Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Links!

From C. Lee, and this is an excellent read: Sebastian Seung’s Quest to Map the Human Brain. Also, and this is quite clever: XCOM Ballet. One more, and it's terrific: Kurt Vonnegut graphed the world’s most popular stories.

From Geoffrey Engelstein, an interview with the designer of Risk Legacy: PRACTICE 2013: Rob Daviau.

From Gridiron Solitaire Artist And Ideas Man Fredrik Skarstedt, and this is some incredible card magic: Penn and Teller Fool Us // Shin Lim.

From The Edwin Garia Links Machine, and this is an amazing discovery: Remains of English Jamestown colony leaders discovered. Also, and this is quite odd, it's Why is the US still using a Nazi tall ship?

From Steven Davis, and it's more Action Park: The world’s longest inflatable waterslide is 1/3 of a mile long.

Here's an article from Gus, written by Jonathan Quick, about elite NHL shooters: Elite Snipers 101.

Ever wanted to see the exact other side of the world from your location? Thanks to a link from Meg McReynolds, you can: Antipodr - Find the other side of the world. One more from Meg, and it's excellent: Reviewed: The CDs In The Used Car I Just Bought.

This does not sound excellent at all: AP Investigation: Olympic teams to swim, boat in Rio's filth. Also, and this is pretty fantastic, it's Sometimes the Best Photos Are the Ones That Don’t Make It Into Print.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

And Detroit is Here, Basically

We leave early Saturday morning. Gloria is staying home to take care of the tiny terror. I won't have access to my regular e-mail all week, so if you send me something, I won't respond until the 10th or later.

There's plenty of content written for next week that will auto-post while I'm gone, including a new Musiquarium from Chris Hornbostel.

Eli will be version 14.0 on Friday. It's hard to believe. And we have been so fortunate that he is still the same happy, warm kid he was ten years ago.

He's also a kangaroo. His trainer measured his vertical jump before his workout yesterday. Remember that he'd been measured after an introductory workout and his vertical was 26.5", but he was also tired.

Yesterday? 29.5". Yikes.

My vertical, when I was in college, was 29".

"I've got the family record now, old man," Eli said in the car yesterday, laughing.

"Yes, twenty-nine and a half with an asterik," I said.

"What? An asterik? Why?"

"I think Jason may have mismeasured by two to three inches," I said. "That's kind of a complicate device, and I thought I saw him make a mistake."

"Now that's just sad," Eli said, laughing.

"I'll remove the asterik when you hit thirty inches," I said. "Or when you dunk. You may dunk by the time you're fifteen."

"I may be taller than you by the time I'm fifteen," he said.

"With an asterik," I said.

Willie is Dead (your e-mail)

JL sent in an e-mail adding a new layer to the Willie is Dead e-mail:
A report on the economic reasons spam is almost certainly deliberately shoddy and unconvincing. I've seen it summarized as "if you're fishing for idiots use idiot bait."

Here's the paper: Why do Nigerian Scammers Say They are from Nigeria?

Here's an excerpt:
Far-fetched tales of West African riches strike most as comical. Our analysis suggests that is an
advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.

Framed that way, it makes perfect sense. You could apply this to almost anything.

In other news, Willie is still dead.

Ten minutes? That's Barely an Intro

Ian Jalbert saw my Starcastle and raised me Transatlantic:
Introducing the first album from the band Transatlantic (released in 2000), who began as a sidegroup of several prog rock bands:

1. "All of the Above" 
I. "Full Moon Rising" (7:11)
II. "October Winds" (5:54)
III. "Camouflaged in Blue" (5:22)
IV. "Half Alive" (2:02)
V. "Undying Love" (3:57)
VI. "Full Moon Rising (Reprise) (6:33)"   31:00

2. "We All Need Some Light" (Neal Morse) 5:45
3. "Mystery Train"   6:52
4. "My New World"   16:16
5. "In Held ('Twas) in I" (Gary Brooker/Matthew Fisher/Keith Reid, arranged by Morse/Stolt/Portnoy/Trewavas) 
I. "Glimpses of Nirvana"
II. "In the Autumn of My Madness"
III. "Look to Your Soul"
IV. "Grand Finale"   17:21

Yes, two of the tracks are split into segments because the songs are so long!   

