Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Wiper Wars: Sisyphus Edition

I do some things so seldom that I forget in the lengthy interval how to do them at all. 

This came to mind today, because it was time to change one of my windshield wipers. 

I do this every 2-3 years, if that often. You take the wiper arm off by turning and sliding a doohickey in certain directions, then you attach a new doohickey into an arm and the doohickey clicks in some manner. 

That's the technical explanation, anyway. 

This should be easy, but I make it hard. The doohickey is plastic, so I'm always concerned about exerting too much pressure and breaking said doohickey. It all feels so simple when I'm done, but I forget everything by the time I need to do it again. 

Then there are instructions. 

Representing rotation in 2D is inherently impossible for me to understand. It's also a very nice touch that the actual doohickeys are so dark in the picture that's hard to see exactly what attaches where. 

Then the doohickey came off the new wiper blade. it was pre-installed, so now I had to figure out how to put it back on, but no matter how I put it together, it never seemed tight like it was at first. I was also supposed to rotate the doohickey into a vertical position, which seemed impossible. 

It was 15F outside, so perfect weather to be screwing with this for an extremely long time. 

After squinting at the illustrations from a distance of approximately 3" for several minutes, I punted and watched a YouTube video. This is the first thing I should have done. This is the first thing I should always do. 

After watching the video, I realized where the rotation was supposed to take place (I just needed to squeeze harder than I had been to release the part to rotate). Then I sort of held the doohickey in place and slid the hook around the doohickey and pushed something in some sort of way and everything clicked into place. 

Gee, that was easy. I'm sure I'll remember next time.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Ruthless Efficiency

I drove to Ann Arbor on Sunday to give Eli 21.5 his passport (with the Liberian stamp), along with a few other things.

We'd had heavy snow for two days, including much of Saturday night, so I was expecting some difficulty on the drive. 

What I didn't expect, though, was for the first forty miles to take over an hour.

Those early miles were extremely difficult. One usable lane had been gouged out of the interstate by snowplows, but it wasn't entirely clear. In some places, there wasn't even a lane, really, just packed snow. 

A strange thing happened after the first forty miles, though. The road started getting better, and quickly. By the time I'd traveled the last twenty miles to Lansing, both lanes of the interstate were entirely clear. 

It felt like a damn miracle. 

For the last hour into Ann Arbor, the roads were perfect.

On the way home, about five hours later, I braced for what could be difficult driving after I went through Lansing. It was as if that snowstorm never happened, though--the roads were perfect until I got back into Grand Rapids.

It's incredible that a 40+ mile section of interstate went from nightmarish to pristine in five hours. No excess snow. No ice. That's how incredibly efficient the snowplow infrastructure is up here. It's staggering, really, on a scale that's difficult to even comprehend. 

The Midwest, perfected. 

Eli was terrific, as always, and his girlfriend came to breakfast with us. She's a wonderful, caring person. They're an emotional health power couple, and it makes me very happy. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Friday Links!

We're super-light this week. 

If you're bored, go buy a book! The Man You Trust.

This is a fantastic read: Researchers look a dinosaur in its remarkably preserved face

From C. Lee, and these are spectacular: Our Favorite Student Artwork From Japan’s Graduating Class of 2023

From the previous website: Waguya: a 300-Year Old Cavernous Arts & Crafts Shop in Mie Prefecture.

My favorite Civ, and the Digital Antiquarian is so brilliant: Sequels in Strategy Gaming, Part 1: Civilization II

The scientific process here is remarkable: Scientists identify rare lead compounds in Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.

Of interest in relation to what we've been discussing recently: Do AI images violate copyright? A lawyer explains the Stable Diffusion lawsuit.

This is such an odd story, but it's genuinely amazing, too: Building a boat to sail around the world when you don't know boat building or sailing.

From David Gloier, and this is depressing: How Auto-Tune DESTROYED Popular Music. It's an interesting path from auto-tune and drum machines to music generation programs. 

From the Past to the Future

This is what it was like every day in our house for years. Still is, when Eli 21.5 is home.

Eli 6.7
"I want to be a God," Eli 6.7 said as he sat down at the kitchen table.

"Who doesn't?" I asked.

"If I was a God, I could fly in P.E.," he said.

"You're a God, and all you're going to do is fly around the gym? Dude, you're a GOD--you don't even have to go to school anymore."

"I don't?" he asked.

"No," I said. "You'd know everything already. Probably."

"Oh, now I REALLY want to be a God," he said. "Dad, what would you do if you were a God?"

"I'd wrestle a whale," I said.


"I could talk to him in his language, so he'd know that we were just playing," I said. "But definitely the first thing I'd do is wrestle a whale."

