Thursday, June 29, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a terrific article from Defector: These Orangutans May Not Be Beatboxing But They’re Definitely Doing Something. Here's the actual study: Wild orangutans can simultaneously use two independent vocal sound sources similarly to songbirds and human beatboxers.

This is my kind of deputy mayor: Helsinki Deputy Mayor caught illegally spray-painting graffiti in a train tunnel

I would normally never post a wrestling link, but I'm doing so because of how incredibly likable these guys are as they talk about their infamous Hell in a Cell match: Come get a heaping helping of 90s nostalgia as wrestling legends Undertaker and Mankind reunite to watch their brutal and iconic Hell in a Cell match

From Wally, and now it sounds like prog rock: Johann Sebastian Bach ; Toccata & Fugue in Dm, by Sinfonity (electric guitar). A long playlist, but fascinating: this is why vivaldi was a metalhead before metal existed (playlist). This happens all the time: When The Copyright Trolls Came for Me. These are absolutely spectacular: The 9 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World.

From David Gloier, and it's an excellent read: Hidden Beneath the Surface

From C. Lee, and it's terrific (and it might be paywalled--I can't tell since I'm a subscriber): ‘Bull Durham’ turns 35: Revisiting the most famous mound visit in baseball movie history. A useful explanation: US doctors are rationing lifesaving cancer drugs amid dire shortage. The obituary of a courageous man: Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers Whistleblower and Ceaseless Anti-War Activist, Dead at 92. Use the plastic liner! Why You Shouldn't Use the Ice Bucket in Your Hotel Room. This is quite funny: ‘Lunch of suffering’: plain ‘white people food’ goes viral in China. This is wild: Study: Fruit Flies Age Faster After Perceiving Death. Well, this is awkward: An Excel mistake resulted in Austrian political party announcing the wrong leader. I could probably get by on a 2005 desktop with no problem: imagine purchase warnings based on your gaming history.


I wanted to write about other, lighthearted topics today, but since the Supreme Court dropped another horrific decision today, this one dismantling affirmative action in university admissions, it's more important to discuss.

Here's the problem. Conservatives lose their mind over affirmative action because it's discrimination. Wait, let me fix that: it's discrimination! And discrimination, when it happens to white people, is horrific! 

Funny how that works. 

When public school funding is massively disproportionate based on school district income, though (which disproportionately affects minorities), that doesn't seem to be discrimination, or not the "right" kind of discrimination for them to be outraged about. 

And if those poor school districts usually have high minority populations because income is grossly skewed after literally centuries of endemic structural discrimination, well, that doesn't count, either. 

Never mind that affirmative action was never mandated. It was a tool for universities who wished to use it to reduce racial disparity in college admissions. 

The whole conservative argument is so hypocritical it defies belief. 

Always remember: elections matter.

Now comes the irony, because all of these people celebrating don't realize that Title IX will be next on the chopping block. Against race-based admissions, but totally supportive of equality in college athletics because it gives your daughter a better chance at an athletic scholarship? 

Sorry about that. Leopards eat all the faces. They don't discriminate.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Aged Like Milk

In the early 2000s, my boss, who fancied himself as smarter than actual experts on almost everything, started talking about climate change one day. It wasn't real, he said, and to "prove" it, he talked about some fractional number of locations who no longer had accurate temperature readings because there was asphalt around the station when there hadn't been decades ago. 

Seriously, that was the argument.

I gently pointed out that climate scientists would certainly know about this and factor it into their projections, and he just waved me away. 

Today, as my former home (Austin) suffers through historic heat levels in June, and my current home (Grand Rapids) has some of the worst air in the world today with wildfire smoke coming from Canada, I'm reminded of how embarrassing that take was, and how many politicians not only shared it then, but still share it now.

However, it did make my book incredibly topical. The Man You Trust.

Seriously, this better not be an annual occurrence in Michigan, because then there will only be three season: blizzard, swamp, and smoke. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

St. Lucia (part two)

The view from the Airbnb:

You'd think Eli 21.10s travel is expensive, but it's not. He's notoriously cheap when it comes travel, and he unearths ridiculous bargains for just about anything. It's all on a shoestring budget for much less than half of the nearby resorts. 

