Monday, January 31, 2022

A Story (workshopped by Eli 20.5 and myself after I dreamed the punch line)

Ben called Dave, his best friend. 

"How are you now?"

"Not so well," Dave said. "You remember old man Johnson?"

"Sure do. Not fondly."

"We got into a bit of a dust-up last week, and things got out of hand, and I killed him."

There is silence. 

"You still there, Ben?"

"I'm here. I'll never let you down, Dave, and I'll help you get rid of the body. Where is it?"

"In the refrigerator."

"You bought a refrigerator?"

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Friday Links!

What a huge week for links.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's fascinating: The weird way we discovered longitude

From Wally, and it's an excellent read: The Man Who Started World War II. This seems unnecessary, but interesting: Watch RUSSIAN DareDevil SMASH Through VAN Window at 50MPH. This is amazing (and the ship is stupidly big): Enormous superyacht squeezes under Dutch bridges. Ah, the teddy bear toss: Teddy bear toss sets new world record at Hershey Bears. I'm assuming quite a few pints were involved before this was attempted: Two men take corpse into Irish post office to claim dead man’s pension. The fist comment following this video is so golden: Horizontal Spinning Kick Breaking - 720° Spinning Kick Quadruple Breaking.

From Paul Adams, and this is an astonishing story: This 22-year-old builds chips in his parents’ garage.

From Ralph CT, and it may not be the only thing trying to escape: Robot vacuum cleaner escapes from Cambridge Travelodge.

Terrific links from C. Lee. First, and this is very pertinent, it's Why So Many People Still Don't Understand Anti-Semitism. A recent example: Tennessee-based adoption agency refuses to help couple because they're Jewish. Unbelievable: Virginia Beach Police used forged forensic documents in interrogations. This is fantastic: Halting Progress and Happy Accidents: How mRNA Vaccines Were Made. This was a long time coming: Why The U.S. Has A Massive Lithium Supply Problem. Oops! The Horned Helmets Falsely Attributed to Vikings Are Actually Nearly 3,000 Years Old. This is a terrific read: Inside the FBI’s Colossal Fingerprint Factory.  

From DQ Artist Fredrik Skarstedt, and it's an astonishing story: The only time in WW2 that the German Wehrmacht and the US Army fought ON THE SAME SIDE in WW2. 

David Gloier, and I swear, if this were today, you'd have 40% of the country lining up to defend it: Custer's Revenge and the Atari 2600 Porno Games: The Full Story

Triple digits

I was going to write about Joe Rogan, because apparently it's okay to kill people if you make money doing it, but instead of getting all hot and bothered, because Spotify clearly doesn't care, I'm going to talk about pushups instead. 

Neil Young did the right thing, though, which (in America, at least) costs you money every time.

A month ago, Eli 20.5 showed me a small part of his workout, which is to do as many pushups as you can in a ten-minute period. The goal is 100.

Again, just a small part. Good grief. 

I did 71 the first day, and man, did it hurt. My arms didn't feel normal again until 5 days later. 

I kind of liked it, though. 

I've been doing it every fifth day since then, which is the schedule that my body seems to tolerate without breaking down. I used to take one day off between weightlifting. Now it's one day on, three days off. 

Old people, damn it. 

Today, I got to 100 for the first time. 

They were good push-ups, too. I didn't cheat on the last 20, or break form, or do anything besides straight pushups. 

I never set "bests" anymore, because decrepitude, but that's a record for pushups at any age. It feels good. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Not as Useful, Perhaps

I sent an email to myself with the subject "Thinker" and nothing else.

Roger Bannister

When I was a kid, I read a book about Roger Bannister breaking the four minute barrier in the mile in 1954. 

The book had a mythic effect on me, because it was incredibly gripping, and it was written by Bannister himself. I still remember him describing the cinder track he ran on. 

Bannister was an Oxford medical student. 

Today, Eli 20.5 told me that when his hockey team does off-ice training and runs sprints, they're doing it on the same track Bannister ran on. Resurfaced, of course, but the same track.

