Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday Links!

We're light for the holidays, as usual, but there are still some good links this week.

Leading off, and this is a link to quite a few stories (many of which are excellent): Deadspin's Best Long Stories Of 2017.

From Wally, and this is excellent: The mystery of the lost Roman herb. Next, and I had no idea, it's You Won’t Think the Platypus Is So Cute if You Feel the Excruciating Pain of Its Venom. This is interesting: Latency: why typing on old computers just feels better. This is a good read: The Sunk Cost Fallacy.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: The Doomsday Diet: Meet the all-purpose survival cracker, the US government's Cold War-era nutrition solution for life after a nuclear blast. This is an eye-opener: What Goes On in Amazon's Warehouses. This is just an amazing article: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE LET TECH CARE FOR OUR AGING PARENTS.

From Steven Davis, and this is a terrific read: The Little-Known Reason Pencils Are Yellow.

From Chris Pencis, and this is no surprise: Why underdogs do better in hockey than basketball. Next, and this is absolutely stunning: Transient - 4K, UHD, 1000FPS.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Day Off To End The Year

I am totally beat and working on a big hockey story for next week (all four days), so I'm going to end the year with a day off. Friday Links posting tonight, as usual.

Best wishes for a very happy New Year to everyone. It was a good year.

Send heat. Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Let's Just Run a Little Bit With This Weather Thing

Since it was -10F (not wind chill) this morning when I woke up, let's just extend the weather amazement today.

Storm door: sealed shut with ice.

Gas cap door on car: frozen.

Think maybe people would stay indoors on a day like this?

Think again.

I went to the YMCA. There's a long, long row of lockers (seventy feet, at least), and when I walked past, I looked up and saw this:

Every single space on top of the lockers had pairs of boots, neatly arranged, because people walk in wearing their boots, but carrying their running shoes. And that's not even a quarter of the full width of the lockers (I couldn't move back any farther to take the picture). 

It was very charming, in a way that I can't define.

Here's what the snow path to Eli 16.4s car looks like. 

DQ Reader My Wife dug that, actually. I would have dug a path six inches wide and made Eli use a technique from the Ministry of Silly Walks to get to the curb.

Maybe I can do that next time. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Learned Things

I was snowshoeing today (10F, wind chill -10) listening to Brian Wilson's Smile, which I am sure is the only and best way to listen to this album.

I've learned some things about winter since we moved here, which I will now share.

1. Everything is wet
Snow is fun. It's dry. It will stay dry for weeks and longer because the temperature doesn't get high enough for it to melt. You will spill snow in your trunk, and days later, you will open your trunk and it will still be snow. 

This is disconcerting.

It's not the problem, though. The problem is that everything inside (any inside) is wet. Snow melts indoors, and you are constantly knocking snow off everything, particularly shoes, and it's impossible to keep the floor dry.

#1 causes #2, which follows.

2. You won't fall outdoors. You'll fall indoors. 
Outdoors has snow, mostly, and the grip is quite good. I've only fallen once outdoors. That's not where you fall.

Where you fall is indoors.

Indoors is a disaster. Every floor, in every store, is wet. Most stores are conscientious about having mats and things to wipe your shoes on, but even those stores have wet floors. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there will be stretches of floor where even boots will have absolutely no grip.

I've fallen at least four times indoors in the last eighteen months, and that's while walking as carefully as I possibly could. All minor, no injuries, etc., but it's funny that indoors is more dangerous than outdoors.

Oh, and stairs. If you're in a store with stairs, stay the hell away from them.

3. You need three of everything.
Trust me. You need a light, medium, and heavy of everything. Three pairs of shoes/boots. Three different weight jackets. Different weight gloves. Different weight socks. Otherwise, you'll be freezing some days and sweating on others.

The single most important aspect to staying comfortable in winter is dressing properly. Sounds easy, is actually hard.

4. You have to look at a frostbite chart and do something besides laugh.
This is the single most bizarre thing for me, now that we live in what feels like the North Pole: you have to pay attention to frostbite.

I thought frostbite was just something they invented for mountain climbing documentaries.

Here, though, it's an actual thing. I've snowshoed when the wind chill was close to the part of the frostbite chart with colors (bad colors), so you have to check the temperature and the wind and not be stupid. I take it very seriously.

