Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this covers all the bases: This Is a Generic Millennial Ad. This is outstanding: 10 Books That Were Written on a Bet. A long and fascinating read: To Catch a Counterfeiter: Nearly all the world’s fake products come from China. America’s oldest private detective agency is on the case. This is amazing: Google's latest AI doesn't need geotags to figure out a photo's location. This is staggering: An epic 33,600 piece jigsaw puzzle time lapse.

More. Ah, Clippy: The Life and Death of Microsoft Clippy, the Paper Clip the World Loved to Hate.

From C. Lee, and this is quite wonderful: Suikoden changed my life - Warren Spector. Well, maybe not, darn it: New evidence of Viking warrior women might not be what it seems. Such a remarkable artist: Celebrate 150 Years of the Illustrator Who Brought Children’s Books to Life. This is a long and fascinating read: Targeting Tumors: Treating Cancer on Many Fronts.

From Wally, and this is quite interesting: Why You Didn't Want to Fly On The Soviet Concorde-The TU-144. It's getting pretty freaky out there: Brain-Machine Interface isn't Sci-Fi Anymore. This is a fascinating read: In Alaska’s Far-Flung Villages, Happiness Is a Cake Mix. This is overwhelmingly peaceful if you listen to it with space music in the background: Downhill Cart-i-pede.

From Christopher Scott, and oh, the wretched excess: Meet the Guy Who Photographs Luxury Planes for the Super Rich.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is a wonderful story:
13-year-old Robert Irwin is following his late father's footsteps and helping the world fall in love with nature
Robert Irwin to get conservation hero award

From Tim Jones, and I'm not kidding when I say this is the rabbit hole of all rabbit holes: Additional Collections.

From Roger Robar, and this is terrific: The Story Behind the Greatest Internet Recipe Comment of All Time.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A.I. And The Future of Interaction

[I started thinking about this because of the always excellent Gamers With Jobs podcast, which I highly recommend.]

I think I see the future of interaction, or at least the dim outlines.

It's a future that people my age and older mostly don't understand because they have an assumption that steers them in the wrong direction.

Here's the assumption: interacting with an A.I. will never be as satisfying as interacting with a human being. 

What that assumption misses is that our interactions with many people on a daily basis aren't satisfying at all.

They're frustrating. Annoying. Infuriating.

Most people have a core of people around them who they have satisfying interactions with. Outside that, satisfaction varies wildly.

There's room for improvement.

Also, I think many of us no longer see interaction as specifically human or non-human. If I talk to someone and they're annoying, I tend to minimize my interactions with them. I do that with computer programs, too, and cars, and everything else.

Interactions are a constant process of selection.

What I want most are satisfying interactions in every area. I select those interactions.

One day, there will be an A.I. that will speak to you and, in addition to analyzing the words in your response, will analyze both the tone of your response and your facial cues to understand how you feel about what has been said. This A.I. will be far more attentive than a human being.

On another day, far into the future, this highly intelligent and perceptive A.I. will be placed inside an android that is physically so lifelike that it will be almost impossible to distinguish it from a real human being.

Maybe it will be impossible to distinguish from a real human being.

How many people will say that this interaction is inferior to interacting with a human being? Or will they judge the quality of the interaction itself, instead of what creates the interaction?

I can easily see a future (and it would be fun to write about this someday) where having an android partner will give you a higher social status than having a human partner. People will aspire to have android partners. Working second jobs. Putting money away.

I don't see any of this as positive or negative, because I'm not a philosopher. I just see it coming.

How far away? Twenty years. Thirty, at most.

It will be here much sooner than we can imagine.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


We were watching a college football game last Saturday, and a player was injured on a kickoff.

It was easy to tell that the player had suffered a significant blow to the head and neck area, and as a precaution, they brought out the stabilizer and removed him on a stretcher.

"And...there it is," I said, as the player raised his arm and signaled '#1' to the crowd. "If a player was hit so hard that his entire body was vaporized, and all that was left was a smoking hulk of an arm, and that arm was placed on the gurney, it would raise itself and give the '#1' on its way off the field."

Eli 16.1 started laughing. "Oh my god, that's true," he said. "I don't think I've ever seen a player who didn't do that."

