Thursday, April 28, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an article for F1 fans (the best presentation of any sport on television, by far): F1 cars in 2026 will have less drag and no MGU-H, FIA says.

A fascinating story: The Nineteenth Century Hipster Who Pioneered Modern Sportswriting.

From C. Lee, and it's still true: Why Are There So Many Bad Bosses? This is fascinating: Spring time: why an ancient water system is being brought back to life in Spain. I always wondered about this: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie: Where Did the Phonetic Alphabet Come From? Unbelievable: Hucksters Profit Off Nutty ‘Venom in the Water’ Theory. This is an excellent read:  Yishan: I've now been asked multiple times for my take on Elon's offer for Twitter. This is wonderful: The Third Man Guide to Vienna. Those pre-made, room temperature pancakes are apparently a thing in England: Where to buy the best flipping pancakes.

From Wally, and this is amazing: Making a Crazy Part on the Lathe - Manual Machining. And one more: I make an ''8 Ball'' out of solid Stainless Steel and Brass. I can't even imagine how much this cost: OK Go - This Too Shall Pass - Rube Goldberg Machine - Official Video. This is fun: COLIN TREVORROW REVEALS 'JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION' MAP OF THE UNITED STATES OVERRUN BY DINOSAURS. These are amazing: Alan Lee on Illustrating J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

Next Week

Lots and lots of Eli 20.8 coming. I doubt anyone on Earth had a better break than he did. 


I lost my 108-day streak in Wordle today. Urgh. 

Dorfromantik left Early Access today (30% discount for launch), and as I've mentioned previously, it's a wonderful, relaxing game. There's a new creative mode (endlessly play), different biomes, an undo button, and lots more. Eurogamer also has a terrific interview with the four-person team who developed the game (who all seem like very nice people): The past, present and future of Dorfromantik.

The other extremely interesting game that released today is Kaiju Wars. Think "Into the Breach," but in a B-movie featuring Japanese monsters. It's incredibly stylish and an enormous amount of fun (based on the demo, which is also nice to have).

Actually, it's quite a bit more than "Into the Breach," although the combat is very similar. There's much more to the game, though. Like I said, there's a demo if you're interested. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022


This is a beautiful, nostalgic post written by lummoxjr (also known as author Lee Gaiteri, who has another book coming out soon). I'm not going to italicize the post, so just know that it's all Lee from here on. 

I saw you mentioned the unfortunate passing of Scott Bennie, and Interplay's Lord of the Rings holds a huge warm and fuzzy place in my heart. So I have a story to share with you about what it meant to me.

My introduction to Tolkien's world came from my dad, who read The Hobbit to me and my sister as kids. In the late '80s I finally read Lord of the Rings for the first time and was blown away by the depth of the story. Then one day in 1990 my family was out at a mall and we discovered Interplay's Lord of the Rings in a software store: officially licensed by the Tolkien estate. Naturally it was a must-buy. Over the next several months my dad and I spent several evenings a week, a few hours at a time, working our way through the game together. We even got an Adlib sound card so we could listen to the music and sound effects in the game.

We discovered quickly just how huge the game map of the Shire alone was, and for the time the game was truly epic in scale. What was fascinating to us especially was that it was so non-linear, allowing many different paths through the game and even allowing different characters to be the Ringbearer. (There was a cost for using the Ring: it permanently lowered the bearer's Will stat, every single time.) Battles were frequent and tense. Quests were layered and meaningful, and it was vital to find supplies to survive. We got lost in the Old Forest together. We had a nice witch as a companion whose frost spells made her a powerful ally in the Shire and the Old Forest, but in some caverns outside of the Bree-land we stumbled onto an unfortunate letter and she turned on us. At Rivendell we reforged a lesser ring. We tried in vain to fight our way through Caradhras, and spent weeks trying to figure out a way through Moria. We lost Gandalf on the Bridge, but what you might not have known was that it was totally possible to fight the balrog instead—at the risk of losing one or two other members of the Fellowship, because it was a ridiculously hard fight. The adventure went on and on, with surprises at every turn. Some of the quests even had much later payoffs than we expected: such as a ghost we helped back in the Shire suddenly finding us again in Mirkwood, offering to be a companion in recognition of what we did.

