Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Wait, What?

Here's a headline you don't see every day: Mirages possible on Lake Michigan this week.

I mean, this entire year has seemed like a mirage, but this is the real deal. Of note:
Mirages over Lake Michigan typically appear upside down and above the horizon. These are known as “superior” mirages and were given their name because they float some distance above the horizon.

Often, they can be images of ships or even the buildings of Chicago, which typically aren’t visible from our shores.

If you're wondering how this is possible, it's related to hot air over cold water. In some situations, it can change air density enough to bend light waves.

Pretty astounding.

Pictures? Here's one:

(image courtesy of J. Michael Hall, as you can see)

If it was April Fool's Day, I wouldn't believe it. 

The Innovator

Eli 18.10 with the circular mow:

Looks genuinely amazing in person.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Here's a blast from 2009:

This was the follow-up to Puzzle Quest, which was almost universally loved, since it had a single player campaign and light RPG trappings. 

I was so pumped when Puzzle Quest: Galactrix was released. And, ultimately, disappointed. 

I wrote about this 11 years ago, but I'm not looking back to see what went wrong. What matters is that this game has been in the back of my mind for a long time. 

During the Steam Summer sale, it's $0.99. 

That was more than enough to get it off my wishlist and into the library. 

First off, an obligatory note that on my system, it runs fine in Win 10. There's an occasional, tiny bit of static with the soundtrack, but it's not onerous. 

Second, I remember that the game saved often, and it was interminably slow. With SSD's, though, and a much faster system, it's something I barely notice. 

Third, holy crap, the music is magnificent. I totally forget that there were a few Blade Runner-type compositions, and they sound entirely amazing. 

Okay, those are a few intro notes. Let's talk about gameplay. 

What makes Puzzle Quest: Galactrix notable (even today) is the pull mechanic for new tiles. It's a basic tile-matcher, where you swap a tile with another to create matches. The unique part is that whatever direction you move the tile, that's the direction the new tiles come from. 

That's mind-bending, and it makes the gameplay incredibly interesting (as well as challenging). It's certainly the most difficult match-three I've ever played, and it also has a high dose of randomness, so that even if you're using the correct strategy, you'll be replaying battles. 

That bothered me much more in 2009 than it does now. 

The number of different matching games are substantial. You mine, craft, hack leapgates, and battle. I believe that there are others I haven't seen yet. They're all fun and all slightly different. 

A note on starting out: it's helpful to limit how many missions you're taking on at one time. The galaxy is large (over 100 star systems, I believe), and when I accepted the max number of missions (four), I just had too much going on in too many different places. Starting off with only one or two missions is helpful as you get to understand the game mechanics and the galaxy. 

Random bit: 100+ ships, and customizable with a variety of different items.

The story is not great, and neither is the writing. You can skip both, though. and the gameplay is worth it. 

I don't know many games that age well, but this one did. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and this is an excellent political explainer: The Republican Choice.

This is an excellent long read: The Ghost Hunter. And another: In Search of King David's Lost Empire. One more: The Twilight of the Iranian Revolution.

From Wally, another casualty of COVID-19: Ballpark Peanuts, a Classic Summer Pleasure, Have Been Benched. A tremendous cover: The Lovecats - Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

From Mak K, and what a bizarre story: 'We live in a cage': residents hide as macaque 'gangs' take over Thai city

From C. Lee, and this is worthwhile: Transcribe Anti-Slavery Letters to Help Historians. Intriguing: Scientists induce state of artificial hibernation in mice. Ah, the 'Peter Principle': The reasons why people become incompetent at work. A very odd story: Why Soviet Russia Named a Tomato After an American Celebrity. I never get tired of grift stories: The Liechtensteinian Lady Burglar and Her Mysterious Trunk. This is a fascinating transcript: Patent Racism.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


Okay, how could I have not seen "River" before now? How is that possible?

Don't even ask any questions. Just go to Amazon Prime and watch it. It's unspeakably brilliant.

Seems Like Good Advice

I'm trying to remember this, but the combo Orwellian/Clockwork Orange vibe is definitely unsettling.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Incredibly, Another Post About Netball

Andrew was kind enough to send this information on netball from Australia:
Was interested to see you posting a netball rules video, and having played a little bit of (mixed) netball I thought I'd add some thoughts on it. 

It's hugely popular with young girls, and primarily a female sport. There are mixed competitions as you enter older age groups, but for kids, girls play netball and boys generally don't.

