Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fighting 11 #9: On Campus

Have a look:

That's not art from the game. It's just an image I found (Middlebury College, from the Veritas Forum) that shows the perspective I want to use.

The campus view of the game is where you can upgrade facilities, which will increase your program's desirability to recruits. There are four major upgrade areas: Academics, training facilities, stadium, and a fourth one I've forgotten for now. 

If you upgrade your program, you'll get more recruiting badges for that area, so you can get better recruits. 

Users gain general upgrade points for campus facilities by winning games and exceeding expectations, be it on the field or in recruiting.

Instead of talking about the nuts and bolts of all that today, though, I want to focus on presentation. 

Here's how I envision this working. The screen is going to be divided into four equal sections, and each one represents an upgrade area. In essence, there will be four big buttons on the screen, and clicking on one takes you to the upgrade screen for that area. 

That's easy to create, but of course I don't want it to be easy. 

I want to make a "sandwich" of elements, with a transparent button on top. So there would be a background image (just the landscape, essentially) for each season. 

That's the base layer. 

The second layer consists of trees and buildings, and they're individual elements that can be placed anywhere on the background layer. Then the top layer, which is transparent, is a button control--one for each quadrant.

There are some strong advantages to this approach. For one, individual buildings can change their appearance when they get upgraded, so if you upgrade an area, you're going to see your campus change in appearance as well. 

It also lets me create custom presets that would produce different looking campuses, so if you play through multiple dynasties, you won't have to look at the same campus every time.

The best part about this, though, is the tinkering. 

I really enjoy games where I can do non-directed tinkering. It doesn't even have to reward me in the game, because the tinkering is the reward. 

Want to make your campus look different? Well, you can. You can go into a campus construction screen and place individual elements where you want. All I have to do is save the coordinates for the element locations to reproduce them in-game. 

You won't have to tinker if you don't want to--the presets should look very nice--but if you want to do everything down to the last detail, you can. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

No Man's Sky

A big update for No Man's Sky was pushed out last weekend.

RPS has a nice summary here, and even though there are many people who drank so much haterade they can't get it out of their systems, this is a substantial update which points to even better things down the road.

Not communicating at all was still a huge PR gaffe. They could have just said "We're working on the game and won't have an update for a while", along with a sentence or two every few weeks. That would have been much better in a PR sense.

However, much to their credit, they're improving the game, and not trivially.

A Multimedia Extravaganza Worthy of Off Off Off Broadway For the Holiday Season

Please look at this image while listening to this.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold, With a Side of Peruvian Cheese And a Most Curious Tea Set

This story is from yesterday, so I'm out of sequence now, because I still haven't finished the Philadelphia story.

If you remember, Eli 15.4 was in Detroit for 12 days last spring, trying out for a Tier One team.

He played great, was clearly the best goalie in the tryout (out of 12), and was the final cut.

It was the worst night of my life as a father. When Eli found out, he made a sound that was like an animal in terrible pain, like something had broken deep inside him.

Something broke in me, too.

Then, because we had no choice, we recovered.

It still hurts, though.

Well, he played that team on Sunday, the one that cut him.

They're having a tough season. Eli's team is in the top twenty nationally, but the other team is in the fifties.

The game was supposed to be at 11:30 on Sunday, but on Saturday night at 9, we found out it had been moved to a different rink--oh, and it was going to start at 9. So we had to leave home at 5:30 Sunday morning to drive down.

Eli has been struggling a bit with a borderline sinus infection (on medicine now, thank goodness), but he didn't care. "They're not scoring," he said, with a big smile. "Nothing. I don't care how I feel."

They didn't.

He left halfway through the game with a 7-0 lead. They only had 8 shots against him, but he was still in command. He's developed a kind of confidence that I don't think he had when we moved up here, and at this level, a goalie has to have that kind of confidence.

His team wound up winning 9-3.

We stopped at our favorite mall on Earth--Laurel Park Mall in Livonia--and went to California Pizza Kitchen for lunch before we drove back home.

I ordered a salad, received a different salad, and didn't care. This new, unordered salad had feta cheese.

"Do you like feta cheese?" Gloria asked.

"It's okay," I said. "Really, though, I prefer my cheese to be from the great Midwest--cheddar--or from the passionate Latin regions--pepper jack."

