Thursday, March 31, 2022

Friday Links!

We're a little light, given my traveling, but enjoy an abbreviated set of links and have a great weekend!

Leading off this week, from Brian B., and what a story: The popular electronics chain that scammed America.

What a story: How George Clinton's iconic "Atomic Dog" came to be through a series of happy accidents.

A thought-provoking experiment: A controlled experiment focuses on improved policing method.

Leading off this week, a story about someone who realized what they enjoyed and what they didn't: Wordle creator describes game’s rise, says NYT sale was “a way to walk away”.

From Wally, and this will keep you busy for a while: 10 MUST-READ ALTERNATE HISTORY THRILLERS

I do feel like this every once in a while (and more often in the future, I hope): Watch a frisky pup not walk but bounce down the street.

From C. Lee, and this is not good: Dual use of artificial-intelligence-powered drug discovery. Next, and this is a staggering story, it's Afghanistan’s last finance minister, now a D.C. Uber driver, ponders what went wrong. This is thought-provoking: The man known as ‘Putin’s brain’ envisions the splitting of Europe — and the fall of China. I'm not surprised: Superbug-Infected Chicken Is Being Sold All Over the US. This isn't going well for you, Wayne Pankrantz: Franchise exec’s idea to lower restaurant pay gets harsh rebuke: from public, company. This is brilliant! Genius inventor makes The Office's vacuum toy collector a reality, uses it to suck up and sort Lego.

A Good Boy

I saw a three-legged poodle yesterday. The most remarkable thing about this poodle was not its number of legs. 

It was sitting on its hind legs on the sidewalk, right on the corner. I asked its owner if it was sitting there because she was training it. 

The poodle was not being trained. 

Instead, she said, if the poodle disagreed about the direction the owner wanted to go at an intersection, it would just sit down on the sidewalk until the owner agreed to go in the "correct" direction. 

Kudos, poodle. Well-played.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Broader Application

I have a tilt-shift option with my cellphone camera. I had no idea it was even an option until this week. 

It's hard to see the effect in this smaller version, but I think you can double-click on it to enlarge to actual size. 

I'd like to have an option where life has a tilt-shift effect. Not all the time, mind you, but occasionally. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022


I've had trouble sleeping for almost twenty-five years now. 

It started when Gloria and I moved in together. We only had a twin bed, and she was a very active sleeper. I'd never spent the night with someone consistently, so I very quickly developed issues. 

Oh, and her cat, who liked to jump on the bed at 5 a.m. and ask for breakfast. Gloria slept very heavily, so I would get up every morning and feed the cat (who, to be fair, was very polite after that). 

I started taking melatonin at some point.

At some point after that, my doctor prescribed Ambien. I was concerned about possible addictive effects, so I only took it two nights a week. I generally slept very well on it, too, but Ambien is powerful in strange ways, and I was less and less comfortable with it over time. 

Then we moved to Michigan (Canada). My new doctor recommended I stop taking Ambien and take Trazadone, which was much milder and really didn't cause any issues over time. 

That sounded great, really, but I didn't sleep nearly as well. 

The other problem with Melatonin and Trazadone was that I always woke up sluggish in the morning. Every single day, I felt heavy for the first half hour, and I didn't like that. 

A couple of years ago, I developed a new complication: I had a hard time turning my brain off. I could go to sleep with no problem, generally, then I'd wake up at 3:30 and my brain would be going a mile a minute. I'd think of ten things I needed to do the next day, and I'd be sending emails to myself at 4 a.m. with lists of tasks. 

After Gloria's accident, this got much worse, because there was suddenly so much more to do. 

A few nights ago, I just decided to stop taking anything. I don't like needing medication to sleep, and it seems like I need to focus on the upstream problems instead of trying to solve it downstream by taking something right before bedtime. 

It could be a disaster. 

However, I know a fair number of you have sleep problems, too, because a ton of people in the 40-60 range do, so if I'm able to get this under control, I'll let you know what I did. Maybe it will help you, too. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Real VR Fishing

I bought a VR fishing game for the Quest 2. Of course.

I have a long fondness for fishing mini-games in RPGs, and fishing games in general. So when I saw a game called "Real VR Fishing," I bought it, even though I expected it to be terrible. 

As it turns out, though, it's pretty great. 

The developers are Korean, so you start out with 20 locations in Korea (each one has to be earned by catching fish, so it unlocks gradually). The fishing mechanics on easy are fun and very "gamey," but higher difficulties feel much more realistic and require better performance on your part. 

