Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Men (who will always be boys)

The female readership of DQ is significantly lower than the male readership, to the best of my knowledge. 

Today, though, I'm going to let the women of DQ in on a secret about us. 

There are times in your life when you'll drop something and catch it on the way down. I asked some of my female friends, and they generally said their response was, "Glad I caught that."

This happened to me yesterday. I knocked something off the counter, turned in the other direction, and caught it on the way down. Did I think "Glad I caught that?" No, I immediately thought That is some Spiderman-level shit right there, which is the exact same thing I think every time this happens. Since I was in sixth grade. 

A variation of this "lifestyle" is the same reason I don't have a lid on the trash bin in the kitchen. I did, but I realized if I took it off, I'd turn a trash bin into a basketball hoop. Since then, I've rained threes from all over the living room into the kitchen. 

Sometimes I leave my arm up in the air after I shoot if I know it's going in, just to let it breathe a bit.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Photos from Country X

Eli 21.6 flies out on Wednesday, and he sent me a few pictures in the meantime.

I had no idea what this was, but it's a termite mound:

A standard dish in the eastern portion of Country X called "palm butter" (rice and deer meat):

Bonus country (long story):

A new friend made while they were in a coastal town for a few days:

A 60-meter oil tanker that washed up on the coastline of Country X. Of Nigerian register, it was presumably scuttled for insurance money. It's not getting hauled away anytime soon (or ever), and has become a tourist attraction:

Friday, February 24, 2023

Please Note

For those of you who get new posts automatically but not updates, I cleverly left out which entry was written by Kai's daughter in the original post! It's fixed, but in case you don't get pushed the updates, her entry is the last one (number five).

Friday Post!

DQ reader Kai has a 12-year-old daugher in a micro story contest (100 words or less). It would be great if you would take a minute to read the five entries (hers is number five) and give her some support by voting. Here's the link:
Short Short story contest - people's choice vote. Voting closes after tomorrow, so there's not much time. 

Also, the power is back on. 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Friday Links!

This is amazing: Leonardo noted link between gravity and acceleration before Newton, Galileo.

Joyce Carol Oates is quite a badass: Joyce Carol Oates spent the long weekend using her Twitter to dunk on transphobes.

From Meg McReynolds, and McSweeney's is never less than excellent: A High School History Teacher Grades Article II of the Constitution. Surviving the apocalypse ain't what it used to be (written by Meg's favorite musher): My Bug-Out Bag, The Wilderness, and Me

From Wally, and here we go: ChatGPT launches boom in AI-written e-books on Amazon. Grognard alert! Grant’s Most Anticipated Wargames of 2023! This is a longish video, but quite interesting: A Life Changing Filming Upgrade || INHERITANCE MACHINING. I admire the commitment to the bit: A Student Used ChatGPT to Cheat in an AI Ethics Class. Definitely me on Valentine's Day (a short video): Keeps Getting Worse & Worse

From C. Lee, and who doesn't like tempura? Cooking video journey explores secrets of tempura mastery with top chef. This is an absolutely fascinating article: Could Claude Monet See Like a Bee? An incredible story: Found: An 80-Year-Old Wedding Cake With a Tragic Past. This is brilliant: Artificial seed casing made from wood buries itself when wet.

Mom, the Power Outage Isn't Fun Anymore

We lost power after the ice storm yesterday. I thought we were clear, but it went out about 3:30. My phone is the only way to post without a Wi-Fi connection, so just know that Friday Links will auto-post and I'll catch you up on Monday. Oh, and Eli 21.6 gave a presentation to the Swedish ambassador yesterday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Country X (part two)

Eli 21.6 told me two stories in particular. 

The first was that when the civil war in Country X ended (twenty years ago), ex-combatants were given ID cards by the United Nations. They look like a driver's license, with a name, a picture, and some basic information. Also, at the bottom, were four small squares. 

Each square represented a payment from the U.N. to the cardholder for $150. When the payment was received, a square would be punched. 

