Archive for Almost Yogurt

All your ace are belong to them

Four of them, specifically, as you already knew:

The Strong Museum of Play announced the 2019 class of World Video Game Hall of Fame, and we’re excited to share that Microsoft Solitaire is one of the inductees. For many people, Solitaire was their introduction to computer games. Since Windows 3.0 came out in 1990, Solitaire has been a featured program on every version of Windows. Over the past 29 years, Microsoft Solitaire has been providing great entertainment to more than 500 million players in every corner of the world, making it a natural fit for the World Video Game Hall of Fame.

“Microsoft Solitaire being inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame makes this a historic day! It’s incredible to think that one of the most played video games in the world got its start in 1990 as a way for Microsoft to teach users how to use a mouse,” says Paul Jensen, Studio Manager for Microsoft Casual Games. “We are humbly honored to have the opportunity to work on a game that has such broad appeal, is localized into 65 languages, and played in over 200 markets around the world, including Antarctica.”

Other inductees this year include Super Mario Kart, Colossal Cave Adventure, and Mortal Kombat. And yes, there’s a physical location for the Museum, in Rochester, New York.

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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Defending Mary Sue

If you’ve ever imagined a fictional self who, all things considered, might be a tad unrealistic for you — well, be prepared for intrusions by those who would mock you:

We were “talking” about “why do women write Mary Sue fanfiction” (because, Gary Stus notwithstanding, we probably do that more than men do). And I know exactly why:

If I were creating a world and inserting myself into it. (Or if I were a self-insert OC in any existing world), I’d want to be good at stuff. And I’d want to be universally loved. And I’d want to fit in. And yes, I would want attention from whatever handsome man/male pony/whatever other creature of the male persuasion given the AU we ar talking about.) Because isn’t writing self-insert fiction (or fanfiction) really about wish fulfillment, and for a heck of a lot of us, that wish is just to *belong.* And maybe just to *have love* and yeah, maybe that’s sad, but we seek in literature what we don’t get in real life.

(Also see: why I prefer the Albert Campion mysteries BEFORE he marries Lady Amanda…)

But yes: I think portraying any marginally competent woman in fiction as a “Mary Sue” is an overreach, and also perhaps a misunderstanding of the term.

BUT ALSO: snarking about “Mary Sues” and young women’s fanfiction? Just another case of pumpkin-spice-latte hating. Because it is something particularly beloved of the young and female, it becomes an easy target.

I went through this sort of self-examination while I was writing The Sparkle Chronicles, which wound up with an ambivalent but arguably happy ending that was about 135 degrees away from what’d I’d originally envisioned. Think the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes,” which begins with a reunion that doesn’t reunite: she was the apple of his eye, but to her way of thinking, he’s empty (and forgotten) calories. But at that time, I couldn’t make myself write that. And while I poured some serious effort into making the narrator seem a bit less unreliable, the silly bastard fell in love. “Fine. Have it your way,” I said, and that’s the way it came out.

As a rule, I think of myself as being one of the least romantic people on the planet. What distinguishes me from the incels, it appears, is that I know whom to blame. And I keep any wayward wish-fulfillment thoughts on the sunny side of the street, if only because the light is better.

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Dollars 101

A course you will never see in New York or San Francisco:

High school students in Natrona County [Wyoming] are required to complete a financial literacy course in order to graduate.

“The main goal is for students to leave these courses empowered financially,” Natrona County High School Assistant Principal James Catlin told the board.

Catlin said that NC students typically take the course in their junior year.

The course provides skills and information for students to manage themselves financially. That includes lessons on how to plan for a career, how to fill out tax forms, how to prepare a budget, and more.

“It”s a super powerful class, and if you haven’t seen it, you should come around,” Roosevelt Alternative High School Principal Shawna Trujillo said.

It probably should not surprise anyone that Natrona expects students to comply with a dress code:

Something else you won’t see in NYC or SF.


