Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday Links!

From Wally, and this is a fascinating bit of history: Was the First Battle of Bull Run Really ‘The Picnic Battle’? If you ever wondered: Half-Mast or Half-Staff? I had no idea: Viet Cong Commandos Sank an American Aircraft Carrier. This is a fantastic read: The confusing way that Mexicans tell time. This is both quite obscure and quite interesting: A day in the life of a popover chef at the Jordan Pond House. Awkward: 'I was named after a World War One battle'.

Well, this is extremely interesting: The Uncanny Sound Illusion That Creates Suspense in Christopher Nolan's Movies.


From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this just keeps getting worse: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Football-Players.

From C. Lee, and sadly, this should surprise no one: Study: US is slipping toward measles being endemic once again.

From Marc Klein, and this is an excellent read: An Ode to Shopping Malls.

From Roger Robar, and this seems scientifically conclusive: Watch 300 Jedi Absolutely Slaughter 60,000 Medieval Soldiers.

From Rob Funk, and this is tremendously interesting: How Inmates Play Tabletop RPGs in Prisons Where Dice Are Contraband.

From David Gloier, and this is terrifying: NTSB: Air Canada close-call at SFO was even worse than first reported.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Of course, between workouts today, we went to play miniature golf. Wagers were made.

On one hole, I needed to mark my ball. Which I did.

With my wallet.


I know that some of you guys must invest in cryptocurrency, and if you do, please e-mail me if you don't mind answering a few questions. Thanks.

An Idea

We were listening to the radio on the way to the rink.


"No," Eli 15.11 said.

"Absolutely not," I said. "But I can think of something I'd want in the front yard."

"What?" Eli asked.

"A miniature golf course," I said. "A little course where all the neighborhood kids could play for free whenever they wanted."

"Oh, that's great," he said, laughing. "That would be awesome."

"Just think about it," I said. "Six holes in the front yard, because it's pretty small, then a transitional hole down the steep slope to the backyard. Twelve holes in the backyard."

"I can actually see this," Eli said.

"All the classics," I said. "Clown's mouth. The windmill."

"A dragon," he said.

"A whale's mouth," I said.

"Leader boards," he said. "By age group."

Gloria's been in Chicago for two days. She better hurry back before this gets legs.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Off Day

Eli 15.11 didn't have a workout with his trainer or ice time today.

Day off.

We played pickleball for over three hours (more about that later), then tonight he rode six miles on his unicycle.

Self-Driving Cars (Update)

A bit late, but here's an update on the self-driving car post from a few weeks ago.

Jennifer W sent in a link to Mcity, which is a program at the University of Michigan "leading the transformation to connected and automated vehicles." It's remarkable research, and they envision some things I never even thought of, like automated cars being part of a connected network, sending information to each other.

The site is a fantastic rabbit hole, as well as being extremely informative.

There are many people, and I'm going to say legislators in general (because they tend to be older and whiter than the general population), who are going to get caught with their pants down on this. It's much further along than they realize.

Something else I just realized: this is going to change the life of seniors in a major, major way. Even after they lose the ability to drive safely, they'll still be able to go wherever they want. That's a huge quality of life improvement.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Went to Lansing this evening and got back later than I expected, and I'm beat, so nothing today. Back to usual tomorrow!

Monday, July 24, 2017


Domina is something.

Here's the description from the Steam page:
Take charge of a ludus, acquire, train and upgrade gladiators, and pit them against your opponents in bloody arena battles.

Use strategic political wranglings to win favor from powerful Romans to increase the odds of victory in the arena and elevate your family name, all while trying to keep a group of brutish warriors focused, alive, and victorious.

Domina is a pixel-art strategy simulation vaguely based on Roman gladiator schools of antiquity.

What that doesn't really describe is the visceral gut punch this game gives you.

The arena fights are beautiful and brutal, with a remarkably effective use of music. I feel this little charge go through me every time the counter ends and the fight begins.

Managing your gladiators is a classic sim in the sense that there is never enough time or money to do everything. Unlike many other sims, though, making mistakes leads to death.

Now, let me tell you about Cassius.

I went through many playthroughs, trying to win the final series of battles, but never did. I could never develop enough depth in my stable to have a chance.

This one time, though, it didn't matter, because I had Cassius, the most perfect fighting machine the gladiator world has ever seen.

Early on in his career, he nearly died--several times--but he was always standing at the end, showered in roses thrown from the crowd for his courage.

As he matured into a terrifying killing machine, his fights rarely lasted longer than ten seconds in real time. His attack was savage, his defense superb.

I had no no one else who could fight, but no matter. Cassius was the one gladiator to rule them all.

After seventeen fights--all wins, with no survivors--Cassius came to me in the middle of the night with a request.

He asked me for his freedom.

He had lost the heart for combat, he said, the deaths of seventeen men weighing heavily.

I felt genuine emotion at his request, even though this was only a game.

To me, at least. Not so for Cassius.

I couldn't release him, of course. He was my champion!

I tried to improve his circumstances, giving him greater rewards, having an architect build him private quarters, anything to improve his morale.

It seemed to work. He was encouraged, said his morale status.

