Monday, October 31, 2022

Costume Count 2022!

Of course we're doing it, and it won't take a year to compile the results this time. 

We've done this for so long (maybe 15 years now?) that no one really needs instructions. Just send in your spreadsheet. 

The weather here is generally miserable here every year on Halloween, but if it doesn't rain, Michigan is going to have some vintage weather (65 here). 

That's Right: Costume Count2021

Sure, it's been 364 days. 

I'm bloodied but unbowed, though, and I compiled all the data. Please note that Costume Count 2022 will be compiled approximately 350 days sooner. 

712 total costumes as trick or treating returned to semi-normal after COVID. 

Places reporting:
East Grand Rapids, Michigan
Fate, Texas
Seattle, Washington
Canton, Michigan
Waterford, Massachusetts
St. Paul, Minnesota
Huntsville, Alabama
Woodlands, Texas

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Toronto, Ontario
Halifax, Nova Scotia


The Top Ten:
Princess (41)
Witch (38)
Skeleton (22)
Spiderman (22)
Cat (20)
Zombie (15)
Clown (10)
Fairy (10)
Mario (9)
Pirate (9)

The top ten is interesting, because along with eight generally classic costumes, Spiderman and Mario snuck in there (and there were Luigi's (4), Princess Peach (1), and Bowser (1) in the Mario universe as well). And it's somehow fitting that almost as many girls want to be witches as princesses (although there were a disappointing number of Wonder Women this year (4).

Missed opportunity: Winnie the Pooh (3), Piglet (2), and Tigger (1) made an appearance, but where was Eeyore?

Mysteries: "evil rabbit samurai," "fat Thor," "Swedish rocker," "vaguely scary inline skater teen." Also, there was "Jasmine from live action Aladdin," and you have to respect the distinction.

All, in all a fine year, even with the additional year before results were available. Blame Pennsylvania.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Friday Links!

From Wally, and time has gone very, very quickly: A 1990s relic, floppy disks get second life at California warehouse

Darwin Award winner: Attorney who fought Florida helmet laws died in motorcycle crash while not wearing one.

From C. Lee, and this is a huge problem (Washington Post): UAE Retired on Expertise of Retired U.S. Troops to Beef Up Its Military. This is a fascinating story: Inside the crypto black markets of Argentina. Remarkable: The NSA Is Displaying Its Old Nuke Launching System in a Museum. An odd story: Rare tropical fungus randomly blooms in the palm of a US teen’s hand. An amazing discovery: Part of lost star catalog of Hipparchus found lurking under medieval codex. This is correct: Scandinavian sleeping hack for couples to end pesky cover-hogging: 'It is life-changing'.

From John W., and they were that close: British rocket misses space, hits sea.

From Daniel Q., and these are both entertaining: The Dumbest Russian Voyage Nobody Talks About and Kamchatka - Guide 151.

Jury Duty

When you're growing up, the best day in your life is the last day of school each year. 

When you're an adult, the best day is getting excused from jury duty. Which I was today, after only five minutes (because I'd moved, I was no longer eligible to serve). 

I did spot one interesting fellow in the room before I left. Most people just brought in their phones. This guy brought in a newspaper, two drinks, a large bag, and a giant lunch container with a strap. Dude was geared up for Jurygeddon. 

I left the courthouse, free as a bird, because I felt like a king. I went and got a scone at my favorite bakery, and there was no line, because I was king. I stopped to get a haircut without an appointment--and got one--because I was king. 

It's good to be the king. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

At Least a Tiny Bit of Encouragement

Kanye West certainly isn't the first celebrity to show his overt anti-Semitism, and unfortunately, he won't be the last, either. 

At least this time, though, there's been a response, and the response is significant. That seems hopeful. 

And those people who are saying, "Sure, he said anti-Semitic things, but you know what's really hateful? Jewish people trying to take away his livelihood. That's the real crime!" Yeah, the people saying that are assholes, and they're anti-Semitic, and you know what? They're probably racist and sexist, too, because those Venn diagrams overlap almost completely. 

