Thursday, April 27, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a terrific read: How physicist Sameera Moussa went from a role model to a target

This sounds like a phenomenal series: Secrets of the Elephants series reveals a unique, dynamic animal culture

From C. Lee, and it's news to me: Colorado Is Not a Rectangle—It Has 697 Sides. Highly useful information: Last-gen ultralight laptops are nearly as fast as new models—and much cheaper. An interesting read: iSIM vs eSIM vs SIM: The constantly shrinking ways carriers ID your phone. I've never had one before: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Breadfruit. Hard pass: Where people drink beer for breakfast. This is absolutely amazing: Making a Masterpiece... with a Vintage Typewriter

From Kevin W., and this is going to be a huge issue: Writers Are Becoming ‘AI Prompt Engineers,’ a Job Which May or May Not Exist

From Wally, and we need to stop claiming that stupid is a side. It's not: Substack CEO Chris Best Doesn’t Realize He’s Just Become The N*zi Bar. This is a massive rabbit hole: Fictional brands archive. An excellent read: Project Paperclip and American Rocketry after World War II. This is brutal: Anatomy of a Fake Literary Agency Scam. An odd bit of history: Operation Cornflakes: how the OSS brought Allied propaganda straight to the doorstep of Germany

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

No Post on Thursday

The Friday Links post will go up as usual, but I'm taking tomorrow off. I'm going to two ceremonies and a dinner, and I'll be smiling at all of them. 


I ironed three shirts today, and three ties.

Ironing is a tedious activity, usually. Today, though, I'm ironing shirts for my son's graduation. Eli 21.8 graduates on Saturday, and he's receiving awards at separate ceremonies on Thursday and Friday, so graduation is a three-day event. 

Gloria would be pissed at me about something, if she was here, because she was always pissed at me about something, but I'm sorry she's not here to have this week, too. She's missed so much in the last year and a half, so many things that would have made her happy. 

I tried to think about Eli this week and why he's different. I wish I was more like him, because he has all of my best qualities, but none of the uncertainty and hesitation I have. It would be a long list, but I thought most about two things: how he's willing to fail, and how he defines his life by its successes, not its failures. 

In many ways, I've defined my life by my failures. I've even turned significant successes into failures, at least in my mind. It's part of an unwillingness to feel good about myself that's haunted me, really, for a long time. 

Eli doesn't do that, and it makes me so happy that he doesn't. When he fails, he just brushes it away and looks up higher. Like Carlos Alcaraz said, "It's amazing to be able to fight for big things," and that kind of feeling drives Eli's life. 

The thing about being haunted is that you're haunting yourself, and I'm working hard on letting myself succeed. I'm also trying to remember that I have the capacity to fight for big things, and I should be doing it, too. 

Neither one of us is much for ceremony or celebration, but I'm going to make sure this weekend is different. I said in the card I wrote for him that I became the luckiest man in the world on the day he was born, and it's the truth. 

I did. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


I received an email yesterday that snuck through the spam filter. 

It was one of those one-line emails with a boob picture attached (no, I didn't click on it). To be clear, I'm all in favor of seeing boobs, but I prefer artisanal boobs, not mass market ones, preferably attached to someone I'm dating instead of an anonymous person. 

As I read the single line, though, I realized it was almost haiku, if I did a bit of rearranging. 

It's not strictly 5-7-5, but it's in the ball park.

Magnificent babes
nice to meet you.

Next week: Haiku: better than boobs?

Monday, April 24, 2023

How Far We're Behind

Our pace of innovation has been stunning for the last hundred and fifty years. In the last fifty years, though, it's really taken off, and it continues to accelerate. 

It's incredible, really. 

Multiple theories have advanced as to the reason, but I have my own. In the first sixty years of the 20th century, half of the most intelligent people in the population could only be teachers, nurses, or secretaries. Those were essentially the only professional paths for women. 

For minorities, it was even worse. There were really no credible paths at all. 