"Now THAT is an idea," he said.

"Dad, do you want to play Super Mario Galaxy?" Eli was sitting on the couch. I sat down beside him.

"Sure, little man, I'll play," I said. We have a constant rivalry about turning on the Wii, because we have the controllers inside the stereo cabinet with the Wii, so someone has to walk over and turn it on. "Go turn on the Wii," I said.

"No, you turn it on," he said, laughing.

"No, YOU turn it on," I said.

"No, YOU," he said.

"The only 'you' in this room is 'you'," I said. "So you turn it on."

"No, you turn it on," he said.

"Oh, for God's sake! I'LL turn it on," Gloria said. She had been sitting at the kitchen table, and she walked over to the stereo cabinet and turned on the Wii.

"Thanks, Mom," Eli said. "Thanks a lot."

"Yeah, thanks, honey," I said. Gloria walked back into the kitchen and sat down. "Okay, buddy," I said, "go turn the receiver to 'Video 1'."

"No, YOU go turn it to 'Video 1'," he said.

"No, you," I said.

"ARGGHHHHH!" Gloria said.

Eli (aka The Enthusiasm Engine) was notified yesterday that he's a semifinalist for the Fulbright, which means the U.S. committee has recommended him and forwarded it to the country who would be hosting him (Colombia). It doesn't mean he's selected, but it's a good sign. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

IGF Finalists 2023!

Here are your finalists for the Seumas McNally Grand Prize:
Betrayal at Club Low (Cosmo D Studios)
IMMORTALITY (Sam Barlow, Half Mermaid)
Neon White (Angel Matrix)
Not For Broadcast (NotGames)
The Case of the Golden Idol (Color Gray Games)

Honorable Mentions: Citizen Sleeper (Jump Over the Age), Hardspace: Shipbreaker (Blackbird Interactive), Roadwarden (Moral Anxiety Studio), RPG Time: The Legend of Wright (DeskWorks Inc.), Terra Nil (Free Lives), Tinykin (Splashteam).

Having made one, I can say without hesitation that making a game is hard. Making a game that is innovative and has broad appeal is much, much harder.

I've been meaning to pick up Betrayal at Club Low for some time, and I think this is the kick in the pants I needed. 

Oh, and there are many more categories of awards, and you can see them all here: 2023 INDEPENDENT GAMES FESTIVAL FINALISTS.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023


I know. It's a highly unusual title for a post in this space. 

I made salmon last night for the first time. Why haven't I made it before? I don't know. I guess I was busy.

This is all part of the new healthy eating regimen, which basically means eating nothing I like and replacing it with things I don't. 

I'm learning, though. Slowly. 

I sent a picture of the salmon to Eli 21.5 last night, along with this text:
I feel like Christopher
Columbus, but without the

He's been incredibly encouraging, as he always is, and he's a fine cook, so he's also been very helpful. He made salmon with a dijon rub while he was home for the holidays, and I was trying to copy that, except I made a dijon/brown sugar rub. 

The rub didn't cook off like I expected, so it remained a bit enthusiastic:

One thing I'm struggling with while cooking multiple dishes is the need for six arms.

Monday, January 23, 2023


I meant to write about this World Cup story months ago. Then stuff happened, etc. 

Eli 21.5 told me about this, actually. He mentioned that Bangladesh had one of the most devoted fanbases to Argentina. 

This made no sense, obviously, so I spent some time tracking down why. 

It's a complicated tale, but mostly, it involves English colonialism. 

Bangladesh was an English colony for almost two centuries, and their hatred of the British continued well after independence. Argentina beat England 2-1 in the quarterfinals on their way to winning the tournament, and Diego Maradona was a riveting presence on the field. 

Sticking it to the English, along with having the most exciting player in the world. That's when it happened. 

It's been said that Bangladesh has the fifth largest fanbase of Argentinian soccer, in a country slightly smaller than Iowa. Astonishing, really, and the fanbase is incredibly passionate. They ride or die with Argentinian soccer. 

This story went viral during the World Cup, but it wasn't new. It's been going on for over thirty-five years. 

Here's a nice article: A dash of tango in a small corner of Asia: The story of Bangladesh’s love affair with Argentina.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, it's a book! The Man You Trust. I'm trying to work out a deal with the Girl Scouts to sell my book in addition to their cookies, and negotiations are ongoing. There seem to be several sticking points, and I have no idea why. 

Next, a terrific article on the Apple Lisa: Revisiting Apple’s ill-fated Lisa computer, 40 years on

Here's a lovely story on my favorite animal, the capybara: Is this the friendliest creature on the planet? And a video that will be the best 11 minutes you've spent all week: Why are capybaras "so chill?"

