Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Links!

From Ken Piper, and this is such a bizarre bit of history: What We've Learned from Giving Dolphins LSD. Also bizarre: Hawaii’s volcanoes: How George S. Patton took on the lava with bombs.

From Paul Meyer, and here's a Badass of the Month: Montreal WW II hero, largely unknown at home, honoured as Dutch town's saviour.

A torrent of excellent links from C. Lee:
Bach at the Burger King
To Build Truly Intelligent Machines, Teach Them Cause and Effect
Who was called 'a great cow full of ink'? (snippy authors)
Lost, stolen, blown up and fed to pigs: the greatest missing masterpieces
The Vineyard Where Retired French Soldiers Make Wine
How a Special Diet Kept the Knights Templar Fighting Fit
Google Removes 'Don't Be Evil' Clause From Its Code of Conduct
Missing microbes 'cause' childhood cancer (this is huge)

From Wally, and this is striking: Image Comics Had Seven Different Artists Color a Black & White Todd McFarlane ‘Spawn’ Drawing. An interesting bit of history: Torpedo [Sea Mine].

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Hotel House of Horrors Interlude

I know we're in the middle of a story this week, but Garret sent this to me, and it demands to be read. So here's an excellent sidebar about hotels, and I'll continue about the prospects camp on Monday.

***
Badeck Saskatchewan is one of those places that you remember vividly. A little out of the way stop-over that you remember every detail of... but has vanished into thin air like a ghost, and you begin to doubt whether or not it was ever really there. There is no trace of it on the internet, no presence, its not even on the map. I've kept an eye out for it the few times I've driven through along the same route in the intervening years... but I've never spotted it again.

Badeck was not a village, not even an unregistered hamlet. It was a roadstop somewhere an hour southeast-ish of Saskatoon consisting of a single motel (probably long since demolished) and a couple of farm houses. Only the motel sign circa 1960-odd even gave the place a name, one of those old fashioned signs with neon tubes and advertising Color TV. The only reason we stopped there was out of exhaustion and desperation.

We had been visiting family in Edmonton and were on the road back to Winnipeg, a 15 hour drive but we left late planning to stop mid-way in Saskatoon for the night. A nice easy trip home. Unfortunately when we arrived in Saskatoon the first hotel had no rooms left. Nor the second, nor the third. They called around for us, but there was not a hotel room to be found in the city thanks to the double-impact of an agricultural convention and a hockey tournament taking place that weekend. By time we decided to move on down the road it was already getting dark, and we were all exhausted and my younger sister had begun to cough.

At that age my sister had been suffering a lingering illness that by my impression seemed like it had been going on forever. When she tired she would begin to cough, and whether it was mucous or the continual dry hack it would keep her awake and unable to sleep for hours. Sometimes she would cough until she had difficulty breathing or expel that and sometimes her remaining dinner as well.

So in desperation my parents decided to stop at the next opportunity, whatever it was, just long enough to rest so that we could continue the drive the next morning.

This is when we found the Badeck Motel.

A dingy little roadside motel with and bar with a gravel lot in the middle of nowhere, not a service station or anything in sight save a couple of nearby farms. My parents procured a room as far from the bar as they could get, by planning or chance I could not say. This is not a place where I expect anyone ever came to stay intentionally. It was a place where locals came to get drunk, and if they couldn't walk out the door they could sleep it off before slinking back home.

The room stank of cigarette smoke, sour beer, and garbage as it was fortuitously located with the only window and air intakes both overlooking the overflowing dumpster behind the door to the kitchen. The thickly carpeted floor stuck to our shoes and moved of its own accord from the creatures that happened to live in it. Pulling back the covers showed sheets so filthy and stained that the covers were replaced and we were instructed to sleep in our clothes, with our shoes on, on top of the covers.

I only remember trying to sleep and failing as my sister had a difficult night coughing and retching, unable to rest and being continually disturbed by her cough, the revving of four-wheel drive vehicles in the lot outside, and the blaring music from the bar that continued until nearly 3am. What little rest we got was then broken by the kitchen doing whatever preparation work they were going to do for the day starting at 6am at which point my parents decided they were not staying another minute.

We climbed into the car, exhausted, disheveled, and itching, and left with the intent of finding breakfast and gallons of coffee somewhere further down the road.

Anywhere further down the road.

I've driven the same route a number of times in the intervening years, and I have never again seen any sign of the Badeck Motel, though I look for it every time I pass by.

Did it really happen? Was it really there?

I can't say for sure one way or another. But I do remember.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Revelations Inside Barnes and Nobles

We had time on Saturday between games, and Eli 16.10 needed a Psychology book.

He wandered off, I started looking at board games, and then I went over to where he was standing.

