Monday, July 06, 2015

Make Better Decisions, #17

Yeah, apologies for the aspect ratio.

We were eating at Krispy Kreme Sunday morning, and I looked out the window and saw a kind of burly guy sitting in the outdoor area.

Then I noticed his dog.

He had a little dog standing on his lap (look above his left shoulder), and they were the most peaceful couple I've ever seen. I watched them for at least five minutes, and neither one of them moved the entire time. Just hanging out together.

This was a good decision.

What was not a good decision were the shoes. Eli 13.11 identified those as vertical leap trainers, and I believe he's correct, because both shoes appear to have the same sole/midsole height.

This was not a good decision.*

*if he's wearing those shoes for some kind of medical reason, though, bad decision claim withdrawn. In that case, nothing to see here, and enjoy your small companion, sir.

Wanted: The Musical Mystery Tour

In the last few years, I think I've come to understand that most of the vital and vibrant music in rock history was made in the 1960s.

Of course, there's lots more good stuff beyond that point, but the 1960s was just incredibly dense with great music. Thanks to Chris Hornbostel and his terrific Musiquarium pieces, I pay more attention when I'm listening to music now, and I'm starting to better understand how much rock music was connected in the 1960s.

What I'd really like to do, though, is learn more.

What I'd like is a curated music tour, and why isn't anyone doing this? Think of how many interesting questions a program like this could answer. What were the most common elements of rock music in the 1960s? Geographically, where was most rock music being created, and how did that affect the sound? How did the Beatles influence absolutely everyone, and what were the most common kinds of influence? More specifically, what did Sgt. Pepper due to the course of rock music? What groups did musician XYZ play in during his career, and how did he influence the groups he joined?

There are hundreds or thousands of interesting questions about rock music history, and it would be so much fun to listen to a podcast where the songs were played and then deconstructed in terms of whatever the theme is for that show.

Looking at you on this one, Chris.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Friday Links!

This is a staggering piece of data visualization: The Racial Dot Map: One Dot Per Person for the Entire U.S.

Next, from C. Lee, and this is incredibly sad: The Atlantic Slave Trade in Two Minutes.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and man, this is special: Road to the Stars (1957). Here's a brief description from the YouTube page:
Road to the Stars (Russian: Дорога к звёздам) is a 1957 Soviet film directed by Pavel Klushantsev. It combines elements of science education films and speculative science fiction. The film was groundbreaking for its use of special effects to depict life in space.

The film was far ahead of its time in terms of cinematic special effects. In particular, it shows wheel-shaped space station eleven years before Kubrick's famous film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

From Steven Davis, and this is amazing: 142mph Serve - Racquet hits the ball 6000fps Super slow motion. Also, and this is stunning, it's Amazing wrist-worn kinetic sculptures: not your average wristwatches!

From Meg McReynolds, and this is both hilarious and true, it's The 2015 Running of the Interns. Also, and this is fascinating, it's The Norse God Family Tree.

From Sirius, and we all knew this was possible: Silent and Deadly: Fatal Farts Immobilize Prey.

From Kai, and Canada is also considering its development approach in hockey (for goalies, at least): Canada needs to rethink development to compete with top nations.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this seems like a worthy experiment: A Dutch city is giving money away to test the “basic income” theory.

This is a fascinating story, if you ever wondered what life on a submarine is like (seriously, who hasn't?): Confessions Of A U.S. Navy Submarine Officer.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Wonderful, Wonderful Manual (your e-mail)

From Tim Steffes:
I too remember those days of long in the past where you'd get not only an excellently designed manual, but lots of other goodies along with it. Included is a so-so cellphone shot of my Wing Commander 1 collection, from back in the day where floppy discs were actually floppy, and games (good ones at least) included forms to mail in your discs to get the other sizes instead.

As a bonus, WC1 includes four posters that are also 'technical specs' of the ships you fly, and a manual that is actually written 'in character' as if you're reading a magazine on board the ship you spend the entire game on.

It even includes something you'll never, ever find in modern PC gaming - the comment card. 