The feeling of fishing is very strong, which is what surprised me the most. Also strong is the sense of location. At various locations there were cherry blossoms in the wind, or fireflies, or any number of special touches, which add to a remarkable sense of immersion. 

There are both freshwater and saltwater locations. I finally unlocked a saltwater location (still in Korea), and I was catching salmon when a shark attacked one that I had on the line, and suddenly, I was fighting a shark instead. It was fantastic, and incredibly fun, and no, I didn't land the shark. 

Apparently you can, though. 

There's also a Western States DLC (U.S.) that adds 76 new species of fish to catch, and the locations (20 new ones) are all beautiful. 

For someone who has very warm memories of fishing, but doesn't want to go through the entire pain in the ass process to actually fish, it's perfect. And it's very clear that the developers have been very, very thorough in their development of this game, even including aquariums in the fishing lodges that you can fill with your catches. 

Eli 20.7 and I are planning some fishing multiplayer soon. 

Here's a link: Real VR Fishing.

And one other thing


Why is Billie Eilish wearing a sea monster?


Wait, I'm supposed to care that a guy who lives in a 25,000 square foot mansion slapped another guy who lives in a 25,000 square foot mansion?

Not so much. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Friday Links!

I really don't have any words to describe this: The way he goes out of his way to show he’s not faking. Respect.

From Wally, and this fascinates me: This website only shows you Twitch streams no one else is watching. An excellent read: Bureaucratizing science fiction. This is an amazing look at low orbit objects: Low earth orbit. This is terrifying: Metal Pipe Launched from Highway Smashes Through Windshield || ViralHog. This is ugly: DC Sues Grubhub For Allegedly Deceptive Business Practices

From C. Lee, and it seems like an unlikely headline: Japanese Cat Lovers Power Medical Innovation: Today Feline Kidney Disease—Tomorrow Alzheimer’s? I'm sure I've been called a few: All the Terrible Slang Your Doctor Is Using Behind Your Back. This is stunning: Dentist broke his patients’ teeth to make millions installing crowns, jury finds. This is my shocked face: These Are The Cars Most Commonly Owned By People With DUIs. I'm so old I remember this: What Happened the Last Time the U.S. Tried to Make Daylight Saving Time Permanent? The world's oldest story: Sex Worker Brides & the Rise of “Millionaires” in the Twisted Tale of a Forgotten Economic Crash

The Wisdom Couch

There was a couch delivery yesterday. 

I'm moving back into the house at the end of May to help to through the mountains of stuff necessary to prepare it for sale in summer 2023. 

Potentially, it's an emotional minefield for me, for many reasons, so I'm selling some of the old furniture and using the proceeds to buy new, emotionally neutral furniture. 

Hence, the couch. 

One of the two delivery guys was a wiry fellow, and I said I didn't know how he was able to do heavy deliveries for a job, given his frame. He said, "I was watching a dude stacking bowls on YouTube, and I realized that if you find the center of gravity for every object, the universe can work with you. Then lifting anything is easy." Then he paused and said, "That's true for everything in life."

I wish to subscribe to his newsletter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Amalfi Coast

Eli 20.7 called on on WhatsApp from the Amalfi coast this morning. He'd sent two pictures the day before:

He called from the top of the Path of the Gods hike, which he said included 1,700 stairs. It was a video call, so I got to see him and the view, along with his girlfriend (who I'd be very happy to have as a daughter-in-law someday, if everything works out).

Here's a picture of the view on the hike (courtesy of Wired for Adventure):

I had such a huge rush of happiness when I heard his voice and saw his face. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

I Did Not Buy The Kayak

I had a hard time getting around town last Saturday because there was a race for St. Patrick's Day. 

I needed to make a stop at a local grocery store, but I couldn't get there because so many roads were blocked off. Finally, I found a side road that got me into the area behind the grocery store, and followed it around to the front. 

Every parking spot was taken. Not by grocery store customers, but by runners. And every space in the parking garage beside the grocery was filled. 

I went rogue and parked next to a kayak. This grocery store has kayaks for sake. 

I walked into the store and there was only one cashier, a grizzled woman who I believe came from Eastern Europe, based on her heavy accent. 

"I could hardly get in here today," I said. "No parking places."

"No customers," she sighed. "Today ve are ze public bathroom store."

