Thursday, February 29, 2024

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, an excellent story about the Odysseus lander: It turns out that Odysseus landed on the Moon without any altimetry data

This is a fascinating approach: Google’s Chess Experiments Reveal How to Boost the Power of AI

This can come in handy: Windows-as-a-nuisance: How I clean up a “clean install” of Windows 11 and Edge

From Wally, a story about publishing scams: Coping With Scams: Suggestions for Changing Your Mindset.

From David Gloier, and it's an amazing discovery: Scientists scanning the seafloor discover a long-lost Stone Age 'megastructure' . 

From C. Lee, and it's quite the oops: 'Rat Dck' Among Gibberish AI Images Published in Science Journal. Good: Air Canada's chatbot gave a B.C. man the wrong information. Now, the airline has to pay for the mistake. Florida, retreating to the 19th century at a rapid clip: Unvaccinated Florida kids exposed to measles can skip quarantine, officials say. This is also horrific: Ala. hospital halts IVF after state’s high court ruled embryos are “children”. Unusually bleak, but not without its merits: No focus, no fights, and a bad back – 16 ways technology has ruined my life. This is so bizarre: ‘Man I just want a dishwasher job’: Why are Olive Garden and FedEx forcing job applicants to endure a strange personality test that turns them into blue avatars? This is promising: New FDA-approved drug makes severe food allergies less life-threatening. This is both shameful and stupid: Science fiction authors were excluded from awards for fear of offending China. A thoughtful follow-up: Pluralistic: The majority of censorship is self-censorship. A fascinating leak: An online dump of Chinese hacking documents offers a rare window into pervasive state surveillance. A brilliant design: Trying out the revolutionary adhesive bandages developed by a 10-year-old Japanese girl

EA and Originality

EA put out a company-wide email yesterday to announce a 5% reduction in staff. EA also shared this email with the public, knowing it would get leaked anyway.

In addition to the staff cuts, there was this jewel: 
We are also sunsetting games and moving away from development of future licensed IP that we do not believe will be successful in our changing industry. This greater focus allows us to drive creativity, accelerate innovation, and double down on our biggest opportunities — including our owned IP, sports, and massive online communities — to deliver the entertainment players want today and tomorrow. 

In other words, they won't continue developing new IP. Or, if they do, only rarely.

What surprised me is I thought I was reading a press release from a decade ago. EA still developed original IP? Every "new" series is a retread from an old series, with the exception of Hogwarts Legacy. Outside of a handful of games they flog every year, they've been completely irrelevant to driving gaming forward for a long, long time.

The enshittification of the gaming industry started when games began getting new versions as annual releases. Sports games started it, as always. Call of Duty feels like the prime mover, though. Then Bobby Kotick announced that they would just milk their main franchises. Now almost every large gaming company, particularly the publicly-held ones, operate this way. It's all annual franchises and games as a service (boy, what a misnomer).

End stage capitalism: deliver as little as possible for as much as possible. Big companies in gaming are a perfect example of this now.

Ironically, it's this calcification at the top end that's allowed indie gaming to be better than ever. Even with sports games, where exclusive licenses have ruined the major players, there are games like Football Coach: College Dynasty, which is a deep, rich experience (it's in Early Access, but is far deeper than anything else out there).

EA abandoned us a long time ago, but we don't need them.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

An All-timer

I lived in Texas for many years, so I've seen crazy and downright bizarre weather on a regular basis. 

Today, though, I think I have weather's lifetime achievement award.

Yesterday, it was 74F. I woke up this morning and it was 24 and snowing.

50 degrees in 12 hours, roughly, plus snow and a wind chill below 10. It snowed all day, too, even though it didn't stick for more than a few hours because the ground was so warm.

24 in February is far more normal up here than 74. Yesterday was the warmest day in February in 100 years.

Eli 22.6 called me last week and wanted to have a short story writing contest. He said he needed to write more, and knowing I was writing one as well would make him sit down and carry it through. 

I know. I'm writing a book. I still work on it every day, even with a sudden side project.

The story is short--only two pages--and I sent it to him today. Strong first and last lines. The rest could be much better. I'll go back after the second draft of the book is finished (in June, probably) and work on it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Let's Talk About Bison

Not the headline you were expecting, probably.

Since I found out about my arterial blockage (still seemingly impossible, but true), I haven't eaten much red meat. I had a hamburger once that Eli made. I had pork in a dumpling in Tokyo. I had one hamburger taco in a restaurant.