We created an environment where only a third of the most intelligent people were allowed into the most intelligent professions. In a fair competition, many doctors, lawyers, and researchers would have been replaced by higher-qualified women and minorities, if only they'd been given the chance. 

This problem hasn't been resolved--not even close--but it's less calcified than it was, at least. There are more opportunities for the best people to emerge, regardless of sex or race. So why is anyone surprised that the world is innovating at an unprecedented pace? And where would be now if we'd done this centuries ago?

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off, a fascinating story: Hundreds of Years After the First Try, We Can Read a Ptolemy Text.

I'm definitely on Team Jerry: This adorable sloth briefly stole the spotlight during JUICE launch.

This is an incredible story: Revealed: the terrorist hired by the CIA to catch Carlos the Jackal

From Wally, and it's excellent: A Dickens Gallery. Excellent information for writers: Rights vs. Copyright: Untangling the Confusion. These are fantastic: Horrifying 1906 Illustrations of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds

Chris M., and you thought the H.G. Wells illustration were terrifying: Subway and Cadbury teamed up for this horrific concoction

From C. Lee, and this is unbelievable: Why is women’s tennis China boycott over Peng Shuai ending? Discouraging but unsurprising: If you work for Uber or Amazon, you may be a victim of algorithmic wage discrimination. We all could use this when they're young (and sometimes when they're older): The German Clinics for Burnt-out Parents. This is surreal: How ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Built Modern Conservatism. This is excellent: Mapped: Air Pollution Levels Around the World in 2022. This is fascinating: Visualizing the Relationship Between Cancer and Lifespan. This is incredible: The Mysterious Underground City Found in a Man’s Basement.

From Dan Q., and if only we could all be this resilient: The Japanese art of fixing broken pottery - BBC REEL


Wartales recently came out of Early Access, and it's very, very good. 

If you've played Battle Brothers, you understand the framework. You have a mercenary company that explores the map and goes on various missions. As in most games of this type, the combat system is important, and this system is chunky—it's interesting, and it's particularly fun to replay combat encounters  (by loading the autosave) and optimize your strategy. 

Battle Brothers is notoriously unfair, but I never get that feeling in Wartales. It never feels punitive, and I've never felt like the RNG is screwing me. 

Most importantly, the basically gameplay loop is happily addictive. Tooling around the map, taking on missions and random combat encounters, upgrading your weapons, armor, and skills, is fantastically satisfying. Nothing feels totally new here, but it's packaged so well. 

Graphically, it's beautiful, with little environmental details like flying birds that really stand out. The bird calls are beautiful, too, and they change from region to region. 

It was in Early Access for quite a while, and it shows, with a high degree of polish. 

Here's the Steam link: Wartales

Pen to Paper

This Doesn't Feel Like The Future has entered the writing phase, finally. It's the prequel to The Man You Trust, and while it's only loosely tied to TMYT, certain characters appear in both books.

I fiddle-farted around far too long before I started writing, and I don't really know why. I had a strong plot document and plenty of detail to start with. The funny thing about writing, though, is that the longer you don't write, the harder it is to start. Plus, and I think this is a sign of the times, I was having a very difficult time getting my brain to settle down to the point where I could have deep focus.

I have a few "artsy" friends, and they were encouraging me to coax my creativity, to wait for it to come out of hiding, to be gentle. 

Nah. I tried that.

Instead, I established a new policy: no breakfast until writing is done. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but it worked. There's very little in my head when I wake up (insert your joke here), and it's much easier to slip into a concentrated state.

Hopefully, it won't be seven years this time. 

In the meantime, please consider purchasing this book: The Man You Trust.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


We had a little bit of spring very early this year. Everything went from brown to green in literally a week, like it always does.

I didn't know this, but daffodil bulbs come up earlier than tulips do, because they were all up and there still weren't any tulips. I went to Austin and the daffodils weren't even above the ground yet, and when I came back a week later, they were in full bloom.

Yes, there's snow on the daffodil in this first picture (the little garden in front of our hourse). Good grief.