He said an interesting thing about the island. Almost every tourist in St. Lucia stays in one of the resorts, and 99% of the people never leave. If you stay outside the resorts, you get to be in a foreign country and experience what it's like without tourists.

He also said he saw an octopus, barracuda, and lionfish while snorkeling. Sorry that the videos aren't up--blogger's video feature is failing, somehow, or I am--but the water is crystal clear and beautiful. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

St. Lucia

Of course, the one time Eli 21.10 visits a country that should theoretically be entirely safe, he winds up in the path of a tropical storm. 

Thursday night the center of Bret passed within two miles of their Airbnb. Lots of wind and rain, but they were fine, and the sun was shining the next morning. 

Here are some pictures, and what a beautiful place.

It's been a long time since I've been on a beach:

Also, a snorkeling video, and it's even more beautiful underwater (which doesn't work, so I deleted it, and I'll try to upload it this afternoon:

Saturday, June 24, 2023


It's completely possible I'm not interpreting Google Maps correctly. That traffic jam may be due to other vehicles and not Wagner at all. There are definitely roads closed all the way from Rostov to Moscow, though, as this happens. 


I did not have "wake up to a coup in Russia" on my bingo card today. 

Incredibly, if you want to watch this unfold in real time, just open Google Maps. Turn on the traffic layer and zoom in, and you'll see all the road closures and also where the Wagner convoy is in real-time. 

In a regular vehicle, they're an hour and half from the center of Moscow, I think. In tank-time, I'm not sure what that means. [I'm quite sure I'm wrong about the location. it looked simple on Google Maps, but all you really see clearly are the road closures, which stretch for hundreds of miles along the highway from Rostov to Moscow.]

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Friday Links!

 Leading off this week, an interesting diversion (and the explanation is interesting as well): Can you beat this mind-reading machine invented in 1953?

From the man who should know: George Orwell on the real meaning of Animal Farm: get rid of the pigs

From Wally, and this is an excellent read: The Very Capitalist History of the American Coffee Break. This is fascinating: Linguists have identified a new English dialect that’s emerging in South Florida. Interesting (I wish it had been longer and more in-depth, too): Inside the black box of Amazon returns.

From C. Lee, and it's an incredible story: Kathleen Folbigg: Misogyny helped jail her, science freed her. I'm very curious about this: From Energy Drinks to Extending Life? Supplement Slows Aging in Mice and Monkeys. This is quite unexpected (and it might be paywalled): Does shingles vaccination cut dementia risk? Large study hints at a link. I had no idea this is what happened when you painted brick: How Painted Bricks Could Have Contributed to the Recent Iowa Building Collapse. What a story: How a Toilet Plunger Improved CPR. This is terrific analysis: The Brilliant Scholar Who’s Challenging Racism In Game Design. Gamer bros, what a curse: Data Shows Most Switch Owners Are Women, Gamers React Poorly.

A heartbreaking story from David Gloier: Jack Hanna's long goodbye: How Alzheimer's is stripping away the man the world once knew

Let Me Make Sure I Understand This

I keep seeing articles saying that Senators have have received a classified briefing on UFOs, with some even claiming that the military has recovered materials from spaceship crashes that cannot be of human origin.


So what I'm being told is that extraterrestrial crafts with the ability to travel light-years are suddenly prone to crashing when they get to Earth, after completing the rest of the almost infinitely long journey unharmed? Also, that when these vehicles do crash, they've done so often enough in a country representing 2% of the Earth's surface area that we've been able to recover physical evidence of their existence? 


I'm way more curious about the hypotheticals here. Let's say the aliens wipe out the world's military. They're so powerful that any kind of resistance is futile. They kill half the world's population right off, but then they need some human workers to make an administration function so they can extract valuable resources (in essence, we become an extraction colony, and oh, the irony). 

They offer you a job with considerable, even luxurious perks. What do you do?

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Asteroid City

I've been looking forward to seeing Asteroid City, Wes Anderson's new movie, because his world is different than our world. 

I thought it was opening last Friday, but that was only in L.A. and New York City, so I resigned myself to waiting another week. 

After coming back from Southeast Asia to San Diego (where his roommate lives), Eli 21.10 spent two days in Los Angeles, because his roommate's girlfriend lives there. 