The story behind an iconic Simpson's episode: Throw Up Your Hands and Raise Your Voice! Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

I'll tailgate in the parking lot of the pharmacy to celebrate this being available someday: RSV vaccine for older adults is 84% effective, Moderna says

This is a remarkable video: Watching custom, handmade hiking boots being made in a Korean shoe shop

Wally sent in a follow-up to yesterday's post that is quite good: The Machines Already Took Our Jobs

From Chris M., and hopefully this isn't paywalled for you: AI Is Not the New Crypto

ChatGPT and the future of writing (and reading)

I've been thinking about ChatGPT and some of the AI tools available to writers now. 

I don't think the question is how good they are now (even though, for some, they are quite serviceable after a bit of editing), but how good will they be in ten years?

I believe they will be very good, indeed. 

Whether such a tool would be useful for you depends on how you view writing. If you see it as a journey (like I do), then having AI assistance wouldn't be appealing at all. I want to create every word. I want to go through whatever is necessary, for as long as it takes, to be able to call it mine. 

Having said that, John Harwood and my editor were both hugely helpful, and the book would be much the poorer without them. I still feel like it's mine, though. 

So when I ask you to consider purchasing a book, it's me you're purchasing. 

If you feel like writing is a destination, though, not a journey, then AI tools could be extremely helpful. And to be clear, I don't feel like seeing writing as a destination is wrong. There are a ton of professional writers who depend on volume. They're not trying to leave an impression; they're trying to entertain. There's nothing wrong with that. 

Especially if your commercial niche is turning out books every year (or, for some, every six months), having an AI help write them is going to be a life-changer. I was going to say it makes the work more disposable, but that's not fair. It's just a tool to create entertaining content more quickly. 

I just wanted to write something that someone, someday would read and remember. I don't want people to move on so easily. 

Jonathon Wood sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago that reminded me of how there are infinite possibilities with these tools. He used an AI tool to generate images he used to build a short story around. That's a great idea: noodling around with AI tools to inspire creativity in a different medium. He published it on Amazon, and here's the link (the images are incorporated in the story, too): The Path of Knowledge.


As a follow-up to the "On Technology" post I made earlier this week, Jeremy H. sent a link that (once again) shows Carl Sagan was prescient in a remarkable way:
I have a foreboding.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Eli 21.5 Travels the World

After eight vaccinations on Friday, and receiving a visa from the Liberian embassy today, Eli 21.5 looks like he's ready to go to Africa in a few weeks. 

I get stressed out if I'm flying domestic and it's not a non-stop flight. For him, though, this is just business as usual. 

On top of the eight vaccinations, he was given anti-malarial and typhoid pills. The nurse, who was quite funny, also gave him another bottle of pills in case he started "shitting uncontrollably." Then she laughed. 

That's my kind of nurse. 

He normally turns on a location program when he's traveling abroad, which I really appreciate. On days when I don't hear from him, just checking at night and knowing he's back in his residence gives me much comfort. 

For this trip, though, he will have no phone service or wi-fi for days at a time. It's going to be a challenge for me. 

The funny part is that I'll probably feel more anxiety not hearing from him for a few days than he'll feel flying across the world and doing field work in remote areas of Liberia. 

I had that adventuring spirit, when I was young, but he has it in ways that only a few people could ever dream of having. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

On Technology

Tom S. emailed me a while back with a link to this article:
The Questions Concerning Technology.

The article proposes a quite rational series of questions to evaluate the worthiness of new technology. The list is long, but even the first six are hugely useful. Here they are:
1. What sort of person will the use of this technology make of me?
2. What habits will the use of this technology instill?
3. How will the use of this technology affect my experience of time?
4. How will the use of this technology affect my experience of place?
5. How will the use of this technology affect how I relate to other people?
6. How will the use of this technology affect how I relate to the world around me?

Those are thoughtful, important questions, and ones I've always neglected completely. 

The problem with any new technology, of course, is that you can't put the toothpaste back into the tube. We never seem to turn technology down if it can be monetized. Or weaponized. It's only if neither of those criteria are met that new technology fails. 

I never really thought that mattered. 

I've become much more aware, though, that an economy based on monetization and weaponization of technology doesn't reward the good actors, generally. Instead, it rewards the bad ones. Maybe this was always true, but it seems so acutely true now. We've allowed individual bad actors to become, essentially, their own nation-states. 

I don't know if any  of us are fully prepared to accept the consequences.

