Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Low Motor

Someone messaged me this on Match: hi Bill

That was it. Not even a period, as if the act of typing six characters and hitting the space bar once so exhausted her she couldn't go on. 

I always send someone a nice message if I'm not interested, but I felt like an appropriate response in this case would have been nope. 

I didn't do that, but it felt right. 

Monday, May 30, 2022


Dear New Plant,

Welcome to your new home. 

I'll be honest. Living here isn't easy for a plant. Life won't be a bed of roses. Obviously, you're a zinnia, but I'm sure you're familiar with the metaphor.

Still, though, it has to be better than being with a thousand other plants, hoping you catch someone's eye. Even if they watered you more regularly.

As a plant parent, my past is full of grisly incidents I'd rather forget. But this is a chance for a fresh start for both of us, right?

I hope you make it, kid. I'm rooting for you. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off, a fascinating article: How do dolphins name themselves? A study on signature whistles offers clues.

Well, this is awkward: Woman who wrote essay on 'How to Murder Your Husband' convicted of murdering her husband.

From PA Incorrect, and I prefer neither: Why you love coffee and beer.

From Wally, and these images are absolutely amazing (and terrifying): Stunning vintage photos of car wrecks from the days before seat belts and airbags, 1930s.

From C. Lee, and the Supreme Court will be coming for this, too: The Revolutionary 1965 Supreme Court Decision That Declared Sex a Private Affair. Next, and this is highly concerning: The Global Safety Net Against Hunger Is Frailer Than You Think. This is ridiculous: Report says Microsoft is censoring politically sensitive Chinese names in the US, Canada. It makes sense: Tested: Multi-gig fiber internet is too fast for your PC. I feel like this isn't something that people should need to be reminded of: Tender Hooks, Expresso, and Other Malapropisms That Will Make People Laugh at You. I would have preferred a section from Blade Runner, but this is quite poignant: R.I.P. Vanglis. An excellent read: The Korean Immigrant and Michigan Farm Boy Who Taught Americans How to Cook Chow Mein


Lots of stuff getting moved around here. 

Me, for one, from the apartment back to the house. 

Everything in the apartment (there's not much, really. I'm reasonably minimalist).

A few things in the final edit of The Man You Trust.

In about a month, Eli 20.10 to Bogota. 

I'm a certainty person. I like it. I like having my person, and having that person with me, and I like knowing that the people who aren't with me are safe. I like knowing where I belong. I like knowing that tomorrow will be similar to today.

That's probably true of most people as they get older. 

With Eli, though, I've learned that the uncertainty in his life is important. He's constantly trying for almost unreachable goals, and this level of achievement carries with it an intrinsic degree of uncertainty. In a terrible metaphor, you can't climb a mountain at sea level. You have to go up into thin air.

Without his acceptance of uncertainty, his life wouldn't be possible.

So I'm trying to embrace a degree of uncertainty that I've never been able to before. Watching Eli, and seeing what he's done, helps me understand why it's necessary.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022


I grew up in South Texas, and our football team always seemed to be in the playoffs. 

On more than one occasion, we played a small school named Uvalde.

To a little kid, "Uvalde" seemed like such an exotic name. It stuck in my head. It always has. 

I always associated Uvalde with San Antonio, because (again) when I was a kid and we played Uvalde, people said it was near San Antonio. It's not, really--it's an hour and a half west--but it always stuck in my mind.

Living in Austin for 25 years, I still read a fair amount of South Texas news, and whenever Uvalde was mentioned, I always perked up. 

So when I saw Uvalde mentioned yesterday on the national news, and read the article, I was sick. 

If a politician is against gun control, fine, but they then have to have ideas about what gets done instead. if they don't, they're just full of shit, and monsters beside. It's not any more complicated than that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022


Okay, I need to know about Bogota. 

I know, that's not a first sentence you expected to see. Eli 20.10 has landed a summer job in Columbia through sheer force of will. 

I'm not going to tell you the name of the organization (until after the summer is over), but for someone whose career specialty is going to be post-conflict consensus building, it's what he says is the single best place in the world for him to get real experience in his field. 

Their website specifically said they had no jobs available, so Eli emailed every single address listed on the website (twelve of them), explaining his credentials and why he wanted to work for them over the summer. 

No one responded. 

A week later, he emailed all of them again. Last Thursday, they emailed him back, and he was on a Zoom call with eight people on Friday (in Spanish). And now he has a job. 

