Amazon reviewers note: "This is a lot of cheese."

This short set of Amazon reviews had me laughing out loud! Check out Amazon's bulk Cheez Whiz offer.

After the top rated review, the remarks purchasers make about their 39 POUNDS of Cheez Whiz are pretty great. I guess folks are surprised at just how much Cheez Whiz 39 pounds really is.

Top rated reviewer is a humorist, however Amazon does list him as a verified purchaser so ENJOY YOUR WHIZ, SIR!

Also, Cheez Whiz is not cheese, but it does include it. Read the rest

The GENIAC, a narrative interactive game from 1955

Picture of the GENIAC

Hackaday has a great post about a recreation of the GENIAC, an electric toy from 1955 that used simple switches to creative a turn-based interactive game narrative.

The GENIAC, short for "GENIus Almost-automatic Computer", lets the player work through a scenario called "The Uranian Shipment and the Space Pirates", where the goal is to figure out whether a ship traveling from Callisto to Earth is a uranium shipment or a pirate vessel disguised as a shipment. Depending on how you decide to react, you rotate the switches back and forth and the game displays the reaction via four lightbulbs -- "PIRATES WIN", "ALL LOST", "NO COMBAT", and "PIRATES KILLED".

The GENIAC is super rare, but Michael Gardi -- who has a track record of doing fabulous builds of old lost logic games from the predigital era (previously) -- created a functioning model. If you want to built it yourself, he's made a guide on Instructables.

As Tom Nardi notes over at Hackaday:

This might seem a little silly to modern audiences, but thanks to a well written manual that featured a collection of compelling projects, the GENIAC managed to get a lot of mileage out of a couple light bulbs and some wire. In fact, [Mike] says that the GENIAC is often considered one of the first examples of an interactive electronic narrative, as the carefully crafted stories from the manual allowed players to go on virtual adventures long before the average kid had ever heard of a “video game”.

Read the rest

Rage Inside the Machine: an insightful, brilliant critique of AI's computer science, sociology, philosophy and economics

[I ran a review of this in June when the UK edition came out -- this review coincides with the US edition's publication]

Rob Smith is an eminent computer scientist and machine learning pioneer whose work on genetic algorithms has been influential in both industry and the academy; now, in his first book for a general audience, Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All, Smith expertly draws connections between AI, neoliberalism, human bias, eugenics and far-right populism, and shows how the biases of computer science and the corporate paymasters have distorted our whole society. Read the rest

Yup. Obenauf's Heavy Duty leather preservative is the way for me

A little over a year ago I reviewed Obenauf's. I just ordered another jar.

Baking in leather as the sun pounds down on you is kinda the motorcyclist thing. My jacket is a treasured article of clothing that, like Gregory House once observed "It keeps me warm and cool. How does it know?" Abusing that jacket is of par for course.

Good leather care stuff makes a jacket last and look wonderful!

Obenauf's is also magic on my boots. The boots are expensive, like the jacket, and really take a beating. Shifting a 43-year-old BMW that was famously 'chunk-y' when new takes some force. Sliding my leather-clad feet underneath the horizontally opposed cylinders leaves a lot of marks. Obenauf's doesn't make them look new, it makes them look cared for and it deeps the damage to a minimum. I guess the boots slip more than gouge on all those fins when oiled and waxed up.

My favorite thing about Obenauf's is the speed at which the leather accepts it. Boots are wearable 15-30 minutes later, tho I'd give them an hour or two. Jackets need only sit overnight and they cease to leave a sticky, greasy mark wherever I lean. My old leather treatment needed a week or I felt like Squiggy.

Obenauf's Heavy Duty LP Leather Conditioner Natural Oil Beeswax Formula via Amazon Read the rest

Review: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: the Black Order is a fun, glitchy, gaming experience

Sometimes, I play video games to get out of my head for an hour or two. A bit of gaming allows me to numb myself after a stressful day at work or to relax through a bout of insomnia once I become too damn tired to read but not sleepy enough to drift off. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: the Black Order for the Nintendo Switch offers just the right amount of a dumb plot, decent graphics and button mashing to scratch my escapist itch.

For the past few years, everything in Marvel’s cinematic universe and many of their comics have revolved around the Infinity Stones. You’ll find no exception here. If you’ve seen a trailer for Avengers Endgame, you’ve got the broad strokes of this game’s story. Infinity Stones are powerful. Infinity Stones are bad. Bad people want them. It’s a plot that a wee kid could follow, which I suppose is Disney/Marvel’s plan. And why not? It’s a story that’s proven capable of printing its own money.

As you progress through the game’s various levels, you’ll take on progressively tougher foes with a team of four heroes of your choosing. Your roster of potential teammates grows as you bop along. There’s no earning new members... it just kind of happens. I’m a few hours into the game. Disappointingly, the amount of customization allowed for your heroes by the last two iterations of the game appear to be largely absent. There’s no costumes to unlock. No accessories that your heroes can mix and match to enhance their power set: just points and drops that allow you to power up in one way or another. Read the rest

Rule of Capture: Inside the martial law tribunals that will come when climate deniers become climate looters and start rendering environmentalists for offshore torture

In 2017, science fiction author Christopher Brown burst on the scene with Tropic of Kansas, an apocalyptic pageturner about martial law in climate-wracked America; now, with his second novel, Rule of Capture, Brown turns everything up to 11 in a militarized, oil-saturated, uninhabitable Texas where private mercs, good ole boys, and climate looters have plans to deliver a stolen election to a hyper-authoritarian president. Read the rest

Paul Di Filippo on Radicalized: "Upton-Sinclairish muckraking, and Dickensian-Hugonian ashcan realism"

I was incredibly gratified and excited to read Paul Di Filippo's Locus review of my latest book, Radicalized; Di Filippo is a superb writer, one of the original, Mirrorshades cyberpunks, and he is a superb and insightful literary critic, so when I read his superlative-laden review of my book today, it was an absolute thrill (I haven't been this excited about a review since Bruce Sterling reviewed Walkaway). Read the rest

How long will it take my baby son to review The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)?

