Thursday, April 29, 2021

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's brilliant because it's McSweeney's: Vaccine Side Effect, or Have You Just Been Alive For Forty Years?

From C. Lee, and it's a fantastic obituary: A Toast to Jim Steinman: The Songwriting Powder Keg Who Kept Giving Off Sparks. Plus, two of Steinman's best: Streets of Fire: Collector’s Edition: Nowhere Fast and Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young. Remarkable, potentially: ‘Our biggest challenge? Lack of imagination’: the scientists turning the desert green. My hero: Kati Kariko Helped Shield the World From the Coronavirus. Argh, so much conflicting research over the years: Ice for Sore Muscles? Think Again. Interesting (some people approach writing this way, too): When asked to fix something, we don’t even think of removing parts. Not my favorite: How the Hime Haircut Took Over the Internet in 2021. Millions and millions of people are selfish idiots, and look what it got us: How Covid Upended a Century of Patterns in U.S. Deaths.

From Wally, and it's crazy: Crazy Man Cuts 100 Ft California Palm Tree. I mean, he's not wrong: Nailed It: Ikea Employee Is A Hero To All Retail Employees! I Used To Be Happy, Until You Walked In. Incredibly, we planned to invade Brazil in WWII: Plan Rubber.

Spring! Tulips!

I always complain about Michigan winters (to be fair, everyone does), but I have to admit, I'm pretty fond of the springs.

What happens is that everything blooms in about a two-week period, and you go from this bleak hellscape to absolutely bursting with color. 

Tulips, in particular, are very popular up here. I like both their geometry and the fact that there are an endless number of colors. 

During the walk mentioned yesterday, I wound up taking picture of tulips because they were everywhere. Within three blocks of my apartment, there must have been thirty different yards with tulips in bloom.


After suffering through nasty-ass winter, it's a nice reward.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Books and Covers and Such

I had a funny thought today. 

I think I have a lot of funny thoughts. Sometimes, they're actually funny. 

I was walking around the neighborhood today (I'm trying to do that every day now, both to maintain a minimum level of fitness and to clear my head), and I was thinking how funny it would be if other people could hear what you're listening to. 

I mean, I look like the whitest white guy on the planet. I'm always mistaken for some other, more important white guy, precisely because I look so white. 

So I wonder what these people would do if they knew what I was listening to on my earbuds while I walked past them. 

Like Curtis Mayfield: Freddie's Dead, or Pusherman, or Superfly. Three of the baddest funk tracks ever, as far as I'm concerned. Or Parliament/Funkadelic. Or Prince. 


If that music sharing could happen, I think the person walking by would start looking around for someone else when they heard my music. Maybe reboot their phone because the app was clearly malfunctioning. 

Behind every introvert, there are interesting sub-plots.

Oh, and I was walking around taking pictures of tulips while I was listening to this. Heh. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


I saw this sign in front of a little joint on the way back home yesterday:
Fried Foods

This happens a lot up here. Instead of picking a genre, there are a ton of little places that do everything. I've mentioned the restaurant near here that is Mexican/Polish (seriously). They have nachos, serrano shrimp, queso, keilbasa, and pierogis. Oh, and margaritas, of course.

It's confusing. And usually not very good. 

In addition, "fried food" is an ethnicity up here. Mexican, Italian, fried food. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Kneel Before The Magnificence of Everything

I beg of you, go watch this trailer: Craftopia.

The trailer is two minutes long. 

The game is heavily, heavily, influenced by Breath of the Wild. Someone asked the question (as one does) "What would happen if we made Breath of the Wild and then put in every other single game ever made?" 

Then they answered that question.

If you didn't watch the trailer, here you go (what I wrote down as I watched):
Breath of the Wild
Hang gliding
Dark Souls skeletons
Dune buggies

Hard to keep up with, huh? That was in the first minute.

Second minute:
Cows conveyed into a gigantic vat of vegetable soup
Lava Monsters
Rock Monsters
Dinosaur Skeleton Monsters

Oh, and there's fishing. I had to look that up. 

This game is in Early Access, and it's janky as hell. It's like Golden Corral--everything is available, but none of it is really good. 

However, I admire their ambition. And maybe they'll work it out.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a delightful story: Five-year-old curator leads summer art exhibition in Bath. This is a terrific article: The Humble Shrub That’s Predicting a Terrible Fire Season. Within five years, I bet: Could electric tattoos be the next step in body art? This is an excellent deep dive into virus technology: The very common vaccine ingredient at the center of J&J, AstraZeneca drama.

