Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Links!

From Marc Klein, and this is a gut-wrenching read: The Secret History of Tiger Woods.

From C. Lee, and this is an excellent bit of detective work: The Case of the Laggy Xbox Controller on Windows 10.

From DQ VB.NET Advisor Garret Rempel, and this is a great read: Photographer's eyes opened on epic road trip along Canada-U.S. border.

From Wally, and this is appalling: How the maker of TurboTax fought free, simple tax filing. Next a palate cleanser: The Most Metal Deaths in Middle-earth, Ranked. Next, and this is quite wonderful, it's New York nurse makes graphic, life-like cakes designed like brains, hearts and placenta. This is fantastic: Disney Title Card Art.

From Frank Regan, and I have no idea why this was happening: Bulldozer Battle on the Streets of China.

From Steven Davis, and downright horrible (tough links this week): How a global board games giant exploited Ireland's Magdalene. Next, and this is very clever, it's Oh, how hard it is to speak Spanish!

From Michael Gilbert, and here's a Pringles blast from the past: Pringles Commercial 1968. I remember seeing that commercial, actually.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Detroit, One More Time (part four)

The second game was on Saturday, and it was an odd one.

Eli's team won 1-0, and he left with a 1-0 lead halfway through the game, but he only faced 7 shots, and gave up several rebounds.

Saturday night, though, things got interesting.

They were playing a local AA team that was strong, and they had a huge number of fans with them. Eli's team skated out like they knew they were going to win.

They then proceeded to lose.

Eli came in halfway through with a 0-0 score. He faced 15 shots and gave a clinic. Zero rebounds. Totally in control.

Then, with three minutes left, a kid skated across the hashmarks, went around three of our players, and flung a shot at the net as he went sideways. It was blocked, but quickly wound up right back on his stick. Since he had been skating sideways, the angle had changed, and he shot again and scored.

They lost 1-0. Eli had played his best game of the tournament.

He was a little down after the game, but his team still won their pool, which meant they were playing in the semis Sunday morning.

"Uh oh," he said as he scanned the standings in the pools. "Do you know who we play tomorrow?"

"Who?" I asked.

"The number one 16u team in the country," he said.

"That's a forty shot game," I said.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "Maybe in half the game," he said, laughing.

"Well, you came here to play for it," I said. He laughed.

SUNDAY

It was calm.

Eli felt good. He'd be playing the first half of the game, and everyone knew his team, even though it was very good, was badly outmatched for this one game. The other three teams in the semis were all legitimate 16u teams, but his team didn't have even one sixteen-year-old.

"Suicide mission," he said.

"Right?" I said. "But you had an entire season of these games last year."

"Oh, yeah," he said. "If there's any kind of game I should be prepared for, it's this one."

I thought about all this as he went into the rink. In the last six weeks, he'd faced huge moment after huge moment, and none of them had been bigger than he was. But this was facing the best team in the country in an older division.

If there was ever a time when he'd crack, it would be now.

Talking to him, though, and watching him, he didn't look fragile. He was composed.

He looked ready.

He looked even more ready in warm-ups. "He's already dialed in," I said to Gloria, because I can usually tell.

When the game started, it was quickly apparent that his team was never going to have the puck. And they didn't, but Eli battled.

And battled.

His team was outshot 23-5 in the first half of the game. It was a barrage.

Eli gave up three goals, but very few rebounds, and he made some tough saves look easy because he was so fundamentally sound.

I was stunned. This was an even higher level of competition than he'd face in 15u, and he was still fine out there.

Happy, really.

He has big letters on each side of his helmet that spell "TEXAS". Letters almost three inches high. Near the end of the first period, the referee skated over to get the puck from him and said, "Hey kid, where are you from--Alaska?"

Eli looked at him and said "I'm guessing you didn't get any reading comprehension awards in school." Then they both burst out laughing.

Oh, and guess what? I taped most of his action, and you see can quite a bit in this 90-second video:
Eli in Motown 16u Semis.

I missed the third goal, and I missed the first five or six saves when the game started (then I realized I could just lean my phone against my drink cup and let it record). I got most of it, though.

