Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: How to make Victorian Nectar Drop candy and why are Lemon Drops called Drops? Next, and this is a terrific read, it's How Epic Fortunes Were Created During the California Gold Rush. This is incredibly interesting: Why You Never Heard About the Largest Disaster in Maritime History. Battle of Jutland fans, this is for you: The Battle of Jutland Animation.

From Wally, and this is hilarious (and the comments below the article are even funnier): Neighbors said to fear 'transient academics'. Next, and this is fantastic: 20 Gifs That Teach You Science Concepts In Seconds. Here's the Japanese version of Enigma: Purple. Next, and this is excellent: These Lizards Have Been Playing Rock-Paper-Scissors for 15 Million Years. This is excellent, too: New York’s Elevators Define The City.

From Steven Kreuch, and this is so outstanding: This is SEGA TEST (1996).

From Jim Bradley, and this is so entirely delightful: Woman’s pure joy over Chewbacca mask goes viral.

From 3Suns, and this is a long read, but it's very interesting: HYPER VISION: The world’s hottest startup isn’t located in Silicon Valley—it’s in suburban Florida. KEVIN KELLY explores what Magic Leap’s mind-bending technology tells us about the future of virtual reality. And a related video: The Untold Story of Magic Leap, the World's Most Secretive Startup.

From Brian Witte, and this is fascinating: Mapping touch to sight takes time to learn.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


One of my best friends told me earlier this week that his daughter (18, ultra-high achiever, freshman in college in some kind of honors program) was still having post-concussion symptoms two months after an idiot on a snowboard hit her from behind on a snow slope during spring break.

I know I talked about this when Eli had his concussion four years ago, but it's worth repeating, because if you or someone you know has a concussion, there are a few incredibly important procedures that need to be followed.

My friend's daughter did none of these things, because she went to an emergency clinic right next to the slopes, and the information they gave her was not very helpful. So she went right back into high-volume studying, etc., and her recovery was delayed by months. She still hasn't recovered.

First off, and this is the most important, by far: for the first 48-72 hours, your brain needs complete rest. Turn off your phone. No videogames. No reading. No music. Have your living area as dark as possible. If you have to watch something, watch Noggin (the preschool children's network) at half brightness and half volume.

Does that sound excessive? It's not. Your brain is trying to heal itself, and you need to remove every bit of stimulus you can.

After that first critical period, the key thing to remember is that you don't reintroduce anything all at once. Once you resume an activity, you resume it for a much, much lower period of time. If that goes okay, you can very gradually increase the time each day.

It's the same for physical activity. You walk, then you walk faster, then you lightly jog, but you don't do more than one particular step on a single day. If you have any symptoms, you don't go back down the ladder by one day--you go back to the very beginning.

That's a real key. No matter the activity, if you're gradually stepping it up and you start having symptoms (headaches, sensitivity to  light or noise, trouble focusing, any spatial issues), you immediately go back down to zero activity until you're symptom-free, then you start back at day one.

Don't screw around with this. If the post-concussion recovery isn't managed correctly, you open yourself up to symptoms continuing for months or even years.

The other important thing--especially for kids, since this is fairly readily available--is to do some baseline testing that establishes the normal level of brain functioning/mental ability. Something like ImPACT testing, or something similar.

When you have a baseline, it's easy to take the test post-concussion and see when normal mention function has resumed--or, if it hasn't, what areas are still deficient. Particularly for kids on team sports that involve checking/tackling, etc., it helps you understand when it's safe for them to resume practice.

I'll say it again: don't screw around with this.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oculus Rift: The Indifference

It should be an indication of how much we've been using Oculus Rift that it's taken me weeks to write this.

That's not a terminal disapproval or anything; time and life and what have gotten into the way. But I both find Oculus Rift extremely compelling and not worth bothering with very often at the same time.

Eli 14.9 is the same way, although he has finals this week and studying is mostly what he's doing now. Well, except for goofing around on a track last Friday and running an 11.6 100 meters (with a truly terrible start, too).