I have its sequel around as well, but it's not quite as old-school looking as it actually has 3.5 inch discs in it (but I did buy a 'speech pack' instead for the game, as things like 'sound cards' and such were just becoming a thing for IBM PC Compatibles). Also, Wing Commander 3 was never on disc that I know of simply because it was absolutely filled with FMV (and very well done FMV at that). CD only.

Since I saw you mention Origin in your last story, as well as ancient PC gaming, I figured I might as well show off some little treasure of mine from that era.

One last bit - some of the screenshots on the back of the box, as well as on the front itself, are doctored or preproduction pictures (mostly there's something wrong with all of the screenshots of you in the cockpit). Everything else is real though.

I've mentioned this before, but I played Wing Commander on the 3DO (it was titled "Super Wing Commander"), and it was just fantastic. The 3DO version was CD-based, and it was substantially enhanced (both graphically and with full speech) from the original PC version. But I don't think I got all that cool stuff.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Wonderful, Wonderful Manual

Tim Lesnick's pictures reminded me of how much I miss manuals.

Actually, I miss the entire unboxing experience, really. Playing a game in the old days was a process, not booting the game and playing within fifteen seconds. Open the box carefully, because some of the boxes were works of arts in themselves. Look at the finery inside. A nice manual, at least, plus maybe a cloth map if you were fortunate. Maybe even a coin or some kind of trinket.

I think that felt more personal to me than what we have today.

The last great box I remember (and it's been so long that I'm not sure I even remember this correctly) was Morrowind. A wonderful game, obviously, but so was the box. A beautiful manual, and I think a second book about Tamriel. Plus a lovely cloth map and a coin.

And if that's all wrong, I do have pleasantly enhanced memories, apparently.

There was just something about a well-written, entertaining manual that let you know the developers cared about their game. It established a relationship with you before the game was even booted up.

Thinking about manuals led me, strangely, to the end of Origin and games like Strike Commander. I'm still very sorry that no one wrote a book about the development process of Strike Commander, which came on 11 3.5" floppies. Just installing it took over half an hour. Also, if I remember correctly, it ran like total ass unless you had a supercomputer and an inconceivable amount of memory.

There was another Origin game that came on 20+ 5.25" floppies. I'm guessing it was Wing Commander III, but (again) I'm probably mistaken.

Eli 13.11 has no idea what it's like to sit down and read a manual and get thoroughly excited about a game. I'm hoping that will happen for him at least once.

A Blast From The Past

Look what Tim Lesnick sent me:

That's right. 5.25" floppies.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Easy Day

Eli 13.11 and I work out in the upstairs section of a hockey rink. It's a dedicated workout area, and that's where we do the workout I described a few weeks ago.

I do 1/3 of what he does. Seriously. And I'm sore the next day.

Eli had been sick for a couple of days last week, and when we go to the rink, I expected him to go at less than full speed. Told him that, even. I figured we'd go at about 80%, have a nice dinner after, and go home.

He was warming up when an AHL player we know (who is the nicest, most courteous guy on the planet) walked upstairs.

Eli looked at me and got a huge smile on his face.

This fellow used to play for the Texas Stars, then signed with another organization last summer, but still comes to Austin to do his offseason work. We've seen him work out before, and he works hard. HARD.

So even though Eli had been sick, it was clear that this was going to be no 80% workout.

After skipping rope, I stretched out the tape measure for the standing broad jump, which is one of the favorite things we do now. Three jumps.

On my second jump, I jumped 7'2". Boom (for me, anyway, as an old man).

Eli threw down this sequence:

Utterly ridiculous. I think Eli was jumping with the hope that he was being watched. He wasn't, but what an incentive--having an AHL guy working out within thirty feet of you.

Here's one of the super not-normal things he does: one-legged squats on a balance ball.

In other recent news, he may be training with the trainers who will forever be known as the "Oh, SHIT!" guys. It seems like a good fit.

They did an "evaluation" workout yesterday. Vertical leap measured at 27" (that was after he worked out--I'm guessing it's a little better than that when he's fresh). He jumped onto a 42" high platform from a standing start.