Okay, a thirty-one minute suite as the first cut on your first album--ambitious.

I'm listening to it right now, and while I don't like it nearly as much as Starcastle, I respect the half hour:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Unsuitable for Boarding (the big little cat post) and There's Been a Starcastle Sighting

Yes, I'm combining cats and prog rock today. Stir well.

"I'm picking up Gracie today," Gloria said about noon.

"You are? That's great!" I said. She just had surgery two days ago.

"Well, not exactly," she said. "The vet said she was 'unsuitable for boarding'."

"Uh oh," I said.

"She's started howling and hissing at anyone that gets near her," Gloria said.

"Seven and a half pounds of unchained fury," I said.

Apparently, she managed to terrify everyone at the vet hospital. Behold the great beast!

Since she is apparently banned from boarding, Gloria is staying here while we go to Detroit. I think she would have stayed, anyway, because she didn't want to board her so soon after surgery. Cats are usually fine if someone comes by once a day and feeds them and cleans litter boxes, but Gracie needs closer attention right now.

I had to go pick up a few things at the pet store for Gracie's crate, and on my way home I was listening to Sirius XM--the Deep Tracks channel.

It's a great channel for hearing songs that you haven't heard in decades.

Then I heard a song and I couldn't believe it ever existed. I'd forgotten it existed, actually, but as soon as it started playing I remembered.

The band was named "Starcastle." Starcastle was a bunch of guys who thought they were in Yes combined with a keyboards player who thought he was in Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Plus sometimes the drummer thought he was in Rush.

It was ridiculous, but it was amazing, too. The first song off their first album was ten minutes long. It was ridiculous, but in sort of a great way. Who does that? Who would even try that?

It's called "Lady of the Lake."

Over ten minutes long and entirely unapologetic. You can listen to it here:
Starcastle - "Lady Of The Lake".

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Willie is Dead

The post title was the subject line of an e-mail I received yesterday.

This is my second letter to you, once more my name is Barrister LOUIS ERIK HANS I am the personal attorney to Mr. Willie who died few years ago, May his gentle soul rest in peace, Before his death, he deposited One Trunk Box/Diplomatic Personal Treasure, containing the sum of $8.700.000.00 (EIGHT MILLION SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND U.S. DOLLARS ONLY) with a security company here in The Netherlands.

Periods are in desperately short supply in the Netherlands, so expensive that only the financial elite can afford them.

I do particularly like that "Willie" refers to "Mr. Willie".


I think I've aged twenty years in the last two weeks, but the new version of GS art--absolutely all the art--has been put into place. All the coding to support it has been done. A build is out to the beta testers.

Screenshot of the new announcer panel:

The one thing I'd still like to do is revise the crowd. The little rectangles are cards themselves, ostensibly, but I don't know if anyone is buying that. Trying to make a crowd is remarkably difficult, though--the tiny size of each fan makes it very difficult to create "people" images that work in that space.


With Gracie just having had back surgery, it's looking less likely that Gloria will be going with us to Detroit (goalie camp) this year.

We always go together, so it's difficult.

"I know this is ridiculous, but I'm afraid that you guys will have a great time without me," Gloria said. "Then you'll move to Michigan by yourselves." She kept talking, and while she was talking, I pulled out my cellphone. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"Texting Eli," I said. "OPERATION WANDERER cover has been blown. Deny everything."

"Ha ha," she said.

Monday, July 27, 2015


It's utterly insane around here right now, so apologies for the small amount of content.

I'm trying to get the new test build out (just uploaded it) so the beta testers can see all the new graphics and try to break something. That's been an exhausting effort for the last week or so--for Fredrik, too, because he has tirelessly created and revised so that everything looks just right.

Plus, our poor little cat Gracie had back surgery today, believe it or not. She had been walking around with her tail down, then she couldn't control her left leg. She had a severely herniated disk in her back that resulted in 90% compression of her spinal cord (I think that's what they said).

I never said I would pay for a cat to have that kind of surgery, but she's only 10 and we all love the little annoyance. Eli 13.11 is very, very close to both our cats. So hopefully this will help stabilize her and she can resume knocking things off counters.