Terrific links from C. Lee this week. As croissants do: Mystery tree beast turns out to be croissant. I'm guessing 2020 might be in the Top Ten: Skies went dark: Historians pinpoint the very 'worst year' ever to be alive. An amazing story: How Soviet Children’s Books Became Collectors’ Items in India. This is a terrific essay: On Cats. This is thoughtful (to me, his style was incredibly undisciplined and self-indulgent, but I think I'm in the minority): David Foster Wallace: Genius? Now, three excellent links on sewers:
It’s Time to Knock the Toilet Off Its Pedestal
How Philadelphia Will Solve the Sewage Nightmare Under Its Feet
Urban Fish Ponds: Low-tech Sewage Treatment for Towns and Cities

From Wally, and this is a fascinating article: First GMO Mosquitoes to Be Released In the Florida Keys. This is remarkable: Thousands of Rare Artifacts Discovered Beneath Tudor Manor’s Attic Floorboards. A hotel obituary, of all things: So Long to the Hotel Pennsylvania. An incredible piece of machinery: IBM Selectric Golf Ball in slow motion.

From Meg McReynolds, and it is so, so funny: We are the Anglo-Saxon caucus! Let us have maethlfrith! Let us have drihtinbeage! 

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and they'll pry my lawn from my cold, dead fingers (no they won't--I don't even want one): Death to America’s Manicured Lawns.

The Secret Wonders of the Second Floor

The way my building is set up, there are retail spaces on the first floor. The second floor is more commercial and less transactional. Floors three through five are residential. 

I'm on the third floor. 

In a recent spate of cold and wet weather, I was trying to find a way to practice putting (I've been working on putting with a metronome, which has made a huge difference in the smoothness of my stroke). The only problem was that I don't have much carpet in my apartment--only two rooms, and I'm limited to 12 ft. putts and in. That kind of repetition gets boring very quickly.

I pass through part of the second floor on the way to the lobby. I've done this for over a year, and then one night it just hit me: the entire second floor has carpeted hallways, and no one is there after about 7 p.m.


I won't lie. The putting is brutally difficult. The carpet is faster than Augusta, the breaks are enormous (nothing is level in this state), and any tiny inconsistency in my stroke is brutally exposed. 

On the positive side, I can practice any putt up to about 100 feet, if I wanted, even though the useful max is about 35. 

It's fun, though. And it definitely feels like I'm getting away with something, which is always a bonus.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Arms Raised

It was just past 5 p.m. yesterday. 

I was on my way to see Gracie when I saw a woman with her arms raised, waiting to cross the street as I drove past. 

I teared up immediately, because I knew that meant the jury had found Derek Chauvin guilty. I'm still tearing up as I write this.

Progress is difficult and infuriating in this country. The verdict was the first time since the state of Minnesota was founded--in 1858--that a police offer was found guilty for killing a black man. 

It was a moment of progress, but there is so, so far to go. 

Some people want to say the struggle for racial justice in this country is black versus white. It's not. It's black and white versus the white people who think that racism is a privilege of their race. It's black and white versus the segment of the police force who act like they're in a slave militia from the eighteenth century. It's black and white versus the white past and the people who cling to it.

We won't get there for a long time, certainly not in my lifetime. But it's a day to feel like maybe we can get there someday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

A Relief

I was watching a show yesterday, which was about a woman on trial for murder who was facing the death penalty. The did an excellent job of showing the trauma of the trial, and at the end, when she was found not guilty, she left the court and a smile broke out on her face for the first time in about three episodes. 

I realized that I felt almost the same yesterday, when I reached two weeks after my second vaccine dose. I'd been carrying around this strong feeling of dread because of the pandemic in ways that I didn't really understand, and it was only when I let some of it go that I realized how heavy it had been. 

There was news today that there have been 6,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. among the 84 million people who have been fully vaccinated. None of those people died or even became severely ill. 

Those are staggeringly positive numbers. 

Obviously, there are caveats, given the short time frame post-vaccination that has been measured. By any measure, though, it's still incredibly good news. 

Anti-vaxxers have a peculiar kind of madness. 

Now I have to (slowly) re-enter the world. Still wearing a mask, of course. It's going to feel very, very strange walking into a shop and just looking around. I haven't done simple things like that in over a year, just like many of you. 

