Thursday, January 28, 2021

Friday Links!

The weeks and the editing grind on. 

Leading off this week, from David Gloier, because I never thought I'd hear the term "fossilized butthole," it's This fossilized butthole gives us a rare window into dinosaur sex.

Monterrey Bay Aquarium has live cams, and as the saying goes, they're real and they're spectacular (the jellyfish one, in particular): Live cams

From Jonathon Woods, and it's remarkable how much of this is useful: Health Advice for 50-Year-Olds from 100 Years Ago.

From Meg McReynolds, and all of these are genuinely wonderful: Animals interrupting wildlife photographers. This is very, very funny: Joshua Henry demonstrates how to fake performing soul music.

From Wally, and these numbers are mind-blowing: Top Japanese Cosplayer Is Making Lots Of Money. Believe it or not, this is even crazier: TOP 10 Most Expensive BICYCLES 2021. The headline  really says it all: London Woman’s Home Turned Into An ‘Inferno’ By Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘This Smells Like My Vagina’ Candle. This is super cool: Nerf’s new blasters curve their shots a la Angelina Jolie in Wanted

From Eric Lundquist, and it's an article about acoustic mirrors with photographs straight out of Monty Python: Acoustic Location and Sound Mirrors.

Closing out with fantastic links from C. Lee, to no one's surprise: 50 Years of Gaming History, by Revenue Stream (1970-2020). This is a terrific read: A Brief History of the Crock Pot. These stories are astonishing: 10 Stories That Prove Gurkhas Are the Fiercest Fighters on the Planet. This is intriguing: Study: Cats rub bodies against silver vine to repel mosquitoes. Holey moley, it's cannoli: The erotic origins of Italy's most famous sweet

Who I'm Missing Today

Yesterday, I suddenly had a Monty Python skit in my head.

Not an actual skit, but one that I devised entirely from me missing them. And it's totally derivative, but I still like it.

The premise is that Michael Palin is employed as an opinion surveyor by John Cleese. Cleese brings him to share the results of a particularly important survey. Palin begins explaining that it was extremely difficult to get people to respond to this particularly silly question, but Cleese explains that if he didn't get ten people to respond to the survey, as requested, he would be immediately sacked.

Palin starts off by giving the name of each person before he gives their opinion. The first three or four names are entirely normal, but then they get stranger and stranger, and it becomes apparent that he didn't actually survey ten people and is just making the other names up. Cleese becomes more and more acerbic in his responses, and when Palin says the name "Brigadier General Lance Corporal," it signals Palin to comically rip him to shreds. Cleese then goes through several names even more ridiculous than the ones Palin created and asks him if those people were not available. 

I know. Silly. But I still miss Monty Python, and it's a measure of how much they influenced me that they're still in head, giving me ideas forty years after I first saw them.

There Have Been Some Questions Raised About the Judging

John sent me this picture of the sunrise in Austin, and it's beautiful.

This was my sunrise:

I guess it's a tie.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

It's About Time

I got to go snowshoeing today for the first time this winter.

We're about 35" inches below normal snow levels in Grand Rapids. It's been warm, and it's been dry. The lake hadn't even frozen over until recently (not Lake Michigan, the little lake near my apartment). 

There are plenty of groomed trails within half an hour drive, but I always prefer to go to the lake. It feels so open and relaxing, and all you see are fishermen, usually. It's just another house for them. 

People in Michigan are big on all kinds of houses, and buy as many types as they can. There's the regular house, and the summer cottage, and then the little fishing house that is usually about the size of a small shed. 

Anyway, groomed trails are nice, but the views when I'm on the lake are so beautiful. Examples:

The second image includes a fishing hut that's actually a tent instead of a wooden hut. 

When I'm heading out on the lake, I'll see little trails in the snow where people have been dragging their fishing stuff (you can see one on my right in the second picture). And occasionally I'll see a trail from cross-country skies. 

It's going to stay cold, with another decent snow coming Saturday-Sunday, so it looks like I'll be able keep doing this for a while. 

One of my snowshoes has a squeak, so every time I take a step with that foot, it sounds like a duck quacking. This was very annoying, until I realized I could pretend that an actual duck was walking beside me. 

After that, it was quite pleasant.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Acoustic Mirrors

I was all teed up to write about how you can't find Internet information on anything anymore because search engines return nothing but astroturf marketing sites, but fortunately for you, I stumbled on something much more interesting. 

Before radar was invented, there was no way to detect enemy aircraft beyond looking up in the sky. That wasn't particularly useful. Oh, and there was also no way to detect zeppelins (zeppelins!).