Eli started laughing. "Oh, Dad," he said.

"What? Have you never heard of Peruvian cheese mines?" I asked. "Sweaty, dangerous work, mining that pepper jack."

Eli was laughing and sort of waving at me.

"I think he needs a minute," I said.

"Maybe he's delighted," Gloria said.

"Delighted is NOT the word," Eli said.

After lunch, we went to the parking lot. Gloria started the car and began backing out, then stopped before she'd even gone three feet. "What is that sound?" she said. "Are we caught on something?"

No flat tire, I thought. No flat tire.

As it turned out, though, it was much stranger than a flat tire.

I got under the car and looked carefully. "We appear to be driving over an ornate tea set," I said.

"What?" she asked.

"A TEA SET," I shouted. "In a plastic bag. It's sturdy."

Logically, this was impossible. While we were inside, someone had to carefully put this bag under our car, because it was well underneath.

Impossible it was, yet true. Here is the curious tea set in question:

It was undamaged, remarkably, and I did my best setting it up with the care deserving of a fine tea set before we drove away, entirely forgetting to take a picture.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Links!

From Steven Davis, and this is fascinating: Human Population Through Time. This, though, is even better: The Banach–Tarski Paradox. If you want more information, it's here: Banach–Tarski paradox. Next, and I've always wanted to understand this, it's How streets, roads, and avenues are different. Okay: A Perfume that Smells Like Poop? This is very, very strong for you music fans out there: The Art of Recording.

Here's a link from Simon Gardner (also written by Simon Gardner), and it's a terrific read: Do Polygraph Tests Actually Work?

From D.F. Prosser, and these are excellent reads:
Hollywood and Hacking: The 1980s - kid hackers, nerds and Richard Pryor.
Hollywood and Hacking: The 1990s - Techno, virtual reality and Steven Seagal’s Apple Newton
Hollywood and Hacking: Into the 21st Century - Real life hackers, computer punks and Hugh Jackman dancing

From C. Lee, and it's a Mark Twain kind of link: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Say What? Says Who? Next, and I had no idea, it's Tools to Help Japanese Schoolchildren Find Balance: Unicycles.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


First off, on this Thanksgiving, I appreciate that you guys have read whatever I write for so many years. When Eli 16.0 rolls out this summer, I'll have been writing for fifteen years.

I know that has to end, eventually, but not now.

I didn't post yesterday because we drove to Detroit in the rain (2+ hours), Eli 15.4 had a goalie lesson, and we drove back in the rain and much worse traffic (2+ hours). I can normally do that just fine, but when we finally got home, I was fried.

Since Black Friday is tomorrow, let's talk about 4K televisions.

I've wanted a 4K OLED television since the first day they came out. Actually, since the day they were even mentioned as a possibility.

They were staggering expensive, obviously, but eventually, they'd come down.

Everyone has a different price range that's acceptable to them when it comes to televisions. For me, it's about $2000. That may be higher than quite a few of you, but I still remember the days when the first 480p plasmas cost $10,000.

In the last two months, the prices on OLEDs has plummeted.

Now, the 55" model I was waiting on has dropped all the way to $1799. That's basically free, as far as I'm concerned, to get the best television ever made. It's ridiculous.

I still haven't bought one.

Why? For once, the lack of content is a stopping point for me. Even though a huge number of 4K LCDs have been sold (and quite a few 4K OLEDs as well), the amount of 4K content is very, very low.

Worse, there's essentially zero sports in 4k right now. That would be a huge driver for me to upgrade, and it's just not available yet.

4K in hockey? I'd upgrade tomorrow.

We have a Panasonic VT50 plasma, which was one of the best plasmas ever made, so it's not like I'm suffering. I had it repaired once, and probably wouldn't do it again, but for now, it's good.

Once the upgrade bug bites you, though, the itch is constant.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Story, Delayed

I thought I would have the story from the Philadelphia Showcase ready today, but too much is going on for me to have time to do it properly. So I'm putting it off by a day or two.

It was quite a weekend, though, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you.

Car Window Art

My car window was artsy this morning (click on it for a larger version, which is quite striking):

I Really Don't Think There's Any Way This Can Wait Until Friday

Cheetos unveils $20,000 jewelry for the holiday’s

One of the items comes with a $20,000 price tag for the one-of-the-kind Eye of the Cheetah 18 karat yellow gold ring and earring set from the Chestora Collection. It has 190 black and white diamonds.

