Shared posts

31 Mar 10:48

Here, have a sprinkle of weirdness.

by Jessica Hagy


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30 Mar 17:04


by joberholtzer

26 Mar 13:01

Sleepy foods.Turns out a bunch of substances have the power to...

Sleepy foods.

Turns out a bunch of substances have the power to make you sleepy - tryptophan, vitamin B6, calcium, glycine, lactucarium and carbohydrates are some of the major ones. Some even interact with each other for maximum sleepiness. A few common foods with these compounds in good measure include:

turkey, walnuts - tryptophan
tuna, pistachios - vitamin B6
dairy - calcium
chamomile - glycine
lettuce - lactucarium

So an evening turkey or tuna, walnut, cheese and lettuce sandwich with a glass of milk and a side of pistachios or walnuts and you’ll be set for a good night.

23 Mar 14:41

Yes, sir.

by Jessica Hagy


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23 Mar 04:01

Dungeon Divers Get Bored To Death

by jon


Howdy comic lovers! Today is the first installment of the next segment of Dungeon Divers! I’ll be running them for at least the next couple of weeks, so sit down, relax, crack open a dungeon turkey and enjoy.

I’ll be posting the rest of the segment early over at Patreon as I complete them, so if you want to get in on that, you know what to do.


18 Mar 21:26

nevver: Total eclipse

by joberholtzer
18 Mar 04:00

Upside-Down Map

Due to their proximity across the channel, there's long been tension between North Korea and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Southern Ireland.
16 Mar 15:00

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Monocle Announcement



New comic!
Today's News:

Monocles are here!

13 Mar 04:00

Terry Pratchett

Thank you for teaching us how big our world is by sharing so many of your own.
12 Mar 20:19

And different for everyone.

by Jessica Hagy


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11 Mar 15:00

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Tusklessness


New comic!
Today's News:
Okay, this time new BAHFest day for real!

02 Mar 19:25

Thirteen Ways Of Looking At The Terrible Thing You Just Made

by Zak S
When you say a thing is bad, you are usually using it as a shorthand for one of these things.

There are 13 of them.

So, instead of just saying "bad"…maybe say which one you mean next time?
They wanted it to stay up. It didn't.
(1) The Hindenberg

What you really mean:
It Fails to Do What The Author Wanted It To Do
This is a poorly crafted game. People say "broken" a lot here. This also covers things like typos and literal math errors (like the author expects one outcome but it inevitably produces another, things meant to be weak are strong, etc). It is the kind of "bad" where a designer (if they were honest) would agree they missed the mark.

"I co-wrote Mythus with Gary….One of the first things I did when I started playing was to throw out half of the rules we wrote…."
--Dave Newton, co-author of Mythus)

What's a helpful thing to do? 
Show the author saying it does a thing, then demonstrate that it can't, under any circumstances, do that. Then you're right. After that you then might have to prove that that thing is important or outweighs all the good things about the game, but you have proved--at least--a failure of craftmanship.
They were lying
(2) The X-Ray Specs

What you really mean:
It Fails to Do What The Advertising Said It Would Do
People also call this "broken", too. This is a dishonestly made or poorly-tested product.

Seclusium of Orphone says you can make a Seclusium in half an hour (or an hour? Can't remember. Anyway:) You really can't. If you can I haven't heard anybody say you can. You might say Mythus is this, too, if you assume Dave and Gary knew they'd throw out half the rules they wrote before they played.

What's a helpful thing to do? 
Point out the advertising says one thing and demonstrate it's impossible to do that thing. If the advertising is ambiguous and you're railing against it, you're back at (10).

(3) The Left Handed Scissors

What you really mean:
It's relatively unpopular
Not very many people like it. Often conflated with (4).

Torchbearer. All RPGs ever, really.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain why anyone should care whether a game is popular or not. I mean: what's wrong with left handed scissors? Left handed people need scissors, too.

(4) The New Coke

What you really mean:
The Thing Is Underperforming in Terms of Popularity
Less people than you'd expect like it, considering everything it had going for it in terms of advertising, licensing etc. More of a big deal than (3) above--but only if somebody claimed it was supposed to make money. If part of the designers' goal was to make lots of money and sell lots of copies (true in the case of Marvel Heroic, not true int he case of many DIY D&D products) then this is a bit of (1), as well.

