Friday, November 17, 2017

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is fantastic: Build Your Own 3D Zoetrope With This Desktop Animation Kit. This is remarkable and obscure: The Glass Armonica, Benjamin Franklin’s 1761 invention. This is useful for everyone:  Here's a 21st Century Skill--and How to Teach It!. This is stunning: An Astonishingly Small Stone Carving That Has the Power to Change Art History.

From Roger Robar, and this is an interesting read: The Mentally Ill Hero: How The Tick and Dirk Gently Give Unbalanced “Sidekicks” Center Stage.

From C. Lee, and this is a thoughtful read: I was depressed, anxious, and on the verge of suicide… then Zelda: Breath of the Wild saved me.

From Wally, and this is bizarre: Tiny Fossils Reveal That Human Ancestors Could Be Crushed With Your Thumb. From the wayback machine: 1964 NOMDA Blue Book: Smith-Corona (SCM) Font Styles.


Ending the week, and this is a great read, it's Two Stars Slammed Into Each Other And Solved Half Of Astronomy’s Problems. What Comes Next?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Just A Normal Thing

I went to work out at the YMCA last weekend, and a wheelchair basketball tournament was in progress.

It was kids.

Every time I see a kid in a wheelchair, I feel sorry for them. My feelings don't come from a bad place, but it's patronizing. I assume that a wheelchair is a life-breaker.

I assume that kids aren't strong enough to handle it. In truth, though, it's because I couldn't handle it.

After I worked out, I watched a few games. And you know what?

It was all so very normal.

Kids, being athletes. Playing hard, and playing physical. Parents griping about the referees.

The basketball was solid. Fast breaks. Kids setting picks. Selling out on defense. One kid, clearly the star, being selfish with the ball.

Nobody felt sorry. There was nothing to feel sorry about.

While I was watching the game, I kept accidentally getting in the way of a very small person in a wheelchair. Every time I apologized, he said, "It's all good." So when I saw him, and I wasn't in his way (for once), I asked him how many games a day they played, and if it was tough, because the pace was so high.

He said, "We train for it, so it's not bad," and I told him good luck in his game. Even though he didn't look like an athlete, at all, I stayed and watched for a few minutes, and looks were deceiving. He was deft with the chair, and his basketball I.Q. was high.

I talked to a lady who was running the merchandise table, and she said there's a tournament circuit, and the best teams travel all over the country. Not quite AAU basketball, but not that different, either. She said that kids in chairs often struggle with depression, and being on a team gives them a positive experience, and goals. Plus, she said handling a chair on a daily basis is much, much easier when you play sports.

I looked at the faces of the people streaming in as I walked out. Nobody felt sorry.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Oldening

In my study last week, I suddenly saw flashes out of the corner of my left eye.

I turned toward the hallway. Light flashes every second or so, at the very far edge of my vision.

Very unnerving.

I got up and walked into the hallway. No lights flashing there. Then it happened again, and I couldn't figure out where the hell it was coming from.

Of course, it wasn't coming from anywhere.

I figured the best thing I could do was close my eyes for a while, so I did. Fifteen minutes or so, and when I opened them, the flashes were much less frequent, but still there.

The next day, it happened again. Not very often--once an hour or so--but it was getting increasingly freaky to me that it was still happening.

When in doubt, go to the eye doctor. Immediately.

After a thorough examination, what he told me blew my mind. I'm going to use Wikipedia here, because it's thorough:
The vitreous (Latin for "glassy") humor is a gel which fills the eye behind the lens. Between it and the retina is the vitreous membrane. With age the vitreous humor changes, shrinking and developing pockets of liquefaction, similar to the way a gelatin dessert shrinks and detaches from the edge of a pan. At some stage the vitreous membrane may peel away from the retina. This is usually a sudden event.

Hell yes, it was sudden.

It's called "posterior vitreous detachment", and while there is a small risk for a detached retina, that didn't happen in my case (I have to go back for a follow-up in six weeks, but the odds are very low at this point).

The doctor told me that the reason I saw flashes is because the vitreous detaching sends electrical signals to the brain, which the brain interprets as light. So every flash was a little bit of detachment happening.

I never knew anything like this existed. Absolutely no idea.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Grudging Diplomacy and Other Images

I really enjoy the layers of reflections in that picture.