Monday, March 21, 2022

Greetings from the Colosseum

 Eli 20.7 greetings, not mine:

The arena was 83 meters by 48 meters, so about 3/4 as long as an American football field, and about the same width. With capacity for roughly 55,000 spectators. 

He also said they visited "some chapel." Smart aleck.

I told my neighbor it was nice of him to remember to send me pictures of all the things I couldn't afford to do anymore. Heh. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a fantastic read: A brief tour of the PDP-11, the most influential minicomputer of all time.

I mean, you can just taste it, but this is still impressive: How to tell if your spaghetti is perfectly done using just a simple ruler.

From Wally, and LOTR nerd alert: Hoard of the rings: ‘lost’ scripts for BBC Tolkien drama discovered.

From C. Lee, and this is no surprise: Ukrainians Find That Relatives in Russia Don’t Believe It’s a War. This is an excellent read: Kyiv vs. Kiev, Zelensky vs. Zelenskyy, and the immense meaning of ‘the’. Incredible: Half of Americans Exposed to IQ-Lowering Levels of Lead Growing Up, Study Finds. This could be useful: Two Simple Movements Can Reduce Dizziness When Standing Up, Study Finds. This was an amazing writer: A Holocaust Survivor’s Hardboiled Science Fiction. This is an absolutely fascinating story: Okuda Hiroko: The Casio Employee Behind the “Sleng Teng” Riddim that Revolutionized Reggae.

Amsterdam (part two)

I'm not 100% sure, but I believe they did an art museum crawl, so these paintings are from more than one museum. I recognize Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. You can click on the image for a larger version, I think. 

Being able to stand in one of these paintings and see the brush strokes would be incredible.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Amsterdam (part one)

Eli 20.7 is in Amsterdam with his two best friends (from the U.S.).

His back is totally fine. He got his grades for the term just concluded (A+ and A). Life is good. 

He's sent me a good number of pictures, so enjoy Amsterdam!

Seems Like A Good Idea


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Future

Eli 20.7 and I were playing Walkabout Mini-Golf on the Quest 2 last Thursday, and we were talking about what our relationship would be like in the future. 

It's going to be different. Well, not so different from this year, because it's already transitioning, but it's going to be physically more distant than it was a few years ago. He is going to be working all over the world, probably, and changing locations every few years, and it's not going to be financially feasible for me to follow him. 

There's a bit of sadness, realizing that, but I also know that the reason it's happening is because of all the things he's accomplished and the amazing opportunities he's going to have. And I feel happy for him, and lucky to be able to see his life.

We both realized while we were talking last week that virtual reality is going to allow us to have a much closer relationship than would be possible just talking on the phone. Because the controllers track your hand movements, it makes your physical presence seem much more real. Eli said I use the same mannerisms in mini-golf that I use in real golf, and it makes it seem like I'm actually there. 

It's the same for me, looking at him. 

Eli said he understands how the metaverse might actually work someday, and even though I hope Facebook isn't the one to succeed with it, I understand what he means. There might be a day when we're separated by thousands of miles, but we're in the same art museum, talking about the exhibits as we walk through, side-by-side. 


Monday, March 14, 2022


Longtime reader and friend Allen Varney sent me this article:
Men’s Blues secure late victory over Oxford in Varsity Ice Hockey Cambridge scored two goals in the final period to win the 104th Men’s Varsity Match yesterday evening (12/3).

That fourth goal was an empty-netter after Eli 20.7 had been pulled for an extra attacker.


The Oxford versus Cambridge ice hockey Varsity Match is the oldest fixture in the sport with the original match taking place in St Moritz in the Swiss Alps in 1885. Subsequent matches took place in 1895 on the lake at Blenheim Palace outside of Oxford and in 1900 at the newly formed Prince’s Skating Club in London, with a 7-6 win for Oxford. The early Varsity Matches had a profound impact on the game of ice hockey; developing the sport in Europe from the late nineteenth century game, ‘hockey on the ice’, to what we now know as the modern-day game of ice hockey.
--The Varsity March (Oxford Hockey page)

This is the one game a season that Oxford hockey really, really wants to win. 

This year, they didn't. 

Eli 20.7 had quite a game, though. 59 saves on 62 shots. His team was outshot over 3-1, but he kept them in it until the very last. 

He got piled on in the third period, in an awkward position, and hurt his back, but he woke up feeling fine today. So no injuries, and that's always a relief. 

There was a livestream of this game (the only one all season), and the announcers must have said his name 150 times. After so many years of not getting the attention he deserved, it was nice to see him get it all in one night. 