Marvel Heroic RPG

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain why anyone not working for the company should care whether a game is making as much money as somebody expected it to. Are you evaluating the ability of the designer to guess the public taste? Sometimes that's important, sometimes it isn't.
In case you had any doubt, Dave Sim's comics had
loooooong text pieces in the end telling you in the
first person that he's sexist.

(5) The Cerebus

What you really mean:
The Thing Accurately Reveals the Author Is A Douche
The words or images in the RPG reflect attitudes on the behalf of the author that only douchebags have. Games called racist or sexist are often this.

Frequently conflated with:
(6), (7), (11)

Example: Those dumb novelty RPGs people make that just make fun of other peoples' RPGs

What's a helpful thing to do?
Explain how there is no possible way anybody but a douchebag could've written what's on the page . The easiest way is to find some nonfiction piece the author wrote which echoes the bad ideas in the piece. The most tortured and fraught path is to assume that whatever the author depicts it's something they like--that's almost always wrong and very hard to prove. Ask yourself: are you guessing the author of Ghostbusters hates ghosts, or just assuming?

(6)  The Garfield

What you really mean:
The Author Chose To Do Less Than Their Best Work
A variation on 5. The particular douchebaggery in question being the author clearly could've done better. A lot of stereotypes are supported by this kind of bad because stereotypes are easy to write.

Ruins of Undermountain.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Prove the author knew a better way to do a thing--or grasped that finding it would've been useful--and then show how what's there isn't that.

(7) The Russian Roulette

What you really mean:
Literally the world outside the game gets worse because of this game existing. Games called racist or sexist are often this.

DragonRaid (an '80s Christian D&D alternative)

What's a helpful thing to do?
Prove it with facts. Like DragonRaid for instance made money for some shitstain who had a problem with D&D on Christian grounds, plus maybe granted legitimacy to bigoted attacks on the RPGs that made a lot of peoples' relationship to their hobby (and parents) pretty traumatic when they were young. I'd probably have to do some more research to confirm all this if I really wanted to go after DragonRaid, plus prove that this wasn't balanced out by the fact that it probably introduced people to RPGs who otherwise would've had nothing because their parents were fundamentalists.

If a thing is, objectively, Russian Roulette and will cause harm and the author knows it and agrees with that and puts it out anyway, you have a clear case of (5).
(8) The Offensive Thing

What you really mean:
The Thing Upsets You (When extreme: Triggering)
Games called racist or sexist are often this but it doesn't necessarily mean they are racist or sexist because culture offends people, period. Like any game with gay guys in it will offend someone but whoever it offends doesn't count. People taking offense usually implies they believe it's bad in some other way, too.

Frequently conflated or combined with:
(5), (7)

Blue Rose--the setting purports to be an egalitarian paradise but sweeps class issues completely under the rug. I'm offended. I have no evidence that the authors were classist (5) or just didn't think through egalitarianism very much (1) or that RPG people became any more classist because of it (7), however. It wasn't exactly a popular game (in which case (3) may have led to it not being (7)).

What's a helpful thing to do?
Make a case for whether the people who are offended are just offended alone (in which case who cares?) or whether the offense might indicate (7) or (5). Here's a thing: are people offended by two guys kissing actually not harmed even though they think they are or are they harmed but who cares because fuck them they suck?

(9) The Bad Influence

What you really mean:
It's A Harmful Influence On Other Games

Caves of Chaos, most other early adventure modules--companies realized that authors paid by the word could bulk out 5 pages of ideas to 15, 30, 100, or even 200 pages of text and people would buy it. Thus leading to a lot of (10) and arguably (2) and undeniably (6).

What's a helpful thing to do?
Point out how the tendency didn't exist until that thing came along and make a case the new tendency was some kind of bad.
(10) The Thing You Just Don't Like

What you really mean: The Thing Is Not To My Taste
Like the game is broccoli flavored and you hate broccoli.

Apocalypse World

What's a helpful thing to do?
Describe what kind of person you and/or your group are, what you like, and why that game doesn't do those things or doesn't fit. It's as much about you as it is about the game, acknowledge that, it'll help people who are like you and who aren't decide what to do with the game.


