Thursday, December 31, 2020

Friday Links!

I'm going to lead off the New Year with C. Lee links, because he has consistently contributed at the highest level for a long time.

First off, an excellent rabbit hole: The Year Flour Was King. This is fascinating: The Satisfaction of Mathematically Efficient Christmas Cookies. This is tremendously thoughtful: It’s A Wonderful Life shows the unending cost of being good. This is horrific: Oregon Hospitals Didn't Have Shortages. So Why Were Disabled People Denied Care? Hey, they puzzle me, too: 50 Americanisms That Don’t Make Sense To Foreigners. The butterfly effect here is extremely interesting: Style of eyeglass frame Lennon wore at death soon back on sale.

From James L., and it's a magnificent piece of journalism: The Plague Year: The mistakes and the struggles behind America’s coronavirus tragedy

From David Gloier, and this answers my question about reindeer positions on the sled by using a similar (and real) sport: Dogs on the line. Enjoy, Meg!

From Wally, and it's an interesting idea: Japan to launch first WOODEN satellite by 2023. Well, I'll be damned: The Dunning-Kruger Effect Is Probably Not Real. This is fascinating: Asteroid chips that look like charcoal

From Marc Klein, and it's a terrific story: Former sportswriter lives the good life after opening a bar in Thailand

Dear Friends

"What is this? A short story?" I asked. 

"A holiday letter," Gloria said.

Holiday letters are generally what you would get if reality television had children and those children were raised by hummingbirds. 

What those children wrote would be holiday letters.

"I can't read this whole thing," I said. This letter was actually from someone who I like very much, but her holiday letters have the folksy density of osmium. 

This particular holiday letter, received for many years, has also proven itself to be uncomfortably personal. I can't handle the emotional full monty. I  know my limits.

"What does this mean?" I asked, skimming. "'I'm thinking of becoming a farmer's market.' Is that physically possible?"

"It seems unlikely," Eli 19.4 said, laughing. 

"What is this? 'Colby Bryant'? I need an Enigma machine to decipher this."

"Maybe she doesn't know the right name for Koby Bryant," Gloria said. 

"She's a sports person," I said. "She knows. This can only mean that there's some awful cheese reference earlier."

"Go find it," Eli said.

"Are you kidding? I'm not jumping on that grenade for you," I said.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020


We were watching a bowl game. Two rando teams with some kind of food tie-in. 

"Would reindeers take a Toradol shot to be able to compete on Christmas Eve?" I asked. 

"They only play one day a year, so I guess they probably would," Eli 18.4 said.

"How do you think Santa drafts reindeers?"

"Do you mean does he draft natural athletes or students of the game?" Eli asked. 

"Exactly. And does Santa draft the best available athlete or does he draft for need?"

"What kind of reindeer does he need to fill out a sled? Eli asked. 

"Well, you definitely need great athletes, and they have to have endurance," I said. "But the reindeer near the sleigh need to be able to respond to Santa's commands."

"They might have to make line calls, like offensive lineman."

"Right," I said. "So they definitely have to be students of the game. Coach's sons, maybe."

"Santa has to manage the sleigh, too. What weight of presents can he carry without impacting performance?"

"There are so many simulation aspects here that it could totally be turned into a game. "Sleigh Manager 2020" would work."

"I'd buy that," Eli said. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Texts and Sweaters and Christmas, Oh My

 I unveiled this bad boy on Christmas Eve:

"Whataburger" is a beloved burger chain in Texas, and I saw the sweater and felt like its provenance, in combination with possibly the worst shade of orange in existence, made for a special holiday treat. 

It was well received. 

"Oh my god," Gloria said, laughing. 

"Nice sweater, dad," Eli 19.4, also laughing. 

"I was going to wear it on Christmas, but given the entertainment value, I thought it deserved two days," I said. Which it did, and I have to say that it's actually a very comfortable sweater, as long as I don't have to look at it.

On Christmas Day, we were sitting around after lunch, and I got a text from a good friend. "You know, it's really nice to hear from people who care about you on Christmas Day," I said. 