That's been it for the last fifteen months. 

I eat chicken sometimes, and turkey (far less convenient), but I get most of my protein from yogurt and protein shakes (and it took a long time to find a protein shake low in saturated fat).

It's an ugly hodgepodge. Extremely effective, but ugly.

I miss hamburgers, and spaghetti with meat sauce, and tacos with meat in them. Basically, it's hamburger I miss, not steak, because I ate so much of it when I was a kid.

I stumbled on a bison meat sale at the local grocery store on Sunday and took a quick look at the nutritional label. 

My eyes lit up like a child in a holiday cartoon when they see Santa.

I knew bison meat was "healthy," but I had no idea how healthy. 4 oz. have only 1.5g of saturated fat, 55 mg of cholesterol, and 24g of protein.

Ground beef is roughly 7, 80, and 21 for the same quantity. That's a huge difference when I'm trying to keep saturated fat to under 10g a day. Plus, bison meat even has 50%+ less cholesterol than chicken (breast meat) and turkey.

I'm not really a "cooker," as you well know, but I decided to make a bison burger last night. And it was good! It had excellent flavor and texture, and I didn't notice the lack of fat (it's very lean meat) at all.

In many way, it's even healthier than plant-based meat because it's quite a bit lower in saturated fat. Just amazing, really.

Here's a picture of the burger:

Tonight it's Sloppy Joes, one of my favorite childhood comfort foods.

Monday, February 26, 2024


My mind was drifting today (to be fair, that's often its normal state), and I started thinking about artists who reinvented themselves. 

Some of the biggest names in history did so, particularly in music. Elvis Presley was washed up. Nobody cared about Frank Sinatra. The Bee Gees couldn't sell a record. They'd all been hugely popular. Then, over time, crickets. 

The Bee Gees, in particular, were astounding. Their 1975 album Mr. Natural can only be described as flaccid. Weak, full of overstuffed ballads, and lacking in originality, it limped into the top thirty in the UK (at #29), but barely broke the top 200 in the U.S. 

It had been a six-year, steady decline in popularity. They were cooked. 

Only thirteen months later, they release Main Course. It's barely exaggerating to say they sound like an entirely new band. The vocals are familiar, though far more passionate, but it's the addition of funk and soul rhythms that elevate everything (and in case you're wondering, the two big singles from that album were Nights on Broadway and Jive Talkin'). The Saturday Night Fever followed, which never would have happened if they hadn't radically reinvented their music. 

I thought about all this because I can't imaging who would have the energy to reinvent themselves. Hell, I don't think I invented myself until about fifteen years ago, and it takes all my energy to maintain the original incarnation. Who could possibly do it again?

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Friday Links!

This has to be the lead today. 26 feet! Video of the world's largest snake species newly discovered in the Amazon

This is an amazing story: Newborn gorilla miracle: Fort Worth Zoo's tiny survivor beats the odds

From Wally, and it's an excellent read: Confessions of a Michelin Inspector . These pictures are stunning: Sea Smoke: Maine’s Most Photogenic Winter Phenomenon. A fascinating read: The Anabaptist Community Taught Me Everything I Know About Sorghum Syrup

From C. Lee, and I'd never heard about this: The text file that runs the internet. This is reprehensible, and it will never stop: The unsettling scourge of obituary spam. Disturbing: Your AI Girlfriend Is a Data-Harvesting Horror Show. We could use many more options to extend the life of what we buy: Seoul’s Seongdong District Revives Tradition with Popular Mobile Repair Service for Knives and Umbrellas. Delicate repairs: Doll Revival. This was inevitable: Wi-Fi jamming to knock out cameras suspected in nine Minnesota burglaries -- smart security systems vulnerable as tech becomes cheaper and easier to acquire. This is phenomenal: The First Viking Woman to Sail to America Was a Legendary Traveler. A legendary takedown (scroll down): we’ve found it folks: mcmansion heaven. I saw a guy in a full Evel Knievel outfit in the Nashville airport once: Didn't expect to run into Elvis at Costco (Las Vegas)


Reddit disclosed some information in its IPO filing that blew my mind.

Revenue in 2023 was $804 million, up 20 percent from 2022.

The CEO and COO were paid $286 million combined.

I've never heard of a company that pays 35% of its revenue to its top two executives.