When he skated off at the end of the game, I knew he'd done it. I didn't know if he'd have an offer from either team, but I did know he'd done everything he could possibly do.

When he walked into the lobby, I gave him a big hug. "I don't even know what to say," I told him. He smiled.

Our plane was leaving in four hours.

I quickly talked to his coach. He said he would have a decision within a day or so, that he was glad Eli had come and that he had played well.

I texted that to the second coach. I figured a day or two delay was okay.

It wasn't.

The coach said he wanted Eli, but that he felt like Eli wanted to play for the other team and was just using him as a backup in case he didn't get an offer from the team he'd played for this weekend.

I told him we were coming by the rink where his team was playing to talk to him before we left for the airport.

It was the same in person. I really, really like this coach, and I sympathized with him. He was right--he'd been very patient, and Eli hadn't committed yet. He said that he needed to know before Fall tryouts, which started on Monday, because he needed to know if he had an open goalie position or not.

That was fair.

I texted the coach he played for and just told him the truth. We drove to the airport and I hoped he would get back to me quickly.

We were eating in the airport when my phone buzzed. The coach texted back and said that his situation was complicated, that Eli had a good offer, and that he should take it.

Lots of coaches would have kept him on the hook--most of them would--but this guy was honorable, and he was looking out for Eli instead of himself. I found out later that Eli was one of three goalies that he liked for the final goalie position on the team, but he didn't feel right having Eli pass up an offer from a program he respected in exchange for no certain spot on his team.

That's a good man.

We finished eating quickly, and there were still about ten minutes before we boarded. "Let's call coach," Eli said, and I dialed the number and handed him the phone.

"Hi Coach, it's Eli," he said, and then he walked off a short distance.

So much went through my mind in this moment. I remembered putting on his goalie gear hundreds of times. Just a little guy, but already so determined, so certain.

All the extra workouts he'd done, when the rest of the rink was empty.

Hockey had given him some of the best moments of his life, and some of the worst.

Come on, man. One more great moment. Kick in that door.

A few seconds later, he looked up and gave me a thumbs-up with a big smile on his face. Then he walked over and handed me the phone. I thanked the coach.

Gloria had walked over and was talking to him when I hung up the phone. "So it's done," I said.

"It's done," Eli said. "The sweep is real," he said, and he laughed.

We stood in the airport in a little circle, the three of us hugging. I always thought I would cry if this happened, but I was too tired to cry.

I was not, however, too tired to smile.

Eli had just signed with the fifteenth-ranked team in the country.

Hello, Michigan. We're on our way.

Detroit, One More Time (part three)

9 a.m. Friday morning.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Eli 14.8 said, still in bed, unmoving.

"I'll take that," I said.

A few minute later, he sits up. "It's gone," he said.

"It is?"

"Yes," he said. "I feel weak, but I'm not sick. It's gone."

"All right," I said. "Let's go."

The first game was at 1 p.m., so he needed to be at the rink by noon. I went and got him a biscuit at McDonald's (standard light breakfast for hockey weekends), wondering if he would be able to keep it down.

He did.

"I'm ready," he said, even though there was no way he could be ready. He'd eaten one biscuit in the last 24 hours, basically. At least, that was all he'd been able to keep down.

Weak, playing in his first AAA tournament, playing up a year in age, never met anyone on his team before, his entire future in hockey on the line?

Well, plus this.

At 9:57, my phone rang.

"Hey, the third period is starting and you guys aren't here yet," said Eli's coach on the phone. "Where are you?"

"Coach, our game is at one," I said. They were bringing multiple teams to the tournament. "Eli is on team two. That's what your e-mail said."

"Oh shit!" he shouted. "I sent you guys the wrong e-mail! Can you still get here? The game starts at 10:30!"

We were seventeen minutes from the rink.

In three minutes, we left the room. Ran downstairs. Headed for the rink.

"Well, no time to get nervous," I said, laughing.

"Who's nervous?" Eli asked.

We pulled into the parking lot at 10:20. "I can do it," Eli said, throwing his bag over his shoulder. "I can get dressed out in ten minutes, and there's five minutes for warm-up."