What you really mean: Not To My Taste Plus It's Part Of A Whole Trend Of Things Not To My Taste (Aka "I'm so sick of these games like…")
You like pizza, this game is a hot dog, plus it seems like every ten seconds there's another hot dog.

Apocalypse World Engine-games

What's a helpful thing to do?
As (10) plus describe why you think anyone else should care that there are a lot of these games that you don't need to buy (if you are). Are you arguing (9)? Are you arguing that a critical mass of (11)s result in (7)? Are you just sort of irritated at not being a majority? If it helps: you play RPGs, you're not and never will be.

i.e. Are you saying "less of this, please" when the problem could be just as easily solved with "more of that, please"?
(12) The Game For Douchebags

What you really mean: Not To My Taste Plus It's Only To The Taste Of Shitty People
This is like (10) on overdrive: You don't like it and can't think even imagine a worthwhile human being enjoying this thing, nor have any such people come forward.

Bliss Stage. Maybe it does what it's supposed to and what it advertises and does it to the best of the author's ability and hurts no-one but what it's supposed to do doesn't seem to appeal to anyone who isn't a moron.

What's a helpful thing to do?
Describe what shitty characteristic of a person links to the shitty part of the game. If someone you like is into the game, then you have to revise your opinion. Like so even thought tons of terrible people like Monsterhearts, so does Shoepixie and I like Shoepixie and don't begrudge her entertainment, so I guess that game is ok.

(13) The Chew Toy

What you really mean: One or More Of The Above Plus the Author is a Douche
It has flaws that may or may not be objective. But the author is pretty objectively terrible.

Example: FATE

What's a helpful thing to do?
You can keep calling the game "bad" because the only person it's unfair to is the author and they're a douche. But if someone asks then you need to point out what made you decide the author's a douche.
So this simplifies life. Most critiques are 10 dressed up with other stuff to make them seem more objective, like

The standard knock against White Wolf is a lot of mechanical (1) with either (10) ("I'm not a goth") or (2) ("I am a goth and it wasn't goth enough").

The 4venger attacks on Old School D&D were a lot of (1) and (2) with, at least on some sides, some (7) leading to (3).


06 Mar 05:00

Hard Reboot

Googling inevitably reveals that my problem is caused by a known bug triggered by doing [the exact combination of things I want to do]. I can fix it, or wait a few years until I don't want that combination of things anymore, using the kitchen timer until then.
05 Mar 10:54

The importance/urgency matrix.Also known as the Eisenhower...

The importance/urgency matrix.

Also known as the Eisenhower matrix, though I learned it, as I suspect most people have, from Stephen Covey. It’s a simple way of prioritizing your tasks and planning.

The three main takeaways for me are:

  1. Spend your time on those in the important boxes, generally starting with the urgent ones.
  2. The important not urgent tasks are the easiest to kick down the line, like starting on that book project, or applying for things. Force yourself to make time to progress on these using whatever tricks necessary.
  3. Try not to be led astray by the tyranny of the urgent not importants. They’re so hard to ignore. James Clear ( has a host of ways to help make sure you focus on the importants like starting every day with the most important activities, and ruthless focus.

I spent a year organising my to-do list in these boxes and it was striking just how long the important not urgents keep getting moved on to the next list. Part of the secret there is to break them down to startable tasks rather than big projects. FWIW I don’t actually recommend the really concrete action of organising the to-do list in the quadrants. More being cognizant of what type each task is. But it may help for a while.

03 Mar 08:00

variorum: Word of the Day

variorum: containing different versions of the text by various editors.
01 Mar 10:46

The Muses

by blackboardfiction

muses slice1 greekmythcomix muses slice2 greekmythcomix muses slice3 greekmythcomix muses slice5 greekmythcomix


For the 4th year, who asked. 

For how the Muses are used in Literature, see Divine Inspiration.

For more information about the Muses, go to, an invaluable resource.

Hopefully you will have noticed by now that most of the clothing and adornment shown in the comix are inspired by and copied from Greek pottery, and that different styles loosely represent different time periods. If you’d like to know more about this, go to The Classical Art Research Centre, Oxford University.


