By every meaningful measure, the internet is now the same.

Author: aaron

Introducing the Surrain Pickleball Scoring System (SPSS)

I played Pickleball for the first time two days ago and thought the scoring system was aesthetically clumsy. I propose the following.

The Surrain Pickleball Scoring System

Only in doubles on the second server’s serve, say, “the,” then…

Once both sides have at least nine points, stop accumulating points and…

  • if tied: say “deuce”
  • if winning: say “sun”
  • if losing: say “moon”


  • Find a word from the following table by choosing the row that matches the higher score and the column that matches the lower score.
  • Say “back” if you’re losing.
table of words

Winning? Next is down. Losing? Next is right, with “back.”


0-0-2“the valentine’s”
5-2-2“the apple”
2-5-2“the apple back”
10-9-2“the sun”

The Short Version

["the" if 2nd server]
if both players have 9
  tied: "deuce"
  winning: "sun"
  losing: "moon"  
  [word from table] ["back" if losing]

Bonus for Winners!

Use the losing player’s score to determine how to refer to the game. For example, if you shut out your opponent, congratulations on a diamond game.

9 or morecosmic

An All-Scores Version of the Words Table

Note that when you’re winning, the class of word stays the same but the first letter of the word is different. During a comeback, the class of word changes but the first letter of the word is the same until you’re tied again.

To read this table, choose the row that matches your score and the column that matches your opponent’s score.

0valentinesemerald backivory backruby backopal backamber backtopaz backcrystal backpearl backbloodstone backsapphire back
1emeraldflowersiris backrose backorchid backazalea backtulip backclover backpansy backbluebell backsnapdragon back
2ivoryirisfruitrasperry backorange backapple backtangerine backcherry backpeach backbanana backstrawberry back
3rubyroseraspberrytreesoak backaspen backteak backcedar backpine backbirch backsequoia back
4opalorchidorangeoakpredatorsalligator backtiger backcobra backpirhana backbear backshark back
5amberazaleaappleaspenalligatorspicesthyme backcumin backpepper backbasil backsaffron back
6topaztuliptangerineteaktigerthymelinenscotton backpolyester backbamboo backsatin back
7crystalclovercherrycedarcobracumincottondancepolka backballet backsalsa back
8pearlpansypeachpinepirhanapepperpolyesterpolkametalbronze backsilver back
10sapphiresnapdragostrawberrysequoiasharksaffronsatinsalsasilversun(impossible score)
table of words
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Ronin of Catan

R.I.P. Klaus Teuber

We’re not big on The Robber in Settlers of Catan for a few reasons, so we tried a few different alternative rules and think we’ve settled on some we like.

The Ronin still blocks the tile they’re on from producing normally.

So you rolled a seven…

  • Don’t steal.
  • As usual, discard if applicable.
  • Move the Ronin a number of tiles equal to the lower of the dice rolled without doubling back or ending on their starting tile.
  • Take cards from the supply equal in number to the lower of the dice rolled limited in kind and proportion to the kind normally produced by the tiles traversed.

For example, if you roll a five and a two, you must move the Ronin two tiles. If the Ronin is on a forest tile, and you move it to another forest tile with one hill tile between them, you can take either two wood or a wood and a brick from the supply, but not two brick because only one hill was traversed by the Ronin.

So you played a knight…

  • Don’t steal.
  • Move the Ronin exactly one tile.
  • Take from the supply one card of the kind normally produced by the either the starting or ending tile of the Ronin’s path.

Other adjustments

We’ve only been testing this with two players, but we’re enjoying it when we play to thirteen instead of ten.

Costa Rica Showed Us Some Birds

Thanks, Agniel. You’re an amazing guide!

The four images above link to their full-sized versions.

Marble Cake

My mom makes these as cupcakes now to get more crust out of the deal. For parties—bundt! I make this 1/3-scale recipe in the brownie pan Morgan gave me because I’m bundt broke.

3 T vegan butter, room temp (Melt, Miyoko, or Earth Balance sticks)
1 dollop of vegan butter for greasing
1 t flax seed
1 T (scant) water
1 t vanilla
⅓ C sugar (not too fine and white—a little grit and soul goes a long way)
⅓ C brown sugar (not too dark or light)
½ C soy milk (Trader Joe’s Soy Beverage or Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain)
⅔ C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 square unsweetened chocolate
⅛ t baking soda

Heat someone’s oven to 350º. Blend the flax seed in a spice/coffee blender and drown it in the water. In a comfortably-medium bowl, masticate the butter, sugar. Once the flax seed and water has pussed, mix it, the vanilla, and the Just Egg into the butter and sugar. In a more-medium bowl, obliviate the salt and powder into the flour. Thrice mix a third of the dry ingredients and a third of the milk into the wet ingredients. In the now-empty more-medium bowl (or, fancy lad, in a double boiler) melt the chocolate then feed it the soda. Sublimate just shy of half of the batter into the chocolate. Marble by gently considering stirring the staid and chocolate batters, perhaps while consolidating them into one of their bowls, perhaps right into the butter-greased half-sheet-of-parchment-paper-lined brownie pan.

