Thursday, July 29, 2021

Friday Links!

It's a big week out of nowhere. Happy weekend, everybody.

This is unbelievable: American Cars Are Now Almost As Big As the Tanks That Won WWII.

From Mark H., and it's amazing; Computers Will Be Able to Read Images From Your Brain Within a Decade. A brief history of a remarkable fellow: Jack (baboon). This is a spectacular way to misrepresent data: Average women's height around the world. These are fascinating, and beautifully illustrated: 37 Comparisons Of The Sizes Of Prehistoric Animal Ancestors And Their Modern Relatives By Roman Uchytel

From C. Lee, and I blame drinking on the job: Robot Collision Sets London Warehouse Ablaze, Delays Orders. This is a terrific read: When Americans Dreamed of Kitchen Computers. It's incredible how lucrative this is (more lucrative than mining cryptocurrency, I bet): The 3,800 PlayStation 4 Consoles Were Actually Used As FIFA Bots, Not As Cryptocurrency Mining Systems. These all sound interesting: The Indie Video Games Bringing South and Southeast Asian Food to Your Screen. This somehow doesn't surprise me: A War Thunder player leaked classified documents to show that an in-game tank's model was wrong. Not nearly as bad as Michael Stipe: A Springsteen Mystery Solved. I am all in favor of this (and as often as possible): Fukuoka to Paint Giant Port Crane as Giraffe, Hopes it Will Cheer up Children in Hospital

From Meg McReynolds, and it's surely one of the greatest headlines ever: A Lesson in Decaying Victorian Architecture From Scooby-Doo.

From Wally, and this is very cool: The Soviet spy steam railway that's still running. I really don't understand the wealthy: Billionaires Can’t Get Enough of 220 Central Park South. It's incredible what these are worth now: Space and sci-fi memorabilia breaking records at auction.


I understand that some of you really enjoy these "personal discovery" posts, while others are groaning in pain every time you see one. Your patience is appreciated.

Like many of you, I was always "the smart kid" growing up. In a very small town (7,302), I stood out. 

There's nothing wrong with that, but it made me think I was singular. 

That seems like a good thing, on the face of it. Feeling that you're singular can drive you to achieve, to attempt things. To pee high, as I always tell Eli. 

For me, though, it was a trap.

Because I was so introverted, and always felt a little distance from the world (which meant I didn't feel like I belonged), I used what I thought was my own singularity to justify that distance. 

Instead of looking at myself to explain that distance, I looked at the world. It gave me a grievance. The world just didn't appreciate me. 

Because of that, I waited for the world to reach out to me, instead of reaching out to the world. It gave me an excuse to withdraw even further.

In truth, I'm no more singular than anyone else. Loads of people have all of my individual qualities. It's only in combination that I become distinct. But that's true for everyone else, too. I wasted so much time holding myself apart.

I really wish I had understand this thirty years ago, but I didn't start thinking about these kinds of things nearly soon enough. It does feel good to be more self-aware, though, even if it's late.

Playdate Pre-Orders Open

Order link 

I was in and out in less than a minute. Wait...

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

I Should Be Writing About Anything Else Today , So Let's Talk About Tally Marks

I was struck by a thought (with significant force, right across the forehead) about tally marks. You know, these:

My question concerns the fifth tally mark after you've already made four: why do tally across or diagonally? 

I understand that sets of five are easier for people to count. What I can't find, though, is when this started. Incredibly, Google has failed to enlighten on this subject. 

I did find a very interesting article about tally marks in different cultures: “正”, the Chinese Tally Mark And Other Kinds of Tally Marks from Around the World. Different systems, obviously, and some with ingenious variations. 

There is one interesting fact in Wikipedia (Tally marks):
Counting aids other than body parts appear in the Upper Paleolithic. The oldest tally sticks date to between 35,000 and 25,000 years ago, in the form of notched bones found in the context of the European Aurignacian to Gravettian and in Africa's Late Stone Age.

Also Bobby Kotick apparently reads Dubious Quality, if this is any indication: Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick’s letter addressing the harassment allegations. Thanks, Bobby!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Correction (Prince)

This album apparently doesn't get released until Friday. I streamed what was listed as a 3-song preview on Amazon Music last night, but the entire album played instead. I assumed they messed up the track listing, but it was the reverse: they uploaded the entire album instead of a preview. Thanks, Amazon!

Sadly, it's been fixed now.


Prince was an amazing guy, for reasons I've discussed more than once in the last two decades. 

A new album was posthumously released this week. Welcome 2 America, it's called, and it's an album he completed in 2010, but never released.