A few minutes later, I got another text, which I read aloud:
I just wanted to take a minute to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy year, most of all good health! These days people don't spend much time or thought on some personal words to their friends and family, they just copy and paste some random shit and send it on. So after all we've been through together this year I want to thank you for your friendship and wish you a happy and fulfilling 2018 - you’re the best gymnastics group anyone could ask for.
Best wishes,

"Wait, 'gymnastics group'? '2018'? What's happening?" Eli asked.

"Like I said, hearing from the people who genuinely care for you is what it's all about," I said.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Ultrasounds (the inside baseball version)

I learned some interesting things about ultrasounds last week. 

I had one on the 24th, as a precaution (side note: it was totally normal). The technician doing the ultrasound was in her sixties, I think, and I asked her how long she'd been doing this. 30+ years, she said, so I asked her some questions about the technology and how it had changed. 

The changes have largely been in both speed and accuracy, which makes sense. But she also said the biggest hardware leap that's coming is wireless wands. Everyone hates the cords, she said, and they constantly get in the way. The problem with the initial wireless models that have recently come out, though, is that they're too bulky. Packing all the electronics into the wand instead of having the cord as the data cable makes a significant difference in size, and the wireless wands just aren't that usable right now. 

I asked her how long it took to get good at doing scans. Not just competent, but good. She said 5-6 years, which surprised me. I didn't realize it was that complex. 

I also asked her how she analyzes a black and white image that is constantly changing as she moves the wand. It just looks looked like a mess to me, and I wanted to know how she knew when to take an image. 

There are actually two kinds of images, she said: still and a 6-second video mode. She takes both over the course of an examination. There's a minimum level of documentation required for each scan, so there's a somewhat standard set of images/videos. However, she also said there's a level of interpretation outside the standard documentation where she will take additional images when she sees something unusual. That's one of the reasons it takes so long to become highly skilled, because you need so much experience in seeing what's normal to be able to immediately recognize what's not. 

One of the things I've always really enjoyed is talking to people who are good at what they do. Hearing about the processes they use is fascinating, and I haven't had many chances this year because of Dammit 2020. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Video Fixed

Eli's kicking video wasn't working on desktops (fine on phones, which is why I missed noticing), but it's fixed now. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Friday Links!

Happy holidays to everyone! A big links week for those of you stuck at home and unable to travel.

Leading off this week, a kindler, gentler kind of game designer: Shigeru Miyamoto Wants to Create a Kinder World.

This is a terrific long read, and it's a dark story: The Journalist and the Pharma Bro.

This is infinitely gross in so many ways: How SoulCycle lost its soul.

Here's a five-minute video of footage from the new Peter Jackson documentary about The Beatles (releasing early next year): The Beatles get silly in our first look at Peter Jackson's Get Back.

I don't know how I'd never heard of Chuck Feeney, but he's my hero: Chuck Feeney: The billionaire who gave it all away.

From Wally, and this is so utterly, fantastically over the top that it almost works: Bahubali 2 Best Scene.

From C. Lee, and here's a quality Santa: sign language Santa. Here's a fascinating two-part analysis of whether advertising actually works: Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 1: TV)Does Advertising Actually Work? (Part 2: Digital. Holy cow, the advertising percentage is incredible: The cost of games. Fascinating: A Machine That Made Stockings Helped Kick Off the Industrial Revolution. As an introvert, this is how I always feel at parties: Victorians’ Christmas Parlor Games Will Leave You Burned, Bruised, And Puking. Not that surprising, I guess: Only One Factory in North America Still Makes Washboards, and They Are Flying Off of Shelves. His videos were classics: R.I.P. Henri, le Chat Noir, angst-ridden feline YouTube star for the ages.

All Hail The Foot

The Family Field Goal record stood for 42 years. 

When I was 17, I kicked a 48-yard field goal in an intramural game in school. 

We always go and kick the ball around during holiday break, and Eli 19.4 has come close for the last few years. 

Still, though, the record held. Of course I let him know about it, too. 

Then this happened:

That's from 45 yards (I recorded it in slo-mo, for some reason). And yes, it's higher than the uprights when it goes through. 

Then he made one from 50. 

Then he made one from 55. 

Then he kicked one from 60 that would have been good from 59. 

The ball was just exploding off his foot today. It was incredible. 

Yes, he used a kicking tee, and yes, there was a strong tailwind today. No matter. 59 is 59 no matter the conditions.