I can't exactly explain why, but that makes me very, very happy. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Vampire Survivors

I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about this game, even though it's in Early Access, and an attorney for a large gaming company who will not be named emailed me yesterday and told me I needed to try it immediately. 

His opinion has historically been impeccable, so I did. 

As usual, he's right. This game is incredible, stupid fun. All you're doing is guiding your little person around the screen, and all the weapons auto-fire. You collect experience and choose power-ups. There can be hundreds of enemies onscreen at one time, and the constant dopamine hits you get playing this are fantastic. 

It's on Steam, and it's only $2.99, so it's an unreal bargain: Vampire Survivors.

I've been thinking about why this works so well, even though the graphics aren't great in any way, and it's almost even crude in places. It just works, though. The framerate stays high, no matter how many enemies are onscreen. It's also comprehensible. I always understand what's going on, and what I need to do. It's just a simple concept that is wonderfully executed. 

The true test of a game is whether you can still enjoy it when you're not good at it. I'm not good at this game at all. I consistently make it to ten minutes, and then die quickly when the difficulty spikes. I can't get enough of it, though, because it's still incredible fun. 

Also, choose garlic whenever you have a chance. Trust me. 

Monday, January 24, 2022


Because of my age, I am uniquely positioned to have seen almost every playoff game since the AFL-NFL merger. 

I watched the first Super Bowl when I was five.

I watched the Ice Bowl, believe it or not, when I was six. I was already a huge football fan (I can't remember why). 

Since then, I might have missed a handful of playoff games in the five-plus decades following, but only a handful. 

Until Sunday, I thought the Dolphins-Chargers 41-38 overtime game in 1982 and the 49ers 28-27 win over the Cowboys (also in 1982--incredibly, those games were eight days apart!) were the best playoff games I ever saw. 

The Chiefs-Bills game topped them both, though. 

It was the greatest combined quarterback performance I've ever seen. The entire game was great players making great plays. The last two minutes of regulation, and then overtime, were beyond description. 

So many games are exciting because of mistakes, or because players choke. There was none of that here. It was just hours of non-stop brilliance. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's obviously low-hanging fruit, but here you go: Pre-pandemic cognitive function and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: cohort study

The University of Michigan president was fired this week for cleverly conducting an affair with a subordinate using his work e-mail. And the university released the emails. Hilarity ensued:
lonely m - a love song.

This is from Meg (more links from here below), but it's important enough to have its own space: After opposition to her MLK Day speech, Nikole Hannah-Jones swapped her words for his.

Here's a terrific read: We don’t know why, but being in space causes us to destroy our blood

This is very, very bad: The trouble with Roblox, the video game empire built on child labour

From Wally, and it's utterly delightful: Mechanical Masterpieces. Here's an excellent bit of history: The Movies and Stories than Inspired Dave Arneson to Invent the Dungeon Crawl

From David Gloier, and dogs are amazing (even though I'm a cat person): Who’s a clever dog? Scientists study secrets of canine cognition

From Jonathon Wood, and it's an entertaining read: How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained

From Meg McReynolds, and I hear he's been working quite hard for years: Spain: Badger thought to have found Roman treasure. This is amazing: Scientists Capture Airborne Animal DNA for the First Time

Next level from C. Lee. First, and this is a touching article, it's VOX POPULI: Poetry can be a powerful coping mechanism when tragedy strikes. This is fascinating: From Greek to Latin: Visualizing the Evolution of the Alphabet. This seems like Pandora's box: Rytr Reviewed: How the GPT-3 ‘AI Writing Assistant’ Performs In Real Life. Ex-policemen now: “Aw, screw it”: LAPD cops hunted Pokémon instead of responding to robbery. This is so bizarre: The Metaverse Is Already Here For Cows And It’s Very Sad. Something you didn't even know you needed: Someone Made a Seatbelt for Bags, and It’s Actually Kind of Genius


So here's the thing. 