But another fascinating wrinkle was that the game initially shipped with a cheat intact. If you typed "frodolives!" after the executable on the DOS command line, it would activate an in-game teleport function. At the time we used Prodigy as our online service, and it had some fairly vibrant message boards where we ended up sharing teleport coordinates with other fans of the game. As a result we were able to see even more parts of the map that we'd missed, or use the Pools of Healing in Moria to help us bounce back after some inordinately tough battles. We discovered also that some storylines from the game were apparently partially cut: you could go back to Bree and interact with Rayf Brogan, a ruffian who caused you trouble on the first visit who now had a change of heart and was willing to join the party. The teleportation mechanic opened up a whole new level of exploration in the game. I was deeply saddened that later re-release versions cut it out; yet the original was no longer playable on newer machines because it ran like a gerbil on crack.

We tried to get into the Two Towers sequel, but it wasn't the same. It tried to use split storylines that made it really hard to keep up with the action, so it just didn't work. But the original game was utterly glorious and remains one of my favorite games of all time: not just for its exceptional content, but for the times my dad and I spent deciding which path to take in a cave or if we'd looked behind this or that bush in hopes of finding a little athelas.

It's a beautiful thing how all creative endeavors—and in many ways gaming most of all—can create so many wonderful experiences, new stories, and fond memories in the people they touch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Naasir Cunningham and the min-maxing of reality

Naasir Cunningham is the #1 rated basketball prospect for the class of 2024 (in other words, he graduates from high school in two years). 

Here's what he just did: 
Naasir Cunningham, the No. 1 basketball prospect in ESPN's Class of 2024, is signing with Overtime Elite (OTE), he told ESPN on Monday.

...Cunningham will be the first player to forgo being paid a salary by OTE, which should preserve his eligibility to play college basketball after graduating from high school. He will still be eligible to make money off his name, image and likeness in high school, providing him with additional earning potential over the next two years without jeopardizing his amateur status.

That seems brilliant to me. The elite players at the high school level should be able to sign NIL deals as well, and if their state athletic association doesn't allow it, then just sign with OTE, don't take a salary, and make all the money you want for the next two years. The NCAA can't strip your eligibility for doing that, and if they tried, they'd lose in court.

Then, if you want to go play in college, go play in college. 

This kid could have any injury at any point in the next two years that would significantly decrease his attractiveness to recruiters (remember Hoop Dreams?). This way, he makes some money while he's considered elite, instead of having to wait. 

You have to make bank while the bank is open.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Never Reminded

Going through Gloria's CDs reminded me how much you find out about someone through their music collection. 

I talked to someone at a music store (who is going to purchase the CDs for a fraction of what they're worth, I'm sure) and he said he'd been buying used music for 37 years. What does it feel like to learn so much about people you never met? 

In the "old days," before digital content, a music collection was a big deal, be it albums or CDs. It was a constant reminder of the music you cared most about. Your books were the same way. Shelves of books were a way to understand someone, and if you went to their house and they didn't have any, that told you something, too. 

It's different now. 

I don't even have CDs anymore. I stream everything, and while the universal access is fantastic, I'm also sure I've forgotten about bands I used to listen to because I don't have a collection to go through to remind me. Books are the same way--I have about 1,500 books on my Fire tablet, but I'm never reminded of who I read, because once a book is finished, it gets moved into your "read" folder. 

It lacks a sense of permanence, at least to me. Consuming content is a fleeting thing now. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Friday Links!

Light this week, but still some gems. 

From C. Lee, and this is very thoughtful: The Marriage Lesson That I Learned Too Late. This could be very important: As gonorrhea becomes untreatable, a repurposed vaccine may prevent it. Good grief, how were they meeting anyone new? US sexually transmitted infections surged to record high in 2020. This is no surprise: Calif. lawyer resigns “in protest,” points to Newsom “interference” in Activision case. I had absolutely no idea this was happening: Space mice may offer clues to why astronauts get kidney stones

From Ken Piper, and what an amazing person: The remarkable brain of a carpet cleaner who speaks 24 languages. This is fascinating (and I struggle with this): How might neuroergonomics help us cope with brain overload?

From Scott S., and this is about as disgusting as it gets: Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg accused of squashing reporting about then-boyfriend Bobby Kotick

From Wally, and being stupid is expensive: Dodge Viper Crashes During Street Race. This is quite clever: Powered chopsticks use electricity to make food taste 50% saltier

An Incident

I went for my second COVID booster vaccine last week. 

It was at a Walgreen's about 15 minutes from my house, and I picked up some tea while I was there. I was in line at the checkout, and I realized what the woman in front of me was buying:
1 Devour frozen dinner
1 box Magnum ice cream bars
6 boxes raisinettes
2 large bags of Reese's peanut butter cups
2 quart bottles of Mountain Dew

That was her entire basket, and I swear she was going to eat it all during the rest of the day. 

In a very strange way, all those items balanced. I'm just not sure to what. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Eli 20.8 Final League Stats

2.07 goals against average. .948 save percentage. 