It seems inevitable that Kanye will make some announcement within a week that either
1) he's having a mental health crisis (note: that doesn't make you a racist), or
2) he's stepping away for a while to learn to become a better person. 

I'm sure he'll also be sorry for all the people he's offended. 

In a strange way, this feels like progress. Be an asshole. Get slapped hard. That seems like the correct, natural order of things. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022


Eli 21.2 convinced me to sign up for a clothing service that sends you clothes so he could review my purchases. This was in an attempt to "up" my dating wardrobe, which consists entirely of "nice" jeans and a few shirts with buttons. 

I know, that sounds bad. When you're a hockey dad, though, you don't exactly wind up with a brimming wardrobe. Not that mine would have looked any different, anyway. 

He signed up, too, and his monthly shipment (mine comes every three months) came to me instead of his address in Ann Arbor. I thought it was mine and picked out a jacket and a really outstanding belt. 

As it turned out, though, I'd opened his shipment instead. And he paid for it, which I particularly enjoyed. 

One problem, though: the belt I loved didn't fit me because his waist is 29 and mine is 33. So he got a nice belt, which was only fair, since he paid for it. 

I asked him to send me the brand of the belt from his invoice so I could order one in my size, but he kept forgetting. This cycle repeated several times. It happens with low-importance items.

This morning, I decided to change my strategy and texted him this:
There was a young boy at college
Who kept all the belt-related knowledge
Though his dad implored
He was promptly ignored
And his pants collapsed under the haulage. 

Three minute later, he texted back: Okay, that got me. 

I ordered the belt.

Monday, October 24, 2022


Whenever I use the bathroom without buying anything at a Starbucks with keypad locks on the door I feel like I robbed the Louvre.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off, a fantastic story I saw mentioned over at Boing-Boing: 17 Rare Pics Reveal A Fake Rooftop Town Built To Hide Boeing’s Factory From Japanese Air Strikes

From Wally, and these are haunting: Abandoned Golaski Labs. Timely, for some of us: How to Reduce Your Chances of Hitting a Deer. Thought-provoking (although, personally, I feel like the Enneagram, which is somewhat similar, has been really helpful): Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is going to get much better every year now: AI generated halloween candy.

From C. Lee, and yup, these are all bad: What Will Happen to America if Trump Wins Again? Experts Helped Us Game It Out. I always stream albums: ‘There’s endless choice, but you’re not listening’: fans quitting Spotify to save their love of music. A terrific read: In chess, a long history of cheating, chicanery and Cold War shenanigans. This is brilliant: With Leaps and Bounds, Parkour Athletes Turn Off the Lights in Paris. This seems like a logical step: Microsoft Is Adding an AI Art Generator to Office Suite. I'd buy it: Store clerk in Japan cracks up foreign customers with unusual English explanation of “squid”. None near me, unfortunately: Here Are the 100 Best Pizzerias in the World, According to a New Ranking. This is just wonderful: Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra’s phenomenal version of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo” from West Side Story.


I traditionally put up a few pictures of fall leaves (well, since I moved to Michigan. There's not much to show in Austin in fall), so I took pictures while I was out on my walk today. 

The first one is traditional:

There's a point in fall (in a good year) when the colors are suddenly so sharp and bright. Summer is so uniform, and then everything becomes wildly idiosyncratic before the real cold hits.

This second picture is much better, I think, and I've never taken one like it before:

You might have to click on that to enlarge it to see all the colors, but it's a painter's palette of leaves, and in combination, they're beautiful. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022


I met Eli 21.2 in Lansing yesterday, which is exactly halfway between Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. 

He originally was coming to Grand Rapids, which I thought was really generous of him, but the weather was awful, so I told him we'd meet halfway. 

We had breakfast. Talked about everything going on for both of us (his section was longer and more exciting). Talked about Gloria. 