Later, a very fast man scored a touchdown.

He took off his helmet on the sideline, and I was stunned.

"Buddy, look at that haircut," I said.

"What?" he asked.

"It's the Lone Cypress," I said.

He burst out laughing. "Hold on," he said. He found an image online. "It's perfect!" he said.

I present to you an innovation in grooming miracle:

What on Earth am I seeing

Fangboner Road? Seriously?

Bad Decision

Jesus, lady, you're eating in your car while driving 75 mph on the freeway and you're risking your life for a Filet-O-Fish?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Concussions and New Technology

I've been writing about concussions in sports for several years now, particularly interested in the subject because Eli 16.1 is a goalie.

There are only two ways to reduce concussions in any meaningful way. First, redesign the helmet so that it has a softer external layer that can absorb some of the impact, instead of the brain absorbing all the force. Second, have some kind of microprocessor-controlled cuff around the neck that inflates as needed, significantly increasing the blood pressure around the brain for a split second. That would protect the brain from slamming into the skull.

Neither of these approaches would be concussion-proof, but even a 20-30% reduction in concussions would be a huge improvement.

There are problems with both of these conceptual improvements. If you make the helmet softer, it also becomes "stickier" and possibly more subject to rotation when contacting other helmets. That can be very dangerous.

Plus, here's a stupid-ass non-problem, which is that teams didn't want flexible helmets because the softer surface was more difficult to paint. Seriously.

The cuff, in my mind, is the best idea, by far. But the level of technology required to collect the information, make the decision, and inflate the cuff in time is incredibly daunting.

Now, though, both of those approaches are being tried.

First, there's a new helmet called the "Zero1", and it's a flexible helmet. It's a complex approach, with multiple levels of new technology being incorporated, but it looks promising. Here's a good explanation: The Zero1 Flexible Helmet May Save Players' Brains. The helmet is supposedly being submitted for testing by Virginia Tech, which is currently the gold standard in testing (low bar) for football helmets.

Bauer is working with the second technology--the cuff--but I'm much more skeptical of what they're doing, because it looks very simplistic. It provides a uniform, slight increase in blood pressure in the brain, but they have absolutely no experimental data to measure how much more force can be absorbed by using the product. So it looks more like a cash-in than a real, useful product.

However, it's interesting that someone is trying to commercialize the concept, because if someone is willing to try it, then someone else is probably willing to improve it.

The effectiveness of these technologies could have a huge impact on the popularity of high-contact sports, particularly football, in the future.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Hot. Very hot.

We about to leave to go play pickleball on Friday.

"I'll just check the--oh my god, it's ninety-four degrees."

"What?" Eli 16.1 asked.

"Ninety-four," I said. "Also, it's only eighty-seven in Austin. That seems scientifically impossible."

"It's the apocalypse," he said. "The world is actually ending this time."

"Well, let's hurry, then," I said. "We may not have much time to play pickleball.

I'm not kidding when I say it must have been a hundred and fifteen on the pickleball courts. I haven't been that hot since we moved last year.  My entire shirt was soaked through in sweat after playing for an hour or so.

The average high for last Friday in Michigan is seventy degrees, so we were twenty-five degrees hotter than usual. Brutal.


"Hold on," I said. 

"What?" Gloria asked. 

"Born free eggs?" I asked. "They didn't quite make it, did they?"

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from DQ Guitar Advisor David Gloier, and it's a wonderful read: 'Our Saturn years': Cassini's epic journey to the ringed planet, told by the people who helped make it happen.

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: How Banking Innovations Helped Fuel Art History’s Greatest Moments. A thought-provoking essay: You Are the Product.

From Wally, and this is utterly fascinating: 1812: The Bitter End. Here's a forgotten piece of hockey history: NHL came close to shutting down during World War II. This is tremendously interesting: How Do You Decode a Hapax? (Also, What’s a Hapax?) Fun from start to finish: How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster.

From C. Lee, and this is concerning: Space-Mutated Bacteria Could Be Bad News For Humans. A good explanation of bad science: The new study suggesting sitting will kill you is kind of a raging dumpster fire. Ass-kicking: DNA evidence from a female Viking warrior’s grave shows bias is in the eye of the beholder. This is genuinely awesome: This Clever Math Trick Makes It Easy to Check Your Work.

