraudsters defrauding fraudsters: An Oxford Professor, an Evangelical Collector, and a Missing Gospel of Mark.

This is so, so funny: The BBC’s Andrew Cotter had an ‘online meeting’ with his dogs and it’s glorious.

From C. Lee, and it's an excellent read: The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months. This is a fantastic infographic: Visualizing the Length of the Fine Print, for 14 Popular Apps. This is genuinely incredible, in a bad way: Broadband engineer sick with Covid-19 after being spat at by 5G/coronavirus conspiracy theorist. Peaceful AND delicious: Zen Japanese Rock Garden Toast.

From Wally, and it's a fascinating, obscure story: The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery. Taking the piss out of universities, and effectively: University Title Generator. Some of these pictures are amazing: Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls. This is so on point (McSweeney's, of course): Sure, the Velociraptors are still on the loose, but that's no reason not to reopen Jurassic Park. This is excellent: The Hidden Rules of Conversation | Tom Scott.

From Syndi Riley, and it's a haunting short: Adapt.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Legs and Sons

I should have made that "Sons and Legs," but whatever.

Eli 18.9 got his grades for spring semester. 4.0, including an "A" in a senior-level Spanish class. He also won an award for his research and policy presentation. So that's a 4.0 for the year, and I'm really proud of him. It wasn't easy to stay on track from home, but he was very disciplined and set up a very effective schedule.

Barely being able to walk sucks. I did figure out that I can still do the core and upper body exercises from Ring Fit Adventure, though, which is helpful. My body feels gross after I don't work out for a few days.

Otherwise, it's all just a damn grind. Working on the book every morning, trying to look after the calf injury. I blame The Covid. Oh, at least we rediscovered Hnefetafl and we're playing every day now. That's a bonus.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


I never think about my dad.

Well, almost never. Maybe once a year? For some reason, while I was writing this morning, he suddenly showed up in my thoughts. I don't know why, but I felt compelled to write down everything I ever remembered him saying to me.

It's not a long list.

The first thing I remember is him telling me a joke about how Southern people speak (he was from Mississippi). The punch line was how "emergency" was pronounced, with "emer" sounding like "Emerson."

I think I was about seven at the time. I remember it not being a funny joke.

I stayed with him for a few weeks one summer (my sister and I actually demanded to go back home to our Mom, and we did), when I was nine. I loved M*A*S*H--it was my favorite television show--and he said he couldn't stand it (he was racist and ultra-conservative). I made him watch an episode with me, and I could feel his resentment coming off him like heat waves.

And he was right--sort of. When he was watching with me, M*A*S*H wasn't funny.

That summer, he drove me around in his Honda Civic (the first model, I think). This ultra-American said "These little Hondas are better than anything we make."

In retrospect, it was the smartest thing he ever said to me.

Also that summer, we would wake up in the morning at 5 and get ready to go fishing (bass fishing, not the salt water bay fishing that I loved so much). He would take out huge plastic barrels that were full of ice from a chest freezer he had in the garage. He would chop the ice with an icepick, then pull out the pieces and put them in a cooler. "If you freeze the ice the night before, you don't have to buy ice," he explained.

I don't remember anything else for almost a decade. 

I saw him as I went through Louisiana on a bike trip when I was nineteen (Corpus Christi, Texas, to Tallahassee). He took me to this bar that was just a shack, nothing else around it. We went inside and he proudly told me that no black man and no woman had ever been inside.

It was sickening.

We argued and I told him that he was proud of all the wrong things. He didn't take it well.

I never wanted to see him again, after that, but another decade passed and he was visiting my sister and his grandchildren in Austin, twenty minutes away, so I went over there. We stood outside on the driveway, and he told me that even if I didn't like him, he was still my father. I told him my mother was my father and that he had done nothing to earn the title.

That stung him, I think. Which was fine.

Almost another decade passed. I had been living with Gloria for six months or so, and one day he called the house. I wasn't there, so Gloria picked up and spoke to him briefly. I asked her if there was a message and she said, "No. He said he'd call back."