The main thing to know is that netball is horrific for lower limb injuries. You can probably tell from the amount of stress put on players' legs from using their "landing foot", and only being allowed one step. The sudden stop/start movement having to withstand momentum and impact leads to a lot of knee issues. At least with basketball you can take two (or three if you're a Pro) steps to disperse some of that impact and momentum. 

Here's an article on injury rates, where it ranks worse for lower leg and knee injuries than AFL, soccer and both rugby codes: Hard court: stats show netball's injury toll.

The other thing is that if you come from basketball as I did, the movement and defense almost breaks your brain. It doesn't seem like much but the drop from 2 steps to 1 is really difficult to un-learn. You either need to jump stop everything or land on one foot and then think about your next step. Which then leads back to the injuries.

The "contact" rule feels like you can't get sufficiently close enough to anyone to play defense. Any sort of body contact is penalised, which can get frustrating again if you come from another non-contact sport that allows incidental contact.

When I watched the video I linked to last week, it looked for all the world like a sport that was invented because women weren't "strong" enough to play basketball. All kinds of weird sports variations were created for that reason. So I looked up "history of netball," and immediately found this (Wikipedia):
The history of netball can be traced to the early development of basketball. A year after basketball was invented in 1891, the sport was modified for women to accommodate social conventions regarding their participation in sport, giving rise to women's basketball.

There we go.

I've mentioned this before, but all the way to 1978, girl's high school basketball in Texas was six on six (three on each half of the court, no crossing over). Parents, incredibly, had to sue to get five on five basketball.

The second thing I thought when I watched the video was that it looked like an ACL nightmare. That explosive stopping, over and over again. Women are at higher risk for ACL tears (I believe it's something about hip angle that puts more stress on the knee), and netball looked like the perfect environment for such injuries.

And it is, as it turns out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What I'm Doing

Someone asked me about the editing process for The Man You Trust.

I'm not sure how other people do it, but for me, there are two levels. The first is a factual level. Timeline details that need to be verified. Details that have to be checked (someone can't be drinking from a glass of water that they haven't been given). Checking for the frequency of phrases or body language to make sure that they haven't been overused. Checking descriptions to make sure they don't sound too similar.

The factual level is very list driven. I have a long, long list of things that need to be checked, established, or emphasized. It's relatively straightforward.

The other level is much more difficult (at least for me). I read through a chapter and feel the rhythm. The narrative should flow at a particular speed, unless there's a specific reason I want it to speed up or slow down.

What I do sometimes is try to get from Point A to Point B as a transition between two areas, but all I'm thinking about is the transition, not what the characters would actually be doing. When I write this way, the transition always feels incomplete and reads too fast.

In other words, it's wrong.

When I find one of these passages, it has to be fixed, and that can be surprisingly time consuming. It's like manually adjusting the speed of a record player while also writing the music that's playing. That's the best way I can describe it.

I've allocated 500 hours to do this. I think I spent about 1,000 on each draft. We'll see.

Monday, June 22, 2020

It's Possible

I know we've pushed back the threshold of stupid for the last few years, but I think we have to consider that we've reached the apex.

It begins with this: MrBeast partners with MSCHF to give away $25,000 as part of a massive one-time game.

Here is the important bit:
Donaldson has partnered with internet collective MSCHF for “Finger on the App,” a one-time multiplayer game with a very simple premise: the last person to take their finger off their phone screen wins up to $25,000. The twist is that “Finger on the App” has a fluctuating prize pool. Other players decide the final cash prize amount, meaning the prize can be anywhere from $1 to $25,000. 

That's right. The entire contest is keeping your finger on the phone for as long as possible.

I mean, where could we go from here? I feel like we've done it.

This reminds me to recommend one of the best documentaries I've ever seen: Hands on a Hardbody. People trying to win a truck by being the last one to remove their hand. Drama ensues.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday Links

Man, what a week.

Leading off, some next-level strange: Spies Can Eavesdrop by Watching a Light Bulb's Vibrations.

From Meg McReynolds, and honestly, who doesn't want one of these? These Life-Sized Giraffe Sculptures Hold Chandeliers in Their Mouths.

From MAK K, and good for them: There’s a loophole along the closed U.S.-Canada border. Couples are getting married there.

From Wally, and this is an amazing computer build: Rotating PC. No one's ever made it: Impossible Climb Andler 2019.