Two guys in the 20s who still looked like football players were watching while he was bombing these kicks through. One of them said, "What college do you kick for?"

That's a running joke between Eli and I. No matter the sport, no matter what we're doing, he gets asked that. And it gets funnier each time it happens. 

I was struggling to make a 25-yarder. I mean, I'm the same as I was 40 years ago except I have 1/4 the leg strength and 1/10 the hip rotation. Other than that, I'm still 100%.

"I'll give you $50 if you make one from 40," Eli said. 

That's a thing between us. I can go from zero to hero when there's money on the table. 

I didn't make it, but in an entirely shocking moment, I did get it there. It was to the right of the upright by about a foot, and Eli's face looked more shocked than mine did when he made one from 55. 

"I don't know what I would have done if you'd made that," he said. 

"Neither do I," I said.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

To Watch While You're Dying of Boredom

Some of you may not be able to see your families during the holidays because Damn It 2020. 

If you're in that boat, and you need something to watch, I've seen a few interesting things in the last couple of weeks that you might enjoy. 

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (HBO, HBO Max)
I think quite a few of us actually liked the Bee Gees back the 70s and 80s, but didn't realize it until thirty years later. 

This is a terrific documentary, and if you like the Bee Gees, you'll be fascinated. Even if you didn't like them, it's still tremendously interesting. 

Here's a story as an example. 

When the Bee Gees wrote the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever, I assumed they watched a rough cut of a movie and then wrote the songs. Nope. They were given a script, which they didn't even read. All they knew was that the movie was about disco. Somehow they wrote a set of songs that tied in perfectly to the movie. 

At one point, four of their songs from the soundtrack were in the top five in the U.S., which is unbelievable. 

One other note: I always assumed that Stayin' Alive was about living by dancing. Symbolic and whatnot. It wasn't. It was about New York City in the summer that Son of Sam terrorized the city.

Listen to it knowing that and damn, it's on an entirely different level. 

I'm Your Woman (Amazon Prime)
If you enjoy watching The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel, lead actor Rachel Brosnahan is starring in a movie that was just released last week, and it's a gritty crime thriller that is entertaining in every way. It's also remarkably gentle in places, which is a tough combination to pull off, but it's done flawlessly. 

I Hate Suzie (HBO, HBO Max)
This is a brilliant, funny series that is so dark it's uncomfortable to watch at times (which is something for me to say, because I love dark comedies). It's a long discourse on the dark side of celebrity, and it gets progressively  more complex as the episodes progress. It also, at times, has this magnificent visual style that reminds me of Killing Eve at times (something else you might enjoy). 

That should fill a few hours of dead holiday time. 

A Family Record Has Fallen

 Actually, more like shattered. Details tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Another Possibility

Yesterday, I suggested that the disastrously early shipment of Cyberpunk 2077 was a product of modest optimism at every employee layer, stacked. 

There is, however, another possibility. 

The Front Page Sports: Football series was, at first, a miracle. A well-animated, intelligent football game with so many excellent design touches in 1992? On a PC?

That simply wasn't possible, and yet it existed. I had a "work" PC at home (thanks, CompuAdd) just for the purpose of playing that game. No actual work was done.

Over the course of several annual versions, I somehow how wound up on a message board with a bunch of other guys who thought this was the best sports game in history. On that board, the designer of Front Page Sports: Baseball '98, who was named Doug Johnson, asked if anyone wanted to beta test his game. 

In response, probably the best group of beta testers ever assembled for a sports game signed up. Looking back now, I still can't believe how brilliant all of those guys were. Shaun Sullivan went on to design and develop the PureSim baseball series. Glen Haag wrote about sports games for twenty years (and still does, occasionally). John Ehrlinger--well, I don't know what happened to him, but he was incredibly intelligent. 

I also made a sports game, and even though it was incredibly niche, I would hold up the A.I. against any sports game. 

FPS: BB '98 had one staggeringly advanced design feature: the PB.ini file. This was a text file that let you customize every single aspect of the simulation. I don't think that level of customization has ever been matched. 

After a series of very wonky conversations about baseball, Doug put me in charge of the PB.ini file. 

There were hundreds of variables in that file, and they all worked together like a little symphony. 

After hundreds of hours of work. 

