Thursday, June 30, 2022

Friday Links!

Tough week, but better days ahead. 

From Wally, and this country is doing its best to lose its mind: Anatomy of a book banning. So, so strange: Welcome to Ponyhenge—a Massive, Mysterious, and Ever-Growing Graveyard for Rocking Horses in Massachusetts. A specific history: Chipped Beef: history of the meal soldiers love to hate

From C. Lee, and this is unreal: Years after Brigham-Harvard scandal, U.S. pours millions into tainted stem-cell field. This is an excellent read: What would happen if we stopped using plastic? I wouldn't shed any tears: Does the tank have a future? So bizarre: Why American Leaders Relish Hot-Dog Diplomacy. This is just fantastic: What’s Up With Columbia, Maryland’s Quirky Street Names? What a great idea: Universal Baseball: One Japanese Man’s Mission to Create an Accessible Pastime for Disabled Children

From Ken P., and this is fascinating: Plants Appear to Be Breaking Biochemistry Rules by Making 'Secret Decisions'. Interesting: How do planets get rings? Well, this could be awful: Poliovirus detected in sewage from North and East London. Historical shenanigans: Historians Divulge The Most NSFW Facts From History. Tom Hiddleston is amazing: Tom Hiddleston impersonation at Popcorn Taxi: Owen Wilson as 'Loki'. 

A Birthday

Today was Gloria's birthday.

It's funny how death becomes such a binary thing when you experience it closely. Writers and poets have written millions of eloquent words about death, but in the end, it's much simpler: someone used to be here and is no longer.

There's lots  of ways you can fancy that up, but it doesn't really matter.

I'm talking to Eli 20.10 tonight, and we'll talk about his mom and reflect on what still feels surreal, over eight months later. There's no defined recovery process, really, just inching forward in the darkness, trying to keep your feet under you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Haircut Principle

I talked to Eli 20.10 last night, and he said he'd gotten a haircut. 

This is a normal thing to report, but then he spun it into something much more interesting: he said you're not integrated into a city until you get a haircut there. 

When I go on a trip (correction: when I'm forced to go on a trip), I get a haircut right before I leave, and it wouldn't even cross my mind to get a haircut while I'm away.

If you're somewhere long enough to need a haircut, though, it means you've settled in.

This line of thinking will be known from this day forward as The Haircut Principle.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Colombia (Update)

Eli 20.10 has somehow landed in Colombia at a pivotal moment in their history. 

A leftist (Gustavo Petro) was elected president for the first time, two days after he arrived. 

The report of the Truth Commission was released today:
Colombia’s national truth commission called on Tuesday for a sweeping transformation of the country’s armed forces that would refocus the military around respect for human rights and international law.

The recommendations are part of an expansive report designed to tell the most comprehensive narrative yet of Colombia’s long and brutal internal conflict, which lasted at least 58 years, involved almost every sector of Colombian society, and cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of American dollars.

The report, overseen by a group of 11 commissioners, is the product of the 2016 peace deal between the FARC and the government. At the ceremony marking the report’s publication on Tuesday, they sat the stage of a theater in Bogotá, some in shirts that read, “There is future if there is truth.”

The commissioners were instructed to not only investigate human rights violations committed by all actors between 1958 and 2016, but also to write an extensive history of the way the conflict affected social, economic, political, cultural and environmental rights — and then provide recommendations that would set the country on the path to lasting peace.

The committee Eli's working for is a direct offshoot of the Truth Commission. He's right in the middle of it all, and he's being given weighty, consequential assignments. What an amazing time to be there. 

Here's something he was able to purchase last weekend. Talk about beautiful currency:

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Yard

I have a yard now. 

It's not my yard, technically. It's Eli 20.10s yard, but I'm taking care of it while he's away. 

Don't get me wrong: I'm a fan of grass. A huge supporter.

I don't want to have a yard, though. I loathe yards. Yards are just boats disguised as grass.

Please Note

I'm not going to write about how f-ing pisses I am about the reprehensible Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. You can find plenty of that writing pretty much anywhere. Instead, here are some organizations that could use your contributions:
National Abortion Rights Action League
Planned Parenthood
National Network of Abortion Funds (you donate to them, they split the donation among everyone)


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Friday Links!

A long week, but the weekend's here.

Leading off, a deeply touching story: A Round to Remember: how virtual reality helped us connect with Dad before his death.