Synonyms for hot: ardent, burning, fervid, fiery, scalding, scorching, searing, sultry, torrid. Welcome 2 America is all of those words. 

If you want to know where it ranks among Prince albums, I'd say very close to the top five. It's really, really good.

Available to stream at all the usual sources. 

Prince was 5'3" and 120 pounds. In pejorative terms, he was a shrimp, but he had more swagger than any man on the planet. 

Why I Was So Angry Yesterday (and still am)

This country has soul cancer, and Activision Blizzard's response drips with it. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Is It Getting Hot In Here?

Over 1,000 Activision Blizzard Employees Sign Letter Condemning Company's Response To Allegations

Blizzard executives: 


You might want to put your flame-retardant clothing, because this is coming in very hot.

The State of California filed suit against Activision Blizzard last week over "allegations of rampant sexual discrimination and sexual harassment." Here's the article: Activision Blizzard sued by state agency over alleged widespread discrimination

Wait, widespread sexual discrimination and sexual harassment in an industry that has had this exact problem since it's inception fifty years ago? How is that possible?

The allegations appear to be well-documented, and they are reprehensible. So Activision responds in an adult, well-spoken way:
Activision Blizzard issued a statement following the lawsuit, going so far as to accuse California State's Department of Fair Employment and Housing of "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past." After claiming that the DFEH didn't engage in "good faith discussions" prior to filing its suit, it then called the suit "irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that [is] driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California."

Well, that seems reasonable. 

I think libertarianism (and conservatism) have reached the post-principle stage. Their "philosophies" are just invoked by racist, sexist d-bag pricks to justify being racist, sexist, d-bag pricks. 

Here's what you say if you actually care:
We are stunned and disappointed to learn of the State of California's lawsuit against us. We have taken concrete steps in the last few years to improve our corporate culture. However, it is clear that we need to undertake a far-reaching evaluation of our working environment, because we don't want our company to be a place where some employees feel they don't belong. 

We will be immediately setting up an anonymous channel for all employees to share their experiences in regards to these issues, and there will be an additional and comprehensive investigation of company culture. 

That took me five minutes to write. One draft. 

Oh, and after you publish that statement, you actually do it. All of it.

I'm just a an old yahoo in an apartment, and yet I'm way better at this than all the strategic flacks that Blizzard gathered in a conference room to hash out their response. 

You'd think someone might actually be concerned about that.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Friday Links!

This is an extraordinarily beautiful piece of writing: Playing God: I sold my wife's clothes to build a Christmas village in my parents' basement.

I love everything about this: Playdate preview: You won’t believe how fun this dorky, $179 game system is.

This is a fascinating read: Event Horizon Telescope captures birth of black hole jet in Centaurus A

From John Willcocks, and it's so totally brilliant and absolutely bonkers: Pasha and Aliona SURPRISE The Judges With an Unexpected Performance - America's Got Talent 2021.

From Wally, and I don't think just one mind can unpack all of this: Woman who broke into dentist’s office to steal cash also pulled 13 teeth from victim, say police.

From Brian Witte, and these are fantastic images: Earth Restored.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and it's a sign of the times: Save Your Mask for the Next Disaster.

From C. Lee, and I do not feel great about this: MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We’re on Schedule. Also concerning: Sea walls might just make floods someone else’s problem, study suggests. This is amazing; Researchers develop deep-learning method for translating vocal signals from the brain to text. This is a great read: The 18th-Century Cookbook That Helped Save the Slovene Language. Eli 19.11 gets to see where they filmed Harry Potter this fall. He's pumped: The Ultimate Guide to Stunning, Surprising, or Hidden Filming Locations. Ass-kicker of the week: Meet ‘Takimika,’ the fitness instructor going strong at 90.

Deeply Optical

There is so much to talk about today.

The Olympics are a dumpster fire. Blizzard responded to California alleging that they have a frat boy culture that is both sexist and illegal by responding in the most douche-bro libertarian way possible, which seems unwise? Some college athletes are going to be making over a million dollars next season (yay), which raises interesting questions that are worth exploring. 

So, obviously, I'm going to talk about eyeglasses.

I've always subscribed to the cantaloupe-sized lenses philosophy, because my I have to look through the Keck I Telescope to see anything, so I want as much lens surface area as possible.

Recently, though, as I am a single individual, I decided that it might be time to retreat slightly from the Mr. Magoo look. Not completely--hey, I'm not crazy--but just slightly. 

This means, for the first time in a very long time, that I needed to look at frames. 

I had no idea that glasses frames were a rabbit hole. A deep, dark rabbit hole. 