Everyone is salivating over this IPO. I'm on Reddit at least an hour a day, and certain groups are outstanding. Buying stock in the company was something I considered.

Not after this, though. What a dumpster fire.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


I saw today that a few pictures I wanted to post from the infamous Mexico trip had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. 

Here's a shirt I would have absolutely purchased if it had been available for anyone larger than a 10-year-old:

A bullfighting ring was less than a mile away. If we'd stayed for the original duration, we could have gone to the bullfights the day before we left. I don't think I could have stomached it, though, even though seeing a bullfight was on my bucket list for years.

To call this sewing machine venerable would be understating the case. It looks like it came from the 1950s, at the earliest, and possibly much sooner than then:

This was a mural on the wall of the restaurant where we spent our last evening. The food was only average, but the mural was exceptional:

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Paranoid Style in American Politics

"The Paranoid Style in American Politics" is written by Richard Hofstadter and published in Harper's Magazine. It uncannily describes someone who must not be named:
...the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. 

...Norman Cohn believed he found a persistent psychic complex that corresponds broadly with what I have been considering—a style made up of certain preoccupations and fantasies: “the megalomaniac view of oneself as the Elect, wholly good, abominably persecuted, yet assured of ultimate triumph; the attribution of gigantic and demonic powers to the adversary; the refusal to accept the ineluctable limitations and imperfections of human existence, such as transience, dissention, conflict, fallibility whether intellectual or moral; the obsession with inerrable prophecies . . . systematized misinterpretations, always gross and often grotesque.”

It would be hard to describe him more perfectly, and the entire article is a thoughtful historical tour through paranoia in American politics.

It was published in 1964.

In other words, this is nothing new. Worse, perhaps, but not new. The imaginary villains are replaced with others, but the style never changes.

Here's the article (it's considered a classic): The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

Monday, February 19, 2024


I wound up ordering a refurbished, genuine Microsoft Type Keyboard for my aging Surface Pro. It works like it should.

I returned the knock-off. It did many things well, but as with many knock-offs, there was an Uncanny Valley effect where it was so close to being authentic that the few differences were jarring. Needing to charge it, for one. The slightly greater effort needed to press the keys. It was slightly louder, and ever-so-slightly wider, and two functions were on different keys. 

For most things, the knock-off that's 40% cheaper is fine. For what really matters, though, knock-offs just remind you of what you don't have.

People can be like this, too, but that's another subject for another day.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a fascinating read: A new look at our linguistic roots

From Meg McReynolds, and as I can't eat cheese anymore, I'm less concerned: Beware: A cheese crisis looms

From Wally, and it's quite the read: It’s Mardi Gras. Welcome to The King Cake Drive-Thru. A deep dive: Bronze Age Robots! 1970s. A very cool cartoon: Tom Gauld on the journey to a magma chamber

From C. Lee, and a true legend, the creator of the Suikoden series, passed away this week: Suikoden creator Yoshitaka Murayama dies. Unbelievable: Cable TV companies tell FCC: Early termination fees are good, actually. Amazing detective work: We may now know who’s behind the lead-tainted cinnamon in toddler fruit pouches. Uh-oh: BitLocker encryption broken in 43 seconds with sub-$10 Raspberry Pi Pico — key can be sniffed when using an external TPM. This is uncommon: Critical vulnerability affecting most Linux distros allows for bootkits. Seems reasonable: Military Flight Instructor’s Most Important Lesson: Student Pilots Will Try To Kill You. An excellent read: Water-Filled Missiles, Silo Problems Behind China Purge: Report. Terrifying: Yang Hengjun's death sentence shows power of China's secret service. A fascinating bit of history: Millennia After Leonidas Made His Last Stand at Thermopylae, a Ragtag Band of Saboteurs Thwarted the Axis Powers in the Same Narrow Pass. A deep dive into watches: SMARTWATCHES BEFORE THE SMARTWATCH - HOW JAPAN REDEFINED THE WRISTWATCH

Keyboard (2109-2024)

I have an ancient Microsoft Surface Pro that I use for editing. It's what I always use for editing, and it's seen me through year after year work. 

Yesterday, the "n" key on the detachable keyboard stopped working.

Understandable, really. The Type Cover keyboard on the Surface Pro is quite flimsy, but it feels fantastic, it's not loud, and can I can type at high speed, so it's perfect for me.

You'd think replacing a detachable keyboard would be easy. I just hopped onto Amazon, found a compatible model, and ordered it for delivery today.