Eli has been a counselor in training at magic camp this summer. Today, one of his campers (who I think is about six) gave him a little puppet of himself. Have a look:

Big smile: check. Hair flow: check. Giant shoes: check. Juggling balls in hand: check.

More German Industrial Facilities Made Into Resorts

Should I have added an exclamation point to the title? I think so!

This is from Jan-Willem:
The Tropical Islands Resort isn't the only industrial facility in Germany to be made into a resort. In the '90s an unfinished nuclear reactor was turned into an amusement park named "Kernwasser Wunderland" (Nuclear Water Wonderland). It's still open, and apparently receives about 600,000 visitors per year, though they have sadly renamed it to the generic "Wunderland Kalkar". I think I saw commercials for it on Dutch tv in the early '00s, when it still had the original name.

Wunderland Kalkar (Wikipedia)
Park Website
List of Attractions

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Frank Regan, and this will always be my favorite computer, advanced for its time by almost a decade: The Amiga is 30 years old today.

From Craig Miller, and 360 degree videos are very, very cool: Samsung 360° GearVR Trailer. Also: WARCRAFT: Skies of Azeroth.

From Steven Davis, and this is both relatively useless and extravagantly wonderful: Franz Liszt’s La Campanella played on a glass harp. Next, and this is fascinating, it's Surprising Applications of the Magnus Effect. This is absolutely stunning: Red Lipstick Resurrected. I have no words for this next link: An Abandoned Indonesian Church Shaped Like a Massive Clucking Chicken. One more, and it's tremendous: 1810 – Automaton Trumpet Player – Friedrich Kaufmann (German).

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is an obscure bit of history: KLM’S ARCTIC AR-10.

From jdv, and this is a full-on Star Wars alert, discussing the use of miniatures in the prequels: Practical Effects in the Prequels- Sets, Pictures, Models, etc.

From C. Lee, and what a fascinating article: The U.S. court system is criminally unjust: How your weight and the time of day can decide the outcome of your court case. Here's how to break a car window when you're trying to save yourself, not someone else: Break a Car Window with a Headrest in an Emergency. Next, and this is important news for lots of us: A 2-Minute Walk May Counter the Harms of Sitting.

From Marc Klein, John Urschel is all kinds of awesome: For Ravens lineman John Urschel, math and football equally important.

Dogs and RISK

David Gloier sent in two notes.

First, about dogs in cars with the windows rolled up:
Please don't forget to mention dogs. If people see a dog in a car unattended, they need to break the window as well. Dogs only cool with about 10 percent of the efficiency we do, so time is even more of the essence. 

Second, on RISK Legacy:
And Risk Legacy just appeared again today in multiple online stores...apparently Hasbro did do another print run despite denying it to email requests!  Go get it! 

Bounty Train

Oh, yes.

There's an RPS post today about a new game called "Bounty Train". Here's a description from the developers:
Bounty Train is a complex, tactically challenging game. The player has to keep many balls in the air — dealing with real time skirmishes with bandits, trading good for the best prices, resource management, train optimization and keeping the line (and train) in good repair. In addition, Bounty Train confronts the player with historical events, from the onset of the Civil War to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln — and depending on player choices and performance, the course of history may be changed.

Well, I'm in. That sounds excellent. A dash of FTL in there doesn't hurt.

I'm still baffled why there aren't more games in this time period, particularly during the Gold Rush era. That's a perfect era for a game, a roguelike where you travel West to try to find your fame and fortune. Titled with appropriate foreshadowing, something like A Fortune In Gold. 

Someone make that game, would you?

RISK (your e-mail)

This is an e-mail from Braden after the RISK post last week:
If you guys are enjoying Risk, you should try and track down a copy of Risk Legacy (looks like it's getting harder to find...), which Hasbro put out a few years ago. It plays as a quicker, leaner version of classic Risk, but in a 'campaign' format, like a RPG - you play 15 times on the same board and then the game is over.

In the box are sealed compartments with different criteria to open them, as you play the game you'll be 'unlocking' more rules and cards that flesh out the world and each faction so that future games reflect past decisions. The board gets stickers placed on it by players, as well as written on permanently. At the end of 15 games no one else will have a board like yours. (you can keep playing, it just doesn't change)

I played with three of my friends over the course of a few months and it was one of the best board game experiences I've ever had. If you research it, watch out for spoilers!