I'm fairly certain that the number of different frames is equivalent to the number of people currently residing on Earth. I'm used to a slightly different era:
"We have six frames. Which one do you like?"
"Uh, none of them."
"To hell with you. Go somewhere else."

It's equivalent to sorting through all the writing produced by an infinite number of monkeys banging away on typewriters and trying to find the one sonnet. 

Plus, who are some of these frames for? An example:

I can't quite grasp the target market for these frames, unless it's circus clowns needing a reliable set of eyewear for their next show. 

Even worse, I kind of like them, which sort of tells me that writing was the wrong profession. 

Other frames are hard to imagine looking good on anyone. A kangaroo, perhaps, or a bear, but tremendously difficult to picture otherwise.

I'm still looking at frames. I may never emerge. You've been warned.

I Got A Surprising Amount of Email About Anal Probes

From Scott M. (no way am I using his last name. Think of the Google Search issues):
Can you imagine if us humans did anal probes every time we discovered a new species?

Captain Robert von Beringe is holding a press conference:
“During our travels my team discovered a new species of ape, the mountain gorilla. As usual with the discovery of any new species, we immediately attempted an anal probing. The beast being so large, we had to attempt it in the field, unfortunately, Dr Gluteus Schtick did not survive.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

I Can't Say I'm Surprised

This: interest in going to the moon.

Even as a handful of billionaires prepare for space travel, Americans don’t seem very interested in participating themselves. Per a recent YouGovAmerica survey, 42 percent of adults said they would not want to take a trip to the moon if given the opportunity and a guaranteed safe return, while half (50 percent) said they would. Notably, men (58 percent) were more likely than women (42 percent) to say they were interested. When asked why not, the biggest reason Americans gave was that they simply weren’t interested, while 9 percent said they rejected the hypothetical question’s premise of a guaranteed safe return; 8 percent said there was not a lot to see or do on the moon. 

I mean, they're not wrong. 

Now we have more "percenters." We already have the "three" dumbasses, a fine example of humanity at its absolute worst. 

I thought those were the only percenters I had to worry about. 

Nope, here comes the eights. 

JFK, rephrased: We choose not to go to the Moon not because it's hard, but because it's boring.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Thank You For Your Patience

My e-mail is a dumpster fire right now. Please bear with me. 

A Claim That Deserves Close Scrutiny

Please review the claim inside the red quare: 

Is it? Is it really?

An Important Note

If you're ever thinking about trimming your eyebrows, it's important to remember the Latin phrase Primum non nocere, which means "First, do no harm."

Monday, July 19, 2021

I'm Late

I was late today. This sounds like a normal thing, but it's not for me. 

For about fifteen years, I was never late. For anything. Being a parent--especially a parent of Eli 19.11--meant that my entire life was  a complex network of time gates. 

Practices. Games. Travel. Deadlines. Tasks. Everything mattered, and it was all important. For over a decade, I don't think I was late to anything a single time. And because of that, neither was Eli.

Now, though, After two years of Eli being at school, I've finally started to relax. A little. Five minutes late, sometimes. 

It feels good.  

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Friday Links!

This is a tremendous read: Did lead poisoning cause downfall of Roman Empire? The jury is still out.

This is one of my favorite covers ever, a joyous Foo Fighters rendition of "You Should Be Dancing"

Terrific links from C. Lee. First, and this is infamous, it's < Bobby Bonilla Day. This is both hilarious and amazing; Why does a ’90s Japanese drama theme song calm crying babies? An acoustics expert explains. Unfortunately, this is probably true: In 2030, You Won't Own Any Gadgets. Tip of the future iceberg: Prenatal test developed with Chinese military stores gene data. China is full of incursions this week: Dozens of Chinese phone games now require facial scans to play at night. This is wonderful, and I remember really enjoying the game (man, I'm old): Today I learned about Karateka’s 37-year-old easter egg.

From Wally, and these guys are badasses, every one: You don't need visual effects if you have steel balls. This is so striking: Why Championship Chess Sets Are So Expensive. This is promising: Instagram Has Become SkyMall. These are amazing: River Rockets of the Soviet Space Age. Man overboard: Flying fish: video shows Utah wildlife agency restocking lake by plane.

From Jonathon W., and I never got the Beastie Boys: Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock Lists His Lakefront Midcentury for $975K.

It's A Logical Question

I took a friend who will remain nameless to her colonoscopy today. 

On the way out, still a little wobbly, she was talking about how she really wasn't uncomfortable, and how it didn't hurt at all. 

I thought about alien anal probes, as one does.

"All the people who say they've been kidnapped by aliens talk about being anally probed, but how much would it hurt, really? Their technology would have to be more sophisticated than ours." 