During World War I, Britain developed an interesting detection system: acoustic mirrors. Here's a description of how they worked:
When a planar sound wave strikes a reflective, concave surface, the surface will reflect the sound and also focus it to a point. The larger the surface, the longer the wavelength that will be reflected. Now, suppose that you wanted to know when enemy airplanes are approaching. You set up a number of large reflecting concave surfaces facing the English Channel, place microphones at the focal points. Then you build a communications system to relay that information to a central command, where you can instruct your defense forces. You have an early-warning system of sound mirrors.

The level of ingenuity is really remarkable. 

Physically, they were quite interesting. Some were shaped like huge satellite dishes, but one built at the Denge RAF facility was curved wall that was 230' wide and 16' high, which is massive. 

How effective were they? Well, theoretically, they could detect enemy aircraft up to 25 miles away (usually it was closer to 15), and could also establish the approaching direction. This was an enormous improvement over "nothing," but the weather could have a significant effect on the detection capabilities, so it wasn't consistent. 

They were used until radar was invented in 1935 and a nationwide radar system was put in place. 

Many of these mirrors still exist today, and if you want to see a video of one in action, there's one at the bottom of this article, and it's excellent: Giant Concrete “Sound Mirrors” were Used to Detect Enemy Aircraft Before Radar.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Remarkably Wrong

I was told a story today about a clock.

This clock was in a school, and it was a bad clock. A very bad clock, because it wasn't even right twice a day.

That's right: it was less accurate than an inert clock. 

This clock was almost a stopped clock, but not quite. Sporadically, it would spring to life for a few hours. 

It was still the wrong time.

However, the that fact that it did occasionally run meant it displayed the correct time even less often than twice a day. 

I thought about what it meant for a clock to somehow be less accurate than an inert clock, and now I can't stop trying to think of an equivalent person I've known. Surely, at some point in my life, I've met someone like that.

If you have stories on this critical subject, please share them.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an astonishing story (and the songs are mesmerizing): Saving the Songs of South Korea’s Female Divers.

From Wally, and this is beautiful: The folding process of origami Samurai Warrior. This is a fascinating story: The Victorian sci-fi pioneer who imagined our world then vanished in time. This is a terrific read: The Catalpa Rescue: The story behind one of Australia's most incredible prison escapes. The payoff is so worth it: Cleaning snow off a roof in Japan. These images are so stunning: Wonderful Colorized Portraits of Russian Fighters In World War 2.

From Meg McReynolds, and these are delightful: Writer/Comedian Joe Mande’s Awesome DIY Cap Embroidery. This is remarkable: See What Happens When You Tickle a Rat | National Geographic. I would eat in this restaurant: 'Not that good': Montreal restaurant's brutally honest menu pulls in the customers.

From C. Lee, and it's a terrific read: The Crooked Geometry of Round Trips. So is this: A Brief HIstory of Hovis Bread: the Bread That Made This The Most Famous Hill in Britain. And a parody: The Two Ronnies - their classic 1978 'Hovis' Advert. Another fascinating bit of history: A Brief History of Peanut Butter. This is excellent: Medieval Wisdom for Mental Health in COVID-19.

From David Gloier, and this is amazing: Caligula’s Gardens, Long Hidden Beneath Italian Apartment Building, to Go on View. That's aggressive: Enormous pigeon-eating catfish wreaking havoc on Europe’s ecosystems.

The Holiday Season That Just Wouldn't Quit

Evan the Inappropriate Elf is still cheerfully inhabiting the dining area, even in late January.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Fitness Info That You May Find Useful

I read two studies recently that I've incorporated into my workouts.

I need to get stronger and more fit to keep up with Eli 19.5, but my mental tolerance for workout intensity has always far exceeded by physical tolerance. I've always worked out at a higher level than my body could really handle, all the way back to my own 19.5 days.

Because of that, I've gotten injured. A lot.  

Now, I'm trying to address this in a structural manner. 

Body-weight squats are a terrific way to build up your legs, but I have some long-term funk in my left knee that means my knee always hurts when I do them. Plus they were hard on my back. 

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on a study (The Effects of Modified Wall Squat Exercises on Average Adults’ Deep Abdominal Muscle Thickness and Lumbar Stability) about modified wall squats that shows a method of doing squats that takes pressure off my knees. As a bonus, the program they tested significantly increases your abdominal strength as well. 

Each rep is held in two positions, the first as parallel to the ground as you can (for five seconds), and then raised up about fifteen degrees for another three seconds. 