If you love the smell of Cheetos you might want to try their Cheeteau Perfume. It actually has a cheesy scent and warns wearers not to stand next to anyone hungry.

For the classy Cheetos lover try the Chester Cheetah’s Cheesy Cuff-links for $69.

The best part of this is that the perfume is named "Cheetau".

Monday, November 21, 2016

Stick Sighting Solved

That stick, apparently, signals the snow plow service that you're a subscriber. There are a ton of different snow plow services, and they all have their own unique stick.

Draft Day Sports

Gary Gorski e-mailed and said that Wolverine Studios has released two new games: Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball 2017 and Draft Day Sports: College Football 2017.

Gary has been making quality sports simulations for a long time, and these new versions look like they will continue the tradition. Hit the links for more information and plenty of screenshots

There's Been A Stick Sighting

There's a red, white, and blue stick in our yard. I know nothing of this.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Links!

Welcome to a highly compressed edition of Friday Links.

From Steven Davis, and this is terrific: A Chair Fit for Dancing. Also, and this is quite incredible, it's Smart Coatings: On Land and Sea. Here's the utterly droll link of the week: A Collaborative Duo Pokes Fun at Plein Air Painting Through Photographic Series. Next, and this is quite awesome, it's 8 Things You Might Not Know About Vowels.

From Wally, a military analysis of The Battle of Pelenor Fields in Lord of the Rings. Next, and I've had thousands of these, it's “FOR SCIENCE!”: EATING DORITOS ROULETTE. Next, and these are always amazing, it's Nature Photographer of the Year Contest 2016. This is an utterly delightful commercial: John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 - #BusterTheBoxer. This is a very, very interesting read: Video Games Are Boring. Incredible: The Disastrous Cordon Sanitaire Used on Honolulu's Chinatown in 1900. So awful and so wonderful, and we can use the comedy relief right now: A HA - TAKE ON ME - SHITTYFLUTED.  One more, and it's entirely stunning: We Couldn’t Believe Our Eyes’: A Lost World of Shipwrecks Is Found Archaeologists have found more than 40 vessels in the Black Sea, some more than a millennium old, shedding light on early empires and trade routes.

From C. Lee, and this is fascinating: What Tickling Giggly Rats Can Tell Us About the Brain. Next, and this is a terrific read, it's Why the Avocado Should Have Gone the Way of the Dodo. Next, and maybe potatoes belong in Australia, it's Horrific Tales of Potatoes That Caused Mass Sickness and Even Death.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

American History, Sunsets, Furry Ninjas, and Otters

We may or may not be in Philadelphia right now. There's a hockey showcase there this weekend, but Eli 15.3 was sick as a dog on Tuesday (when this was written), so I don't even know if we're going.

"Hey, do you want to go see the Liberty Bell while we're in Philadelphia?" Gloria asked.

"No," I said.


"Zero interest," I said. "Sub-zero, actually."

"But it's a part of American History!" she said.

"But the name's not really accurate," I said. "More like the 'White Male Landowners Liberty Bell', am I right?"

Eli laughed.

I was kidding, but it does kind of amaze me how people block out the actual history of America in favor of the imaginary version.

Here are a few photos in and around our house, where it's still incredibly warm (mid 60s) compared to what it's usually like in Grand Rapids in mid-November.

Here's a sunset, and we were still playing tennis when I took that picture (although not very well, because I really couldn't see the ball anymore):

Here's our resident stealth ninja, who is quite a bit too fat to be stealthy at all:

Eli had games at his home rink last weekend, but before his game, another team was playing, and they had these phenomenal angry otter jerseys:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

No Man's Sky: The Baffling

When No Man's Sky was released, the haterade was overwhelming.

Not for me. I was happy with what I was playing, even though it was much less than had been promised. What was there, though, was incredible.

It was stunning, really. Vitriol is not even a strong enough word to describe what was going on.

In a situation like this, there is only one correct response, and it's not rocket science: communicate. 

Tell people about your ongoing development plan. Have phases with deadlines. Share, in as much detail as possible, where you see the end state of the game, and how long it will take to get there.