This means he'll be in Bogota for 2-4 weeks this summer. That's what it's looking like for now, at least. I don't get attached to any particular version of his future because it tends to change so quickly.

So if you have any personal experience in Bogota, I'd really like to hear from you. Thanks.

Monday, May 23, 2022

I'm Too Old To Be This Stupid

Just as a notification, this week's going to be a dumpster file. I'm moving back into the house this weekend, to help Eli 20.10 prepare it for sale next summer. And I'm in heavy final editing mode (six hours today--arghh). Not the best combination. 

I was chatting with a friend via email over the weekend, and I was trying to explain how I couldn't decide where I was going to move after Eli graduates next summer (because neither one of us really want to have a home base in Grand Rapids).

My conflict, I typed, was between moving for location or moving for a specific person. You know, the perfect person for me, if I found her.

As soon as I typed it, I suddenly realized what an idiot I was. 

The perfect person for someone only exists in ninety-minute rom coms where cute meets are mandatory. It turns people into frozen pizzas, where your only objective is to try every frozen pizza on earth, trying to find the perfect flavor. 

People, though, aren't pizzas. 

A better way of looking at it, if you want to talk pizzas, is that you have to learn how to make a pizza by hand, and find someone who can also make a pizza, and then you can make pizzas together. But relationships don't come pre-assembled. Like most things in life that matter, a relationship is a process, not a state. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an absolutely phenomenal piece of writing: David Sedaris on the death of his father: ‘I don’t think the coffin could have been any uglier’.

Here's a great story about one of the funniest films ever made ("The Producers"), and how Peter Sellers was critical to its success: Seller's Choice.

This is an excellent read: An Anonymous TV Writer Offers An Inside Look At Why Special Effects Seem So Bad Right Now.

From Chris P., for all of us word nerds: A Way With Words.

From Wally, and it's absolutely beautiful: a stunning oarfish. This is coming very quickly: These Robots Have One Special Skill That Could Make Human Chefs Obsolete

From C. Lee, and boy, is it revealing: How Do Big Tech Giants Make Their Billions? Very competent: Russia Pretends It Didn’t Accidentally Show Bonnie and Clyde During Victory Day Parade. This seems very contemporary: 'The New York Times' can't shake the cloud over a 90-year-old Pulitzer Prize. Well, damn it: The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus. Squats for life! A simple exercise that gives your brain an unexpected boost. Punctuation nerd alert: 8 Punctuation Marks That Are No Longer Used. It certainly left an impression: ‘What Is a Yute?’: An Oral History of ‘My Cousin Vinny’.


Pictures of Eli 20.10s trip to Paris. 

I'm leading off with my favorites: the Mona Lisa, followed by the view facing people who are facing the Mona Lisa.

I believe this is also from the Louvre:

The ceiling of the Paris Opera House (thanks, Jeroen!):

A cathedral (Saint-Chapelle, and thanks to Allen for identifying it!):

I feel like you have to include one of these (not from the Louvre, to be clear):

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A Few London Conversations

I told Eli 20.10 he could help me find one item of adult clothing. I mentioned this before, and that we failed, but I forgot this snippet (that I wrote down and forgot to use).

"Dad, when you get nice clothing, you take care of it and it lasts a long time."

"So what you're telling me is if I buy cheap clothing, I don't have to make that effort?" I asked.

"Not the message I was trying to send there," he said.

We were in a pub one night (six hundred years old or something like that. We all stooped because the beams were put up to accommodate 15th century Englishmen). 

"You know, I've never really liked beer," I said. 

"Why not?" Eli asked. 

"Because it tastes like beer," I said. "I feel like that makes perfect sense."

"It doesn't," he said. 

Eli also told me that he has a very good French accent, and I asked him how. He said he just lowers his voice an octave and speaks faster. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

More Language

One of the things that attracted me to Haruki Murakami (and has heavily influenced my own writing) is how he puts magical realism into his work.

Magical realism is primarily associated with South America and its writers, particularly Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose 100 Years of Solitude is one of the finest books ever written. Marquez said of magical realism "My most important problem was destroying the line of demarcation from what seems real from what seems fantastic" (thanks for that quote, Wikipedia).