Bake for 55 minutes (doubling seems to need 65). Cool. Powder? Cut. Eat.


Remembering the time at the 2007 Chicago South Side St. Patrick’s Day parade when I saw this…

…and thought, let’s go take family-portrait style pictures with those guys.

They were as liquid in their bearing up close as they were from afar and inside.

Vegan Brownies

Eat food, mostly brown, not too many.

It’s might be me, but the vegan brownie recipes I’ve tried have two flaws. They aim to be gooey but just seem under-cooked. They harden when they cool.

The heavy dose of baking powder in this recipe seems to keep the butter from bricking. In my garbage kitchen, these ride the wave between cakey and gooey and stay yummy (won’t break teeth) after being in the fridge for a day.

1/4 C soy milk (Trader Joe’s Soy Beverage or Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain)
1 T vinegar
1/4 C (1/2 stick) vegan butter (I used organic Earth Balance)
1/2 C sugar
1 t vanilla
1/3 C dutch processed cocoa powder (Equal Exchange)
2/3 C all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt

Heat a small oven to 350º. Inseminate the soy milk with the vinegar and let it sit a mo. Garble up the rest of the wet (buttah, sugah, vanilla). Whip up the dry in its bowl then barely combine the wet and the dry. By barely, I don’t mean like how Chicago barely desegregated. I mean so you stop seeing clumps of dust but still see streaks. More like the SNL cast. Plop the lot into a small brownie pan lined with a vegan-butter greased sheet of parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes (unless your oven ain’t bust like mine). Cool just a few then enjoy with a glass of Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain soy milk.

These two recipes informed:

Simple Vegan Brownies | Minimalist Baker Recipes
Vegan Skillet Cornbread | The Spruce Eats

21-4-14 – reduced sugar from 2/3 C; increased vinegar to 1 T;

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies

Something about quick oats specifically makes them cousiny to Mexican wedding cookies. I dare you.

1 t ground flax seed
1 T water
1/4 C vegan butter SOFTENED
1/4 C sugar
1/8 C brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon
1/3 C flour
2/3 C quick oats
1/4 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
1/3 C chopped toasted pecans
1/3 C raisins (maybe?)
1 lemon’s or a half-orange’s zest (possibly?)

  1. make the fake egg: let water and ground flax sit together for a few minutes and turn into an egg with magics
  2. zest the citrus
  3. beat butter, sugars, vanilla, cinnamon; and the zest if you’re feeling it
  4. add fake egg
  5. combine dry ingredients: flour, oats, salt, baking soda, pecans; and the raisins if you lean that way
  6. combine everything
  7. bake teaspoon drops of dough at 350º for 16-ish minutes—watch for liminal lightbrowningness.

How to zinc the mule’s ass

From what I’m reading, claims that zinc is good for the immune system are holding up under empirical scrutiny, but it’s expensive in pill and liquid supplements and when bundled in a multivitamin its absorption can be thwarted by citric acid. We found you can get it in a powder for super cheap, but it’s hard to eat that way. It sinks quickly to, and then sticks to, the bottom of a glass of water—but we figured it out! sprinkle it onto your almond yogurt breakfast! I tried it today and was reborn, literally. 🐣 Bring it on, coronavirus. The Surrains are ready for you.

Introducing the Surrain Log Date Format (SLDF)

Surrain Log Date Format is a short, easily human readable, sort-friendly character date format.

  • 2-digit year
  • 1-digit month, hex (9 is September, a is October…)
  • 1 hyphen
  • 2-digit day

November 5, 2019:
19b-05 - toaster not authenticated - 403

Boo! macOS sorts 19a above 199.

macOS alternate:
19-b-05 - toaster doesn't sort - 501

Introducing the Surrain Prize Structure (SPS)

Winner proposes a distribution of all prizes. If either first or second runner-up assents, distribute the prizes; otherwise, first runner-up conterproposes a distribution of all prizes. If either winner or second runner-up assents, distribute the prizes according to the counterproposal; otherwise, distribute the prizes according to the winner’s original proposal.


