(From [The Atlantic’s “blue wave” photo feature today.
Via Kottke, here’s a live, 24×7 feed from a train in Norway. Enjoy.
Paul Allen died on Sunday.
It’s possible you don’t know, or don’t quite remember who he was, even if you’re nerdy enough to read this site. Allen was Bill Gates’ partner in founding Microsoft back in 1975.
Gates writes, in his remembrance of Allen:
In fact, Microsoft would never have happened without Paul. In December 1974, he and I were both living in the Boston area—he was working, and I was going to college. One day he came and got me, insisting that I rush over to a nearby newsstand with him. When we arrived, he showed me the cover of the January issue of Popular Electronics. It featured a new computer called the Altair 8800, which ran on a powerful new chip. Paul looked at me and said: “This is happening without us!” That moment marked the end of my college career and the beginning of our new company, Microsoft. It happened because of Paul.
This wonderful world of computing where I’ve made my life (*) since the early 80s was built by men like Allen and Gates and Jobs and Wozniak and others whose names you don’t know, like Dennis Ritchie. I’ve joked for years that these guys were the only Boomers I actually liked, and it’s not far from the truth. (Well, Ritchie was older than that, but still.)
Computing was always a young man’s game for most of my life, but all those young men are getting older, and now, well, they’re shuffling off this mortal coil. Sic transit gloria mundi.
(*: My whole life. My career. My education. A huge chunk of my social life. And yes, even Erin; longtime Heathen will recall it was a blast email from a mutual friend that reconnected us 17 years ago this summer.)
With this memory from Facebook, we enter Broken Hip Advent!
Reader, we did in fact book that trip, but we never saw either show, because 48 days later, on November 20th, I did this, which well and truly starts the 128 day Cursed Holiday Season:
It was more or less a parade of Suck from 20 November until 21 January, otherwise known at this house as End of PICC Line Day.
We got a little reprieve in the Joco Cruise (30 Jan through 8 Feb; you can rent wheelchairs on cruise ships!), and then the real fun started on Glorious PT Day, 16 February.
Walker Liberation Day is 25 February. I wasn’t done — I needed a cane, which I bought at Southland Hardware — but we were definitely on our way out of the woods.
Finally, 128 days after my injury, there was this:
The whole saga, from the preamble of the potential two-plays-in-Chicago trip through the first time I rode my real bike again, is 176 days, or almost half a year.
Have you noticed that, even though your computer is insanely fast, and your connection is faster still, that web pages don’t seem to load any faster in 2018 than they did in 2008 or 1998?
Yeah. Me, too.
That’s the bullshit web.
Remember this scene in Top Gun, wherein Our Hero flies inverted over an enemy MiG and flips him off whilst
Dr Greene Goose shoots a candid Polaroid?
Yeah, uh, just read this in a New Yorker article about Virgin Galactic’s lead test pilot, Mark Stucky, who has flown for both the Marine Corps and the Air Force:
Stucky also was a showboater. In 1985, on a patrol mission over the Sea of Japan, he spotted a Soviet bomber in the distance, caught up to it, flipped upside d own, got close enough that only a few dozen feet separated the cockpits, and snapped a photograph.
Maverick? Meet Mark Stuckey, who is way cooler than you on account of not being fictional.
Longtime Heathen know our fondness for Mr Waits; this excellent retrospective of his early work — from his debut with Closing Time in 1973 through 1980’s Heartattack and Vine — traces his progression from neo-tin-pan-alley to the much more experimental artist he would eventually become.
After 1980, he would leave Asylum records and begin his collaboration (and marriage) with Kathleen Brennan; the changes were stark when Island Records released Swordfishtrombones three years later. (That’s the album, of course, which features “Johnsburg, Illinois,” about his new wife’s birthplace.)
Here is a simple statement of principle that doesn’t get repeated enough: if you possess billions of dollars, in a world where many people struggle because they do not have much money, you are an immoral person. The same is true if you possess hundreds of millions of dollars, or even millions of dollars. Being extremely wealthy is impossible to justify in a world containing deprivation.