Eli 20.10 has a tutorial this term on Marquez, which means he's reading all of his books in Spanish. He told me last weekend that reading in Spanish gave him an appreciation of how it's impossible to fully capture magical realism in the English language. In Spanish, there is a much more fully-realized vocabulary around the concept, with more nuance. Marquez famously said, "In Mexico, surrealism runs through the streets."

This made me wonder about Japanese and how well it captures the notion of magical realism, and how much is lost in the translation of Murakami's works to English (although the translations are excellent). 

Monday, May 16, 2022


It's suddenly spring here, like drinking from a firehose, because cold and gray turns green overnight. everything is a flower. 


"Replacement theory" is a foundational belief of white supremacists. Full stop. 

If you amplify vile, reprehensible beliefs, some of your followers will do vile, reprehensible things.

Certain news networks and political parties will now clutch their pearls and retire to their fainting couches because they are shocked (shocked!) that someone would do something like this. Why, it's awful. 

Condemn it? You helped create it.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, would you like to hear a black hole? Data Sonification: Black Hole at the Center of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster (X-ray)

This is fascinating (it'll be renamed Elon Musk disease in twenty years): Nobel disease.

From C. Lee, and it's terrific: Kurosawa Akira: Films of Love and Justice. Another creative giant: Dostoevsky’s 200th Birthday and His Living Legacy. This is phenomenal: From seawater to drinking water, with the push of a button. This is fascinating in every way: A Brief Compendium of Modernist Homes for Movie Villains with Flawless Taste. This is delightful: An Ode to what they call “Duck Architecture”. This is a terrific idea: How Public Libraries Are Seeding America’s Gardens

From Ken Piper, and this is amazing: Hubble Finds a Massive Planet – 9 Times the Size of Jupiter – Forming Through a Violent Process. This is my surprised face: Owners left with worthless NFTs after F1 Delta Time racing game shuts down. I mean, it is distinct: Razer's Headquarters Looks Like One Of Its Gaming Peripherals. This is promising: What Is a Graphene Battery, and How Will It Transform Tech? 

From Tim C., and it's fascinating: mechanical watch.

From Wally, and it isn't creepy at all: Creepy dolls covered in barnacles or missing their limbs keep washing up on Texas beaches. This was a hell of a ride, one of the greatest I've ever seen: This angle of Rich Strike winning the KentuckyDerby is nuts. This is some of the best tornado footage I've ever seen (and there are some f-bombs, for obvious reasons, so maybe NSFW): EF-3 Tornado Hits Andover, Kansas - Apr. 29, 2022. Just great: An Autonomous Drone Swarm Can Now Chase You Through a Forest Without Crashing. Next-level commentary: The Platypus Conspiracy.

I Have No Idea... (your email)

A reader from Finland (who's been around for a long, long time) sent this to me in response to yesterday's post. It's definitely not just English.

Let me show you two words in Finnish:

"kuusi alusta"

Let's look at the first word, "kuusi." This could mean a spruce ("kuusi"), six ("kuusi"), or your moon ("kuu" + possessive suffix "si").

The second word, "alusta."

Foundation/basis/... ("alusta"), from the beginning ("alku" + "sta"), imperative 2nd person singular form of verb "alustaa" (to format a diskette/prepare a foundation/...), the partitive singular form of a ship/vessel ("alus" + "ta"). (Because Finnish uses singular forms of nouns after numerals, "kuusi alusta" is how "six ships" is written in Finnish).

Not all combinations are grammatically correct (such as "spruce ships"), but "six from the beginning", "the basis your moon lies on", "the spruce from the beginning" all sound correct to me.

I'm not very surprised natural language processing for Finnish isn't very easy.


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

I Have No Idea How Anyone Learned This Language, Including Me

This is from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. It's the thesaurus entry for "sound."

sound (verb,1)

1  to continue or be repeated in a series of reflected sound waves

//the stranded hiker's cries for help sounded throughout the canyon

2  to give the impression of being

//the idea at least sounds plausible

3  to make known (as an idea, emotion, or opinion)

//a person who certainly isn't shy about sounding her opinions

4  to make known openly or publicly

//the grand opening of the region's newest and largest mall has been loudly sounded for months

sound (verb,2)

1  to measure the depth of (as a body of water) typically with a weighted line

//the pilot sounded the river to make sure we weren't in any danger of runnin

2  to cast oneself head first into deep water

//a whale suddenly surfaced and then, just as suddenly, sounded

sound (noun,1)

1  range of hearing

//wandered off, out of her parents' sight and sound

sound (noun,2)

1  a narrow body of water between two land masses

//Long Island Sound is between Connecticut and Long Island, New York

sound (adjective)

1  according to the rules of logic

//sound reasoning alone should tell you that the result is invalid

2  enjoying health and vigor

//the horse is getting along in years, but still perfectly sound

3  marked by the ability to withstand stress without structural damage or distortion

//the shed looks flimsy, but it's actually surprisingly sound

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Mother's Day

Eli 20.10 was in Paris on Mother's Day. 

