Thursday, June 22, 2017

To Read Today

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Big Ag and Data Analytics

My co-worker Chris sent me this article.  Very cool use of Data Analytics and coordination of data.  We do something similar with a legal product that ingests customer data and then obfuscates it as part of group to avoid collusion and anti-competitive (including with each other) practices.

"And for one corn crop across thousands of acres in North Dakota, the data said that Baron’s customers were planting the lowest yielding, highest priced seed on the market."

Amazon's New Customer

Posting this article from Stratechery for my wife regarding the Amazon Whole Foods purchase.  Good reading.

What I expect Amazon to do over the next few years is transform the Whole Foods supply chain into a service architecture based on primitives: meat, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, non-perishables (Whole Foods’ outsized reliance on store brands is something that I’m sure was very attractive to Amazon). What will make this massive investment worth it, though, is that there will be a guaranteed customer: Whole Foods Markets.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Reading Buddy 2017

I participate in a reading buddy program at Garlough Elementary most years.  I don't read to them, they read to me so they gain proficiency. This year my buddy was Clayton.  He didn't need much help reading - he's a champ.  The teacher told us it was nice to have us by her desk as we chatted about astronomy news all the time.  He's a huge space fan.

This is us at my workplace for the end of program

I know I don't fly much...

...but really, this is taxes and fees on a super cheap flight for 3 to London?    29.11% is taes, fees, and charges?  I guess it's impressive they didn't top 1/3.

Two Good Scifi Videos

Rakka by Oats, about 20 minutes:

Robot and Scarecrow by Factory Fifteen, about 15 minutes:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Gaming in St. Peter

I was supposed to go for a bike ride with Ming today, but he messed up and had me take today off when he meant Friday.  So I tried to make the best of a messed up situation and headed down to St. Peter to play board games with Klund as he he some time free.  I went early and ate at the local breakfast joint, the Nicollet Cafe.  Good basic breakfast (2 pancakes, 2 sausages, 2 strips of bacon, 2 eggs), but a bit 2 much food.  I had some time left, so I went over to the River Rock for coffee, forgetting how I don't particularly like their Americano.  Klund does a better job.

Before I point out the games, I thought this picture was particularly strange, because it seems to imply Ming has his own fallout shelter in St. Peter.  Maybe he has them all over the country and I just haven't been paying enough attention.

We played a slew of games.  Several rounds of Klund's new game, Onitama.  I saw it reviewed on one of the games for couples series on Actualol.  It was as fun as it looks. Guyblin on Medium claims it's replaced chess for them. I think it would be a great work game and a great game as a gift for nieces and nephews.  Fast, very fast.  Here's the Actualol video it was in.

Then we tried Kane Klenko's Covert.  I've owned it for a while, but hadn't gotten around to playing it (there's a lot of those at the house).  So we sussed it out.  It's a bit like Pandemic.  A bit like Ticket to Ride.  And a bit of Klenko's dice placement.  It took a little bit of time to get in the right frame of mind, but then it made sense.  There are some interesting mechanics, like the code bar where you try to make the codes match the codes on cards you have in order to claim spy resources that are worth victory points or usable as means toward completing missions.

Very Pandemic feel to the board.  Missions to the right, "resource" type cards which double as special bonuses and flight cards to the left, and suitcase/codes at the top.

Here's the view from behind my screen.  It's the winner's view, I finished 7 missions (you need six to win, but there's a last chance to finish a mission).  A lot of my success had to do with finishing a mission that gave me an extra set of lockpicks in all situations and capitalizing on grabbing a bunch of lockpick-based missions.

It would have been more difficult with more people.  Playing your dice to get cards and movement requires that you have a die that's sequential (up or down) with a previous die.  That wasn't too hard with two of us.  With a few more people it might get crowded and tricky.

We followed Covert up with two rounds of Dead of Winter.  Klund hadn't played it before and I think it's better with more than two people, but we played straight coop and used a hard mission on our second try.  We won both times, partially because we got a lot of firepower without exposure in the right places.  During our second game (collect medicine from remote locations) we actually managed to pull a card that removed all food in the school pile, meaning every single card drawn after that was a useful card.  I almost wish we had done worse just to get a better feel for the game and what makes it fun (when things get stressful).  We could see it looming with food shortages and waste accumulating, but just never got there.

And we finished off the day with Seasons.  A game I've had forever, courtesy of my sister reviewing my Amazon wish list, but haven't played because there are a number of things that predate me almost dying that suddenly became something I wouldn't do because they predate almost dying.  Weird.  Psychological.  But true.  The rules were hard to figure out using the printed rules and we had to resort to a mix of printed and online rules.  But once we got going, it was straight forward.  Roll dice, collect resources, the ability to play cards, and points, and use the cards to make points, sell resources for points, and get better cards, to score.  In some ways, a bit like Magic the Gathering meets Dominion with a dice component.  Klund thumped me.  Absolutely crushed me.  I'm not sure it's a game I'd play regularly, but I'd like to see it played with three or more to see how it changes, and it might be a good game to play with nieces and nephews.