Plus, they interviewed him.

One of the trainers/coaches asked "What is your goal? What is your true goal?"

Eli said, "I want to be the best goalie and the best person that I can be."

Good answer.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Well, Hell: Contest Won In Record Time, Story Attached

Jaby Jacob let me know that the quote is, indeed, on Google. Of course it's on Google.

Jaby wins the contest, since he was the first to e-mail, and here's the story. I've taken this from Fordlandia, Greg Gandin's brilliant investigation into Henry Ford's Fitzcarraldo-esque attempt to build a rubber plantation and "American civilization" in the Brazilian rainforest.

It's a brilliant book, both for the main river of content and all the little tributaries that pop up. The most interesting, to me, concerns Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian who was instrumental in development of both the dirigible and the airplane.

Here's the story, and it's haunting:
Villares probably didn't welcome the scandal’s publicity. Yet for the nephew of Alberto Santos-Dumont, who Brazilians insist was robbed of the credit for inventing the airplane, there were worse fates than to be known as the man who bested Ford. Claiming to be suffering a nervous breakdown, Villares, induced by “threats, together with the payment of a sum of money”— both courtesy of Governor Bentes— boarded a steamer headed for France to retrieve his aviator uncle, who really had suffered an emotional collapse. 

The disappointment of Alberto Santos-Dumont’s life was not that he didn’t get credit for inventing flight, though he did resent that the Wright brothers won all the acclaim. His real heartbreak was that he lived long enough to see the machine he helped develop be used as an instrument of death. Santos-Dumont wasn’t an ideological pacifist like Henry Ford, but he did hope that airplanes would knit humanity closer together in a new peaceful community, just as Ford had believed that his car, along with other modern machinery, could bring about a warless world and a global “parliament of man.” Both were of course proven wrong by World War I, which broke the conceit of many like Ford and Santos-Dumont that technology alone would usher in a new, higher stage of civilization. “I use a knife to slice gruyere,” Santos-Dumont said when war broke out in Europe, “but it can also be used to stab someone. I was a fool to be thinking only of the cheese.” 

Ford dealt erratically with the fact that, after all his high-handed opposition to World War I, he turned his factories over to war production. He continued to speak out provocatively against war, maintaining his position that soldiers were murderers and quoting Tennyson’s “Locksley Hall” to the end of his days. Yet Ford’s faith in America as a revitalizing force in the world led him to say that he would support another war to do away with militarism. “I want the United States to clean it all up,” he said. No wonder the Topeka Daily Capital said that Ford put the “fist in pacifist.” 

Santos-Dumont, in contrast, was crippled by just his mere association to a machine that was used for mass murder. He held himself “personally responsible for every fatality” caused by his “babies,” that is, airplanes. “He now believes that he is more infamous than the devil,” commented a friend. “A feeling of repentance invades him and leaves him in a flood of tears.” 

After the war he vainly called on governments and the League of Nations to “demilitarize’ the airplane (a call that the surviving Wright brother, Orville, didn’t support. Orville invoked a different kind of technological utopianism, insisting instead that the plane itself “has made war so terrible that I do not believe any country will again care to start a war”). But the slaughter continued, and death from above became a constitutive fact of modern life. Britain, for instance, encouraged by Minister of War and Air Winston Churchill, regularly bombed and strafed Arabs as a way of maintaining cost-effective control over its colonies. And on July 16, 1927, just a week after Ide and Blakeley arrived in Belém, US marines in Nicaragua staged their first dive-bombing campaign, against the rebel Augusto Sandino. Marine pilots descended to three hundred feet to fire four thousand rounds of ammunition and drop twenty-seven bombs on anything that moved. Hundreds were killed in the slaughter. 