From Wally, and it's spectacularly pointless but wildly entertaining: The Swish Machine: 70 Step Basketball Trickshot (Rube Goldberg Machine). This is a terrific read: ‘There was practically a riot at King’s Cross’: an oral history of Harry Potter at 25

From C. Lee, and for all of us writers, this is well worth paying attention to: Reasonable Agreement: On the Crapification of Literary Contracts. This is completely fascinating: The Invisible Threat Beneath Cameroon’s Deadly Lake Nyos. Amazing: Ancient DNA solves mystery over origin of medieval Black Death. A terrific read: An Early Run-In With Censors Led Rod Serling to ‘The Twilight Zone’. A nearly forgotten bit of history: Feudal Lords On Yankee Soil. An excellent bit of data: Mapping the Migration of the World’s Millionaires. Unbelievable, and also, hard pass: Getting Dressed in 1500s Florence, Italy.

From John W., and both links are amazing: your mind will collapse if you try to imagine this | UNIVERSE SIZE COMPARISON and TIMELAPSE OF THE FUTURE: A Journey to the End of Time (4K)

I Endorse This Message

Everything is green here, and loud. 

Since winter takes such a toll on everything, in four blocks of a walk today I saw two road construction projects, two housing projects involving bulldozers, and one house with roofers. 

To round it out, two yard services were also going full-tilt. It's like living on an airport runway for four months.

I feel like there should be more of this:

"Shine bright," it says, in case it's hard to see. I think "Shine quietly" would also be a very solid message.

This is what I saw at one point on my walk:

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

I Am Leaf, Destroyer Of Worlds

Leaf found it quite difficult to be taken seriously because of his size.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022


Eli 20.10 made it to Bogota (an 11-hour flight from London) and he started work today. 

For the first time in his life, he's experiencing what it's like to be a minority. A minority of one, in this case, at least so far. Which is a good experience for everyone to have in their life.

I'm going to be seriously stressed out, because Bogota can be very dangerous at times, but given what he wants to do in his life, this is where he learns. Focusing on post-conflict consensus building is inherently going to put him in places I'd rather he not go. 

To matter, though, you have to do things that matter, and I'm not sure anyone understands that better than he does. 

Here are a couple of pictures:

Both of these photos blow me away. The lights in the top right of the first image are from a famous church (with a very famous hike to get up to it), and the colors in the second image are so beautiful.

Monday, June 20, 2022


Clearing up a few misconceptions:
Four enduring myths about Juneteenth are not based on facts.

As A Well-Known Aficionado of Fishing Games

I'm not sure that "Aficionado" and "Fishing Games" should be in the same sentence, but whatever. 

The developers behind "The Hunter: Call of the Wild" (which I would have happily purchased if they'd added an interesting photography mode) announced a new game today, and the trailer is terrific:
Call of the Wild: The Angler.

It's beautiful, and this is particularly cool:
The world (which appears to be based on North America judging from some of the sights, signs, and the slow drawl of the trailer's narrator) will be explorable by boat, off-road vehicles, or on foot as you hunt for rivers, lakes, and hidden ponds to fish in. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off, and this fellow is just amazing: The world's biggest John Bonham fan is a drummer covering full Led Zeppelin concerts on Youtube. It's a huge rabbit hole, and what I never realized is how incredibly complex Bonham's use of the bass drum was--two pedals with both feet flying.

This is an astonishing story: Escape from Auschwitz: the most extraordinary Holocaust story you’ve never heard

I'm definitely buying the book: Meet Harold Gillies, the WWI surgeon who rebuilt the faces of injured soldiers.

I felt like this the entire time I was writing The Man You TrustWhy is This Tiny Frog So Awful at Jumping?

From Ken P., and this is fascinating: Scientists map brain network linked to addiction. Talk about bad blood: Elephant tramples woman to death, then attacks her corpse at funeral. This is amazing: The Brain Has a ‘Low-Power Mode’ That Blunts Our Senses. This is quite wonderful: A nonspeaking valedictorian with autism shares her voice in commencement address.

From Wally, and it's a terrific read: How the sandwich consumed Britain

From C. Lee, and this is concerning: US can’t afford fall boosters for all—even after cuts to test and PPE spending. This is unreal (may have to register): Australian traveller strip-searched, held in US prison and deported over little-known entry requirement. Same: AZ man spent 17 days in jail for crime he didn’t commit. He blames American Airlines. One of the greatest photos of all time: Tank Man. An interesting question: Why Is Wine (Almost) Always Made From Grapes? An excellent read: From Sourdough to Inflation: How the Pandemic Changed the Way We Eat. This sounds terrific: Play “Artle,” an Art History Version of Wordle: A New Game from the National Gallery of Art.