"I know you can," I said, as we started walking in to the rink. "Three keys."

"Go," he said.

"Powerful positions. Be correct. Control rebounds."

"Got it," he said.

I hugged him. "Don't forget to have fun," I said.

"I won't forget," he said. "Love you, Dad."

The zam ran a few minutes over, and when warm-ups started, he walked out with the rest of the team.

The opponent? The other team that was recruiting him.

Well, now they get to see him in person, I thought. I had told the coach that I'd text him when I knew which games Eli was playing, so I texted him right when the game started. Surprise!

Eli's coach for the tournament was splitting the games right down the middle, and the other goalie played the first half. It was 2-0.

Eli skated off the bench.

I was both very happy for him and entirely sick, knowing how weak he was.

We had convinced ourselves that this tournament would be no faster than TAC, but I could see in thirty seconds that we had been very, very wrong. These kids were so fast that they almost looked like they were flying.

As it turned out, though, they weren't the only one.

Eli was dialed in from the second he skated out. Kids were flying around, the shots were rockets, and he just managed his business. Always square. Always on his angle. Controlling the puck.

Just being him, but at a much higher speed.

He stopped 12 of 13 shots and his team won 3-1.

"Wow, that was FAST!" he said when he walked out of the locker room.

"Fun?" I asked.

"God, yes," he said, smiling. "So much fun."

"Are you hungry?" I asked.

"Starving," he said. "I need food."

No more games on Friday. Food, rest, recovery.

LATER TODAY: Part four (the conclusion)

Offworld Trading Company

Soren Johnson's new game launches today, and I will 100% certify that it is absolutely brilliant. For my money, this is the best strategy game of the year (and many other years). It will be considered one of the classic games in the genre.

It's polished to an entirely ridiculous degree, it's whip smart, and it's a must-play for anyone who enjoys playing games.

Steam: Offworld Trading Company.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Detroit, One More Time (part two)

"I don't feel nearly as tired this time," I said to Eli 14.8 as we sat around the hotel room on Thursday, the day before the start of the tournament.

"Me, either," he said. "After being here for almost two weeks, coming for just four days feels like nothing."

"A day trip," I said, and he laughed.

This was looking strong, even though the tournament was scary. His team, even though it was all 15u kids, were playing in the 16u division. So not only was Eli playing in his first AAA tournament, he was even playing up a division.

It all felt good, though. Eli had great preparation, he didn't seem nervous in the least, and he was happy to be playing.

One of Eli's goalie coaches at his camp, who I think is the best goalie coach in the country (and based on the number of draft picks he's coached in the last decade, I don't think there's any question), had agreed (on only two days notice) to give him a private lesson. It was going to be very calming to be around someone he was close to, plus he's such an amazing coach that you take an hour of time whenever you can get it.

Eli had gone to camp the first week in August last year. Since then, he'd had zero coaching. He was his own coach, and it had taken him a long, long way this season. Getting quality instruction, though, was going to be crucial for him going forward.

We were sitting in the locker room, talking until coach showed up, and Eli was getting continuous texts from a friend who was in Tech Theater with him. That's been Eli's favorite class this year, and he'd partnered with his friend to make this incredibly intricate scale model of Hagrid's Hut, including a little Lazy Susan element that you could use to open the house up and see inside.

Here's the hut when closed:




And here it is when opened:

The project was getting judged by the entire school, right as he was getting dressed out, and he thought they had a chance to win (a freshman project had never won, or even finished higher than third).

"This is part of the sweep now," Eli said, laughing, as he checked his phone.

Since this is non-hockey drama, and there's way too much left to write about, I'll spare you the drama: they won. Right in the last moments, of course.

Eli found out about thirty seconds before he skated out. "The sweep lives!" he said.

I thought this was going to be a pretty low-key lesson, but this goalie coach isn't low-key. He's intense, and precise, and challenging, and he worked Eli's ass off. Worked and worked and worked.