With every product now, Amazon has dozens of knock-offs listed as well. Most of them work, but it's often different enough to screw you up. In this case, I have to charge this new keyboard for reasons unknown before I can actually attach it to the Surface Pro. 

The old keyboard didn't need charging, so I'm baffled. I only discovered it needed charging after a long, stupid troubleshooting process, because the instruction page was wedged into the packaging and I didn't see it until a few minutes ago. 

This is a long-winded way of explaining why I'm not talking about cemeteries in San Cristobal today, or the 5" of snow we got out of nowhere this morning, or anything else, either.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024


This stopped me short: William 'Bill' Post, inventor of Pop-Tarts, dies at 96.

Pop-Tarts, as unlikely as it might sound, have been a significant part of my life. I was three when they were invented, and I tried all four of the original flavors: apple, strawberry, blueberry, and brown sugar cinnamon. 

When I was a kid, I was stuck on blueberry, because it was so sweet, especially frosted blueberry. As I "matured" (that word is always in air quotes for me), though, my favorite flavor for the next forty years became brown sugar cinnamon. 

Breakfast, desert, snack--it was all good.

After Eli 22.5 was born, a new consumer emerged, and new ways to use them for breakfast in emergency situations. On his hockey trips in the 10.0-12.0 range, he sometimes had games at 6 a.m. The hockey hotel breakfast buffet was never open at 4 a.m., so on more than one occasion, a blow dryer heated up his Pop-Tarts. On other occasions, I used hand warmers. 

Once COVID hit, and I was in my own apartment for the first time in almost thirty years, I discovered a new flavor: cinnamon roll. It was spectacular, and I ate them every day for breakfast. For months. For years. Over a thousand individual Pop-Tarts, easily. Toasted, Microwaved. Straight out of the package. It didn't really matter.

Over my lifetime, I'm guessing I've eaten over three thousand. Maybe even four.

Once I found out about my cholesterol level and ruthlessly eliminated saturated fat from my diet, Pop-Tarts left, too. I still miss them, and I'll still have one (but only one) on occasion. It always makes me feel like a happy kid.

I knew that Michigan was the epicenter of the development of breakfast cereal in the early 1900s, but I had no idea that Bill Post, a giant among men, lived in Grand Rapids. I didn't find out until I saw the article today that he had had passed away. 

Thanks, Bill. Sincerely.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024


I mentioned when I came back from Japan that a new pair a shoes saved my trip.

My feet felt like hamburger on the third day. We walked over 10 miles the day before, it was hot, and I already had foot problems before we left. I told Eli 22.5 we needed to shop for shoes. It was a desperate move.

We wound up in the Asics store and I bought a pair of Asics Nimbus 25s. They felt like clouds. Normally, the first thing I do with a new pair of shoes is take out the insole and put in a Superfeet insole (on advice from my orthopedist), but I didn't do that this time. 

Very quickly, the pain in my feet went away. I haven't used any "specialized" insoles yet, and I've had almost no foot problems the last four months. I'm still using the Japan shoes, and we walked a ton in Mexico. No problems. 

I started putting orthotics in my shoes in the early 80s, believe it or not, and over the years (decades, centuries) I'd come to think of shoes not units, but pieces. The shoe was a piece. The insole was a separate piece. 

Now I realize I wasn't thinking correctly. Maybe it was true in the dark ages, but high-end running shoes are units now. The after-market insoles I used were always hard, to provide support, but they felt like boards. I blindly worn them because of the recommendation from my orthopedist. In retrospect, though, I think I've had many injuries that could have been avoided over the years. 

My experience isn't indicative of anyone else's, of course. If you're having foot problems related to exercise, though, and you're using custom insoles, it might be worth going back to the originals and see if it helps. 

Monday, February 12, 2024


In the small town where I live is a one-block shopping/restaurant area called "Gaslight Village." It's meant to be quaint, to evoke a certain feeling.

The public library is only a block away, and they have a digital sign that spawns various informative messages, along with encouragement and promotion. 

Here's what I saw when I walked past it last week:

In case you can't quite make that out (the camera has a difficult time with digital signs), it says "GO GASLIGHT!" 