When people see you hitting delivery dates, and adding content to the game, disappointment would subside. As a developer, you'd be giving people something to look forward to that they could discuss, instead of just discussing the state of the game when it was released.

Again, this isn't rocket science.

For Hello Games, though, it is, apparently. I didn't have a problem with the state the game was in when it was released, but their ongoing communication has been absolutely awful.

As far as I can tell, there's been communication for almost two months now. The 1.09 patch for PC was released on September 21.

Since then: nothing.

Usually, developer stop communicating when they're run out of money to continue working on a game, and they just can't quite take the step of breaking the news to everyone.

That can't be the case here. Hello Games should be absolutely drowning in money. They certainly have enough money to complete a version that is much closer to what they originally promised.

Without telling people what's going on, though, they're just alienating their customer base even further.

Of course, I'm writing this on Tuesday at 11 a.m., set to auto-post on Wednesday, so they'll probably make a big announcement Tuesday night to blow up this entire post. Okay by me, if they just say something!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On Hair

At physical therapy today, there was a discussion about hair.

Even at my unfortunately advanced age, there are still moments when women seem like a secret tribe, deep in the Amazon, never before seen by outsiders.

When I get my hair cut, I'm asked one question: "How much do you want to take off?"

For women, apparently, the process is a labyrinth of costs and choices.

To start with, stylists have "levels". A level one stylist is a trainee, basically, while a level six stylist apparently fuses atoms with her shears.

My physical therapist said she went to a new salon recently, and when you go to a salon for the first time, you have a consultation.

I'm not making this up, I swear.

She opted for a level three stylist. Another lady: "That's smart. I went lower once and you're risking it all. I walked out worse than I went in. I looked like Hermione Granger in movie one."

Back to the consultation.

She listed all the things she wanted done, and was quoted two hundred and eighty dollars. However, after talking to the manager and using various legerdemain, the price magically became one hundred and thirty instead.

Me? Twenty-five bucks, including a nice tip.

I am, of course, not availing myself of salon-style services, one of which is putting your wet hair on a board, straightening it out, and painting it. Or something.

Know Your Vegetables

"Nice presentation!" I said, looking at an appealing bowl of snap peas and carrots.

"Thanks," Gloria said.

"Those are two of my favorites," I said. "Green beans, not so much. Green beans are the Nickelback of vegetables."

"Noted," she said.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fighting Eleven #8: Gameplay Variations

I clearly have something going on here.

When you first start trying to define a project, there are lots of false starts, and lots of dead periods.

For me, at least.

Some people (like Garret) have a constant torrent of ideas, limited only by the miserly 24 hours in a day.

I'm more of a third line grinder, so to speak.

Right now, though, the ideas inside the game are coming very quickly.

One of the important aspects of Fighting Eleven (need a new title, feel free to submit) is that individual games must reflect team styles. Particularly in college, teams play with many different styles, and somehow the card game must capture that, so that your deck is strong against certain teams but not others.

I've captured the data on team pace and style, so I can model that in a sim sense.

What I'm still working on, though, is modeling it in a card game sense.

Originally, each card was going to have an offense (+) yardage and a defense (-) yardage. But players should be better against the pass than the run, for example, and teams should show their style by how often they choose run or pass.

So it may be that I need to have two defensive yardages, one each for the pass and rush.

This is going to make the gameplay more complicated, but it's also going to let you build your team deck in a particular style that will actually be reflected as you play the game. So you could build a deck that's strong against the pass, because there are so many strong passing teams in the college game today, but if you play Georgia Tech (to use a real world example), their running attack will give you fits.

I'm also thinking that if a team plays a run of passing or running plays, that it could affect the length of the half. So, for example, a team that plays X passing plays in a row would extend the half by one drive. Maybe the half is reduced by one drive if X running plays are used in a row.

Something like that.

That would affect the game scores to reflect team styles, which will give a stronger feeling of mirroring the real world, and it adds strategic options as well.

There are some other variations that could be more radical. I have pace data for each team, and it's even crossed my mind to give the user less time to play their card if the team they're playing has a higher pace on offense. I would have to make it optional, but that could be a fun option for advanced players.

I have so many things written down that I'm going to have to sort through them again and produce another master list, which makes me concerned that I'm going down rabbit holes, but having too many ideas is a problem I almost never have.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Links!