Most of it was skating, which was even harder. Getting to places in powerful, precise ways. Understanding which technique to use in which situation. Goalie nerd stuff, really, and since Eli is a goalie nerd, he loves the discussions. Here's  a picture of them on the ice together:


When they were done, Eli was starving, so we went to California Pizza Kitchen for the same meal that he's had 500 times. Then we went back to the rink to watch his coach work with one of his OHL goalies.

The kid was incredible, and nice, too, because we met him afterwards.

Time to go back to the hotel. Perfect day.

About five minutes from the rink, Eli starts groaning. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"Don't know," he said, clenching his teeth. "Stomach." The groaning got louder and louder, and we pulled over at a gas station.

Fifteen minutes later, he came out of the bathroom, and he was white as a sheet, barely walking. "Buddy?" I asked, taking his arm.

"Not good," he said.

"Throw-up?"

"Everything," he said.

"Going to the bathroom?"

"Everything," he said.

I helped him back into the car and Gloria drove us to the hotel.

Disaster.

He went to bed at 9 p.m., and I sleep with him on trips because we run the same schedule, unlike Gloria, who stays up much later and gets up earlier. I laid in bed for hours, wondering how this had suddenly gone so wrong.

The last time I remember looking at the clock before I fell asleep was 2:22 a.m. I was awake again at 6:12 a.m.

Eli wasn't waking up until 9, if he could sleep that long. I just stayed in bed and stared at the ceiling.

Oculus Rift, Part 3

After a 3.5 hour install that was the single worst hardware install I've ever gone through, I will say that the user experience after that is very positive.

Compared to DK2, the screen is much crisper, the headset fits much better, and it's all very, very impressive. So I'll have impressions on a few games, etc., next week.

Huge storm here last night, and regular Internet service is still out, but I set up a hotspot with my phone and I'm starting on the Detroit post now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oculus Rift, Part 2

I've been installing hardware and building computers for over twenty years, and this is the single worst installation I've ever gone through. Every single step of the install process has either been fouled up or been interminably long for no reason.

Now? This elegant, beautiful remote has a plastic tab that I'm supposed to pull off. I guess when it's pulled out, it activates the battery for the remote. Guess what? It won't pull out. Period. I eventually used pliers to help my grip and pull the tab out. Instead, it broke off.

I've put in three hours at this point and I'm nowhere near finished. The hardware itself looks so sleek and beautiful. As a user experience, though, this install has gone into the pathetic category. I've literally built computers with less frustration than this.

Check Out My Oculus Rift Experience After One Hour!


Great software, guys--thanks!

Detroit, One More Time (part one)

"Dad, I'm going for the sweep," Eli 14.8 said two months ago.

"The sweep? What's that?" I asked.

"We're going to sweep both rounds of the state playoffs. I'm going to TAC and be the first kid from Austin to make it. Then I'm going to tryouts in Detroit and making a tier one team."

"It sounds so straightforward when you describe it," I said.

He burst out laughing. "I know! Easy, right?"

Two weeks later, they had swept playoffs and won state.

"The sweep lives, baby!" he said on the way home.

Two weeks later, he went to TAC and made it.

"Two legs of the sweep!" he said, laughing.

Improbably, he was almost there. This, though, would be the toughest step by far.

There are eight tier one teams in Michigan. That's sixteen goalie spots. Most of those spots aren't open, though, as we found out--many teams already have both of their goalies committed from the previous season, or as transfers from other teams.

Really, there were three or four open positions, at most, and you had to figure out where they were. And that coach had to not mind that you couldn't play with them in spring, because we weren't in Michigan yet (even though it felt like we were).

We stumbled around, at first, trying to understand the process, but we were starting to make a little progress.

Like I mentioned in last week's post, a team called him and wanted him to play with them in a tournament the next weekend. The biggest spring tournament in Michigan.

That was a big, big deal.

It was such a big deal, in fact, that the second team that was interested in him offered him last Tuesday. I think they were concerned that the first team would like him and offer him, and since Eli would have been around those kids all weekend, he'd want to play for them instead.

"You just got offered," I said to Eli when he walked in from school.

"What? I did? WHAT IS HAPPENING?" Eli said, laughing.