Well. Turn and face the strange, indeed.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a sensational read: Can AI Unlock the Secretes of the Ancient World? With a follow-up: Trio wins $700K Vesuvius Challenge grand prize for deciphering ancient scroll

From Wally, and it seems China and 1984 have much in common: Redacted Fantasy: China’s Dystopian Censorship of Online Fiction. A thoughtful essay: Are We All Too Cynical for Star Trek? Professional sports in America at the major league level are only affordable for the upper class now (and have been for a while): Why buying tickets to a game has become so unaffordable. This looks like a treasure trove: Spending My Time, If Not My Money, at Rare Books LA. I certainly am: New Research Reveals That Humans Are Much More Sensitive to Temperatures Than Previously Thought

From Chris M., and this is an absolutely fantastic video on transit planning: More Lanes are (Still) a Bad Thing

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is coming soon: How the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse Is Different than the 2017 Eclipse

From C. Lee, and the justness of a society can be measured by how it treats it's prisoners: Prisoners in the US are part of a hidden workforce linked to hundreds of popular food brands. This is unreal: Beware of scammers sending live couriers to liquidate victims’ life savings. This is fascinating: Something Strange Happens to Wolves Infected by Infamous Mind-Altering Parasite. A tremendous piece of analysis: Why Are Flying Insects ‘Attracted’ to Lights? Scientists May Finally Have an Answer. An unlikely discovery: Scientists Find Evidence Alzheimer's Can Be Transmissible. Bizarre: The Most Notorious ‘Franken Weapons’ in the History of Warfare. An excellent read: EXPLORING THE SONY SOUNDSCAPE – AN INTERVIEW WITH DERRICK ESPINO. This is a terrific read: How RAM is Made: Automated Binning, Manufacturing, & Burn-in Testing | Factory Tours. This is mesmerizing: How to Build an Origami Computer. This is entirely logical: Pre-slicing Frozen Pizza Is How You Win

Mexico (part 8, the last)

I'm not going to get to everything, even in two weeks. I won't get to describe in detail how my FitBit orgasmed when I reached 10,000 steps each day, or how many ways we described it. I won't get to the shopping trip where we each bought an item of beautiful clothing (I bought two, actually) to compensate for our original clothing being drowned, boiled, baked, and frozen. I won't get to the amazing musical museum we saw the day before we left. I won't get to a load of other things, either, but I'm not writing about this for three weeks.

We went back to the villa to claim our clothes. They were still underwater. Many could now be consider tie-died, thanks to the chlorine. I wasn't attached to any of them, except a t-shirt C brought me from Montreal. I went into the pool and removed all the clothing while C wrung them out. Into the dryer on high.

You'd think this would be enough, but my bedbug paranoia is infinite, so after we got back to the hotel, with the newly-dried clothing still in sealed trash bags, I sent the few items I wanted to keep to the hotel laundry with instructions for hot water/hot dryer, "and it's okay if the colors run." When the clothing came back (same day--unbelievable), I took out my jeans and one pair of socks. Everything else stayed in the knotted trash bag, and when I got home, everything went into the freezer for two days. 

If there's a bedbug left anywhere, I salute you, sir or madam. You are truly the best of the best, the GOAT of your kind.

Our last big field trip was to the cenotes, which are basically underground cave pools. The area around Merida has the most extensive series of cenotes in the world. The drive to reach the cenotes we visited took around an hour and fifteen minutes, in which time we went over approximately 7,000 speed bumps. At least.

Speed bumps in Mexico are different than the U.S. They come in multiple sizes, and they're not marked. There's no big "SPEED BUMP" sign right next to it. It becomes a strange game of spot-the-speed-bump, one we played better at some times than others. The hearty Toyota Avanza took it all like  a champ, though.

We were driving on roads which were only one lane in each direction for most of the trip, and we went through a few small towns where every single person seemed to be out on a bicycle, a motorcycle, or a tuk-tuk. It was endless, this drive, punctuated (thump) every two hundred yards (thump) by a speed bump (thump). 

When we reached Hubiku, we paid our fee and were directed to bicycles. Hmm what? What followed was a multi-mile trip along rocky, chalky terrain. "I went to swim in a pool and wound up in The Amazing Race," I said to C, who was well ahead of me. I'd selected a bike poorly, one far too small (a running theme of this trip). I must have cut quite the figure with my Mr. Bean impersonation as I pedaled.

When we did finally reach the cenotes, though, they were magnificent. I didn't bring my phone, because I wasn't sure if there was any place to put it while we swam, but he Hubiku link above has two pictures from the cenotes we actually swam in. Ancient people believed that these pools were a portal into the underworld, and I can understand why. 