Truly, I don't have one substantial complaint about OR. The retail package is totally slick. The installation (for me) was terrible, but no one else seems to have had that experience. The games themselves have been quite impressive. In a few cases (Apollo 11 VR, in particular), I've been truly awed.

Still, though, I'm not using it much.

For Eli, the awe experience was with The Climb, and he played it for several nights in a row. Then he, too, just fell off and kind of forgot about it all.

So it's puzzling, really. I find nothing factual to complain about, but I'm still not compelled, even though I feel like I should be.

I'll keep you updated as I try out new programs over the next few months. Maybe I just need one in particular to really grab me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Playing Football

Ross Tucker was the guest host on the Dan Patrick Show today, and there was a discussion about youth football. It was focused on concussions, but Ross (who was a journeyman guard in the NFL) asked the Danettes if any of them had regretted not playing organized football.

I did play organized football--once--and there's a story. I've probably told you this before, but after nearly fifteen years, who can even remember?

I was a huge football fan growing up. HUGE. I wanted to play football so bad. In our extremely small town, though, there was no youth football until sixth grade, and that was just a few practices and one game.

No matter. I couldn't wait for sixth grade.

For some reason (I think it was a tight end on the Packers, maybe), I wanted to be a tight end. This was good because every single other kid wanted to be a running back, a wide receiver, or quarterback. So I got my pick of position.

That's good. Other things, though, weren't so good.

For one, I was skinny. Fast, but really, really skinny. So skinny that when I put on my helmet and pads for the first time, it felt like they weighed more than I did.

And hot! You cannot imagine how hot it is in Corpus Christ, Texas, in September, and how humid. Wearing a football helmet and pads made it feel like my body temperature was four thousand degrees.

I could have gotten past all this, though. After all, it was football.

On the first day of practice, the first drill we did was the Nutcracker. That's a drill where two kids face each other about five yards away, with the rest of the team lined up close on each side.

The objective of the drill? Run into that other kid at top speed and destroy him. Seriously, if you knocked the other kid out the coaches would laugh and pat you on the back.

Good hit, boy. Maybe you've got a future.

So I faced off in the Nutcracker against Mike Hall, who weighed twice what I weighed and was probably five times as strong. I was faster than he was, but when you're in such a small area, speed means nothing. Plus, the express purpose of the drill is to NOT avoid the other player.

I think I might have juked when I ran toward him. Hell, I must have done something. But all I remember is him hitting me in the chest with his helmet at approximately two hundred miles an hour and my entire body disintegrating.

I didn't black out or anything. But there was the kind of pain that comes from an explosive hit. It consumes your body, for at least a few seconds. Your brain is paralyzed.

I'd never been hit like that before. And I knew, immediately, that I never wanted to get hit like that again.

I played through the rest of the practices, and played in the game (where we threw exactly zero passes, so all I did was run block on every play).

It wasn't much fun, really.

After that game, I hung up my helmet for good. Canton never called.

Supplement to Fighting Eleven Design

Selecting your deck before each game, so if you have fifteen "player" cards on the team, you can choose twelve before each game.

Downside: slows things down.

Upside: you can tailor your deck to the team you're playing that week.

That was suggested by one of you guys, by the way, and it's excellent.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fighting Eleven College Football #1: Okay, This Would Work

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about an idea I had for a college football game.

The basic premise: play an entire season in 15 minutes. Recruiting mini-game, plus individual games resolving at the quarter level instead of the play level. Individual games would play in less than 90 seconds.

However, I had a problem, and it was a big one: individual games were hot garbage. Resolving a game at the quarter level just doesn't work.

If there's a points card that each player bids on, it "works" in the sense that a final score results after four rounds, but it has nothing to do with football. Everything at the quarter level, no matter the rules, felt nothing like football.

Well, that won't work, obviously.

Resolving a single game in less than 90 seconds only works if there's a football feel. Without that, it's just a random card game with images of football on top. Those images could be Vikings or giraffes or whatever--there's no actual connection to anything.

