Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and this is an excellent political explainer: The Republican Choice.

This is an excellent long read: The Ghost Hunter. And another: In Search of King David's Lost Empire. One more: The Twilight of the Iranian Revolution.

From Wally, another casualty of COVID-19: Ballpark Peanuts, a Classic Summer Pleasure, Have Been Benched. A tremendous cover: The Lovecats - Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

From Mak K, and what a bizarre story: 'We live in a cage': residents hide as macaque 'gangs' take over Thai city

From C. Lee, and this is worthwhile: Transcribe Anti-Slavery Letters to Help Historians. Intriguing: Scientists induce state of artificial hibernation in mice. Ah, the 'Peter Principle': The reasons why people become incompetent at work. A very odd story: Why Soviet Russia Named a Tomato After an American Celebrity. I never get tired of grift stories: The Liechtensteinian Lady Burglar and Her Mysterious Trunk. This is a fascinating transcript: Patent Racism.



Okay, how could I have not seen "River" before now? How is that possible?

Don't even ask any questions. Just go to Amazon Prime and watch it. It's unspeakably brilliant.

Seems Like Good Advice

I'm trying to remember this, but the combo Orwellian/Clockwork Orange vibe is definitely unsettling.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Incredibly, Another Post About Netball

Andrew was kind enough to send this information on netball from Australia:
Was interested to see you posting a netball rules video, and having played a little bit of (mixed) netball I thought I'd add some thoughts on it. 

It's hugely popular with young girls, and primarily a female sport. There are mixed competitions as you enter older age groups, but for kids, girls play netball and boys generally don't.

The main thing to know is that netball is horrific for lower limb injuries. You can probably tell from the amount of stress put on players' legs from using their "landing foot", and only being allowed one step. The sudden stop/start movement having to withstand momentum and impact leads to a lot of knee issues. At least with basketball you can take two (or three if you're a Pro) steps to disperse some of that impact and momentum. 

Here's an article on injury rates, where it ranks worse for lower leg and knee injuries than AFL, soccer and both rugby codes: Hard court: stats show netball's injury toll.

The other thing is that if you come from basketball as I did, the movement and defense almost breaks your brain. It doesn't seem like much but the drop from 2 steps to 1 is really difficult to un-learn. You either need to jump stop everything or land on one foot and then think about your next step. Which then leads back to the injuries.

The "contact" rule feels like you can't get sufficiently close enough to anyone to play defense. Any sort of body contact is penalised, which can get frustrating again if you come from another non-contact sport that allows incidental contact.

When I watched the video I linked to last week, it looked for all the world like a sport that was invented because women weren't "strong" enough to play basketball. All kinds of weird sports variations were created for that reason. So I looked up "history of netball," and immediately found this (Wikipedia):
The history of netball can be traced to the early development of basketball. A year after basketball was invented in 1891, the sport was modified for women to accommodate social conventions regarding their participation in sport, giving rise to women's basketball.

There we go.

I've mentioned this before, but all the way to 1978, girl's high school basketball in Texas was six on six (three on each half of the court, no crossing over). Parents, incredibly, had to sue to get five on five basketball.

The second thing I thought when I watched the video was that it looked like an ACL nightmare. That explosive stopping, over and over again. Women are at higher risk for ACL tears (I believe it's something about hip angle that puts more stress on the knee), and netball looked like the perfect environment for such injuries.

And it is, as it turns out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

What I'm Doing

Someone asked me about the editing process for The Man You Trust.

I'm not sure how other people do it, but for me, there are two levels. The first is a factual level. Timeline details that need to be verified. Details that have to be checked (someone can't be drinking from a glass of water that they haven't been given). Checking for the frequency of phrases or body language to make sure that they haven't been overused. Checking descriptions to make sure they don't sound too similar.

The factual level is very list driven. I have a long, long list of things that need to be checked, established, or emphasized. It's relatively straightforward.

The other level is much more difficult (at least for me). I read through a chapter and feel the rhythm. The narrative should flow at a particular speed, unless there's a specific reason I want it to speed up or slow down.

What I do sometimes is try to get from Point A to Point B as a transition between two areas, but all I'm thinking about is the transition, not what the characters would actually be doing. When I write this way, the transition always feels incomplete and reads too fast.

In other words, it's wrong.

When I find one of these passages, it has to be fixed, and that can be surprisingly time consuming. It's like manually adjusting the speed of a record player while also writing the music that's playing. That's the best way I can describe it.

I've allocated 500 hours to do this. I think I spent about 1,000 on each draft. We'll see.

Monday, June 22, 2020

It's Possible

I know we've pushed back the threshold of stupid for the last few years, but I think we have to consider that we've reached the apex.

It begins with this: MrBeast partners with MSCHF to give away $25,000 as part of a massive one-time game.

Here is the important bit:
Donaldson has partnered with internet collective MSCHF for “Finger on the App,” a one-time multiplayer game with a very simple premise: the last person to take their finger off their phone screen wins up to $25,000. The twist is that “Finger on the App” has a fluctuating prize pool. Other players decide the final cash prize amount, meaning the prize can be anywhere from $1 to $25,000. 

That's right. The entire contest is keeping your finger on the phone for as long as possible.

I mean, where could we go from here? I feel like we've done it.

This reminds me to recommend one of the best documentaries I've ever seen: Hands on a Hardbody. People trying to win a truck by being the last one to remove their hand. Drama ensues.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday Links

Man, what a week.