Also, it was the most saves for an Oxford goalie in the Varsity Match in over seventy years. 

Eli's hockey career didn't always go in the direction he expected, but he wound up in a special place. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Eric Lundquist, and what a fantastic story: In the Grand Canyon, the U.S. Postal Service still delivers mail by mule.

From Meg McReynolds, and it sounds like an exciting career opportunity: What’s a ‘grizzly bear conflict manager’? $100,000 job isn’t for the faint-hearted. Meg is the official Dubious Quality Sled Dog Link Submitter: No Huskies, No Problem: These Unexpected Sled Dogs Have Serious Pull.

From David Gloier, and this definitely checks out: Japan’s ‘killing stone’ splits in two, releasing superstitions amid the sulphur springs.

From Wally, and this is fascinating: NASA is just now opening a vacuum-sealed sample it took from the moon 50 years ago. Promising, potentially: Reprogrammed bacterium turns carbon dioxide into chemicals on industrial scale.

From C. Lee, and it's not encouraging: ‘Yes, He Would’: Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes. A This American Life episode on Putin: The Other President. Infrastructure: FEEDING THE BEAR: A CLOSER LOOK AT RUSSIAN ARMY LOGISTICS AND THE FAIT ACCOMPLI. This really, really pisses me off. As I've said before, stupid is not a side: False Claims of U.S. Biowarfare Labs in Ukraine Grip QAnon. Okay, off the Russia links, and this is delightful: When the Government Tried—and Failed—to Silence Catwoman | The New Yorker Documentary. I've always wondered about this: How Is Worcestershire Sauce Made? | How Do They Do It? It seems like an improvement: The Medieval Influencer Who Convinced the World to Drink Tea—Not Eat It.

Lastly, from Ken Piper, and I've never read an article that sounds more like something Eli and I would do: Why I'm Locked in a $1,000 Death Race Against My Own Son.


Since The Man You Trust is essentially finished in terms of writing (still waiting for the proofreader, but it's all corrections at this point), I've moved on to researching the next book. 

This does not feel satisfying. 

I'm finding that it feels like a bit of a hole. My routine was very stable and secure, and going from working four hours a day on the book to two hours a day on the next book feels strange. 

There's another part of it, too, which is I'm becoming more connected to people and the world, and I'm not sure I like it. Classic introvert. 

I'm getting too many texts. Talking to too many people on the phone. Just feeling disrupted in general. 

What I'm going to try is setting up a schedule where I have more defined time, instead of trying to select the next thing I need to do from a series of huge laundry lists. So talking on the phone will take up a certain time during the day, and returning texts will be the same way (with exceptions for Mom 91.11 and Eli 20.6, of course). 

Maybe then I can figure out if it's the lack of structure or lack of focus that's bothering me most. 

Even though I'm actively researching the next book, it definitely lacks the kind of deep concentration that comes from writing and editing, and without that structure and focus, I feel a bit lost. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Endurance Found

This is stunning:
The wreck of Endurance has been found in the Antarctic, 106 years after the historic ship was crushed in pack ice and sank during an expedition by the explorer Ernest Shackleton.

A team of adventurers, marine archaeologists and technicians located the wreck at the bottom of the Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic Peninsula, using undersea drones. Battling sea ice and freezing temperatures, the team had been searching for more than two weeks in a 150-square-mile area around where the ship went down in 1915.

I'm guessing that most of you, like me, have read books about Shackleton's expedition, and I know I've mentioned it multiple times over the years. I know I have this somewhere: The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (there are many amazing photos). 

The ship is incredibly well-preserved because of the water temperatures, so the images in the article linked at the top of the post are spectacular (it's an NY Times article, so hopefully you can access it).

Alternate stories if you hit a paywall:
‘Like Time Travel’: The Discovery of Shackleton’s Endurance
Endurance: Shackleton's lost ship is found in Antarctic (a BBC article, and excellent)

Tuesday, March 08, 2022


I talked last week about playing Walkabout Mini-Golf with Eli 20.6 via the Quest 2. 

When we met to play today, he'd redone his avatar so that it looked quite a bit like him. Mine looks like me, too. 

Eli said that when he saw me the previous time, seeing a strong likeness of my face gave him a little surge of emotion. I felt the same when I saw him today. 

It doesn't seem like you could have a feeling like that in virtual reality, but you can. 

If these headsets can get lighter and more powerful (and they will), it seems like it would be a way for people to stay close in a way they couldn't before.  