A full season took 30 minutes to sim. I would look at the stats, make adjustments in the variables, and run it again. 

I did this at work. I did this at home. Between the beta test and a payroll project I was managing at the time, I was working 100+ hours a week.

In the end, it all worked out, even though Doug didn't ship the latest version of the PB.ini file with the shipping version of the game. It did get in there eventually, though, and the statistical fidelity was unbelievable. Not perfect, because no matter how I adjusted the variables, the engine still had trouble correctly modeling high average, low power players, but I was very proud of it nonetheless. 

I had credibility with Doug after that, and we kept in contact. Not often, but it was always a treat. He was a gruff, intense guy who I really enjoyed talking to. 

In 1998, he began working on the Front Page Sports: Football series. I don't remember hearing from him then, but in the fall of 1998, he called me. 

"Do you want to see the game?"

Of course I did. I was absolutely thrilled to see the new version of the game. Dynamix was making the big move to 3D players, instead of sprites, and after a few years of treading water, this was going to revitalize the series. 

He sent me a disc. 

I can't even begin to tell you my level of excitement. And within five minutes, I knew that the game was absolutely, unbelievably broken. Pre-alpha levels of broken. 

In every conceivable way, it was unplayable. 

I called Doug, trying to be delicate. I remember he was listening to music in the background, which he always did, and it was some kind of soothing jazz, I think. 

I said that there were quite a few problems, and asked him how much they were going to push back the shipping date, because it was scheduled to ship in just a month. 

"They're shipping it," he said. 

"How much can you fix in a month?" I asked. 

"They're not fixing anything," he said. "That's the version they're shipping."

It was, in short, a catastrophe. Review scores in the 50s, and those were the kind ones. 

Two months after release, Dynamix actually recalled the game, because they weren't going to spend the year needed to fix it (and I don't know if even a year would have been enough). Then they cancelled the series.

Doug left the game industry after that, I think. I never knew where he went.

So that's the other possibility with Cyberpunk. The game was still so broken (particularly the console versions) that they had no clear idea when it would actually be finished, and they were going to miss the holiday season. 

So they shipped it. Welcome to catastrophe.

Somewhere, Doug Johnson is grimacing.

Monday, December 21, 2020


Trying to develop versions for PC, Sony, and Microsoft, with simultaneous launch dates, means you have multiple development teams trying to cross-coordinate all kinds of tasks. 


Cyberpunk 2077

It's been hyped for years. 

Other developers moved their launch dates to avoid being anywhere near its release. 

It was repeatedly delayed. 

Now it's released, and it's in shambles. It's in such shoddy shape that Sony has removed it from the Playstation Store. 

There is such an endless list of bugs, many of them game-breaking, that I'm not even going to spend time discussing them. 

The more interesting question: how could this happen?

The answer: much easier than you think. 

Like many of you, I have a fair amount of experience with technology companies. And I think I can describe for you, very closely, what happened. 

Cyberpunk 2077 is a huge project involving roughly 400-500 people at CD Projekt Red. Their internal structure, almost certainly, looks something like this:
Front line workers (artists, designers, developers, etc.)
Group Leaders (for each front line worker group
Middle Managers
Vice Presidents

Some of these roles have different names in different companies, but they do roughly the same thing. That may not be the exact structure of CD Projekt Red, but I bet it's close. 

Now, add in that the development studio is a subsidiary of CD Projekt S.A. So even if you don't have VP's and Presidents in CD Projekt Red, you do in CD Projekt S.A.

That's a lot of layers. 

I ran the program manager office for an Oracle installation, and my job was to manage a project plan that had thousands of tasks. Each week, I checked on every task that was coming due and asked for updates with the responsible parties.

From all of those updates, I would try to understand the current state of the project versus its timeline projections. 

It was hard. With dependencies between tasks, it was easy for significant delays to exist even if 98% of the tasks were being done on time. 

I would present this information once a week to the person leading the project (who was a Director in the company). He would then make a presentation to a Vice-President, who would report to the CFO, who then reported to the CEO. Inevitably, he tended to be more optimistic than I was. 

Now, imagine that each management layer in a project is over-optimistic by just 5%. Oh, except that past the third level, make everyone 10% more optimistic, because higher up the management chain, executives are increasingly disconnected from the reality on the ground.

