Monday, February 28, 2022

A Relief

The hospital where Gloria stayed for the eight days before her passing sent me another letter. 

Outstanding balances, and I've been getting those regularly. Her health insurance company has paid some claims, but not others. Due to a very strange Michigan law, if a motor vehicle is involved in the accident, her auto insurance becomes a secondary payer for her medical bills, which were astronomical. 

This allows both companies to throw claims like footballs back and forth, each denying responsibility. 

It's been exhausting, and my secret fear has always been that somehow the insurance doesn't cover some huge portion of the medical bills, and if the woman who hit her doesn't have significant assets, the costs wouldn't be recoverable. 

So I called the hospital today, and the lady immediately said, "You can disregard that letter." I asked her why, and she said "Her health insurance paid all our outstanding claims. The balance is zero."

That hit me like a wave. 

After that moment of relief, I had the strangest reaction: I got a little shaky. I can't really explain why, but I think it might have been because life changed so significantly for me in an emotional sense in that moment. 

There are still some outstanding medical bills--about 10k that her health insurance only partially paid--but that's a long, long way from what I feared.

My life is going to improve substantially when that 10k is taken care of, too. So much of this tragic process has felt like treading water day after day, and it gets so heavy after a while. 

Now, a little bit of a raft. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Friday Links!

 Leading off this week, a fascinating read: Study finds 90 percent of medieval chivalric and heroic manuscripts have been lost.

This is quite the amazing story: How a logistics strike in ‘Foxhole’ created a war like no other.

This is both sobering and very important, especially now: Who Gets To Be A ‘Real American’ Has Always Been About Exclusion

From Wally, and it's scary: ‘Stay off train tracks’: Brightline video shows car that was cut in 2. Some of these drivers would be just fine in F1: Bangladesh vs Indonesian bus drivers | Bangladeshi bus driver skills | by bus highlights. Incredibly, I remember the original story about this in 1979 (I'm old): After 25 Years at Sea, Shipwrecked Lego Pieces Are Still Washing Ashore on Beaches in England. Here's a niche bit of WWII history: OPERATION SITTING DUCK? OBSOLETE BRITISH BIPLANES MOUNTED HISTORY’S FIRST ALL-AERIAL SHIP-TO-SHIP NAVAL ATTACK.

From C. Lee, and it's remarkable: AI Overcomes Stumbling Block on Brain-Inspired Hardware. This is an interesting bit of history: The Curious Case of Colonial India’s Breakfast Curries. And a related story: How Curry Became a Japanese Naval Tradition. What an idea: 100,000 BOTTLES OF BEER IN THE WALL. So, so bizarre: The Mysterious Chapel of Prosthetic Limbs. These are so fantastic: “Medusa-chan” lets her snakes convey her emotions in inspired illustration by Yoshioka

Since the World's Going to Hell

Here are some excellent sunset pictures from John Harwood to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Hero's Hour (demo)

Whatever the flavor of Steam Festival is happening this week has a demo for Hero's Hour, and if you miss Heroes of Might and Magic, this might be the game you've been waiting for. 

It is for me, at least. 

Pixel graphics, but very solid and entertaining gameplay. So if you're an HOMM fan, you should definitely check this out immediately. 

Even better, the full version comes out on March 1. {UPDATE: Tom G. let me know that you can buy it right now on here ($10 plus optional tip, which is a bargain). Supposedly purchasers will also be sent Steam keys when available.

Calling for Information

Someone I've been friends with for 30+ years and consider part of my family called me on Tuesday. 

From the hospital. Because he had a heart attack on Monday night. 

Two arteries blocked, and the doctors told him if he'd come in 30 minutes later, he wouldn't have made it. 

Heart attacks present themselves in tricky ways. He said it felt like heartburn, and he took a Tums and felt better, so he went in to work and worked all day. That night, it got worse, and he had someone take him to an urgent care, which quickly turned into an ambulance ride into the hospital and an angioplasty. 