27 Feb 05:00

Dress Color

This white-balance illusion hit so hard because it felt like someone had been playing through the Monty Hall scenario and opened their chosen door, only to find there was unexpectedly disagreement over whether the thing they'd revealed was a goat or a car.
26 Feb 13:01

Prices written smaller seem more affordable.Unfortunately, there...

Prices written smaller seem more affordable.

Unfortunately, there are studies to show that this is generally true. What with decoy prices, anchoring, the age-old susceptibility to 99s and a host of other biases, we’re at the mercy of many factors when it comes to trying to make vaguely rational pricing decisions.

For plenty more see William Poundstone’s, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and how to Take Advantage of It), Scribe, 2010.

Hat tip: Avraham Byers once again.

25 Feb 05:00

Stories of the Past and Future

Little-known fact: The 'Dawn of Man' opening sequence in 2001 cuts away seconds before the Flintstones theme becomes recognizable.
24 Feb 08:00

demassify: Word of the Day

demassify: to break something into elements that appeal to individual tastes or special interests.
23 Feb 22:41

Hark, A Vagrant: Katherine Sui Fun Cheung

buy this print!

I read this quote, from an interview with Katherine Sui Fun Cheung, and the interviewer asked about why she was a pilot and all that, and she just said "I wanted to fly, so I did." And I thought MAN! I can't even figure out what to eat for breakfast, never mind sailing through a load of barriers just because I think I want to give something a shot. "Flying? Whatever, I'll just Do It."

Another quote? "What's the point of flying a plane if you can't have fun doing it?" I love her!

Look at her! We all want to be her.

I love early aviatrices - Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart, Beryl Markham, etc - they were like "oh is there a brand new job on the face of the earth? Think I'll invite myself to do it before anyone says I can't."

Not too much time goes by before Top Gun washes up once again on these shores.
20 Feb 15:16

saltycornchip:best-of-memes:Someone took a candid photo of a...

by joberholtzer



Someone took a candid photo of a fight in Ukranian Parliament that is as well-composed as the best renaissance art

this is currently my favorite thing on the entire internet

19 Feb 13:01

The decoy price.The technique of adding a significantly more...

The decoy price.

The technique of adding a significantly more expensive option in order to instantly make the other options look reasonable by comparison. These kinds of manipulations have been shown to be scarily effective.

For example:

Pricing decoys are another way retailers get you to part with more money than you planned on. In his book Predictably Irrational, behavioural economist and professor Dan Ariely demonstrates how a large magazine successfully employed a strategy called the “decoy effect” to increase revenue from subscription sales. Prospective subscribers were given three choices:

1.       Web-only subscription for $59
2.       Print-only subscription for $125
3.       Web + print subscription for $125

At first glance, the middle price point appears to be superfluous. Why would anyone buy a print-only subscription for $125 if they could get a web and print for the same price? Ariely tested the price points with MIT students and found that 16% of students chose option 1 and 84% chose option 3; not surprisingly, none chose option 2.

Then Ariely did something really interesting; on the assumption that having a decoy price (option 2) was influencing people’s choices, he removed the decoy and retested the price points. This time, the subscription choices were as follows:

1.       Web-only subscription for $59
2.       Web + print subscription for $125

With the decoy removed, the option that had previously been the most popular – the more expensive print + online access subscription – suddenly became the least popular choice. Only 32% of those surveyed chose the more expensive option, with 68% selecting the online-only subscription. Clearly the middle price point wasn’t superfluous; it was smart marketing that made option 3 look more attractive to subscribers.

Avraham Byers, Here’s why you should always pay full retail price, Financial Post,  April 22nd 2014

19 Feb 19:49

Passing the tests of patience.

by Jessica Hagy


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16 Feb 14:41

mapsontheweb: Evolution of the delta of the Po river, Italy,...

by joberholtzer


Evolution of the delta of the Po river, Italy, 1604-1985.

12 Feb 00:00

Black Hole Moon

by xkcd

Black Hole Moon

What would happen if the Moon were replaced with an equivalently-massed black hole? If it's possible, what would a lunar ("holar"?) eclipse look like?


"Not much" and "not much."