It was 93 on Tuesday here with a heat index of 105.

That's not unprecedented, for Western Michigan (Canada), but it's very, very rare. And Wednesday was supposed to hit 96, but didn't quite make it there. 

One of the things I'd never experienced before moving up north was a basement. There's one in the house, though, and finished basements are fantastic. They're colder in summer and warmer in winter, and they're darker than upstairs, and I find nothing but positives in all of those things. 

I hadn't turned on the air conditioner upstairs because I was curious to see how warm it would get before I noticed it (no fans, either). 

79.5F was when I started feeling a little heated. 

In the basement, though, it was still a frosty 74.1F. Dark and cool. So I spent quite a bit of time in the basement during the "heat wave."

What I clearly need to do is just build a house underground.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Madden 20XX

Madden's teaser trailer for the inevitable yearly release came out last week.

The big "innovation" this year is FieldSENSE (boy, those capital letters are dramatic, aren't they?), and part of this feature is a revolutionary branching animation system. 

Well, it's revolutionary in the sense that they've announced a revolutionary branching animation system four times in the last decade. 

It will be incrementally better, because nothing in Madden is significantly better from year to year. The franchise is a battleship now, and significant course corrections take years to effect. 

The funny part of all this is that Backbreaker had unique tackling animations in 2009, and they looked great. 

Part of being a battleship is that there's bloat, and man, Madden is bloated. Just getting through a single game is so tedious, because there is so much between-play trash you have to watch. Either that, or you press and hold buttons between every single play to skip the tedium. You'd think there'd be a way for us to choose an ultra-streamlined presentation in the options, wouldn't you? Maybe something like The Show, which has offered that option for years. 

Madden, though, decided to copy the NFL's own presentation as closely as possible. The problem is that the NFL's own presentation is itself horribly bloated. So the entire game is an exercise in tedium.

If you're interested in something besides Madden, in the AAA space, you have no choices, because Madden locked down the NFL license when NFL2K had them running scared in 2004. However, in the indie space, there's a terrific retro game called Legend Bowl. The developer is incredibly hard-working and has added all kinds of features since release. It's fast-paced and fun and I highly recommend it.

A Mystery

Why did I buy "The Constant Gardner" soundtrack in 2005. Anyone?

Tuesday, June 14, 2022


Today unexpectedly turned into a dumpster fire, and as a bonus, the heat index is 105 (in what is Canada, basically), so I'm reeling on both counts. 

Eli 20.10 finished his last essay for the term today. He wrote forty-five two thousand word essays in the last eight months. Two per week, for the duration of each term. 

I couldn't be prouder of him. 

I walked past a restaurant on Sunday and took a picture to show you:

I feel like "Authentic Mexican Food" and the name "El Burrito" are mutually exclusive. 

Things around here will be back to normal tomorrow.

Monday, June 13, 2022


 Here's the headline:
Jackson County man stepped out of shower to find man with gun, bat demanding money.

I feel like they should have clarified "bat," because I'm envisioning a man who has a flying bat as a henchman. Is that pairing effective when criming?

They do explain it in the first paragraph of the story, but what a headline.

Exit Strategy

I believe I mentioned once that Eli 20.10 had been drafted into service as a field hockey goalie for his college's team. 

He'd never played field hockey before, so he just played the position like a hockey goalie, which was both ridiculous and extremely effective: he gave up 3 goals in 11 games. And his team kept getting better and better, finishing the regular season undefeated (with several 0-0 ties). They made it to the playoffs, which no one expected at the start of the season.

Oxford has 40 colleges, and intramurals are called "Cuppers" and are fiercely contested. As you can imagine, with 40 colleges, winning a Cupper is a big deal. 

His college was founded in 1282 and had never won a Cupper in field hockey. 

They have now. 

Eli flies to Bogota on Saturday. Not a bad way to go out. 

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Friday Links!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

From Ken P., and this is potentially huge (no pun intended): Diabetes drug helps patients lose never-before-seen amounts of weight, new study shows. This is an excellent read: ‘Gone Girl,’ Still Here. This is fascinating: The Brain Applies Data Compression for Decision-Making. This is very, very bad: As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces An ‘Environmental Nuclear Bomb’.