West Hollywood, specifically. 

At this point, a very Eli moment happened. The girlfriend's roommate just happened to be the personal assistant to one of my favorite actors (sorry, can't share the name), and she had tickets to the Asteroid City premiere, and did they want to go?

They did, of course. 

Eli said the movie was great, and going to a premiere was a phenomenal experience. I told him I was only surprised that Wes Anderson didn't see him in the lobby and say, "Hey, kid, you want to be in a movie?"

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Southeast Asia Impressions (Eli 21.10)

Eli 21.10 is now in another country, after a change of plans, so I didn't actually see him in person. I did have him answer questions over the phone, though, about the countries he visited in Southeast Asia in comparison to each other. 

Geographical differences:
--Vietnam has lots of rolling hills and countryside.
--Cambodia is flat, with orange dirt, and wet
--Thailand has water and beaches on the coast, but it looks similar to Vietnam in the interior.
--Malaysia is dominated by highlands.

--Everyone was super nice everywhere. 

--Vietnam and Thailand have their own, established cuisines, but because the Khmer Rouge totally wiped out Cambodian culture, Cambodian cuisine, in many ways, is starting over. 
--In Vietnam and Thailand, the focus is on rice and noodle dishes. 
--Malaysian food has more similarities to Indian food. More curries and stewed meat.

Signs of overt Communism in Vietnam:
--A few classic examples, like the National History Museum, which is almost entirely propaganda.
--Besides flags and signs (which are prominent), Communism isn't very present. For a tourist, at least. -------People were very nice here, like they were everywhere else. 

The vibe in Singapore and the police presence:
--It felt somewhere in-between 1984 and Disneyland.
--There are cameras on you all the time. Many, many cameras. It was a bit unnerving.
--There are also signs everywhere telling you what you can't do. 
[sidebar: in every country they visited, there were signs telling people they couldn't bring durians on trains, which just seems like good common sense to me. Eli did not eat a durian.]

--The most were in Thailand and Singapore. 
--Vietnam had tourists in city centers, but the rural areas were very quiet.

--Almost every country had lots of pop remixes with beats playing behind. Sort of an R&B/EDM/chill combination. Acoustic on top of a beat. He said they sounded fantastic, and I'm trying to find some online.

Any food he'd never experienced before that was fantastic:
--There was a dish in Vietnam called Cao lầu (rice noodles, greens, and pork, and herbs in a broth) that blew all of them away. It's just a simple dish, but he said it had incredible flavor. 

Country with the most cats:
--Thailand. No contest. 

Monday, June 19, 2023


If you want to see the iconic example of Texas being Texas, here you go:
Four enduring myths about Juneteenth are not based on facts.

Myth #4: The Juneteenth Order was basically a Texas version of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Fact: General Orders No. 3 stated unequivocally "all slaves are free," but it also contained patronizing language intended to appease planters who didn't want to lose their workforce. Forty-one words of the brief 93-word order urged enslaved people to stay put and keep working.

"The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

Incredible, really. 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a remarkable story: 3D muscle reconstruction shows 3.2 million-year-old “Lucy” walked upright

This is heartwarming (I didn't know cheetahs were shy): Emotional support dogs are used to keep cheetahs calm and happy

I'd like to fall off a unicycle like this: Watch the most successful skateboarding fail ever (video)

From John W., and this is just brilliant: The heavy "fake tango" performance.The one who won the international competition 9 times.

From Chris M., and if you're a parent and you spend less than 250k to help a child get to the NHL, you're lucky (and it's closer to 400k for a goalie): The Expensive Path to Becoming an NHL Player

From Wally, and the hype is building: I Don’t Even Understand How ‘Starfield’ Exists. This is interesting: How COVID Lockdowns Distorted Our Sense of Time. I mean, I thought it was doomed in 2010, and I've been wrong for 13 years: GameStop is doomed, water is wet, and other observations

From C. Lee, and it's a fantastic read: The strange story of the teens behind the Mirai botnet. Next, and this is also excellent, it's Why your brain hates other people. Also terrific: What Not to Wear. Good grief, these are all phenomenal: Foundational Anxieties, Modern Mathematics, and the Political Imagination. This makes sense: Japan vending machines to automatically offer free food if earthquake hits. Very striking design (and for a kindergarten!): Tamatsukuri Kindergarten’s Renewed Circular Campus Fosters Inquisitive Learning and an Appreciation for Nature

Grocery Stores and Relationships

We have a local grocery store (D&W) that I go to because it's convenient. It's not my favorite, but it's close.