It's the highest save percentage he's ever had for a season, and a nice way to go out. 

An Idea

A friend of mine has cellphone service with Mint Mobile, except she always says "Minute" Mobile. 

It's not good, at least in her area. I always say that "minute" is how long a call lasts. 

Then I had a thought. 

This could be the greatest cellphone plan for introverts ever. Unlimited calling, but calls can only last for a minute. "It's great to hear from you! My cellphone plan cuts off all calls after a minute, so talk very, very fast."

I could totally get behind that company. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Random Goofy Trip Things


Not frozen, just next to the bread. We bought some, of course. Eli 20.8s comment: "Not bad, but they need work."

When I said everyone was on their food game in London, here's an example:

I got this waffle at some random place near the hotel. Definitely not a fancy restaurant or anything, just a normal little shop, and I ordered a waffle (it cost seven pounds) and got this. Next-level presentation.

Eli said that people in England were obsessed with American candy, which explained why there were candy shops every three blocks, it seemed. It might also explain this at the Dulles airport (D.C.) on the way back:

Absolutely MASSIVE bags of candy, presumably on sale for people about to leave the U.S. to return home. 

All right, enough food stuff. I told Eli he could help me find one piece of adult clothing on the trip, which he enthusiastically signed up for.

We failed. It's not easy for me to be an adult, or to look like one. 

However, we did see this:

"Look, it's a cargo shirt!" I said. "Could I wear this with cargo shorts and have a theoretically infinite number of pockets?"

Last picture, on the way home. I had a backpack and a carry-on case. This guy did not:

I don't know what's inside all those suitcases. Maybe candy.

Monday, April 18, 2022


I splurged on a hotel in London, like I mentioned earlier, because Eli 20.8 was staying with me. 

Our view:

That's Hyde Park. We were also forty yards from an Underground station, and a bus stop was literally across the street. This made getting around the city incredibly easy, even though we still walked for hours every day. 

Being in a city that was so walkable, with such good public transit, made me realize I don't want to live where I have to drive all the time. I'd enjoy not needing a car. Much healthier, too. 

Instead of going to the tourist spots in London, Eli took me to Borough Market, which is his favorite place in London: 

It was huge, and amazing, and we had excellent tacos for lunch. 

We kept seeing this display (pro-Ukrainian, anti-Russian) near our hotel, and couldn't figure out why it was so randomly placed.

Eventually, we realized that it was because the Russian embassy was across the street. It was totally unmarked, though, and I never would have known if I hadn't asked the two policeman stationed outside it. 

Random things about London:
--the Tube is loud at times. Very, very loud. And the first line was built in 1862, incredibly.
--I didn't encounter one rude person the entire time I was in England. 
--I didn't encounter any loud ones, either. Even the pubs were quiet (we went to one that was about 600 years old, and had to watch out for beams because the roof was so low).
--figuring out which side to walk on the sidewalk is endlessly confusing. On any sidewalk, most English people will naturally stay to the left. London is so international, though, that many people stray to the right, and it's a disordered mess.
--in London, people have to be on their game. Every place we ate, even the inexpensive ones, were delicious. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Friday Links!

 From C. Lee, and it's an incredible story (and a very, very difficult read): Inside the Bitcoin Bust That Took Down the Web’s Biggest Child Abuse Site.

This is easy to remember: How to Convert Celsius to Fahrenheit Without Doing Any Math.

From Wally, and this is amazing: Amish Shed Move. This would be fantastic: Scientists Are Inching Closer to Creating Truly Hypoallergenic Cats. This is a very solid list: These Are The 15 Best Film Posters Of All Time. This is strangely mesmerizing: 13-Hour Overnight 2nd-Class Sleeper Ferry Trip Kobe Express.

From Brian B., and this is incredibly alarming: How the FDA's food division fails to regulate health and safety hazards

From C. Lee, and this is an important, though-provoking essay: WHY THE PAST 10 YEARS OF AMERICAN LIFE HAVE BEEN UNIQUELY STUPID. I'm not optimistic about our ability to do this: UN climate report: Carbon removal is now “essential”. This is quite a story: US arrests Japanese yakuza leader over alleged missiles-for-heroin plot. This is definitely not great: Kids Are Learning History From Video Games Now. Badass of the historical week: The Pirate Queen Who Avenged Her Husband’s Death on the High Seas. This is also thought-provoking: This Is How An Iconic 1980s Ad Doomed Women. Not what I thought I'd be reading about today, but I'm adaptable: Why Have Female Animals Evolved Such Wild Genitals?

From David Gloier, and it's a horrific story (another Penn State story): Untold.