He fought two more times, both devastating victories. Then he asked me again.

I said no, of course.

Three weeks later, he asked again.

I just couldn't let him go, although I felt increasingly guilty every time he asked. There were only forty-five days left in the season, though. He would make it through.

Two weeks later, in the dead of night, I was notified that Cassius had escaped.

I felt a surge of emotion from this news. Good for him, I thought. I was too cowardly to let him go, but he had the courage to take his freedom.

What would happen now, though? Would he be recaptured? Would he be brought to me, a broken man, beaten for his insolence?

I did not want this to happen.

I did the only thing I could do to make sure that Cassius would always be free: I stopped playing.

Then I uninstalled the game.

I still have the save game, frozen forever at the moment when Cassius broke free.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Links!

From Tim Jones, and this is incredible: More Than 4,000 Photographs From The D-Day Invasion Of Normandy Are Now Available Online. Here's a direct link to all the photos, and they are beautiful, overwhelming, and awful in turn: PhotosNormandie.

From Tim Steffes, and this is certainly interesting: The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates.

From D.F. Prosser, and this is a fascinating story: Beatrix Potter's Greatest Work Was a Secret, Coded Journal She Kept as a Teen.

From Wally, and this wish itself is probably science fiction: Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction. Also, and this is just crazy, it's Maine campground takes ‘glamping’ to a new level. This is the Badass Tree of the Week: The amazing President is 3200 years-old. It’s so big that it has never been captured in one photo. This is a disaster: Scammers Break The Kindle Store. Some of these are very, very striking: Eerie photos of abandoned malls.

From C. Lee, and this is awesome if you're in one of the included cities (hey, Grand Rapids is in that list!): Anyone With An L.A. Public Library Card Can Stream The Criterion Collection. An amazing woman: Maryam Mirzakhani, Only Woman to Win a Fields Medal, Dies at 40. This is a brilliant and thought-provoking letter: VOICE A World War II Marine looks back and wonders: Where’s the America of sharing?

From David Gloier, and what a story: Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman.

From Frank Regan, and this is an incredible find: Scrap dealer finds Apollo-era NASA computers in dead engineer’s basement.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Paddle Boarding: A Controversial Topic

Gloria wanted to go paddle boarding in Saugatuck.

Eli 15.11 and I are doers more than sitters, so this seemed like a good idea.

I've never been paddle boarding before, but it seems popular up here, and it looked like a solid workout, so I was all in.

When we got out after forty-five minutes, Eli was laughing so hard that he could barely walk.

Read on.

Tip #1: the first time you go paddle boarding, don't go on a windy day.
Tip #2: don't paddle board in a narrow channel with constant boat traffic.

If you ignore Tips #1 and #2, you'll be in the paddle boarding version of "The Perfect Storm".

I'm solid on a unicycle--not great, but I can handle myself, and ride for half an hour or so with no problem. Paddle boarding in these conditions was like unicycling on water, except there was no balance point you could establish.

It was constant, never-ending balance correction.

Plus, trying to paddle into a pretty brisk wind was tough. Very tough. Eli and I both managed, and knew that as soon as we turned around, it would be easy, but it was hard work going into the wind.

Then there was the third member of the party.

"She's out of sight!" Eli said, looking backward. I was trying to make sure I didn't fall off, so I wasn't looking backwards.

Gloria had disappeared behind a line of docked boats. We had a clear view for at least fifty yards, so she was well back.

"Let's slow down and see if she shows up," I said. I started paddling in place, which is insanely difficult, because forward momentum helps you balance.

"Still don't see her!" he shouted over the wind. "I'm going back!"

"Be careful!" I said, as boats came by every minute, seemingly.

If it sounds like we were adrift in the ocean, we weren't. I don't think we were ever more than fifty feet or so away from "land", land in this case being a series of docks along the channel. And we all had life jackets on.

The effort, though, was middle of the ocean level.

It took a few minutes, but Gloria came paddling into view, with Eli at her side. Then he paddled up to join me. "Oh, she's struggling!" he said, laughing.

"I can't go this slow," I said. "I have to move forward. As long as we can see her, we're good."

We paddled another few hundred yards forward. "The guy said when we reached the bridge, the boat traffic would really drop off," Eli said.

"You believed that?" I said. "Right now he's saying 'Hey, I told another tourist there was a bridge!' " Eli burst out laughing, and we kept paddling.

We turned enough to follow the channel that I could see an ominous face well behind.

The angry face.

I don't have a word for this face, but it's The Face That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

"She's gone feral!" I yelled.

The bad thing about The Face That Dare Not Speak Its Name is that it cannot be controlled. It's more of a blast radius situation--the bomb cannot be disarmed, and the only question is whether you can get far enough away to avoid the shrapnel.

We kept paddling. Choppy water and heavy boat traffic in front of us. Certain death behind us.

We did eventually see the bridge. It was far, far away. We would not reach the bridge.

After about thirty minutes of very difficult paddling, it was time to turn around. I figured it would take half as long (or less) going back, and forty-five minutes seemed like enough.

I figured this was a positive. We'd reach Gloria in a few minutes, and she could turn around and go with us, given a significant assist by the wind this time.