I'm introverted enough that I'm not comfortable around many people, anyway. I've still missed some things, though. It will be nice to have them back. 

Eli 19.8 received his second dose of vaccine last week and woke up overnight with a fever of 104. This happens, on rare occasions. So it wrecked him, too (he's fine now). 

Monday, April 19, 2021

I think We Can All Agree

I saw this as part of a Netflix show summary: "inexplicably sent back in time."

Does anyone get sent back in time explicably? I don't feel like they do. 

Netflix's show summaries are catastrophically bad, generally. "She'd lost her way, but after one big moment, she may get everything she wanted." That describes 80% of the shows on Netflix at this point. 

The other 20% start off like this: "Intrigue. Corruption. Deceit."

That's the catalog, basically. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Friday Links!

I stumbled onto some amazing links this week, so let's start with that.

This is incredible: Original AP report of Lincoln’s assassination.  A touching and beautiful story: It never ends like it should. A wonderful idea: Designer Creates Hilarious Travel Posters for America’s National Parks Based on Their 1-Star Reviews. This is terrific: The story of Starflight, EA's sci-fi sandbox that laid the way for Mass Effect

Also, this is a delightful bit of confusion: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

From Wally, and this is an excellent, longform read: Cracking the Case of London’s Elusive, Acrobatic Rare-Book Thieves. Sherlock Holmes nerds, it's one of the best days of your life: The 100 Best, Worst, and Strangest Sherlock Holmes Portrayals of All-time, Ranked. Man, come on! French police on trail of international gang of Lego looters

From jdv, and it's stunning: Incredible Ad for Pocari Sweat, Shot in a Long, Motorized Set.

From C. Lee, and damn it, nothing is ever what it promises: Too Much High-Intensity Exercise May Be Bad for Your Health. Of course they did and no one's surprised: Egypt's First Woman Ship Captain Marwa Elselehdar Blamed For Suez Canal Blockage Despite Not Being On Boat. An incredible story: She sued for pregnancy discrimination. Now she’s battling Google’s army of lawyers. Oops: Tui plane in ‘serious incident’ after every ‘Miss’ on board was assigned child’s weight. This is so cool: Researchers Develop Free Software That Can Create Japanese Wood Joinery

From Meg McReynolds, and it's surprisingly useful: How to Make Friends as an Adult. Canadian national treasures: Dan Levy and Eugene Levy Teach You Youth Slang | Vanity Fair.

Shots Fired--From a Gun

I am not muscular.

For one, I'm thin. 6'0", 160. Not a lot to work with. 

For another, I kept getting hurt lifting weights, particularly my lower back. 

However, I mentioned recently that I'd seen a study establishing that lifting weights every fifth day to failure (doing reps until you can't) still helped you build and retain strength. 

This was a thing I could do, and it gave my body plenty of time to recover. 

Since then, I've put on a little muscle. Let me rephrase that: I've put on little muscles. Not much, really, and maybe I'm the only one who can see them, but I'm probably stronger than I've been in ten years. 

In short, I don't have many muscles, but that doesn't mean I can't talk a good game.

"When you go have dinner with your girlfriend, I want you to have her measure your bicep," I said. 

"Wait, what?"

"My bicep is 12" now. I need to have the family standard to work toward. I can't get as big as you, but maybe I can narrow the gap a little. It will motivate me."

"I'll do that tonight," he said.

I received no text. 

The next morning, I sent him this:
I guess your bicep measurement was 11 7'8 and you couldn't stand to send it.

Later, the phone rang.

"I just got your ridiculous text."

"Is it?" I asked. 

"I didn't send you the measurement because we couldn't find the tape measure last night."

"That's exactly what a guy with an 11 7/8" bicep would say."

"I'll hang up," he said. 

"I'm coming for you," I said. "Guns blazing." We were both laughing so hard at this point that we could hardly talk.

"Don't push me," he said. "I'm right there."

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Well, There Was One

One of the things that has consistently amazed me about Eli 19.8 is that the moment never seems too big for him. I never met anyone else like that. 

Today, though, Gloria sent me a picture that reminded me there was one moment. 

Have a look:

Some of you will undoubtedly remember Eli 4.9s long-running crush on Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." He had an Ariel doll that he took into the bath every night, and Gloria had to dry it off so he could sleep with it, too. 

Of course, we watched "The Little Mermaid" so many times. So, so many times. 