Stack six of those (three at 5%, and three at 10%), and suddenly, the executive assessment of the project is in error by almost 40%. 

Plus, there's always that asswipe who's never actually been successful at anything but cozying up to everyone above him. THAT guy is going to be optimistic by 15% or even 20% every time. Homewrecker.

That's not even mentioning the financial and reporting pressure on a publicly traded company. CD Projekt S.A.'s market cap had quadrupled from two to eight billion in the last four years. 

Report bad news to investors? That means the stock price will be affected, perhaps substantially, and everyone in the company who has stock options is going to lose money as a result. So there is enormous pressure to report as little bad news as possible (there are exceptions when a company needs to lower expectations, but they're not worth discussing today). 

So we have a company with an exploding market cap developing one of the most-anticipated games of all time. After repeated delays, there is enormous financial pressure to release as soon as possible. Because of that, there is also enormous pressure for each layer of management to be optimistic in their projections. 

That's how you release an alpha.

TOMORROW: the good old days of Front Page Sports: Football and its catastrophic end.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Friday Links!

This is riveting, harrowing story: She Stalked Her Daughter’s Killers Across Mexico, One by One. Also, this is an incredible story with a terrific video as well: Zodiac Killer cipher is cracked after eluding sleuths for 51 years. This is excellent: The Man Who Found Forrest Fenn's Treasure.

Star Wars alert: This New Empire Strikes Back Set Footage Is the Best Thing You'll See Today.

From Wally, and Disney buying the Death Star seems appropriate: A Star Wars writer claims Disney isn’t paying royalties — but the issues are tricky. Ah, the Scots: Scotland names its snow plows and their titles are amazing. This is long and extremely interesting: The Real-World Locations of 14 Sci-Fi Dystopias.

From Keith Ganey, and it's a brilliant article (also, Detectorists!): The Curse of the Buried Treasure. This is terribly, terribly sad: Years after they fought in Afghanistan, US troops watch as their children deploy to the same war. A remarkable bit of history: The Cheshire Minstrels.

From C. Lee, and it's another terrific article from the Digital Antiquarian: Ethics in Strategy Gaming, Part 2: Colonization. This is surprisingly fascinating: A History of Men's Sweaters. A companion piece: The feminist history of the cardigan. And an essay: The Sweater Curse. This would be incredible if true: Drug Reverses Age-Related Mental Decline Within Days. Everything about this is utterly fantastic: Deadly Premonition - Sinners Sandwich.

From Geoff Engelstein, and it's an excellent read: Why Are Great Athletes More Likely To Be Younger Siblings?

Just No

 I am not making this up:

I quote: "For many Wisconsin families, raw meat sandwiches are a holiday tradition?"

Wisconsin, what kind of damn holiday are you having over there?

Also, Wisconsin, does everything need a garnish? Is the parsley really needed here?

When I was growing up, we had neighbors five houses down. Mary Neal was a very nice woman who had, once upon a time, been a carnie. 

Her husband, Eddie, had been a carnie, too. He always wore white athletic socks that came up halfway to his knee.

He told me some fascinating stories about the carnival while we were sitting on his porch in summer, listening to the Astros game while he drank beer from an aluminum can. 

What I remembered most about Mary, though, was that she liked to eat raw hamburger meat. Not a lot, mind you. She wasn't going Quarter Pounder on raw meat or anything. But she liked to have a bite or three before she made dinner, and she was delighted by how much it grossed me out. 

Even now, it grosses me out.

Do the right thing, Wisconsin. Put that meat in a damn skillet first. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Case For the Humble Blueberry

For my money, the blueberry is the best fruit. Consider the following:
1. No butt-sniffing needed.
You have to sniff a cantaloupe's butt to tell if it's ripe. Pineapples? Sniff away. Note that you can't do any of this while wearing a mask. Blueberries? No sniffing necessary.

2. No visual assessment.
Want some ripe strawberries? Good luck with that. Strawberries don't ripen after they're picked, so if you find ripe ones, they're right on the edge of being too right. Also, you'll never bet a package that has all ripe strawberries inside. Blueberries? Man, blueberries are ready to go, and if you put them in the fridge, they last a long time. 