Here is a good non-spoiler review:
RISK Legacy review

That review is pretty fantastic. And I received at least half a dozen e-mails recommending this version of the game, even though it's out of print.

We were actually playing RISK Black Ops, because Julian Murdoch--in one of the nicest moments ever--got me a copy  (it was a limited edition with only 1000 printed). I'd been sitting on it for years, waiting for Eli 13.11 to be interested.

We play a strange variant, though. Unless one of Eli's friends is over, we play four-person with just the two of us and have a country draft. So you can get in odd situations where you need to attack one of your two selves in order to secure needed territory. What it does do is make a two-person game much, much more interesting.

We don't actually use some of the rules in this edition of the game, but the addition of cities is a major improvement and we do use them.

I'd forgotten how much fun I had playing RISK in high school. It's just nice time, moving armies around, rolling dice, and talking smack.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kids in Cars

I saw a video this morning about what to do when you see a kid inside a locked car with no adult around. Because it takes five minutes, I'm going to save you about three minutes and summarize it for you.

First off, you don't have much time. The temperature in a car can rise over 20F in five minutes. Locked cars parked in sunlight can reach temperatures of 170F, incredibly.

Babies and small children aren't able to regulate their body temperatures as well as adults, so they're basically helpless in a situation where temperatures are rising rapidly.

Here's the important part. If you need to break a window (and if you can't find the parent immediately, you might well have to), don't waste your time pounding on the center of a window. That's where it's strongest.

Instead, run to your car and get a tire iron. Go to the opposite side of where the child is sitting. Hit the window where you see the red dot below:

That corner/low spot is the weakest part of the window. If you hit the window in the center with a tire iron, it will still take many attempts before the window breaks. If you hit in the very low corner as illustrated, you can do it with one or two swings, usually.

I haven't seen anything about kicking in the window, but if there's no tool or anything else available, at least aim for the correct spot to give yourself a better chance.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Adam Sandler was on the Dan Patrick Show today.

Okay, I know Sandler's movies aren't really good anymore (some of the early ones were at least a guilty pleasure), but everyone says he's the nicest guy in Hollywood, and that counts for something. Anyway, during the interview he was asked about his first skit for Saturday Night Live (his first skit as an actor--he was also a writer).

It was called Sabra Price is Right.

It was also incredible. Not for how funny the skit was, but because of the people in the skit:
Tom Hanks
Chris Farley
Chris Rock
Mike Meyers
Rob Schneider
Adam Sandler

I stopped watching SNL at least twenty years ago, but the concentration of talent on the show has, at times, been staggering.

Manuals (Blasts From The Past)

Tim Lesnick sent in these images last week:

Now that's a set of manuals that brings back memories. And the cloth map was fantastic!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gridiron Solitaire #201: Screenshots of new version

Gloria and Eli 13.11 were in Shreveport Thursday-Sunday, so I had a window to put in all the new art Fredrik created in the last few months. Background screens, card decks, etc.

Putting in background screens sounds easy, but not when you have so many elements on each screen that need to be repositioned. It was a huge amount of meticulous (my least favorite) work. I didn't have a choice, though--that four-day window wasn't going to happen again, and goalie camp is coming up.

It wasn't easy, but I made it through. All background screens except one are in place now, and one of the two new card decks is in, along with all the code to support deck choice in the options menu. Fredrik is sending the other deck later today, and I requested a few small changes in the background screens.

What's left? There's a new scoreboard, and that's going to be an epic pain in the ass, because all the scoreboard elements have to be perfectly placed. Still, though, I've made a huge amount of progress, and hopefully the game looks substantially better.

Screenshots (and these are from the actual game, not mock-ups):

You'll see a little fuzziness in East/West in the next screenshot, but that's because East/West is part of the background graphic (as well as elements I place on the screen at run-time because the user can edit the division names). Fredrik's removing that and it will be clear.

Next are two offseason management screens:

That last screen, in particular, is much more dynamic than it was previously.

The button font has been finalized, but text fonts are still kind of in flux at this point (which is why you might notice that they're not completely consistent between screens.

I think a 95% complete version will be in the tester's hands before the end of this week.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Finally, and Not Surprising

Judge Approves $60 Million Settlement For NCAA Athletes In Lawsuit.

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