And, I should add, an absolutely beautiful day for a convertible ride to and from St. Peter, MN.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

American in Paris

Last night we (my wife, Eryn, and me) went to An American in Paris at the Ordway.  It's one of my favorite musicals - despite a little of the hokey 60s musical vibe in spots that's so common to that era.  I listened to the soundtrack as I fell asleep when I was a teenager and loved the movie.  My wife was surprised at how many of the songs were familiar.

There are a couple of great reviews out there, so I'll defer to them.  They note how beautiful the sets were and I can't agree more.  The way they integrated real set pieces with video with video on set pieces with digitized art over the digital set pieces....amazing.  It didn't distract from the acting and dancing at all, but provided a very city of lights and city of art feel.

I wasn't sure my 14-year old would enjoy it, but she laughed out loud several times which reminded me of how smart the play is in places.  The dancing was amazing and the acting superb.  My only complaint is that Milo (played by Emily Ferranti) doesn't emerge as the character who gets everything she wants in the end.  She's clearly the best character in the play, and I still think so after 35 years.

American in Paris also fulfilled my basic rule that anything with a bicycle early in it is going to be great.

Monday, June 12, 2017


I'm not going to post the original articles talking about Priebus saying he's blessed (fuck it, here it is:  Instead I'll post this article which has my senator mocking him.  There are few things I'm more proud of than that Al Franken represents Minnesota.  Smart man.  Funny man.  Well centered.  Full of common sense and cutting humor and insight.

“I think the people there feel very, very blessed. … If they feel blessed to be in his cabinet or to be around him, to be his chief of staff for at least another week or so, they should feel very blessed. And I feel very blessed to be here. … Blessings to you.”

Busy Busy

We had a busy weekend.  On Friday night we went to The Blob at the Trylon.  Not the newer one.  The old, 1958, Steve McQueen one, which is one of my favorite movies from when I was a kid.  Eryn really liked it, including how old all the "teenagers" looked and how the female lead had to say "Steve" every time she addressed Steve McQueen.  She also liked the song...

And the climate change warning at the end, 60 years ahead of the curve:
     Lieutenant Dave: At least we've got it stopped.
     Steve Andrews: Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.

Saturday was my old boss Sandy's youngest daughter's graduation.  She was two when Sandy and I first started working together.  We had Eryn's baby shower at Sandy's house.  Eryn really liked that Emma had a free ice cream truck at her graduation.  I think it made it worthwhile.  Lots of coworkers past and present in attendance.

From there we were off to Lake Monster brewing to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday.  Nice brewery.  I hadn't been there before.  Mostly we talked to family and tried to stop children from whipping the golf balls in the ladder golf game at each other.

The food truck left without a replacement, so we scuttled off to The Blue Door Pub for dinner.  Bacon blucy and lots o' tots.  There are still some in the fridge.  My wife really liked it, but wasn't keen on the lack of a/c.

Sunday was all about the rental property in Richfield.  That's three rental properties in like three months and we're still getting people settled in the two that we're "done" with.  Currently we're renovating Andrew's old side.  Cleaning, new blinds, paint, redo the wood floors (hired someone for that), finding money for all those things because three tenant changes in three months is expensive no matter how you manage it, landscaping, windows, moving around utilities, and just more and more cleaning.  Lots of cleaning.  After about six hours we had the majority of it done, but I think I'll still have to spot paint the kitchen, paint two ceilings, and repaint a room where the spot paint didn't match.  And I still have to pain the bathroom in Apple Valley.  Tomorrow I'm down there to ensure the bathroom remodeling contractor can get in because they've stood him up twice.

My wife and Eryn helped, so afterwards we went to Pizza Luce as it's right there.  My wife hadn't been.  She liked The Bear....lot o' meat.

And today...we skipped dinner and had ice cream at Nelson's in St. Paul for dinner.  That's a crazy amount of ice cream.  My wife thought ahead this time and took plastic containers in a lunch cooler to dump the excess ice cream into.  I'm not sure that I needed to bring home half a "single" of raspberry chocolate chip ice cream.  I've really had more than enough.

We've also been to Wonder Woman (wonderful) in the last week and gaming in St. Peter (got a new game other than The Grizzled) plus the candy store in Jordan, twice, now even bigger with it's giant yellow dome.  No shortage of activity around here.