Here's my question: for those of you who've had heart attacks (hopefully not many), how did the aftermath affect you? I mean emotionally, not physically. Did it cause any kind of major mood shift? Did it make you examine anything in your life (beyond nutrition) and make changes? 

Any information I can gather for him would be much appreciated. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Spectral Evidence

I'm reading a Margaret Atwood book on writing (this one), and I stumbled upon this passage:
Those who have taken an interest in the Salem witch trials in the seventeenth-century New England will be familiar with the concept of "spectral evidence," which was accorded the same legal status as more tangible exhibits, such as wax effigies stuck full of pins. Witches were supposed to have the ability to send out their "specter," or incorporeal likeness, to do their dirty work for them. Thus if someone saw you in the barnyard hexing the cows and you could demonstrate by witnesses that you were home in bed at the time, what was proven was not your innocence, but the fact that you had the ability to project your own double, and were therefore a witch. (It was not until spectral evidence was barred from the courts that the New England witchcraft trials finally ended.)

Isn't that uncomfortably similar to what's happening now with conspiracy theories? There are so many people in the U.S. who believe in every conspiracy theory that comes by, and this is exactly the way their minds work: everything that happens, no matter what it is, is interpreted to bolster the conspiracy theory. 

It would be nice if we could progress beyond the seventeenth century. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

I've Been Better

I've had this email in my inbox since late October. The subject is "Crippled, wounded, accursed, penniless beast." It was a reminder to tell this story, so even though I'm four months late, here goes.

When Eli 20.6s girlfriend was staying with us after Gloria's memorial, her presence created a peaceful, soothing atmosphere. She always knew what to say, and always had the right tone. It felt safe, which was a huge deal for both Eli and I in that moment.

We decided to play a game of Tales of the Arabian Nights, because it seemed to be a good way to get out of our heads and inhabit another place.

This game generates amazing stories, and most of them are bad. At least, it is the way I play it, because it's more fun to play the game just to make stories than it is to try to win. 

Your character has skills which can be used to turn an encounter in your favor, but my character's skills in this game were totally useless, and I wasn't able to use one for the entire game. 

Well, until my last turn. 

By this point, my afflictions outnumbered my skills. I was crippled, and wounded, and accursed, and penniless. I was also no longer human, because I had been turned into a beast.

Incredibly, though, I still had a chance to win the game. All I had to do was stay in my location for one more turn. I didn't realize this, though, so when a sultan, I chose to use my seafaring skill, upon which he was delighted and sent me off for a worldwide journey. 


Thursday, February 17, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's an intersection of many things, it's Roboticists can learn a lot from robber flies about intercepting targets mid-flight.

From Meg McReynolds, two AI-related links. First, it's Curse your valentine with these candy hearts. Also, it's AI-generated Valentine's Cards (I have to say, "with all my sparklepants" is totally acceptable). Private prisons are a catastrophe (and this is a well-written, very personal story): The Rise and Fall of a Prison Town Queen

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is excellent: This Reddit Thread Of Mind-Blowing Science Facts Will Challenge Your Perception Of Reality

From David Gloier, and I always wondered about this: How did the stars point the way to Delphi’s Oracle? 

Stellar links from C. Lee. First, and this is an excellent read, it's The Tsunami Could Kill Thousands. Can They Build an Escape? If you're a fan of 17th century bisexual opera-singing sword fighters, it's your lucky day: The bad-ass rogue who cross-dressed and dueled her way to infamy. Here's another blast from the past: The Bygone Era of the Hotel Detective. These all sound fantastic: How to Grow Your Own Wondrous Fruits. This is a heartwarming story: Uncomfortable moment becomes shining example of community. There are absolutely people like this (but far more with Excel): I cannot begin to tell you how proficient I am at Microsoft Word.

From Wally, and this is absolutely amazing: Wood is good - Xylophone magic in a Japanese forest.


I thought I was being smart. 

This, in itself, is usually disastrous. However, I ignored the past results of this moment and plunged forward.