If you say reading a book out loud and making edits based on line rhythm is no big deal, and you've never actually read a book out loud, you run the risk of looking really stupid when you find out that it's much, much harder than you thought. 

You might even be working harder than you've worked at any point in the last five years. And you might have to keep doing it for another eleven days.

Not that I know anyone in this situation, obviously. Purely hypothetical. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Only Scale

Several of you emailed me and expressed your disappointment over Bobby Kotick making an additional bajillion dollars because of the merger with Microsoft. 

I'm right there with you. 

I'm disappointed in my country for many reasons--most of them already documented here at some point--but one that I find particularly difficult to accept is that we have an economic system where morality is never, ever a factor. 

Morality is never rewarded in this country, only scale. 

Just think about that for a moment. Is doing the right thing ever even discussed? Not really. How often do you see a CEO get rewarded for taking a moral stance on anything?  Scale is rewarded, though, and massively. Just grow so big that you can crush everyone else, no matter how you do it, and you'll get paid.


And if you want to ask "Why should morality have anything do with being a CEO?", I'd just ask you "Why not?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

That's Quite a Lot of Money

Well: Microsoft buying Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard for nearly $70bn.

First off, that's a lot of damn money for a company that basically puts out one game a year (and remasters a few old ones). 

Second, maybe this will dilute the douchbro factor at Activision Blizzard. It can't hurt. 

Third, even though Microsoft wildly overpaid, what do they care? They're drowning in money, and it's a smart acquisition. 

Why? Because console hardware is going to become less and less relevant over time. Streaming gaming is the future, and in that future, hardware won't exist. All that matters is content. Microsoft has done a terrific job of being a content aggregator via Game Pass, but locking down some of that content as exclusive is increasingly important now.

It's bad for the consumer, of course, but isn't everything? That's what it feels like, anyway.

I doubt Microsoft is done throwing money at people, either. Just pay a king's ransom and buy Take-Two while you're at it. 

A follow-up

Here's an excellent follow-up to yesterday's post (thanks to DQ Film Advisor and Nicest Guy in the World Ben Ormand): MLK is revered today but the real King would make white people uncomfortable.

Of course he made people uncomfortable. That was the point.

Monday, January 17, 2022


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.

We're still fighting against that hatred and stupidity today.

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 13, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a story that sounds like something out of a Mel Brooks movie: A man arrested in Russia is accused of building a fake border with Finland 15 miles from the real one and charging migrants $11,000 to cross it.

From DQ Artist Fredrik Skarstedt, a fascinating story: The forgotten medieval habit of 'two sleeps'

From DQ Story Advisor and Finder of Things John Harwood, and this is a big bite: A Web Around the World, Part 1: Signals Down a Wire

From David Gloier, and it's a spectacular read: Beverly Hills Spy: How a WWII-Era James Bond Betrayed the Allies

From Wally, and I have so much fondness for the Fallout series: Fallout: A Deep Dive Into Nuka-Cola. These are excellent:If you got LEGO for Christmas, this post is for you (34 Photos). The stop-motion animation is excellent: Milk Crate

C. Lee with his weekly boatload of quality links. First, and this is a terrific read, it's In the Midst of War, He Gave the World Electrifying Fairytales. Hard pass: In Norway, Kids Slice Out Cod Tongues for Serious Money. This is a fascinating story: The Bug That Saved California. This is a fantastic Q and A: 20 Questions With a U.S. Navy Vet Who Served on a Nuclear-Powered Attack Sub. Fortunately, this isn't happening to mine: Honda Clocks Are Stuck 20 Years In The Past And There Isn't A Fix. An interesting, scrapbook-adjacent idea: Using the Weeks as a "Cultural Techo". A wonderful article about a magnificent actor: Sidney Poitier, trailblazing Hollywood icon who broke barriers for Black actors, dies at 94

We've Hit the Runway (and by hit I mean landed, not gone into the ground like a dart at 600 mph)

After struggling with Impostor's Syndrome every morning for five years, it looks like I landed the damn plane. 