From C. Lee, and it's strangely relaxing: Fireplace Sounds - Medieval Tavern - Inn Ambience. This is astounding: Researchers: Virus-derived protein triggers depression. I had no idea these existed: Long Dice. Amazing: Ancient Roman Board Game Found in Norwegian Burial Mound. A fascinating theory: Males Are the Taller Sex. Estrogen, Not Fights for Mates, May Be Why. I have no words: US Air Force to test autonomous AI fighter against a human next year. Microsoft, leading the charge to the bottom: Microsoft's robot editor confuses mixed-race Little Mix singers.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

I'm Surprised This Needed to be Clarified

Elbows, right? Everybody knows that by now. What's up with feet?

Haircut! Scone!

I got a haircut today. And a blueberry scone. I felt like a tycoon.

It's been 15 weeks since I had a haircut. 12 weeks since I had that particular blueberry lavender scone from the neighborhood bakery.

Both are open now.

I tried to be careful. I made the first appointment at the barber, and there were only three other people there (only one other customer).

I paid for the scone from the sidewalk. They have a register outside now.

I don't mind not going in. I kind of like it, really.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Hey, I tried

[Yes, this move was conveniently timed, as T-Mobile's network has been projectile vomiting all week. This story isn't really about T-Mobile, though.]

I've had a Verizon account for over 15 years.

I was paying for way more than I needed, though. So I decided to downsize my plan. I looked on their website and the cheapest plan I could find (with more than 1GB of data) was $60 a month.

Then I did a little comparison shopping. I went on T-Mobile's website and they had a prepaid plan with 5GB of data for $25 a month. Unbelievable.

Because I've been a Verizon customer for so long, I made the effort and called in to ask them if there were secret plans that I couldn't find. Turns out, there were--prepaid plans that were not easy to locate, because it's not how they make the most money.

The prepaid plan I looked at was 3GB of data for $35 a month. Close enough, with the loyalty bonus.
I said sign me up.

And then the murders began.

I have an HTC 11, a super-powerful phone from late 2017. Verizon told me that if they disconnected me from the post-paid plan and reconnected me for the prepaid plan, that my phone wouldn't work, because the database said it was incompatible with the network.

"Maybe you should tell my phone," I said, "since it's been working fine for three years."

The issue was that the database identified my phone as a 3G phone without 4G capability (absolutely incorrect). At least, that was the consensus.

Not a problem, right? A crippling problem, actually. There was no workaround, according to customer service and the prepaid department.


That first call took over an hour, and then I made a second call which ALSO lasted an hour, and there was no resolution.

Oh, I could buy a new phone. That was their best idea. 

I went to the T-Mobile website and signed up for the prepaid plan (surprise, my phone is compatible with their network). The SIM came in the mail two days later. I popped it in and it worked.

You may be asking how Verizon could make it so difficult for a customer of fifteen years to continue paying them money each month.

That is a very good question.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Tower of Power

Since the golf course isn't putting out water this summer (COVID), Gloria was nice enough to get me a sports bottle that I could take with me on the course.

Eli 18.10 looked at it and started laughing. "Mom, that's huge!'

"Did this come with a trailer?" I asked.

"It's not that big," Gloria said. "You can put it in your bag."

"It would double the weight of my bag," I said. "I can fill it up and use it for weight workouts, though."

"You people," she said.

"Dad, how do you get it to the course?" Eli asked.

"I don't know," I said. "A roof rack? Did it come with a roof rack?"

As it turns out, it did.

Monday, June 15, 2020

This is why we can't have nice things.

Well, damn it.

I have this bad habit of watching a game trailer until I decide sexy/not sexy. If it's sexy, I don't want to see any more because I don't want any spoilers.

For the trailer of Little Devil Inside I decided "sexy" and stopped watching, and because of that, I missed this:

Damn it. Damn it to hell. 

It would be difficult to create a more stereotypical, racist depiction than that image. A half-naked savage with a mask and a blowgun. Big lips for extra points!

That is aggressively terrible. 

Now, incredibly, there were people whose first reaction was "But that's just history."

An interesting point, until you consider who wrote the history. 

Everything written about Africa for centuries was written by people from colonial cultures. The only aim of these texts was to justify colonialism. So the entirety of African culture was reduced to three tropes: savage, dissolute, or simpleton. 

In all three cases, it clearly established that "these people" were clearly unable to govern themselves. A thinly-disguised justification for coming in and stealing everything that wasn't nailed down. 

Let's reverse that. What if we turned this kind of gaze on Edwardian England? 
Men and women dress in elaborate costumes, including a strange focus on enormous hats as a status symbol. They drink intoxicants in these fine costumes until they are rendered unconscious, or engage in savage brawls that often end in serious injury or death. 

See how easy it is to do that?


I think this may qualify as the worst-designed sport I've ever seen. This video is a must-see:
The Rules of Netball - EXPLAINED!.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a powerful read: Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop.

