September 14, 2020
Before Civilization. A few weeks back, I was chatting with Ben from MidniteTease about pretty much nothing in particular when the discussion turned, as such discussions between two relatively healthy red-blooded American males often do, to the topic of videogames.
Why, what did you think I was going to say?
Anyway, Ben is currently learning how to create mods for Fallout 3. Considering that I can use my computer to open e-mail, this amazes me to no end. He had said something about making Deathclaws wear party hats... I think? I might have that wrong. Anyway. He's doing that, and I'm still playing Fate Grand Order. Still have yet to miss a log-in from when I began around the New Year, in fact. I've gone from being a total clueless n00b in the game to being a total clueless vet at the game with a roster that's strong enough to carry my lame tucus to victory.
No, no, what I meant to say is that I've actually learned how to play, how to use the mechanics to my advantage, all that sort of thing. I've spent hours reading and watching videos on the thing, and without a doubt my favorite part of the game is... a daily webcomic that gets posted on Reddit. I've linked to Rednal's imgur album so you can read it if you want. It just put up its 500th consecutive comic a few days ago, and also finally gave it a name.
However. FGO is not the only thing I've been playing of late. God help me, I've begun playing Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy. As the creator of the game says, "I created this game for a certain type of person. To hurt them." I don't know if I'm the certain type of person mentioned, but it does hurt. So very much.
But during that conversation with Ben, somehow we veered off topic briefly to floppy disks. No, I don't know either. But as we chatted via text, I went looking through a box of old Sony disks I have here... from my RadioShanty days, no less. Over 20 years old, in other words. Poorly labeled if at all, they just sat there with no way for me to access them. And there, at the back of the box, was something that honestly took my breath away for a moment. Or maybe it was the hot sauce on the burrito, one of the two. Lets go with the thing in the disk box, shall we?
1987. I had a 286 around about that time. I couldn't tell you how much RAM it had... probably 640kb. I'm pretty sure I bought this when I was in grad school, though. 1991, then. Either way, holy crap. You've maybe played the remake that came out in 2004 which is available on Steam, and it's really quite a faithful "cover" version. But just think about this for a moment. When Sid Meier made this game, he was still four years away from the release of Civilization.
That means it was literally "before civilization." And, for all you kids out there, yes, it's before your knowledge too. You never experienced floppys.
This is very nearly archaeology, certainly in computer terms. How weird it is to say that. Anyway. Thought you might be interested. If not, eh, sorry to waste your time. If you were, great, happy to waste your time!
September 04, 2020
All Of Them, Really. You may remember a while ago, I was lamenting over the length of my hair and how badly it needed to be cut. Of course, with the Plague-19 going on getting out to a place of haircutting was difficult if not potentially fatal. This left me with two options: let it grow or cut it myself. For a while, I continued to let it grow... and grow... and grow...
But then came the issues. First, it was having to clean my hairbrush every few days. Then it was my bathtub drain clogging almost bi-weekly. Then it was random hair in my metaphorical (and sometimes literal) soup. But the real tipping point was being woken up by a literal mouthful of hair. It had gotten so long that what would have been a ponytail had I tied it was migrating to cover my face during the night. This could not stand, and so I made the decision... I had to do the deed.
Being nearly as impulsive as a block of concrete, I had to make sure I wasn't going to mess up. I have a very nice Remington beard trimmer...
No, not that Remington. At least, I don't think it's the same company. If it is, that's the weirdest case of business diversity I can think of. Anyway, beard trimmer. It's quite good for an entry-level model and it lets me remove my beard in about a fifth of the time it takes me to shave. Even better, I've had it long enough now that its now saving me money on the cost of razor blades! Win win all around! However, please notice the name: beard trimmer. I had no idea how well it'd do when it came to the overgrown field that was my hair. Its blade is less than one-and-a-half inches wide, and my head is much larger than that. Further, I didn't want to shave it all off, and the trimmer did have a guide that'd keep it an inch over my head. That'd still be short, but not oh-my-god-what-did-you-do short. So, I practiced.
Right in front, dead-center of my hairline.