"This is kind of father you're stuck with," I said.

"Okay, go ahead," he said.

"I walked past the board game area, saw that they had a Hnefatafl set, and got annoyed that it was only $70, because mine cost $150."

He burst out laughing.

"Now ask me what 'Hnefatafl' is," I said.

"Okay, what is Hnefa--whatever?" he asked.

"Asymmetric chess, designed and played by Vikings," I said.

He burst out laughing again. "Oh, Dad," he said.

I wandered off and saw a ton of children's toy aisles. Barnes and Nobles looks like it's turning into one of those stores where vendors buy space to put all kinds of crap that B&N normally wouldn't carry.

Eli had been gone for quite a while, so I started looking and found him in the Spanish section. "Boy, they've really expanded the toy section," I said.

He started laughing. "I'm looking for high-level cognitive skills book--in Spanish--and you're looking for toys. Okay, that seems about right."

"And we're both happier that way," I said, laughing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Hotel

Following the weekend's theme of "nasty", the hotel was, too.

These prospect camps assign you a hotel, and it's a hotel that kicks money back to the team in exchange for the flood of occupants they receive. The problem is that these are generally not nice hotels, because the nice hotels don't need to do this.

Our hotel was built in 1964, then allegedly renovated two years ago. It wasn't a hockey hotel +, or even a hockey hotel. It was a hockey hotel -, which is pretty depressing.

I awarded it the "Best Western Most Likely To Get Robbed In", and I believe it's earned that award for several years running.

Hotels like this are just depressing. They're always cramped, they're dark, there's not much room to put anything, and they're never clean. I vow that I will never stay in a hotel like this after Eli 16.10 finishes hockey, but as long as tournaments and camps make you stay at a certain hotel, we're stuck.

On the plus side: I tipped the nice maid, and she looked like she hadn't been tipped since 1964, and that got us five bath towels each day, which we usually wind up needing.

There was a restaurant, and we went down Saturday morning for (possibly) breakfast, depending on how it looked. We walked in and it looked reasonably clean, and people were sitting at tables. "This looks okay," Eli 16.10 said, and I started walking around. "Dad!" he said (I'd give that half an exclamation mark if one existed). "Dad, what are you doing?"

I came back a few seconds later. "Eight parties seated," I said. "Zero parties eating."

"Let's go," he said. "McDonald's. Nice catch, Dad." We walked toward the lobby. "Man, that was next level," he said, laughing.

On a side note, we looked at reviews of the restaurant later, and one of the most recent ones said that a bug had been baked into their pizza.

Definitely dodged a bullet. Or a bug.

After The Emergency Apple Redemption Meeting, A Consensus was Reached


Monday, May 21, 2018

The Hierarchy of Nasty

This beauty:


I thought, at the time, that it was a custom paint job. 

"I respect that this guy owns it," I said. 

"What do you mean?" Eli 16.10 asked. 

"If you're going to paint a cougar on your car and put the word 'Hellcat' on the side," I said, "then I say go all-in and get a 'Nastie 1' personalized license plate."

"I can't argue with that," he said. 

"But there's a question," I said. "If your license plate says 'Nastie 1', how nasty are you?"

"Pretty nasty," Eli said. 

"Sure," I said, "there's some degree of nasty. But what about the guy who just has 'Nasty' custom plates? Is he nastier?"

"I'm thinking he is," Eli said. 

"Exactly," I said. "So I'd put 'Nastie 1' behind 'Nasty', 'Nasty 1', and 'Nastie'. That's quite a few nasties in front of you, relatively speaking."

"But still nasty," he said. 

"Definitely," I said. "Still nasty."

What a Weekend

The next few days are going to recount last weekend, when Eli 16.10 went to a USHL Prospects Camp with a team that will remain unnamed. Lots to unpack, and no, he's not going to the USHL.

Not yet, anyway. Hope springs eternal, as they say.

You Have One Job

I woke up this morning with Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" stuck in my head. Priority one today is getting it out of my head as soon as possible.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Links!

Leading off, and this is important to understand: How Shoddy Statistics Found A Home In Sports Research.

Here's an interesting climate-related article about my new part of the world: The Midwest Is Getting Drenched, And It’s Causing Big Problems.

From Wally, and this is an odd and almost forgotten literary genre: Turning Pages: The literary joys of juvenile delinquents. These are just amazing: 12 famous photographs recreated in tiny models. Not surprising at all, but an excellent read: Inside The Ecosystem That Fuels Amazon’s Fake Review Problem. Yeah, that's not supposed to happen: Maleficent the Dragon bursts into flames during Disney Parade. This is an excellent read: ILM Modelmakers Share Star Wars Stories and Secrets.