There you go. Winter knowledge from a winter idiot.

Meanwhile in Winnipeg (where it's REALLY cold), Garret has a space heater blowing under the dishwasher because the water line INSIDE the house froze. Wind chill of -40F projected tomorrow night in Winnipeg, and that's not a typo. 

Why do people live there? We may never know.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas (and any other holiday you may or may not celebrate. It's all good here.)

Eli 16.4 was at the rink at 8, working out with his trainer. It's 20F here, with a wind chill of -2F. So much snow has fallen (around eight inches, I think) that I was able to snowshoe in the parking lot for half an hour before my glasses iced over and I was in my own personal whiteout.

No rink picture, but here's my car (which we didn't take) and Eli's car (which we did take).

We opened presents at 6:45 (which reminded me of when he was much younger). Eli's big present this year as a case of Schlotzsky's jalapeno potato chips, which we both love more than life and hadn't had since we moved.

The big news today, besides us clearly being insane, is that Evan (sadly, still missing) now has his own song. Much like the holiday tradition of Rudolph the Headless Reindeer, this song will be sung by families the world over. Sung to the tune of The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), and please sing along: 
Gift wrapping by an open fire
Evan goes off on his own
What is he doing by himself over there?
No one really knows

Now he's back and full of cheer
His intentions finally known
I'll try to put this gently, my dear,
Evan wrapped a package, his own

So I'm offering this simple song
As a warning to me, and to you
If he's near, please cover your view
Oh Evan
Oh no Evan!
Oh no Evan, not you. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Links!

This is a magnificently written story: Deliverance from 27,000 feet.

The article title says it all: Fascinating Map Shows How Long It Takes to Learn Different Languages.

From Meg McReynolds, and I thought guys like this were just an urban legend: The Tiger Oil Memos.

From Steven Davis, and I had no idea: The Story behind the Most Reproduced Artwork of All Time. This is amazing: An astonishing old calculator - Numberphile. Stunning and bizarre: A 17-Story Dragon Climbs Thailand’s Pink 80-Meter Buddhist Temple.

From C. Lee, and this is not surprising: Size does matter: wine glasses are seven times larger than they used to be. This is fascinating: The part of my dad that dementia can't take. Incredible: How Just Two Drops of Organic Mercury Can Destroy Your Brain. This is wonderful: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's archive freely available online. Ah, he used to be so brilliant: War Stories: Lord British created an ecology for Ultima Online, but no one saw it.

From Wally, and some of these are priceless: 8 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Holiday Music. Here's a deep dive: Check out the most popular delivery orders in NYC this year.

From Chris Meadowcroft, and this is mesmerizing: The rates of traffic flow on different kinds of 4-way intersections. This is the best: Was Mister Rogers the Best Neighbor Ever?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Sweet, Sweet Tradition

I finished wrapping gifts and brought them into the living room.

"As part of my longstanding and treasured holiday tradition of color-coding gift wrapping to eliminate the need for name tags--"

"When have you done this before?" Eli 16.4 asked.

"As part of what will soon be a longstanding and treasured holiday tradition," I said, "each person has their own gift wrapping pattern."

"Too lazy for a label," Eli said.

"The only longstanding holiday tradition is your dad being a goofball," Gloria said.

Food Tranquilizer

Last Wednesday (the day before we flew to Phoenix for a showcase), it snowed for about 10 straight hours.

I think we had about 8", plus a previous accumulation of around 5".

For his holiday gift, I took Eli 16.4s car to Honda to get a remote starter installed. It was, of course, last Wednesday when I did this.

It's about 10 minutes to the dealership. At 5, when the car was ready, it took us 35 minutes to get there.

On the way back, it took even longer. I was driving Eli's car (very tense), and I had to stop halfway at McDonald's and stress eat a cheeseburger.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


"I had some Truvia that I bought on the trip, but I can't find it in the pantry," I said.

Gloria opened the pantry and took a look, totally not because I can't find anything ever.

"Hmm, I don't see it," she said, "but I would never through that out."

"It's quite interesting what you would and wouldn't throw out," I said. "EVAN."

She started laughing. "I didn't mean to!"

"Artificial sweetener is a priceless possession," I said. "Treasured holiday elf with his penis in a gift box? Right to the trash!"

"We were downsizing!" she said.

"Treasured!" I said.