So I thought about that, and thought about it some more, and then got pissed off at myself because I couldn't solve this little problem that was much bigger than it originally seemed.

Saturday, I sat in a car in a parking lot for three hours. It was a nice day outside, not hot, and I needed to pick up Eli 14.9 from a school event at a certain time, so I just went ridiculously early and stared at my design notebook for a long, long time.

Then, suddenly, I realized what was wrong.

Resolving by quarter doesn't resemble football because it's not football. Quarters are just a way to organize time.

The next level up from resolution at the play level isn't resolution by quarter--it's resolution by drive. The drive is a fundamental part of football.

Once I realized that, ideas started coming very quickly. It only took about forty-five minutes to sketch out a rough design for the in-game mechanics.

Instead of trying to summarize it and inevitably skipping some stuff, you can just look at the whole thing here (click for the full-sized image):

This actually feels like football, and using the "players" you recruit in the game gives a direct connection to the value of the recruiting process. You'll develop a much more personal relationship with your players.

There is a ton of work left to do on the design, but I think at the conceptual level this makes complete sense. So I think this is the correct approach, and I think it will be much, much simpler to get a prototype running than it was with Gridiron Solitaire.

If you have ideas, send them. I didn't involve you guys in Gridiron because I hadn't done a game before--didn't even know how to program--and I was incredibly self-conscious about saying "Hey, I'm making a game!" until I had an actual game to show. This time, though, I'm not concerned about any of that, and the game will be much better if I incorporate your ideas as development goes along.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Links!

This is the strongest week of links we've had in a long, long time.

Leading off this week, and this is an utterly fascinating article. Who knew that the history of sumo was so rich in data? The Sumo Matchup Centuries In The Making.

Wally appears later, as he usually does, but this is a tremendous, mandatory read: Looking For Tom Lehrer, Comedy’s Mysterious Genius.

From jdv, and this is a beautifully written, heartbreaking article: The cave divers who went back for their friends.

Who knew Nigeria was a Scrabble hotbed? For World’s Newest Scrabble Stars, SHORT Tops SHORTER: Nigerian players dominate tournaments with the surprising strategy of playing short words even when longer ones are possible.

From C. Lee, and this guy is a complete badass: Listen up: James West forever changed the way we hear the world. Also, and I'm going to let him describe this: this YouTube channel interviews Japanese creators from a number of fields and has them give a tour of the places that inspired their work. Here's Swery65, creator of Deadly Premonition: Swery65. Also, Kenji Kawai, who scored Ghost in the Shell: Kenji Kawai.

From Steven Davis, and the detail here is just staggering:
Peter Jackson's Massive Gallipoli Diorama Part I
Peter Jackson's Massive Gallipoli Diorama Part II
Peter Jackson's Massive Gallipoli Diorama Part III

Also from Steven, and the numbers on Curry are just ridiculous: The Year of Steph Curry. Plus an absolutely terrifying mixtape: MVP Stephen Curry’s Ultimate Career Mixtape (2016), Do you know who Steph Curry reminds me of? Pete Maravich without the turnovers.

From Marc Klein, and this is provocative: Why you shouldn't exercise to lose weight, explained with 60+ studies. Also, and this is a mesmerizing read: My secret life as a high-functioning drug user.

From Wally, and this is utterly clever: How to complain about your Internet provider. Also, and this is a terrific read, it's The Curious Case of the Weapon that Didn’t Exist. Quite aggressive, really: Crazy squirrel stalks selfie woman. These are beautiful images: The places the world forgot.

From David Yellope, and this is quite the headline: Japanese vagina kayak artist found guilty of obscenity.

From Brian Witte, and this is fascinating: The Mind-Boggling Challenge of Designing 120-sided Dice.

From Jeff Fowler, and this is quite fantastic (it's in the style of a James Bond title sequence): Star Wars - Episode V “The Empire Strikes Back” Homage (Title Sequence).

From Meg McReynolds, and this is incredibly interesting: A Better Way to Read: In the era of attention deficits, the new text will not be black and white.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Eli 14.9, Juggling Fire

Well, passing torches that are on fire, which is even more difficult than juggling three torches on his own.