I stress walk before Eli 16.3s games, and wandering through a neighborhood near the rink, I walked past this:

Parking garage? Skateboard ramps? Burial ground? Chipmunks? If only I had investigated.

In this next picture, George is giving me the "Am I helping? This is helping, right?" look:

This was during the World Series, and what a beard!

"That beard goes to Community College," I said. 

"Do you see the dirt on the back of his jersey? His beard put it there," Eli said. 

"That beard is self-trimming," I said.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Costume Count 2017 (raw data)

Wade through at your own peril.

Also, "Probably a Jedi" is very solid.

"Bobby in a Box" 1
"I Made My Own Costume" 1
"Probably a Jedi" 1
80's Baby 1
AJ 1
Alicorn 1
Alien 1
alien 1
Ambiguous Teenager 2
Angel 2
antifa 2
Anubis 1
Ariel 1
Aristocrat Woman 4
Army man 1
astronaut 2
Bacon 1
Bacon and Egg 1
Bam-Bam Rubble 1
banana 1
Barnacle Boy 1
Baseball Player 4
Basketball Player 2
Bat Woman 2
Batgirl 10
Bear 2
Bee 2
Beemo from Adventure Time 1
Beetle 1
Beetlejuice 1
Bellatrix LeStrange 1
Belle 1
Big Bad Wolf 1
Bird 1
birthday cake 1
Blue Jays fan 3
Blue Man 1
Bob the Builder 1
Boba Fett 1
Boy with themed backpack 2
Bunny 5
Butterfly 4
c3-p0 1
Cake 1
Camouflage Ghost / Forgetful Sniper 1
Caped Unknown 1
Captain America 9
captain hook 1
Cat 26
Catholic School Girl 1
Cheerleader 3
Cheetah 1
Chewbacca 3
Chinese Princess 1
Chipmunk 1
Chuckie 1
Cinderella 2
Clark Kent 1
Classic Bedsheet Ghost 2
Cleopatra 1
Clifford the big red dog 1
Clown 5
Clown (evil) 8
CNN Correspondent 1
Construction Worker 1
Corpse Bride 3
Cow 2
Cow Head 1
Cowboy 4
Cowgirl 3
Creeper From Minecraft 2
Creepy Pasta 1
Cruella DeVille 2
crypt keeper 1
Daisy Duck 1
Dalmation 3
Dancer 3
Dark Riding Hood 1
Darth Vader 3
Davey Crocket 1
Day Of the Dead theme 2
Dead Dolly 3
Dementor 2
Demon 1
Descendent 2
Devil 6
Dinosaur 2
Doc McStuffins 1
doctor 2
Dog 3
Dr. Who (Tom Baker) 1
Dragon 2
Dragonslayer (or Knight) 1
Duck mask with fake assless underwear 1
Duckling 1
Dumbo (Onesie) 1
Eeyore 1
Egyptian Queen 1
Einstein 1
Element of Air 1
Elephant 1
Elf 1
Elsa 1
Evil Fairy 1
Evil Jester 1
Ewok 1
Faceless Black Bodysuit Thing 1
Fairy 7
Fievel 1
Fireman 3
Fisherman 1
Flapper 1
Flash 1
Football player 7
Fox 1
Fox in a suit 1
Fred Flintstone 1
Gangster 3
Genie 1
Ghost 4
Ghoul 7
GI Joe 1
Giraffe 1
Girl 1
Godzilla 1
Gopher/Woodchuck 1
Gorilla 1
Goth Girl 1
Graduate 1
Grim Reaper 3
Groom 2
Groot 3
Guy from Scream 2
Guy with exposed lit lungs 1
Guy With Gas Mask 1
Gymnast 1
Half of a Nerds Packet 2
Halo Soldier 1
Hamster 1
Harlequin girl 1
Harley Quinn 5
Harry Potter 7
Hei Hei 1
Hermione Granger 4
Hockey Player 9
Hot Dog 2
Hotdog vendor 1
Hufflepuff student 1
Hulk 4
Identity Thief (burglar outfit w/ many different name tags) 1
Incredibles 2
Iron Man 3
Jack Skellington 3