Still holding out

It might be a little too early to give up on cursive writing just yet:

I like cursive. Can’t say why. Perhaps because I spent so much time learning it, or because it was so difficult to master. That was the fourth grade I think. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a nice change of pace from all the printed text I run into every freaking day, most of which is just garbage (the message, not the printed characters). I mean if someone takes the time to write anything out long hand, I am going to take the time to read it because it sure as hell isn’t going to be some Search Engine Optimized piece of spamula.

I make a point of not looking at my Social Security card, which as a teenager I signed with a hand worthy of a nun. Today, I mourn the loss of Sister Penman.

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Aging toddler

Funny, he doesn’t sound like he’s three years old: Is deathly hallows book sold as part 1 and part 2 anywhere?

Until now:

I’ll keep asking until I get a satisfactory answer

There are exactly two possible answers: “Yes, it is,” or “No, it isn’t.” You might think that either of these would be satisfactory, were it correct.

But for now: is there any reason why this little shit shouldn’t be grounded until his 40th birthday? Other than the fact that his parents will be wanting to kill him, I mean.

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Where have all the dinos gone?

More than just “long time passing,” it seems:

We need to hire this kid to explain everything. Now that he’s thirteen, he’s probably even more brilliant.

(From Digg via Miss Cellania.)


Two Minutes Like

Some people are just totally motivated, dammit:

Of such are cults made.

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Math is really hard

(8,866,128,975,287,528)3 + (–8,778,405,442,862,239)3 + (–2,736,111,468,807,040)3 = 33.

“So what?” you ask: And here’s why:

One reason to find the answers to these so-called “stubborn numbers” is because mathematicians don’t really like having unsolved equations laying around. Another is that finding solutions like this can play a role in some future attempts to find proofs for k = x3+ y3+ z3 or proofs that use it.

What made 33 “stubborn”? The luck of the draw, mostly. It is now known that if you divide an integer by 9 and get a remainder of 4 of 5, that integer cannot be expressed as the sum of three cubes. Excluding those poor unfortunates, the next-to-last integer to be verified was 33, with the complicated-looking equation up top being the actual solution. It took three weeks of supercomputer cycles to find this solution, which suddenly makes bitcoin mining seem almost whimsically simple.

Anyway, 1 through 99 are almost now accounted for. The last holdout: 42, because of course it is.

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Undressed for success

She’s 21, she’s dressed like she’s 21, and the airline simply will not have it:

Before you ask: she’s wearing a pair of tight-ish orange trousers. It’s not a swimsuit. An acquaintance of mine in London indicates that she’s traveled to and from the UK before, wearing a whole lot less than that. I’m not sure I want to nail that down any further.

Then again, Thomas Cook himself, back in 1841, started providing travel services to temperance-movement supporters in the Midlands, so perhaps there’s something in the company DNA that hasn’t changed much.


In memory of Royal Payne-Diaz

Roger has had monarchs on his mind:

I woke up on my birthday morning this month thinking about the king in chess. It’s the weakest piece, except for the pawns. It can only move one space at a time, save for castling, which can only take place once a game.

Yet the very point of the game is to capture the king. It led to a melisma of thoughts about how we need to protect the most vulnerable among us. Dreams, and exhaustion, will do that to you.

It’s true. Having the title and having the power are two entirely different things.

Then I thought of all the people who have been dubbed the “king of” some aspect of life. “I’m king of the world,” Jack Dawson (Leo DeCaprio) shouts, not long before he dies in the cold Atlantic in the movie Titanic (1997).

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” said Shakespeare’s Henry IV; he knew that not everyone was impressed by his rule.

And then there’s this:

For those keeping score: Henry IV ascended the throne in 1399 after deposing Richard II.

(Title swiped from the closing credits of Car Talk.)