A second block of links from C. Lee. First, it's Think Correlation Never Implies Causation? Not So Fast. This is remarkable: A condom to save a new mum's life. This could be quite amazing: Every childhood vaccine may go into a single jab.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


I've been discovering lately that price has almost literally no meaning anymore.

It's an ephemeral thing, seemingly changing by the minute. Airlines have always done this, but Amazon has put so much pricing pressure to bear that everyone has to respond.

As a result, I've almost developed a small amount of discipline when it comes to buying things, just because the savings are frequently 40% or more.

This started off, believe it or not, because of the Steam wishlist. I just put games on the list, and when they had a significant discount and I was notified, I felt like a kid opening up a present.

Last week, after watching the Logitech Harmony Smart Control for a few weeks, I saw a one-day sale on Amazon where it was almost half off. Bought it, and it's terrific.

It's not just electronics, either. It's clothing and sporting equipment and everything else.

If you're not doing this, but you want to save a ton of money, keep your eyes on Amazon and Slickdeals, plus if you read Deadspin or any of the Gawker sites, they list deals all the time.

The Good Boy

I was working at the library and decided to go to the downstairs snack area.

A very little boy, maybe three, was sitting at a table with his mom. They were having an interesting conversation. "Mom, what are those big chairs for?" he asked. There are adult-sized chairs and tables mixed with the smaller ones.

"Those are for the big kids," she said.

"Where are the big kids?" he asked.

"They're at school," she said.

"For story time?" he asked.

That totally cracked me up, so after I got my drink, I walked over to him and said, "Little buddy, do you have a piggy bank?"

He looked very, very serious and said "I do."

I handed him the quarter. "This is for your piggy bank, for being a good boy."

He quietly said thank you, then talked to his mom in low tones as I started to walk up the stairs. Just as I got to the top, he bellowed "THANK YOU!" at the top of his lungs, and everyone on both floors of the library could hear him.

I had the biggest smile.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

William Morris Harris, Jr. (1934-2017)

My sister called on Sunday and said that my Dad died.

We left the rink on Sunday in separate cars on the way back from Detroit, and I stopped in Lansing for a quick bite. That's when I saw that my sister had left a message (unusual), so I called her back and we talked. I tried to make sure she was okay (Dad left when she was 6, I think, while I was still in the 0.8 range).

Then I had an hour to think about things on the way home.

I didn't know what to feel. It's strange, hearing about the death of someone who should be so important in your life, but who was only defined by their absence. I remembered, though, that whatever feeling you have about death is okay.

So I stopped at Smashburger for a shake on the way home. I like those shakes, and I always find them comforting.

My Dad was a disappointed, bitter man. Disappointed about some of his choices, and bitter about everything else. Or not, because he was also a very skilled liar, so it has hard to know what part of the truth you were getting.

He was also a racist, and a real bastard. And selfish. Did I mention he was an alcoholic?

I thought today if I could remember any personal moment we ever had together when he made me feel good, or happy.

I can't.

We fished together a few times, which I enjoyed (he was a big fisherman), but even then, our conversations were awkward and strange. He always seemed annoyed, but then, he always seemed annoyed with everyone.

He might have been genuinely trying when we were together, or he might have just been checking a few boxes. There was no way to know.

So I feel like I should have some sense of loss, but I've already carried that loss. Still, though, it's strange.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We Hit Peak Hockey Trip Weirdness

Well, we've been on 100+ hockey trips over the years, and I think we hit peak weirdness last weekend.

1. At the rink, there was a cat show. Sorry I didn't get a picture, but here's a description: lots of pissed-off looking cats and owners who looked far less exotic than the cats.

I watched one lady load her cats into an SUV after the show, and she was a machine: folding metal card to load all her gear, cat carriers with shades, Tupperware litter boxes, and a baffling assortment of gear.

She was totally on point, and would have made a good hockey mom.

2. At the hotel, there was this:

Sorry that's so dark, but it says "GROW & GROW RICH ACADEMY". That's right, it's a pot-growers convention. 