Jake from Adventure Time (Onesie) 1
Jason (Friday the 13th) 3
Jedi 1
Jessie 2
Jester 1
Jim from The Office as "Dave" 1
Jockey 1
Joker 2
Just Face Makeup 4
Killer 1
knight 4
Kylo Ren 2
Ladybug 2
Lame mask/black cloak 3
Lego 1
Leopard 1
Mad Hatter 2
Mad Scientist 2
Mad Surgeon 1
Mario 2
Marshall from Paw Patrol 3
Martial Arts Guy 1
MasterChief 1
Mechanic 1
Mermaid 1
Mermaid Man 1
Michael Jackson 1
Mickey Mouse 1
Minimal Vampire 1
Minion 5
Minnie Mouse 4
Moana 3
Modern Hunting Outfit 1
Monkey 1
Mouse 1
Mr Incredible 1
Mulan 1
Multisyllabic mumbling shy kid 1
Mummy 1
Murder Clown 2
NASA tech 1
Nerd 2
Netflix 1
Ninja 14
Ninja Turtle 3
Ninjago 1
No Costume 25
No Costume Apart From Flipflops Detail 1
Nurse 2
Optimus Prime 1
Panda 1
Parka, Balaclava (reversed) and Sunglasses 1
Paw Patrol 1
Peasant 1
Pebbles Flintstone 1
Peter Pan 1
Phantom of the Opera 1
Pikachu 6
Pink Cat 1
Pink Monster 1
Pink Parrot (Onesie) 1
Pink Power Ranger 1
Pirate 13
Pirate Queen 1
Policeman 5
Power Ranger 1
Princess 36
Princess Anna 1
Princess Jasmine 1
Princess Strawberry 1
Prisoner 1
professor 1
pumpkin 1
Puppy 4
Purple Hair Thing 1
Raccoon 1
Railroad Crossing Arm 1
Rainbow Dash 1
Rainbow Unicorn 1
Random dressup 8
random mask 3
Rapper 3
Reaper from 'Overwatch' 1
Red Dancing Guy 1
Red Riding Hood 1
Redcoat Soldier 1
Referee 1
Rey 2
Robin 1
Rocket Raccoon 1
Rodeo Cowboy 1
Rufio 1
Sally from nightmare before christmas 2
Scarecrow 1
Scary Bunny 1
Scary Clown 5
Scientist 3
Scooby Doo 2
Scream 1
Scream Ghoul 1
Serial Killer 3
Skeletal T-Rex (inflatable) 1
Skeleton 16
Skunk 1
Sleeping Beauty 1
Smurfette 1
Snow Leopard 1
Snow White 2
Soldier 3
Sophia 1st 1
Sorceress 1
Spaceman 1
SpecOps Operative 1
Spider-Man 10
Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man 4
Steve From Minecraft 1
Steven Universe 1
Stitch 1
Stormtrooper 4
Supergirl 4
Superman 5
Tank 1
teacher 2
Teddy Bear 1
Teenage Kitty Kat Girls 3
Tennis Player 1
The Flash 2
The Hulk 1
Thing 1 1
Thing 2 1
Thor 2
tick-tock the croc 1
Tie dyed kid 1
Tinkerbell 2
Toad 1
Toga 1
Tough Girl 1
Transformer 1
T-Rex 3
Turtle 1
Two Pokemons 1
Uma (Ursula's Daughter) 1
Undead 1
Underkill 1
Unicorn 2
Unidentified 13
Unidentified (bundled up) 8
Unknown 1
Vampire 12
Vampire Bunny 1
Vampire Hunter (thank god) 1
Vampire Pikachu 1
Vampire Princess 1
Vampire Witch 1
Voldemort 1
Voodoo Doll 1
Warm Demon 1
Warrior 1
Wednesday Addams 2
Werewolf 3
Wicket the Ewok 1
Wilma Flintstone 1
Winnie the Pooh 2
Winter Jacket 9
Witch 30
Wizard 1
Wolf (Rob Stark?) 1
Wolfman 1
Wolverine 1
Wonder Woman 9
Woody 3
yoda 1
Yoda 1
Yoshi 1
Zombie 11
Zombie baseball player 1
Zombie Bride 1
Zombie Bride 1
Zombie Cheerleader 2
Zombie Skateboarder 1
Zombie Spiderman 1

Costume Count 2017 (Data Dig)

First, two notable costumes I'd missed in the initial collection:
Identity thief (burglar outfit with many different name tags)

Kudos, gentlemen.