We didn't stay together that long, just an hour and a half, but our fun is always concentrated. I think it was exactly what both of us needed. We had big smiles on our faces when we left, and mine stayed there for the rest of the day. I think his did, too. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

A Note

I'm not writing about Gloria today. Even though it's the "official" date of her passing, she really passed when she was struck by the SUV on October 10th last year. 

She never suffered, which is a small mercy compared to losing your life, but small mercies are the only ones available.  

I wish she was still here.

Forgotten History

Sometimes I read a bit of history that doesn't seem real because our entire view of the world has shifted so much it doesn't seem possible. 

This was the case with the Ice Block Expedition of 1959.

From Wikipedia, a summary:
The ice block expedition of 1959 was a publicity stunt carried out by the Norwegian insulation material producer Glassvatt. Responding to a challenge from the radio station Radio Luxembourg, Glassvatt decided to equip a truck to bring a three-ton block of ice from Mo i Rana by the Arctic Circle, to Libreville by the Equator. There was no form of refrigeration applied, and the expedition was intended to display the efficiency of the insulating glass wool used. The truck also brought 300 kg of medicines to the hospital of Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné.

The expedition then was followed by a worldwide press corps, and crowds of spectators gathered in various European cities along the route. Crossing the Sahara, where the truck repeatedly got stuck in the sand, proved both a dangerous and laborious task. Once the truck had made it through the desert, however, and reached its final destination, it was revealed that the ice block had lost only about 11% of its original weight. When the expedition reached its goal it generated much media attention for the company. It was called "the world's greatest publicity stunt".

In my mind, everyone had refrigerators by 1959. This is absolutely not true, of course (and many people don't have refrigerators today, either). I remember we had one, though, and my small person experience was translated into a universal expectation. 

Nothing about this expedition seems possible. It's a long, long way to take a giant block of ice with only 11% of it melting. I never even thought about how many strategies existed back in the day to make ice melt more slowly. 

There's something about having a modern convenience that makes you forgot how ingenious people were before the convenience existed.

Monday, October 17, 2022


I was watching college football on Saturday, as one does. 

I don't watch baseball anymore. Even though football is itself overstuffed with commercials and delays, baseball makes it look lightning-fast in comparison. 

Then I saw a blurb saying the Astros-Mariners game was scoreless in the 16th inning. I was sure that had never remotely happened in the playoffs (it turned out it was only the 4th time of all games in MLB history, which stretches back to the Old Testament). 

At the next commercial break, I flipped over to a baseball game for the first time all year. It was now in the top of the 18th inning. Astros batting, no outs, and the count was 3-2.

At that point, as best I can tell from the box score, approximately 465 pitches had been thrown.

This is the television call of the first pitch I saw:
3-2 pitch. [crack of bat] In the air, deep left-center field, hit well, Rodriguez on the run, and IT IS GONE!

I went back to the football game. The baseball game finished 1-0. Talk about optimization.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a staggering story: Inmate in Georgia’s maximum security prison accused of impersonating billionaires to steal millions.

From Ross P., and it's fascinating: How AI Image Generators Work (Stable Diffusion / Dall-E) - Computerphile.

From Wally, and it's something we've always wanted to know: How a WWII banana shortage changed the course of Twinkie history. It seems like we're doing better in space than on Earth right now: Smashing success: NASA asteroid strike results in big nudge. The creativity here is genuinely impressive: 250,000 Dominoes - The Incredible Science Machine: GAME ON! 

From C. Lee, and this is interesting: This 100% solar community endured Hurricane Ian with no loss of power and minimal damage. This is a fascinating story: At N.Y.U., Students Were Failing Organic Chemistry. Who Was to Blame? An excellent read: How China Targets the Global Fish Supply: With its own coastal waters depleted, China has built a global fishing operation unmatched by any other country. It's about time: Walmart, CVS face trial for putting sham homeopathic products next to real meds. Timeless: a charming photo archive of science fiction conventions from the 1960s and 70s. This is very clever: Darkest Dungeon, but instead of fighting monsters, they fight the stresses of a 9-5 work life

Unexpectedly Excellent

I was all prepared to celebrate that one of the worst human beings on earth (Alex Jones) is now one of the poorest people on Earth, but then the creature guy came by to investigate a hole in the back of the house. 