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Forward to December

So saith Severian:

Ace of Spades’ morning report links to a piece on Taylor Swift’s “political awakening.” Y’all know how much I hate tooting my own horn, but I covered this way back when. Ok, ok, so I mostly just linked that for the picture — never let it be said that I don’t give the people what they want — but seriously, how hard is this to grasp? Swift is now 30, which, since pop tarts age in dog years, means she’s got two generations of younger-hotter-tighter competition coming up behind her. She’s going to hit the wall at Mach 3 no matter what, so since she’s nothing if not a very savvy operator, she’s getting out in front of her inevitable transformation into a “serious artist” (read: BMI above 15). Give it another two years, and she’ll be openly embracing those bisexuality rumors, and by the time she’s 40 she’ll be touring with the Indigo Girls. Sic transit gloria mundi. At least she can keep herself in the spotlight a bit longer by being an obnoxious Leftist (BIRM, I know).

And technically, she’s not 30 until the 13th of December, but that seems like an awfully small nit to pick.

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The nature of an icon

It never, ever just fades away:

It was eight years ago that “Friday” went viral.

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The time has come

Once upon a time, I reviewed Francis W. Porretto’s novel Love in the Time of Cinema:

One perhaps does not expect Mr. Porretto, a specialist in high-tech fantasy, to be dabbling in romance. But this is no mere dabble: as always, his characters are carefully drawn and possessed, not so much of paint-on qualities from the Official Palette, but of human values and frailties, the sort one sees far more on your own block than on [random Netflix offering]. Tim Beaufort, not quite standing in for Porretto himself, is a man from the days when a “man” meant someone with a moral code and wisdom often born of pain; the surprising thing here is not so much that Jana Tyrell (played, inevitably, by Jennifer Lawrence) falls for Tim, but that so few actresses make similar choices in real life.

I mention this because today only, the Ides of March, you can download it for free at Amazon.

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Well, dam

I blame Primus:

Of course, if you think Primus sucks, you’ll really be appalled at Brenda, clearly a spiritual kid sister to Wynona:

There are five books in Reach Around Books’ Season One, starting with Suzy Likes to Look at Balls:

If you’re looking for Put Tony’s Nuts in Your Mouth, you’re on your own.

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First the bad news

Sooner or later, we’re going to have to get off this planet: sometime between a billion years from now (Phil Torres) and a dozen years from now (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) this big blue marble will become unhabitable. But this process has drawbacks of its own:

[Torres] believes that space settlement greatly increases the possibility of the total extinction of all life. Among his reasons is the notion that low probabilities given enough time eventually approach a value of 1. Many omnicidal scenarios involving a disgruntled knave or careless researcher with access to a lot of technology unleashing something unpleasant (like a super-flu or grey goo). Thus increasing the technology level as well as number of people exponentially (as is likely with a Dyson Swarm) will increase the odds that someone will somehow kill everyone and everything. Furthermore, he postulates that in an age of extremely powerful technologies, game theory dictates that these societies would have to kill each other at the first opportunity.

Oh, it gets better, for certain nonstandard values of “better”:

He goes a bit further and states that the biggest problem is the impracticality of having an effective system wide government with light hour, minute, day, year lags. There will be so many different groups that they won’t be controllable, thus chaos will reign and, again, game theory will dictate that they all have to kill each other, for some reason.

Not quite how I recall The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, but probably close enough for government work, considering the general decline in governmental competence since then.

Still, Torres has solutions of a sort:

They mainly involve not letting people colonize space and being ruled by what sure sounds like a global totalitarian surveillance state. But it’s OK because Professor Existential Risk Assessor suggests that it be run by an A.I. (!) He also suggests modifying people through drugs and gene therapy to be more compliant, peaceful and docile.

We’re doomed. And anyway, even if we were to colonize, we couldn’t call it that, because Colonization Is Bad; just ask anyone in Rwanda.

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Blinding ourselves with science

What is the purpose of big-s Science these days? Gerard Van der Leun explains:

[T]he only thing that makes a bigger splash in Science these days than a cure for cancer is some bit of “cutting-edge research” (almost always with the aid of computer modeling) that either warms the globe or disparages religion. To the secular, nothing is sacred. Then again, why should it be? They’re “secular.”