3. Also, when we got to the hotel, here's the corridor where our room was located (and my cellphone makes this image look much brighter than it was to the human eye):

I thought I was in an Inception sequel.

4 This doesn't qualify as weird, just a shitty piece of design, but have a look at this:

Yes, the image is vertical. It's the rare time when it was warranted.

That shower, which was clearly part of a Raddison redesign, is a non-sliding door. That little cut-out is so you can turn on the water without getting wet, which wouldn't be necessary if the door could move. 

Also, water sprays out of that cut-out while you shower. Nice. 

Water also sprays out the back half of the shower onto the floor, and since there's no ventilation in the bathroom, every surface in the bathroom is wet by the time you leave the shower. 

It's a stunningly terrible piece of design, and I guess they save money this way, but only up-front, because they're going to have to replace the flooring and wallpaper on a regular basis. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

I've Been Gaming Since the Mid-1970s, and This is the Dumbest Thing I've Ever Heard a Developer Say

Take a bow, Chris Roberts!
Most of our stuff is related to the ships you have, and dollar to the actual in-game cost, the money cost is significantly less than the in-game cost. Some of these ships, like the Idris, are massive capital ships. As an individual, maybe Bill Gates could afford a carrier. Nations buy those things, not individuals. That's part of the appeal - ships in Star Citizen are so fully-realised. I would love to be Roman Abramovich hanging out in the south of France but I don't have that much cash...There's a very small number of people in the world who have that. But in Star Citizen maybe you've got yourself a billionaire's yacht. It's a big-ass ship and you can have all your friends over to hang out.

The Idris, in case you're wondering, costs $1000-1250.

Tantalizing Doughnuts, You Say?

I'm intrigued, Mrs. Freshley's. Tell me more.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Links!

If you want to see a busker destroy a subway, it's your day: Subway performer stuns crowd with Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide"- Chicago, Il- Blue Line, Washington S.

From Lummox JR, and this was a long time coming: Voynich manuscript: the solution [Note: except now this interpretation is also being disputed. Here you go: Has a Mysterious Medieval Code Really Been Solved?]

From Brett Harper, and this is an absolutely amazing story: The last surviving sea silk mistress.

From Steven Davis, and this is utterly fascinating: The Curious History of the Magic Lantern—and the Man Who Collected Hundreds of Them. Incredibly whimsical: The Renaissance Artist Whose Fruit-Faced Portraits Inspired the Surrealists.

From Brian Witte, and here we go again: A Simple Design Flaw Makes It Astoundingly Easy To Hack Siri And Alexa. Next, and these are so spectacular, it's Bird Photographer of the Year 2017.

From D.F. Prosser, and this is certainly flawed, it's thought-provoking:: THE QUESTION OF CULTURAL APPROPRIATION.

From Wally, and these are outstanding: Truth in Advertising: The Funniest Car Names. This seems appropriate, given current trends: ‘Bring pencils’ and 49 other things hurricane pros know. A long and excellent read: What’s it like going from Jurassic Park to directing TV? If you ever want to see nature in concert, here you go: Hey!

From C. Lee, and this is wonderfully cool: Origami-inspired clothing range that grows with your child wins Dyson award. This is useful: Writers unblocked? Happy music boosts imaginative thinking, say researchers. A remarkable story: How one girl's illness changed what a nation eats. A fascinating read: The mystery of the lost Roman herb. This is quite interesting: The Secret to a Good Robot Teacher. A terrific read: To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now.

From Eric Lundquist, and this is a handbook to bad decisions: Woman trapped in window trying to retrieve poo after Tinder date. Also, and this is absolutely stunning, it's 30 Days Timelapse at Sea | 4K | Through Thunderstorms, Torrential Rain & Busy Traffic.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Most Excellent East German Amusement Park

I wrote about Kiddie Acres once before.

It was an "amusement park" about two miles from our home, and it was so decrepit and stark that I called it something like "Most Excellent East German Amusement Park". It was a dumpster fire masquerading as an amusement park.

Of course, we all went there.

By decrepit, I mean that there was baling wire holding various pieces of rides together. The Ferris Wheel I renamed "Fatality Wheel", because every trip looked like it should end in death.

And rust. Lots and lots of rust.