It seemed simple enough. It got up to 50F yesterday, and also rained very hard, and the combination of the two melted an enormous amount of snow and ice, particularly on the sidewalks, where there were long stretches of ice 2-3". 

There's a snowstorm coming this afternoon. 

Combining all this information, and I thought the smart thing to do was go for a walk this morning, while the sidewalks were still clear. After yesterday, it was a sure thing that the ice was 100% melted.

As it turned out, though, the ice wasn't 100% melted. It was 80% melted, and the remaining 20% was clear ice. 


What ensued was a 45-minute walk where I spent much of the time running in place like a cartoon character, complete with Hanna-Barbera sound effects.

I didn't fall, which was an achievement, although I did walk like a penguin on frequent occasions. 

One of the interesting things about living up north is that people don't seem to care if they fall. They do all kinds of things in winter that guarantee they'll eventually fall, and they do and then just get up and go on with their lives. 

It's a point of stoic acceptance that I may never reach. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Unfortunate Juxtaposition Theater


The book, in case it's difficult to see, is titled "Fresh Ideas."

Eli 20.6

This is what Eli 20.6 texted me today:
Did you chat with [very famous actor] today?
Because I did.

He told me I'm not supposed to name the actor, but it's the fantasy man of most women in their 50s.

For most people, that's a huge moment. In his life right now, that's just known as "Wednesday."

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Super Bowl

First off, here's the good bit about the Super Bowl:

That's a terrific scoreboard overlay: small, clean, well-designed. It gives you the information you need and stays out of the way otherwise. It's Hemingway compared to ESPN's Tolstoy (if War and Peace was just 1000+ pages of clutter).

There's something about the Super Bowl that seems so sterile. Nobody goes to a Conference Championship to say they went.  They go for the game, and the crowds are deafening. At the Super Bowl, though, plenty of people are there to be able to say they were. The crowd is never overwhelmingly loud, and it's all strangely dispassionate. Even when the game is good, it all feels a bit flat. 

I've seen all of them, but it doesn't feel like it used to. 

What drives me crazy is how the NFL no longer positions itself as entertainment, but as a positive moral force. Seriously? NFL owners are some of the worst people in the world. They're legendarily bad. And most NFL coaches need years of therapy to even approach normalcy (narrator: they wont get it). But the NFL puts its finger in the air, judges which way the wind is blowing, and pretends to head in that direction. It's gross, honestly. 

I don't watch the WNBA (I really like women's volleyball, as I've mentioned before, but not women's basketball), but the WNBA actually does try to be a positive moral force. Which makes the NFL's half-hearted, cynical attempts even more embarrassing in comparison. 

Cranky old man on the porch. Kids, get off my lawn. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Et Tu, Rice Cooker?

Trying to overcome my entirely natural aversion to cooking because microwaves exist, I decided I would try to min-max the situation. Make one meal that will last three days, then all I have to do is heat it up for the last two. 

That's close enough to the same level of laziness as the microwave. Problem solved. So I went with rotisserie chicken, rice from a rice cooker (which I've never used), squash*, mushrooms, snap peas, and carrots. 

Mistakes were made. 

Allow me to summarize just a handful of the things I learned:
1. Every natural instinct I have is wrong.
2. *Do not buy what looks like a squash in the grocery store without looking at the label, because it is probably a cucumber. 
3. When the instructions to the rice cooker say "add water to this level," you may think this means add the water first, then add the rice. It does not. 
4. After slicing vegetables, holding a flexible cutting board underneath with one hand will crown the cutting board, leading to substantial vegetable spill-off on the sides.
5. In reference to #4, you can only catch so many things with one hand. 
6. When the rice in #3 completes in the "fuzzy logic" cooker, you will find that it can only "logic" some mistakes, not the basic inability to follow directions. 
7. The second time you cook rice, it will be easier to follow the instructions. Unfortunately, this takes another 40 minutes, and by the time it completes, you will be too annoyed to reheat the vegetables and chicken you had to put in the fridge. You may think the rice will heat everything up. It will not. 
8. Electric range tops remain hot long after you turn them off.
9. Cooking is for grown-ups. Adult supervision is needed at all times.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an absolutely fantastic read: Searching for Susy Thunder (a notorious phone hacker).