He called me from the airport and we talked about many things. We had a gentle laugh about how Gloria would always be disgruntled on Mother's Day, no matter what we did for her. 

She planted tulip bulbs in the garden last fall, before her passing, and when I drove by the house a few days ago, they'd come up. That made both of us happy. 

I've come to realize something important about Eli in the last week or so, and it's a quality I should foster in myself, too. Since his mom died, he's fought for his happiness. He's grieved, and is still grieving, but he never let his grieving define him. Instead, he actively seeks out happiness, and leaves room for it in his life. 

That might sound odd. After a tragedy, though, many people are unable to leave any room in their life for happiness. I don't mean it as an indictment. It's just that tragedy has a kind of gravity that always presses down on you. It lowers you to the ground. 

Eli feels that gravity, and he just stands up even straighter to compensate. I have so much respect for him. 

Monday, May 09, 2022


Here's the good story. 

On my way back from England, I was at Heathrow and found some benches to sit on before my flight. The benches were right next to the walking escalators, so I saw a man with his daughter (she was probably around three).

She was wearing flowery yoga pants and looked adorable, and she was holding hands with her dad and they were talking. Then he leaned down to her and said, "You've got loads of promise," and it almost made me tear up a little. He said it in such a gentle, kind way.

The other story. 

I was walking to the pool on Friday and I was behind a woman with two little boys, who were walking in predictably ridiculous fashion. She looked at them and said, "All right. Let's stop having fancy feet."

I thought to myself, "Why would anyone EVER want to stop having fancy feet? Isn't that the whole point?"

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Friday Links!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Leading off this week, a heartbreaking and infuriating piece of history: 50 years on, the lessons of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study still reverberate.

From Wally, and to be fair, it did look relaxing: Sea Lion Comes on Land, Swims in Pool and Steals Man's Chair. Is anyone really surprised by this level of stupid? NFT Group Buys Copy Of Dune For €2.66 Million, Believing It Gives Them Copyright. This was remarkably poorly considered: Steam Engines Collide Head On | Last Moments

From C. Lee, and it's fascinating: The idea of primitive communism is as seductive as it is wrong. This is as interesting as it is incomplete: Visualizing the Distribution of Household Wealth, By Country. In the U.S., about ten people hold a vast percentage of that $29. This is excellent: Was It Hershey or Reese That Made Peanut Butter Cups Great? I had no idea: Why Is Iceland So in Love With Licorice? Also, the potential risks: Dangers of Black Licorice. I mean, she's not wrong: Jurassic World’s profound impact on 4-year-old girl is beyond cute


Eli 20.10 said Jordan was the favorite place he visited of all the countries he went to on break. 

They started out in Amman, which has four million people (I thought it was much smaller), then went to Wadi Rum (also called the Valley of the Moon), which is an incredibly desolate, beautiful place. Anytime film directors need footage of Mars, that's where they go. 

Here's a picture of Wadi Rum:

Another Wadi Rum picture:

Camels? Yes, camels were ridden:

They also went to Petra (voted one of the new wonders of the world), an ancient, stunning city. To get there, you walk through this slender canyon:

The buildings are enormous, and carved out of the walls:

On their last morning in Amman, they went looking for street art and found this;

Eli said everyone he met was incredibly friendly. They rode public transport the whole trip (no bus numbers, no schedules, just ask lots of questions to get information), the food was wonderful, and it couldn't have been a better trip. 

He called me from Vienna (his layover) on the way back, and finally--finally--he was exhausted. It took nine countries, me being there for a week, and a conference tournament to do it, but he ran out of gas. He said he was looking forward to sitting in a library and reading for four hours. 

Of course, two days later he was fine.

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

The Big Hockey Post

I've written many times that athletes rarely get closure. 

Eli 20.10, though, did. 