There's so much more, but you've suffered enough. We somehow fit all our crap into a duffel bag and two daypacks we'd purchased and headed home. 

We'd survived. 

Then, two days later, I got an early morning text from C with this picture:

Ah, that's more like it (she's fine now, and I never caught it, somehow, so my unicorn card is intact).

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Mexico (part 7)

"What if we don't find the pony?" C asked as we strolled along.

"Maybe we ARE the pony," I said, which I still feel is true.

We decided to go to a mall, which was right across the street from the Mayan museum, because I had a shorts issue. Specifically, this:

I'd purchased two pairs of shorts at Wal-Mart. The first, which you've seen in drawings done by the professional illustrator, was a pair of swim trunks. My daily shorts were black, as you see above, and featured the shallowest pockets in the history of clothing. They were replaced with no remorse.

A mall anywhere in the world is a mall. Same style, same categories of stores, usually the same vibe. We stopped by the food court just because I wanted to see what kind of food was available. Boy, am I glad I did:

There's a lot going on in that picture: corn, spaghetti, dirty rice, plantains, two kinds of meat, and a roll. Instant classic.

Sadly, we didn't eat at Alabama Mamma, preferring to go somewhere in the restaurant district instead:

This was the sixth day of wearing the same clothes. "Nice shirt," C said.

"Thanks," I said. "New dress?"

Clearly, we'd found ponies: the pyramids and the restaurant district, to name just two. Plus ourselves, which made three. There was still one more to go, though.

Cenotes. It would be an adventure.

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Mexico (part 6)

The shirt situation was becoming increasingly dire:

Based on current progression, by day 9 my torso would disappear entirely.

Also, the fumigator who came to la casa oscura de los insectos (the dark house of insects) said there were no bedbugs, just mosquitoes, but C went to the doctor ($5, and entirely qualified), who was 90% sure it was bedbug bites.

Today was the day to go to Gran Museo del Mundo Maya. Here's what it looks like as you're walking up:

Pretty funky, and it's designed to look like a sacred ceiba tree, which unites the three levels of the Mayan universe (sky, earth, underworld). 

Again, the clear level of advancement of Mayan technology and culture was on prominent display. Here are pictures:

If you were wondering (from yesterday's post) why the Mayan written language hasn't been entirely deciphered yet, here's why: 

Here's a close-up of a goal from the Mayan Ballgame: 

It was all spectacular, particularly considering we'd just visited the pyramids the day before. 

Here's a video of the museum, narrated by a very likeable fellow:
Touring Mexico's Largest Maya Museum 🕺🏽 Mérida's Gran Museo del Mundo Maya 🌴 Mexico Travel Vlog.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Mexico (part 5)

I forgot to mention a couple of things from last week.

First, as we were walking to street with the hotels, shell-shocked by the bedbug incident, C stubbed her toe on a three-inch rise in the sidewalk. Wearing sandals. I thought she broke her toe, which would have fit right in, but fortunately, she didn't. It added to the dark humor, though, at which we excel.

The second thing is that the hotel where we stayed had the most amazing breakfast buffet ever. It was just a room on our floor, and it wasn't large, but it had an outstanding assortment of fresh, ripe fruit in the morning. Papaya, pineapple, kiwi, cantaloupe, honeydew--it was spectacular. I've never eaten so much fruit in my life.

Wait, there's a third thing.

With the wrong person, this trip would have been a nightmare so far. I probably would have packed it in and gone home. I was with the right person, though, and that makes all the difference. We just made fun of our poor fortune and solved problem after problem. Even with all that was happening, I still felt calm and happy.

All right, back to pony quest.

Our next excursion was to the pyramids in Uxmal. Chichen Itza is what people are generally familiar with when it comes to Yucatan pyramids (it's one of the seven Wonders of the World), but everyone warned us it was overpriced and overcrowded. Every single person we spoke to recommended Uxmal instead. Here's some historical context, but we didn't have that at the time.

It was an hour away, so we took the sturdy Tercel/pizza oven and drove through no-lane avenues and chaotic roundabouts until we got out of town. As soon as we did, there was nothing but paved, divided highways in front of us.

When we arrived, there were very few people around. After bathing in DEET in the parking lot, we paid our fees, walked in, and proceeded to have our minds entirely blown.