This is a very puzzling project at the local school. Those gigantic bags could have anything in them.

This was a very Zen moment.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

A Tale Told In Texts

Occasionally, I get texts by mistake. 

I know I'm supposed to notify whoever sent the text that it's gone to the wrong number. Which I do, unless it's a group text. Then I let it unwind for a while. I figure it's harmless, and since I'm a writer and a social voyeur, I enjoy it. 

There was the time I was (incredibly) copied on an email chain in Montana or Idaho or somewhere up there, and it was a group of high-level Republicans talking about election conspiracies and how Democrats were stealing elections. 

I mean, "Bill Harris," right? Lots of those running around. Easy to make a mistake. Suddenly, I was in Crazytown 3000. 

Oh, and if you were wondering, those people were irrational to a degree that astounded me, and I'm being polite. 


Saturday  morning, I got a group text. This text:

Okay, that seems fairly comprehensible. I decided to hang around, though, because who knew where this would go?

I had no idea. 

Seven hours later, this text:
Hope all goes well and god bless your family. 

Hmm, that seems like a slightly different tone from a fun family gathering. 

Three hours later:
Today at 12 o clock

BAM! There's the plot twist no one was expecting. "Accident" or longstanding family grudges boiling over into violent combat?

Accident, probably. 

Monday, April 17, 2023

I Knew That Guy (update)

I remembered two more I Knew That Guy.

Showed me an Asian mail-order bride catalog that he was idly flipping through at work because there were no "obedient women" left in America? I knew that guy (and avoided him like the plague after he showed me).

The ex-Army Ranger who was both highly intelligent and also racist, sexist, and every other -ist out there, who stole M80s and used them at Halloween just for fun? I knew that guy. Oh, and that guy got fired for "inappropriate work behavior," go figure. He also believed that the Saddam's chemical weapons had been found and were in a buried 747 in the desert. 

Now, a few I Knew That Guy items from your email. I can't identify you individually, for obvious reasons, but thanks for all the excellent contributions. Everything from here on is your emails.

The 55+ guy who traveled across two states in a rental to quasi-kidnap an underage girl he met on the internet for immoral purposes without notifying her parents, was then surprised that law enforcement got involved, and died in prison?  I knew that guy!

I Knew a Guy who went onto a 90s daytime talk show claiming he was a vampire. I also knew a guy who ran up hundreds of dollars in phone sex charges while crashing at a friend's place for a week. Same guy!

Married a porn star and was almost court-martialed from his fighter squadron? I knew that guy.

Parachuted out of a light aircraft before it crashed in the ocean to fake his own death, then escaped to Mexico to hang out with relatives, only to have NCIS catch him, resulting in a dishonorable discharge? I knew that guy.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Friday Links!

Now this is a badass: A Navy ship named for a Confederate victory now honors a Black Union hero

From Wally, and it's a moving essay by Brandon Sanderson, who was the subject of an unflattering Wired piece recently: Outside. Next, a thought-provoking article: Women now dominate the book business. Why there and not other creative industries? An excellent read: NASA Reveals What Made an Entire Starlink Satellite Fleet Go Down.

From C. Lee, and it's an absolutely fascinating read: The Age of Average. Next, an excellent read: How We’ll Build the First Roads on the Moon. Not surprising, because it's all about the pitch deck, not anything based in reality: The vertical farming bubble is finally popping. Of course they can! Hackers Can Remotely Open Smart Garage Doors Across the World. An interesting look at engagement bait posts: Which Cup Will Fill First? Try To Solve This Viral Brain Teaser From TikTok. Pro athletes believe everything can give them a tiny edge: The Core Energy Belt: An Unlikely Story Behind a Revolutionary New Baseball Item.

