The Black Swan

“The Black Swan”:amazon by Nassim Nichoias Taleb. Been on the shelf for a while, finally read it at the urging of one of my smartest friends. A quirky and insightful book. Some of the central thinking about the nature of uncertainty and the human inability to correctly assess risk and act on risk is very important; but as with most nonfiction books, this tome could have been at least 50% shorter, and the author’s style sometimes gets in the way of understanding. I don’t mind the snarky humour but the pedantic nature of some sections gets old — it is as if it is not enough that the reader open his mind to the writer’s ideas, but that the reader must accept them fully and displace all others. Not a tone I find endearing. But still, an important set of concepts to understand.

OSU 43, Youngstown State 0

A solid opening for the season, though just reinforced that we should never ever schedule FCS opponents, there is just no upside. My pregame pick was 44-0 so not feeling too bad.

* At the QB position, Boeckman looked efficient tho at times continues to underthrow the receiver — are the coaches really encouraging him to do this? Against tougher opponents this just seems dumb. Pryor looked great on runs and short passes — he can zip the ball. Not there yet on longer passes and at times made poor decisions to run under pressure. But clearly a talent.
* Beanie, beanie, beanie. Honestly, why was he still playing at the time of his injury? The highest paid coach in the Big 10 should have had him out once he hit 100 yards. Hopefully it is just a sprain. The backup running backs played well.
* Nice to see a shutout, nothing else would have served against this opponent
* Nice to see some kicking practice

Upwards and onwards.

Stuff I want but don't need — design edition

Halloween Haunt 101 — tombstones

OK I don’t know that I am going to pull off our regular Halloween setup this year. But if you want to set up a haunt in the neighborhood, well here is how I’d start. You can get crazy creative about the kind of scene you want to create — but nothing beats a graveyard. And to have a great graveyard you need to have tombstones.

You can buy tombstones from all kinds of retailers — Halloween specialty stores, Home Depot, garden stores, your drugstore will all carry some, mostly all with the message RIP. Some of these look good and there is nothing wrong with picking some up. The more elaborate ones can get spendy but they may be worth it.

But you can also make your own. Start with sheets of foamboard — use foamboard, not a styrofoam board which is crumbly and hard to glue together. This stuff is very carveable, you can cut out as simple or elaborate a form as you want. And you can carve designs in the face, you can bond pieces together to make pedestals (with the right glue), etc — here are some ideas, and some more. Personally I like to rough up the edges of mine a lot, and i even break some and reglue them for added ruggedness. BTW, wear a good mask when you do all this, fumes and particles come off the foamboard and it is probably a nasty biohazard.

For epitaphs, you can carve them in now prior to painting, or paint them on later, or mix the techniques. I do some of all. If you need ideas for epitaphs, well the web is full of them, just search for “epitaphs” or “funnny epitaphs”.

After you have shapes, you will need to paint. I use the cheapest paint I can find in the “Oops” bin at Home Depot as a base, and then finish with one of the various stone effect spray paints. Now, some of the stone effects don’t survive rain well, so experiment. And again, wear a mask, spray paint is nasty.

At this point you now have tombstones! Lean against walls, mount with stakes into the ground, whatever your surface allows. Note that they don’t weigh much, and if you are at a windy site, well, you are going to have a lot of movement.

In future posts I’ll layout simple lighting and sound plans.

Recent books — Watchmen, Customer's Yachts, Broken Angels, GI Biomechanics

* “Watchmen”:amazon by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Wow, excellent. Better as a graphic novel than it could have been as a book, the use of text and font and images to intertwine multiple stories works very well. You have to think as you read.
* “Where Are The Customer’s Yachts?”:amazon by Fred Schwed Jr. Timeless classic, its crtiticism of the financial services industry and customers’ foolishness is still dead on.
* “Broken Angels”:amazon By Richard K Morgan. Another Kovacs novel, this one wasn’t a home run for me. With all the morally ambiguous factions, I could never quite get Kovacs’ motivations. And his drawn out death postponed by one miracle drug after another quit working for me. The whole thing felt a little choppy and unmotivated.
* “Biomechanics of the Gastrointestinal Tract”:amazon by Hans Gregersen. Interesting reference on the GI tract, treating it as a mechanical device and analyzing behaviour from that view. Useful to help you build up a complete picture.

College Football Week One Picks

My buddy Tim runs a little pickem content and the first week slate is out:

* August 28 North Carolina State vs. South Carolina. I don’t think NC State is there yet
* August 29 Temple vs. Army. ugh. Army i guess
* August 30 Utah vs. Michigan. I think Michigan will have a lot of emotion and will win this
* Syracuse vs. Northwestern. Northwestern. Never take Syracuse
* Virginia Tech vs. East Carolina. VT
* Michigan State vs. California. Hmm, MSU is the favorite darkhorse in the big10 this year. But hard to win on the west coast.
* Hawaii vs. Florida. Florida
* Alabama vs. Clemson. Oh damn, Clemson is a trendy pick, but I have never won picking Clemson
* Missouri at Illinois. Mizzou. Illinois strugges to repeat last year’s breakthru
* Washington vs. Oregon. Hmm, Oregon is confused at QB, UW is not.
* August 31 Kentucky vs. Louisville. Ugh, no respect for these teams. Probably take Louisville
* Sept 1 Fresno State vs. Rutgers. Take Rutgers at home
* Tennessee vs. UCLA. UCLA not ready for primetime yet

Stuff I Want But Don't Need — unlikely to buy any of these

* Pizza pizza. – Core77 – awesome looking pizza maker. I make pizzas at home about once a decade so probably not a smart buy, would end up in the countertop appliance graveyard along with the breadmaker etc.
* pick chair folds flat and hangs on wall, looks awesome. Hopefully it actually works as a chair too.
* ExpandOS packing material. Hate styrofoam peanuts, love recyclable packing materials
* Miracle tablets turn sour tastes sweet. This just seems wrong
* Robopong table tennis opponent. Kind of a sad statement.
* Weight-sensitive floor lights up. Awesome, in the age of green awareness, now we can embed all kinds of computational power and lights into our flooring.
* A $1200 moosehead wall lamp. I’m surprised I don’t have one already.

Amazing trained Michigan cat

A guy walks into a bar in Ann Arbor wearing a Michigan jersey. And carrying a cat that also has a Michigan jersey on with a little Wolverine helmet on his head, too.

The guy says to the bartender, “Can my cat and I watch the Michigan game here? My TV at home broke down and my cat and I always watch the game together”.

The bartender replies, “Normally, cats wouldn’t be allowed in the bar, but it’s not very busy in here right now, so you and the cat can have a seat at the end of the bar. But, if there’s any trouble with you or the cat, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

The guy agrees, and he and his cat start watching the game. Pretty soon Michigan manages to kick a field goal and the excited cat jumps up on the bar, walks all the way down and gives everyone a high five.

The bartender says, “Hey, that’s pretty cool! What does he do for a touchdown?”

The guy answers, “I don’t know, I’ve only had him for 2 years.”