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My wife and I just finished "How I Met Your Mother", and boy was the finale a downer.

I was prepared to dislike the Mother purely due to all the build-up over the course of the show, but she was actually pretty great. Oh, too bad she dies in the finale. What the what? As the Daughter told Ted, was the whole story about the Mother just an excuse to go on and on about Robin?

After multiple seasons building up to Barney and Robin's wedding, they get divorced 10 minutes later? All the character development Barney went through gets thrown out the window, along with his character. Sure, in "real life" Barney and Robin probably shouldn't have gotten married. But c'mon, this is a TV show! Can't they have a happy ending? Or at least spare us the dramatic build-up for zero payoff. Then Barney gets a filia ex machina dropped in his lap and has yet another conversion. That sticks? Who knows.

And finally... Ted and Robin? Seriously? Robin is Ted's true love? Blah.

If it weren't for Marshall and Lily anchoring the show it would have ended as total crap. Just pretend the last two episodes don't exist and make up your own ending.


My daughters have been watching a lot of "Frozen" recently (of course) and I dreamt an epilogue for the movie last night:

Prime Minister to Queen Elsa: We're all glad you're back, Queen Elsa!

Queen Elsa: Yep, everyone is fine again! Better than ever.

PM: Actually we're not... [one of my favorite lines from the movie -- MW]

QE: What's going on now?

PM: Well, we're all going to starve to death. All our crops died when you temporarily cursed the land with eternal winter. Do you think you can use your magic to bring the crops back to life?

QE: I don't think so.

PM: We'll have to dig into the royal treasury then. Maybe we can buy food from our biggest trading partner: Weselton.

QE: Um... actually I just banished that guy and promised we'd never trade with him again.

PM: Ok... what about the Southern Isles? Prince Hans was instrumental in protecting the kingdom while you were... "away". I'm sure his kingdom would help us out.

QE: Right... so, I banished him too. But on the plus side, I met a guy who runs an ice business. He's dating my sister now, so I'm sure he'll give us a discount.

PM: A discount on ice.

Since my wife turned me on to podcasts (yeah, I'm ten years behind) it seems like I've stopped listening to NPR in the car. Thanks to my revived interest in Dungeons and Dragons I'm currently listening through the back episodes of NPC Cast. D&D fifth edition is pretty cool, and I'm having a great time DM-ing two games, one with my wife and one with my brothers. We're playing through the Starter Set adventure, "Lost Mine of Phandelver", and everyone seems to be enjoying it.


AngryDM describes the "eight kinds of fun" and how they relate to role-playing games. My top enjoyments are fantasy, fellowship, discovery, and expression -- but in varying moods I can enjoy them all. Here's my summary of his take on the eight funs:

1. Sensory Pleasure: This is the pleasure you get from things you can see, hear, and touch. Physical books, art, dice, music, maps, diagrams, miniatures, terrain, and props all bring a tingle of joy to the sensory pleasure seeker.

2. Fantasy: Fantasy is the pleasure you get from losing yourself in an imaginary world and pretending you are someone you are not. It is escapism. It is immersion.

3. Narrative: Narrative seekers take pleasure from experiencing a well-told story as it unfolds. The better put-together the story is, the happier the narrative seeker is.

4. Challenge: Challenge seekers see the game as a series of obstacles to overcome and foes to be defeated. They want to test themselves and win. If they fail, they want to know the failure was fair and next time they will do better.

5. Fellowship: Those in search of fellowship view the game as a framework for social interaction and cooperation. They enjoy camaraderie and social interaction and working together with a team.

6. Discovery: Discovery seekers like to explore and learn new things. They like to uncover things. They view the game as uncharted territory and get a thrill every time they fill in another blank on the map.

7. Expression: Expression is the pleasure you get from expressing yourself creatively. This is the desire to create something that is unique to you, to say something about who you are and what you believe, or simply to impose your creative will on the world around you.

8. Submission/abnegation: Submission is the pleasure you get from turning off your brain and losing yourself in a task you don't have to think too hard about.


Neil deGrasse Tyson has always struck me as a blowhard, but maybe he he's also a serial fabulist (is that like a "liar"?).

According to Tyson, in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush uttered the phrase, "Our God is the God who named the stars." According to Tyson, the president made that claim as a way of segregating radical Islam from religions like Christianity or Judaism.

[video]

Neil deGrasse Tyson's story has three central claims: 1) Bush uttered that precise phrase, 2) in the days immediately after 9/11, 3) in order to distance American religion from that practiced by radical Muslims.

As you have probably already guessed, every single claim is false. Every one! Then there's Tyson's aside that Bush's quote was a "loose quote" of the book of Genesis. Yep, that's false, too. Add embarrassing biblical illiteracy to Tyson's list of accomplishments on his CV.


My first thought was that the story was about Mario Kart, but it's still amazingly cool that this son could race against his dad's ghost and have such a powerful experience. Video games have been ascendant for over a decade now, but they haven't peaked yet.

For me and my dad the experience isn't video games... he was never that into them. For me it's Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and old science fiction books.