Because where else would you practice when the possibility exists that screwing up would make you look incredibly stupid and would be obvious to everybody that looked at you? Then I doubled down on the stupid by not cutting flat, but at an angle so the resulting length was actually quite a bit less than 1" tall.
Yeah, about like that. Fer the luvva crepe. Before I continued, I did the one smart thing I'd done since the decision to shear myself had been made: I hopped onto the Chicago Cubs website and ordered myself a new Cubs ballcap. Because your hair can't look stupid if nobody can see it! That accomplished, I went back and got to work.
It's more exciting if you imagine a hair-cutting sequence occuring with this playing in the background. No seriously, imagine scenes of long hair dropping to the floor, close-ups of the trimmer blade deforesting whole rainforests of red, all in dramatic cinematic dramaticness. You picturing that? Pretty cool, isn't it? Heck yeah it is.
That's not what it was like. Instead it was me trying to get my hair to just all be the same height and failing miserably. For the next three days, every time I was in the bathroom, I'd see another patch that was clearly too long and work at it some more. Eventually I just set the trimmer to the very lowest height that wasn't blade-on-skin and said screw it. I'll be honest, it wasn't a good look for me. I didn't quite look like the sort of big dumb muscle you expect to see in a bad crime movie, but it was pretty close. It's been a couple of weeks now, and while it's still very very short... I can brush my hair just as well with my hand as I can an actual brush, and drying it after a shower takes about two rubs of a towel... it's not as horrible as it was. At least now you can tell I have actual hair.
Better than choking on it every morning, I'll tell you what.
August 31, 2020
Thanksgiving Coming A Day Early This Year In one of the bigger out-of-nowhere announcements I've heard in the anime/manga world, Kadokawa and Nagaru Tanigawa released a statement revealing that Light Novel #12, The Intuition of Haruhi Suzumiya, is being released on November 25. Note that this will be #11 in the States, as the last two Japanese novels were combined into one here. In Japan, it's been nine years since the last release.
Providing us with more evidence that Yen Press loves us and wishes us to be happy, they put out a tweet stating that they'll be releasing the digital version in English simultaneously. And, because that simply wasn't enough good news they're intending to reprint all of the light novels in physical form as well. Which is great, because old copies are selling online for stupidly high prices. It's not unusual to see the full US sets of 10 books selling for over $500.
Which is, of course, patently absurd.
I am greatly amused by the timing of the announcement here in the States... August 31st is, after all, the last day of the Endless Eight time loops.
August 20, 2020
August 17th, Today, Is The Day The Time Loops Of Endless 8 Start.
Just thinking you might like to know.
August 19, 2020
Today, August 17th, Is The Day The Time Loops Of Endless Eight Start.
I thought you would like to know.
August 18, 2020
Today, August 17th, Is The Day The Time Loops Of Endless 8 Start.
Just thought you'd like to know.
August 17, 2020
15532 To Go
Today, August 17th, is the day the time loops of Endless 8 start. Just thought you'd like to know!
August 16, 2020
Derecho's Trumpet Over at college graduate Brickmuppet's place, he tells a tale of a disappointed tastebuds as he recently had to deal with a cheeseburger made with cheez wiz. His disgust is entirely understandable. A mouthful of such a monstrosity when one is expecting a wonderful beef patty with ketchup, mustard, a small amount of relish, and a delightful amount of proud midwestern-made cheese, would be a horrible experience, akin to expecting a Chicago-style Hot Dog and discovering it topped instead with ketchup and raw wheatgrass.
This tale is bad enough, but he then goes on to mention something about a derecho that brought hurricane-force winds through Iowa, Southern Wisconsin, and the entirety of Illinois last Monday. The National Weather Service defines a Derecho as "a well-organized and long-lived complex of storms producing a family of particularly damaging downbursts." Tornadoes are a thing involved with these massive storm fronts, and indeed, two were involved in the Rockford area when the beast rolled through around 3pm.
I've helpfully placed an arrow pointing at the rough location of Duckford and Pond Central. The NWS did a great job with this thing, as they began warning those of us in the path of the storm that we were in for a spot of bother around 9am. A couple of hours later, they issued something I had never seen before: a "Particularly Dangerous Situation Severe Thunderstorm Watch". I had slept in that day, having been up very late playing Fate Grand Order.