A black hole the mass of the Moon would have an event horizon about the size of a sand grain. Specifically, according to one of my favorite charts, a black hole moon would be a grain of fine to medium-fine sand, and could pass through a sieve of size ASTM No. 70 or larger. I mean, I guess a black hole with the mass of the Moon would pass right through any sieve, destroying it in the process, but that's neither here nor there.[1]The expression "that's neither here nor there" can be kind of confusing and ambiguous, but I guess that's neither here nor there.

Since the Moon's mass and position wouldn't change, the tides on Earth wouldn't change, either. When you're floating outside a spherical mass, its pull on you is the same regardless of whether the mass is concentrated at the center of the sphere or spread out throughout it. If the Sun were replaced by a black hole of the same mass, the Earth's orbit wouldn't change, although life on Earth might.

With the Moon gathered into a point, there'd be no moonlight, which would affect the life cycles of all kinds of nocturnal animals. But compared to a lot of the other things we've done, that would be fairly minor. The Earth's orbit is stabilized by the Moon, but the lunar-mass black hole would probably serve the same role.

This black hole Moon would be pretty low-profile. If it were much smaller, it would evaporate through Hawking radiation, but a black hole the size of the Moon actually absorbs more energy from the cosmic background radiation than it emits through the Hawking mechanism. Our black hole would really be black.

At least, if it didn't eat anything. If the black hole devoured any objects, it would let off a tremendous blast of radiation. Black holes burn brightly as they devour things; the whirlpool of matter heats up as it falls inward, causing it to glow brightly.[2]A black hole can't devour matter too fast, though, because at some point it would be producing so much radiation that it would blast its own "food" away. This is called the Eddington limit.
If our black hole were devouring matter at the Eddington limit, it would be hot enough to sterilize the Earth.

Fortunately, there's not a lot out there for it to eat, so it wouldn't glow very brightly for now. It would spend most of its time drastically altering the orbits of nearby dust particles—one sand grain pushing other sand grains around.[3]Even if it sucked in matter at the rate the Earth—with its much larger "collecting area"—sucks in interplanetary dust, it wouldn't necessarily be a problem for us.

But there would be one interesting effect: In addition to getting darker, Earth would get colder, because moonlight warms the Earth. It's a very tiny contributor to our global energy balance; the Moon is five or six orders of magnitude dimmer than the Sun. But it's there.

Measurements show that global temperature varies with a 28-day cycle; all else being equal, the Earth is hottest during the full moon. It's a tiny difference—small fractions of a degree—but it's there.

But it turns out most of this effect is not due to moonlight. The largest contributor is the fact that the Earth is slightly closer to the Sun during a full Moon:

Calculating the amount of energy radiated back to Earth by the Moon is deceptively tricky. The Moon reflects sunlight, but with some surprising twists. When the Moon is half-illuminated, you might think it would be half as bright as when full—but it's much less bright than that. And once you account for that, there are even trickier effects to deal with, because science is the worst.[4]Like the fact that the waxing Moon is 20% brighter than the waning Moon, or that the Moon is a mild retroreflector. Then, on top of all the weird visible-light effects, the Moon also heats up under the Sun, then radiates that heat as infrared light.

There's a great discussion of the Moon's effect on the Earth's energy budget in this article by Robert Knox. The upshot is that the Moon's infrared heat radiation turns out to affect Earth's temperature about 10 times more than the visible moonlight, but still about 10 times less than the effect from gravity moving Earth closer and farther from the Sun. Knox even quantifies the effect this has on Earth's radiation balance—the presence of infrared moonlight warms the planet by 1.2 milli-degrees Fahrenheit (m°F).

Without moonlight, the planet would cool down slightly. But given the accelerating rate at which we're adding CO2 to the atmosphere—which changes the Earth's energy balance—we'd make up the difference in a couple of weeks.

So all in all, the conversion of the Moon to a black hole might not even be that big of a deal.

Unless, of course, it happened on certain days between 1969 and 1972, in which case Nixon would've needed yet another one of those speeches.

12 Feb 21:05


05 Feb 00:00

Zippo Phone

by xkcd

Zippo Phone

What in my pocket actually contains more energy, my Zippo or my smartphone? What would be the best way of getting the energy from one to the other? And since I am already feeling like Bilbo in this one, is there anything else in my pocket that would have unexpected amounts of stored energy?