On the plus side, though, there was a pony. We all really liked the little pony.

Incredibly, Kiddie Acres stayed open for 38 years. Almost four decades of endangering the life of every child that went there. It was awful, but wonderful, too.

A friend of mind sent me this article yesterday: Austin man buys Kiddie Acres carousel, brings it home. I have no idea why anyone would buy the bones of Kiddie Acres, but this man wanted the carousel so much that he paid over $13,000 for it. $13,000!

Think he might refurbish it and sell it for a profit? Nope. He just wants to put it in a big, vacant lot next door to his house and let his grandchildren ride on it.

Just like Kiddie Acres, it's a ludicrous and wonderful idea.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sports and School

UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen said in an interview recently that going to college and playing football are not compatible:
Look, football and school don't go together. They just don't. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs... No one in their right mind should have a football player's schedule and go to school.

Rosen is an Economics major, and he's right. Here's the kicker, though: in high school, it's even worse.

Eli 16.1 goes to school from 7:40-3:00, five days a week. Taking out the hour for lunch, that's about 36 hours a week for school. Nearly a full-time job, by itself.

Wait, add 2 hours a night for homework (four AP classes out of six). That makes it 46 hours a week.

Now, the hockey schedule:

Monday: Practice 6:20-7:20 + 1 hour driving time
Tuesday: 1 hour off-ice workout at rink + 1 hour driving time

Wednesday: Film 5:40, Practice 6:30-7:50, Off-ice workout 8-8:40 + 1 hour driving time
Thursday: Practice 8:30-9:50 + 1 hour driving time

The rink is 30 minutes away, and Eli has to be at the rink 30 minutes before practice, plus it takes him 15 minutes to get out of his gear after practice. Add all of that time together, and it's roughly 12 hours a week. 

We're just getting started, though. 

This weekend (and it's not atypical), we're going to a showcase in Detroit, and his team will play four games in three days.

It's 5 hours round trip to/from Detroit. For each game, here's the time involved:

--roughly 15 minute drive to rink (30 minutes total)
--arrive at rink 90 minutes before game
--game lasts roughly 2 hours 
--in locker room for 30 minutes after game

So for a single game, that's 4.5 hours. Add all that together for 4 games plus to/from, and it's 23 hours total. 

That's 35 hours a week on hockey. 

Combined, it's 81 hours. 80+ hours a week, and that doesn't include vision training or stretching. Like Rosen said, it's two full-time jobs.

That's what elite high school athletes have to do. 

Incredible, isn't it? And for college, I'm sure it's worse. 

Eli is very, very disciplined about all this, and I know he can handle it, but man, it's tough. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Poor Decisions

"Hey, how was practice?" I asked Eli 16.1 when he came home. He drives to practice on his own at least once a week now.

"Good," he said. "Coach bet us that the Vikings would win tonight, because he's from Minnesota. We took the Saints. We have to bag skate next Monday if we lose."

"You did WHAT?" I asked.

"We bet the Coach that the Saints would win--"

"You bet on the Saints? Have I taught you NOTHING?" I said.

A Prolific, Poetic Plagiarist

I read an absolutely mind-blowing article in The Guardian just now, and it's about plagiarism in poetry, which I had no idea was even a thing.

It's a thing. A big thing.

The article is about a plagiarism sleuth, and focuses on his investigation of Pierre DesRuisseaux, the fourth parliamentary poet laureate of Canada. DesRuisseaux, in an astonishing number of poems, basically just stole an English-language poem and translated it into French, from sources as wide-ranging as Maya Angelou and Tupac.

That's right. Tupac.

It's shocking, really, and DesRuisseaux isn't the only plagiarist. The entire article is a great rabbit-hole read: 'Plagiarists never do it once': meet the sleuth tracking down the poetry cheats.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Appropriate Usage

"We saw a license plate today that said 'Game Changer'," Gloria said.

"You did not," I said.

'We did," Eli 16.1 said.

"G-M-C-H-N-G-R," Gloria said.

"Was it in on a 1995 Mazda?" I asked. "Because there's no un-ironic use of that license plate that's appropriate."

"No, it was a nice car," Gloria said.