A Score

I think I mentioned a while back that Eli 16.4 was right on the border of being a National Merit Semifinalist. His practice test (which all the schools do nowadays, apparently) PSAT score  was 1400, and he probably needed a 1440 to qualify.

He took the test--for real--about two months ago.

Gloria and I were both National Merit Scholars in high school, and it opens doors to schools that might not consider you otherwise, so we were very much hoping that he could make it. Plus, he's interested in playing hockey for at least two Ivy League schools, and it would be a huge positive if he had this academic achievement on his record.

Playing for the #11 team in the country and a National Merit Scholar? Sounds like a great fit to me.

So, in sum, it was a big deal.

Scores were coming out anywhere from Monday to Wednesday last week, and when he saw some kids in his classes getting their scores, he started checking his email every five minutes.

Then he sent me four texts:



I got a 1490

I'm in

A perfect score was 1520, so he missed three questions. And had a perfect score in the Math section.

I don't even know what to say at this point. He just keeps opening doors, and I'm so happy for him.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Some Confusion

I had a headache. I went to get some Advil.

"Excuse me," I said. "I opened the medicine door and instead of medicine, there are--potatoes."

Gloria started laughing.

"There are two kinds of potatoes," I said. "In addition, underneath the potatoes, there is a piece of cardboard that says "ADVIL", but there is no Advil."

She laughed harder.

"Now, to clarify," I said, "is this the medicine door, or the potato door, or the cardboard Advil door?"


I walked four miles today. The wind chill was 4 degrees.

I am not this hardy.

I wore enough clothes to keep a small village warm, and was still cold in places. I had some kind of executioner's hood with a cutout for my face that I also wore.

I was shuffling along, through one of the many icy stretches, when a runner passed me. A runner! Running on basically a thin sheet of ice, with no special cleats on his running shoes, as if he was some kind of Ice God. Perhaps he was, because I never saw him fall, and he eventually disappeared into the distance.

That's the thing about people up here: they just don't give a shit. They basically live in Canada, although they call it "Michigan", and they're going to keep running, even if it's on solid ice. They also keep walking, and falling is apparently just something that will eventually happen, and they're fine with it.

Driving? Everyone drives. Nobody cares if the side roads have three inches of ice on them. Go slow, slide around a bit, get the car turned in the right direction again, and move on.

Me? I put a box of half a dozen hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts inside my coat, against my chest, to warm me up until I got to Subway.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Crisis in the Christmas

"I can't find the Christmas elf," Gloria said.

"What?" I asked, clearly alarmed.

"Maybe I threw it away when I cleaned house last summer," she said.

"Throw away Evan the Inappropriate Elf? Impossible!" I said. "He's a treasured part of the Family Christmas Experience!"

"I thought the headless reindeer was the treasured part," she said.

"He is! But Evan is irreplaceable," I said. "How many elves have ever put a gift box over their crotch?"

"I must have it somewhere," she said. "Maybe I didn't throw it away."

"I certainly hope not," I said. "Keep looking!"

This is the last known picture of Evan:

If you see him, please contact me immediately.

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."

Friday, December 01, 2017

Friday Links!

Here's a fascinating look at the difficult economics of being an indie developer, even if you release a very good game: Game Dev Tycoon: iOS Release - Day 1 Analysis: A Rough Start.

For Disneyland fans: This Time-Lapse Video of Disneyland Transforming for the Holidays Is Truly Magical.

From Chris Meadowcraft, and this is brilliant madness: Spider drinks graphene, spins web that can hold the weight of a human.

From Steven Davis, and this is absolutely amazing: Earliest "recording" in music history! - 220 year old Joseph Haydn Organ. Creative and creepy: These Huge Victorian Dolls Gave London the Creeps for a Week.

From C. Lee, and this is fantastic: When Water Flows Uphill. Here's a wonderful interview: Nier’s Yoko Taro On Success, Drinking, And Death. This is messy and interesting: Microsoft says ASLR behavior in Windows 10 is a feature, not a bug. Not surprising, and I wonder if Fakespot catches this: Amazon Merchants Continue to Find Ways to Cheat.

From Wally, and this is a fine look from the wayback machine: From 10 days to nonstop: How London to Australia flights have changed.

Sentimental and very nicely done: Letter to My Younger Self.

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