From Ken Piper, and it's no surprise, but still horrifying: ‘Under His Wings’: Leaked Emails Reveal an Anti-Trans ‘Holy War’. This is an interesting read: What it looks like when a country doesn’t trust its banks. I think we all knew this: Your stuff is actually worse now How the cult of consumerism ushered in an era of badly made products. Potentially very useful: Here’s what happens in your brain when you’re trying to make or break a habit. This is amazing: Webb telescope discovers oldest galaxies ever observed

The Indifferent

On the flight from Chicago to Grand Rapids, I sat next to a jovial woman. 

I mentioned this, but I always mask up at airports. It's not just COVID, it's everything. COVID just made me aware of it for the first time. 

The lady sits down and we go through the usual pleasantries. Then she says she's impressed by my discipline wearing a mask, and that she used to do it, but she just got "worn out." Then she says she was at a family wedding with thirty people all weekend, and brightly said, "So I figure if I'm going to get it, I've already got it!" 

She thought this was funny. 

It reminded me how indifferent we (Americans) can be to everyone else. It never even crossed her mind to wear a mask to protect other people. She was 100% thinking about herself. 

This made me wonder if we've always been like this, or if it's a more recent trend. I don't know if she was a conservative/liberal or something in-between, as she had no obvious tells, but her level of self-absorption was stunning. 

I can answer part of this question, because Americans are famous for being self-absorbed in comparison to other countries. It's just that now it seems even worse. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

I Knew That Guy

That guy I described in yesterday's Chili's post? I knew that guy. 

His name was Chongo (no one knew his real name), and he had a van, because of course he did. He sold a little pot on the side, and that's why he had the van. He didn't talk much, but in a very sensei kind of way. You'd be talking to him and out of nowhere he'd say something like "Don’t walk in front of me, because I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, because I may not lead. Walk beside me and just be my friend.”

The fundamental fascination of Chongo was trying to figure out if he read Camus or just saw a motivational poster at the mall, and the answer you chose said more about yourself than it did him. 

Thinking about him made me think about other people in my life who fit the "I knew that guy" category. 

Lived next door to Stevie Ray Vaughan and used to drink beer with him on the porch? I knew that guy.

On speed every morning when reporting for work, then did 5X the work of anyone else day after day? I knew that guy. 

Embezzled money to pay for a love affair with a stripper and wound up in prison? I knew that guy. 

Submitted falsified business expenses from a strip club and got fired for it, thus costing him 20+ million? I knew that guy. He was my boss. 

Owned a computer company and accumulated a massive inventory fraud over the years, then went scot- free except for the company going bankrupt? I knew that guy.

Robbed a liquor store and did a bid upstate? I knew that guy. Hell, I was related to that guy.

If you knew a guy (or girl), let me know. I'll do a compilation post. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Racking Up the Irony

My flight was delayed. 

I was in O'Hare, flying back from visiting my sister and Mom 93.0, and the flight was delayed. This was because I was flying on United, and every United flight in this century has been delayed. 

I'm tired, because flying is tiring now, particularly when you're wearing a mask the whole time (airport=petri dish). I'm thirsty, too, because it's hard to stay hydrated when you're trying to not catch the plague. 

I decided to go to Chili's. This would not be my first choice, or my hundredth, but I just wanted a drink. 

As I drank (quickly), I noticed the music. It's hard to describe, but I think I can describe the guy you'd associate the music with: late teens, skinny, wearing jeans and a white t-shirt with a gap between because he's not wearing a belt and his pants sag because he doesn't have a butt. He has long, straight hair, and he smokes between every class. 

Then the song "Big Balls" came on. This is an all-time classic for serious fans of sophomoric double entendre. And it was hilarious—forty years ago. 

Have a lyric sampling: 
Some balls are held for charity
And some for fancy dress
But when they're held for pleasure
They're the balls that I like best
My balls are always bouncing
To the left and to the right
It's my belief that my big balls
Should be held every night (oh)

I mean, it's not Solzhenitsyn. 

Chili's! Do you know when my balls feel their absolute smallest? When I'm sitting in an airport Chili's! 

Of course you want to hear the song. I won't leave you hanging (heh): Big Balls.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Where In the World Is...