William Langewiesche tells us about using the Stealth Bomber to target Libyan insurgents.
A Michigan bar has had its liquor license suspended for problems I’m dead certain at least one person has dismissed as “some seriously ticky-tacky namby-pamby nanny-state bullshit:”
Drinking alcohol while throwing axes, ax-throwers wearing open-toed shoes, a lack of monitoring by bar management and axes ricocheting off targets in the direction of participants were among the concerns listed by Michigan Liquor Control Commission investigators.
This is a surprising story, and not just because the Eels are involved. Seriously. Make time.
Tony Hawk tweets about being not recognized, and it’s hilarious.
“When Dani came to buy my Porsche, my car washer was astonished to learn that the bruise on her arm came from sword fighting.”
In the wake of learning of a new film of Lear — coming to Amazon streaming next month, with Anthony Hopkins in the title role! — I fell down the whole of “nonobvious adaptations of Shakespeare.” Some of these are common knowledge — I think most people, or at least most film buffs, are aware that Kurosawa’s Ran is also a Lear adaptation, and that his Throne of Blood is Hamlet. Then there are the odd ones, and at the bottom of this pile of weirdness I found this:
In 2002, TNT released a made-for-TV adapation of Lear set in Texas in the 19th century called The King of Texas, and starring no less an eminence than Patrick Stewart as cattle baron John Lear. Uli Edel directed, which makes total sense, as Mr Edel is also the auteur behind such brilliant efforts as Madonna’s me-too erotic thriller Body of Evidence and a TV movie about Mike Tyson.
A year later, Edel did a two-part TV movie about the life of Julius Ceaser with Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under; Law & Order) in the title role, and also featuring Richard Harris (his penultimate role) and Christopher Walken. So yeah.
Anyway, the whole thing is on YouTube, but somehow I don’t think it’s gonna make it to my watch list, but I sample it enough to hear Stewart’s precisely awful attempt at a “western” accent. Ugh.
N. K. Jemisin just won her third Hugo in a row, making her the first person to win three Best Novel Hugos in a row. Each entry of her Broken Earth trilogy won the award, and let me tell you they were all deserved.
Here’s her very, very, very great speech from the award ceremony (“stop texting me!”). Here’s a lovely bit:
This is the year in which I get to smile at all of those naysayers — every single mediocre insecure wanna-be who fixes their mouth to suggest that I do not belong on this stage, that people like me cannot possibly have earned such an honor, and that when they win it’s meritocracy but when we win it’s identity politics. I get to smile at those people and lift a massive shining rocket-shaped finger in their direction.
Oh, the dolphin? Yeah, this: during her reading on the 2016 JoCo Cruise, a crew drill was happening, which meant constant interruptions over the shipwide intercom. Erin and I decided we’d give her an award, and so we did.
Ms Jemisin is awesome. You could do a lot worse than read her work.
The Windows world has long since adopted a “we know best” approach on app behavior. A great example of this is apps that, when you quit them, inform you that “Hey, we see you’re quitting, so we’re going to close the window but not really quit because we think we should stay around for $some_bullshit_reason. To completely quit, check the System Tray, and good luck finding that if you’re not a nerd!”
That’s incredibly obnoxious, and violates user expectations. It runs completely counter to something called the Principle of Least Astonishment in UI and system design.
[T]he principle means that a component of a system should behave in a way that users expect it to behave; that is, users should not be astonished by its behavior.
Closing a program should stop the program’s activity. Staying behind, in deliberate contravention of the user’s stated intention, so that you can INTERRUPT THE USER with a notification, is an egregious violation of this idea.
Heretofore, though, as I said, this was more or less exclusively the province of Windows apps.
Unfortunately, Apple’s gotten in the game for no good reason. Here’s how.
One strength of Mac + iOS world is that Apple, realizing text fees from carriers were just bullshit rent-seeking behavior, quietly over the last several years began replacing texts with an internal, more secure messaging system over the Internet. You know it as “iMessage”, and it’s why your texts to other iPhone folks are blue, while true SMS messages (e.g., to folks with Android devices, or “feature” phones) are green. Only the green ones are truly texts for which carrier can nickel and dime you; the rest are just data, and work over wifi, even if you’re overseas with no local cell connectivity.