"Well, when i was 4, my dad bought a trusty XBox. you know, the first, ruggedy, blocky one from 2001. we had tons and tons and tons of fun playing all kinds of games together - until he died, when i was just 6.

i couldnt touch that console for 10 years.

but once i did, i noticed something.

we used to play a racing game, Rally Sports Challenge. actually pretty awesome for the time it came.

and once i started meddling around... i found a GHOST.

literaly.

you know, when a time race happens, that the fastest lap so far gets recorded as a ghost driver? yep, you guessed it - his ghost still rolls around the track today.

and so i played and played, and played, untill i was almost able to beat the ghost. until one day i got ahead of it, i surpassed it, and...

i stopped right in front of the finish line, just to ensure i wouldnt delete it.

Bliss."

(HT: PBS Game/Show and Yahoo News, where the comment section is full of people with similar experiences.)


If you haven't played Diplomacy then you aren't a serious board-gamer. Not to brag, but I've played a full game five times and been in the winning alliance three times. Since none of our players were proficient Diplomacy players my wins were probably due to luck and cunning more than skill. Diplomacy is a game I recommend for everyone to try, but it probably won't be a frequent selection for your game nights. Why? It requires seven players, it takes at least six hours to play and often more, and it is extremely emotional.

If you've ever heard of Diplomacy, chances are you know it as "the game that ruins friendships." It's also likely you've never finished an entire game. That's because Diplomacy requires seven players and seven or eight hours to complete. Games played by postal mail, the way most played for the first 30 years of its existence, could take longer than a year to finish. Despite this, Diplomacy is one of the most popular strategic board games in history. Since its invention in 1954 by Harvard grad Allan B. Calhamer, Diplomacy has sold over 300,000 copies and was inducted into Games Magazine's hall of fame alongside Monopoly, Clue, and Scrabble.

The game is incredibly simple. The game board is a map of 1914 Europe divided into 19 sea regions and 56 land regions, 34 of which contain what are known as "supply centers." Each player plays as a major power (Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Italy, England, France, Russia, Germany) with three pieces on the board (four for Russia) known as "home supply centers." Each piece can move one space at a time, and each piece has equal strength. When two pieces try to move to the same space, neither moves. If two pieces move to the same space but one of those pieces has "support" from a third piece, the piece with support will win the standoff and take the space. The goal is to control 18 supply centers, which rarely happens. What's more common is for two or more players to agree to end the game in a draw. Aside from a few other special situations, that's pretty much it for rules.

There are two things that make Diplomacy so unique and challenging. The first is that, unlike in most board games, players don't take turns moving. Everyone writes down their moves and puts them in a box. The moves are then read aloud, every piece on the board moving simultaneously. The second is that prior to each move the players are given time to negotiate with each other, as a group or privately. The result is something like a cross between Risk, poker, and Survivor -- with no dice or cards or cameras. There's no element of luck. The only variable factor in the game is each player's ability to convince others to do what they want. The core game mechanic, then, is negotiation. This is both what draws and repels people to Diplomacy in equal force; because when it comes to those negotiations, anything goes. And anything usually does.


Jack Hamilton "defends" the Game of Thrones series from his own presumption that its "inauthenticity" should damn the show to unimportance. Is our culture such that every creation must conceal layers of ironic commentary about the real world in order to be valuable?

Game of Thrones is a terrifically fun and immensely popular show, but can a work so flagrantly inauthentic actually be important television?

The answer is yes, and precisely for its unreality, its joyful hostility toward anything like allegory, commentary, or social relevance. Much like Star Wars and Hogwarts and other great Neverlands, Game of Thrones doesn't hold a mirror to anything. It is aggressively false, a work of far-fetched imagination so intricate and finely realized it becomes compelling on its own terms, disorienting and dazzling us in the ways that only the best storytelling can. This is a show where we cheer on an adolescent girl's precocious transformation into a serial murderer; this is a show in which a character's desire to release people from slavery is convincingly rendered as a conundrum. The most recent episode ended with yet another shocking death, a character we're coming to hate killing a character we'd come to pity, to save the life of a character we've come to love. How are we even supposed to feel? Other than, yet again, totally thrilled.

The most surprising aspect of this essay is that the author apparently believes that Game of Thrones is "aggressively false" because the characters and their motivations are nuanced and complex -- there's no "good guy" and no "bad guy". This seems quite realistic to me, but the Hamilton's perspective on the show says a lot about his view of the world.

Finally, do you expect your entertainment to tell you how you're supposed to feel? Just feel.


Scenes of this full McBain movie are scattered throughout The Simpsons series.

(HT: JK.)


One of the most unique and fascinating experiments I've seen in a long time! A Pokemon game controlled by inputs gathered from a stream of chat messages. As you can imagine, it's quite chaotic.


Here are a couple of awesome UAVs. The first looks like Superman or Ironman, and the second looks like a witch on a broom. Just think of how much fun you could have with these.


I grew up in the 1980s and I probably watch Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and the like multiple times per year. I indoctrinate my children with the greatness of these movies. What are the equivalent generational favorites for kids who grew up in the 1990s?