An Internet legend recently passed away:  An Internet Dog Chef Goes to Heaven. Also: Scientists think this is where your consciousness lives.

From Frank Regan, and man, you have to watch this: This Planet Earth 2 iguana vs. snake scene plays out like a chase from The Bourne Identity.

From Steven Davis, and this is terrific: How Jon Stewart Took Over The Daily Show and Revolutionized Late-Night TV: An Oral History. Next, and this is insane, it's Smartphone Cheating Device Can Read a Full Deck of Cards. This is just fantastic: A Formula One Pit Stop Explained. This is tremendously clever: New Futuristic Prototype Replaces Stairs and Elevators for ‘Vertical Walking’. Indeed: The Curious Have Won Theo Epstein overcame 108 years of history to build a championship team in Chicago. In the process, he ended baseball’s long-running analytics war by proving that an objective, data-driven approach can change the game. This is tremendously interesting: Why I’d Rather Cuddle with a Shark than a Kissing Bug. I appreciate people who do good work with their money: Mapping the End of Malaria.

From Paul Adams, and this is a great read: Letter to My Younger Self.

From Wally, and this is fascinating: Louis Riel. I had no idea: Why Japan is Obsessed with Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas. Badass Vehicle Of the Week: Bulletproof BMW Used to Rescue Dozens During ISIS Attack.

From C. Lee, and this is a wonderful retrospective: 1982-1987 - The Birth of Japanese RPGs, re-told in 15 Games. This is fascinating: When Copy and Paste Reigned in the Age of Scrapbooking. I've encountered a few of these: 4 Common Buttons That Probably Don't Even Work.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Costume Count Excel File

Here you go:
Costume Count 2016

Costume Count 2016: I Found An Anchor over There, Now It's On My Derriere

It was a big, fun costume count this year.

888 costumes. That's close to a record, I think.

Here's a respondent map, and it does not include Cumbernauld (thank you, Paul), which is the largest town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, and has a population of 52,000 people.

Paul also explained in his e-mail that, in Scotland, kids were expected to "do a turn" before getting their treat. They might sing a song, or tell a joke, and even though it's rarely done now, it sounds like a lovely tradition.

Okay, on to the map:

Here's the list:
Anchorage, Alaska
Redwood City, California
St. Paul, Minnesota (2)
Kansas City, Missouri
Huntsville, Alabama
Cincinnati, Ohio
Louisville, Kentucky
Chicago (suburb), Illinois
East Grand Rapids, Michigan
Canton, Michigan
Ferndale, Michigan
New York City, New York
Watertown, Massachusetts
Portland, Maine
Toronto, Ontario (2)
Halifax, Novia Scotia
Cumbernauld, Scotland

The Top Ten costumes:
Princess (54)
Witch (30)
Ninja (22)
Spiderman (19)
Batman (18)
Ninja Turtle (18)
Zombie (18)
Pirate (16)
Captain America (13)
Skeleton (12)

My personal favorites (based on your submission):
Amelia Earhart
Captain Cook's Daughter
Eeyore (the post title is from a song Eeyore sings in a Pooh movie)
Grown-ass man on a horse
Masquerading as a success
Sea Captain
Three hold punch victim
Tiny Spanish Inquisitor

However, the absolute favorite, and the unquestioned champion: John Wesley Powell.

Who is John Wesley Powell, you might ask? From Wikipedia:
John Wesley "Wes" Powell (March 24, 1834 – September 23, 1902) was a U.S. soldier, geologist, explorer of the American West, professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, and director of major scientific and cultural institutions. He is famous for the 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition, a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers, including the first known passage by Europeans through the Grand Canyon.

Powell served as second director of the U.S. Geological Survey (1881–1894) and proposed, for development of the arid West, policies that were prescient for his accurate evaluation of conditions. He became the first director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution during his service as director of the U.S. Geological Survey,[1] where he supported linguistic and sociological research and publications.

Boom. Winner.

I asked Fredrik to host the Excel file on the Gridiron website and I'll put up a link when I hear back from him. It's fun to see what came from where, and you can do that this year, because there's a column for each location.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Fighting Eleven #7: The Work List

I'm struggling with something.

I have a completed, detailed design, which should allow me to create the game.

With Gridiron, because I'd never done anything like this before, I built it screen by screen. It was entirely linear, because that's how I saw it in my head.