When we went to Disneyland and he got a chance to meet the "real" Ariel (as far as he knew), he was so shy that he couldn't even talk. Wouldn't sit in her lap. 

But, if you enlarge the picture, you'll see the slyest of sly smiles. 

He still has that smile, to no one's surprise. He just doesn't use it with mermaids anymore.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


I don't why, but I was thinking about being a kid last night.

I always thought we were middle class (I've mentioned this before). When I said this to Mom a few years ago, she started laughing and said we absolutely were not. 

In those days, female teachers were either married or single. The pay reflected that. It was low, because no one conceived of a divorced woman raising two kids, like Mom. Money was very, very tight. 

Her genius, though, was that even though we probably qualified as poor, she never let us feel like it. There's a kind of security in knowing that you have what you need, and I always felt that way. I didn't feel like I was missing out.

I still remember going over to my friend's houses (particularly in East Cliff, which was the "fancy" side of town) and being amazed at the stuff they had. They had so many things they didn't need. 

That's a fundamental difference in lifestyle, I think, moving from having what you need to having what you don't need.

I moved into the "don't need" life for years after I made some money. It seemed like I should want to buy material things, and so I did. 

You get older, though, and realize you don't need those things, and then you reach a point where you don't want to have things you don't need anymore. 

I've reached that point, finally, though much later than many people. It's a relief, really.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A Modest Proposal

You know what I think? 

I think there should be a question on your tax return that says "Favorite Cake." 

You can check either the "Vanilla" box or the "Chocolate" box.

After you file your return, if your income was below a certain level (not that I know anyone who had a tough year, income-wise), in 4-6 weeks you'd receive a cake from the Government, in the flavor you chose. 

The cake would be nicely iced, of course, and it would say "Better Luck Next Year."

That's all I want. Couldn't we all use a nice, encouraging cake?

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Friday Links!

Come for the snacks, stay for the links.

Leading off this week, something so powerful and beautiful that it made me tear up: Letter to My Younger Self.

From Wally, and it's fascinating: Kuleshov Effect. This is concerning: Scientists Implant and Then Reverse False Memories in People. These are beautiful: AI photo restoration shines a light on life in old Ireland.

From jdv, and it's staggeringly bad: Soviet Lord of the Rings.

The Man You Trust (Update)

I haven't given an update on The Man You Trust for a while because I couldn't quantify the remaining work with enough precision to give you an end point. 

I can now. 

At most, there's another three months before this goes off to the copy editor. Then, I decide on publishing. 

It's been a long haul. 

Over four major drafts (and an infinite number of minor ones), it's grown to about 85,000 words. It's taught me I didn't know much about writing. 

I learned, though. I hope so, anyway.

What I believe that means in terms of a purchasing date is sometime this fall. The delay won't be with the writing anymore.

I appreciate all of you hanging in there and politely forgetting that I said this would be completed at least a year ago. The extra time has been put to good use.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Training Table

During my fever dream period Monday night, I had an idea. 

I have lots of ideas. Many of them are stupid. Make your own determination here.

This would be called "Training Table," and it would be a series of frozen meals specifically tied to college football programs. So you'd have the Crimson Tide version of Training Table, or the Wolverine version. 

The people in charge of athletic nutrition at the universities would come up with half a dozen or so different food combinations for frozen dinners, based on what their athletes eat. So you'd be eating the same food as an Alabama linebacker (pure marketing), if you were an Alabama fan. 

The most popular players from that season would have their names/images on the box, and they'd get a cut of the profit.

So for obsessed college football fans (they are legion), it would be a chance to eat like their favorite program and feel even closer to their team. 

Plus, if you ate a bajillion of these meals for a specific team, you'd "win" a limited edition commemorative coin or something, which you could resell for big bucks (again, pure marketing).

Profitability pyramid (scheme):
1. Schools make money. 
2. The athletes on the boxes make money.
3. Consumers get coins they can resell to recoup all the money they spent on the meals (theoretically). 

It feels like a money printing opportunity. 

No, I'm not still feverish. I can see why you'd ask, though.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Thank You, Vaccine

I have superhero antibodies, apparently.

I woke up at 2:30 this morning, freezing. Added a blanket, and when that wasn't enough, put on a Patagonia base layer. 

After drifting in and out of sleep for the next four hours, I woke up. 

I got out of bed. In retrospect, this was a mistake. 

Every day since the pandemic started, I've taken my temperature. It's always within a few tenths of 97.5F. This morning it was 100.5. 