I went there yesterday for one item--a protein shake. They'd moved their location, and in the last few weeks, significantly changed the product mix, so what I was looking for was no longer available. Plus I got sent to the wrong aisle by the first person I asked. 

I was so annoyed I just walked out. Rage-quit a grocery store. 

This has been building up for a long time, because the shopping experience at D&W has steadily declined, and it's fallen off a cliff in the last year. Product mixes and locations change constantly. Everyone gets shunted to the self-checkout lanes (because there's never more than one regular checkout lane out of 5+ ever open), but the scanners are last-gen (at least five years old and probably closer to ten), which means at least 1/3 of my trips involve someone from customer service having to come over to assist. There are another half-a-dozen problems I won't even waste your time describing. 

It wasn't one experience that made me walk out of the store. It was the accumulation of grievances over time.

I was getting in the car and suddenly realized how much my relationship with D&W was like my marriage. 

It was never what was happening at the moment that caused the biggest problems. Rather, it was the accumulation of grievances over time that neither one of were ever able to deal with, even when we tried (and we did try). Both of us had grievance mountain, after a decade or so, and those mountains never got smaller. So when a little thing happened, it was easy to get upset, because it was a little thing on top of a mountain. 

With anyone, under any circumstance, if you can't deal with problems and resolve them, it's not a healthy relationship. It's the biggest red flag of all.  

You can't resolve grievances with a grocery store. You can (and should) with people. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


I'm going to start riding my unicycle again, because it's a great workout and I need some non-weight bearing exercise. 

I decided to splurge and get a new saddle, so I got an air saddle, which feels amazing compared to the previous saddle, which was over ten years old. I also got some new pedals.

I received the new saddle and pedals today, and all I had to do was swap them out. 

Here's the thing, though. Unless it's to build a computer, I'm not a tool guy. I don't look at the bolts holding the saddle onto the seat post and think I need the 5/16 Franzoni with auto-ratchet and the sidecar attachment. 

What I think: Hey, the round top on that bolt almost looks like a mushroom!

When you're not a tool guy, here's how many tools you take out to unscrew four bolts and replace two pedals:

In the end, how many of those tools did I actually need?

I'm still looking for the Franzoni.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023


I just realized when I'm out walking and a bird or squirrel doesn't move away from me I give it a cheery "Hello" and that does not seem normal. 

Monday, June 12, 2023

Greetings From Authoritarian Disneyland

Or "Singapore," as it's popularly called. 

Pictures from Eli 21.10, who should be in San Diego now, sleeping off jet lag. 

Every image of Singapore is breathtaking.

This is the view from the ridiculously cheap Airbnb in Malaysia (Kuala Lampur):

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Friday Links!

I had an incident with needle-nose pliers and a horse today (well, there wasn't a horse), so my left index finger is swollen and *$*!@ hurts. For this week only, I'm just listing names and links so I can type as little as possible. Also, if you submitted links, I'm not answering your emails (for the same reason), but thank you!

Enjoy having ten working fingers and I hope to join you on Monday.

How skywalker gibbons prepare for and plan out their breakfast
Death at a Frat-Boy Fight Night

C. Lee:
The untold tale of America's first spelling bee victor.
Wrestlers' protest: The fake smiles of India's detained sporting stars.
Tons of Gigabyte motherboards come with a hidden firmware backdoor.
Lawyer cited 6 fake cases made up by ChatGPT; judge calls it “unprecedented”.
The languages that make maths easier.
We need to talk about all the fans, hard drives and boxes we're hoarding.

Orcas rip rudder off boat and follow it all the way to port, in 1st known attack of its kind
Diablo 4’s first hardcore level 100 player dies to disconnect
Driver Slammed With $129,000 Speeding Ticket For Doing 20 Over in Finland.