That worked, eventually, but I'd like to be more efficient this time.

Now I'm building the work plan, and this is unknown territory for me, because it's not necessarily linear this time. I find it overwhelming to try to sort out everything I need to do in an order that's not strictly related to screen sequence.

I'm going to start with data structures and classes, because to be able to progress on the recruiting portion, I need to have a data file that represents the football universe. From that file, I can pull all the information I need to assign "badges" to teams for use in the recruiting process.

I've also decided that I'm going to use text files for game data because I want everyone to be able to mod the game in any way they want.

I have a long, long history of modifying game text files in sports games to change how the world behaves, all the way back to Front Page Sports: Baseball Pro '98. To me, tweaking that .ini file, which literally controlled everything in terms of how the game behaved, was a game in itself.

So if users want to dig into the data and modify how the world works, they're going to be able to do whatever they want.

Beyond that, though, in terms of a work plan, I'm sort of stuck.

I also have to make one more adjustment. Fredrik came in fairly early in GS, over two years before the game was completed, and I wasted a ton of his time, because I wasn't sure what I wanted, art-wise.

This time, I have to be more efficient, and more targeted. But it's going to be difficult.

All right, I'm off to finish the data file, and next week, I'll share with you what's in it. Of course, it's 10X overkill for what the user will actually see, but drilling 10,000 feet deep unnecessarily into something is kind of my signature.

Maybe no one else will notice that I actually have a rating for Wyoming's athletic facilities in relation to all other D1 football programs, but I will.

Costume Count in Progress

Almost done with the costume count, and I'll post the results tomorrow, I hope.

For the first time in a few years, over 1,000 costumes were submitted for counting. And you guys sent in counts from all over the world, which is awesome beyond words.

I'm trying a slightly different format this year, to give you more access to poke around in the data if you like. I have an Excel file with a column for every location reporting, so if you want to see what costumes were submitted from Scotland versus Mobile, Alabama, you can.

Like I said, working on it today and I hope it's ready tomorrow. Thanks for all the time you put into it, because the output is going to be very fun.

Thus Ends Political Discussion for 2016

I don't use the word "heartbroken"--ever--but I will use it today.

After the last eight years, I had high hopes that this country was moving in a better direction, one that would make our country better for Eli 15.3 than it had been for us. More inclusive. More tolerant. More welcoming. More reasoned.


Sorry for your future, America.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016


Okay, I've learned two important things about fall here.

#1: Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

That's outside our house from a few minutes ago.

Here's how it works: we rake all the leaves into the street. Then, that bulldozer in the distance comes by once a week and pushes them into larger piles. Tomorrow, another truck comes by and picks up all the leaves.

That leaf pile is about three feet deep. And it's about the third time it's been that high.

#2: Blame It On the Rain
I have this reel mower that I just love. It's incredibly satisfying (to me) to quietly mow the lawn with just the click-click-click of the push mower. Plus, it's hard. It's a solid workout by the time I'm done, because the mower is heavy.

I used it from July to September, but that was it, because manual mowers don't cut through wet grass very well (or at all, really), and the grass has been wet for two months straight. There's heavy dew every morning, and it's never warm enough to dry out the grass. Add the rain and you wind up with kind of a swamp, like Candlestick Park during the NFL playoffs.

#3 Rockin' Robin
We have a cherry tree in our backyard. I'm not sure what kind, but it has these tiny tart cherries.

Robins, apparently, love tiny tart cherries.

Here's what I see from my home office window:

There are only a couple of robins in that picture, but there are times when there are 12-15 in just the cherry tree. It's Golden Corral for robins.

A Brief Election Post

I'm listening to Steely Dan (Pretzel Logic). It's upbeat and calming at the same time.

When someone from the future looks back at the 2016 Presidential election, they will discover two irreconcilable facts:
1. The U.S. electorate was more diverse and multi-cultural than ever before.
2. 1972 George Wallace would have won this election.

I find that terrifying, and wonder what we've learned in the last 50 years.


Way behind on email and the costume count, but for a good reason: you guys submitted a ton of counts this year.

Monday, November 07, 2016


I found out on Friday that my barber has been one of Santa's helpers at the mall for the last sixteen years. She started when she was still in high school.