Why? Because it is a central tenet of faith, of pure faith, in the Secular Religion, that traditional Christianity is the “Anti-Darwin” to that faith. Strange when you consider that, in terms of actual dogma and actual acts, Islam is far more hostile to all the core tenets of science, but … it really isn’t very safe to take too close a look at that collection of ergot-derived insights out of the desert. Those adherents are a bit more lethal when it comes to accepting slights on their religion. But then Christianity is the dominant religion of the First World and that’s what we’re discussing here — not which faith is right, but which faith is to be master. It seems that for Science to triumph as the new religion, Christ has to die again — and this time he’s got to stay dead.

Lurking behind the curtain are observations that dare not be noted but which are obvious nonetheless, and they involve otherwise meaningless notions like “fairness.” Now nothing in life is fair, of course; it was never intended to be. But Suzie Cheesecake down the street resents the hell out of the fact that [any random guy] can engage in indiscriminate screwing with seemingly no consequences, while she has to worry about pregnancy and such. Why she blames the Pope for this is anyone’s guess.

There are fundamentalist Christians who hold that everything in the Bible is as the Bible says it is. And there are fundamentalist Scientists … who hold that nothing in the Bible is as it says it is.

My very small puppy in this fight says that there is a lot in Science that lets all of us live longer and better lives while there is a lot in Christianity that lets us live deeper and more meaningful lives.

I don’t look to Christianity to bring me the weather reports for tomorrow. At the same time I don’t look to Science to ever, in its widest dreams, reveal the core of the miracle and mystery of being a conscious entity who has been granted the gift of being able, in my better moments, to witness — even for an inch of time — the wonder of Creation.

I know that there are many zealots of the Secular Faith who will think the less of me for not being “tough minded” enough just to face up to the fact that everything really is “purposeless matter hovering in the dark.” I know that habit of mind well. I wore it like a pre-fab Medal of Honor for many years. Then one day I had had enough of Nothingness and I sent it back.

Today, you are not allowed to suggest any kind of qualitative difference between any random member of the Forbes 400 and a guy in frazzled T-shirt and jeans who takes a dump on the streets of San Francisco. After all, the bucks-up Forbes guy has money, and therefore at some point he must have exploited the Bay Area Crapper; at no point does it matter that the Forbes guy actually refrains from fouling the streets.

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Non-singer and influencer

She does, however, dance:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez comic book

The details:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will be featured in an upcoming comic book.

The comic book, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force: New Party Who Dis?, will be published by Devil’s Due Comics, and will be released in May.

The comic promises to have the New York congresswoman and the “freshman force” take on “the establishment.” One cover has Ocasio-Cortez standing over a hurt red elephant while a blue donkey nervously looks on in the background.

The Devil’s Due head honcho says he was inspired by this interchange:

And, you know, a Watchmen quote would do it.

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Your dog wants a handkerchief


(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Only some Northern songs

Let me tell you how it might be:

It’s all too much.

(With thanks to Marc Wielage.)

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All and tsundere

We know to beware the Ides of March, which falls near the middle of the month. Personally, I find the middle of February to be much more stressful:

I kind of wish I could draw better than I can (and had time to sit down and draw tonight) because I was talking on Twitter about how I should just go Full Tsundere for Valentine’s Day (as in: “No! I don’t need love or attention! Leave me alone! Baka!“) because really, tsundere does fit a bit more how I have approached love in my life than anything: that hard shell to protect my squishy interior from being hurt (though with also a side order of being a little oblivious at times when a guy was interested in me, and probably drove him off with that).

But anyway: I threatened to do Tsundere Otter (because of my occasional handle on there of Acerbic Otter, which is an anagram of my actual name) — draw an otter in a Japanese schoolgirl dress (one of those sailor dresses, you know), with her arms folded and a bit of a scowl and muttering something about how Valentine’s Day is “stupid.”