I've never seen a pyramid in person. To say I was stunned is an understatement. Just look at this:

That pyramid is a hundred feet high. It's also over fifteen hundred years old. You can't tell how steep it is from that picture, but look at this one:

Yes, that's pretty damn steep. 60 degrees, in case you're wondering Going up might be tough, but it couldn't have been nearly as difficult as going down. 

One of the features that distinguishes the Mayan pyramid are the rounded corners, which no one else duplicated. It's another layer of complexity that demonstrates how remarkably advanced they were as a people. Here's a view:

Here's a look at how ornate the carvings were (only some of which have survived):

One of the items on my bucket list was to see a court where the Maya Ballgame was played. You know, the one with the stone rings and the possible sacrifice of team captains if their team lost (there's no historical agreement on the matter).

Well, I got to see one.

You'll have to click on the image to enlarge it (I suggest you do this with all of these), but if you do, you can see the stone rings used as goals. Astonishing, really, to see it in person. 

These pyramids were part of nature, and it must have taken an enormous amount of work each year to avoid being engulfed. The Mayan written language is still only partially translated (a good use for a MLM, potentially), so even where records exist, it's only a fragmentary explanation of what life was like for the people who lived there. The structures themselves, though, are magnificent. 

We drove back to Merida, talking all the while about what we saw. This time, we walked in a different direction for dinner, and stumbled onto a modern, tree-lined boulevard full of restaurants and shops. It was beautiful, and so unlike anything we'd seen in the city so far. The food was delicious, too.

Sorry, there are no drawings by the professional artist today. I didn't want to diminish the majesty of the pyramids by using anything besides the real photos.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Friday Links!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

From C. Lee, and it's the first of many, I'm guessing: ChatGPT Helped Write This Award-Winning Japanese Novel. It takes much longer than a year: A Year After the Toxic Train Derailment, Is East Palestine Safe? Good news that this was discovered: Top Harvard cancer researchers accused of scientific fraud; 37 studies affected. A fascinating case: The puzzling case of a baby who wouldn’t stop crying—then began to slip away. I'm not sure what hasn't been recalled at this point: Robitussin cough syrups recalled in the US due to microbial contamination. This is an absolutely phenomenal read: What happens when an astronaut in orbit says he’s not coming back? Some of these numbers seem exaggerated, but it's a valid concern: New tires every 7,000 miles? Electric cars save gas but tire wear shocks some Florida drivers

From Wally, a lengthy read on Worldcon and what went wrong: Worldcon in the news. Another, lengthy, thoughtful read: Tools for Thinking About Censorship. It's inevitable that this will go wrong: This cruise ship can carry nearly 10,000 people. Here’s more of what sets Icon of the Seas apart. This is wonderful: Forest Noises

Mexico (part 4)

The shirt I bought from Walmart was "medium, slim fit."

This size seemed correct. It was snug when I put it on for the first time (in the hotel), but I assumed it would get slightly larger over time, because the fabric was a bit stretchy. 

The thing about stretchy fabric, though, is that it works both ways, and in this case, the shirt seemed to continually shrink. Every day. By the end of the trip, I felt like I was wearing a crop-top from Gap Kids.

We went on a day trip to Progreso, which has a beach. It was forty minutes away from Merida, so we took out the trusty Toyota Avanza and started driving in a city which is full of roundabouts and no lane striping. However, people don't drive aggressively, and they don't drive fast. Nobody flips you off if you make a mistake, which is helpful, because I made many. With C as the navigator, we headed to Progreso.

Whenever you see pictures of a beach, they're always in the sun. Our beach was not in the sun. It was darkly overcast, and we walked along the shore and the boardwalk. There was a meteorite museum, but it was closed on Tuesday. Every shop we walked past had the "beach body" t-shirt.

Two things in life are the same, no matter where you travel in the world. Malls are one. the second is this t-shirt, available for purchase anywhere there's a beach.

It was getting darker quickly, so we ducked into a restaurant and ordered guacamole and chips. We'd already had excellent guacamole twice in Merida, but we'd forgotten the cardinal rule of beaches: all beach food is mediocre. However, luxury condominiums were being advertised in the men's room, which served as compensation. Also, C took a photo of me posing with the mascot sculptures outside the restaurant.

That shirt already looks tight.

On our way back to our starting point, we observed the world's longest pier, which is over five miles long. I can confirm it looks like a really, really long pier. 

And then the rain began. A hard, hard rain, and it fell.

Look, we both know there's a pony somewhere. We just have to keep looking. 

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