"I want to get Granny one of those license plates," I said. "Picture this: you pull up next to an 87-year-old woman driving a 1984 Corolla with a 'Gamechanger' license plate."

"I want to see that," Eli said.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and this is amazing: The Secret Lives of Cannibal Stars Revealed, Thanks to 15th Century Korean Astronomers. Incredibly courageous: Robert E. Lee descendant — and denouncer — quits N.C. pastor post over ‘hurtful’ reaction to VMAs speech. This is tremendously ingenious and useful: Use This Simple Trick To Never Tangle Your USB Cords Again. So, so disturbing: The United States — A Model for the Nazis.

Even more from C. Lee, broken up for readability. I can't say this even surprises me: The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. This is lengthy and fascinating: 40 maps that explain North Korea. Yeah, this is happening way too easily now: Dr Con Man: the rise and fall of a celebrity scientist who fooled almost everyone. Fascinating: ‘Edvard Munch: Color in Context’ examines the meanings behind the artist’s bold choices.

From Wally, and this is a fascinating read about Lindbergh and WWII: They Can’t Realize the Change Aviation Has Made. Hey, we tried to warn you: Photos of Cameras and Lenses That Got Destroyed by the Solar Eclipse.

From Steven, and this is very, very cool: Why This 30-Year-Old Keith Haring Mural Was Never Meant to Last. This is very grim, but important: At the Brooklyn Museum, Tracing the History of Lynching in America.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Draft Day Sports: Pro Football 2018

From my longtime friend Gary Gorski, for whom I have much respect:
Wolverine Studios is proud to announce that Draft Day Sports: Pro Football 2018 is now available exclusively from Wolverine Studios.

Brooks Piggott and his team have worked tirelessly to bring you the most exciting pro football simulation available today for Windows-PC.

Draft Day Sports: Pro Football 2018 puts you in control of your favorite pro football franchise. You make the calls as you build your dynasty – build your roster through trades, the draft, and free agency while you help your players improve with custom training options. Watch the action unfold in dramatic 2D fashion where you can take control of the play calling and make the choices that lead your team to victory. Play by yourself against a challenging AI or join an online multiplayer league and see if you have what it takes to outmanage your fellow gamers.

Full game details including screenshots, the game trailer and a free fully playable demo are available from our official DDS: Pro Football 2018 homepage at Pro Football 2018.

Facial Hair Rabbit Hole

From DQ VB.NET Advisor Garret Rempel:
The US has different regulations on this matter - but a prime source of facial hair fancy in Canada is among the armed forces. I recall my uncle mentioning something about it being a sign of rank - there is a disparity among folic fetishization fairly focused [editor's note: Alliteration Achievement awarded] on file. I don't know how much truth there is to that - but moustaches are quite common.

From Facial hair in the military:
The Canadian Forces permits moustaches, provided they be neatly trimmed, a maximum of 2 centimetres in bulk, and that the unshaven part does not pass beyond the corners of the mouth. Otherwise, the moustache must be styled horizontally and cannot go beyond the face. Generally speaking, beards are not permitted to CF personnel with the following exceptions:

Members of the navy are allowed full beards
Members of an infantry pioneer platoon (tradition)
Members who must maintain a beard due to religious requirements (Muslims, Sikhs or orthodox Jews, for example)
Members with a medical condition which precludes shaving
These exceptions notwithstanding, in no case is a beard permitted without a moustache, and only full beards may be worn (not goatees, van dykes, etc.).

Personnel with beards may still be required to modify or shave off the beard, as environmental or tactical circumstances dictate (e.g., to facilitate the wearing of a gas mask).

Beards are also allowed to be worn by personnel conducting OPFOR duties.

2 centimeters, people. Don't make me come over there with scissors.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


This is just a damn fraud:

What's next? Sunny Nut Curios? Deities?

This is Rafael Nadal against a slow server:

That's within five feet of the wall. Any further back and he'd be buying a ticket. 

Now, something all of America can agree on:

Here's something I saw in a toy store:

Last known product sale: 1957.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

I Mustache You A Question

Some of you guys won't be old enough to answer this. Well, lots of you won't be old enough, probably. Somehow, I've blown past the median.