(But yeah, the whole westernized version of the Tsundere Girl: sort of hard and brittle on the outside, but secretly wishing senpai would notice her, and actually kind of soft on the inside, that’s my brand right there. Probably ridiculous for a 50 year old to be that way but whatever.)

But Valentine’s Day is stupid, in that the people who are in a position to celebrate it often as not don’t bother, and the people who are not in a position to celebrate it are made to feel as miserable as possible. Exactly who is supposed to benefit from this sort of thing?

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If real life were only like this

If your first question is “Woody Allen? Is he still around?” you may, or may not, be interested in this:

Woody Allen has launched legal action against Amazon Studios, accusing it of breaching their contract by refusing to distribute his latest film.

The 83-year-old is seeking more than $68m (£52m) in damages, alleging the company backed out of a multi-picture deal without cause.

Amazon released two of Allen’s films and also distributed his TV series, Crisis in Six Scenes.

But it dropped his most recent movie, A Rainy Day in New York.

Allen’s argument is, um, interesting:

According to a lawsuit filed on Thursday in New York [pdf], Allen claims Amazon backed out of the deal in June 2018 because of an old accusation that the director had molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow in 1992.

The legal action said Amazon knew about “a 25-year old, baseless” allegation when it entered into deals with the director and that it “does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract”.

A Rainy Day in New York was shot in 2017 with a cast including Jude Law, Rebecca Hall, Selena Gomez and Timothée Chalamet.

Several cast members have sought to distance themselves from the film; while Allen is not known for paying generous salaries, a number of them have donated what they were paid (Gomez, it is reported, even more than she was paid) to presumably pertinent activist organizations such as RAINN.

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Far from cute

But not far from Quora:

Most of the time in public places, when strangers walk past me, they would stare at me & say out loud to themselves “she’s ugly.” It doesn’t matter where I go. This happens in the banks & grocery stores. Why do some strangers act so unkind to me?

Either she’s a dead ringer for Cthulhu’s sister, or she’s off her meds. I’m not sure I want to know which.

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Life imitates Springfield (2)

But doesn’t it always, eventually?

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Forever unbound

I have a little plugin called Blog Metrics which keeps track of the word count here; it goes back to the beginning of the WordPress database, the first week of September 2006, and as of last night it reported something like 7,351,000 words.

And yet:

I’ve decided I don’t have a book in me. I’m not sure I could sustain a theme for long enough to write a coherent book. Yes, I feel kind of bad about that; I have colleagues who have written books and I look at them and think about how that’s something that will actually outlast their time on earth and … there’s nothing like that for me; a couple years after I’m gone I’ll be forgotten.

Some of us, I aver, are forgotten without even being gone.

But taking the longer view, Christopher Hitchens once said:

“Everyone has a book inside them, which is exactly where it should, I think, in most cases, remain.”

And that word “coherent” surely would be my undoing. Sunday nights on Twitter there’s a gathering called #blogchat, and much advice is dispensed therein. I remember one night when the subject of tags was discussed, and one chap who might actually be making money off his site said something to the effect that “if your subject matter is diverse enough, you could support fifteen, even twenty different tags.”

At the time, I had twelve thousand tags. Then again, I’m not actually making money off this site.

Bonus question: Should Fillyjonk write a book? She’s got seventeen years’ worth of material to draw from.

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De-accession the whole damned thing

The Newseum, at Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street Northwest in Washington, is about to become Something Else Entirely:

This may or may not be a factor:

[T]he numerous free museums in the National Mall area, such as those of the Smithsonian Institution and National Gallery of Art, make it harder for visitors to justify paying the Newseum’s steep entry fees.

I’m leaning toward “may.”

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Be nice and clean

If we’re going to have shaving-material commercials as adjunct cultural avatars, they should all be like this one:

There are, after all, only so many women with legs that go on for days.

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Let the sunshine in

And that goes for you too, Frank Mills:

CityRep announcement of a production of Hair

Five decades after the fact, Hair is about as relevant today as The Vicar of Wakefield. But as period pieces go, it’s a damned good one, and you probably already know some of the songs.