What’s the best thing about baked goods? Eating twenty of them? Nope. YES. Pant. No. It’s fun to witch up the brew, good stink the house a’yum, and have a warm gooey burst of flavor and sugargrit mouthfeel. Alas, fifty cold hard cookies later and it’s sadness all the way down.

Make one “tablespooner” at a time and be saved with my nifty new recipe:

  • T organic softened vegan butter (I’ve been enjoying Melt)
  • T organic vegan raw sugar
  • T organic light brown sugar
  • T organic raw cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • T organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 T organic unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 t organic vanilla extract
  • 1/8 t organic peppermint flavor
  • pinch salt

Heat a small oven to 350º. Humiliate everything but the flours before gently under-folding those in. Do not overmix the flours. Just barely combine the flours with the rest of the muck. Make flat on a silpatted baking sheet a centimeter tall Pangea smear of the above. Bake for 15. There will be baked, but still gooey. Cool just a few then enjoy with a glass of Westsoy Organic Unsweetened Plain soy milk.

They was delicious!

Introducing the Surrain Going Places System (SGPS)

When giving directions, say only the names of the streets in the order they’ll be encountered with two exceptions: For left turns prefix the name of the street with “l'” the way the French use a definite article before words that start with a vowel. For anything more complex than a simple right or left turn, just explain it. For example, walking directions to my house from Porter Square: Head Northeast on White, l’Elm for just a sec, Hancock, l’Charnwood, Willow, l’Hawthorne.

Introducing the Surrain Doing Decimal System (SDDS)

When someone asks how you’re doing, answer with two numbers. The first reports your big-picture wellness and privilege; the second, your mood. Zero is the worst; Nine, the best. If you’ve lived the world’s picture of a charmed life and just won the big game, you might answer 9.9 pronounced “nine point nine.” Car towed? 9.3. Close friend dies? 8.0. Doctor says you’re next? 4.0, but tells you a good joke, 4.6—you’ve had a good run.

On Safari Above the Tree Line

Most people who know me think of me as someone who doesn’t like animals. I do, but from a distance. Don’t touch me, animals.

I’ve always liked rodents and had pet hamsters I wouldn’t touch when I was a kid. I had books about animals and the rodent section was my favorite. The pika was my favorite from those books. I had never seen one and, when I realized that nature just didn’t happen in my suburb, I got a bored and started thinking about planets instead.

I was reminded of the pika when, two years ago, Sarah and I saw David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals. We were so enamored with these little guys that we called our soccer team the Fighting Pikas which I’m sure made more than a few of them laugh (thanks for reminding me, Nathan). Seeing pikas in the wild went to the top of our traveling bucket list. This weekend, at a wedding for my cousin Morgan in Colorado, we thought we had our chance.

On our way out of town after the wedding, we took a side trip up to Mt. Evans to get above the tree line but the road was closed. Lucky for us, someone on his way to kill goats offered to use his special access to the closed area to drive us in as long as we were okay walking back to our car. He dropped us 5 miles in and, with our long underwear in our pockets, we shivered our way back to our car.

We saw two pikas, did a happy dance, and got a ride back to our car from a ranger after only a mile of the hike back. What luck!

Here’s video of the second pika we saw:

And then there were these views. Oh, boy.

Introducing the Surrain Augmented Thumbs Scale (SATS)

The Surrain Augmented Thumbs Scale (SATS or “Sats”) is a new rating scale based on the Thumbs Up or Down Scale (TUDS or “Tuds”) that is easy to use for the rater and less ambiguous to consume than the Counted Star Scale (CSS or “Cuss”) or its aggregating counterpart ubiquitous in restaurant and media reviews: the Counted Whole or Partial Star Scale (CWPSS or “Cow puss”). SATS is extensible and scalable but adds concise precision to the rater’s toolbox even in its base configuration. SATS is joy to the opinionated and ignorant alike.

SATS begins with TUDS—a binary Thumbs Up (U or “thumbs up”) or Thumbs Down (D or “thumbs down”) recommendation—then augments TUDS with positive qualifications to the recommendation (+ or “Garlands”), negative qualifications (- or “Dings”), or both. Garlands and Dings are optional (OGDs or “Oh, Gods”).

SATS in Extension

The recommended configuration (SATSRC or “Sats Rock”) further extends SATS two ways. Firstly, SATSRC encourages elaborative text “Fors” (TFs) to each Garland (“Garland For”) and Ding (“Ding For”).  Secondly, SATSRC modifies TUDS by codifying the third no-thumb option (N or “meh”). SATSRC is trivial to render and autoerotic to decipher.