Monday, March 07, 2022


I've been struggling to decide what to write about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, because while it's very focused in this moment, it also feels like a larger trend of history that we have been unable to reverse. 

Systems of cooperation are uniquely unsuited to handle monsters.

How many millenniums has this gone on? All of them. 

It happens at all levels. There's always the abusive bully who takes advantage of everyone else's good nature. 

Coaches, often. City council members. The crazy guy who lives at the end of the street and threatens to shoot people who walk on his lawn. 

Roy Cohn. Joseph McCarthy. Donald Trump. 

Internationally, there are too many to count. One of the great themes of history, it seems, is people trying to cooperate and being befuddled by the monsters around them. 

To me, the most chilling part of this song of history is how many people are attracted to monsters. Now matter how incredibly foul or despicable they are, there will always be 30% of the population--or 50%, or 70%--who find a reason to support him. 

It's almost always a him. That's a separate topic. 

The monster is strong. He brings order. He's a master at using the psychology of threat (there's a conspiracy against us. There's an imminent danger only I can prevent.) to both make people afraid and convince them that only he can save them. 

Civilization still doesn't know how to deal with monsters. And the most terrifying part is that I'm not sure we ever will. 

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a fascinating read: Do birds have language? It depends on how you define it.

From lummoxjr, and it's a video of stories from a much-beloved game: The Suffocation Worm - Space Station 13 Stories.

From Wally, and it's fascinating: The surprising pattern behind color names around the world. Also, and this is huge, it's The migraine breakthrough. This sounds like something from the Onion, but it's a real thing: Georgia toddler diagnosed with extremely rare uncombable hair syndrome

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's a terrifically obscure bit of history: Waging war on the Jamaican patty: Canada’s bizarre beef with the delicious snack | Patty vs Patty.

From David Gloier, and it's an excellent read: In Search of Troy.

From C. Lee, and it's an excellent essay: A Philosopher in the Kitchen. And the follow-up: Dinner at the Elusive ‘Otto's’: The Disappointing Details. Hard pass: When Groundhog Was on the Menu in Punxsutawney. Water: The Purest of Them All. A fascinating bit of history: When Hershey Created a Chocolate Bar for the U.S. Army

An Exchange of Texts

Texting with my friend John Harwood. He's in italics, and my responses are in plain text. 

What's the internal temperature of a Tauntaun?

    I don't know exactly, but I'm guessing you can't really survive hiding inside one.

Luke warm. 

     I regret buying a phone. 

In John's defense, he did suggest Walkabout Mini-Golf, which is very fun on the Quest 2. Let's consider it probation.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022


I got an excellent deal on a refurbished Quest 2 from Amazon, so I took the plunge and ordered one a few weeks ago. I also ordered lenses  that use my prescription and fit over the Quest lenses, so I don't have to wear glasses. 

Well, that makes a huge difference. 

I didn't think I'd be impressed with the Quest 2, but I'm actually much closer to blown away after using it for a few days. The setup was simple and very efficient, and the intro programs (First Steps and First Contact) are extremely well-done. The image is very clear, the games are fun, and not having any wires makes a huge difference. 

I'm also very interested in unusual experiences that virtual reality can provide, which is why I downloaded Goliath (free), an interactive experience of schizophrenia. It's immersive and very powerful, and it definitely opened my eyes to the width of experiences virtual reality can provide. 

If you're wondering about nausea, John Harwood let me know that the games are rated for different levels of barf. The "Comfortable" label on a game means I can play it with only minor discomfort. I haven't even tried any games that aren't at that level. Still getting my sea legs. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2022


Eli 20.6 is having a hugely enjoyable season. 

Two weeks ago, they were outshot 83-13 by a university that's well-known as specializing in sports. All the players on their team were either European or Russian, and they were very, very good. 

Eli's team lost 6-3, which is pretty stout when you face 83 shots. 

Last weekend, his team played much better, gave up only 25 shots, and they won 4-1.

His save percentage for the season is in the .940 range, and he said he's playing with a ton of confidence. 

It's a happy, happy story.

Yeah, about that relief

So of course the hospital called back today.

The balance is currently zero, but there is still an avalanche of outstanding claims that are going through a third-party billing specialist that coordinates claims between health insurance and auto insurance companies (again, a weird Michigan law). 

All this medical stuff is like a vampire. Or a python, and every time you breathe, it squeezes a little tighter. That's what it feels like, anyway. 

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