Racism in this country is never over, because we've never tried to understand the past: The Lasting Legacy Of Redlining

This sounds fantastic: You Awaken in a Strange Place: the remarkable RPG you create as you play.

This is highly useful, a description of the techniques Russia uses for disinformation: The Four M's.

From C. Lee, and come on, people, this is just weird: People are making Amazon drivers dance for surveillance cameras and posting the footage on TikTok. This is a terrific story about Miami condos, but I had some white space at the top before I found the start of the article, so scroll down if you need to: The Towers and the Ticking Clock. This is excellent, and I'm still a huge fan of Excel: Secrets of an Excel esports player: How pros tap the true power of spreadsheets. A neat bit of history: The Revenge of the Hot Water Bottle. A truly unlikely category: Make a Cute Little Salami Rose With a Wine Glass.

From Wally, and it's incredibly silly (and the comments are entirely wonderful): Is Your Car Safe From Supermaneuverable Air-Defense Fighter Aircraft? Some of these very very clever: 40 Comics Showing What Superheroes Do When They Are Not Out Saving The World

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's a thoughtful analysis of the suburb's problems: The Suburbs Are Bleeding America Dry | Climate Town

From jdv, and this would have been very interesting: That Time Steven Spielberg Almost Made A Doctor Who Movie

From Eric Lundquist, and this is fascinating: Why Machines That Bend Are Better. This is incredible: JWST Mirror Actuators are AMAZING!

From David Gloier, and it's a terrific read: The Brutal Reason Some Primates Are Born a Weird Color

From Jonathon W., and it's excellent: The death of the Super Hopper

Good Design, Bad Design

The spine doctor was at a decently-sized hospital, and after they checked me in, they told me how to get to the doctor's office. They said, "Follow the orange circles to the end."

This is what it looked like:

This was wonderful, because it was so simple. Even better, every time I was about to turn a corner, there was always the next orange circle in my vision before I turned. 

In other words, it was perfect design. What a simple, comprehensive way to convey information. The doctor's office was a healthy walk away, and I knew I was on the right track every second.

Less than fifty yards away, though, was the exact opposite of good design.

Here's what bad design looks like:

This should also be part of a new series: Bad Pictures to Explain Bad Design. 

When you're about to turn into the hospital entrance, there are two entrances right next to each other (one to get in, the other to get out) with a median between them. The "wrong way" sign is set back from the road, and your eyes don't focus on it until after you already commit to one of the two entrances. In other words, it's totally useless until it's too late. 

The correct way to design this is to have a larger and wider sign between the two entrances, right on the edge of the street. The left half of the sign is in red and says "Wrong Way." The right half of the sign is green and says "Entrance." Without even reading the words, your brain instinctively would head for the green entrance, which is the right one. 

If you go in the exit, you risk being car bombed by hospital workers changing shift and driving like mad to get home. 

Not that it happened to me, obviously.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Quite the Late Start

I went to the spine doctor today and he said lots of people younger than me have much worse backs, so I guess that's good?

It looks like two injections and lots of rehab exercises, and I'll still be able to golf and should be functioning pretty normally. Good news for an old, broken down, bag of bones. 

I see that Joe Rogan has reached the entirely predictable point on the Rich White Guy Apology Tour where he's saying that he's the real victim. If I had a dollar for every time a rich white guy said he was a victim, maybe I'd be rich enough to be a victim, too. 

Tomorrow: excellent design and terrible design, and within fifty yards of each other.

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

A Season Begins

Elo 20.6 started his season Saturday night. 

First league game. A legendary rivalry. And he's happier playing hockey than he's ever been. 