Laid it Down

Had my second bicycling accident of the year tonight.  Neither of them has been too bad and neither involved cars or traffic, thankfully.  The first one happened about two months or so ago.  My brakes were getting looser and looser so I watched a YouTube video and tightened them up so that they had a two finger gap (e.g. pull them tight and there's still a gap of a two finger width).  The next day I pedaled down by the river (Minnesota) on the gravel trail and needed to stop.  So I pulled my brakes as hard as I would have when they were mushy.  Slide and flip, right over the top.  It must have been impressive.  The two other cyclists down there who saw me looked a little shocked and then asked if I was ok.  I had a sock full of blood and some good holes in me and bent handlebars and brakes.  Everything was fixable, just beat up.

Then tonight, I laid it down.  I was down in Blackhawk Park and it's damp out.  So humid nothing is drying out.  So as I crossed the bridge at the lake, when I took a slight left, I realized that the normally dry moss on the wood of the bridge was slick as ice.  Looked just like a motorcycle going down on gravel.  Except on a pedestrian bridge.  Reminded me of when I flipped the bike upside on the ice on the way to work five years ago. I haven't discovered anything missing, although my water bottle went shooting down the bridge. Good bloody scuff on my elbow and I ripped my plastic toe clip loose on the side that hit the bridge.  It popped the two nuts right off the bolts.

All in all - could be way worse, and the bike is still working.  At least I think it is.  I still have to double check for all my spokes when it's brighter out.

The Grizzled III - We Won!

Well...playing with my father was tricky, particularly when he sometimes laid down a third threat despite having another play.  And we lost a few games for other reasons such as my wife having the tyrannical card before we could support it away from her.  But Eryn, her, and I finally won a game despite one round of each picking another person for support and wasting an opportunity to get a speech  Our strategy was to use our speeches and good luck charms asap and to be better about withdrawing if we could if our bad traits impacted the other players.  It was still tough and Eryn went home from the war mute.  Poor Eryn.  Probably shell shock.

Great game.  Definitely a sense that you're trying to survive rather than win.

Monday, June 05, 2017

The Grizzled - Part II (corrections!)

Some updates after playing a four person game and a three person game.
  • Four people: Me, Pooteewheet, Eryn, and Grumpa - loss
  • Three people: Me, Pooteewheet, Grumpa - loss

I'd point out that the more than four hard knocks, but maybe support fixes it rule is also very hard to remember.  So I could have five hard knocks, even six if I had the double knock card, and getting support would allow me to get back under the four knocks equals death rule.

  • Pay a LOT of attention to withdrawing as it causes conditions to disappear such as those other players may have that keep you from withdrawing.
  • A speech gets rid of a card in each player except the speech giver's hand if they have that particular "bad" thing (snow, etc).  No.....that's not correct.  If you have one you can get rid of it.  That's the best thing, pick your own.
  • You get a speech if you were the leader - so a card like Tyrannical can prevent speeches because the leader won't move.
  • [That's not true, some players may have withdrawn and so there may be reduced support] If you fail, there's no support and the leader doesn't move.
  • [This is incorrect, it's getting support that makes this happen.  It's independent of the leader.]  Becoming leader allow you to lose two characteristics (hard knocks) or regain your good luck.
  • One example had the mission leader moving round robin.  Another had it moving to the person with the most support.  We liked the more support version.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Grizzled

[SEE PART II - there are some clarifications/corrections -]

We were down at Klund's house this weekend and I've got a copy of The Grizzled, but I haven't learned to play it yet.  So tonight, after feeling very ill for a while, I'm trying to figure out the basics:

What I've learned:

  • A speech gets rid of a card in each player except the speech giver's hand if they have that particular "bad" thing (snow, etc).  No.....that's not correct.  If you have one you can get rid of it.  That's the best thing, pick your own.
  • You get a speech if you were the leader
  • Keep your cards between rounds - that means lots more cards disappear from the monument pile - bad.
  • If you have four (4) hard knocks, you die and everyone loses
  • If you fail, there's no support and the leader doesn't move.
  • You must withdraw, even if you're out of cards.  It may trigger something bad.
  • Merry Christmas is the only "good" card in the deck
  • Deal starts with yourself if you're the mission leader (lead by example!)
  • If you've withdrawn, your "permanent" trauma doesn't count
  • Remember to use your good luck charm!
  • Becoming leader allow you to lose two characteristics (hard knocks) or regain your good luck.
  • You have to have more support tokens.  No ties.
  • The support tiles move to the person you pointed them at.
  • 3 is the minimum number of cards that can come off the monument deck
  • If you lose and people are withdrawn you process the tiles and that person loses only one (1) hard knock card, not two (2).j  In that case the mission leader moves and the speech shows up for the previous leader.
  • After an unsuccessful mission the cards in no man's land are shuffled back into the mission pile (with the dove)
  • The lucky charm only gets rid of one (1) card, not all cards of a type (in no man's land)
  • If a speech is given and a "trauma" card matches the speech, it may be discarded.
  • The first round is a minimum three (3) intensity, subsequent rounds are a minimum one (1) intensity.
  • Speeches don't help those who have withdrawn
  • The four hard knocks (or more) only matter after you pass the leader, because they could (potentially) eliminate two (2) hard knocks.