I never heard from him again. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A Very Michigan Headline



I've been struggling with that calf strain for several weeks now.

We've still played tennis a few times a week, with somewhat restricted movement for me, and it was still fun. Not quite the same as going full out, but we have both been hitting the ball really well.

Yesterday Eli 18.9 hit a short ball that was right in the decision zone. When I'm healthy, I'd go for it every time, but I'd been letting most of those balls go now. I decided to go for it, and I was about halfway there when I felt a pain in my calf that was much more intense.


I was able to walk back to the car, but it took a while. Definitely a considerably more serious injury now. I'm doing the usual things to protect it, but it's going to be a while. If I can walk 10-15 minutes normally within a week, I'll consider it a big win.

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Wide and Complex Range

There is a very popular genre of fiction about female friendships and the enduring nature of their love.

This is very nice.

Yesterday, one of my best friends called me from Austin and said that his daughter and his ex-wife were at each other's throats on Mother's Day. Long held resentments, etc. "They love each other and can't stand each other."


DQ Reader My Wife has a friendship cell that has lasted for over thirty years. Best friends forever. Two of these women stopped speaking to each other a decade ago.

Thinking about all this, I decided to revise the title of some popular women's friendship books to be slightly more descriptive.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Lone Survivor
Summer Sisters: And Then There Were None
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: 
Homicide Division
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe: The Poisoner's Handbook
The Joy Luck Club: In Cold Blood

Friday, May 08, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, one of the most amazing stories I've ever read (and Adam Driver is starring in a movie adaptation): The Yankee Comandante.

From Wally, and I guess we shouldn't be surprised: The ‘Credibility Bookcase’ Is the Quarantine’s Hottest Accessory. This is a fascinating bit of history: The tiny 'country' between England and Scotland. This is very useful: How to Manage Cabin Fever. This is awesome: Incredible Map of Pangea With Modern-Day Borders. From the Wayback Machine: “The Machine That Was Going To Tranquilize This Scene Was Locked Away In A Quiet Cubicle”. This is very, very funny: Two types of dogs.

From C. Lee, and this is quite interesting: The Compost by My Couch: How (and Why) I Started an Odorless Bin at Home. This is unbelievably funny, and I want the stories illustrated: Leo Tolstoy’s Children’s Stories Will Devastate Your Children and Make You Want to Die. Fascinating: What Rome Learned From the Deadly Antonine Plague of 165 A.D. This is excellent: Visualizing the History of Pandemics. This is just terrific: A Peek Into the Soviet Computer Revolution. This is interesting: The World's Largest Camera Collection Belongs to a Government Worker in Mumbai.

More C. Lee links, broken up for readability. Outstanding: Ventilator from old car parts? Afghan girls pursue prototype. These are fantastic: Visit the workplaces of Japan’s artisans while staying at home. This is incredible: These Ferrofluid Sculptures Will Melt Your Mind. A fascinating bit of history: How Britain’s First Mission to China Went Wrong.

From Geoff Engelstein, and here's something you can feel good about: Emerson's Wild Ride.

From John Willcocks, and it's amazing artistry with a +10 in showmanship: PEINTRE FOU OU GÉNIAL.

From jdv, and just wait, because this is coming sooner than we think: Jukebox, a neural net that generates music. Dave Eggers understands: Flattening the Truth on Coronavirus.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

I forgot to mention this

Eli 18.9 texted this to me around noon on the day of the NFL draft:
Just ran a 4.61 40. 

This was after playing soccer for two hours, plus with his legendarily bad start. I'm assuming he'd be in the high 4.4s if he learned how to start decently.

Not surprised anymore, but that's pretty fast. He's got long levers, though, and when he gets going, he eats up huge amounts of track with every stride.


Obviously, you can't account for absolutely incompetent leadership (looking at you, United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Belarus, and Sweden) precisely, but I wonder if more introverted countries have lower COVID-19 infection rates than more extroverted countries? 