From Scott Gould, and this is an incredible story: Pepsi’s $32 Billion Typo Caused Deadly Riots.

From Wally, and this is excellent: Sri Lank's musical 'choon paan' bread trucks. Honestly, the guy is some kind of wizard: Harry Potter Does the Laundry Here's your zen moment, but with energy: Dog Plays with a Balloon. This is genuinely stunning! Huge mudslide dragging several houses into the sea. Norway. Nothing would surprise me after 2020: Are There Zombie Viruses — Like The 1918 Flu — Thawing In The Permafrost? Some excellent suggestions for learning: My Passion for History – Ancient Greece (Peloponesian Wars). I don't even have words to describe this: One Armed Pushup Flip.

From Steve West, and what a great going rogue moment: How a 'rogue' employee forced NFL, Goodell into new Black Lives Matter stance.

From David Gloier, and this is very strange: Another mysterious radio burst in space is repeating a pattern. This one occurs every 157 days. This is an interesting read: Vicodin, ketamine, and caffeine: The ingredients of a good space pharmacy.

From Phil, and this is incredible: Last Person to Receive a Civil War Pension Dies.

From C. Lee, and it's an excellent look at the tangled procedural web for police discipline: Special Report: How union, Supreme Court shield Minneapolis cops. This is a phenomenal series on shareware: The Shareware Scene, Part 1: The PioneersThe Shareware Scene, Part 2: The Question of Games, and The Shareware Scene, Part 3: The id Boys. This is fascinating: Out-of-Sync ‘Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms. From Japan: Former pro ballplayer details the horrors of COVID-19. A very thoughtful essay: Why We Should Persevere When Life Is Not Fair.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Little Devil Inside

It may not be a dramatic leap forward graphically, but this is a wonderful trailer that oozes style and whimsy: PS5 game Little Devil Inside looked marvelous.


Sony had a "big" online event where they showed a bunch of games that will be coming out on PS5.

Um, okay.

Here's a link so you can see everything: The biggest announcements from Sony’s PlayStation 5 reveal event.

They showed a ton of games, which is good. The PS5 itself looks like something from Tron, which I'm never going to complain about. The new Gran Turismo looked sexy and GTA V looked mediocre (graphically).

Nothing seemed extremely "next-gen."

I don't know, am I just getting old? Maybe a slight bump in graphical fidelity, but that's not what I expect after SEVEN YEARS.

Plus, expect both of the new consoles to be very expensive at launch, because they're both going to be supply constrained. Pretty severely, I believe. So they will absolutely both at at least $499, and $599 wouldn't surprise me.

It also wouldn't surprise me at all if there is a real paucity of games at launch. Schedules worldwide have been impacted by COVID-19, and development schedules leading up to a new console launch are already notoriously tight already.

In the meantime, I think Nintendo will sell every Switch they can make between now and the holiday season.

I'll definitely get one of the new consoles, but it would be nice to see something more dramatic before I commit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


This Forest Fenn story just keeps on giving.

The traditional version: eccentric, lovable old man buries a hidden cache of gold and diamonds in the Rocky Mountains in 2010. He published a book titled "The Thrill of the Chase" which gave clues to the location. He did it as a way to "inspire people to explore nature."

Five people died in pursuit of the treasure.

Still (can you say that after five people die?), it seems like an inspiring story of an adventurous, roguish old guy doing something wonderfully imaginative.

This week, he announced the treasure had been found at last.


As it turns out, Fenn was an antiquities dealer, and by all accounts, a shady one. He was the subject of a federal investigation.

For grave robbing.

Yeah, it gets creepy fast. And someone who's written about Fenn before believes that the treasure hasn't been found at all. Here's why: I don't believe that Forest Feen's treasure has really been found.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

The Suffer Bag

Eli 18.10 needed a duffel bag.

I texted him about it, and autocorrect replace "duffel" with "suffer." So I texted him about a suffer bag.

I like the idea.

What would go in a suffer bag, exactly? And how big would it be? Only the luckiest among us have small suffer bags. A suffer clutch.

When you're filling up your suffer bag, don't confuse it with the anger bag. That's a different bag.

A Momentous Day

Today, I have now completed one of the most satisfying achievements of my entire life.

I now fully understand sections and page numbering in Microsoft Word.

It's the word processing equivalent of learning how to make a bomb without accidentally setting it off in your house.

Monday, June 08, 2020

The Beast Has Been Slain

I can't believe I'm typing this, but the second draft is done.

I am now feature complete, in software terms, and entering beta.

Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality (Itch.io)

744 games for $5. That is not a typo.

A Short Hike (one of my favorite games of 2019)
Quadrilateral Cowboy
Night in the Woods
Super Hexagon
Wide Ocean Big Jacket

All proceeds get donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Community Bail Fund. So it's for good causes and also the greatest gaming bundle value I've ever seen.

Way to go, Itch.io.
Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality

Found At Last

I never thought anyone would ever find it:
Treasure chest worth millions found in the Rocky Mountains after decade-long search.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it blew my mind: A Lifetime of Hammering Trees Might Affect Woodpecker Brains After All. That's right: CTE.

Important: Campaign Zero: We Can End Police Violence.

This is a tremendous article: How RuneScape is helping Venezuelans survive.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: Why Sleep Deprivation Kills. This is excellent: The hidden hunger affecting billions. An inspiring bit of history: SJ Baker: The New Yorker who saved 90,000 infants. Very, very useful: How the U.S. Fought the 1957 Flu Pandemic. I had no idea: A Brief History of Medical Face Masks. This is terrific: No subject is taboo for wheelchair-using YouTuber. It's a heel lock! Ever Wonder What That Extra Lace Hole on Your Gym Shoes Is For? We Found Out.

From Wally, and it's an enormous rabbit hole: Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions. Important candy news: Necco Wafers Are Officially Back. This is terrific: The One Who Didn't Direct Terrible Movies.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and it's about a different kind of giant arrow: What Are Those Giant Arrows Dotting the American Landscape?.

Shimmer Geek wins the award for the most incredible story of the week: Men hired for sexual fantasy break into wrong house.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Good News

That internship Eli 18.10 applied for with the Michigan State Representative where he was told he was the youngest person being interviewed? He got it. 

Animal World

I feel like happy pictures are a good thing right now.

First, this dog.

That dog is so next level I don't even know where to start. Part Darth Vader, part spaceship. And the posture is impeccable.

Next, this little guy:

This robin, the same robin, always shows up after the yard is mowed, then pokes around for a few days. He's the only bird who does this on a regular basis, so he has become a colorful local character. Also notice that Gracie, the smallest cat in the world, is watching him with interest through the storm door.

This is a good idea

This is a Reddit sub-forum called aww. If you want to see some adorable animals and cute things, here you go. It's good for mental health.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Serenity, For a Moment

I think we can all use this right now:

That's the view from where Eli 18.10 was staying for two weeks with his friends. The house was very basic, but the view was absolutely stunning.

I know this because he lost his keys and I had to drive 2.5 hours up there to give him his spare set.

On the face of it, that would be annoying. But it's so beautiful when you drive north that I really didn't even mind.

It gets sparse, people-wise, the further you drive north. And you see things that can't be explained. I saw a 30-foot arrow embedded in a parking lot. I wonder if there is a race of giants that live somewhere in the U.P., coming down in summer to randomly shoot their enormous arrows, then forgetting to pick them up.

Because giants, I mean--not the brightest.

There's also the matter of the World's Slowest McDonald's, which is in Cadillac, apparently. Everyone staying in the house warned me about it, because I wanted to stop somewhere for food on the way back.

When I got to Cadillac, there were at least a dozen cars in the McDonald's drive through. Hard pass.

Within less than a block, though, I saw a Burger King.

Side note: after posting about the Burger King on fire a while back, I now get a picture anytime someone drives past a Burning King.

I went through the drive through, so I didn't experience any Burger King despair, and it was the World's Fastest Burger King.

What are the odds?

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Almost Done

Like you, I had a surreal weekend.

I did nothing but write for four days, excepting an occasional check of the news as the protests started, then spun out of control.

It all felt very post-apocalyptic, so be enmeshed in a post-apocalyptic novel while the real world was headed in the same direction felt incredibly strange.

I wrote 25 pages in four days. Of the four chapters left, I wrote three of them. One of those chapters still needs to be edited, and the fourth (the last) still needs to be written.

What's left, though, is not going to be difficult compared to what I've already done, even with four to six months of editing ahead of me once this draft is completed.

I am, in a word, tired.

A Note

Many social media sites are not posting today in support of BLM.

I respect their good intentions, but there is only way this gets better. We have to vote out the bastards who don't want this to change and vote in the bastards who do.

Until then, this sickening feeling is not going to go away.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Don't Let Them Tell You

Don't let them tell you nothing can be done. That is a lie.

If you're wondering how long police in the United States have been murdering African-Americans for non-violent crimes, I can tell you the date it started.

July 4, 1776. That's when it started.

Site Meter