Ex-combatants still carry these cards around today, and during their interviews, they showed them to Eli. They still carry the cards because the U.N. never made the last two payments. Every card has two squares unpunched. 

The second story involves the road signs. In the remote county he was visiting, Eli said there seemed to be a rusted sign every mile or so along the road touting a U.S. or U.N. development project. The projects were all abandoned, and all that remains are the signs.

There were rumors among the inhabitants of the village before Eli arrived. Some people believed he was from the U.N. and would be making the final two payments. Others believed he was from the Hague and was coming to prosecute them for war crimes. 

Like I said yesterday, when they found out he was a student, they were tremendously kind. 

While the official language of Country X is English, there are many different dialects. Among the more educated, the English is heavily accented but comprehensible. The rest require a translator, because the dialect is unrecognizable. 

Eli said the experience was life changing. He also said he now fully realizes how much courage is needed to be doing this for a career. Situations can become unpredictable very quickly.  

Because You Can Never Have Enough Sea Shanties

I'm listening to the album "Wellerman" by Nathan Evans, and if you like shanties, it's pretty great.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Eli 21.6 in Country X

Country X? Have I lost my mind?

Well, we can't really determine that conclusively, at least in this post. 

I don't want anyone doing a Google search and somehow finding this post because of how interconnected the world is at exactly the wrong time. We all know where Eli 21.6 is, so let's just call his current location "Country X."

This is only for us.

I talked to Eli on the phone last night. He's back in the capital city (which is 20 times larger than any other) after an exhausting week. 

Eli's career will be in peacebuilding, but his the field of study is DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration). One of the pervasive issues the world faces is how do you rebuild consensus and reintegrate ex-combatants into society after a civil war? If you're unsuccessful, then the groundwork for another civil is already in place. 

What he's doing in Country X is interviewing ex-combatants in a civil war that lasted 13 years. It ended 20 years ago. It's research for his honors thesis (which is ambitious beyond my ability to describe). He's also participating in regional peacebuilding conferences happening in the capital of Country X. He's there with one of the world's leading DDR researchers

Here are some general impressions from our conversation. This will be spread out over multiple days, because we talked for over an hour (the first time I've spoken to him since he left).

He said doing anything in Country X is an adventure. Nothing is simple, because the country has so little in the way of resources. Colombia was a different country, but Country X is a different world (he didn't use those words, but I think it's accurate). 

Country X was founded by freed American slaves, but they are looked upon with derision inside the country. They're called "The Settlers," and considered colonialists because of the indigenous people they displaced. They also managed to hold power for almost a century. 

Country X is the width of Ohio, but it takes 15 hours by car to cross it because the roads are rutted so deeply it's like driving on the moon. He sent me a one-minute video from the car and I felt seasick.

The county he visited for his research was the most remote county in Country X. Once they passed a certain point on their outward drive, they would see a village consisting of a few huts every hour or so. It was very, very isolated. 

That's all for today, but let me mention one more thing. He said the people in the village where he went to do research were wonderful. Even with so little, they were incredibly warm and treated him with respect. 

Tomorrow, more about the research, and two stories that made me feel both sad and angry. Not for him, but for the people of Country X.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Oh, We Know What You're Doing

Cracker Barrel has a new product. 

It's called the "pancake taco," and here's what it looks like:

Long-time sufferers of this blog will immediately recognize this promotional image. It is, in fact, a clear copy of the Panaco, created by Eli 7.4 and myself way back in 2008. 

I texted him in Liberia to inform him that our intellectual property is under attack. I'm sure he has nothing better to do.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off, and what a fantastic headline, it's Study: Mexican jumping beans use random walk strategy to find shade. An example of bicameral mentality: Third man syndrome. This is an excellent read: What medieval attitudes tell us about our evolving views of sex

Absolutely: Michigan rep. to GOP mass shooting-enablers: "F*ck your thoughts and prayers."