I mean, I'm still celebrating, but this is a different story. 

I was talking to the creature guy--as one does--and he mentioned that he had relatives in India, and that he'd been to India. Kipling gets a bad rap for being a colonialist, he said, but the one thing that Kipling did perfectly was describe the colors and smells of India perfectly. He said they're incredibly unique, and only Kipling, in his experience, had described them so well. 

All this from a guy who was just coming over to see why woodpeckers had drilled a hole in the back of the house (yes, it was woodpeckers). 

I feel like I got the better end of the bargain. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022


Apparently it's god rays week. I had no idea.

Sunset, with sun

John Harwood took some magnificent sunset photos yesterday and was kind enough to send them to me.

To be clear, any sunset photos of Grand Rapids usually involve an overcast sky, especially in the winter months. We've had a very nice last week of all, though--sunny every day. Now it's supposed to rain for most of the next week. 

Here are John's photos: 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

In Case You're Wondering

Moses praying on a soccer field:

It's not great, but I think it's close enough. 

It can actually be quite difficult to do something extremely specific. I must have done 30-40 variations of the original prompt ("Moses kneeling to pray on a soccer field, detailed, god rays").

So I'd like the other players to be closer, among other things, but the god rays are a nice touch, I think.


Her profile on  Match said "I want someone who lets me be myself, without any judgement."

Unfortunately, she misspelled "judgment," and I was forced to judge her.


Monday, October 10, 2022

A Day

I prepared for a bad day, but it was mostly just a day. 

I watched a movie. I played golf. I went through a file cabinet of Gloria's old records (she kept everything), sorting through what needed to be kept. 

I'd been putting that off, but it seemed like time. 

Eli 20.2 called me this morning and asked if I could generate (via Midjourney) a picture of Moses praying on a soccer field. This is what happens when you use an art-generating computer program. 

I think the reason this day turned out to be not much is because I prepared for it. I expected it to be a big deal. I was ready. The reason Bank of America wrecked me last week was precisely because I wasn't expecting it (I mean, who would?). 

So, a day. Tomorrow, another one. And life goes on.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Friday Links!

This is a wonderful, poignant article that I originally saw linked through RPS: Stone Skipping Is a Lost Art. Kurt Steiner Wants the World to Find It.

The least surprising thing ever: Our ancestors ate a Paleo diet. It had carbs.

This is also the least surprising thing ever (wait, can there be two?), because the whole notion that not having helmets in football would reduce concussions, using rugby as an example, was patently ridiculous: Rugby urged to cut matches as study finds players’ risk of MND is 15 times higher.

This is a terrific read, and the book looks amazing: Michael Zagaris Had The Backstage Pass Of A Lifetime.

From Wally, and this seems insane (but popular): Would you buy a $400 Marvel action figure? Thousands of people can’t wait. It's a great brief, too: Area Man Is Arrested for Parody. The Onion Files a Supreme Court Brief. This is fantastic: Amazing talent. This is why you never write expecting to make a living from it: Short stories: How much do you make? How do you sell one? How long does it take to write? 

From C. Lee, and so many people get their feelings hurt about progress: Italian Nobel Prize Winner in Hot Water Over Cooking Tip. This is so ridiculous, and why am I even surprised? I Wish I Was a Little Bit Taller: Inside the World of Leg Lengthening. Ugh: Hobbits and the Hard Right: How Fantasy Inspires Italy’s Potential New Leader. That's quite a substantial otter, sir: In Prehistoric Ethiopia, Otters Were as Big as Lions. History corrected: San Francisco’s Famous Sourdough Was Once Really Gross. An absolutely delightful game: He made a silly trombone video game. Then the internet caught wind. 