I'm still cleaning up a small list of things, but the last major edit of The Man You Trust is done. Now I just read it out loud over the next two weeks, make line edits based on what I hear, and send it off to the copy editor. 

That's not to say it's good, mind you. But I clearly got every single ounce out of my writing ability. I overestimated my writing ability when this started, but I underestimated my ability to learn. Knowing less but learning more worked out much better in the end. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Peace Corps

Eli 20.5 and I had a discussion about his next few years last night, and he said he was seriously considering taking two gap years before grad school and joining the Peace Corps. 

It makes sense. Otherwise, he'd be starting a doctoral program at 22.1, which means he'd be quite a bit younger than most of the other candidates. And the mission of the Peace Corps aligns very strongly with his values (and mine). 

So the question is, have any of you ever been in the Peace Corps or known someone who has? If so, please take a moment and send me your impressions of your experience, and any advice you might have. 

Thanks very much for your time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

It's a Life Tool, Not Just a Game

The energy tornado is in town.

Eli 20.5 is blowing through on his way to going up north to ski for a day, then back to Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and London on his way back to school. 

While he was in Vancouver with his girlfriend, they ate at a restaurant in the Lookout (which is kind of like the Space Needle). Eli told the waiter that it was their first anniversary (it's not), and the waiter asked a series of probing marriage questions that resulted in Eli saying they'd honeymooned in South Africa (he had no idea why he said that). When asked where they went while they were in South Africa, his back against the wall, he reeled off a series of locations with no difficulty. 

Why? Because of GeoGuessr. 

This resulted in two very special deserts, both at no charge. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Phineas Eli Fogg

This post should be accompanied by a clever illustration. After an hour, it was clear that I was neither clever nor could do an illustration.

Eli 20.5 has been in Vancouver, and is on his way back. 

In short:
--Eli leaves Grand Rapids and drives to Ann Arbor to pick up his girlfriend (who is awesome).
--Girlfriend's COVID test doesn't come back in time. Flight to Vancouver is missed. 
--Retake COVID tests, together this time.
--After COVID results are negative, drive from Ann Arbor to Windsor, Ontario. 
--Fly on a 16-seater plane from Windsor to Toronto. 
--Fly from Toronto to Vancouver. 
--Explore Stanley Park (my favorite park in the world).
--Ski (and snowboard).
--Mush sled dogs.
--200 other things they haven't told me yet. 
--Fly from Vancouver to Toronto. 
--Take a train from Toronto to Windsor. 
--Drive from Windsor back to Ann Arbor. 
--Drive to Grand Rapids. 

TLDR: drive, test, drive, small plane, big plane, park, ski, mush, fly, train, drive.

Some very good boys (and girls):

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Friday Links!

Happy New Year and the links drop was huge this week.

Leading off this week, and it's relevant again: The 10 tactics of fascism

This is a terrific read: A “war of experts”: Revisiting the infamous 19th-century Flores Street poisonings.

From Brian Witte, and it's absolutely one of the most incredible stories I've ever heard: Emile Leray Survived The Desert By Building A Motorcycle From His Broken Car.

From David Gloier, and what a beast: Earth’s Oldest Ocean Giant Was a Reptile With an Eight-Foot Skull. This is excellent: Noblewoman’s tomb reveals new secrets of ancient Rome’s highly durable concrete. This is a fascinating read: A Neuroscientist Prepares For Death

From Wally, and this is an amazing illusion: 3D Schröder Staircase. Here's your bass badass for the week: When they say you have too many strings (a one-string bass solo). This happened in Boulder County, and it's an amazing video: Costco evacuation due to Marshall Fire. This is a fascinating article: The Tenacious Quest to Find the World’s Best Rice. This is clever: The Edgelord - RPG Philosophy (The Gang Presents).