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Quote of the week

One Fine Jay, on one mostly-lousy year:

As a cultural observer, I can sum up 2018 as an immense dick measuring contest of public piety.

It wasn’t enough to be not racist; one was required to demonstrate how anti-racist one is. It wasn’t enough to to live a quiet life of virtue; one was required to demonstrate to that virtue in the name of public approval.

This pharisaism combined with the rat-race, competitive, and individualist nature of American culture led to the infamous Summer of Snitches in 2018: the Barbecue Beckys, Permit Pattys, Pool Pass Patricks, are all children of the same whore. They didn’t even care they were being filmed. In their minds they were doing the right thing.

Here in Baltimore we have someone who enters restaurants, engages the patrons as obnoxiously as possible, films their reactions, then claims to be a victim of racism as he earns money through his YouTube channel. His victims become targets of harassment from his followers.

I enjoy my time on social media but that’s because I have rules for myself and those whom I follow or engage. I’ve come around years ago that call-out culture is toxic and unhelpful. Outrage culture is just as bad.

I think that after the madness that 2018 felt like, it’s time we personally took steps to not feed that beast. If you kept in mind that no amount of good you do will inoculate you from attention to your negatives, perhaps you’ll learn to do good for its own sake, quietly and humbly, so as to not draw attention to yourself and your virtue. You can’t be milkshake ducked if you’re more a rumor than a legend.

But more importantly, the faux spirituality offered by social media engagement needs to be an idol we smashed, and to do that, we need to recognize that we have bowed to that idol more than we are willing to admit.

We need to rediscover the value in letting your neighbor be; and the value in being left alone. Public life through social media will draw us away from those values. It will demand we tell on our neighbors to draw attention away from our own faults. It’s already a totalitarian environment; we just tell ourselves it isn’t.

But remember this, for 2019: perhaps our greatest freedom is not from the government but from each other.

It might be worth trying. What else have we got to lose?

What, indeed?

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Get those halls decked, stat

So what is this “gay apparel” business, anyway? Erin Palette has the specifications:

Gay Apparel
Light Armor

  • Aura: Faint illusion
  • Caster Level: 4th
  • Cost: 1,151 gp

Gay Apparel is a masterwork reinforced tunic of red, green and white, usually decorated with bells and festive designs of snowflakes, candy canes and reindeer. Because it is essentially a shirt, Gay Apparel can be donned (or removed) as a Move Action (there is no “don hastily” option for Gay Apparel).

When worn by anyone possessing bardic performance, Gay Apparel grants the Lingering Performance feat. When worn by anyone with at least one rank in Perform: Sing, it grants the use of the Basic Harmony teamwork feat even if they lack the prerequisites.

Construction Requirements: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Basic Harmony, Lingering Performance, Auditory Hallucination.

And a fa-la-la to you all.

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Hottentots not so hot

Tip your hat to the Cowardly Lion, pour out a couple snifters of apricot brandy, and reflect on the miracle of self-reflection:

Lacking opportunities to test ourselves — I should say “thankfully lacking opportunities,” as a world war now is the end of the human race — we’ve lost sight of what courage really means. Instead, we’ve elevated cruelty to its place. Just as Marxism turns envy from the worst vice (it’s what caused the angels to fall) into the best virtue, so Leninism turns ruthlessness and brutality into sham courage.

It helps very little that much of the not-all-that-civilized world covets their neighbor’s anything at all:

Envy may be the most powerful immaterial force known to Man. It’s been the principal retardant of all human progress. No “natural disaster” can compare to its corrosive effect. When envy is mated to a perceptible difference between the envious and the envied, the combination frequently proves deadly.

Come to think of it, I don’t remember any of that corrosion going on in the Emerald City.

“Oh, our friends think nothing of it,
To sit around and covet
The things they do not need;
They become downright vicious
When their thoughts are avaricious
And we see them for their greed.”

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