She agreed, wobblily. 

"Plus, what are they even doing back there?" I asked. "We're talking about a superintelligence that transcends ours, and their go-to move is to head straight for the anal cavity? I'm not buying it."

Her response was garbled and will not be repeated here. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

In Flight

We played golf last week. 

Eli 19.11 hit a tree about sixty feet up with his drive. The ball went straight down from the branch. 

"Did you see that?" he asked. 

"See what?"

"I hit a bird!"

"No way."

"It came straight down from the branch and bonked him on the head," he said. 

"Is he on the ground?" I asked.

"No, he just flew off."

"That's a relief. Can you imagine what would happen if he was unconscious? I'd be standing over you singing "Stayin' Alive" while you kneeled and used two fingers to give him CPR."

Eli laughed. "And when he flew back to his friends, he'd be telling them the whole story."

"And one of them would say, 'Sure, Greg. That happened."

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

As This Sign Goes, So Go We All

(photo credit Rachel Flores)

Isn't this the most Burger King moment ever? Burger King, with their cavernous parking lots for all the people who didn't come, a potent mix of onion rings and despair. Burger King is the band who had that one single you really liked, then you bought the album and regretted it within the first thirty seconds. Burger King is the 9 whose personality is a 4. Burger King is the vacation you always think about taking but never do. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

A Courtly Exchange of Texts, In Three Acts


Knock-knock-knock JOHN.
Knock-knock-knock JOHN.
Knock-knock-knock JOHN.


Hi. This is John. I'm stuck in Arkansas at
the moment and unable to provide a clever
response. Your message is very important
to me, so please leave your name and
number at the beep and I will respond as
soon as I care enough to do so.



Thursday, July 08, 2021

Friday Links!

Lean week due to the holiday, but we should be back to normal next week. 

Leading off this week, a fantastic article: The Wimbledon Finalist With The Body In His Suitcase. Also, this is mind-blowing: Britney Spears Conservatorship Nightmare

From Wally, and it's excellent: Why do writers need agents? To keep track of the rejections


Stellar links from C. Lee, First, it's Long Waves: The History of Innovation Cycles. This is a staggering story: Robbing the Xbox Vault: Inside a $10 Million Gift Card Cheat. This is a terrific read: Kerbal Space Program creator looks back on leaving it behind: 'The hardest thing I've had to do in my whole life'. An amazing piece of technology: The Ascend is a robotic knee brace on a budget. So utterly ridiculous: Controversial Alzheimer’s drug could cost US $334B—nearly half of DoD budget, This is remarkable: Lost Edges of Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ Are Restored Using Artificial Intelligence

Origami, From People Who Actually Understand It

DQ Origami Expert Garret Alley was gracious enough to write a guest post about how he discovered origami and enjoyed it over the years. 

He mentions NASA physicist Robert Lang, and he followed up by sending me a link to Lang's video: 11 Levels of Origami: Easy to Complex | WIRED.

From here on, it's Garret. 

I discovered origami back in elementary school. Our little library had a single book on origami, a yellowed, brittle book that must have been ancient even back then. This was back when you could look at the little card in the pouch on the inside cover of the book to see who last checked it out. It was... not a popular book. But to me it was fascinating! A gateway into a world where symmetry and math and logic and, yes, art, all came together.

To me, the way a flat sheet of paper, with just a few folds, became an object, grew appendages and flaps and pockets, was a source of endless curiosity.

I spent hours with that book, eschewing the traditional crane for the blow up "waterbomb". I could take a piece of any size paper, easily make it into a square (by folding the short edge down against the long edge and then tearing off the excess) and then fold it into the "preliminary base", tuck the sides into flaps, and then blow it up in under a minute. I thought it made me kind of cool, discovering this amazing thing that no one else in my school seemed to know. I liked knowing how to fold a few different models from memory.

I went through the book, from easy models like the crane and sampan to the slightly more difficult ones. I'm sad to admit that I never finished all of the models in the book. They got harder, the further you went into the book, and using thick binder paper and my 6th-grader's coordination and patience just wasn't enough to get me there.

Eventually I stopped renewing the book and origami went into the back of the mental closet, along with the rest of the things I tried, loved, and then set aside (I see you there, acoustic guitar).

Years later, in my late 20s, I found myself with some free time, a small amount of disposable income, and a need to... create? Somehow I ended up seeing Robert Lang's work with NASA, developing a way to fold up a solar panel or something. He explained how he came up with the folding process and it was just so... efficient and beautiful. It felt "right" when you watched it, ornate, but not showy.