I've been playing Borderlands 2 for a month or so and I have to say that it is one of the most fun and best-designed games ever. With one exception, which I'll get to in a moment, every component of the game is excellent:

  • The guns are the stars of the show. There's a huge variety of weaponry, and it's always fun to find something new. The way that weapons fall behind as you level gently nudges you to try new things.
  • The enemies are fun, varied, and smart. Unlike many games, there are very few instances where you can just hide behind terrain and slaughter baddies who wander around impotently. It seems like every bad guy has a leap attack, a grenade, or something to push you out from behind cover eventually.
  • Challenges! I love the challenges, some of which are specific to a level, or an enemy type, or a weapon, or even span the whole game.
  • The missions are fun. The rewards are occasionally underwhelming, but most missions end with a red chest that give you a random assortment of cool items.
  • Graphics: I love the style.
  • Audio: The voices are great, as are all the effects.

My only complaint is that the character leveling system doesn't feel very substantial. Your health and damage get increased automatically when you level up and are completely outside your control. All you get to play with are a few skill trees, but most of the points you invest don't feel like they have a significant impact on the gameplay. I'm only level 25, so it's possible that the higher tier skills have more of an effect on your character.

Basically, Borderlands 2 has the gameplay that I was hoping for out of Skyrim. The world of Skyrim was huge and fantastic, and the story was great, but the actual mechanics of playing the game were boring to me. The combat wasn't fun, the spells were monotonous, and the enemies were predictable and repetitive. So wouldn't it be great to mix the two? Yes it would! Someone make that game for me.


In 1995 the comedians Penn and Teller release Desert Bus, the worst video game of all time. Maybe there's a Flash version online?

desert bus screenshot.jpg

Driving from Tucson, Ariz., to Las Vegas takes about eight hours and is exactly as boring as you'd imagine -- a straight strip of highway through the flat, brown desert scrub, interrupted only by the occasional signpost or oddly shaped rock by the side of the road.

Desert Bus, an unreleased 1995 video game by entertainers Penn Jillette and Teller, celebrates that trip in all its horrid glory by re-enacting the 16-hour, round-trip journey. In real time, at 45 miles per hour. In a vehicle that doesn't steer straight, forcing constant vigilance.

One trip earns the driver a single point.


I love to run, and I try to run almost every day. Among runners it is common to be pushed to run faster, farther, and harder. However, new research is showing that too much running can be bad for your health. This shouldn't be a surprise; moderation is the key to success in most of life.

Endurance athletes have long enjoyed a made-of-iron image. But amid mounting evidence that extraordinary doses of exercise may diminish the benefits of modest amounts, that image is being smudged. That extra six years of longevity running has been shown to confer? That benefit may disappear beyond 30 miles of running a week, suggest recent research. ...

Other recent studies suggest the significant mortality benefits of running may diminish or disappear at mileage exceeding 30 miles a week and other, very small studies have shown elevated levels of coronary plaque in serial marathoners--a problem that rigorous exercise theoretically could cause.

"Heart disease comes from inflammation and if you're constantly, chronically inflaming yourself, never letting your body heal, why wouldn't there be a relationship between over exercise and heart disease?" said John Mandrola, a cardiac electrophysiologist and columnist for TheHeart.org.


Being of Croatian descent myself it's cool to read that the Qarth scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed in Dubrovnik! I'd love to visit Croatia sometime.

If you've watched the show and wondered where all the exotic, arid, desert footage was shot for the 'Qarth' kingdom scenes, HBO said they are mostly filmed in Croatia.

The premium cable channel works with a production company called Embassy Films, based in Croatia, for the scenes shot there. About 170 local crew were employed for shooting in Dubrovnik, according to the production company.

"This was very good for Croatian, Dubrovnik economy, starting from crew and people directly involved, to hotels, transportation, etc.," said Erika Milutin, executive producer working on the show with Embassy Films.


Some good tips for beating your naive friends at rock-paper-scissors. Yeah, you know you can't resist.

While you're at it, here's an account of the Rock Paper Scissors World Championship.

(HT: Tyler Cowen.)


James Galea performs an amazing card trick in the form of a story.

(HT: JK.)


Many people start running to lose weight or get fit but then begin to love running for it's own sake.

Tom Holland, running coach and author of "The Marathon Method," tells his clients that running for 3 miles was horrible for him too, but farther down the road things changed.

"It happens for different people at different times and different distances: that runner's high," he said in an interview.

For me the three-mile distance was the turning point. Getting myself in shape to run three miles seemed hard, and three miles felt like a million. Once I gained the ability to run three miles it was pretty easy to add on more miles. I don't think I've ever hit the wall even when I ran my half-marathon, but there was definitely a hump at the three-mile fitness level.

Why do runners love to run? There are a lot of reasons, but one of the top for me is that it's so linear.

Gregory Chertok, a sports psychologist with the American College of Sports Medicine, said many people are drawn to running because it's an uncomplicated activity.

"Put one foot in front of the other and when you work hard, you improve," Chertok said. "Not everything in life is so simple. You could spend 10 years in a ballet studio and not become a ballerina."

If you run longer, harder and faster you will become a better runner. You may never get a promotion from working hard, you may never win a prize, and your kids may end up in jail despite your best efforts... but you can get as good at running as you want to!

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