"I know," I said. "You didn't make a team while you were up there, but all of a sudden you're red hot. I'm practically expecting the Penguins to call at this point."

We went and did his workout, then came back home, and I told him to think a bit and we'd talk about it later.

I wanted to take the offer. It was with a top-fifteen program, and I really liked the coach. Every other coach I talked to, I didn't really talk to at all, because they talked to me. I had two forty-five minute conversations with coaches and couldn't get a word in edgewise.

This coach, though, listened and asked questions. He was soft-spoken. He seemed grounded and stable. I thought it would be a great fit for Eli's personality.

He said he didn't want an acrobat. He wanted a calm goalie who controlled the game. That's a perfect fit for how Eli plays.

Downsides? Well, we wouldn't be living in Detroit. We'd be living in Grand Rapids, which is about two hours away.

Except, to me, that wasn't a downside.

This was going to be a huge adjustment for Eli, and he needed to be able to focus on getting his work in without distractions for him to move toward his goals. Being in Detroit was going to be a brighter spotlight.

Take the bird in hand, man. Don't chase those birds in the bush.

"So, what do you think?" I asked Eli after dinner.

"Coach hasn't seen me play in person," Eli said.

"I know," I said. "But he's seen tape, and other people who have seen you have talked to him. This is a firm offer to play for one of the top fifteen teams in the country."

"But two weeks ago, you both agreed that him offering me without seeing me in person wouldn't be fair to the other kids who had tried out," he said. "What's changed?"

"Nothing, really," I said. He was right.

"I don't want an offer handed to me," he said. "I want to go play for it."

"You know this is taking a huge chance," I said. "What happens if you go up there and get hurt, or this coach withdraws his offer and the coach you're playing for doesn't offer you?"

"Then we go to Detroit and I play AA for a year," he said. "I'm playing for it, Dad."

At that moment, I was reminded that there are times when my son is a bigger man than I am. Not to mention that, at fourteen, he has bigger balls than I've ever had.

"You know what, buddy?" I said. "I love you. Let's go to a tournament."

TOMORROW: A Rough Start

Monday, April 25, 2016

Upcoming

We got back from Detroit last night at midnight. I know I've been more tired, but it's hard to remember when.

However, what a story I have to tell you, starting tomorrow. It was a wild, wild weekend. And I would tell you tonight, but I'm just too tired to even begin.

A Note

Watching Cory Crawford in goal is like being the victim of a home invasion.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Links!

Leading off from Paul Draper, and what a bizarre, nightmarish story: How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell.

From Steven Davis, and these are sensational photographs: Professional Women's Wrestling in Japan. Next, and this is a terrific read, it's The Golden State Warriors Have Revolutionized Basketball. Next, and definitely belonging in the "alarming" category, it's Spies in the Skies. This is pretty mesmerizing: The History of the Romans: Every Year. This is an excellent read: THE SECRET RULES OF THE INTERNET: The murky history of moderation, and how it’s shaping the future of free speech. Here's something quite remarkable: A Vault of Color: A Peek Inside Harvard’s Collection of 2,500 Pigments.

From Ken P., and I have to think this is one of the most clever and strangest uses of technology ever: This Mattress Will Tell You if You’re Being Cheated On. Also, and this is fascinating, it's THE MINECRAFT GENERATION: How a clunky Swedish computer game is teaching millions of children to master the digital world.

From C. Lee, and this looks pretty amazing: Microsoft may be working on a flexible phone case that does more than just protect.

From David, and this is a strange, strange story: Turtle Smuggling case in Michigan court. And the update: Man caught with 51 turtles in his trousers sentenced to 5 years in prison.

From Wally, and this is beautiful: Inuit Cartography. Next, and this is quite interesting, it's Technical jargon failure modes. Next, and what a headline, it's This rare Maine bottle of bird poop is on display at the Smithsonian.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mortuaries Have Strong Pun Game

From Ken:
I'll see your burial insurance email scam "Grave Concerns" and raise you a mortuary in South Bend, Indiana, that -- I kid you not -- has billboards up in a few places in town advertising their cremation services with the catch phrase "You've Urned It."  I almost stopped on the highway to take a picture, but realized that would greatly increase the risk of needing said services.