Protip: when you're a mall Santa, and you have two fifteen-year-old girls on your lap, do not say "Smile if you're horny" when the picture is taken. You will immediately be told to pack your crap in your Santa bag and leave in your sled.

Also, don't drink too much water. That's a problem, because to go to the bathroom, Santa has to take off his entire outfit (and padding), and that's quite time-consuming. So if you want to go to the bathroom, that's a 20-minute task.

Some Santas treat the helpers poorly. Star syndrome.

One year, Santa's were being switched out, and Santa (with a real white beard) was walking out in his street clothes as the next Santa was standing there in his Santa outfit. They stood next to each other for a moment, talking, and a small boy (about six) saw them and his life literally melted before his eyes. He stood there, mouth open, unable to process what he was seeing.

"It's okay, dear," said the helper elf. "That's Santa's brother--Carl."

If Carl ever writes a book about his brother Santa, that's a Day One purchase for me.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Friday Links!

From Guy Byars, and this is an incredibly compelling piece of journalism: Aberfan The mistake that cost a village its children.

From C. Lee, and this is an extremely thought-provoking article: In one corner of the law, minorities and women are often valued less. I always wondered how this worked: How security flaws work: SQL injection. This is provocative: Why the Industrial Revolution didn’t happen in China. This is utterly mind-blowing: Did the Greeks Help Sculpt China's Terra Cotta Warriors?

From Chris Meadowcroft, an architectural marvel: Marvelous 360 degree ring of Pringles.

From Wally, and I need to learn how to pronounce this word: Aimlessly--Scandinavia and the World. Next, and this is an entirely wonderful story, it's 70-Year-Olds Play D&D for the First Time (and Love it). This is a beastly RC plane: ULTRA FAST RC PULSE JET - ONBOARD CAMS - WESTON PARK - 2016. There are some gems in here: 21 Of The Most Pointless Things You’ve Ever Seen.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this article is both fascinating and funny: Bats Are the Most Fascinating, Bizarre, Generous, Sexy Beasts.

From Steven Davis, and this is just great: H.G. Wells Hid a Sick Burn Inside The War of the Worlds. Next, and this is incredible (in a bad way):  The Flying Crowbar: The Insane Doomsday Weapon America Almost Built.

From Mark Lahren, and this is fabulous: GTA 5 - Grandma Plays GTA.

From Craig Miller, a lifetime Cubs fan ( articles before and after game 7): The Indians and Cubs will play the cruelest World Series Game 7 ever and The Cubs finally won the World Series, and it took one of the best baseball games ever to do it.

Here's one I found today as well, and it's very touching: This One's For All The Cubs Fans Who Didn't Live Long Enough To See It.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Well, Huh

People like to talk about themselves, and if you genuinely listen, you will hear some remarkable stories.

One of the moms on the hockey team went to see the Beatles when she was a kid. She also went to see the Jackson Five.

One of the dads on the 16u team had a great grandfather who played professional baseball--in 1908. He played for the Brooklyn Superbas, which was the team name before they became the Dodgers. So he was playing pro ball the same year that the Chicago Cubs last (until last night) won the World Series.

Today, I took Eli 15.3s skates for sharpening.

It took longer than I expected, and I had some time to kill, so I walked over to one of the sheets and saw figure skaters.

Six of them, to be exact. And they were all in high school, at least, while a few of them looked a bit older.

Two of them were doing triple jumps. I've never seen anyone do a triple jump in person, and the amount of power they generated was amazing.

I was just standing there watching, and then I walked around a corner and saw an older gentleman (in his late sixties, I'm guessing) watching intently. "Do you have someone out there?" he said, with a big smile on his face.

I told him I didn't, explained what I was doing, and started listening. Here's a bit of what he told me:
--do you know where skaters go when they retire from competition? Cruise ships, believe it or not. One cruise line has ten different ships with small ice rinks, and they all have shows. They also go to live shows like Disney on Ice, or any one of multiple shows in Europe.
--colleges now have competitive skating programs. There are several schools in Michigan that have this, although I didn't ask about the competition format. But competitive college skating is an actual thing now, and it can get you a scholarship.
--Michelle Kwan was the Michael Jordan of figure skating. Because skating was so centralized around one person in that era, it really ignited junior participation and became kind of a golden era for American figure skating. Now, with much less recognizable stars, participation has dropped off significantly.
--It's a tough era for figure skating. It's obviously very expensive, and it requires an enormous amount of time, and both are in short supply in many parts of the country.