Top ten this year:
Princess      36
Witch      30
Cat              26
Skeleton      16
Ninja      14
Pirate      13
Vampire      12
Zombie      11
Batgirl      10
Spider-Man  10

Zombies are underrepresented in this, in particular, because there are specific zombie outshoots in their own category.

Princesses, though. Damn. Every year.

In a positive note, there were 3X as many Wonder Woman costumes as cheerleader costumes this year. Way to go, world!

Total costumes counted: 804

Reporting countries:
United States
(No Scotland this year--not sure where Paul is)

Reporting cities (sorry, no "fancy" map this year, and these are very raggedly in order from West to East):
Gresham, Oregon
Savage, Minnesota
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota X4
Chicago, Illinois
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Canton, Michigan
Cincinnati, Ohio
Louisville, Kentucky
Huntsville, Alabama
Toronto, Ontario CA
New York City, New York
Columbia, South Carolina, 
Baltimore, Maryland
Portland, Maine
Halifax, Novia Scotia
Odense, Denmark

Yes, there's a costume reporting powerhouse cluster in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. 

All the data is coming in the next post (my formatting errors included free of charge).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Links!

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is fascinating: The Secret History of Paris’s Catacomb Mushrooms. Bizarre: Sajama Lines.

From Wally, and this is a masterpiece: Japanese Woman Recreates Food From Miyazaki Films And Other Anime.

From Steven Davis, and this is potentially remarkable: 'Big void' identified in Khufu's Great Pyramid at Giza. This is quite amazing: Unconventional Domino Tricks by Hevesh5 & Kaplamino. Very striking: La mécanique de l’Histoire, an acrobatic performance by Yoann Bourgeois. Oh, yes: Ridiculous Tricks You Can Do With a Slinky.

From Roger, and it's hilarious: Thor: Ragnarok 4D w/ the 'Thor' Cast.

From Brett Harper, and this is brilliant: Virtual reality could be the answer to treating phantom pain.

From Ken Piper, and this is a bizarre and brilliant story: The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too.

Possibly the first salad dressing-related link in DQ history: MIT Could Revolutionize Salads With a New Stable Way to Mix Oil and Water.

Ending the week, this is just utterly spectacular: You'd never believe this amazing blues guitarist is only 12-years-old. However good you might think this kid could be, based on the link title, I promise he's better.

Thursday, November 09, 2017


Sorry, Costume Count 2017 info delayed until Monday because I found the DVD drive.

I had a bunch of CDs of Eli 16.3s earlier hockey years, given to me by various parents taking pictures, and I hadn't gone through them in years. Today, though, I did, and boy, it brought back memories. I even have video of him playing a game when he was 10.6 (3-2 win, 17 saves).

I'm not sure how we got here from there. Seems impossible.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Official Face of Costume Count 2017

Brian's son, dressed as Annubis:

Here are the awesome details:
I’m very proud to say that my son has reached the super-secret end boss of Spelunky, King Yama, probably a dozen times. I expect he’ll finally complete the game as a six-year-old.

The point of all this, of course, is that Anubis figures in heavily as a mini-boss in Spelunky – thus serving as the inspiration for Ian to decide over a year ago that he wanted to be Anubis for Halloween. 

Costume Count 2017

Three countries. Seventeen cities. A staggering number of reports from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Costume Count 2017.

Summary data tomorrow, but here are a few good bits:
Camouflage Ghost/Forgetful Sniper
Creepy Pasta
Duck mask with fake ass-less underwear
Guy with exposed lit lungs
Minimal Vampire
Multi syllabic Mumbling Shy Kid
No costume apart from flipflops detail
Railroad Crossing Arm
Vampire Hunter ("Huge Kudos to the Vampire Hunter girl for wearing an outfit that sets her against ~2/3 of her class at school. I seem to remember her from last year doing the same thing, so maybe she sees it as a steady job.")

Kudos to "Minimal Vampire" and "Railroad Crossing Arm", in particular. The unquestioned winner of the 2017 Costume Count, though, is--
Bobby in a Box

The description of BiaB that makes it all worthwhile:
"Fell over on neighbors steps, fell over on our steps, both times took help to get back upright. Seemed entirely accustomed if not resigned to falling over on steps on the way to get candy."

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Golf Club 2 (a few notes)

Sorry, it's been a messy day and I just now sat down to write.