Leading off, some next-level strange: Spies Can Eavesdrop by Watching a Light Bulb's Vibrations.

From Meg McReynolds, and honestly, who doesn't want one of these? These Life-Sized Giraffe Sculptures Hold Chandeliers in Their Mouths.

From MAK K, and good for them: There’s a loophole along the closed U.S.-Canada border. Couples are getting married there.

From Wally, and this is an amazing computer build: Rotating PC. No one's ever made it: Impossible Climb Andler 2019.

From C. Lee, and it's strangely relaxing: Fireplace Sounds - Medieval Tavern - Inn Ambience. This is astounding: Researchers: Virus-derived protein triggers depression. I had no idea these existed: Long Dice. Amazing: Ancient Roman Board Game Found in Norwegian Burial Mound. A fascinating theory: Males Are the Taller Sex. Estrogen, Not Fights for Mates, May Be Why. I have no words: US Air Force to test autonomous AI fighter against a human next year. Microsoft, leading the charge to the bottom: Microsoft's robot editor confuses mixed-race Little Mix singers.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

I'm Surprised This Needed to be Clarified

Elbows, right? Everybody knows that by now. What's up with feet?

Haircut! Scone!

I got a haircut today. And a blueberry scone. I felt like a tycoon.

It's been 15 weeks since I had a haircut. 12 weeks since I had that particular blueberry lavender scone from the neighborhood bakery.

Both are open now.

I tried to be careful. I made the first appointment at the barber, and there were only three other people there (only one other customer).

I paid for the scone from the sidewalk. They have a register outside now.

I don't mind not going in. I kind of like it, really.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Hey, I tried

[Yes, this move was conveniently timed, as T-Mobile's network has been projectile vomiting all week. This story isn't really about T-Mobile, though.]

I've had a Verizon account for over 15 years.

I was paying for way more than I needed, though. So I decided to downsize my plan. I looked on their website and the cheapest plan I could find (with more than 1GB of data) was $60 a month.

Then I did a little comparison shopping. I went on T-Mobile's website and they had a prepaid plan with 5GB of data for $25 a month. Unbelievable.

Because I've been a Verizon customer for so long, I made the effort and called in to ask them if there were secret plans that I couldn't find. Turns out, there were--prepaid plans that were not easy to locate, because it's not how they make the most money.

The prepaid plan I looked at was 3GB of data for $35 a month. Close enough, with the loyalty bonus.
I said sign me up.

And then the murders began.

I have an HTC 11, a super-powerful phone from late 2017. Verizon told me that if they disconnected me from the post-paid plan and reconnected me for the prepaid plan, that my phone wouldn't work, because the database said it was incompatible with the network.

"Maybe you should tell my phone," I said, "since it's been working fine for three years."

The issue was that the database identified my phone as a 3G phone without 4G capability (absolutely incorrect). At least, that was the consensus.

Not a problem, right? A crippling problem, actually. There was no workaround, according to customer service and the prepaid department.


That first call took over an hour, and then I made a second call which ALSO lasted an hour, and there was no resolution.

Oh, I could buy a new phone. That was their best idea. 

I went to the T-Mobile website and signed up for the prepaid plan (surprise, my phone is compatible with their network). The SIM came in the mail two days later. I popped it in and it worked.

You may be asking how Verizon could make it so difficult for a customer of fifteen years to continue paying them money each month.

That is a very good question.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Tower of Power

Since the golf course isn't putting out water this summer (COVID), Gloria was nice enough to get me a sports bottle that I could take with me on the course.

Eli 18.10 looked at it and started laughing. "Mom, that's huge!'

"Did this come with a trailer?" I asked.

"It's not that big," Gloria said. "You can put it in your bag."

"It would double the weight of my bag," I said. "I can fill it up and use it for weight workouts, though."

"You people," she said.

"Dad, how do you get it to the course?" Eli asked.

"I don't know," I said. "A roof rack? Did it come with a roof rack?"

As it turns out, it did.

Monday, June 15, 2020

This is why we can't have nice things.

Well, damn it.

I have this bad habit of watching a game trailer until I decide sexy/not sexy. If it's sexy, I don't want to see any more because I don't want any spoilers.

For the trailer of Little Devil Inside I decided "sexy" and stopped watching, and because of that, I missed this:

Damn it. Damn it to hell. 

It would be difficult to create a more stereotypical, racist depiction than that image. A half-naked savage with a mask and a blowgun. Big lips for extra points!

That is aggressively terrible. 

Now, incredibly, there were people whose first reaction was "But that's just history."

An interesting point, until you consider who wrote the history. 

Everything written about Africa for centuries was written by people from colonial cultures. The only aim of these texts was to justify colonialism. So the entirety of African culture was reduced to three tropes: savage, dissolute, or simpleton. 

In all three cases, it clearly established that "these people" were clearly unable to govern themselves. A thinly-disguised justification for coming in and stealing everything that wasn't nailed down. 

Let's reverse that. What if we turned this kind of gaze on Edwardian England? 
Men and women dress in elaborate costumes, including a strange focus on enormous hats as a status symbol. They drink intoxicants in these fine costumes until they are rendered unconscious, or engage in savage brawls that often end in serious injury or death. 

See how easy it is to do that?


I think this may qualify as the worst-designed sport I've ever seen. This video is a must-see:
The Rules of Netball - EXPLAINED!.
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