From Mark H., and these are still great: Connections by James Burke (Seasons 1-3)

From Ken Piper, and it's a fascinating story: A tale of lost WW2 uranium cubes shows why Germany’s nuclear program failed

Mystery Intermission

I got a COVID booster yesterday and it wrecked me. I spent last night and this morning sweating through my clothes, and I ache almost as much as I did from the regular vaccine. 

So let's talk about a mystery in London. 

Because Eli 20.8 was staying with me, I splurged and stayed at the Hilton across from Hyde Park. It was utterly fantastic, if you ignored the price (painful), but there was one absolutely fantastic facet of the operation that we discussed at length: there was a bathroom code. 

This one:

This was for the lobby bathroom, which was actually down the stairs from the lobby. 

The lock on the door to enter the bathroom area had ten numbers and ten letters on it as possible entries (the old pushbutton lock).

I looked at Eli. "I think they've secured the nuclear launch codes."

"Hold on," Eli said. We both started calculating. 

"If I'm doing the math right, it's sixty-four-million possible combinations," I said. 

"They take bathroom security very seriously in this country," he said. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Oxford and London

We spent a second day in Oxford, and Eli 20.8 showed me a regular day in his life, which I really enjoyed. Worked at a cafe together. Went to see his dorm room (which is small but quite nice). Saw the libraries where he studies. Had lunch at his regular sandwich place (they called out his order as soon as he walked in, and they always jump the line for him). Then we ate at a Nepalese restaurant that night (cheap and very, very good).

On Sunday, we went to London, and within hours, we were at the West Ham vs. Everton game. In the second row, for my birthday.

If you click on the picture to enlarge, you can see that we were within twenty yards of the field. Soccer is so, so much better in person than on TV (American football is the reverse). There were only two small video boards in the stadium, and they not only didn't show a feed of the game, they almost never showed replays, either. If you didn't pay attention, you  missed it. 

Which was great, actually. 

The whole thing had so much less hype than an American football game. No anthem. No pre-match performative patriotism. Players just walked out and played. It was fantastic. 

I know I only rarely post picture of myself, but here's an exception:

After the game, we went to the best mini-golf course I've ever played. I had sent Eli a link to London's best mini-golf courses and asked him to pick one, and he did. 

It was amazing and very, very difficult. 

There was an attached, multi-story driving range (basically, Top Golf with a different name), and this was the view from the restaurant:

It couldn't have been a nicer day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


I flew out of Detroit on Thursday night, arriving in London Friday morning (3:30 a.m. Detroit time). The bus to Oxford took about 1:20, and then I met Eli 20.8.

After five minutes, it felt like it always does. I hope it will always be like that. 

I'd been awake for almost 28 hours at that point. I'd be awake another 12 before I finally went to bed. 

We walked everywhere. There are only three kinds of vehicles in Oxford, seemingly: buses (all very nice and clean), bicycles (a staggering number), and the motorcycles of Deliveroo drivers (food delivery). The buses, in particular, were incredibly impressive--tons of them, and you could conveniently go anywhere. 

We walked all over the Oxford campus, and here are a few pictures. First, a dining hall:

Some magnificent stained glass (almost black and white):

This is a spectacular lawn inside a college (Oxford has about 40, and I've forgotten which one this is):

I was beyond running on fumes, after about three hours of additional walking, but we wound up eating dinner at a neighborhood Japanese restaurant that was both cheap and had the best Japanese food I've ever eaten. The entire trip was curated by Eli, which made it so pleasant and so easy. All I had to do was keep up. 

He also told me about All Souls College, which is the most unusual college at Oxford. All the students are at the graduate/postgraduate level, and there are only eight. To get in, one has to succeed on what's called "the hardest exam in the world." Students don't have to live on campus, but there's a weekly dinner on Sunday they must attend. 

Oh, and the library is in black and white. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

A Whirlwind

Okay, I'm back. 

I was in England from March 31 to April 6, with Eli 20.8, and it was just great. 

I'm going to tell you all about it, starting tomorrow, but today, I'll tell you about my birthday present and what it's allowing me to do. 

One of my longest, dearest friends sent me a video card. A very, very fast video card. Which suddenly meant I could play Microsoft Flight Simulator (thanks, Game Pass) on my PC at very high levels of detail. 

Since I left last Wednesday, Eli has:
--gone to the Champions League quarterfinal of Real Madrid vs. Chelsea.
--flown to Poland.
--driven with a friend from Poland to Czechia.

--continued on to Slovakia.

--gone back to Poland. He went to Auschwitz yesterday.
--flown to Greece. He's on the island of Corfu right now. 

That's right. Five days. 