I'd like to find out, but first off, no one agrees on the most introverted countries and there's no formal collection of data on the subject. But it seems like countries where people are comfortable not being around other people would have some kind of advantage.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020


Just read the headline: 5-year-old boy caught driving on Utah highway was heading to California for a Lamborghini.

It's misleading, because the boy wasn't asking for a free Lamborghini. He took $3 with him to buy one. Something about that really impressed me. He wasn't looking for a handout. He wanted a transaction.

He made it to the interstate and drove for three miles at roughly 30 MPH before he was pulled over by a state trooper.

If you're wondering how a five-year-old could drive, well, this kid was huge. He may be playing as an offensive lineman in the NFL someday.

I know this story is all wrong and you never want kids doing this, but man, initiative!

This second story is even better: Calling it it now: "I Wonder What's Inside Your Butthole" is the song of the summer. Just an eight-year-old writing a song so joyous it could get The Go-Go's to reunite just to record it. Plus, it's really clever, and there's a little nod to Elvis Costello in there as well. From an eight-year-old.

Oh, and the covers are magnificent.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The Graduation Party

Our neighbors across the street have a daughter who just graduated from Michigan St.

Obviously, it's a strange time for graduates, particularly when it comes to celebration, but they held a COVID-era party for her on Saturday.

We had it in our next-door-neighbor's yard. Four families (fifteen people in total). We all brought chairs, and each family lined up like players on a Monopoly board. I sat in a "pod" with Gloria and Eli 18.9. No family was closer than 20 feet from another.

Then we just sat and talked for three hours.

As a committed introvert, I experience quite a bit of discomfort at parties, and by "parties," I mean "gatherings of more than four people, sometimes three." I can have really rewarding conversations with strangers in a one-on-one conversation. Put me in with more than a few other people, and it feels like a mob.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate my usual discomfort at parties in the 8 range, often peaking at 10. And I can't stay long. An hour is just about my maximum.

This time, surprisingly, it felt much less that way.

I was surprised that I didn't really feel any discomfort at all, although I would have rather not been there for three hours. Then later I thought about why this was different.

Two things, I think. One was physical separation from most of the people. That helped. The other thing was that there weren't five conversations going on at once. There was only one, and people were generous in terms of letting others speak. No one was trying to alpha.

So I guess I can be around other people in groups. I just can't be around them when they're near me. Or something.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Unfortunate Mother's Day Advertising Decisions #1

Costco advertisement:

COVID -19 molecule:

Friday, May 01, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Meg McReynolds, the passing of possibly the fastest throwing pitcher in baseball (or human) history: Steve Dalkowski, hard-throwing pitcher and baseball’s greatest what-if story, dies at 80 of coronavirus.

From Wally, and here's a new hobby: Long-Lost U.S. Military Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator. I play games for this as well: COVID-19 is Changing Dungeons & Dragons. It May Never Go Back. Racing planes nerd alert: Ultimate Air Racing Machines: Gee Bee R-1 and R-2. What an experience: Dutch students complete Atlantic crossing forced by virus. This is both fascinating and lengthy: The Stockbrokers Of Magic: The Gathering Play for Keeps. This is a wonderful video: Second To None.

From Geoffrey Engelstein, and it's excellent: Remembering the Dead: Obituary Writers Restore Humanity to Covid-19 Crisis.

From Jonathon, and it's amazing: Unified Geologic Map of the Moon.

Excellent links from C. Lee, as always. First, and this is terrific, it's Darkest Dungeon Documentary. This is the absolute best: Here’s How 30 People React To A Sign On The Sidewalk Telling Them To ‘Commence Silly Walking’. These are tremendous: Getty Museum Asks People To Recreate Paintings With Stuff They Can Find at Home, Here Are The Results. And more (so clever): This Russian Facebook Group Is Recreating Famous Paintings While Isolating, And They’re Hilarious. I'm a big fan (watch the second clip, the first is annoying); This Pizza-Eating Groundhog Is the Quarantine Icon We Need.

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