Throughout the 1920s, Santos-Dumont found himself checking in and out of various European sanatoriums, refusing to eat and losing weight. Death seemed to pursue him. Persuaded by his nephew Jorge to return to Brazil, Santos-Dumont arrived home a hero. A dozen of Brazil’s leading politicians, intellectuals, and engineers boarded the Santos-Dumont, a bimotored seaplane, to meet the steamship that carried the flyer and his nephew as it entered Rio’s harbor. But celebration turned to tragedy when one of the plane’s motors exploded, plunging its passengers and crew members to their deaths and Santos-Dumont deeper into depression. When the ship landed at the quay, the aviator was “greeted with profound silence by the multitude.” 

And the killing continued. War broke out in early 1932 between Bolivia and Paraguay over a stretch of worthless, hellishly hot scrubland thought to hold oil. It was a fully mechanized slaughter, with both sides borrowing copious amounts of money from foreign banks and petroleum companies to purchase tanks and planes. By the time it was over, more than a hundred thousand Bolivians and Paraguayans were dead. That same year, after witnessing the aerial bombing of his beloved city of São Paulo by federal forces putting down a regional revolt, Santos-Dumont committed suicide. Having sent his nephew Jorge out on an errand, he spoke his last words to an elevator operator as he returned to his room to hang himself: “What have I done?” 


Google has ruined obscure knowledge contests, obviously.

However, after not having one for years, though, I have a quote that isn't found in Google.

This quote is from a man who surely had one of the most poignant lives in history, filled with brilliance, pain, and tragedy.

Here's the quote: "I was a fool to be thinking only of the cheese."

Who said it?

Oh, and don't bother with wild guesses. I 100% guarantee you will be incorrect.

What's the prize? $25 in Steam games of your choice.

I'll put up the answer tonight, if anyone has answered correctly. And I'll tell you the story, too, which--as I said--is poignant and terribly sad.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Links!

Sorry, a little light this week, but there's some good stuff here.

Opening up, this is audacious and spectacular: In pictures: 3D art in China's rice paddy fields.

From Sirius, and this is fantastic: Smithsonian Digitizes & Lets You Download 40,000 Works of Asian and American Art.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and man, this is incredibly useful: How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again. Also, and you cannot watch this video without laughing, it's When you're having a bad day... then your jam comes on.

From 3Suns, and this is amazing: What the abandoned Silverdome looks like 13 years after the Detroit Lions left. Also, and this is a terrific arrangement: Miguel Rivera - Beat It (Michael Jackson) - Solo guitar. Also, and this is hilarious, it's Meanwhile I can't even stretch correctly.

From C. Lee, and these are amazing images: The American civil war then and now.

From Jim Bradley, and I rode yesterday, so I can really appreciate the skill here: Unicycle Hockey.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is INSANE: Isle of Man TT Sidecar Race Compilation. Also, and this is outstanding, it's Big Pun Bird. Also, and this is a fascinating presentation of data: The Arrogance of Space - Paris, Calgary, Tokyo.

Well, this is certainly something: Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?

Thursday, June 25, 2015


The same lady has been cutting my hair for almost 30 years.

She's also been cutting the hair of the husband of one of Gloria's best friends for that long. I always get updates about what's going on with them from the haircutter, and I assume she gives him the same updates about us.

Today, we actually ran across each other.

He'd just gotten his hair cut, and I was next. It was great to see him.

"Hey, I saw Bert today," I said when I got home.

"What?" Gloria asked. "Getting his hair cut?"

"Yep," I said. "I was right after him."

"How long did you talk?" she asked.

"Fifteen minutes," I said. "I'm comfortable with one minute for every year I haven't seen someone, and I hadn't seen him in fifteen years." Eli 13.10 started laughing. "With some people, I'm comfortable pushing that to ninety seconds per year," I said.

A Nice Guy Moment

Good friends of ours moved to Chicago a few weeks ago, and last week, they were at O'Hare Airport.

So was Jonathan Toews, Captain of the Chicago Blackhawks and fresh off winning another Stanley Cup.

He took a picture with them.

That may not seem like much, but I think hockey players do it more often than players in any other team sport. And it was awesome.

Sorry, I'm not posting the picture for privacy reasons, but I've seen it, and everyone (including Toews) has a huge smile on their face.