Athletics are a funny thing. We always see stories about athletes who get closure in their careers, but for the vast majority, even professional athletes, there is no closure. It's a kind of haunting, and it's the nature of being a highly competitive person, really. 

For Eli, though, this season is closure, and in the best way possible. The other guys on the team are great. He's helping coach the goalies on the lower teams, and it's something he really enjoys. It just couldn't be any more fun for him. 

I'm not going to give team names or too many details (things have a weird way of coming back around on the Internet), but I'll tell you how it went. 

The game was a sellout. About 1,000 people, and they were all yelling their lungs out. His team started off slowly, and he had to stand on his head to only give up one goal in the first period. In the second period, though, his team took off and started scoring in bunches. 

In the third period, the crowd was doing soccer chants, but substituting his name for a team name. How many people get to experience something like that in their lives?

They wound up winning big. This is a very, very good team.

Monday, February 07, 2022


Not that it will mean anything in the larger context of things, but I cancelled my Spotify subscription. I like their music player, and I like how they present information, But Joe Rogan broke my back. 

The older I get, the more it means to me to not support assholes. It's not always possible to follow this rule, and it can get complicated, but even little things can be meaningful in a personal way. 

It's not just COVID misinformation, although it's a large part of it. It's also things like this
In another clip, Rogan spoke to a guest who has parents of different skin colors. "Powerful combination, genetic-wise, right?" Rogan said. "You get the body of the Black man and then you get the mind of the white man all together in some strange combination... that doesn't, by the way, mean that Black people don't have brains. It's a different brain. Don't get me wrong."

That's incredibly racist and about a dozen other terrible things in one paragraph. 

He'll keep making money for Spotify, but Spotify won't make any money from me. 

Olympics on Peacock

The network coverage of the Olympics by NBA is, as usual, unwatchable, but paying $10 for ad-free Peacock for one month is like pay-per-view for the Olympics, and what I've watched so far has been very well done. If you get the individual event coverage (I watched ski jumping and giant slalom today), there are no puff pieces and no commercials. It's like a miracle compared to what NBC normally does. 

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Friday Links!

 A couple of articles on the perilous state of this country leading off. First, and this is frightening, it's Confederate Flags, Conspiracies, and the Ghost of JFK Jr.: What I Saw at Trump’s Bananas Texas Rally. Next, another part of the problem: Joe “just conversations” Rogan defends misinformation like a classic grifter.

This is very disappointing (also, I should find an old controller and start playing Clone Hero): The World's Best Guitar Hero Player Was A Cheat.

From Steven Kreuch, and obviously, we all need one of these (the product video on the left of the page is hilarious): Assled - Wearable Foldable Snow Sled.

This is a staggering, bizarre story: I was engaged to an undercover police officer - everything in the relationship was a lie.

From David Gloier, and who knew? Baseball, BBQ, and Dead Ponies—A History of Fat Men’s Clubs in Texas. This is really something: Why the FBI Loves Mob Podcasts

From C. Lee, and it explains how Vampire Survivors became an overnight sensation: How ‘Vampire Survivors’ Went From Obscurity to 27,000 People Playing at Once. This is a fascinating review: Unyielding Soil: On Stephen G. Bloom’s “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: A Cautionary Tale of Race and Brutality”. A follow-up on the previous link: Lesson of a Lifetime. This is an engrossing comparison of how the cost of goods and services have changed over time: Why Agatha Christie could afford a maid and a nanny but not a car. This is concerning: Did I Turn Off the Stove? Yes, but Maybe Not the Gas. This is such a great story about the relaunch of a very fun game: ‘Broke our hearts’: autistic boy inspires relaunch of popular game. I was wondering about this just last week: The Chinese Takeout Box is As American As Baseball and Apple Pie

From Wally, and if you ever wondered which generation someone belonged in, here you go: Generation names explained. Ever wanted to see a demolition sizzle reel? Here you go: CDI - 2021 Highlights. Good advice in the first comment: Rock Collapse - Goûter Route, Goûter Couloir, Mont Blanc. A reasonable question: What the Hell Is This Old Chevy Tahoe Doing in the New Halo Trailer?