SATS is improvisationally extensible. Try SATSRC with RBT TF pre-OGDs.

SATS is free as in beer, speech, and a bird, e.g., eagle.

SATS in Action

To execute a SATSRC assessment (SATSA or “Satsa”), begin with the Recommendation by Thumb (RBT or “Ribbit”) to answer the essential question: would you recommend, pose aloof to, or not recommend the SATS target (T)? Following the opening thrust, step 2 qualifies or amplifies the RBT of T with OGDs. Each SATSRC OGD TF should consist of at least one word of elaboration to indicate what each OGD illuminates.  SATSRC presents these together as OGDWTFs, or in short form (SATSRCS or “Sats Ruckus”) separately as OGDs and TFs. SATS is never boring (NFB).

SATS in Diagram

SATSRC = <RBT> [(“ neat”) | “ with ” [<OGDWTF> | <OGDWTF> (“, ” < OGDWTF >…) “ and ” <OGDWTF>]]

RBT = [“thumbs up” | “thumbs down” | “meh”]

OGD = [“garlands” | “dings”] (“ for ” <text elaboration>)


SATSRCS = <RBT> (<OGD> (<OGD>…) (<TF>))

RBT = [“U”|”D”|”M”]

OGD = [“+”|”-“]

TF = “ for ” [<text elaboration> | <text elaboration> (“, ” <text elaboration> …) “ and ” <text elaboration>]

SATS in Example

You can use garlands to amplify a recommendation (or qualify a recommendation against). No one makes better tibs and wats on injera than Ras Dashen Ethiopian Restaurant in Chicago: thumbs up with garlands for superior quality or U+ for superior quality.

You can use dings to qualify a recommendation (or amplify a recommendation against). Boston, Massachusetts is lucky to have FOMU vegan ice cream, but one time my wife and I dropped by their retail location before going to dinner somewhere else and asked them if they’d be open in an hour.  They said they would but then closed early and wouldn’t serve us even though we came back when we said we would, before their posted and stated closing hours: thumbs up with dings for mendacity or U– for mendacity.

You can improvise on SATS and use Garlands and Dings in combination to simply explain yourself, observe tarnishing quintessence, acknowledge the strides of the striving or all of the above. Cancun Mexican restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts uses chicken broth in the items on the vegetarian section of their menu. If you find out by overhearing other vegetarians interrogating their waiter after you’ve already eaten most of your burrito, they’ll comp your meal even before you start dry heave-weeping at the table: thumbs down for chicken in the vegetarian menu and dings for explaining and asking for vegan-ness not waking up our waiter with garlands for at least letting us walk or D-+ for free dumb.

SATS in Conclusion

The SATS family of scales promises to clean up the littered landscape of hyperbole that is the legacy of CWPSS on the internet. SATS observes one person, one thumb as nature intended. SATS is true. SATS flies solo. SATS is satisfaction.

The 4th Annual La Copa Del Budino

Tom and Aga share their victory pudding after a marathon final against former champion Sarah and rookie boccer Penna.

The tournament starts late with all contestants keeping to the shade.

Everyone & fun.  That’s everyone, and that’s fun.

A late birth precludes a tournament berth.

Close call!  Doesn’t matter… we all lose.

Consider those smug mugs a gauntlet in the sand.  353 days until the next La Copa Del Budino!

Holiday Cocktail Grunts into Tradition

The somethingth anniversary of the inspiration and expression of my first original cocktail recipe graced this past December wheneverd. We toasted with and to it and our healths at our humble New Years Eve gathering to calls of “h-euch” and “if I sip it in careful quantities, it’s not quite as bad as the ingredients suggest it would be.” The former and similar I expected; the latter and lauds alike: my triumph!

Je présente …

The Christmas Dick

  • 2 parts Jägermeister
  • 1 part Peppermint Schnapps

Inspiration, inspiration! Among blessings we bathed in that night were extemporaneous recipes and resolutions to their realizations before the next boring of another martini.

Kid Natas
  • 2 parts Southern Comfort
  • 1 part Peach Schnapps

Rather than lie, I invite the internet to remind us of the ingredients for recipes no less memorable proposed, ipso obvios facto, less memorably by other dear patrons of the party.