It wasn't until 130pm or so that I finally noticed the frantic reports coming from the NWS and the decidedly less-frantic heads-up coming from the best weather team in the area, the good folks over at WREX, the local NBC affiliate. It was that rather calm unconcerned nature from them that fooled me into thinking this wasn't going to be a big deal, just another thunderstorm, ho-hum. This is odd, as they are usually quite good about getting their point across when it's going to be a bad one. Well, it didn't take much longer before my complacency was blown out of the water... almost literally.
While that photo above was taken in Chicago, that same wall o' clouds pretty much came through Duckford. Seriously, it was well-defined enough that when it passed overhead it felt very much like the space station crossing the terminator line in orbit... one moment it's sunlight, the next it's pitch black. Remember how I mentioned there were two tornadoes that hit the city? The larger of them was an EF-1 with 100mph winds that touched down just to the north of Duck U and traveled Northeast, eventually causing more than $500,000 in damage to Duck Valley College, the local JuCo, when it ran over them. This wasn't a glancing blow, this was a direct hit that went through a number of residential areas.
Duck U is at the orange arrow, the estimated tornado path is the purple line. Just offscreen to the bottom left is the busiest intersection in the city, State St and Alpine Rd (which is that north-south street just to the left of the tornado start point). Duck Valley College is top-center of the map. The rest of Duckford got away with only 75-80mph wind gusts, torrential rain... after it was all over, I saw a report of rainfall rates of up to three inches/hour... and much trees and roofs blown around. State and Alpine is approximately the half-way point between Pond Central (far offscreen to the bottom) and The Old Home Pond (well offscreen to the left), so fortunately both locations were spared the worst of it. But it did get a little exciting there for a while. At one point here at Pond Central, I had breezes coming from opposite sides of the apartment at once, which has never happened before. The weatherstripping on the apartment door couldn't keep the glancing wind gusts out, and the floor-to-ceiling windows/sliding glass door to the balcony are like a huge wind magnet. Thing is, the windows face south, and the door is in the northwest corner of the apartment, facing west, at the end of a hallway. Usually the wind has to be coming from the dead north to get in there, and it REALLY has to be blowing for it to leak around the door. But when THAT is happening, the windows to the south are shielded by the building. I think it's safe to say that the winds were... "confused" during the storm. I did prepare my emergency nest in the hallway, just in case of Really Bad Things.
Timelapse of Merely Bad Things from the GOES-EAST weather satellite
August 04, 2020
Air Penguins Redux In these trying times, when all around us is going insane, when hiding in one's house for a month seems normal, when nothing really makes sense anymore, we need to be reminded that, once upon a time, this was a thing:
I first mentioned them ten years ago, but c'mon... flying penguins! I only wish the video was longer... I could watch it for hours. The same company has done many other flying things, including a very impressive (but nowhere near as fun) SmartBird, eButterflies, and... OH! I just found a longer Air Penguin video!
I want to say something inspiring, like "be like an air penguin", but I can't think of anything. Oh well.
July 28, 2020
This Is Funny What's the difference between a joke and a rhetorical question?
Well, I thought it was funny.
THIS... this is what I've been saying for decades, this guy just has a better voice and a better editing suite!
Maybe a little NSFW language. Lighting. Darn skippy.
EDIT: More Lighting! Even darner skippier!
What sort of music do wind turbines like to listen to?
They're huge metal fans.
July 16, 2020
दिवि सूर्यसहस्रस्य भवेद्युगपदुत्थिता। यदि भाः सदृशी सा स्याद्भासस्तस्य महात्मनः।।॥११–१२॥
75 years ago on July 16th, 1945, the Trinity Device was detonated and the world became a different place. Whether that was for good or ill, I leave as a rhetorical question for the reader.
The title of this post is from the Bhagavad Gita, and is what Robert Oppenheimer originally claimed to have thought when he saw the result of his work:
If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.
July 14, 2020
Grant Imahara If you read The Pond, you've almost certainly seen Mythbusters, right? I know I loved the show for most of its run, and while it couldn't really be called "science" it was certainly in the vicinity thereof.