More tomorrow. 

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Friday Links!

It's impossible to watch this without a smile on your face (unless you're dead inside, of course): Choose your greeting.

A fascinating read: Can you fool a monkey with a magic trick? Only if it has opposable thumbs

From Jeff Pinard, and it's a fascinating read: Brains also have supply chain issues – blood flows where it can, and neurons must make do with what they get.

From C. Lee, and it's a thoughtful analysis: 'Live free and die?' The sad state of U.S. life expectancy. This would be astonishing, if verified: Glass beads on moon’s surface may hold billions of tonnes of water, scientists say. This raises some questions: Where are Clean Energy Technologies Manufactured? This is terrific: How a video game has revolutionised the way farmers are buying tractors. An amazing read: The Racing Game That Changed Everything Was Built on Lockheed Martin Technology. The Unlikeliest accident: Runaway Truck Wheel Sends Kia Soul Flying off the Highway. This is a terrific read: The Forgotten Power of the Parlour Palm. A remarkable story: The Gibson Family Album of Shipwrecks.

From Wally, and it's a Trekkie alert: Star Trek: What Does NCC Stand For? The gorilla prank is legendary: Best space pranks: From space apes to smuggled sandwiches


This is genuinely one of the most beautiful paintings I've seen in a long, long time (you can click on it to enlarge and I highly recommend it):

More whimsical but also very genuine:

Okay, maybe this one isn't quite art.

Thank you, I believe I will.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023


I realized something last week. 

I thought about Gloria's accident, and I realized that it didn't feel like it happened yesterday. 

Even though it's been almost a year and a half now, it's always felt like it just happened. The immediacy has always been unsettling, like I was going to feel raw for the rest of my life. 

It was always a jolt. 

Last week, I realized it didn't feel that way anymore. It feels like something that happened in the past. It doesn't make it any less important, or less life-changing, but the rawness isn't there. 

I know some of you have been through similar things, and I wonder if you've had the same transition, and how much time passed before it happened. 

I'd Like To See This Made Into a Mini-Series


"Yadina gets advice from Abraham Lincoln after she accidentally loses her friend's toy."

I am 100% invested in this plot. 

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

It's Happening Again

Another birthday, and they seem to be piling up now. If you'd like to celebrate, please consider reading The Man You Trust. Birthday plug! I'm very happy to have something to plug, actually. 

Since it's my birthday, expect a week of reflection. Sorry about that, and I promise to return to juvenile behavior, as usual, next week. 

I've had multiple injuries in the last few weeks (rotator cuff, plantar fasciitis, hip pain) that I haven't quite gotten past, and it's funny how getting older affects you. 

Not physically. Mentally. 

When I was younger, I worked out hard, and if I was hurt, taking off time was no problem. I didn't like it (I'm stubborn, which I know comes as a huge surprise), but I felt like I'd "earned" the time off. 

Now, I work out every day, but nowhere near the intensity I'd like, because I get hurt if I do. When I am hurt, I feel like I can't afford to take days off, because my fitness level isn't high enough. 

It creates this strange paradox where I'm both less fit and more injured. 

I did finally take the time off to heal in the last week. Grinding my teeth every day. 

Monday, April 03, 2023


I like that I'm still learning about myself, but it reminds me of how little I knew before Eli 21.8 was born. 

What I learned in the last few weeks is an understanding of who's good for me and who isn't, and it comes down to broad versus narrow happiness. 

Narrow happiness is when you feel compelled to make every detail perfect when it comes to a friend or a possible romantic partner. Everything must be just right. This creates anxiety, and I've often confused this anxiety for attraction. I don't know why I didn't realize it until now, but when I feel like this around someone, it's not the right person for me to spend time with. 

Broad happiness is when the details don't matter, and you barely pay attention to them. It's a general kind of calm—not boring, but calm—that lets you feel warm and happy around someone. These are the people who are good for you. 

All of you know this already, of course, but I'm slow. 

I Do Believe This Is The Definitive Translation


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