The Astros Cheating Scandal: Five Things No One Is Talking About

The Astros cheating scandal has been ruled upon by MLB, and now a new pall has been cast on the sport. What’s getting missed in the off-season tornado of histrionics?

Here are a few quick observations from this game writer‘s perspective.

  1. Everyone’s focusing on how the Astros pioneered this particular crime. Getting lost in the noise: the Yankees got dinged for it first. When? Rob Manfred said, “[D]uring an earlier championship season (prior to 2017) the Yankees had violated a rule governing the use of the dugout phone.”
  2. The Astros’ cheating did NOT spread to the Red Sox with coach Joey Cora. At the same time MLB fined the Yanks for their cheating, they levied a larger penalty on the Red Sox for their Apple Watch cheating scheme in… pay attention now… 2017. So the Red Sox cheating was happening while Cora was still coaching with the competition in Texas. If you’re going to point fingers at the source of the cancer, I think you’re going to have to look northeast, not southwest.
  3. The timeframe and logistics on the scandal are puzzling, and they all make MLB look slow, old, and infirm. If the cheating was so obvious and widespread in 2017 why was nothing done in 2018 or 2019? Where is the Mitchell Report for this scandal? Why isn’t MLB monitoring bullpen phones? And why oh why wasn’t MLB encrypting the living hell out of the centerfield camera video feed?
  4. Are you telling me that no MLB employee ever walked through the clubhouse hallway and noticed an Astros employee banging on a freaking trash can? The fact that this could even be considered a legitimate scheme shows the lack of oversight and awareness of the MLB organization. When there’s an aura of apathy from the ruling authority, and two of the most successful teams in the sport are known cheats, you have an environment ripe for malfeasance.
  5. This all sounds like weak apologetics, I understand. I am an Astros fan, although not a proud one any more. But let’s be serious: if we care about baseball, we have to confront the fact that the disease is clearly more widespread than one team. It’s in MLB’s best interest to make it seem like all is well, when in fact they need to take action about this vulnerability in the game as soon as possible. (I also think that when a championship can be won or lost on a single pitch, MLB needs to wake up, trash the inconsistent cork and yarn juiced ball manufacturing system that they bought in 2018, and switch to a consistent leather-clad high-tech ball like the PGA did in the mid ’60s, but that’s another topic.) We should be looking to MLB and all teams for the reasons why this epidemic has been allowed to spread, both institutionally and ethically. Sure, the stakes are high and everyone is dying to win the ultimate prize. Sure, the Astros failed to consider consequences, asterisks, and a black mark that could ostracize some players from HOF consideration. But did anyone bother to think about sportsmanship, the fans, and the future of the sport? Within these organizations, this cheating was known to most if not all. MLB has to take a good hard look at owners, GMs, managers, and most of all their own internal oversight processes and leadership, to determine how this kind of widespread and obvious subversion of the rules and averred principles of the game can occur.

The Austin Videogame Writer Liked on YouTube: Using 20,000 matches to make a coffee table

Your Austin game writer just dugUsing 20,000 matches to make a coffee table.
Go to to try your first box of KiwiCo for free!

You’re no match for me, table. Thanks everyone who helped out on this project!

Evan & Katelyn for giving me epoxy advice:

Jenn Schachter for trying out different epoxy combos:

And Jackie Grieff for collaborating with me on this edit!

? places where I post things ?

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Making a Music Video with the Mermen

Interesting in making a music video? Here’s my tale. After Rocket Science Games began to crater, we developers in the office in San Francisco all knew that we were about to get a fair amount of unscheduled, unpaid time off. AKA, we were all about to get pinkslipped.

Around this time, I was knee-deep in my musical fascination with a San Francisco Bay Area band named the Mermen. They are an instrumental three-piece (guitar, bass, drums) that can create a thunderous, elemental, hypnotic spell that truly mirrors the majesty of the ocean. They are identified as a surf rock band; they get bundled in with jam bands; but trust me, the Mermen are a singular phenomenon that has me thinking punk rock at one moment and classical music in the next, all in the same tune.

So I did the logical (?) thing: I conscripted my coworker, producer Bart Cheever, founder and executive director of the DFILM and Low Res Film Festivals, in a wild effort to co-produce a video for the Mermen. For free. For fun. I even took a class at the Bay Area Video Coalition from a few experienced music video directors on how to create one.

The next thing, of course, was to talk to the band. They are kind of a cult phenomenon; even though they’ve won Bammies, they don’t have a rabid current following. Rather, they have a loyal stable fan base. For example, they’ve played Burning Man for 10 years straight. They’re that kind of band. But fortunately they were easy to contact, and soon I was in touch with the then-bassist, Allen Whitman, who was happy to give me the official approval to work on the video and connect me with the staff at their then-publisher, Toadophile Records. Although initially I was tempted by “Be My Noir” from Food for Other Fish, I told Allen I was going to shoot for the song “Scalp Salad” from A Glorious Lethal Euphoria.