From Steven Davis, and it's a fascinating video hosted by a woodblock printmaker: David's Choice - Episode #6.

From Michael O'Reilly, and this is obviously wonderful (and what alliteration): Pumpkin prank perpetrator puzzle persists 20 years later.

From Ken Dean, and if you ever wondered: How It's Made - Hockey Rink.

From Roger Robar, and this is a very interesting case (I agree with the commenter who said he should be locked up for 'crimes against literacy'): The Curious Case of the Fortnite Cheater.

Excellent links, as always, from C. Lee:
How Bacteria Help Regulate Blood Pressure
How Post-Revolutionary France Grew Obsessed With Gardens and Gadgets
Own an Android Phone? You Might Not Get That Loan: Algorithms could determine our creditworthiness based on data we didn’t know was available or relevant
Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll

From Ken Piper, and this is amazing technology: Researchers Uncover Two Hidden Pages in Anne Frank’s Diary.

Closing out this week, lummoxjr sent in two excellent links. First, and I could certainly use this, it's How to Fall Asleep in 2 Minutes or Less. Also, and this is certainly good advice, it's The Eisenhower Decision Matrix: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important Tasks and Make Real Progress in Your Life.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Well of Moments

DQ Reader Lee Gaiteri (author of the phenomenal Below, has a new book coming out on Sunday, and it's called The Well of Moments.

Day one purchase for me.

Also, from May 20 to 24, the first book in the series is free: The Affix (Paranormal Curio Book One)

Lee is an outstanding writer, and "Below" was one of my favorite books last year. Can't wait for this new one.

Xbox Adaptive Controller

Holy cow, this is stunning: Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is designed entirely for players with disabilities. Here's an excerpt:
The Xbox Adaptive Controller’s simple design belies the level of depth and customization options it offers. Its rectangular frame, which is about a foot long, features two large, slightly domed buttons on its face that can be mapped to any function through the Xbox Accessories app. Because a Windows 10 PC or Xbox One will see the device as a standard Xbox One controller, it’s compatible with every game at the system level.

On the back, there’s a line of 19 3.5 mm jacks — the standard connection for assistive input devices. These are the foundation of the controller’s adaptability; each port corresponds with a different button, trigger, bumper or D-pad function of the Xbox One controller. Players can plug foot pedals, fingertip-sized microswitches, additional large buttons or other peripherals that they may already own into these ports.

There are also USB ports on either side of the unit that map to the left and right analog sticks. Kumar and Kaufman demonstrated a nunchuck peripheral manufactured by PDP, a joystick commonly used for flight simulators and a 3dRudder foot controller as plug-and-play options that are compatible with the Adaptive Controller.

I give enormous credit to Microsoft for spending the time and money developing a product that will never be profitable. It's such an enormous contribution to a part of the gaming community that never gets enough attention, or oftentimes, no attention at all.

If you normally don't click on links, this time you should. It's a Polygon article with a wealth of detail, product images, and video. It's a staggeringly versatile device, with almost infinite options in terms of customization.

I think there's an additional market for this product, and it's people like me who can't use a controller for very long anymore without their hands hurting. Mapping buttons and triggers to foot buttons and whatnot would be incredibly helpful.



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Here We Are Again

Robinson Cano (until yesterday, a future Hall of Famer) got popped for a masking agent for steroids yesterday.

Performance enhancing drugs are still a big problem in major league baseball. They're a big problem in every sport. It's a cat and mouse game where the mice have always been very, very successful.

The reason is simple: money.

Jason Giambi is the poster child for how profitable it is to cheat. He was 26, playing for the Oakland A's, and his stat line was .293/20/81. That's for a first baseman, which probably has higher power numbers than any other position. And he never showed more power in the minors.

That's who he was, a guy who was going to hit 20 home runs and 80 RBIs a season. Medium power, better batting average.

The average time for a pro athlete to start declining is age 28. So he was hitting like this near the peak of his career, athletically speaking.

Then he started taking performance enhancing drugs (lots of them). Puts on ridiculous amounts of muscle (you always hear people say "that guy can't be cheating--he trains like a maniac" when someone gets caught cheating, but one of the most important aspects of steroids is that it greatly improves your ability to recover, so you can train much harder). Two years later, he starts putting up stats lines like this:
.315/33/123
.333/43/137
.342/38/120
.314/41/122

In 1997, he was making $205,000. In 2001, he signed a 7 year, $120 million dollar contract with the Yankees.

In fairness, once his rookie deal expired, he would have made about $2 million a year. That's still one hell of a raise, though. Who wouldn't cheat with that kind of money in front of them?

The question: is there any way to stop this? Is there a way to remove the financial incentive to cheat?