The Christmas Dick with Wine or something, and warm?
  • yes
A Third Regional Variation featuring a relatively potent flavored liquor and a fruit Schnapps clad in a pithy name
  • 2 parts Harvey…? no
  • 1 part la-di-da Schnapps

Crotch Surgery on My Heart

I assume I was born with Wolff-Parkison White syndrome.  Mostly, that meant I’d have episodes about once a year that set my heart rate suddenly up to way above any heart rate I could get wrestling, lifting weights or anything else a high school kid does to get his heart rate up (jumping out of moving cars, skateboarding down hills into traffic…). If I didn’t get my heart rate down by holding my neck in a special way, I had heard that I could pass out. In high school, I found out that about 1% of people who have my version of WPW die suddenly from it. I didn’t sweat it much but each episode freaked me out a little.

This year, I talked to another cardiologist who told me that I had to do something about it. “If you were a pilot, I’d ground you. If you were in the NFL, I’d bench you.” I asked him a bunch of questions which he didn’t like but entertained. At one point, he told me I was getting too hung up on the terminology, but he interrupted my next question to correct my terminology. “It’s not heart surgery. It’s a procedure.”

Long story short, I went with Dr. Wes Fisher for the crotch surgery on my heart option to permanently fix my WPW. Here’s a BORING video of me talking about it five minutes after it happened.

Family Stories

Big Kessler Hanukkah party was fun again this year.  Sammy held court for about 20 minutes with the family story.  Great stuff!  I recorded most of it on an iPhone and cleaned up the audio with the free program Audacity.

Sammy tells the family story

This reminded me about some interviews Jesse and Howard (is that right?) did with Selma and David Gans.  I tried out some of my new software on trying to clean up those recordings some. Here are links to those interviews (processed with Adobe Audition CS5.5, processed with Audacity, unprocessed — I recommend the Audition processed versions but I haven’t listened to them each all the way through).

Same interviews – processed with Audition

Selma part 1 – Audition
Selma part 2 – Audition
David part 1 – Audition
David part 2 – Audition

Same interviews – processed with Audacity

Selma part 1 – Audacity
Selma part 2 – Audacity
David part 1 – Audacity
David part 2 – Audacity

Same interviews – unprocessed

Selma part 1 – Unprocessed
Selma part 2 – Unprocessed
David part 1 – Unprocessed
David part 2 – Unprocessed

The astute among you may have noticed these files are hosted on Don’t worry, it’s not a pot of viruses. It’s a server in my parents’ basement.

The 3rd Annual La Copa Del Budino

It took me 3 years to win my own bocce tournament. Congratulations, Parry and me!

Clay’s partner Karina had to bail on him minutes before the final, so he flew solo.

Second year running, second place… runner-up. You know, I started my training eleven months ago. I’ll start my training tomorrow, and, I think that extra month will help.

– Dogg

Our New Names

Now that we’re married, we’re going to start looking into officially changing our names to Surrain.

Aaron Joseph Lipke Surrain
Sarah Huckabay Surrain

The wedding was the best day of our lives, but our honeymoon had a less-than-auspicious start.  Half way home from Milwaukee, acute abdominal pain prompted a change of plans.  Sarah took an ambulance to Lake Forest Hospital, where we spent the next 4 hours.  Lemon laws don’t apply to wives, so I was pretty nervous that I’d have no redress if my marriage only lasted a day.  With those fears allayed, we turned to fretting about our honeymoon.  An ultrasound saved the day and set us on our way home with just a little abating residual pain and 6 hours to pack and catch a plane.  We rushed, then waited, missed flights, rushed some more, waited some more, jogged a mile along the future path of Miami Airport’s monorail, missed another flight, holed up in Miami (in style, thanks to Dan and Gretchen!), waited for the plane, waited for the rain and finally took off a day late but no worse for the wear.

In the midst of congratulating ourselves for keeping such high spirits throughout our miniature travails, we gazed out the window of our plane to catch the rather dramatic moment of our plane leaving the gray below as it ascended into the clear be-puffy-clouded sky above the rain.  And that’s what our name means.  After months of mostly entertaining ourselves with would-be new surnames, Surrain came to me from the thought of being above (the prefix sur-) the rain.  We mulled it over during our honeymoon and, having found it satisfying aesthetically and handy as a mantra, name-like and unblemished by any corporate trademark claims, we’re going for it.

The Plunge

We posted pictures on Flickr and Shutterfly. The flickr pics are smaller and for easier web viewing. We uploaded larger versions to shutterfly in case you want to order prints. If you’re really interested in ordering prints and want to see more pictures that feature you or specific moments, let us know and we’ll happily post more to shutterfly. Here are links to both:

Flickr from our old wedding site
Flickr from Flickr

Our Old Wedding Site