The full workout is ten sets of ten, and I'm nowhere near that, but after a few weeks, I'm up to six sets of ten (with about a minute between each set). It's hard, but my knees and back don't hurt. 

The link above includes images so that you can see the correct form in very clear detail.

I've also done weight training many times over the years, with the typical me result: injury. I figured if I wasn't lifting every other day, I wouldn't be getting a benefit, so I'd stopped. 

That was incorrect. 

Here's the study: Comparison of once‐weekly and twice‐weekly strength training in older adults. What it found was that strength training once a week captures the same strength gains as more frequent training if each exercise is done to the point of failure. 

Hey, that's right up my alley. 

I'm lifting every fifth day now. I use a twenty-pound dumbbell, have six different exercises, and do each one to muscle failure. I'm not getting hurt, and it's also easy to stay motivated when you're not lifting every other day. 

I don't know if this produces visible increases in muscle size, but I don't need that. I mean, I'm super sexy already (NARRATOR: he is not). I just want the strength.

First Steps

I just came back from the store with two bags of tortilla chips and six boxes of Pop-tarts. It's all part of my New Year's resolution to eat better in 2021.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021


I read a Eurogamer article last week that mentioned myrioramas.

I'd never heard of them before. 

In the early nineteenth century, one form of entertainment for children consisted of a deck of cards with images that could be combined in any order to suggest stories. 

The cards were taller and thinner than regular cards, and there were roughly twenty yards in a pack. They were laid side by side.

The combination of images was a kind of wondrous tool for the imagination. 

It's one of the most creative things I've ever heard of, both on the storytelling end and the process of creating the deck. How difficult is it to make twenty images around a central theme that can be combined in any order?

I instantly regretted not being able to see these, but as it turns out, you can. Here's one of the most famous myrioramas, with an Italian landscape theme: Bodleian Library.

Even better, there is a small set of contemporary decks, and they're all listed here: myriorama.

I think I'm going to order the science fiction set and see what happens. Making a deck would be fantastic, but I'd drive DQ Artist Fredrik crazy long before its completion. 

And I have something else to finish.

That's a Surprise

The best thing ever is when you find out a favorite band that disbanded in 2005 actually reformed in 2015 and has released two new albums while you were bemoaning their demise.

Monday, January 18, 2021


I started making this post over a decade ago, and I'll be making it every year for as long as I do this.

Today is a national holiday in the United States to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's easy to forget the kind of hatred and stupidity that King was fighting against, but a good place to start is here: What was Jim Crow. The Wikipedia entry for Jim Crow laws also has detailed information. And the Wikipedia entry for King is here.

Also, here's a link to a 2006 post when Eli asked me about Martin Luther King for the first time. It's still one of my favorite posts.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Friday Links!

From Jonathon W., and all I have to say is sea shanties! The progression is amazing: TikTok is making sea shanties big again.

Here's something that's a respite from the madness: Somebody matched scenes from Peanuts TV specials to "Roundabout" and the results are excellent

From Wally, and this is interesting: A Brief History of Naval Wargames. These are excellent: 18 Maps Of The United States That Made Us Say "Whoa"

Fantastic links from C. Lee. First, it's fascinating look at Japan in the 1930s: Japanese lessons for the American coup. This is a fascinating story: Inside The Historic Moment When Martin Luther King And Malcolm X Met For The First And Only Time. An absolutely astonishing bit of history: ‘Well, What Do You Mean, We Can’t Join the Klan?’ An absolutely remarkable man: Meet Paul Grüninger, The Forgotten WW2 Hero Who Defied Orders To Save Thousands Of Jews. An excellent look at design: Why Is it So Hard to Design a Good Can Opener?  It's a solved problem, by the way: This ‘Sick’ Japanese Can Opener Might Truly Be the Best. This is a lengthy, amazing read: What Japan's Wild Snow Monkeys Can Teach Us About Animal Culture.

From Steven Davis, and I have no words for the level of strange here: TEQBALL - Teqball World Championships 2019.

From David Gloier, and this is so cool (John Harwood alert): Defunctland VR Lets You Experience A Classic Disney Ride 25 Years After It Was Closed. This is a fascinating detective story: A CIA spyplane crashed outside Area 51 a half-century ago. This explorer found it.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's Rodent Team Six: Watch: In 1948, Idaho Officials Sent 76 Beavers Parachuting Into Idaho’s Wilderness.

Observational, not Political

When you start off your phone conversations with "I guess I haven't talked to you since the coup attempt last week," something has gone very, very wrong.