From C. Lee, and it's fascinating: Hundreds of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Designs Were Never Built. Here’s What They Might Have Looked Like. A fantastic read: Sequels in Strategy Gaming, Part 2: Master of Orion II. A wealth of information: Visualizing the Scale of Global Fossil Fuel Production. Mississippi, racing to the bottom: Mississippi sees 900% rise in number of infants born with congenital syphilis

From Wally, and it covers a lot of ground: Genre Grapevine on What AI Generated Art and Writing Might Mean for Artists and Authors

From Allen Varney, and it's wildly entertaining: ChatGPT Just Beat Chess.

A Landmark

I made the last payment to the estate lawyers today.

A settlement check from the driver's insurance company came in earlier this week, and now the estate is closed and there are no outstanding issues, to the best of my knowledge. 

There continues to be long ripples, but it's still a moment.

It's hard to know what to feel. One of the things I've learned is that death is a process, not an event. There's no way to understand that until it happens, but please remember this if it happens to someone close to you. There's no single point that ends the process. 

It just slowly unwinds over time. 

So there's never a rush of relief, and don't expect one. Otherwise, you'll be continually disappointed. Just accept the little, good moments that happen, and continue the process. 

You'll become a more resilient, empathetic person. I can't promise anything more than that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

In Other, Happy News

Eli 21.6 has Internet access for at least a small portion of the day. He's staying in one area and commuting for the day to another, and the commute area does have some kind of signal. So I know he's doing fine. 

Be prepared for an onslaught of pictures at the end of the month when he returns. 

Michigan State, part two

One of my closest friends has a neighbor whose son goes to Michigan St. 

Walking across campus on Monday, he had his way blocked by someone. The man didn't say anything to him, just squared him up and stood in his way. An older man, glaring. 

After a few seconds, he cautiously stepped around the man and continued on his way.

He's sure this was the shooter, based on photos he's seen. 

Just another chilling detail in a week filled with them. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Michigan State

The first morning of our first day at goalie camp in Detroit, we started talking to a mom and her three kids watching their brother play. 

This was way back in 2011, I think. 

By the time the lunch break came, we were already fast friends. Then Eli 9.11 came out of the locker room with the woman's son, and we found out they were already friends, too. 

Every year, at the end of the week, they would invite us to their house for dinner, and we'd hang out for hours and forget anything but happiness. 

I texted the mom this morning because her daughter is a sophomore at Michigan St. Her daughter had been in the building where the shooting happened, forty minutes before it started. 

We live on thin margins in America. 

There have been sixty-seven mass shootings in the United States in the first forty-five days of 2023. There are three things which are indisputably true:
1. We are the only country who has normalized mass shootings. 
2. We have taken no meaningful action to control guns. 
3. We are the only place where it happens over and over again. 

Anyone who doesn't think these three things are correlated is in denial. 

If you want this to stop, then you have to elect people who are willing to take action to make it stop. Until then, it will just keep happening over and over again.

Monday, February 13, 2023

The Comics Art Museum

Eli 21.6 had a full day layover in Brussels on his way to Liberia. 

He visited the Comics Art Museum and sent me some pictures. If I'd known there was a Comics Art Museum in Brussels, I would have flown there with him. 

Here's the museum's link: Comics Art Museum.

Eli is in Liberia now. He's sending me lots of pictures, but I may wait to post them until he gets back. He seems incredibly excited to be there, though. 

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Friday Links!

 It's a book! The Man You Trust.

This is a terrific read on string theory and its troubles: https://arstechnica.com/science/2023/01/requiem-for-a-string-charting-the-rise-and-fall-of-a-theory-of-everything/.