As it turned out, this fellow was the husband of the woman who directs the figure skating program, and he was the nicest, most pleasant person imaginable. He also mentioned that at least two skaters, who originally started in the Learn to Skate program at that rink, eventually wound up going to nationals, which is remarkable.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Clockwork Empires

I have steadfastly refused to play pre-release versions of Clockwork Empires for the last two years.

Dungeons of Dredmor is a brilliant, incredibly fun game, and I was willing to wait, because CE is full of all kinds of interesting ideas.

It was released last week, and I've played for 133 minutes. Or 113. I can't remember.

And you know what? It's not very good. Man, I hate typing that.

Every minute with this game has been a struggle. Battling the interface is a big reason, but the problems are so deep that even getting through the tutorial is a struggle.

Plus, the fit and finish is disappointingly poor.

An example: when you click on information bars and whatnot, windows pop up to give you the information you requested. These windows appear all over the screen, and most appear to have absolutely no rhyme or reason for their placement. Click on something in the upper-left of the screen? The resulting window could pop up anywhere. It's like whack-a-mole.

This is a basic, basic thing. I thought about it for about 30 seconds and came up with this: when you click on something to get more information, the resulting window should be slightly toward the center of the screen in relation to where you pressed. So the center of the screen has gravity, and it pulls those information screens toward the center.

So when one of those screens open up, your eyes would instinctively know where to look.

With CE, though, you have no damn idea where anything is going to show up. It's an information circus, and not in a good way.

That sounds like a little thing, I know, but there are so many examples of little things being poorly designed that it seriously affects my perception of the game.

Another example: the tutorial.

This is a complex game, so the tutorial is very, very important. But when you pick your starting location, it's possible to pick a very hilly area (I did). The tutorial tries to lead you through basic tasks, but to do some of them, you have to level ground. A lot of ground. It's incredibly tedious, and why on earth wouldn't they just start you in a largely flat area with one small set of hills for you to level?

I don't think I'm anywhere near even finishing the tutorial, because I made some stuff in the kitchen (a specific quantity was needed) and I'm not getting credit for what I made.


I want to believe that there's a good game in there, somewhere, but it's clearly nowhere near finished.

Like I said, I hate typing all this, because I was 100% on board. This was one of my most anticipated games of the fall (as soon as they announced the release date). But it's sloppy and not even half-baked at this point.

I will say, though, that the post-launch support for Dredmor was absolutely terrific, and there are certainly good ideas in the design. I'm willing to be patient, but I can't recommend that it be purchased at this point.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Costume Count Reports So Far

Halifax, Nova Scotia
Toronto, Ontario
Cumbernauld, Scotland
East Grand Rapids, Michigan
St. Paul, Minnesota
Louisville, Kentucky
Watertown, Massachusetts
New York City
Cincinnati, Ohio

Halloween 2016/MRI/Fighting Eleven

We had 39 trick-or-treaters last night, and in our incredibly tidy little town, there were designated trick-or-treat hours--6 to 8 p.m.

Right on cue, we had little kids running up to the door at 6:05.

I have three costume reports so far: Halifax, St. Paul, and Toronto.

John Harwood, who is dangerously clever, set this up in his front yard last night:

Click on the image for a larger version and you'll see the pumpkin's panic (that sounds like an excellent name for a novel heavy on reflection).

My MRI was at 7 this morning, and I was done by 8. Won't know anything for 3-4 days. Here's what it looked like when I walked outside:

I've had enough of these where it's pretty straightforward now, and I always do the breathing thing. This time, there was a timer above the MRI machine, so I could accurately see how often I was breathing. I was at 2-3 per minute most of the time.

Okay, I appear to have a complete design for Fighting Eleven (I have to change that name, but F11 is the working title). Now I have to create a work plan.

For Gridiron, I literally went by screen, because my brain couldn't see it any other way. This time, I'm trying to start with all the data I need to create the world, and do those structures first. Then, probably, by screen. That's a terrible programming practice, I'm sure, but it's how my mind works.

Also, this project is more complex than I originally thought. It's going to be very, very difficult to create a world of college football that feels dynamic and has life.

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