What's happening in Congress now is playing out like an episode of Scooby Doo where the gang ignores the first eight murders and only starts investigating because Fred and Daphne are super-pissed that the killer tried to kidnap Velma.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Bad Influence

Eli 19.5, resident bad influence, persuaded me to watch the UK version of Love Island during the break. 

Incredibly, I liked it. I'm still watching it after he's gone back to Ann Arbor.

It's a reality show where everyone is put together and there are various machinations to upset everyone and it's very standard stuff, really. But there's a kind of giddy stupidity about it that becomes far more endearing with UK accents. 

In the season I'm currently watching, here are three of the contestants:
--an influencer
--a ring girl (the woman who holds up the round card at boxing matches)
--a mannequin

I have to respect that. Not the professions, but the people who found them. That's next level.

Mostly, they're more endearing than I ever expected, with profound gems like "Don't come to Love Island if you don't want to love."

I mean, that tells me everything I need to know.  

It's on Hulu in the U.S., if you want your brain to stop working for forty-five minutes at a time. Season five is a strong place to start (god help me, I know the quality of individual seasons).

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

There Are Days Like This

I was going to take a mental health day, but then I realized that you come here because you need a mental health day.

I saw a drink commercial last week where it appeared that they were trying to establish how great it tasted because of the way people walked when they carried it. Sorry, I can't remember which drink, but it made me think about posture in general in advertising. 

It's definitely a thing, just not normally with drink cans. I expect a wave of "confidently holding things" advertisements in the future.

Here's a list of things I put on post-it note to write about: reindeers, camel toe, gymnastics. I no longer remember the relationship between these items, and for that, we can all be grateful. 

Here's a picture from my building: 

I am surprised this was necessary. Nice use of bold, by the way. 

One of the legendary Seven Sinks of Cibola has been found:

Monday, January 11, 2021

Nick Nick Nick Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon broadcast an NFL game yesterday and it was mostly better than the real thing. 

Have a look at the superior information presented:

Those are fantastic.

The main two two announcers did an excellent job of presenting the game in a format that was more understandable for kids. For instance, in explaining a delay of game penalty, the announcer said "Delay of game is like what happens when your mom tells you to do the dishes and she starts counting. If she gets down to zero, you're in trouble."

Taysom Hill was "like the kid who's good at every sport in recess."


Then they mentioned that Manti Teʻo was playing. 

"Kids, Manti Teʻo is famous for being catfished. That's like when your older brother gets a letter from a girl he doesn't know, and they agree to go on a date and the girl turns out to be a boy. Boy, that would be be awkward, huh?"

They didn't actually say that, of course. I guess some things are better left unexplained.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from DQ Literary Advisor John Harwood, a magnificently written and poignant story: The Last Two Northern White Rhinos On Earth.

Here's something I ran across, and it's unbelievably elegant: Brazilian Longboard Dancing.

From Wally, and it's ray-tracing from a retro perspective: I bought a $600 graphics card to play Quake 2 with ray tracing. Oops: HG Wells fans spot numerous errors on Royal Mint's new £2 coin. An award-winning, fantastical image: resting for a bit. Incredible: The last Civil War widow has died.

From C. Lee, and it's a terrific history of the Xbox: Xbox: The Oral History of an American Video Game Empire. There is an utterly delightful story in this interview: Ray Bradbury at 100: A Conversation Between Sam Weller and Dana Gioia. Here's The Digital Antiquarian with a fantastic retrospective on flight simulators: The Dream of Flight. This is terrific: From Church Key to Pop Top, a Look Back at Canned Beer. This is surely the greatest story ever: a good time to share the greatest movie star story ever about Roger Moore. This is an excellent read: My two weeks with John le Carré. These are fantastic: The Best Illusions of the Year are 2020's Last Attempt to Break Your Brain.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and hopefully you'll be able to travel there soon: 15 Bizarre Museums to Add to Your Next U.S. Road Trip.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and it's amazing: 2000-Year-Old Snack Bar Unearthed in Pompeii,

From Eilidh, and it's both entertaining and baffling: In 2017, UK water companies still rely on “magic”.

This is from David Gloier, and it's the most magical, impossible thing I've ever read (Meg McReynolds alert!): Researchers Seek to Demystify the Metabolic Magic of Sled Dogs.

On Goals

I read this on the Reddit rowing sub-forum last week:
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems."
--James Clear

I don't know anything about James Clear, but that's one of the most profound things I've read in a long time. 