Good, I thought. 

What wasn't good was that I was extremely nauseated and was having trouble walking because I felt so weak. Also somewhat dizzy.

I made it to the kitchen and toasted my Pop-Tarts. I put them on a paper plate, started to lose my balance because of the dizziness and sent a Pop-Tart into low Earth orbit. 

Didn't fall, though. Just had one Pop-Tart instead of two for breakfast. 

I felt very hot from the fever, then I suddenly got cold and had to put on my heated winter jacket at the setting I use when walking outside in 20F. 

Eventually, I warmed back up.

After slamming a fair amount of caffeine over the next thirty minutes, I managed to regain my senses. Then I edited at one-quarter speed for the next four hours. 

I'm functional now, though I won't be leaving the apartment today. I don't think I could walk more than thirty or forty yards. 

Still, I'll take it. Happily. Thanks, Pfizer.

Monday, April 05, 2021


I received the second jab today (Pfizer). 

Meanwhile, Michigan is lousy with COVID right now, unfortunately. The good news is that the vaccination infrastructure is absolutely humming. Hopefully, we can get over the infection curve before the people who have stopped paying attention take us back up again.

Several of you warned me that the second Pfizer does sometimes comes with a pretty strong reaction, so I'm ready for a rough couple of days, if necessary. Totally worth it. 

This is Very On-Brand

 We have family memes at this point. I guess everyone does. 

Here's the inside of the birthday card Gloria gave me (a repurposed Easter card, which is also a thing that we do):

The Easter Birthday, Redux

It was my birthday on Sunday.

What a lovely morning. I thought I'd treat myself to a blueberry scone from the bakery across the street. What a a delightful treat for my birthday. 

I walk across the street, full of anticipation, with a smile on my face. 

The bakery is closed. 

Damn it, Jesus, not again. Come on, man, you got resurrected. I can't even get a scone.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Friday Links!

Phew, what a long week. 

Leading off, a searing article from The Atlantic: Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene.

Here's a palate cleaner: This woman, 82, dresses to the nines each Sunday for virtual church. Her selfies have become legendary.

This is from bg, and it's incredible: Search the Louvre

Ah, that's better.

From Tim Lesnick, and it's amazing: Astronomy Picture of the Day.

From Wally, and yuck: Bitcoin Mining Corp Buys $30 Million of Nvidia CMP GPUs. Trek nerd alert: 40 Acres. This is huge: A Warmer Superconductor Found. These are fascinating: Cult classics: the faded glory of California's fringe sects – in pictures. A little bit of intriguing history: We Found Ford's Incredible Turbine-Powered Semi-Truck 'Big Red' That's Been Lost for Decades

From C. Lee, and it's amazing: Mafia fugitive caught after posting cooking show on YouTube. What a story: Buffer overruns, license violations, and bad code: FreeBSD 13’s close call. This is an astonishing article: The Mystery of ‘Harriet Cole’. Absolutely true: Stop Blaming Tuskegee, Critics Say. It's Not An 'Excuse' For Current Medical Racism. I'm not holding my breath (yes, a terrible pun): Where Are All the Aliens? Maybe Trapped in Underground Oceans. The Digital Antiquarian is so ridiculously excellent: System Shock. This is fantastic: Food Fads Have Always Been Ridiculous. Just Ask the Great Masticator. This was definitely true for us: What is the dining table really for?

From John W., and if you ever wanted to hear Beethoven through scorching electric guitar, here you go: Ludwig van Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata ( 3rd Movement ) Tina S Cover. Also, Tina S is apparently a cold blooded killer.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's a classic: A Brief Guide to the Worst Flight I’ve Ever Been On.

Eli 19.8 Update

He's going to Oxford for a full year. And he received his first dose of COVID vaccine, which is a complicated story involving identifying a massive imbalance in supply and demand in adjoining states. 

I receive my second dose on Monday. 

I'm going down to Ann Arbor on Saturday to hit golf balls together and have dinner. 

On Sunday, the hellscape of the Easter birthday. I'm ready.

I Don't Think Lyrics Can Get Any Better Than This

And the Mayan panoramas
On my pyramid pajamas

That's rhyme craftmanship. And, believe it or not, it's from The Alan Parsons Project.

Information Versus Knowledge (one last thing)

Tim Lesnick expressed it much more eloquently than I could. He said that more and more people have become observers of information rather than creators of knowledge.

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