From Brian B., and what a fantastic read: My students cheated... A lot

From Wally, and yes, it's a slideshow, but some of these flavors are epically bad: Who asked for this? Percy Hobart fans, your day has come: The Military Genius Behind D-Day's Do-it-all Tanks.

Quality links from C. Lee, as always. First, it's ‘We’re playing with fire’: US Covid cases may be 30 times higher than reported. Next: Vaccinations of young children could begin 'in earnest' by June 21 -White House. I missed almost half of these: You're (Probably) Saying It Wrong. This is quite interesting: How the humble dung beetle engineers better ecosystems in Australia. This is an astonishing bit of history: Behind the Mask of Lonesome Gal, Vintage Radio’s Virtual Girlfriend (the audio clip is utterly fantastic). Amazing: Research Team Uses Green Light to Make Fish Grow 60% Faster.

The Ides of Mulch

I've been feeling a lot of social pressure to mulch the front garden beds. Everyone here mulches. I live in a mulching society. 

I'm stuck in the middle with mulchers.

I was walking to lunch today, which is 1.25 miles away away, and I passed a gas station attached to the grocery store close to the place where I eat. "Mulch 3/$9.99," the sign said. 

The lunch place was way too crowded, so I just walked back, and I passed the mulch again.


I could turn this into a workout, I thought, so I paid for the mulch and told the clerk I'd take two bags now, then come back for the third. 

That's right. Carry the mulch home. 

The bags looked like they weighed about 20 pounds. One on each shoulder, I thought. Tough, but it looked doable. It's almost exactly 1 mile from the gas station to the house. 

I made it 500 yards. 

The mulch shifted constantly, which meant I could never really stabilize the bags on my shoulders. It felt like I'd carried them for 500 miles, not 500 yards. 

I left both of the bags by tennis courts at a middle school and started walking home. I could come back in the car. 

A 2-0 loss. 

I'd walked for a few minutes when I had a thought: I couldn't carry two bags to the house, but what if I could carry one? A hard-fought 1-1 draw, in my book, was an honorable result. 

I walked back. I picked up one of the bags and put it on my shoulders. It didn't feel good, but I just wanted my draw. 

There's an uphill close to the house that felt like I was walking up Kilimanjaro, but I made it. Man, that felt good. I tore open the mulch and started spreading it right there. 

Then I had another thought: I carried one bag home. I could do it again.

I got a drink of water and walked back to the school. I knew as soon as I picked up the mulch that I'd made a bad decision, but the way to make it a good decision was to start walking, so I did. 

The little uphill felt like Everest this time, but I summited. And I weighed the bag this time. 25 pounds. Not that heavy, but heavy to me. 

Final score: 2-1.

Eli 20.10 would have done the same thing, except he would have walked back to the gas station and carried the third bag home, too. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Disruption versus Sustainability (golf and relationships, in that order)

The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (the Saudi government) created a new golf tour to compete with the PGA and European tours. It's called the "LIV" tour.

It has money. An incredible amount of money. 

What it doesn't have is a TV deal, or a deep field of players (although they did throw 100+ million to get Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson (America's Greatest Phony) to play.

Here's what Mickelson said when discussing this tour: 
“They’re scary motherfuckers to get involved with,” he said. “We know they killed [Washington Post reporter Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”

If it's hard for you to read to the end of that quote with your mouth closed, you're not alone. But this post is not titled "Phil Mickelson is a Complete Asshole." I can look forward to writing that post another day.

Instead, I want to talk about disruption versus sustainability. 

What the news media loves to cover these days is disruption, because it gets them clicks. That's why news coverage has tilted to the sensational and bizarre over the last twenty years.

I think it's possible that it's made all of us love disruption more than we used to. 

That's all the LIV tour represents: disruption. There's almost zero chance it ever amounts to anything, no matter how much money gets thrown at it, because money alone isn't enough to create a new ecosystem. It's enough to make a splash, but that's all. 

It's belly diving, not swimming. 

For some reason, I thought about this in terms of relationships. I don't want to get binary, but in the simplest sense, people want one of two things in a relationship: disruption or sustainability. Affairs are disruptions, and they're highly appealing to people who are unhappy in their marriages. There's a good reason most don't survive after a marriage ends, though: they weren't designed to.

Disruption is exciting. Intoxicating, even, as I slip back into my 1930s diction.

I'm guessing that unhappy people look for disruptive relationships, because they want something other than their regular lives, which are difficult for them. 