From DQ Story Advisor And Finder Of Things John Harwood, and it's a great read: Central Austin’s Baffling Street Grid Is Entirely One Man’s Fault

From C. Lee, and it's an amazing story: That Christmas When Parisians Ate the Zoo. If you ever wondered how Lunar New Year works, it's your lucky day: The Lunar New Year: Rituals and Legends. Great articles from The Digital Antiquarian: Might and Magic and Heroes of Might and Magic. Oops: Manufacturing fault with some ROG Maximus Z690 Hero motherboards prompts a recall from Asus. True and very funny: How Batman Obsessively Labelled his Gadgets in the 1960s (this is has a strange parallel with Wile E. Coyote, if you think about it). This is so good: The Accident Clause.

We're at 30 Hours and Counting

There was very little snow on the ground yesterday at 10 a.m. Now:

I think it will be 12-15" inches total, when it's done. 

Fortunately, I was able to make it to the store to buy Dr. Pepper and donut holes. Who says survival skills aren't innate?

We've Run Out Of Names

I was discussing bowl games with Eli 20.5, and we decided that bowl games use random name generators now. "Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Presented by Bridgestone" isn't an actual bowl name, but it could be.

I stand corrected. It is, in fact, an actual bowl game name from 2003. And they've gotten none the better in the last 18 years.

Here's the basic formula: Corporate Sponsor (Slim Jim) + Bowl name (Nectarine)+ Another Sponsor (Tampax). There you have it, and the result is the Slim Jim Nectarine Bowl Presented By Tampax. 

Totally plausible.

I mention this because I believe a beer company is using the same random name generator. Have a look:

That's "Three Floyd's Gumball Head Wheat Beer."

The Three Floyd's Gumball Head Wheat Beer Oregano Bowl Presented By Bad Boy Mowers, anyone?

Wednesday, January 05, 2022


Windy with snow, 3-6in; sleet and freezing rain mixed in early

I am not prepared for this. Ever.

It's hard to convey just how windy it is with a picture, but it's howling. And as a bonus, a nice layer of icy rain came through before the snow. 

Covered parking: one of mankind's greatest inventions.

People really don't notice this kind of weather, at least not that much. The city doesn't shut down. Life goes on almost as usual. The only accommodation people up here make to the winter weather is "cuffing season":
Cuffing season refers to a period of time where single people begin looking for short term partnerships to pass the colder months of the year. Cuffing season usually begins in October and lasts until just after Valentines Day.

Given that it's 20F outside with blowing snow, I see the appeal.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Give Us Your Ransom Demands

There were things I didn't write about (like online dating) because Gloria still read the blog and I felt it would be disrespectful. 

I wish I still couldn't write about them. 

I can, though, and some of them are funny, so here we go.

I don't know how many of you have tried online dating [insert your shudder HERE]. I have, because that's how it's done these days, and one of the things that genuinely amazes me is how many woman have profile pictures that look like screen captures from a hostage video. 

It seriously makes you wonder under what circumstances the pictures were taken. It's like they photoshopped out the sign that said "CALL 911." 

It gives one pause, as they say.

Monday, January 03, 2022


"All right, let's do this!" Eli 20.4 said. 

"This" was doing 10 pushups a minute for 10 minutes, which is part of a regular workout for him. 

I started off with 8. "I'm going to work my way down to medical emergency."

After the third set (I was at 21 total), he said, "Let's get some music going!"

"Have you ever heard the greatest Prince song?" I asked. 

"Not that kind of music!" he shouted. Everything he said during this 10 minutes was shouted, because he was trying to drag me along with sheer enthusiasm. 

After 8 minutes, I was at 49. "I'm going to try to do 61," I said. "One more than my age. If we could swap ages, that would be really helpful."

He banged out another set of 10 in about 10 seconds. I struggled. 

"Take me to the arm hospital," I said. 

He burst out laughing and dropped to the floor. "Stop that! Focus!" 

I finished with 61 and went straight to the medicine cabinet. "Preventative Advil," I said. I also put an ice pack on my chest (left pec, always a problem).

Now I just need someone to brush my teeth for a week.

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