A Thought Experiment

I woke up at 3 again this morning. I've been doing that lately. Then I'll lay away until about 5 and finally fall back to sleep. 

I think while I'm half-awake, though. Most of it doesn't make any sense, but every once in a while, something interesting sneaks through, and I'll send myself an email so I don't forget. 

What I thought about last night was the ratio of how much you think about the future versus thinking about the past. And how much you want to live in the future versus living in the past. 

When you're young, it's not a thing, because the answer is almost always heavily focused on the future. And you're happy, because the future seems unlimited. 

You get older. For many of us, the future seems dull in comparison to what we might have had, particularly in relationships. If you're in a difficult marriage, like Gloria and I were, it makes you look back and wonder. 

With Eli, though, I always looked forward to the future (still do), because wondrous things seem to happen on a daily basis. 

This week, though, I've been thinking more about the past, and my life before the accident, and if I'm honest, part of me wants to be back there, when I was still living in my little apartment and life was much lighter. Now there are times when it feels very, very heavy. 

I also know that it's my job to make my own life lighter. No one is going to do it for me. 

I'm guessing that people who always want to go into the future are the happiest, and people who always think about the past are the least happy. 

The difference in me now, after therapy, is that I'm conscious of these things. Before, I would have had no idea what was roiling around inside. Understanding is its own way of looking forward.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Conflict Mode

I suddenly find myself in conflict mode and I don't know why. 

The anniversary of Gloria's accident is Monday. I was hoping for a quiet week, then a trip to see Eli 21.2 on Saturday to watch women's volleyball (Nebraska vs. Michigan). We're both pretty pumped. 

Monday, though, Bank of America (the conference call from hell). Now I'm in dispute with a foundation company that charged a considerable amount of money to repair a room off the back of the house with a 2" slant. They said (in an email) that the chances of success were "99.9%". I paid the money, they did some kind of work, and now that room still has a 2" slant. I'm having to go back and forth with them, and somehow, they make it sound like they're the customer, not me. 

This afternoon, I got a jury summons. Well-played, universe.

I don't know if this all feels worse because the anniversary of the accident is coming up (and a few people around me are melting down, though not Eli), or this is just a weird cycle of stupid things happening all at once. 

Either way, it's definitely not fun. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Solitaire like it's 1899

I went to Accuweather last week to get information on Hurricane Ian. 

I think it was Accuweather. It could have possible been I'm almost sure it was Accuweather, though.  [editor's note: this debate continues inside my head forever. Probably Accuweather, though.]

On the storm information page, there was a link at the bottom saying you could play solitaire and get updating weather information at the same time. Hmm, that sounded interesting, I thought. 

Here's what I was greeted with: 

The control strip for my phone's volume is on the left (sorry). The game screen, though, took me back thirty years. Maybe further, because the original Windows solitaire in 1990 looked significantly nicer than this!

Geocities? Compuserve? I'm not even sure that's the right comparison. 

Definitely EGA, though. Unreal.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Bank of America and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

There was an issue involving Gloria's estate. I had to call Bank of America, which is where the estate account is held. 

It's a complicated issue, and every single person I'd dealt with at Bank of America previously had screwed up: promises not kept, tickets opened but not closed, wrong information, etc. It's fair to say they were all under the umbrella "actions promised but not taken."

I was on the phone today with them for three hours and twenty minutes. From 8 a.m. to 11:20. 

Everyone apologized. No one could do anything. The whole process has to start again, after originally beginning in June.

I talked to five different people from four different departments. Still unresolved. 

I was told, by a supervisor, that he would make sure he communicated all the details of my situation to the Complaint Department, which is specifically dedicated to handling customer problems.

Would I be contacted by the Complaint Department, I asked?

Oh, no, said the supervisor. It's strictly to improve their internal policy. 

I'm not going to make a 5,000 word post about the excruciating details, because your eyes would glaze over. Please just trust me when I say never, never, NEVER do business with Bank of America, for any reason. 


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