Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Links!

From Wally, and this is utterly wonderful: I made my shed the top-rated restaurant on Trip Advisor.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is brilliant and odd on so many levels: The Repressive, Authoritarian Soul of “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends”.

From DQ Reader my wife, and what a story: Skating past Father time- 94-year old Marsh Webster continues hockey career.

From Kai, and I totally approve of this strategy: How to Take Out AT-ATs: a step-by-step guide presented by The Unipiper.

This is an amazing story: The royal-turned-warlord and opium pioneer of the Golden Triangle dies at 90. This also: The Philosophers’ Ship.

From C. Lee, and this is excellent: Final Fantasy Tactics, entitlement, and recognizing privilege. This is amazing: A bacterium that can read man-made DNA. Also, the potential downside of the bacterium: Semi-Synthetic Life Form Now Fully Armed and Operational. This is terrific: Ever wondered what 1975’s The Star Wars would have looked like?

From Steven Davis, and this is remarkable: The Map That Revealed How Ancient Egyptians Pictured the Afterlife. This is stunning: Up-Close Images of Jupiter Reveal an Impressionistic Landscape of Swirling Gases.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cats, in Five Pictures

Our cats are great when they're not being annoying, which is most of the time.

Cats can serve many functions. Productivity enhancers:


Nap partners:

Lethargy consultants:

Gracie has turned into a lap ninja. I'll sit down somewhere, and a few minutes later, I'll notice that she's spread out on my lap. I never have any idea when she got there.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Normal Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving morning, 8 a.m.:

Eli 16.4, who does so many things that aren't normal that they begin to seem normal. So working out with his trainer on Thanksgiving morning doesn't even seem unusual, really. 

Plus, the trainer is like Eli's older brother, at this point, so it made the holiday more special to see him.

Eli is right there. He's improved so much in the last three months that it's hard to believe. He feels it, and knows he's almost at the next level, but right now he's in a transitional state. 

Just keep working. That's what he does. 

When we came out of the rink, this was decidedly not normal. 

Alfred Hitchcock called. He wants his extras back. 

Could I Interest You In A Soup Cauldron, Madam?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I Don't Need To Write An Autobiography Because I Have A Sign


Not here. I'm talking about Corpus Christi, Texas.

That's in South Texas, on the Gulf Coast. Here:

In technical terms, Corpus Christi is "way down there". A 3+ hour drive from Austin. A bit south of Laredo, which is (tied) for the hottest city in the country.

Also, it happens to be where I grew up.

Not exactly, because I grew up in Portland--7 miles away, across a causeway--but Corpus Christi was the "big city".

This is not what it looked like:

Technically, this IS a picture of Corpus Christi (thanks, CNN), but Corpus Christi was not this beautiful. I wish it was, but Corpus Christi never--not once--gave me the feeling that this picture gives me.

On the right day, though, with the right temperature, at the right time, it was almost beautiful.

It snowed once when I was growing up: 1973. I was 12 (god, I'm old), and it snowed about an inch, enough for me to make the world's poorest foot-high snowman, with as much dirt and leaves in it as snow.

It snowed again in 2004--incredibly, on Christmas. That was a big snow, about 3 inches, which is unimaginable for a city that far south.

On Friday, though, the world turned entirely upside down:

About 3-4 inches, generally, but some places had up to 7 inches of snow. 7 inches!

I have no words.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Missing Us

Eli 16.4 walked in about 6:30.

"Hey, you're back," I said. "How are the Jacksons? [girlfriend's family name changed]

"They're good!" he said. "I'm going to go back and hang with them tonight, but I wanted to come by and say 'hi' because I haven't been here much today."

Hmm. Girlfriend lives less than five minutes away. He's not Lewis and Clark here.

"I've been gone all day, really."

Still not adding up.

"So I wanted to check in with you guys, see what's up, and oh, I also need to go number two and didn't want to do it at their house."

"There it is," I said. "THERE it IS."

He started laughing. "No, no, I really wanted to see you guys!" Still laughing.

"Way to bury the lede," I said.


Eighteen months ago, you lived in Austin.

Yesterday, you look down, and these are your feet:

I walked two miles in snowshoes, and by the time I was done, I'm certain my body could have boiled water.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and it's both terrifying and a must-read: Weinstein’s Complicity Machine: The producer Harvey Weinstein relied on powerful relationships across industries to provide him with cover as accusations of sexual misconduct piled up for decades.

This is terrific writing and chilling reading: THE OBSIDIAN SERPENT: A homeless father, a Marine’s death, and the making of a serial killer.

From Steven Davis, and how could it not have an exclamation point?Marvels of Injection Molding! The truth is surprisingly non-controversial: The Birthplace of the Illuminati. This is quite amazing: Meet Tatsuo Horiuchi, the 77-Year-Old Artist Who ‘Paints’ Japanese Landscapes With Excel. This is very cool: Interactive LED Sculpture Projects Visitors’ Faces 14-Feet-Tall in Columbus, OH.

From Wally, and this is incredibly clever: The typeface that helps dyslexics read.

From C. Lee, and this guy was a swimming visionary: Terry Laughlin, who taught swimmers not to struggle, dies at 66.

From Eric Lundquist, and this is long overdue: Thomas Train Stunts.