Seeing that made me want to do origami again. I looked online and saw that the origami world was VAST compared to what the 6th grade, no such thing as the internet yet, version of me had known. People were making these amazing super complex animals, insects, creatures. Beetles and ants and spiders, with the correct number of appendages, in the proper proportion, from a single sheet of paper, with no cuts? Amazing. Dragons with wings and talons, every animal you could name, all there to be folded.

And the books! Hundreds of origami books, by authors from around the world. Silly models, useful objects like boxes or bookmarks or seed packages, useless things, amazing things. You could buy (or borrow!) a book written by a Japanese artist/creator or download a .pdf/image set of instructions created by a 14 year old folder in Europe. You could find anything, everything! And lots of the patterns were free.

I began collecting books and magazines filled with patterns and articles about origami and the various artists. British Origami Society? Check. Japanese language "Origami Tanteidan Magazine"? Yes please! If the folding instructions are done well enough, it transcends language. 90% of folding is either a "mountain" fold or a "valley" fold. Once you see that, you can get really far without being able to read the language. I fell in love with the sense the folds made, and the fact that I was almost always surprised or thrilled as I followed the instructions and the paper would suddenly transform in my hands. I discovered multi-unit origami, where you folded lots of smaller pieces and assembled them into larger structures.

I never really mastered folding the super complex models, with their advanced folding maneuvers like closed sinks and wraps. And eventually I got busy with other things and stopped folding.

A couple of years ago, in a cleaning spree, I decided to give away my library of books, magazines, printed out patterns, hand drawn diagrams from folders I met at conventions or local meetings, and thousands of sheets of paper. I'm still fascinated by what people are doing, the innovation that still happens, and the incredible models people design. There's software to help people create models and sure, that takes away some of the magic, but there are also still people who fold cranes or other simple models to relax. People who take their time and enjoy the transformation of paper to... something amazing.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

A Key Difference

Gloria is in Austin right now, and I agreed to water her plants while she was gone (Eli 19.11 was also gone for about half her trip). 

The results have been mixed. 

"Dad, you need to water those plants more," Eli said. "Look at those plants by the driveway." he pointed to a selection of potted plants that had not performed well. 

"It's hotter than usual," I said. "I'm a victim of circumstances."

He laughed. 

"I feel like I may not have been the best strategic choice for this responsibility," I said. "I'm more of a consumer of grown things than a grower of things."

Tuesday, July 06, 2021


DQ Reader Gloria was in Austin on July 4th. 

I think we can all agree that when they're not maiming people or burning down houses or terrifying dogs, fireworks are pretty fantastic. She was able to see the big downtown fireworks display from her hotel, and here are a few pictures.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Only One Flaw

The phone rang. 

"Dad, I left my keys in your car, so I need to come over and get them before I go to the gym," Eli 19.11 said. 

"Sounds good," I said. "I only see one flaw in your plan."


"How are you getting over here without your car?"


"Maybe I should come over there and bring your keys," I said. 

"Definitely a better plan," he said. 

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Friday Links!

We have the traditional July 4th lead-in lack of links (it happens every year, and next week will be light as well, then things will return to normal:

Leading off this week, an absolutely fascinating read: America’s Pot Labs Have A THC Problem.

This guy almost makes me want to watch baseball instead of just highlights of him: Only One Player Has Ever Been As Good As Shohei Ohtani

From Wally, and I understand this is performative law, but it's still super cool (go to page 6 in the filing): Third Planet Sci-Fi and Fantasy Lawsuit. Now that's a headline: Buck naked: nude sunbathers fleeing deer fined for breaking Sydney lockdown. "...the common, and costly, Maine-Oregon mixup": Dumpling machine gets wrapped up in confusion over the two Portlands

From C. Lee, and this is really clever: This simple trick makes it quicker and easier to iron clothes. This is all kinds of amazing: Blood test that finds 50 types of cancer is accurate enough to be rolled out. This sounds disturbingly familiar: How China went from celebrating ethnic diversity to suppressing it. At last: Drinking straw device is instant cure for hiccups, say scientists. Badass of the week: Nailed it: man, 82, builds bench for wife in 30 minutes after council plea ignored. My health risk is that I'm a klutz: The hobby with hidden health risks. Very unfortunate, but an excellent combination of species for a cartoon: Tasmanian devils devastate penguin population on Australian island

Good Day to You, Sir

This was the preview pane of an email I received today:
Yulia, bring some ice from the cellar...

And there was a file attached to click on. 


I do like how it sounds like a line from a Stephen King novel, though.


Unless, of course, the water is rushing over the bridge (narrator: it was not rushing over the bridge).


The sound of rushing water as you walk over a wooden footbridge is one of the nicest sounds you can ever hear. 

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