3. No cleaver needed.
Pineapples? Sure, they're delicious. Better get out that cleaver you killed Uncle Jerry with (reminder: lay that new layer of concrete down in the shed). Or maybe you get a fruit that has some huge-ass seed inside that makes the edible part look like the potato chips inside a giant bag. 

An official exception is granted for the avocado. 

Blueberries? They're all food. Maybe once every three pints you get a stem or two, but that's it. 

4. Appealing form factor
Don't want to slice and dice your fruit? Neither do I. Blueberries? They have a bite-sized form factor that is absolutely perfect for any mouth.

Overwhelming evidence in favor of the blueberry, I believe.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Why not 4D?

I was talking to DQ Renaissance Man John Harwood yesterday.

"I've actually been really impressed with how deeply Tarn has gotten into the graphical and interface makeover in the Dwarf Fortress Steam version," I said. "It's a long way from finished, but it's being handled really well."

"I don't need a 2D tileset for Dwarf Fortress," he said. "I just want the ASCII in 3D. That would look incredible. Why hasn't that happened?"

"Maybe because you're only one of five people in the entire would who would actually want that feature?"

He laughed. "It would solve all kinds of problems."

"I think that is the most obscure idea I've ever heard," I said.

Note: John will call me as soon as he reads this and say "I didn't say 'It would solve all kinds of problems.'" Which is true, because he said something far more interesting that I can't actually remember. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

John le Carré

John le Carré wasn't actually a British spy. 

Or maybe he was. I've seen good cases made for both sides. He certainly worked for British intelligence--there's no disputing that--but his role is unclear.

What cannot be disputed, though, is that he wrote cracking good spy novels. 

As someone who has a deep affection for espionage in general, both fiction and non-fiction (Ben Macintyre, in particular), I've always enjoyed le Carré's novels, but my favorite is one that is generally not mentioned as his best. 

My favorite is The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. It is entirely gripping, and that slow feeling of dread growing on you is absolutely unforgettable. 

If you're wondering what he's about, you might try that one. It will leave quite an impression. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Friday Links!

EA will use this someday and the Madden AI still won't be able to do zone coverage properly: Quantum device performs 2.6 billion years of computation in 4 minutes.

JAG (just another grifter): The Rise and Fall of Carl Lentz, the Celebrity Pastor of Hillsong Church.

From Wally, and this is discouraging: An analysis of the $82 million eBay Scalping Market for Xbox, PS5, AMD, and NVIDIA. Star Trek nerd alert: This Video Calculates How Huge STAR TREK’s Enterprise-D Is. This is interesting: One-star wonders: how to make a film that’s so bad it’s good. Oxford's influence on fantasy: Empire of fantasy. This is astonishing: Listen as Lancaster Crew Takes ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ to a Whole Other Level.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's long overdue: A letter to Batman from the Gotham Tourism and Business Development Council.

From C. Lee, and it's fascinating: The Deadly Temptation of the Oregon Trail Shortcut. These look tasty: Around the World in 130 Chicken-Soup Recipes A new cookbook is devoted entirely to the soothing, healing meal. An amazing story: The Brief, Wondrous, High-Flying Era of Zeppelin Dining. This is so fantastic: Maryland Teen Designs App To Help Families Dealing With Type 1 Diabetes. R.I.P.: Collapsed Arecibo Radio Telescope Was Originally Built For Ballistic Missile Defense Research. As the world turns into Short Attention Span Theater: Internal Sony Docs Explain How "Activities" Became a Cornerstone for PS5. I would absolutely eat this ASAP: RECIPE: TUNNEL OF FUDGE CAKE (1966). This is some terrifying shit, and there are plenty of those people still around: American Nazis in the 1930s—The German American Bund.

From Mark H., and it's incredible: Paddle of the Century: a world record-setting canoe trip.

And Yet Delicious (#1 in an unlikely series)

I'm figuring out some food stuff now. 

My process is sophisticated. I figure out what I need to eat, then dump it all together in a bowl and see if it tastes good. Adjust as necessary.

This often leads to disaster, but there have been some unexpected discoveries. 