—Ian Cummings

The Zippo lighter easily beats the phone, even though its fuel tank is barely half the size of a large phone's battery, because hydrocarbons are fantastic at storing energy. Gasoline, butane, alcohol, and fat contain a lot of chemical energy, which is why our bodies run on them.[1]I mean, the latter two, at least. You can't eat gasoline.​[2]As far as I know.​[3]Although technically swallowing gasoline may not kill you, according to Utah Poison Control specialist Brad Dahl. However, he cautions that you will find yourself "burping gasoline," which is "not real tasty." (Actual quote.)​[4]Also, if you don't rinse your throat afterward, it will give you chemical burns.

How much energy do they contain? Well, let's put it this way: A fully-charged car battery holds barely as much energy as a sandwich.

A container of butane the size of a phone battery could, in principle, power the phone about 13 times longer than the battery itself could.[5]In the case of my phone, that could give me as much as three hours. The obvious question, then, is "why doesn't my phone run on propane?"

The obvious answer is "because your phone would catch fire," but that's not quite it. See, lithium-ion batteries are also extremely flammable, and a huge amount of effort has gone into making Michael Bay scenarios less common.

The truth is more complicated. People have wanted to build various kinds of "fuel cell" batteries for almost as long as we've had portable electronics. The allure of hydrocarbon energy storage continues to this day—if you do a Google search for fuel cell phone charger, you'll find news stories about new products announced every year. Many of them are no longer available.

If you really want to power your phone with butane, the current hot project—as far as I can tell from a cursory search—seems to be the kraftwerk portable USB generator, which has made over a million dollars on Kickstarter with several weeks left in its campaign. Of course, a portable battery of the same size could do a lot of the same things, but there are certainly some use cases where the butane charger offers advantages. If you place a premium on reducing weight, or have to go a long time without contact with the power grid, it could be a good option. Let's put it this way: If the phrase "power your phone on butane", makes you think, "hey, that would solve a problem I have!" then go for it.

This gives us the answer to Ian's second question. The Zippo lighter has more energy, but getting it into the phone is a little difficult and requires the overhead of a fuel cell or generator. Getting the phone to start a fire, on the other hand, is quite reasonable, although it may require doing bad things to the battery.

Ian's third question was "what else in my pocket might contain more energy?" Like Gollum, I have no idea what's in your pocket,[6]Or whether you're happy to see me, for that matter. but I can guess that it might contain one thing with more energy than a battery: Your hand.

An adult man's hand weighs about a pound.[7]I wanted to put "citation needed" after that, but to my mild dismay I actually do have a citation. The hand isn't the fattiest part of the body, but if burned completely, it would probably give off about 500 watt-hours of energy, give or take. That's 50 times the energy content of the phone battery, and almost 10 times that of the Zippo. It's also about as much as a car battery.

And, for that matter, about as much as a sandwich.

30 Jan 05:00

Super Bowl

My hobby: Pretending to miss the sarcasm when people show off their lack of interest in football by talking about 'sportsball' and acting excited to find someone else who's interested, then acting confused when they try to clarify.
15 Jan 08:24

Currently 'avoiding' sleep by finishing a short story for class tomorrow. Do you suffer from problems with procrastination and/or creative blocks?

by joberholtzer

Yes! Absolutely. Procrastination is always hard; I don’t have any good silver bullets there. I’m resigned that a good deal of my life will be spent finding new strategies to combat procrastination, and using them until their effectiveness wears off. Overall, most strategies involve trying to get excited for the work but not daunted by its scale or obsessive about perfection. Whatever you’re working on isn’t going to be the lasting totem for you, the person. It doesn’t even have to be that good. It just has to be closer to done than when you started thinking about it.

As for creative blocks, Zach Weiner blew my mind a few years ago when he told me he doesn’t believe in them, just treats them as a lack of input to be addressed. Don’t know what you want to get out? Put more stuff in. Anything. Just give your brain more stuff to process and work on and that machinery kicking in will pay off. Keep your brain interested in the world and fed with stuff and it will do good work for you and rarely dry up. Don’t resign yourself to boredom. Zach reads about a book a day. He’s a monster. It’s incredibly frustrating. Obscene, really. Let’s all think about how we can’t be Zach and shake our fists.