Monday, January 16, 2023

MLK Day 2023

 I started making this post over a decade ago, and I'll be making it every year for as long as I do this.


Today is a national holiday in the United States to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's easy to forget the kind of hatred and stupidity that King was fighting against, but a good place to start is here: What was Jim Crow. The Wikipedia entry for Jim Crow laws also has detailed information. And the Wikipedia entry for King is here.

We're still fighting against that hatred and stupidity today.

Also, here's a link to a 2006 post when Eli asked me about Martin Luther King for the first time. It's still one of my favorite posts.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a real rabbit hole involving bees (and others): It’s A Bee Brawl In The Flower Patch! 

From Jonathan Wood, and it's an amazing animation: Paths of Hate.

From Wally, and this is the cutest thing you'll see all month: Rescue beaver makes Christmas dam in house. This is so incredibly clever: What I Learned About My Writing By Seeing Only The Punctuation. It's a great day: Happy Public Domain Day 2023! This is going to have many unintended consequences: Dungeons & Dragons’ New License Tightens Its Grip on Competition.

From Ken Piper, and it's one of many angles on this: A college student created an app that can tell whether AI wrote an essay. This is thoughtful: Why does technology no longer excite us? This is horrific and Orwellian: Iran Says Face Recognition Will ID Women Breaking Hijab Laws. This is excellent: Up close and personal: Dolphin POV caught on camera while hunting tasty fish. Well, it's informative: This Is How They Wiped Themselves in Ancient Rome. This could either be amazing or just random chance/selective interpretation: Top 10 Countdown: Best of Billi 2022 | BilliSpeaks. The company who makes the product in the preceding video: FluentPet Connect lets your pets tell you what they need, wherever you are


Eli 21.5 is going to Libera in three weeks to finish research for his honors thesis. There are other details, but that's what matters to this story. 

To go to Liberia, he needs a yellow fever vaccine. 

This is why I was machine-gunning phone calls today, calling every medical office listed on the CDC website within 50 miles of Ann Arbor. He had an appointment on Friday, but it was in Cleveland (three hours away) with a clinic that could fairly be described as "sketchy."

The CDC website listed well over a dozen locations in the 50-mile area, but almost every number I called was either disconnected or closed. Many of these places were "travel clinics," and they made most of their money from vaccinating travelers who were going abroad. 

I couldn't understand why all these places were closed, and then it hit me: COVID. Any business depending on travel basically had no revenue for over a year, and reduced revenue since then. Almost no one survived.

It's easy to see the big ways we were impacted by COVID. Usually, I forget about the smaller domino effects, but I was reminded today. 

After 20+ phone calls, I'd wrangled an appointment 40 minutes away for him when he called and said he'd walked into the health center on campus (after being totally refused on the phone) and talked someone into giving him an appointment tomorrow for the vaccine. 

Like I said, one of his best qualities is that everyone who meets him wants to help. I've never seen anything like it. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Holiday Season is Officially Over

Evan the Inappropriate Elf has been returned to secure storage at an undisclosed location (deep underground in a state that rhymes with "Few Embryo"). As always, there is sadness as he leaves our home, but also hope in knowing he will return the week after Thanksgiving. 

Godspeed, Evan. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023


I had a thought today. It happens, sometimes, and usually when I'm not thinking about anything in particular. 

This is about relationships, because I think about them in the context of my own life and my friends. 

In our era (and most of you are in "our" era, and you'd be 55-65 years old now), most girls were taught to be pleasers, and most boys were taught to be strong (and that needing anything was a weakness). 

So now there are millions of pleasers trying to have relationships with men who can't admit they need anything, because it would make them seem weak. 

How on earth is that supposed to work?

So many people in our generation are divorced, and I think many of them are just the product of a deeply incompatible system they were never able to unlearn. 

If you grew up in another country, I'd be interested in knowing if it was the same for you, too. 

Monday, January 09, 2023

A Message

I have a friend whose butt is very fond of me. 

Her butt is also quite proficient in using the phone, as it often calls me. It's even left the occasional garbled, cryptic text on occasion. 

My friend is a kind, intelligent, thoughtful person. She's tried online dating, and it's been frustrating and disappointing (like it has been for many of us). 

The hardest thing about online dating is you feel like you're casting your net into the void, and if nothing comes back, the void grows. 

Recently, she met a man (online, incredibly). She told me about him, and he sounds like such a good fit for her. She's said she's very happy. 

When her butt called me on Saturday night, she was out on a date with him. The message was about a minute long, and while the dialogue was garbled in Charlie-Brown's-teacher style, I could hear her laugh clearly. It was joyous and peaceful and pure. 