I talked to Eli 19.5 at length about this, and we agreed that it's a good description of how he manages his life. He is full of systems that many other kids his age simply don't have, and it's one of the reasons he's been so successful. 

In my mind, this started with hockey. We worked together to create schedules and habits that supported his effort. Workouts focused on explosion, not endurance, because the goalie position is an explosive one. He had workout coaches and stretching coaches. He did visual training. He did mental training. 

On the ice, he was systematic, too. 

His entire approach was system-based, which I never understood until I read that quote and started thinking about what we'd done. 

That's translated to the rest of his life, I think, because he is incredibly well-organized and thorough in any area where he wants to excel. He learned how to cook in the most systematic way I've ever seen, selecting recipes on the basis of what they were teaching him. 

Even in the pandemic, he's remained systematic. 

Here's the bonus. In helping him do those things in hockey, I learned about systems myself, even though I wouldn't have expressed it that way at the time. The Man You Trust is absolutely a product of systems and not goals. 

So I started something in order to help him, not even fully understanding it at the time, and it turned into something terrific for both of us. 

I think this explains why so many people (including myself, in the past) can't reach their goals. They have aspirations, but they can't get started, because it's hard to get started and stay on track without systems to support those aspirations. Actually, it's more than hard--it's almost impossible. 

I wish I understood this when I was twenty, but that's true about almost everything, really. The really fantastic thing, though, is that Eli 19.5 already understands. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Set Point

I've been paying quite a bit of attention to heat lately. 

I turn off the heat at night. In the morning, I've been interested in how long it takes to heat up the apartment, since I have a temperature/humidity gadget in the kitchen. 

At first, I thought I had it figured out after I collected data for a few days. Roughly 20 minutes to raise the temperature 1 degree, and roughly 1 hour for it to drop 1 degree. 

There was variance, though, and I couldn't understand why, because I thought the temperature increase would be linear. 

It's not, though. It's something much interesting. 

After doing some research (which I'll probably mangle here), I discovered that an enclosed space has a set point in terms of temperature. For instance, the apartment has a set point (roughly) of 69, which represents its equilibrium temperature. The further it gets from the equilibrium, the faster it heats/cools to return to its normal state. 

When I wake up in the morning, the lower the temperature, the faster it initially heats up. The speed of heating decays as I get closer to the equilibrium, and it really slows down when I keep heating the room until it's 71 (because I like to leave the heat off for hours at a time instead of it coming on every half hour or so). 

So it's definitely more efficient in an energy sense to turn off the heat when you're away for a few hours instead of just setting it at a lower temperature. Although this would probably not work for Garret in Winnipeg.

Yes We Have No Bananas

Anyone who's surprised by what's happening today hasn't been paying attention. That is what happens when paranoia is cultivated as a political strategy. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Home Improvement

 Now considerably more accurate:

To be fair, they really don't make mats for introverts.

Monday, January 04, 2021

The New Year, In Two Moments

Eli 19.5 returned to Ann Arbor and the television in his house was broken. It was of unknown ownership, six years old, and based on the sequence of flashing red lights when powered on, had sustained either a backlight or power supply failure. 

When he was younger, I'd gotten him a 43" Samsung LCD for his basement area, and it still worked, so we agreed to meet in Lansing halfway. At our favorite, magical exit: 101. 

I will call this exit The Wonderful 101 forever more, because it is the easiest, most perfect exit, and it leads to gas and food within a hundred yards of the interstate. It's exactly halfway to Ann Arbor.

It's also exactly halfway to Detroit (the rink where he had goalie lessons, at least). I believe it is halfway to every place on Earth, including Taiwan.

In this case, we agreed to meet in the Wendy's parking lot, where we had eaten many a lunch on the way to the rink. 

While I was waiting for him, I was awed by the staggering line in the drive-through lane. Over a dozen cars, and they weren't moving. Then I saw an enormous red truck pull up at the end of the line. 

Inside the truck was a man shoveling a handful of fries into his mouth. 

Apparently, he had already been through the drive through, and was now willing to wait fifteen minutes to go right through it again. 

That's commitment.

That was Moment #1.

Moment #2 was today on my way back from the store. School had just let out, and I stopped to let some children cross the street. They were all with their parents, and while most hurried along, there was one who was considerably more interesting. 

She decided that it was critically important to step on the broad white stripes that crossed the street and nothing in-between, which required her to invent a stride that would have received enthusiastic approval from The Ministry of Silly Walks.

Her mother was trying to hurry her along, but she was resolute, and she touched every white stripe and nothing more. 

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