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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is quite amazing: Weatherbeaten Melody (every bit as good as early Disney). Very clever and creepy: Artist Ronit Baranga’s Disturbing Anatomical Dishware Creeps Across Tabletops. Oh man, this is absolutely fantastic: Reverse Engineering the Antikythera Mechanism. I've never even heard of this before: Lost Knowledge: Timbrel Vaulting.

From Theo, and this is a fascinating article: The massive volcano that scientists can't find.

Here's some real healthcare wonkery for you, from C. Lee: International Health Care Systems Profiles. This is hilarious: The Men Behind the Infamous Fake North Korean Twitter Account. This is interesting and depressing: South Korea’s first black model smashes barriers despite widespread racism. This is very relevant in our house: Bring on the exercise, hold the painkillers.

From Wally, and this is an excellent read: Dividing and Conquering the Cuisines of China. This will make your head spin: Where Europe & Asia would fit in North America climate-wise.

From Griffin Cheng, and this is a terrific read: The strange and righteous history of the equals sign.

Ravens! More Evidence That Ravens Are Ridiculously Intelligent Birds.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Just another Thursday.

Eli 15.11 had a lesson at 10:30, then we drive directly to another rink for an hour-long workout with his trainer.

This is the rhythm of summer. I work out early, take Eli to his workouts, then go to the library and work on Unity for as many hours as I can when everything else is done.

Great library, too. Look at this view:

The library is also the source of the trash panda picture, which forever elevates them into all of my Hall of Fames.

I can't believe I'm writing this, but I think I'm starting coding on the new game in two weeks. The support materials and third-party books for Unity are stellar, and learning has been surprisingly smooth. I still struggle with architecture (DQ Architecture Advisor Garret Rempel will be contacted), but the general nuts and bolts of working with the engine have gone very well.

I also think I can get a prototype up much, much more quickly this time, because Unity does so many things automatically that VB.NET struggled mightily to do.

In other news, we went to a park and unicycled for the first time in a long time. Eli rode about two miles, I rode about half that, and nobody fell. Well, Eli was never going to, so more correctly, I didn't fall.

I'd like to get back into unicycling for fitness, but I also want to get a 26" uni that there is no room for in the budget, so it may be a while.

Hey Teens!

Trash pandas are the worst.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Self-Driving Cars Will Destroy the Airline Industry

Saturday night, I dreamt I was in the seventh circle of Hell. Then I woke up, and I was on an airplane.

It was worse.

We left for the airport on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. We got to Grand Rapids at 1:35 a.m.

This included a three-hour layover plus a two-hour flight delay.

At one point, we sat in a Cantina Laredo at the airport, optimally positioned to see people literally sprinting by as they ran to make the tram.

It was quite a lot like watching the ponies, but with luggage.

At some point during the evening, I realized that if it was a drive shorter than ten hours, and the car drove itself, I would never fly instead.

--comfort (seats in cars are much, much nicer)
--space (leg room)
--climate (it's not freezing cold)
--entertainment (those devices can be charged as you drive)
--you know everyone in your car (sorry, randos)
--no chance of catching a disease from previously-mentioned randos
--it's your schedule, not the airline's
--snacks aren't 2X their regular price
--multi-hour delays are less frequent (at least in most parts of the country)

That's a long list.

When I fly, I marvel at how the airlines have designed seemingly almost everything in a way that is guaranteed to piss most people off. And over their long history, it seems like service has always been regarded as poor (in the last four decades it has been, at least).

Would this ever change? No.

What if everyone just started taking their self-driving cars instead? Well, that's an interesting scenario, because the airlines would actually be competing with something viable then.

What would make this all work would be the government making a major investment to rebuild and improve the interstate highway system. But since the government only pays for weapons now, that seems unlikely.

Fifty years from now: cars with optional sun filters that can lower the light level to almost nothing (even the windshield, because nobody needs to see out of it anymore). Sitting in the cool darkness, watching movies, then emerging at your destination.

Scenario two: all the windows in cars will also be displays, and as you drive through the country (sun shades up this time), you can constantly read about the history and local color of the areas you're driving through.

Just keep me off the plane, please.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In Austin

Man, I am so over this city.

It was great to spend a few days with my mom. I also really enjoyed seeing a few people, and hanging out at the rink where Eli 15.11 spent so much of his time for a few years.

We went upstairs to work out, just like we used to. Still the only ones there. I had some serious nostalgia vibes going on.

Besides that, though, I missed being home.

Austin is a major, major city now, and I don't want to live in a major city. It's not even very much fun to visit--it's just big and hot and crowded.

Eli did tell me about a new singer he liked, named Khalid, and man, he was so right. The guy is a 19-year-old that lives in El Paso, and he is going to be a huge star.

He sings R&B, but he also blends quite a few different things together. The album is sensational, and here it is: American Teen.

If you'd like to hear a few individual songs, here you go:
American Teen
Another Sad Love Song

Monday, July 10, 2017

It Simply Can't Happen Here

The little town we live in is kind of an imaginary place in the sense that nothing bad ever happens here.

Nothing bad is even allowed to happen here.

Last Thursday, while Eli 15.11 and I were in Austin, a big storm blew through Grand Rapids, with 90+ MPH gusts in some places.

Trees fell down, as they do up here, because we have lots of them.

This time, lots of trees. And power lines. Over 120,000 people in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area were without power.