For several months I wandered around the area, shooting video on my handheld camcorder and puzzling over what imagery would best convey the startling power of that inimitable Mermen sound. I probably spent an obsessive number of hours scribbling notes and logging footage on scrap paper. Despite the loss of my original co-conspirator Bart to job hunting demands, I think it really started to come together thanks to three breakthroughs: 1) I decided to shoot a macabre finale, the key elements being a pile of animal byproduct from a slaughterhouse, which gave the video a powerful and unifying ending, 2) I met a documentary filmmaker/cinematographer at Stanford, Hung-Yut Chen, who agreed to help me shoot my finale, and 3) I got a job as a new media artist at Invision Communications, where suddenly I had after-hours access to a non-linear video editing station capable of digesting my many hours of footage and turning it into something palatable.

The shooting of the finale went well (although the slaughterhouse meat had started to turn in the fridge and wasn’t exactly pleasant to smell) and after many late nights I had a finished video. I drove over to Allen’s place to show him the end product, and I’d have to say he was as happy with it as I was. His first words after watching it: “Are you a vegetarian?” Nope, I’m not, but I am definitely aware of animal cruelty and the cost of human progress.

The guys at Toadophile were very positive too, and promptly put the video on their website alongside all the other Mermen media. Eventually I moved to music-focused Austin, Texas, where a popular public access channel called the Austin Music Network showed primarily local music videos 24×7. I enjoyed watching the network, and eventually sent a copy of the video to them. (They were able to include me under the “local music” umbrella because my roots are in Texas.) I’m proud to say they tell me the video got a lot of airplay, although I never saw it air myself.

Why the Astros Are Incredibly Stupid

The Astros are stupid. If they were cheating in 2017 or 2018 or 2019, as documented in various Youtube videos (see below), they are stupid. Morons. Idiots.

I should mention up front that I’ve been an Astros fan for years, and I followed the runs to the World Series in ’17 and ’19.

There’s still some doubt about the validity and extent of the allegations posed by the videos. MLB is investigating, for better or worse; if you’ve seen some weird rulings come back from New York on video replays, you may be thinking the latter.

Anyhow, the allegation is that the Astros used cameras to feed opposing catchers’ signs to the dugout hallway, where a staffer smacked a trashcan or made some other signal to indicate what kind of pitch was coming. “The banging was fairly dumb,” said Jomboy, the blogger who made the video posted below, but other techniques could’ve involved any number of communication methods.

My assertion is that the Astros aren’t all that smart if this is true. This is one of the most boneheaded schemes ever, trashcans or no. If it happened as presented, it involved about 40 players, coaches, and staff, all of whom could spill the beans or change teams (and possibly resent the Astros) at the drop of a hat. With video surveillance, stadium and MLB staff everywhere, and comprehensive recordings of every game, how did they think this would ever fly?

The other thing that astounds me about the magnitude of the scandal is that the Red Sox got caught doing pretty much exactly the same thing in 2017.

And why would a team every think that this would be a good course of action? There’s a strong strain of “everyone else is doing it,” of course. But MLB was already on the case. And… it’s cheating. And childish. And fairly transparent.

The Astros have been a bit of a magnet for controversy in recent years. People hate them for being mostly unbeatable. People hate them for doing things their own way, being strongly statistics-driven, and allegedly tanking games during their rebuild to stock up on high draft picks.

A bit of the hatred for the Astros comes from that smart-kid statshead bias. People don’t like admitting that some stats-cruncher is using computers and spreadsheets to win sports championships.

Well, they don’t look so smart now. We’ll see what MLB says, but if this goes the way it seems to be going, it’s gonna be a long offseason.

UPDATE: It’s pretty much as described, and MLB has come down as hard as they could. Hinch and Luhnow are gone, and hopefully so is this era of chicanery. Cora and the arrogant players who supported this scheme have Blacksoxed the 2017 championship for me. Get ready to see fans wearing trashcans instead of paper bags over their heads at Astros games next year.

Not to bloviate or anything, but Tierney thinks “this is now the most pivotal moment in the history of baseball.” Cuz steroids and the Black Sox never happened.

The Austin Videogame Writer Liked on YouTube: Using Drones to Plant 20,000,000 Trees

Your Austin game writer just dugUsing Drones to Plant 20,000,000 Trees.
Join #TeamTrees at
Create your own personal website at

ALSO, see how I make all my builds using Wix:

Thanks to my friends at Discovery Channel for helping us find Arbor Day in the first place and then capturing all the footage for my video. They are absolute champions to work with I’ve got some really cool projects coming up soon.

Learn more about my smart friends at DroneSeed-

Thanks to for giving my workbench tools a seriously needed upgrade!

If you want to learn more about C02 in ancient ice, check out this great video from Dr. Joe Hanson at It’s OK to be Smart-

0:28 – On My Way – Tom Goldstein
3:27 – Arrow (Instrumental) – Andrew Applepie
4:42 – Dive – Lvly
6:27 – New Shoes – Blue Wednesday
9:16 – Cereal Killa – Blue Wednesday
11:13 – Q – Blue Wednesday
12:22 – Too Happy to be cool by Notebreak

Summary: The internet challenged Mr. Beast to plant 20 million trees. That is a really hard thing to do. So we banded together all our YouTube friends and started #teamtrees. Basically we partnered with Arbor Day and got them to agree that for every $1 we raise, they would plant 1 tree.