Mafia 3

Over at RPS, there's a post about Mafia 3 coming out on October 7.

The original Mafia is still one of my favorite games ever. And Mafia 2 would have been even better, if they had just finished the $*#*#!@ game.

But they didn't.

This is a different developer, but I'm still interested. Maybe they can do it right this time.

My Email is a Grease Fire

Seriously. My apologies, but there's total overload going on right now. I'll share the details on Monday.

One Sentence Short Stories #7

She coveted the chickens.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

So, About That Inputs Thing

I went to the doctor today (I do bloodwork every six months because I'm taking a statin, so there's some sort of number they have to check occasionally), and since I was already there, I asked the doctor about my inputs thing.

My mind racing at times. Difficult to slow down. Hard time going to sleep. Felt fine otherwise.

She said that she thought I had mild anxiety, which really surprised me. I don't think I had even considered that.

She asked if I wanted to try a low dose of medication that I would need to take for six months to see if it worked.

I told her no, for now.

I don't want to have another medication I need to take every day. I have a couple of those already, and that's enough. So I told her about reducing the Internet, doing one thing at time, and trying to meditate when I can. I'd like to develop a long-term management strategy that doesn't involve medication.

That sounded fine, she said, and said that what I was doing was a good thing to try. If it doesn't work, I could always try the medication later.

The reason I'm posting this is because if you have had similar symptoms, especially if you feel it acutely, it might be worth your time to check with your doctor.

The Good Old Days

We were watching a Penguins playoff game and a Pringles commercial came on.

"I'm so old," I said, "that I remember when Pringles were first introduced."

"No way," Eli 14.8 said.

"I still remember it," I said. "Potato chips that STACKED? In a tube? It was crazy. No one could believe it."

"That's pretty sad," he said.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Yikes!

DQ Guitar Instructor David Gloier had an accident last weekend:
Last Tuesday, as I was walking across the street at 3rd and Colorado, I took a bad step off the curb. As I was going down, I see the see the next curb that they installed to create the bike line heading right to my face. I put my arm down to keep from shattering my face and do a Pete Rose headfirst slide into the curb. Apparently, I have a linear fracture in the 5th metacarpal, a non-linear fracture in the second, and a displaced ulna where it meets the wrist. At least it wasn't my fret hand.

That sounded pretty gruesome, so of course I asked for a picture:
This was last night, five days after it happened. I'm renting the hand out for the Mack's Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Yeah, I think that's going to need more than super glue and ibuprofen.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Shutting Down Inputs

I wrote a while back that continuous data acquisition at high speed was making me jittery. Too many websites, too much concern about missing an important news or political item, and I really felt like it had changed my inner speed, jacked it up to a level that made me not feel good.

Too fast. Too much.

At that time, I tried to slow down, although I don't even remember what I was doing. Meditating a little, maybe.

Late last week, though, I really noticed it again. I don't like this feeling, and Eli 14.8 is coming up on some very, very important weeks in his life. I needed to be able to project complete calm, to be a soothing and grounded influence.

So I did something I haven't done in my whole life, really: I shut off the Internet.

Not completely. I still look at Deadspin and RPS every day. Puck Daddy, for NHL news. Penny Arcade on M-W-F.

That's about it, though, and I only look at them a couple of times a day.

It's a bit of a radical approach, but I felt like I needed to try something radical.

Also, I'm trying very hard to only do one thing at a time. If I'm in the living room watching TV, I don't have my Surface with me, or my phone. One thing at a time.

If you're wondering if this has had an effect, it has, and it's fairly significant. I've been doing this for four days now, and my mind isn't racing nearly as much. Before, it was racing almost all the time, with many, many streams of thought racing along next to each other, often colliding.

The reason I write about this is because I absolutely know I'm not the only one experiencing this. I'd be willing to bet that it's a very common phenomenon, and probably some of you are feeling the same way.

What I'm doing is working. I can feel it.

So if you feel the same way I've been feeling, you might try this. It's not an instant fix, but it's steadily helping me.

Site Meter