Black/White Decisions in a Greyscale World

Post by Rob Collie


     JACK RYAN:  “…with them in the same place, the odds of coincidence are
     dropping fast. Still, there’s no way I can be… absolutely certain.”

     ADMIRAL GREER:  “Excuse me, Jack.  Tell me one thing in life that IS
     absolutely certain.  What I need to hear is your best guess, and I think
     I’ve heard it.  Haven’t I?”

Belatedly Reviving a Thanksgiving Tradition

In past years I occasionally took Thanksgiving Week as an opportunity to write some more “thoughtful” things, such as The Cult of the Right Thing.

This year, I would like to share something more “on topic” than any of the previous ones, while still very much fitting the theme of thoughtful/reflective.

An Exchange in “Patriot Games” Captures It

The conversation pictured above, between Jack Ryan and Admiral Greer, was pretty much lost on me the first time I saw Patriot Games in 1992.  It’s a relatively “bland” exchange.  No emotion, no drama, no action.

But in subsequent viewings, that brief little clip etched itself in my brain.  It captures something CRUCIAL about being a human being, regardless of what you do for a living.  But for those of us in data-driven professions, I think it’s even MORE relevant.

WHY is it so crucial?  Well, let’s start with Left Brain and Right Brain…

Left and Right Brain:  A Powerful Alliance



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Holiday Bonus Post: Mobile Frame Zero!

Let’s Say You’re a Big Nerd…

…and you haven’t spent enough time with your kids over the past year.  Looking for a good way to spend many quality hours with the brood?

I give you…  Mobile Frame Zero.  (And if you’re not a big nerd, well, you may just want to stop reading right now).


A Game Where You Design and Build Your Own “War Mechs” Out of Legos?  Yes Please.
(My Mechs on Top.  My Son’s on Bottom.)

A 100% “Open Source” Mech Game That You Can Play for Free??

For nearly 30 years, I have been aware of games like Warhammer – epic tabletop nerd games – and wanted to at least try them.  But they are SUPER expensive.  You can rack up thousands of dollars buying the miniatures, and then spend forever painting them.  So, um, no.  I’ve stayed away.

But what about a mech game where you make your own miniatures out of Legos???  Pure freaking genius, especially considering that the people reading this post ALONE, in total, probably possess millions of unused Lego blocks.

Well, the creators of Mobile Frame Zero weren’t done there.  They also made their RULES free to download!  Optionally, you can choose to pay them $10 for the PDF, kinda like a donation.  Or you can buy a physical copy of the rulebook, like I did.  But they are VERY clear that they do NOT mind you downloading the game for free.  Put that together with the Legos you already have and you’re ready to play.  (Well, you need some dice too, but keep reading for a hookup).

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Friday Bonus: A Blog Stats “Whodunit?” (AKA “We Are Legion.”)


A Single Post (the “Cheese” Post About Power Pivot Being Removed From
Most Versions of Excel 2013) Had Its Best Day Ever Yesterday.  Why?

Yesterday I awoke to unusually high traffic on the site.  A single post – Who Moved My PowerPivot Cheese? – was going gangbusters.

What does “gangbusters” mean?  Well, for perspective, let’s check out the Mary Jo Foley Effect:

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Three Pictures: All Cool, Two Funny

Three pictures landed in my inbox in the past 24 hours that I just had to share Smile

1) Condoms Power???


Without a Doubt:  A Very Strange Superpower Indeed Smile

The author of this Power Pivot workbook has agreed to write a guest post in exchange for my assistance.  Let’s hope he follows through, because it’s a fascinating model in addition to having a funny sheet tab name.  In the end it’s a very serious subject regarding HIV prevention in the Pacific Islands.

2) Comprehensive Export Support

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A Swarm of Helpful People

Humans are just amazing.  We don’t survive on our own – even strangers come to your aid, by the dozen, and I am incredibly fortunate for that.

When I hurt myself last weekend, I just felt stupid.  I was laying there on this sea of trampolines, 100 feet from the stairs down, sweating, and unable to even straighten my right leg.  I might as well have been a thousand miles from the exit.  It’s a weird feeling – knowing, for certain, that if I were alone, I would eventually starve to death right in that spot.

My knee was basically disassembled into component parts, but the pain from that wasn’t so bad.  It was the helplessness that sucked.  The physical sense of helpless (described above) was only one part.  As an independent contractor in the process of launching a new enterprise, I had rolled the dice on temporarily going without health insurance.  This was uncharted territory for me – what exactly was going to happen now?  The System equates No Insurance with Cannot Pay For It.  I knew that I could afford it, but how do you get expensive help from people who don’t think you can pay?

Then the fire department and paramedics showed up.  Like ten guys.  Splinting my leg, moving me onto a stretcher board.  All while basically working in quicksand – trampolines aren’t the friendliest work surface.  I just kept apologizing – “guys I am so sorry to put you through this, but thank you.”  That, and make jokes.  Like “guys, I only signed up for an hour of trampoline time and now that it’s six o’clock I think this place is about to throw me out.”

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