For example, this "recipe":
--slice a large avocado (I like the cross-hatch technique, because you wind up with smaller pieces)
--put the avocado at the bottom of a bowl
--sprinkle sea salt on the avocado (it makes the smooth flavor of the avocado more interesting)
--put about half a pint of blueberries on top of the avocado
--sweeten the blueberries (I use Truvia, which is zero calorie and very sweet, but sugar works fine)

Let the blueberries absorb the sweetener for a few minutes, then get out a spoon, mix it all together, and enjoy.

You'd think this would taste awful, but it doesn't. It's pretty great, actually. You have the smoothness of the avocado (heightened slightly by the sea salt), and then you have the blueberries, which have a brighter flavor.  

Plus, it's packed with all kinds of nutrients. Super healthy, takes less than five minutes to prepare, and tasty.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

And Here It is

From Scott Gould:
Attention, stranger
Cast your gaze high and behold
A limb dangles here.


Speaking of the Holidays

Evan's back! 

Welcome home, you inappropriate elf.


The best news of December

For me, at least. 

Eli 19.4 found out on Monday that he did get the legislative aide position for the spring semester. That means he's in charge of the interns, instead of being an intern, and it's a salaried position, too. 

He'll be in Lansing three days a week, and he's taking one less class in spring term so that he can work twenty hours a week. He's already a junior, though, based on his credits, so he has the flexibility to do this. 

Very happy, but not surprised. 

In other news, I got him a book on cooking for a holiday gift, and it's so large that I'm using it as a dumbbell until we open gifts. That's what 1000+ pages can do for you. 

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Another Michigan Example

Sometimes I talk about "Midwest things," because it's just different up here. 

In many places in the country, a particularly tricky environment for pedestrians would prompt people to set up a webcam and document their unfortunate pratfalls. 

Not here. 

I went for a walk on Sunday and saw this on the sidewalk. 

I particularly help the arrow associated with the word "up."

This person was so considerate that they actually painted this message on the sidewalk. I'm guessing it's not in chalk because the chalk could wash away. 

It's not in the 5-7-5 format, but this is Midwestern haiku 

A Thought

 Is Plato the Scottie Pippen of philosophers? 

Monday, December 07, 2020

The Post Office

I needed to ship a holiday gift overseas. 

I went to a UPS store, because I thought it might be less crowded (lots of people sick here, and hospitals are at capacity, so my paranoid is cubed right now). I walked in and explained what I wanted (no need for fast shipping). I asked the guy how much it would cost. 

He looked in a few manuals, punched a button or two, and said "One hundred and four dollars."

I gave him my very best "You're shitting me" look. 

He shrugged. "UPS only does expedited shipments overseas. It's all air."

I didn't ask this question, but what the hell are other shipping services doing? Sending it across the Atlantic on a balsa raft?

So I went to the Post Office. 

I generally avoid the Post Office, not because I've gotten poor service, but because it tends to be crowded. Very crowded. My decision making tree about when to spend time in a public place indoors during COVID consists of the following question: would I commit a bank robbery at this time?

I'm not going to rob a bank when it's as crowded as the Post Office.

However, the Post Office is literally a two-minute walk from the apartment, and I wasn't going to spend a hundred dollars shipping a twenty dollar gift, so off I went. 

Walking up to the window at a Post Office was incredible. Behind the clerks, it looked like an episode of Hoarders. There was so much paper and envelopes and just random shit absolutely jammed back there, and it was stacked in layers that looked like geological strata. 

But it was immediately clear that the clerks knew where every damn thing was back there. They were hoarder savants. It was spectacular.

Also, the clerk was unbelievably good at her job. She didn't waste a single word, but still managed to be friendly. I was out of there in less than five minutes. 

How much did it cost me? Fourteen dollars. 

Hopefully that balsa raft has a big sail.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a fascinating look at the technology that saved Romain Grosjean's life last weekend: How Romain Grosjean walked away from F1’s scariest crash in decades. Also, this is a terrific read: WarGames for real: How one 1983 exercise nearly triggered WWIII.

Jazzy bagpipes? We've got jazzy bagpipes.

Here's an astonishing exploit: iPhone zero-click Wi-Fi exploit is one of the most breathtaking hacks ever.

From Wally, and it's a charming little experience: Short Trip. This is remarkably badass: 7 levels of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". This is amazing: Tom Scott | The Most Dangerous Path In Britain.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's a fantastic discovery: Accidental Renaissance: today's photos on yesterday's canvas.