MERCH (all proceeds go to Autism Speaks):
They are soft-



I make videos like this once a month all year long while supplies last:





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The Austin Videogame Writer Liked on YouTube: Rocket Jockey Remake – Day 11 build – split screen + B12 Download

Your Austin game writer just dugRocket Jockey Remake – Day 11 build – split screen + B12 Download.
Challenge your friends with a brand new split screen mode!
Day 11 build is here!
-game has purpose(you can die they can die)
-split screen
-choose number of AI
– tons of physics tweaks and little fixes
Day 12 Edit:
– tons of physics tweaks.
– bombs like ppl and rockets too.
– you can trip on active cables.
– loops now work
– New Stadium
Download Day 12 Build:
Day 11:

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Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About This Scene in Alita?

Alita: Battle Angel isn’t exactly a classic. Despite (or perhaps because of) its long history as a manga, a pet project of James Cameron, and a movie in development hell, the characters felt a little generic, some of the action was inexplicable, and the plot felt a little unbaked and unconvincing. Still, there was one standout scene that I’m still thinking about.

Mahershala Ali turned in one of the best acted scenes I’ve seen in the last decade in Alita. Pure genius. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. (I don’t want to spoil it; that scene is a late-game plot development.) Too bad his part as Vector, a typical bad guy lieutenant, was otherwise fairly rote.

Ali is a talent to watch, and I need to track down more of his performances, like his runs in The 4400 and Moonlight. Hopefully he gets some better roles in future than this one.

Note: Ali is the first black actor to win two Oscars in the same category (best supporting actor, in his case). Hard to believe that’s never happened before.

Here’s Ali in costume talking about the movie.

The Austin Videogame Writer Liked on YouTube: Pumped Up Kicks Radiohead Mashup – Pomplamoose

Your Austin game writer just dugPumped Up Kicks Radiohead Mashup – Pomplamoose.
Not totally sure WHY this happened, but I dig it.

Lead Vocals: Nataly Dawn
Keys/Mixing/Mastering: Jack Conte
Engineer: Pete Min
Drums: Sarab Singh
Guit: Brian Green
Bass: Nick Campbell
Background Vocals (left): Loren Battley
Background Vocals (right): Sarah Dugas
Cinematography: Ricky Chavez
Recorded and Filmed at Lucy’s Meat Market in Los Angeles

via YouTube

The Austin Videogame Writer Liked on YouTube: The Saturday Boy (Billy Bragg cover) – Alice and Jamie

Your Austin game writer just dugThe Saturday Boy (Billy Bragg cover) – Alice and Jamie.
A very serious song. Mandolin debut on a cheeky Billy Bragg cover wit’ ma main man, Jamie Warnes.
Check ‘im out, do so at your own peril…

via YouTube

Fake Videogame Companies

Fake videogame companies are now a thing, and it’s no real surprise to anyone who’s been watching the industry for a minute. Like many other crazy videogame wannabes, this Mahal guy got too greedy, pulled a Theranos (aka his lies and ego were the only thing of value that he was peddling), and screwed all of the people who tried to help him. That could be you, aspiring videogame designer… either the screwer or the screwee. The full story is up at Kotaku.

I don’t think Mahal did this maliciously. In his original plan, he probably saw them delivering a hit videogame. People don’t get into videogame development to make money; greedy people go to Wall Street. But at some point I’m guessing Mahal realized that the project would never reach completion, and he kept his group slaving on in hopes of… well, your guess is as good as mine. And that’s where the Theranos comparison starts to click in. If you don’t know Theranos, google it.

The funny thing is that the story isn’t too different from how Bill Gates founded Microsoft. In this article from IEEE Spectrum, Bob Zeidman details how Gates found out that IBM needed an operating system, bought the rights to SCP’s QDOS, and hired the creator to update it for IBM’s needs. The IBM PC went on to make computing history, and Microsoft rode that wave to become Microsoft. (Zeidman also goes on to investigate allegations that Gates’ code illegally stole from another company’s.)

Gates was like Mahal in that he didn’t have what people wanted, but smelling opportunity, he told them he did and then put all his energy into getting the desired product. Unlike Mahal, though, Gates had some resources (3x Mahal’s, and in 1970s money) and acumen, and he was successful in getting the product and turning it into something commercially viable.

Lesson? Well, it boils down to acumen. Knowing what you can do, sensing opportunity, and delivering. It doesn’t have much to do with videogames per se. Your parents would probably call it “horse sense.”

In other news, my pals Florence and Logan hooked me up with tickets to another ACL taping last night. I like to document these shows on the blog; the headliner was Lucy Dacus, who was originally supposed to play with Julien Baker, but Baker was ill. Despite her age (24) Dacus held the stage capably and showed the capacity to drive propulsively the show whether backed by guitar, bass, and drums or just with her voice and a single guitar. “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” and the capper “Fool’s Gold” were highlights.