It's a mess. But not here.

Here, within thirty-six hours, everyone had their downed trees neatly cut up and stacked on the curb, waiting for pickup. Power was restored within twenty-four hours, while other spots still don't have their power back after seventy-two.

Once the brush truck comes by on Monday, all traces of the storm will be gone.

I was driving to the tennis courts with Eli today around noon, and we were marveling. "It's really pretty incredible," he said.

"A nuclear weapon could be dropped on this town Saturday night and it would be totally cleaned up by Wednesday," I said.

We have a neighbor named Bill. Pretty old guy, still very vital. After the bomb dropped, he'd be out in the front yard the next day, wearing a Hazmat suit while he dug up irradiated dirt.

He'd look up and wave when he saw us.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Friday Links!

A little light this week, working from Austin, but some good stuff regardless.

Leading off this week, from Tim Jones, and this is a wonderful, riveting story: The Last Death-Defying Honey Hunter of Nepal.

From Steven Davis, and this is both awesome and chilling: The Apprehension Engine: An Instrument Designed to Play the Music of Nightmares. This is very cool: The School of British Accents. This is very true: The Upside-Down Bow, and Why It's Valuable to Play in Ways You Never Would on Stage.

From C. Lee, and this is a terrific story: The voice actor who didn't know he was working on Fallout 4. Also, and this is just part one, it's The complete history of the IBM PC, part one: The deal of the century.

From Wally, and this is fantastic: Amazing Street Performer. Here's an interesting short article on game design: Design Flow: Kill Your Darlings.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is hilarious: AI Trying To Design Inspirational Posters Goes Horribly And Hilariously Wrong.

From Tim Jones, and this guy makes a living from having the most godawful things sting him. This time, it's the second most painful sting in the world: Stung by a tarantula hawk.

I'm ending this week with a link from C. Lee, and it's both horrifying and incredibly depressing, so be fully warned. It's also a great read: How the Death of a Muslim Recruit Revealed a Culture of Brutality in the Marines.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Highly Questionable

I opened the door to our hotel room.

"Hmm," I said. "Looks like I might be calling the hotel manager."

"What?" Eli 15.11 asked. "What the..."

"Okay, that is NOT what swans should be doing on my bed," he said.

"Highly inappropriate," I said. "I've seen them where they face each other and their bills touch, but not this version."

"What were they thinking?" he asked. "I can't believe--"

"Well, someone could have come in after they put them in a harmless position and rearranged them. That could have happened."

He looked at me and I burst out laughing. "Oh, no," he said, and started laughing.  He was laughing so hard that he fell face-down on the bed and kept laughing. And laughing.

Finally, he got up. "I live a good life," he said.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

On Airplanes

On the flight from Dallas to Austin, the plane had LCD screens on the backs of the seats.

I've never been on a plane with this feature, and I thought it was a nice upgrade. In-flight entertainment without having to hold anything, right? Just plug in headphones and you're good to go!

Then the murders began.

The screens were bright. Very bright. So after a few minutes, I started looking for the power button and turned it off.

Problem solved.

Seconds later, there was an announcement by the pilot, and the screen came back on, with a "ANNOUNCEMENT IN PROGRESS" label on the screen.

He finished.

Seconds later, another announcement. There was an announcement when drink service began, and an announcement when the trash bag was coming down the aisle, and a third announcement when drink service was over.

There was an announcement for everything, including an announcement that there would be no more announcements, which was a lie, because within minutes there was another announcement.

Look, airlines, when I fly, I'm a minimal information consumer. The only announcement I absolutely need is the one where the flight attendant runs down the aisle screaming "WE'RE GOING TO CRASH!"

Other than that, please stay in your lane, and I'll stay in mine.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


I downloaded three albums to my phone for the trip.

The groups?
--Buffalo Springfield
--Cesaria Evora

There's a dark place somewhere past eclectic where I reside.

Mom 87.4 and a Great Suggestion

Seriously, my mom just had the greatest political suggestion I've ever heard.

She said that anyone who wants to go into politics should have to live and work in an impoverished area for 3-5 years before they can run for office.

That's probably the single best idea I've ever heard for our political system, which is primarily composed of the ultra-rich (who haven't lived a single remotely normal day in their entire lives) and profiteers.

Mom: still stirring the pot in the best way.

Monday, July 03, 2017

The Bachelor

Eli 15.11 and Gloria have been in Austin for the last five days. I'm flying down in the early dark tomorrow, and I'm crossing with Gloria in the airport (George can't be left alone as we try to manage his diabetes).

So I was on my own for five days.

I did what you expected--read Unity books and watched a billion tutorial videos--but man, I piled up the dishes over five days.

When they're not here, I sort of tend to not eat. I just snack on bars or whatever and get lost in stuff for hours at a time. Which is highly enjoyable, if not necessarily healthy.

Also, this is the greatest stuff EVER:

Yeah, it's upside down. I'm making you work for it.

This is chocolate that you can melt and use to make chocolate covered strawberries. The chocolate dries to a hard shell. I am a big, big fan of chocolate covered strawberries, and believe it or not, they are absolutely phenomenal when you use this chocolate, much better than any store-bought I've ever had.

By the way, here's my programming helper:

Maybe not much help, really.

Just Chillin'

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Big One

Happy Canada Day, everybody!

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