Sure.

How about this? If a player tests positive for a performance enhancing drug or a drug that's in the class of masking agents used to hide usage of same, in addition to the player being suspended (currently, that's 80 games for the first violation), you take two additional measures:
1. The player, for the rest of his career, is no longer eligible for the All-Star game or consideration for any postseason awards.
2. For the rest of his career, the player's maximum salary is capped at $2 million a year.

If they get caught, they lose the two things that make cheating so tempting: accolades and money.

Make no mistake, some players would still cheat. But the stakes would be incredibly high.

Yes, there would (rarely) be "honest" players who test positive, but there are institutions in this country (the jury system, for one) that are far, far more problematic, and no one's trying to get rid of them. And the appeals process (even now) for positive tests is exhaustive.

It'll never happen, but I think it would work. At least the risk would be more equal to the potential reward.

That's Certainly Tempting

I haven't picked up Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire because Slay The Spire is absolutely murdering my free time lately.

However, on the GWJ Podcast this week, it was mentioned that the game has sea shanties.

Well, that's an automatic buy. How could a game with sea shanties not be an automatic buy?

Even better, there's a setting in the Options menu to "disable sea shanties." That's next level.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

On That Most Special Day

"Nature just attacked me," I said. Eli 16.10 laughed.

The branch, it seems, was guilty.

It was Mother's Day, the source of many a doomed expedition worldwide, and we were at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Water Park. Okay, there's not actually a water park, but that would be killer. Instead, there are sculptures, many of children in various terrifying postures.

We were skeptical, but then we saw this:


















"My respect for this place has gone up dramatically," Eli said, and I agreed.

"How many teenager morons have tried to feed potato chips to these plants?" I asked.

"Oh, hundreds," he said.

We walked. "This feels like a zoo," he said, "but where are the animals?"

"Hiding," I said.

Obligatory views:





Then we saw a big horse:



"The most frequent comments on Twitter," Eli said, "are 'Where are the animals?' and 'That's a big horse.' "

"I'd like to thank the stars for this horse not being anatomically correct," I said, and then we walked around the side. "Uh oh," I said, and Gloria started laughing. I'm not going to circle anything in red, but if you enlarge and look closely enough, you can see some basketball-sized testiculos de caballo:



Have a palate cleaner:


"Are you ready to go over to the sculpture section?" Gloria asked, after about an hour of walking.

"I think I need a little time to reflect on what I've seen," I said. "In the cafe."

Of nature but not in nature is how I like life. Seriously, look at this view from the cafe window (a little dark, too--just how I like it):


















Here's a nice picture of two excellent people:



Monday, May 14, 2018

Whoa

From the oddity closet, I bring you Cotard delusion. Read:
Cotard delusion is a rare mental illness in which the affected person holds the delusional belief that they are already dead, do not exist, are putrefying, or have lost their blood or internal organs.

Take that in for a minute.

Have a little more:
On Nov. 5, 2013, Esmé Weijun Wang came to the remarkable conclusion that she was dead.

In the weeks prior to this, she had begun to feel increasingly fractured — like being scatterbrained, but to such an extreme that she felt her sense of reality was fraying at the edges. She had started to lose her grip on who she was and on the world around her. Desperate to fend off what appeared to be early signs of psychosis, Wang went into a soul-searching and organizational frenzy. She read a self-help book that was supposed to help people discover their core beliefs and desires; she ordered and scribbled in five 2014 datebook planners, reorganized her work space and found herself questioning her role as a writer.

Then one morning, Wang woke her husband before sunrise with an incredible sense of wonder and tears of joy to tell him it all made sense to her now: She had actually died a month before, although at the time she had been told she merely fainted.

I know if I thought I was dead, I'd turn to self-help books right away, not to mention immediately watching Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead.

This is one of those discoveries, for me, that means I will never be the same. Sometimes you find out about things that mean the world is different than you understood, and this is one of those things.

This illness isn't understood all that well, but it appears that there's usually a precipitating event where the sufferer could have died, but didn't, and they become convinced that what happened was actually fatal. It's a mental illness, obviously, but it can lead to some interesting metaphysical considerations:
“I began to believe I was in perdition, or some kind of hell,” said Wang, who wrote an essay, “Perdition Days,” during and after the experience. “I was trying to figure out what I had done wrong, what had condemned me to this afterlife that looked like my real life before I died but wasn’t real — that was the torment of it. I kind of described it once as feeling like I was on fire inside.”

This condition can last for months or even years. Remarkably, though, it's treatable, both via pharmacological means and (if necessary) electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, which is generally more effective).

I'd like to know why someone hasn't used this as the basis for a film (paging DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand).

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