I realized that if I can get through the Flight Simulator tutorials reasonably quickly, I can fly over some of the places he's been visiting. So I'm training up and will hopefully fly over Corfu tonight. It's a nice way to get a bigger look at his travels than I can get from photographs. 

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Friday Links!

This is a fascinating article on how technology is shaping war: The drone operators who halted Russian convoy headed for Kyiv.

From C. Lee, and it's concerning: Hackers Gaining Power of Subpoena Via Fake “Emergency Data Requests”. This is a terrible shame: Russia's invasion of Ukraine has destroyed a historic computer museum. An explanation of Club 8-bit (from the previous link): A Peek Into the Soviet Computer Revolution. This is fantastic, potentially: Fungus foils invading hordes of crazy ants, and that’s great for Texas. Interesting facts about a wonderful story: 10 Facts You Might Not Know About Watership Down. Implications for gaming in the future: ‘We can’t afford to lose them’: the fight to bring missing movies back. An obituary of a fine writer: Scott Bennie, writer on Interplay's Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Fallout, and others, has died. Soren is a such a legendary designer: Soren Johnson says Civ 3's bargaining table was a 'big mistake'

From DQ Story Advisor and Mini-golf Legend John Harwood, an excellent and thoughtful article: Depictions of Native Americans in Video Games

From Meg McReynolds, and it's entirely delightful: AI-generated pranks for your computer to play on you. And more: AI-generated pranks you can do at home

From Wally, and it's a terrific idea: The Library Ends Late Fees, and the Treasures Roll In. Damn it, people will believe literally anything: He Teaches Police “Witching” To Find Corpses. Experts Are Alarmed. This is an excellent read: Reflections on gaming not-Ukraine. LOTR nerd alert! 2022 Middle Earth Madness Bracket. This looks like someone's riding a suitcase: Poimo is an inflatable electric scooter that can be transported inside a backpack


Does anyone know why 80% of the spam calls I get seem to be about extending my auto warranty? I don't know if they're uniquely lucrative or what. It seems, strange, though, that I consistently get calls about this and only rarely about anything else. 

Somebody should be calling me about extending my warranty. That's what I really need. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Orwell in the Age of Free Speech

I hear many people talking about the Russian control of the news during the invasion of Ukraine. Usually, they say something about it being Orwellian. 

They're not wrong. 

What's become really interesting to me, though, is not what Orwell predicted, but what he didn't. He was absolutely correct about people in authoritarian countries not being able to determine truth because they were flooded with disinformation.

What he didn't foresee, though, and I'm not sure anyone did, is how even societies with free speech can become unable to determine the truth, at least for large numbers of their citizens. 

The marketplace of ideas, in short, looks pretty dilapidated right now. 

Remember when free speech was what protected us? Now it's used to promote conspiracies--endless, infinite conspiracies. In theory, people should be rational enough in a free information society to know they're not real. 

For many people in this country, though, that's not the case. 

The election. Vaccines. And a whole slew of other conspiracies so completely insane they sound like something out of really bad pulp novels. It used to be that cranks were just that--cranks. They didn't have any real power. Now, though, cranks are leading certain segments of the country. 

So what exactly do we do when free speech itself becomes a powerful weapon of disinformation? I don't have an answer, but I do think that we have entered a very dangerous time for our country. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2022


The Cleveland Browns (I had the wrong team at first--senior moment) signed QB Deshaun Watson to the richest contract in terms of guaranteed money in NFL history last week.

This is the same Deshaun Watson who is facing 20+ civil lawsuits against him for sexual harassment and assault. Always with massage therapists. 

I'm really, really angry about this, but I'm going to keep it brief. Having trained with a world class athlete and knowing a massage therapist who works on many athletes of that caliber, I can tell you with 100% certainty that Watson is guilty. 

Why? Because exactly zero world-class athletes would go to 20+ different massage therapists if they just want a massage. 

Massage therapists are as important as nutritionists to great athletes. They're incredibly valuable, and no one shops for them at random. It just doesn't happen. Ever. For Watson to repeatedly go to all these different therapists, many of whom weren't even that experienced, it's an incredibly telling indication of what he was actually looking for. And with that many women describing similar experiences, it's pretty obvious what happened. 

I don't know why an NFL QB would feel the need to do that to find women. I do know, though, that when he says he's innocent, he's full of shit. 

Monday, April 04, 2022

Italy, One Last Time

It's my birthday and I'm with Eli 20.8, so I may not have much time to post anything today. Instead, I pre-loaded some of the last pictures from Italy that Eli sent me for your enjoyment.

Various pictures from Sicily (I think):

And one from Perugia (probably):

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