In the 1970s, what percentage of Chevy Camaro/Pontiac Firebird owners had Burt Reynolds mustaches? Eighty percent? Ninety?

That particular mustache is called the Chevron, by the way.

A mustache is a funny bit of facial hair, at least in America, because it's only locally widespread, tied to something very specific. In the late 1970s (thanks to "Smoky and the Bandit'), it was cars. In the 1980s, it was Tom Selleck (Magnum. P.I., and I loved that show).

After that faded, I don't know. Firemen, maybe?

Now we have Movember, where men grow mustaches for the month of November to raise awareness of men's health issues.

I never jumped on the mustache bandwagon. That's something else--in America, you're either a mustache guy or a beard guy (or a neither guy). I was always a beard guy, at least for about ten years.

Here are a couple of rabbit hole articles for you:
American Facial Hair Throughout History
A Hairy History

Monday, September 04, 2017

Walter Becker, R.I.P.

I saw today that Walter Becker had passed away. 

Along with Donald Fagen, he created unique and ageless music as Steely Dan. Even after 40+ years, the music of Steely Dan is almost as fresh as the day it was recorded. 

If you want to know how unique Steely Dan was (and is), just look at their closest "relations" on Music Map: Rush, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and Boston. Music Map is usually excellent at parsing similar sounds, but none of those bands sound even remotely like Steely Dan, and on the map, they're not even located that closely. 

Nothing sounds like Steely Dan, except Steely Dan. 

Donald Fagen always received most of the attention, but Becker was a terrific musician, as well as being a fine composer and producer. If you want to hear how Becker sounded solo, I highly recommend 11 Tracks of Whack, which is an excellent album. 

One of Steely Dan's best qualities, at least for me, is how carefully every song they recorded is constructed. They are disciplined and complex, and a Steely Dan song is very tightly wound, full of little wonders if you carefully pull it apart. 

You don't have to, though. Another unique quality is that you can float along the surface of a Steely Dan song and have a great, pleasant time. They are a versatile listen. No matter how you listen, no matter what you want to find, it's inside a Steely Dan song. 

Here's their discography, and it's absolutely remarkable:
1972 Can't Buy a Thrill
1973 Countdown to Ecstasy
1974 Pretzel Logic
1975 Katy Lied
1976 The Royal Scam
1977 Aja
1980 Gaucho
2000 Two Against Nature
2003 Everything Must Go

Only two of those albums (Countdown to Ecstasy, which went gold, and Everything Must Go) didn't go platinum in the U.S. Maybe The Royal Scam is slightly weaker, and Everything Must Go (even though it's still compulsively listenable) is the weakest, by far, but that is an absolutely incredible series of albums.

Okay, I have a little treat for you here at the end. This is absolutely the most 70s music video ever, and it's Steely Dan performing "Reelin' in the Years" on the Midnight Special in 1973. You will revel in the outfits and the haircuts (and Michael Fagen's hilarious head toss), but you will absolutely stay for the music:
Reelin' in the Years.

You Know You've Gone Down A Rabbit Hole When You're Reading This

Acromegaly and gigantism in the medical literature. Case descriptions in the era before and the early years after the initial publication of Pierre Marie (1886)

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday Links!

From Glen Haag, and this is just incredible: The Babylonians discovered a strange form of trigonometry

From Les Bowman, and the lack of accountability here is downright terrifying: Investigation: Navy shipyard wasted $21 million building off-the-books police force.

From Steven Davis, and this is a fascinating story: The “Most Dangerous Architect in America” Built a House—Then It Vanished. This is quite the wonderful article: The Illustrators behind Your Favorite Children’s Books. This is an excellent read: 7 Things You Didn’t Know about Hokusai, Creator of The Great Wave.

From C. Lee, and this is both fascinating and thought-provoking: A Family-Friendly Policy That's Friendliest to Male Professors. This is a tangled and very ugly story: Medical Journals Have a Fake News Problem. This is a fascinating idea: How Mushrooms Could Repair Our Crumbling Infrastructure.

From Wally, and this is spectacular: The International Space Station just pulled off the photobomb of a lifetime. These are incredibly fun to watch: Totally Epic Demolitions. These are stunning: Daegu festival: South Korea's body art show.

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