Have a nice weekend, y'all.

Previously: How long will it take my baby son to defeat the Strong Suction Silicone Plate? Read the rest

Zero Sum Game: action-packed sf thriller about a ninja hero whose superpower is her incredible math ability

SL Huang got a degree in math from MIT, then became a martial artist, stuntwoman and weapons expert; her debut novel, Zero Sum Game, features an ass-kicking action hero called Cas Russell, who combines all of Huang's areas of expertise: Russell is a ninja-grade assassination/extraction contractor whose incredible math skills let her calculate the precise angles needed to shoot the bolts out of an armored window as she leaps towards it from an adjacent roof; to time a kick so that it breaks her opponent's jaw without breaking his neck, or to trace back the path of a sniper's bullet with eerie accuracy and return fire. Read the rest

Because Internet: the new linguistics of informal English

Conversational language is not the same as formal language: chatter over the dinner table does not follow the same rules as a speech from a podium. Informal language follows its own fluid, fast-moving rules, and most of what we know about historic informal language has been gleaned from written fragments, like old letters and diaries -- but now, the internet has produced a wealth of linguistic data on informal language, which is explored in Canadian linguist Gretchen McCulloch's new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. Read the rest

J Michael Straczynski's "Becoming Superman": a memoir of horrific abuse, war crimes, perseverance, trauma, triumph and doing what's right

J Michael Straczynski (previously) is known for many things: creating Babylon 5, spectacular runs on flagship comics from Spiderman to Superman, incredibly innovative and weird kids' TV shows like The Real Ghostbusters, and megahits like Sense8; in the industry he's known as a writing machine, the kind of guy who can write and produce 22 hours of TV in a single season, and he's also known as a mensch, whose online outreach to fans during the Babylon 5 years set the bar for how creators and audiences can work together to convince studios to take real chances. But in JMS's new memoir, Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood, we get a look at a real-life history that is by turns horrific and terrifying, and a first-person account of superhuman perseverance and commitment to the right thing that, incredibly, leads to triumph Read the rest

I finally found an anti-fog product for my swim goggles that actually works

Update: The manufacturer writes, "Sea Gold is NOT for use with swimming goggles. It can irritate the eyes and we would appreciate it if you update it with our Anti-Fog Spray.

For the record, I haven't experienced the irritation, even after more than a month of use.

I am an extremely dedicated swimmer, thanks to a chronic pain condition that is just barely held in check by an hour in the pool every day. I go through a couple pairs of goggles every year: generally the thing that goes first is the elastic or the ratchet for the headband, but sometimes a pair of goggles will get so fog-prone that I just can't swim with them anymore. Read the rest

Rage Inside the Machine: an insightful, brilliant critique of AI's computer science, sociology, philosophy and economics

Rob Smith is an eminent computer scientist and machine learning pioneer whose work on genetic algorithms has been influential in both industry and the academy; now, in his first book for a general audience, Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All, Smith expertly draws connections between AI, neoliberalism, human bias, eugenics and far-right populism, and shows how the biases of computer science and the corporate paymasters have distorted our whole society. Read the rest

Cult of the Dead Cow: the untold story of the hacktivist group that presaged everything great and terrible about the internet

Back in 1984, a lonely, weird kid calling himself Grandmaster Ratte' formed a hacker group in Lubbock, Texas. called the Cult of the Dead Cow, a name inspired by a nearby slaughterhouse. In the decades to come, cDc would become one of the dominant forces on the BBS scene and then the internet -- endlessly inventive, funny and prankish, savvy and clever, and sometimes reckless and foolish -- like punk-rock on a floppy disk. Read the rest

Man-Eaters Volume Two: Fleshing out the world where girls turn into lethal werepanthers when they get their periods

Volume One of Man-Eaters, Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk's scathing, hilarious, brilliant comic about girls who turn into man-eating werepanthers when they get their periods, is the best comic I read in 2019, and Volume Two, just published by Image comics, continues the brilliance with a set of design-fiction-y fake ads and other collateral that straddle the line between a serious piece of science fictional world-building and Switfian satire. Read the rest

Good Omens is amazing

I was already a Terry Pratchett fan and a Neil Gaiman fan in 1990, when their comedic novel Good Omens showed up in the bookstore I worked at, and I dibsed it, took it home over the weekend, read it in huge gulps, and wrote an enthusiastic review on a 3x5 card that I tacked to the bookshelf next to it on the new release rack at the front of the store; I hand-sold hundreds of copies, and have read it dozens of times since. Read the rest

Karl Schroeder's "Stealing Worlds": visionary science fiction of a way through the climate and inequality crises

Karl Schroeder (previously) is literally the most visionary person I know (and I've known him since 1986!): he was the first person to every mention "fractals" to me, then "the internet" and then "the web" -- there is no one, no one in my circle more ahead of more curves, and it shows in his novels and none moreso than Stealing Worlds, his latest, which is a futuristic roadmap to how our present-day politics, economics, technology and society might evolve. Read the rest

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