She told me she was happy, but in that moment, I got to hear her happiness, and it made me warm and happy, too. 

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a stunning story: Amateur archaeologist uncovers ice age ‘writing’ system

Here's a podcast about a Roman Legion that simply disappeared: The Mystery of the Ninth Legion

Here's an interesting look at quantum computing applications: What are companies doing with D-Wave’s quantum hardware? 

From C. Lee, and it's an analysis of WWII that focuses on the effect of air and sea battles, not land: How the War was Won. Next, how this applies to Ukraine. This is a sad, touching story: Doctors Bow After 11-Year-Old Brain Tumor Patient Donates Organs. This is a terrific read: How the Transcontinental Railway Forever changed the U.S. So is this: Inside the Diet That Fueled Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Workers. A food innovator: Glaswegian who 'invented' chicken tikka masala dies. This is a stunning timelapse: Animated Chart: The Smartphone Effect on the Camera Market

From Meg McReynolds, and this is amazing: Fred Armisen Does Every North American Accent. These photos are astonishing: The bomb cyclone encrusted these Lake Erie homes in ice. The photos are surreal.

From Wally, and if you're into aviation, this is right up your alley: TOP 12 Unique Flying Machines. This is clever: How to Read a Comic Strip: Part 1. I don't know why anyone is surprised, because it's always been like this: An All But Definitive Guide to the Hollywood Nepo-Verse

Not even a jog

We were watching an episode of Game of Thrones. 

"Have you noticed that villains never run?" Eli 21.5 asked. 

I laughed. 

It started a long discussion, though, and he's right. Heroes are always running, because they're always late. Their aerobic capacity must be ridiculous, because they sprint everywhere. 

Villains are never in a hurry. They have next-level preparation. They usually dress for success, too. 

I'd like to see a new character: the prepared hero. He's a meticulous planner, never surprised, and walks everywhere. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

A Product Description

The original content description for The Man You Trust was this:
A dedicated public servant, striving to restore order to a disordered world. 

That's how the Inspector would have described himself, which is nice meta, but the problem is only people who've read the book would recognize it, and they've already bought the book! 

Author fail. Me=dumbass.

Here's the new version, which I think is accurate without giving too much away:
Set in a dystopian future and inspired in equal parts by the works of Haruki Murakami, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury, The Man You Trust is a haunting story of finding your place in the world and what it means to be human. 

Inspector Paul Newman is a dedicated public servant, striving to restore order to a disordered world. His actions will determine the future of the people he is bound to protect.

Even the simplest things are easy to mess up, when you're me.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

A Fine Encounter

I decided to get a drink at Jimmy John's. 

I filled up my cup, but with the wrong flavor, so I was pouring it out when a boy who was roughly ten years old walked up. "Go ahead," I said. "I don't even know what flavor I want."

He hit the Sprite lever, then the Mello Yello levver, then the lemonade. "The triple," I said with approval, because I remembered making suicides a long time ago. 

When the cup was almost full, he added the ice, which caused the drink to overflow. There was soda and  foam and ice everywhere, an absolute wreck. He took a sip of his drink, then gave me the warmest, brightest smile, and said, "Perfect."

I started to fill up my cup as he stepped away, and just as his little brother arrived, he said, "What's your favorite sandwich?"

I thought he was talking to his brother, so I didn't respond, but he repeated the question, and I realized he was asking me. "Turkey," I said. "I like turkey."

"I'm a Vito," he said, and he turned and walked toward the chip rack, where he immediately knocked over six bags. 


Monday, January 02, 2023


I'll try to not mention this too often, but if you haven't been here for a while, the book is now available in paperback on Amazon: The Man You Trust

It was written overnight, in seven years.

Thank you for considering a purchase, and if you enjoy your time in the odd little world I created, please leave a review. It's against my nature to leave a review (and probably yours, too), but it would help build a foundation for the release of the e-book, which will hopefully happen in the next 2-3 weeks. 

And if you don't enjoy the read, please remember what they say about discretion and valor. Thank you. 

This is going to be a tumultuous year. Eli 21.5 graduates in April. By the end of the year, he'll be in Bogota, Mozambique, Uganda, or D.C. (Uganda is a recent addition). Staying in Michigan, or rather, me staying in Michigan, isn't important to him, so I'll probably move as well.  

I've met some genuinely wonderful people here. A few, anyway. I've also experienced so many days of grey skies, which is what happens when you live on the wrong side of the lake. I've seen so, so much snow. 

We came up here for Eli to live his dream, even though we struggled mightily with our own. Now it feels like I should leave this place behind and chase my own dreams. 

Site Meter