I'm still not sure of the end of game rules....but I think you basically have to play out all your hands and have the dove showing.  That looks freaking difficult...

  • Grizzled Gameplay: 30 minutes
  • Game Night (Season 3: Espisode 20): 72 minutes!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Blackhawk Park

A few random photos from Blackhawk Park while I was out wandering around doing a bit of Ingress-ing.

The trail...

The frozen lake, which had a few ripped up spots in the ice.  I couldn't tell if they were from people or thawing.

And a very big tree that gave me an old man or Ent vibe...

Ben’s Five Keys to Creating a Successful Side Project

I enjoyed this article by Ben Halpern, plus all the associated discussion.  I always find myself trying to hold on to a project that just sort of slips away as my passions change and new work crops up, both personal and professional.  You can dig around in this blog to find examples where I couldn't stick to my ideas for a Unity app and more (where I drifted away from geocaching for instance, although you can't quite grasp how much I shifted toward playing Ingress).

My favorite advice is constraints.  I've often found that to be the best way to keep myself engaged.  Knowing exactly who's involved (just me?), and a firm, but flexible, deadline (yep, both), and what I'm willing to spend personally, and what my expectations are...and they better be tight, manageable, and focused.  As soon as the constraints are loosened and I think "maybe this is something that should be bigger" it goes all cattywampus and drifts away.  I was impressed at Minndemo 25 with the devs who had spent three years working on a pet project.  That's amazing focus, particularly as they have working software to demo after that time for a crowd of 600+  Seems like a good goal - demo at Minnedemo 28 for instance - but that's a lot of pressure.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

St. Mary's of Marystown

I was way down Highway 169 tonight cleaning up an Ingress field.  I went to the wrong place first, which I've done before, and which is incredibly annoying.  It's sometimes difficult to tell from the portal description where the place is; I end up looking for a nearby intersection.

Made for a beautiful photo taking down 4 AXA covering most of Eagan and beyond.

Minnedemo 25

I went to Minndemo with Erik the Hairy Swede last week.  There was a good selection of presentations packed into about an hour.  Damn is that event ever busy now.  Despite the 600+ people crowded into The Minneapolis Depot, I still managed to bump into Jen the contractor placement rep I've known for a long time.  She switched firms recently, so it was nice to bump into her. I preferred her understanding of my contractor needs over her replacement.

TroutSpotr was pretty wild.  It was a pet project to overlay public lands (in Minnesota), roads, and streams, so you could pinpoint where bridges where and where public land access was from the bridge so you could find new places to fish for trout.  He used QGIS and he certainly built something it looks like the DNR might buy off him.  Very funny presentation.

Player's Health was also pretty exceptional.  The developer was trying to create a space parents owned where they could log specific health data for kids in sports so that it could be shared with teams/coaches they invited in.  It would then serve as a place for coaches to capture injuries and receive doctor signoff and then future coaches could see a history of injuries for the purposes of knowing what to watch for.  Reminded me a bit of Concourse that I worked on for my company where lawyers invited other lawyers and individuals into their spaces/matters to share docs and info, but with more concrete form-based interfaces built around aspects of it like injury logging.

Talkative Chef was also interesting - hands free recipe recitation using open source text to voice in the browser.  Clever idea if Alexa/et al don't parallel develop the idea.

Cat Doodles via Machine Learning

This is a cool idea.  It maps, in the browser, what you draw against some machine learning algorithms.  I played aroudn with the cat one to create my own letters out of cats.  Almost looks like someone skinned a cat to make the alphabet.  Yuck.  I tried my own cat below....he's sort of creepy.

Facebook Data Extension

My browser of preference is Chrome, so this extension caught my eye.  I'm not sure what I could do with the information, but it seems interesting to track it even if they're using alternate algorithms and it's PIT (point in time) of install, not retroactive.  So there's no way to really track what you've already told them.  And there's code!  For some reason the idea that there's something particularly useful that could be done with the fact I can get to the source code is bouncing around in my head.  And let's not say that the useful idea is installing a stealth version on corporate computers to track overall corporate culture tendencies (you can obviously track time on Facebook via the corporate logs).  I can see a good and a bad path having that data - start to push your culture toward a new culture (top down "I want this") or recognize the corporate culture you attract and double down.  Then again - you'd have to have a separate (or modified) add-in to track other social media platforms.

I work with a lot of lawyers and they're big on capturing billable data.  I wonder at what point someone decides "we should capture everything" to examine potential for billable work through other services as well as innate biases in lawfirm partners by examining total web activity.  They often want to capture email and text data (although text data is notoriously insecure), so web activity isn't such a big hop.