Hard and Fast Rules

The first, of course, is never start a land war in Asia. Thank you to both WWII Generals and "The Princess Bride" (I prefer the latter). 

The second is that entertainers have a very easy way to tell if they're assholes: anyone hawking nutritional supplements is an asshole. Gwyneth Paltrow, Joe Rogan, Tom Brady, Alex Jones--the list goes on and on. Anyone doing that can be dismissed with prejudice. It gives you an immediate CFR (Clown Factor Rating), which can be used in multiple evaluations. 

I'm not talking about Flintstone chewables. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. 

It's a Problem

As an attempt to eat marginally better, I replaced my morning Pop-Tarts (cinnamon roll, yum) with an English muffin (unusually thick ones). 

An English muffin, while more substantial, actually has fewer calories than two Pop-Tarts. However, I've been adding butter and preserves (as one does), which has driven the calorie count up dramatically. 

In other words, it's easier to control the calories with Pop-Tarts, because they have no DLC.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022


I've mentioned this before, but GeoGuessr gives you a series of images that you have to place on the world map. Sometimes, there might be a road sign or something to help you, but there are also quite a few images that are incredibly obscure and almost impossible to identify.

Eli 20.6 loves playing GeoGuessr.

He sent this to me on Monday:

That's a ridiculously high score, and this was his comment:
They were all no-language rural ones that normally stump me but I’ve been studying world tree distribution!

I doubt any of us are surprised.

I Almost Had It Right

I was close yesterday, but I didn't quite have it yet. 

When I talked about Protector/Companion/Resource, I wasn't looking at it the right way. It's not a transition between phases as much as it is a reduction. At first, you're all three. Then, as your child gets older, your need to be a protector slowly reduces. Later still, when they're in college and they're not at home very often, you become less of a companion, too. Finally, most of your role (though not all) is as a resource, to help them when needed. 

That sounds right.

Given the Recent Spate of Acquisitions in the Gaming Industry

I'd like to remind Microsoft and Sony that Bill and Eli Productions would consider offers in the low three figures. 

Tuesday, February 01, 2022


This is in my TV room:

If you look closely, you can see the Iron Giant holding Hogarth carefully in his hands. I looked at this yesterday and had a sudden realization about being a parent. 

Early in Eli 20.5s life, I was the Iron Giant. I felt exactly like that picture, and I felt that way for a long time. I was the protector. It was my job to make sure nothing bad happened to him. I wanted him to struggle, yes, and even fail, because those aren't bad things. I just wanted to protect him from the bad, dark things.

And I did. Somehow.

He grew older, and I had to transition from protector to companion. There were always elements of both growing up, because we're best friends, but the protection slider started going down once he got to high school. It wasn't easy, at times, because I had so much more experience than him, but if you don't let someone make their own decisions, they never learn how. 

It's very hard to stop being the protector when that's been your role since the first day of someone's life. 

Being companions, though, was great. We played lots and lots of golf, always walking, and we'd talk the whole time. Or play tennis. Or do anything, really, as an excuse to hang out together. And I still felt like the protector, every once in a while, but not so often. We have hundreds of stories about being together, like a secret language only we understand.

There's another phase now, and it's a much more fundamental change, because I have to transition from being a companion (and occasionally being a protector) to being a resource. Even though we text every day and talk several times a week, Eli just isn't physically around very often. When his last Oxford term ends in June, he may be in Serbia for the rest of the summer (a super cool program I'll tell you about at some point). I'll fly over in spring and see him for a week, but his life is becoming separate from mine. When he graduates from college, things are going to move even further in that direction. 

I know it's supposed to happen this way, and I'm happy for him, because his life is filled with so many wondrous things. He makes his own messes and cleans almost all of them up, which is saying something for a twenty-year-old.

I still remember being the Iron Giant, though.

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