Less than an hour from when I began typing this, news had broken that Grant Imahara, member of the so-called "Build Team" on Mythbusters, had suffered a brain aneurysm and passed away at the age of 49. He was known for being the "team geek", the one who specialized in high-tech gadgets and anything needing computers. Over his entire career, he would probably be best called a roboticist. He first became known to the public for his appearances on Battlebots, but he also worked for Industrial Light and Magic for years. Indeed, he was the one in charge of refreshing the old R2-D2s from the original Star Wars trilogy for use in the prequels. He was also a skilled movie model builder with a list of credits as long as your arm.
However for me, without a doubt, his finest creation has to have been Geoff Peterson, the skeleton-robot from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Which brought us this moment of incredible hilarity that even after having seen it dozens of times cannot fail to bring me to tears laughing.
Thank you for being part of my television life for so long, Grant. Momzerduck liked you the best on the show. I tended to watch for Kari, but you were indispensable.
July 03, 2020
Adventures In Going Outside Had to break quarantine today to go out and get my Keep Wonderduck Alive and Happy Pills. 90 degree heat with 65% humidity meant the experience was like existing in a damp fire.
Because I'm a lazy bum... and other reasons... I got a lift from a taxi, which meant wearing my handy-dandy face mask. Nothing out of the ordinary, that's just what life is like in the world of the evildeathbatplague. One difficulty... I have a goatee that's probably three or four inches long.
Kinda like that, but bushier. My mustache isn't as majestic either. Oh, and the goatee is now two-toned... more on that later. The entire trip only took a half-hour, hardly what anybody would call a long time. The heat was hot, but hello! Summertime! It tend to do that here. But here's the thing... my goatee was tucked inside the mask. Once I got home and took the mask off, my goatee was pointing straight forward. And it would... not... lay... down. I'm not one to worry overmuch about looking stupid. It's kinda normal for me, truth be told. But this was too much for me to take. I immediately soaked my chin in water and brushed until I couldn't stand it any longer. It's sorta behaving itself now. Sorta.
Now then: the two-toned thing. Not too terribly long ago I realized, much to my horror, that my hair is beginning to show my age. Now as you can guess, I am not at all vain about my appearance... that'd be horribly stupid of me all things considered. However, I do have one thing that I'm extremely proud of, and that's my hair. It's a red-gold color, particularly in the sunlight, except for my mustache which is and hopefully always will be red. Back in the days of grad school, I had a friend whom we'll call Tweeter. I may have mentioned her somewhere in the past 15 years, but the search function being what it is, I can't find it. Anyway, she and I had happened to bump into each other at the library (she wasn't in the theater department) so we grabbed some lunch and began walking towards my office in the theater building. It was one of those rare wonderfully pleasant days you get in Minnesota during the week-long stretch they call "spring" up there.
Yes, exactly like that, 100%, Anyway, we're walking along and Tweeter suddenly gets this weird look on her face. I mean, weirder than I usually got from women. Finally she goes "Holy crap Slick," because that was the nickname she gave me, "you really are a redhead, aren't you? You look like your head is on fire!" The sun had turned my hair into a shining halo of glorious red-gold. Anyway. I'm inordinately proud of my hair.
This actually is what my hair color looks like when the sun hits it like it did that day. That I'm 52 and show no sign of grey in it that anybody could possibly detect just makes me even more proud. Until a few days ago, when I realized something terrifying: my goatee had grey in it. Worse, I had a reverse-skunk going on. Instead of a single grey stripe, the middle 50% of my goatee is red, and the 25% on either side is grey... or at least something that isn't red. It made me feel really really old... and now today, when it made me feel old and stupid looking. I'll tell ya, it doesn't make for a great experience. But I've got my pills, the a/c here at Pond Central is still doing its thing, and I can always shave off the goatee. My fear is that it'll grow back ALL grey. That'd be a disaster! "Anyway, here's Wonderwall."
This is Pink Floyd level of lighting. When I stumbled upon it, I was flabbergasted... then I watched the whole concert, and was even more blown away. Forget the quality of the songs... I'm not big on a lot of them... but pay attention to the way the designer plays with the light curtains. Kudos to Trent Reznor for working with LeRoy Bennett, the designer, to get this look. It's friggin' beautiful in a way a lot of the songs aren't, and the combination is wonderful.