Here's an interesting article about posture, believe it or not: ‘You stand like an overcooked prawn!’ Why bad posture is the key to back pain – and 10 ways to improve yours

From C. Lee, and it's no surprise: CNET pushed reporters to be more favorable to advertisers, staffers say. I hope no one sees this for a long, long time: What Will Happen When the Sun Dies? Here's an odd situation: A spike in ringworm cases in Spain leads to a surprising culprit: the barbershop. This seems unwise: Brazil Plans To Sink Its Asbestos-Riddled Aircraft Carrier In The Atlantic. And they've gone and done it: Brazil sinks aircraft carrier in Atlantic despite presence of asbestos and toxic materials. This will create some great opportunities: Breaking a 16-year-old tradition in Dwarf Fortress

From Meg McReynolds, and it's an excellent read: The Day Architecture Stopped

From Wally, a history of the free bakeries: Digger Bread & The Free Bakery (ies). This really keeps spiraling: The New Rules of Tipping. Just think of the merchandising possibilities: Refuse firm Lord of the Bins ordered to change its name by Tolkien franchise. Weatherman has had enough: Sarcastic Weatherman Goes Off. Of course they are: People are 'Jailbreaking' ChatGPT to Make It Endorse Racism, Conspiracies.


I drove to Ann Arbor to say goodbye to Eli 21.5 before he leaves for Liberia tomorrow. 

That's Detroit-Toronto-Brussels-Morocco-Liberia, if I remember correctly. 

It was his girlfriend's birthday, so the three of us plus Eli's roommate went out together to have dinner, which was a very happy time. 

In his apartment, he and his two roommates had a Word of the Day written on their whiteboard, and the word was "kvell," which I'd never heard before. This was the definition: so proud that you can hardly speak. 

When dinner was done and we were all walking out to our cars (me to go home, the three of them off to a GeoGuessr meeting), I gave him a long hug and said, "Kvell, my boy."

I can't think of a better word. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Humor and History

I was thinking about humor yesterday, and I realized that we could infer much about our history by examining a record of our comedy. 

Nothing else would be needed. 

We could chart the rise and fall of social mores by which types of jokes evaporated over time. Slavery jokes. Blackface jokes. Drunk jokes. Fat jokes. Women jokes. Disability jokes. Gay jokes. Transgender jokes. All of these, at some point, became less and less acceptable. Some of them (thankfully) disappeared altogether. 

Punching down used to constitute the vast majority of jokes. That's changed, though sporadically. More comedians punch up now, and those jokes have always been funnier to me. 

One of my many problems with Trump and his ilk is that they mock people with disabilities. They think it's funny to imitate them. That's in public, too. I can only imagine what they joke about in private. 

People tell you so much about who they are by what they find funny. 

Comedy doesn't just change by changing its targets, though. Some gags just lose their appeal over time. "The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be" didn't age well, and nobody riffs on it anymore. Jokes heavily dependent on popular culture faded away, too, but they also help you understand what was popular at the time. 

You could compare comedy across cultures, too, to see which kind of jokes are emphasized and which are ignored. There were lots of jokes in the U.S. about Germany and Japan after WWII, but it wasn't mentioned much in German and Japanese comedy, I bet. That would tell you all you needed to know about who was on the winning side.

Maybe someone's already done this. If not, I wish someone would. 

Is Aaron Rodgers the Most Self-Obsessed Athlete in Professional Sports? A Brief Investigation

Aaron Rodgers to consider future during darkness retreat.


Tuesday, February 07, 2023

A Change in Gravity

I walk into Costco and feel totally normal.

Ten minutes later, I'm thinking "Well, shit, maybe I DO need 48 cans of corn," and it just goes downhill from there. 

Part of the reason, I think, is that it's impossible to find anything in a Costco, so you wander around the entire store looking for a bath mat. Everywhere you look, there's abundance and opportunity. I wouldn't have to buy certain things for a decade if I just committed.

I saw an old guy using his cart like a walker who loaded up with nothing but popcorn and vodka. I respect his focus. 

I went in for two things and came out with seven, balancing it all in my arms like a drunken juggler.

Now if I can just find a place for that corn...

Monday, February 06, 2023

A Smaller World

I was thinking about winter this morning, for some odd reason. 

I've never been able to understand why the cold and snow bother me so much. Annoying, yes, but it's something more than that. 

I think I understand now. 