I've been playing a bit of GC2 lately, because it's relaxing, and somehow I got good.

Actually, it's not "somehow". I figured out something that I want to pass along in case you're playing.

I had a persistent fade on my shots and couldn't get rid of it. Worse, it wasn't entirely consistent. Even worse, it meant I couldn't draw my shot on holes where it was needed.

The game gives you good feedback on the forward swing (when you're using mouse swing, which is what I use). What it doesn't do, though, is give you feedback on the backswing.

I'd spent all my time trying to correct my forward swing, but after experimentation on the range, I realized my problem was in my backswing. In real golf, if you want to correct a fade, you want an inside-out swing, but in GC2, it's the reverse. You actually want to go a little out on the backswing, then straight or a little in on the forward swing.

Once I figured that out, I started hitting the ball straight (or nearly so) almost every time, and when I need to, I can draw the ball now with no problem.

There are some beautiful user-created courses available for GC2, and I like them much better than the stock courses. The courses in general are amazing, with the exception that they seem lack some of the elevation of real courses. Just a bit too flat, compared to real life.

Here are a few of my favorite courses (they tend to get easier the further down the list you go):
The Capybara Club
Dusty Lion (East)
Briarbanks Country Club
The Whitefang
Burrowing Owl Golf Club
Chambers Bay (beautiful links course)
Roseland Hills CC
Fisherman's Dock at South Bethany
Harps Pass Municipal GC
Northumberland Park UK

The Capybara Club, in particular, deserves mention, because it handles elevation in a very realistic manner. And it's very, very beautiful. It's also a beast, probably the toughest course I've ever played--extremely long, narrow fairways, and small greens.

Runic Games

It was a sad day when Runic Games closed last week.

Here's a terrific series of reminisces from Travis Baldree about Runic during the Torchlight era:
How Microsoft Almost Published Torchlight, And Other Memories From Runic Games.

Travis is working on another space game now, and it's going to be incredible. Can't wait.

Monday, November 06, 2017

GameStop (your follow-up)

I'm doing costume count results this week, so if you haven't sent in your count yet, please do so.

Here's an update on the Gamestop post from last week. This is from a former mid-level employee at Gamestop.

I worked at GameStop in the 2011-2013 timeframe as the company was trying to figure out how to diversify more and reduce its reliance on physical game sales. This move actually makes a lot of sense.

In recent years, the biggest challenge GameStop has faced is just getting people to come into the stores period.  Amazon, Walmart, BestBuy, etc. are all typically offering better prices, better service. It's been very hard for them to compete for the last few years. If it weren't for the launch of the Nintendo Switch, this year would be very bleak for GameStop in terms of game sales.

One of the things GameStop does amazingly well is customer analysis (especially with people who sign up for PowerUp Rewards). They've got a LOT of customer data that shows just getting someone through that door means money, and it doesn't matter if that person is coming in to buy a $10 Mario keychain, they know they can upsell that customer pretty successfully. And the more often that person comes through the door, the better those numbers get.  Everything GameStop does these days is to drive you to the store.  In-Store pickup, web-to-store, store-to-store, mobile all point the customer back to a brick and mortar location.

It's also worth noting that overall, game sales (even used) are not a growth area for the company anymore. With ThinkGeek, they've been moving heavily into the memorabilia and merchandise market. Tommy wants the latest Mario game?  I bet GameStop can sell mom/dad on some pretty sweet new Mario merch too, especially at Christmas.

That $10 a month rental fee? First, this will earn a positive return just by bringing customers back that had previously moved on to competitors.

Second, people will definitely forget they're signed up after a point.  All subscription businesses are built on a certain % of customers staying on for X months without actually using the service before cancelling.  GameStop is good with customer numbers and I'll put money on this being how they were able to justify the program financially.  Some people will maximize what they can get out of it, but a lot won't, and those people will be the profit.

Third, as I said before: upselling.  This gets people in the door. This gives store employees a chance to push a pre-order (because hey, you want Call of War Duty 15 when it comes out next year? We may not have many used copies on hand for a few weeks... do you really want to wait?), GameInformer subscriptions, and most importantly, merchandise. I bet, on average, that $10 monthly subscription generates them at least 5x that with customers who actively use the subscription.

In the end, I don't think they're really going to cannibalize at all, they're losing those customers anyway. This is a way to bring them back, and shift those customers into new product categories.

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