June 26, 2020
Because Sometimes You Just Need To Post Trains
Union Pacific was the only railroad to use the 4-12-2, and it was apparently a maintenance nightmare due to a third cylinder powering the second driving axle. Why was that a problem? Because it was directly under the firebox, in the center of the engine. That aside, it is an intimidating-looking beast.
Sometimes, even classic steam engines need a little help. Here, Norfolk & Southern's 611 gets exactly that... a little help.
I'm a twain! Choo choo! It's a Swiss railroad battery-powered shunter from the '20s, apparently rated for a whoppin' 5 h.p. Of course, you don't need much to move cars around, you just need to get 'em moving.
Ever wonder how they keep the switches clear of ice and snow during a Chicago winter? Yup, they set 'em on fire.
Special Bonus Not-Train Picture
Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-V...
June 14, 2020
Mind Savers No matter how well we may (or may not) be coping with Introvert Celebration 2020, staring at the same four walls (more if you have access to more than one room) can begin to get anybody a little bugnutty. I've come across a number of yootoobers that allow me to take virtual journeys to get me out of Pond Central, at least mentally.
It all started, of course, with Rambalac. I began watching his videowalks long before Social Distancing Is A Thing 2020 kicked in, and he's still my favorite of all of these people I'll be mentioning. What he does is so uncomplicated that nobody else that I've found does it half as well, which confuses me. All he does is load up a high-end videocamera with a swell microphone on a stabilizer-like rig, and he goes for walks. That's it, that's all. He doesn't talk, there's no music overlaid on it, it's just ambient sound. And I simply adore having his vids playing while I do my FGO runs, or have dinner, or just to get myself ready for bed.
In search of something new and exciting, a few months back I stumbled across Railfan Aunz. Consisting of mostly cab rides of trains, this yootoober leans more toward the not-Tokyo side of Japan, though they spend a lot of time outside of Japan too... there's videos from Australia, Italy, England, Hong Kong and others, too. Two of my favorite videos are a roundtrip between two fairly rural areas, one out, one back... and during the four hour round trip, the weather changes from heavy snow to zero snow on the ground. Of course, during the trip back the weather gets bad again. Throw that onto some rather stunning terrain and you've got a great way to spend a night or two. The video I've included here is easily my favorite, however. It looks like a regular train ride in dense-pack Japan somewhere... and then you reach the 3:40 mark.
Yeah. Not a bad way to commute.
Compared to the first two, Wingin' It With Paul Lucas is totally different. He's a flight sorta guy, and he literally does nothing but flight reviews for a living. Fortunately for him, he had a backlog to work through during the Coming Of The Quiet Time 2020. While I'm fascinated by the Business/First Class flights he's been on, he's not afraid to sit back in the cattle section with the unwashed masses. He's done everything from 747s to teeny-tiny puddlejumpers in the Caribbean, as well as the occasional train and even a submarine once. His style has changed radically from the beginning of the channel, for the better I think.
Finally, in stark contrast to the other three's exotic locales, we come to CTAConnections, the official yootoob channel of the Chicago Transit Authority. About half of the channel is stuff that nobody will ever watch... the monthly CTA Transit Board meetings... but the other half is filled with historical footage of Chicago's light rail system, as well as real-time ride-alongs of every "color" route... the Purple Line, the Blue Line, etc etc etc.
Around about 20:30 or so on this Red Line video, you may see something really really gorgeous off to the right.
There's plenty of other channels out there that I've taken virtual trips on, but I'll leave those for your own adventures... and if you have anything like this that you like to watch, like a bus trip from London to Paris, let me know in the comments! Enjoy!
June 09, 2020
Serious Questions For The Pond Scum Are you okay?
Has it been difficult dealing with all... this?
June 03, 2020
Thankfully, Baseball The KBO, Korea's professional baseball league, is playing out their season these days over on ESPN. For those of us starved for the sport, it's something of a blessing. And even in this day and age of Evildeathbatplague, they've got great attendance!