Happy people, on the other hand, aren't looking for disruption. Why would they disrupt their lives, which are already a good thing? These people look for something sustainable to enhance their existing lives, not disrupt or replace them.

In relationships (of all kinds), it's important to understand which kind of person you're dealing with.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Death probably has a Compaq luggable

I dreamed this years ago. I just found the scrap of paper today as I was unpacking the last bit of stuff for my "office."

I'm standing on the steps with Death. Black robe, hood, bony finger, but no scythe. He says, "The next time you speak to Jennifer, you must say 'pneumonia.' Remember. Pneumonia."

I'm not going to do that. It must be some killing word or something. 

He's very angry when I say no. "You must!" he says. But I refuse, to which he says, "All right. I'll just use DOS."

I mean, it could be worse. He could have been using Vista.

Monday, June 06, 2022


The Man You Trust is text final. 

I would very much appreciate if up to three of you would volunteer for proofreading duty. As a bonus, you get to read the book before it's publicly available. 

I hope that's a bonus, at least.

Thanks for the help.

Cleaning and Whatnot

Much to my surprise, after only six days, the house looks great. Great to me, anyway. 

Also, much to much to my surprise, I feel great, too. 

No problem sleeping at night. No depression over being back in the house I worked so hard to leave. I'm actually very happy to be here, which I didn't expect at all. 

As I was bringing in my stuff and organizing everything in the house, I remembered something that I learned at the apartment. I always thought of cleaning as a compartmentalized process, but it's not. Organizing the space you're living in is a big part of cleaning, because if the space is too cluttered, you can't clean very well. You could dutifully put in your cleaning time every week, but if your stuff isn't organized properly (clutter creates too many uncleanable areas), the space will never really be clean. 

I've also found that (much like the Inspector) I enjoy restoring order.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week: US gun violence is a health crisis with evidence-based solutions, experts plea

From Wally, and it's a classic: Due to the recent actions of a specific tenant, we have been forced to update our community rules. This is fantastic: I rode a giant mechanical elephant. You can too.

From C. Lee, and I always wondered who wrote this: He Wrote The Onion’s Famous Mass-Shooting Headline. It Still Haunts Him. Next, it's 30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America. This is a fascinating read: The Real Story of Pinocchio Tells No Lies. This is terrific (ritual for writers is very important, too): How David Lynch Got Creative Inspiration? By Drinking a Milkshake at Bob’s Big Boy, Every Single Day, for Seven Straight Years. This is an incredible story: Why Did the U.S. Government Amass More Than a Billion Pounds of Cheese? An interesting approach: How Amazon, American Airlines And Subaru Burn Waste To Make Energy  This is quite a surprise (unless you're Swedish): #Swedengate Explodes on Twitter as Americans Express Shock Over Swedes’ Refusal to Feed Guests.

From Ken P., and it's still not worth it: Mind-Altering Parasite May Make Infected People More Attractive, Study Suggests. This will be interesting; Warp drive experiment to turn atoms invisible could finally test Stephen Hawking's most famous prediction

Eli 20.11

Eli 20.11 was named team MVP at his hockey banquet last night. He also received another award through a complicated and convoluted process that I can't mention at this time (but it's very prestigious). 

It's hard to think of a better way to end a competitive career in a sport. 

I was talking to him earlier this week about how he recognized at an early age that success wasn't a state. This is parallel to humans not being states, either. He wanted to be great at something, and he didn't care how good he was at any particular point, because he was never satisfied. It's been that way with everything he genuinely cares about. It's all a process to him, and understanding that has made a huge difference in his life, and it continues to make a huge difference every day. 

I didn't teach him this. We sort of taught each other. It's had such a big impact on my life, too. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2022


I've progressed from playing Tetris with items inside my Honda Accord to playing house Tetris. This is a substantial improvement. 

I forgot how hard it is to move. I don't even have much stuff, and it was still savagely difficult. Or maybe I'm just savagely old. 

The inside of the house already looks quite nice, if you look at it from the right angle and don't see any of the numerous boxes of stuff that still need to be put away. All in all, though, better than I expected. 

It took quite a few trips back and forth (again, Honda Accord), but I could have saved time if I used the approach by the group I saw on Saturday. There was an SUV approaching with some large thing on the roof (think a wooden pallet, but longer), and I was wondering how it was secured, because I didn't see rope or anything. Then I saw two hands reaching out from each side of the back seat, and they were what was holding the pallet in place. 

I'm not a mover or anything, but I feel like there are better ways to do that.

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