Ending this week (a light one), and we discussed this yesterday: Robots Will Transform Fast Food.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

How Not To Go To Detroit For A Goalie Lesson

1. Get a confirmation text the night before at 10 a.m.
2. Drive to the local rink at 8:30 in the morning, in a snowstorm, to pick up the boy's gear, because he was already home from practice last night before the text arrived. All told, it takes about 80 minutes.
3. Leave within 30 minutes of getting back home.
4. Drive 2 hours to Detroit.
5. Have a 1 hour goalie lesson.
6. Drive back home.
7. Collapse.

So nothing else today, because man, I'm exhausted.

Also, it was snowing in Austin tonight.

Rule #1 About Northern Winters

You will never be comfortably warm.

At any one moment, I have warm parts. I have boiling hot parts. I have icy cold parts. I have sweaty parts (this is a knife's edge distance from being warm).

Parts of me can grow tulips. Other parts could store meat. One part is both cold and sweats at the same time (I'm not even sure what that part could do).

My parts are climate unreliable.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Kiosks and the Uncertain Future

I used an ordering kiosk at McDonald's for the first time last weekend.

The woman who normally takes orders badgered me into trying it, seemingly not understanding that the device she is promoting will be taking her job away.

McDonald's denies this, of course. They claim that automating one of the primary things they pay people to do will not reduce the number of people they need.

Seriously, they say this with an absolutely straight face.

Somewhere in Nevada, in an underground bunker, McDonald's has a lab that is testing fully automated food production and delivery.

Okay, not exactly--it's probably not in Nevada, and it may be above ground--but you know they're working on this. A fully automated McDonald's, and if anything breaks, the one guy on staff just 3D-prints a replacement part and off we go.

People as labor are inconvenient and messy and have lives to work around. Robots don't. Game over.

Remember how I wrote a few months back that the next level of automation, after all the minimum wage employees got fired, was going to be middle management? Well, lookie here:
Nordea Bank Chief: Robots Can Help Us Fire Legions of My Fellow Bankers.

Excerpt: Nordea Bank AB CEO Casper von Koskull, who is already trimming some 6,000 jobs as part of a machine-driven approach to banking, thinks that computers and algorithms can severely thin the ranks of banking management.

“You need to ask the question, what value is the human adding, and how does that affect pay?” Koskull told Bloomberg in an interview on Tuesday, rattling off sectors including personal, investment, and corporate banking, liquidity management, and foreign exchange ripe for a haircut.

“The ones who are mostly hit are middle to higher-level management, because those layers aren’t needed, or shouldn’t be,” he added.

Look, I don't normally plant a stake in the ground on non-gaming stuff, but I'm going to plant one now. Where we're headed, a small subset of people will make an incredible amount of money. For everyone else, there will be collapse, and the United States is uniquely ill-equipped to handle that scenario in any kind of equitable manner. 

I, for one, will not welcome our new kiosk overlords.

The Great Melting Pot

grotesquely obese man
man walking with 45° stoop
woman with eyepatch
martial arts instructor
small girl, big hat

McDonald's Wednesday

That's a surprise, I bet.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017


Eli 16.4 came home for lunch yesterday.

We usually watch "Price is Right" when he comes home, because it's the perfect length, plus there's competition.

Not always, though.

"Hey, did you see what I taped for you?" I asked. He's pulling up the program list on the DVR.

"No, what?"

"The ACL Southern College Cornhole Championships," I said.

"Why would you do that?" he asked.

"Because it's the ACL," I said.

"What is that?" he asked.

"I have no idea!" I said.

"Well, we have to watch this," he said.

Incredibly, this is actually a thing, and here's some Georgia fans after a big quarterfinal win:

I know. I have no words, either.

Best announcer lines: "This atmosphere is getting electric!" and "This game's going to come down to who puts the most bags in holes." 

We watched a few matches, and noting the strategy, a pattern emerged. "This is basically the redneck version of curling," I said.

"Oh my god," Eli said. "That's it!"

All in all, it was wildly entertaining, in a Spinal Tap kind of way.

"DO NOT watch the rest of this without me," Eli said, as he left to go back to school.

Monday, December 04, 2017


I can't believe I never told this story before.

When I was in high school, we were given an aptitude test for possible future careers. I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career, but I was entirely sure that filling in bubbles with a #2 pencil wasn't going to tell me.

This test wasn't scored. It couldn't be failed.

Because of that, I decided to do everything I could humanly do to fail.

I made it my mission to answer every question as poorly as possible. I took the worst, least ambitious answer on every single question, laughing the entire time.

It was the best test I've ever taken. I had so much fun.

It took a few weeks to get the test scores back. My teacher called me in. This was about six months after I'd been named a National Merit Scholar.

"Did you do anything--unusual--when you took this test?" she carefully asked.

"What do you mean?" I asked. Heh.

"Well," she said, "It seems, umm--"

"I answered every question with the worst possible answer," I said.

"Oh, thank God," she said. "Your two best career choices were 'Tying pieces of leather into bundles' and 'Dressing small children for an orphanage'."

"I'll write those down," I said. "Plan B."

The nice twist to this story was that Mom, who was very strict as an English teacher in the high school, didn't get mad at me. She enjoyed the subversion and thought it was funny.

Fast forward to this week. Eli 16.3 took his career aptitude test. He was told about my greatest academic triumph in full detail, and was looking forward to following in my footsteps.

"I'm already regretting it," he said.

"Regretting what?" I asked.

"I gave legitimate answers on the career test," he said.

"Disinherited," I said. "Pack your bags and I'll take you to the orphanage, where I will also dress you."

"I know! I choked!" he said.

"What were the results?" I asked.

"Marine architect," he said.

"I can see you from the coastal leather bundle factory," I said. "I'll wave."

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