She was tired, though, so tired that she couldn't get any real momentum going forward, even with the wind. "Do you just want to paddle over to the dock and get out?" I asked. "We can come back for the board."

The dock was only ten feet away, and it was essentially only ten feet away all the way back, but her look said it all. No one was getting out of the water early.

Someone, however, was getting in the water early.

I didn't quite see how it happened, but I turned just in time to see the money shot, and it was a solid fall--feet first, no save possible.

"Down goes Frazier!" I thought.

Even then, though, she wouldn't go to the dock. She somehow righted herself and got back up, and in an incredible display of perseverance combined with rage, she paddled back to the start.

"I'm glad you didn't take your phone, because I didn't want it to get wet," I said to Eli, "but if you had, you would have taken video. Five million hits, minimum."

Gloria made a sound. Not sure what it was.

"Oh, you weren't close enough to hear her," he said. "After she fell off, she dropped about twenty F-bombs."

Gloria smiled a bit. Busted.

"My doctor said that the tremors in my hands affect my balance," she said.

"Oh, no!" Eli said, laughing.

"Yeah, that's not how you play this," I said. "You can't go to the medical condition card. You just have to take the 'L' and move on."

"Humph," she said.

A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Saugatuck (part two), and a Most Talented Bear

After the beach, we went to some local shops.

Every beach town has local shops. What's in them is largely the same crap, and it's marked up to at least double what it's worth. We actually found one shop (with an ancient steward) where the same crap was marked up to four times what it was worth.

It was there that we stumbled onto a hostage situation:

We really shouldn't even be let out in public, let alone go on day trips.

In another store--a gallery--Eli 15.11 became enamored with this fine work of art:

What you can't really see from the image is that it's done in a very interesting style, with thick splotches of bright paint tossed on at interesting points. The image really leaps off the canvas.

It was $600, incredibly, and even with a studio closing 70% discount (can't imagine why they're closing), it was still $180. "I like it, but I don't hundred and eighty dollars like it," he said. "It's hilarious, though."

"I bet we can find it cheaper," I said.

"Maybe it's a local artist," Gloria said.  "This may be the last one."

"There's a guy in China painting this five times an hour," I said. "He lives in 'Bear Riding Scooter Painting' town."

 I went on eBay today and found it for $48. It's coming from China.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mandatory Fun Day, 2017

Gloria gets a day in summer where we go on a day trip, because there are various levels of outrage expressed during the summer that we're not going on more day trips.

I understand, but it's tough. When Eli 15.11 works out 2-3 hours a day, and it's often an afternoon/evening series of workouts, there really aren't any totally free days, because he doesn't take days off.

That's what you do if you want to be a national class athlete, and he does.

So he was on the ice at 8:00 Saturday morning, worked very hard for an hour, then Gloria came by and picked us up to go to Saugatuck.

Saugatuck is a very small beach town with a very small beach (Oval Beach) that is frequently rated as one of the top twenty-five beaches nationally.

"Hey, does this beach have beach chipmunks?" I asked as we trudged toward the water. "That's a thing, you know. They love to dig in the sand."

We walked forward about ten feet. "Look, there are some tracks," I said.

"Why are you like this?" Eli 15.11 said, laughing.

Michigan beaches, or rather the people who frequent them, are different from other coastal beaches.

The beach itself is quite similar--lovely sand, blue water. Lake Michigan might as well be the Atlantic ocean, for all you can tell from the shore.

Here, though, the people on the beach are much paler, so the people with dark tans stand out, instead of the other way around. Very nice people, though.

Then there was beach bro.

There were a few hundred people on the beach, and it was so totally peaceful. The sound of the water lashing the beach. The wind. A few seagulls calling as they flew by.

Then Jet Ski Bro showed up.

It was like driving a Harley right through the middle of the library. Unfortunate.

"Can't they contain these people?" I asked. "I think we need a special beach. Bro Beach."

"Oh, yeah," Eli said. "That should be a thing."

"To gain admittance to Bro Beach, you'd have to shotgun a beer," I said. "And you'd have to carry around a gallon of water at all times."

"Two gallons," Eli said. "One in each hand."

"Wardrobe," I said. "Muscle shirt, backwards team cap, male pattern baldness."

I'd go to Bro Beach and study the bros, like Birutė Galdikas and the orangutans. Live among them, gain their trust, decipher their complex social networks.

I hear they're tool users. Amazing.

Monday, July 17, 2017


"That was an intimidating bottom of the net shot," Eli 15.11 said.

"That's tier one smack," I said.

Two points later, I started to come into the net, and he passed me with no effort at all. "Sit down," he said.

The very next point, he came in, and I drove a swinging volley right past him. "SIT DOWN," I said. We both burst out laughing.

Of course, my arm is killing me right now.

Two sessions of pickleball (which we play in an extremely savage manner). One session of tennis. Paddle boarding. All in about forty hours. Man, I'm exhausted.

Eli also had two very hard ice sessions during this period. He's not even tired, of course. He went to Michigan Adventure with his girlfriend today, and thank god, because I need the rest.

There's a paddleboarding story coming this week that you do not want to miss.

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