You could almost say the stadium is... um... stuffed.
May 29, 2020
Elfstedentocht? I Don't Even Know Her! Every once in a while you get a double-bonus situation that drops in your lap. I was aimlessly wandering around yootoob, as one does, clicking on whatever struck my fancy... um... fancily. From a train line that stares Mt Fuji in the face to an absolutely killer electronic track called Turbo Killer to a discussion of Cthulhu's Family Tree to a fan-made Spess Muhreens mini-film to a music video involving very angry ducks, it's been a mix of good and not-so-good (not seen here)...
...and then I stumbled upon something called the Elfstedentocht, or Eleven Cities Tour in English. For those of you who, like me, have never heard of it, the Elfstedentocht is a 200km long speed-skating event held when the weather allows in the Netherlands. As can be guessed by the name, it runs through "the eleven historic cities of the province of Friesland" via canals, rivers, and lakes, beginning and terminating in the city of Leeuwarden, which I'd only heard of because it was the birthplace of the noted spy Mata Hari.
The race has only been held 15 times since 1909, with the most recent having been in 1997. See, the entire route must have at least six inches of good ice on it... no thinning ice, no mush, and at least a 12-day stretch of sub-zero Celsius temperatures preceding a race. As you can guess, this is A Big Deal; there's usually just 48 hours warning that the race will actually occur. Apparently in 2012, the last time conditions appeared perfect, it hovered right below the target for long enough that any tiny temperature increase would have nixed the race. On the day the "go" would have been given, organizers said "no" for safety reasons, disappointing the 16000 casual skaters, 300 racers, and the entire nation.
In 2013, the Elfstedentocht organizers, as part of a Leeuwarden festival, contacted Public Service Broadcasting and asked them to write some tunes about the race using historical footage from earlier events. Of course they said "yep!"
From what I've read, the 1963 race, shown in this second video, was held in absolutely brutal conditions: overly cold, strong winds, and snow gunking up the ice. Only 69 out of 10000 people were able to finish it, and the winner did not realize he had actually crossed the finish line due to being snowblind. Broken bones and eye damage were common that year.
I had no idea these tracks existed until they fell into my lap. A rare bright spot on another shut-in sort of day. Enjoy!
May 23, 2020
Well, I Dunno So I've been sitting here trying to figure out what to write and honestly can't come up with anything worth reading.
This is the point where I say "There's some question as to whether or not I ever did," of course, because that's one of The Pond's normal jokes. Really, The Pond could write itself... probably do a better job than I could anyway.
The Pond's been such a part of me for so long that I can't imagine letting it go but it's not like I'm doing anything here either. Any requests for topics?
May 15, 2020
The Loss Of A (Little) Giant No, not that one... Little Charlie Baty. Come with me on a voyage back in time...
The year was 1987. Duckford was in the midst of its annual end-of-summer music festival, On The Waterfront. Yours truly, having wandered away from Vaucaunson's Duck and some others, had stumbled upon a smaller stage... one of seven that year... as the sun had begun to set. While most of the people attending gathered for that year's headliner... Duckford's own Cheap Trick... to take the main stage, tucked away back here a young Duck was about to be truly exposed to a form of music he'd never heard before: The Blues.
While Rick Estrin was the frontman for the band, it was guitarist Little Charlie Baty that led The Nightcats. He "retired" from the band in 2008, still playing with them at certain festivals and shows in Europe, but he certainly didn't stop playing live.
I thought you had to be down on fingers to play Django Reinhardt correctly. His studio stuff didn't stop either.
The album "Skronky Tonk" was on got a four-star review from Downbeat, long the bible of blues and jazz music, and a notoriously stern grader when it comes to music.
While I only found out a couple of days ago, it turns out that Little Charlie passed away in March from a heart attack. He was 66. While I probably would have been a fan of the blues even if I didn't stumble into that small outdoor concert tucked into a back corner of a large festival, I think it certainly helped that the Nightcats were my first exposure to them... they were both talented and funny at the same time. I even bought their album that night... yes, on vinyl.
Thanks, Little Charlie... you were a huge influence on my music tastes, and I may not have realized it until just now.
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