Oh, and here's the funny part: Eli's friend, who is a few months younger than Eli and absolutely huge, is as tall as Toews. He even looks slightly taller in the picture.

He's also a goalie, and there must be something in the water down here, because he's 6'1", there's another goalie who is 14 and 6'0", and Eli is 5'9" and growing like crazy.

This is abnormal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Mutability of Music (more of your e-mail)

From Daniel:
Michael's response was an interesting angle, and I'd like to expand upon it.

I think his concept of "performance" is incomplete.  I think all forms of art include "covers".

The success of the Da Vinci Code launched a wave of "covers".  Bookshelves were filled with novels about a smart professor-type who stumbles across an age-old mystery solved by re-examining real legends and historical artifacts.  (National Treasure is basically a film cover of the Da Vinci Code).

The success of Harry Potter launched a wave of "chosen kid discovers secret world hidden in the real world where he has special powers".  Percy Jackson is probably one of the most notable.

New Sherlock Holmes books are still being written, so are new James Bond novels.

All that said, there is an interesting challenge when understanding the concept of a cover.

How do you view the cover of a song like Jonathan Coulton's "Baby Got Back", where he takes the words but otherwise completely re-invents the song?  

And how does that compare to The Shakespeare Manuscript, which is literally a paint-by-numbers copy of the Da Vinci Code (lost secret, cover-up, clues hidden in artifacts, race to discover the truth, 'shocking' betrayal of major character)?

Is the art the principles underlying it?  Or the execution?  Is there much difference between Dave Matthews selling 50 CDs of different recordings of the same damn songs and Dan Brown selling 4 books that all follow the exact same plot? (I'm really being hard on poor Mr. Brown here, but the example stands).

This brings something to mind that I hadn't thought of originally: the accessibility of mutability.

Mutability is easier to explore in music because it's song-focused. An interesting cover of an existing song is probably 3-5 minutes in length. A book, though, is a many-hour investment of time. So mutability is certainly more accessible in music, which may have influenced my perception of its frequency.

There are occasionally full album tributes, though. Dub Side of the Moon is pretty fantastic as a reggae tribute to Dark Side of the Moon (you can listen to it here), and my favorite version of Holst's The Planets is Tomita's electronic version. They just take a huge amount of time to create.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


From Chris, who saw this in a Reddit thread:
Thailand. They put water soluble paint on the bottom of the jet skis the tourists hire. It looks fine when you pick it up but then the paint comes off when your using it revealingly a bunch of scratches on the hull. When you return it they point to all the scratches, say you must have run over something, and keep your deposit.

The bottom gets painted again and they wait for the next sucker.

Different country, but that sounds exactly the same.

I don't think that's indicative of most people in Thailand (or anywhere else), but there are people everywhere who will seek every advantage, legal or not.


One of my buddies took his family on a vacation to St. John this week as a graduation present for his daughter (who is an absolutely great kid).

St. John, in case you didn't know, is a small island just east of Puerto Rico, and one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"It's like paradise," he said, the day they got there.

This morning, he called.

"Do you know any good personal injury lawyers?" he asked.

Here's what happened. They boarded a ferry that eventually ran onto a reef. He was asleep in his car, and his knees got slammed badly enough that he's only able to walk with quite a bit pain. His wife was cut in several places, and it was awful all around. Now the lawyers for the ferry company are hounding him about signing a release, which he is clearly not stupid enough to do.

Wait, there's more.

Yesterday, his daughter and her boyfriend took out some rented kayaks, came back after several hours, and the the person operating the shop tried to charge them an outrageous amount of money for "scratches" on the bottom of the kayak.

"Why the hell would anybody care if the bottom of a kayak is scratched?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said.

"If they want to pull that crap," I said, "then they should take a picture of the bottom of the kayaks before they rent them. That sounds one hundred percent sketchy."

"I didn't pay it," he said. "The kids swore they never ran over anything, and they never showed us the bottoms before they rented them. But I got into a hell of a shouting match with the owner."

"I'm glad you found a relaxing place to take vacation," I said.

"I've had enough of paradise," he said.

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