Excellent links from C. Lee (the rest of the links this week). First and second, two bleak articles about Frank Herbert's Dune:
Heresies of "Dune".
Race Consciousness: Fascism and Frank Herbert’s “Dune”.

A terrific read: 
Breaking out of the Malthusian trap: How pandemics allow us to understand why our ancestors were stuck in poverty

Very useful information: Study: Opening windows not best defense against droplets in car.

An incredible story of evolution: Medicinal Plant May Have Evolved Camouflage to Evade Humans.

Not what I pictured: Police Sketches of Literary Characters Based on Their Book Descriptions.

This is such a nice story: Room 8, The Cat That Adopted An Echo Park School, Died 50 Years Ago Today.

Italian Night!


The Wildlife Park in a Backyard

My friend Kim in Austin (friend established in 1988, I think) has a small backyard that is country-adjacent, and it's amazing. All kinds of creatures wander by and adopt her, and she sends me pictures. 


I think there was a herd of goats in an adjacent pasture, a few years ago. Named squirrels. Every bird you can imagine. 

This backyard is only about 300 square feet, but the nature density is astounding.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius


Unquestionably, the finest Christmas display I've ever seen. All it's missing is Hermey.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

The Strange Street

I walked down the strange street today.

Unless you live in a gated community, you have a strange street. Some neighborhoods have more than one, but every neighborhood has a strange street. 

The strange street isn't dangerous. It's just strange.

It was 40 today and sunny (in Michigan in December, this qualifies as Jamaica), so I went for a long walk. I went west, which I normally don't do, and that's why I walked down the strange street.

If you're wondering if I've been down the strange street before, I have. It's the same street where I passed a house that had motor oil and cereal stacked high in a window, as if they were repelling a strange vampire who could only be warded off by 10W-40 and Cheerios. 

Today, there was another incident that could only happen on the strange street.

I passed a house that is fairly common here: two stories, but the first story has a visible roof. Something like this (not the actual house, but similar):

This house had a satellite dish (DISH network) on the lower roof. Three feet away from the first dish was--another dish.

I took a closer look.

One of the dishes was no longer hooked up. The identical dish beside it was.

As someone who is ruthlessly efficient precisely because I'm so lazy, I found this commitment to indifference highly impressive. 

What was even more impressive was that these dishes, because of their position on the lower roof, really stood out. Sore thumb level. 

Still, though, loosening those four mounting bolts and taking that extra dish down? Let's not get crazy here.

The strange street added to its reputation today. Respect. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

There Was One

I said there were no carefree moments during this pandemic, but I did have one. 

The Friday before Eli 19.3 came back for Thanksgiving, he called me. I was surprised, because we'd talked on the phone the night before. 

"Dad, I have some time, and I want to work on the book.," he said. 

Not my book. Not The Man You Trust.

What he was talking about was a children's book we discussed last summer. 

One day, I got a word in my head, a combination of two words that overlapped, and it was a funny word. The word itself suggested a story. 

I told Eli about this, and we talked about what this story would look like. 

In the end, we had come up with a very strong opening scene, and a very strong ending scene, and not much in-between except a general notion about a story. 

I told him that we should just remember what we'd done and let it sit for a while. Which we did. 

I hadn't thought about it in months until he called, but once we started talking, everything happened all at once. Over the course of about thirty minutes, we designed an entire plot together. 

It was the greatest phone call of my life

It wasn't the plot that made it great, although the plot is very funny. What made it great was the way we were bouncing ideas off each other. One of us would start something and the other one would get a better idea from it, and we just kept going back and forth until everything fit.

It was the most creative thirty minutes of my life. Eli's, too. And the fact that we were doing it together was joyous. 

"What just happened?" he asked, laughing, when we were done. 

"I think we just plotted an entire book," I said. "In half an hour."

"This is the kind of thing we do," he said. 

It is the kind of thing we do. In so many ways.

Beards Beards Beards

 There was a commercial last night for a shipping service, and there was a bearded representative of "Beardbrand" singing its praises. 

While he was talking, the bearded man from Beardbrand was preparing a package for shipment to the "Urban Beardsman." 

I found this entire sequence delightful.

Site Meter