This is a phone video sent through something or other, so the quality is poor, but you can still see what's going on. Man!


One of Gloria's friends took this picture last weekend, and it's just beautiful. Click for the full-sized version.

What's Wrong, Accuweather, is Your Second-by-Second Forecast Not Available?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

And Fixed, Apparently

Through random Googling, I stumbled onto a link that is the actual Asus fix for my specific issue. Which no one on earth would have thought to try--well, very few people on earth, anyway.

I did have a quite interesting conversation with the photographer, who used to be a Radio Shack manager in the late 80s. I'll tell you about that tomorrow.


I shut down my system last night when I heard fierce rumblings in the distance.

This morning, I turned it on and saw this in a red box on the center of my screen:
Invalid signature detected. Check Secure Boot Policy in Setup.

Every Google result I see on this indicates that Windows Update screws something up and then this message appears out of nowhere. Also, that disabling secure boot in the BIOS might fix it, which I'll try as soon as the photographer is done taking pictures of our house.

In the meantime, I'm working on the Surface on a ping pong table in the garage, with two cats in their carriers beside me, worrying that they must be going to the vet because that's the only reason they get put in their carriers.

Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and heard a man in his sixties talking to (probably) his mother, who was in her eighties. I didn't hear the entire phrase, but what I caught was "...a monstrosity of women."

Immediately I wondered: is this an actual thing? Is it similar to a murder of crows or a cast of falcons? A parliament of owls, perhaps?

What would the equivalent phrase be on the male side, anyway? A bro of men?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Here's some dialogue I heard while listening to Radio Classics on Sirius XM last week. "M" is the man and "W" is the woman.

W: What do they call you?

M: Which they?

W: Your friends.

M: My friends call me Speed.

W: Why do they call you Speed?

M: Because I like to get places.

W: I like to go places.

M: It's the same thing.

W: Maybe it is, Speed. Maybe it is.

I can only hope that actual people talked like this.

Monday, May 16, 2016


There are lots of these around the house:

We're not actually moving until the second half of June, but since the house goes on the market this week, lots of stuff has to get removed as part of the effort to make the house look as large as possible.

Pre-packing actually works really well. I'll be almost mostly done packing for the move by the end of this week, which will make the actual move a little less stressful as it gets closer.

As I looked at this unformed box this morning, a question struck me: who invented the cardboard box?

Yes, a question you never knew you wanted answered. Until now!

From Wikipedia:
The first commercial paperboard (not corrugated) box was produced in England in 1817. Cardboard box packaging was made the same year in Germany. The Scottish-born Robert Gair invented the pre-cut cardboard or paperboard box in 1890 – flat pieces manufactured in bulk that folded into boxes.

Also, and this is from Today I Found Out (which is an excellent and interesting website, by the way):
The Scottish-born Robert Gair owned a paper bag factory in Brooklyn. In 1879, a pressman at his factory didn’t see that the press rule was too high and it reportedly cut through thousands of small seed bags, instead of creasing them, ruining them all before production was stopped and the problem fixed.

Gair looked at this and realized if sharp cutting blades were set a tad higher than creasing blades, they could crease and cut in the same step on the press. While this may seem like an obvious thing, it’s not something any package maker had thought of before. Switching to cardboard, instead of paper, this would revolutionize the making of foldable cardboard boxes. You see, in the old way, to make a single sheet folding box, box makers would first score the sheets using a press, then make the necessary cuts with a guillotine knife by hand.  Needless to say, this made mass producing foldable boxes prohibitively expensive.

In Gair’s new process, he simply made dies for his press such that the cutting and creasing were accomplished all in one step. With this modification, he was able to cut about 750 sheets in an hour on his press, producing about the same amount in two and a half hours on one single press as his entire factory used to be capable of producing in a day.

Also, as a bonus from Today I Found Out, the story of one of the rarest movies in history (in terms of people who have actually seen it): Jerry Lewis and the Crying Clown.

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