After visiting nine countries in six weeks during term break, he returned for the conference tournament. His team hadn't  practiced at all during the break, so they'd gone almost four weeks without a practice. 

It wasn't looking good. 

The tournament was in a very odd format. Five games of pool play the first day, all in a one-period, twenty-minute run clock format. The last game of pool play the morning of the second day, followed by quarters/semis/final. The playoff games were two periods of twenty-minute run clock. 

Confused yet?

The tangible effect was that Eli spent the first day warming up constantly, in addition to playing the equivalent of almost two games. He said he felt terrible in the first game, then felt great after that. 

The scores of the games reflect it: 1-1, 0-0, 5-0, 4-0, 5-1. 

He was exhausted, but up bright and early for the last game of pool play (a 0-0 tie). 

That put them into the quarterfinals against Cambridge, and a chance for revenge after the Rivalry loss. 

The game was 0-0 going into a shootout. Eli stopped all five shooters, and our fifth shooter scored for a 1-0 win. 

That put them in the semis against St. Andrews, who were (by far) the best team in the tournament. Their high-end players were terrific, and they had depth, unlike most of the teams. 

The entire conference championships were broadcast on YouTube, so I got to watch live. 

The announcers were fantastic, and very funny. As the shots kept piling up for St. Andrews, they wondered how long Eli could keep Oxford in the game. 

As it turned out, for a long, long time. 

At the end of regulation, it was 2-2, even though Oxford had been outshot 34-4. And Eli made it look easy, too, which has always led to him getting less credit than he deserved, because coaches never understood how difficult it is to make something hard look easy. 

It was all on display, though, all the things he's done so well during his career. Puck control. Anticipation. Balance. Composure. 

I'd like to say there was a miracle win in the shootout, but there wasn't. He stopped the first four shots, but the fifth beat him clean. Nothing you can do when a guy hits his spot like that. 

After the tournament, he was named first-team All Conference. 

I talked to him after the game and he was disappointed, but he also knew it would be hard to top that weekend as a way to end his competitive career. And he sounded completely at peace, which was the best thing of all. 

As a bonus, you can watch the game if you'd like. Since it was twenty-minute run clock, the entire game is completed in under fifty minutes. I'm not sure I've ever been able to link to one of his full games, but no more appropriate time than now. Here's the link: Oxford--St. Andrews semifinals.

He got back to Oxford at 11:30 p.m., slept for two hours, then got up to go to Jordan. That's for tomorrow. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Nothing to Feel Good About

Well, today was going to be all about Eli 20.8, and then Politico broke the story that a Supreme Court draft opinion indicates the court is going to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The draft opinion was leaked, and my money is on John Roberts, because his legacy is going to be a clown show if this actually happens. 

The most discouraging thing about living in this country is that no matter how many good people are trying to make the country better, the bad people always seem to win. This decision would be reprehensible and draconian in so many ways that it's unspeakable.

This is why you vote. And why you keep voting, even if change doesn't happen as quickly as it should. Because if you don't, the monsters are in charge. 

You think this is the end? It's just starting.

Welcome to the dystopian future, America. 

Monday, May 02, 2022


This is still going to be a big Eli week, but I'm going to give an update today on the sleep post I wrote a while back. 

Of the suggestions, quitting drinking (I have about a drink every two weeks, so not useful in my case) and using CBD gummies were the two things most commonly suggested. 

I kept trying nothing, which worked surprisingly well. 

What I've realized is that I was ignoring all the signals my body was giving me because I thought I could override it all with Melatonin and Trazadone. 

As it turns out, not really. 

Instead, I've just started paying attention, and I can feel when my brain starts to get wound up. Almost always, it's from getting too much information too quickly, which makes my brain speed up. When it gets past a certain threshold, I'm not going to be able to go to sleep. 

I've started prioritizing single-focus activities when I wake up and before I go to bed. Instead of looking at a bunch of websites in the morning, I read with breakfast before I start working. It's a slower pace, with better concentration.

At night, if I'm watching television, I try to not look at my phone and multi-task. 

My default had become multi-tasking to such a degree that I was becoming overloaded. 

Now, if I feel I'm overloaded, I stop multi-tasking (if I am) and I focus on my breathing for a minute or two. It's a small thing, but it seems to be very effective.

How do I sleep now? Maybe not quite as well, but close, and when I wake up, I'm not sluggish at all. I'm ready to start the day. 

All in all, I think it's a win. 

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