What cold and ice and bitter temperatures do is make everything a little harder. It's harder to get out. It's harder to walk outside. It's harder to do everything. 

Because of that, you do fewer things. You don't work out as often, or for as long. You don't go places as frequently. You spend time planning how to avoid going outside. 

It makes your world feel much smaller. 

For an introvert/writer, this is particularly deadly, because I try keep my life small by design. I feel most creative in a small world, and while it's hard to admit, I feel safer, too. It's already as small as it should be, though, so when winter makes it smaller, it emphasizes all my tendencies to hole up and hide. 

I definitely need to live where the world feels big, and I can pick and choose, instead of somewhere that makes my preferred-size world feel even smaller. 

I Say This as a Cat Person

Dogs are helpers. Cats are looters.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, another excellent article from Ars Technica: The generative AI revolution has begun—how did we get here?

This is a fantastic short video: Special effect techniques from the past.

Want to see a 27-minute video from Shonen Knife, the first (1981) Japanese pop punk band? You're in luck: Shonen Knife still pop-punk-rocking after 40 years

From C. Lee, and what a discouraging story (with a nice ending): Yale honors Black girl, nine, wrongly reported to police over insect project. This does not seem seaworthy: Royal Navy orders investigation into nuclear submarine ‘repaired with glue’

From Wally, and McSweeney's has it all figured out: How to Become a A Professional Writer. That didn't take long: D&D won’t change the OGL, handing fans and third-party publishers a massive victory. A cautionary tale about the need for a good building inspector when buying a house: Demo Discoveries - It Should Have Been a Tear Down...... Somehow, I'm not even surprised: Inside The Fascinating World Of Valley Of The Dawn, The UFO-Based Religion Founded By A Brazilian Truck Driver. More interesting developments: ChatGPT can’t be credited as an author, says world’s largest academic publisher.

A Distinctive Flavor

I went to the local sandwich shop near my house to have some lunch. 

The lady in front of me ordered a sandwich with all the toppings. Let's see: lettuce, tomato, onion, black olives, spinach, jalapenos, banana peppers, and pickles. With salt and pepper, of course.

Dressing? Honey mustard, oil and red wine vinegar, ranch, and several others. I couldn't even keep up anymore. 

Oh, and turkey and provolone was the base. 

When she walked out, I turned to the three guys working and said, "Okay, so tell me this: what flavor does she taste when she takes the first bite?"

They all burst out laughing. One threw up his hands and said, "That's the question nobody can answer."

It was a zen koan in a sandwich.

Now I can't stop thinking about the dominant flavor out of that mass of toppings and dressings. If every flavor was a country, it'd be like having the United Nations in your mouth. Which country would emerge? 

Obviously, the next step is for me to order a sandwich with everything on it, so I can figure it out for myself. I can't do mustard, oil and vinegar, and ranch, though. That's a bridge too far.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

A Project

One of my closest friends is going to Austin for a few months to escape the Michigan winter. It's a clever plan.

She's made a profound impact on my life, in all the best ways. I wanted to make her something special before she left.

I can conceive of beautiful things. What I cannot do, however, is actually make them. I see crafty things in my head, but I'm not a crafty person. At all.

As a result, I've often had elaborate ideas in my head that never nearly looked as good when I finished them. 

This time, though, was different. 

Remember I mentioned excitement boxes a few weeks ago? This was a variation on that idea. 

Here's what it looked like from the outside. 

A mystery, right? Also a mystery how I managed to pull this off. 

This was the inside.

This is looking through the little window you can see in the previous picture. There are strings of fairy lights inside, with gold stars painted on the blue, map-color walls. 

I wanted something childlike, as a sense of wonder. 

Suspended in the air are origami birds (to be fair, they're closer to "messigami"). On each of the birds, if you unfold them, there's a message inside. Mostly Winnie the Pooh quotes, but a few others as well. 

It's art that's meant to be consumed, particularly on a blue day. 

It made me happy when it was done. My friend, too. 

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