Chris M.: 

Geographical Inaccuracy Has No Place in This Home

I believe I mentioned before that I have a world geography shower curtain. 

Last weekend, my favorite visitor, after a visit to the bathroom, mentioned that the shower curtain must have been made in China, because Tibet was part of China. Then we looked at Taiwan, and it was shown as part of China as well. 

Obviously, that was not acceptable. High-level specialists were called in to make immediate changes. 

The bathroom, once again, is at peace.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Phineas Fogg 2023

Eli 21.10 sent me this text yesterday:
24 hour travel day, 8 vehicles, 5 modes of transportation, and almost no difficulties. Do you believe in miracles?

I asked him what the modes of transportation were, and this is how he responded:
Ferry, bus, train, tuk tuk, and walking.

That would be the craziest day of my life, but for him it's just Tuesday. 

He's in Malaysia now. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

One Retailer is Unconcerned About Blowback

The social panic wing of the Republican Party has always had a weird, dark side, but lately, it's gone past dark into apocalyptic. 

You may have read that various national retailers have had employees physically threatened because they dared to put out pride merchandise during Pride month. Some retailers have even taken displays down (never give into terrorists, people). 

It's discouraging.

However, one local retailer in Grand Rapids knows how to do it properly:

It may be hard to see the words on the sign if you're using your phone, but it reads "GAY SHIT INSIDE."

Five stars. No notes.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Twenty-five days to go

My next-door-neighbor is remodeling his kitchen, or rather, a fleet of various craftsmen are remodeling his kitchen over a three-month period. 

He's one of the nicest people I've ever met, so I'm happy for him, but the noise is constant at times. In particular, we've now entered the Circular Saw Constantly Running Era, which makes me feel like a woodsman living in a dormitory next to a sawmill. 

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Friday Links!

We're loaded this week, so enjoy the wide variety of excellent reads.

Leading off, and it's a great piece of writing, it's Kid Cop Returns (Again and Again).

This is a terrific read: ‘Unpredictability is our biggest problem’: Texas farmers experiment with ancient farming styles

From C. Lee, and why is this happening? Aderrien Murry: Mississippi boy, 11, shot by officer after calling police. This is just gross: The Newest College Admissions Ploy: Paying to Make Your Teen a “Peer-Reviewed” Author. This is stunning (to me, at least): How a CCP Propaganda Campaign Targeted the Dalai Lama. This is essential reading: These ‘experts’ sold the U.S. on a disastrous COVID plan, and never paid a professional price. Part 3 of a remarkable series by the Digital Antiquarian: The Next Generation in Graphics, Part 3: Software Meets Hardware. This is highly nerd-friendly: The Birthday Paradox. The Algonquin Headstone: The Witty Epitaphs of Key West Cemetery. This is long and fascinating: Lost Illusions: The Untold Story of the Hit Show’s Poisonous Culture

From Kevin W., and here we go: I tried the AI novel-writing tool everyone hates, and it’s better than I expected

From Meg McReynolds, and it's a wonderful essay: The Fourth Of July: The America That Could Be.

From Ken Piper, and it's another incredible telescope: Captivating Close-Ups Show Amazing Details Hiding in The Glare of The Sun. I had no idea dogs could ever live this long: World’s oldest dog celebrates 31st birthday. This is incredible: Man with paralysis walks naturally after brain, spine implants. This is alarming: Fake Publications in Biomedical Science: Red-flagging Method Indicates Mass Production. It'll still be cloudy here: The northern lights are heating up: Could they come to all 50 states? This is going to get much worse, thanks to Twitter's "new policies": Verified Twitter Accounts Spread AI-Generated Hoax of Pentagon Explosion

From Wally, and it's a terrific read: Along the highways, Indian restaurants serve America’s truckers. This is wildly clever: The 10 Types of Magic

From David Gloier, and it's fantastic: Why do animals keep evolving into crabs?


Eli 21.10 sent me a picture at 4 a.m., and if you're going to get a picture at 4 a.m., this is the one you want to get:

There are few universal goods in the world, but an elephant sanctuary is a universal good. I hadn't envied him until now (115+ heat index every day is nothing to miss), but I wish I'd been there.

Here's the view from his last Airbnb:

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