This is neat.
The other part of this that’s neat is that, because iMessage is just data associated with your AppleID, you can also use iMessage on your computer or iPad, even though you probably think of those messages as “texts”.
At some point, though, some “I know better” weasel at Apple decided that, even if a user doesn’t have Messages open on their Mac, they should still get notifications for incoming messages there.
This is bad, first, because of the Least Astonishment principle I noted above. This is bad in practice because it may surprise you when giving a presentation. This didn’t actually happen to me, but it could have; I just happened to notice that I was still getting notifications after a reboot and before I’d reopened everything.
That, to be quite clear, is some serious bullshit, and reeks of some mushy-headed “designer” who thinks every paradigm needs rejiggering.
The only way to stifle this is to engage the Mac’s Do Not Disturb feature, which is an additional step you should not have to do if you’ve already quit the damn program in question.
I’d really love to know what the fuck they were thinking.
….and let ol’Chet tell you about the late eighties.
(Seriously, don’t miss this photo set.)
ON THIS DAY, 214 years ago, Alexander Hamilton was shot in a duel by Aaron Burr.
He died the next day.
The site Recursive.recipes takes this literally. The initial recipe is simple, but most ingredients can be expanded into recipes of their own, and so forth.
Here is the most fully-expanded receipe for an apple pie. Note it assumes the Universe.
Here is an elk calf, playing in a puddle. Enjoy.
I went through most of my life thinking I was allergic to penicillin. I’d had hives with a dose of the stuff as a child, and an also-allergic family member taught me to look for an allergy section on every medical form I filled out, and make sure to write “penicillin” on the line.
But the reason I’m telling you this story is that it turns out I’m not allergic to it after all. About 10 percent of us have a penicillin allergy on our charts, but less than 1 percent of us have a legit allergy to go with it. And if you can take that fake allergy off your chart, you’ll likely have an easier and cheaper time in all your future dealings with the medical system.
I have my own tale about this, which longtime readers of Heathen know: Four years ago this November, I was in a pretty ugly bike crash and broke my hip. One of my surgical sites contracted a postop infection. It was NOT the very-scary MRSA; it was just garden variety staph, which is usually quashed with a cycle of garden variety penicillin.
Except I’ve lived my life believing I was allergic to it, which I dutifully explained. Well, sucks to be ME, because when you have a postop staph situation and can’t take penicillin, the next option is something called vancomycin — which cannot be taken orally. I had to get a PICC line and take it intravenously.
Three times a day, for about 90 minutes at a crack.
For seven weeks.
My mother, who was a physical therapist in her working life, had been following my medical misadventure very closely. When we got to this point, she commented, offhand, “well, you know, we’re not actually sure if you’re allergic to it or not. It’s just that your father was, and so we just assumed you were.”
This is one insanely depressing story. Perhaps the money quote is paragraph from late in the story:
I want to go home, but feel reluctant to leave. One of the most famous actors in the world is now smoking dope with a writer and his lawyer while his cook makes dinner and his bodyguards watch television. There is no one around him who isn’t getting paid.
Well, when I say “worst,” obviously I’m excluding ICE, which are the literal worst. BUT:
The TSA has an internal list of people it just doesn’t like, and you may be denied boarding based on it.
Obviously, there’s no way to review this list or get off it.
Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag, sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose, or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls and remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.
And now Tony is gone, and the unrepentant Kissinger still draws breath.
Sarah Gailey absolutely shreds Armageddon in this hilarious piece over at Tor.com. Please enjoy.
Armageddon is a film composed of two neatly dovetailed love letters to toxic patriarchs. Neither can be called the primary narrative, any more than one of the four cold-opens of the picture can be called a ‘beginning.’ Grace Stamper (Liv Tyler) learns to appreciate her abusive father, Harry (Bruce Willis); her story unfurls in unwavering parallel to the story of the American military industrial complex saving the whole world. Well, the whole world except for Paris. Sorry, Paris.
Armageddon desperately wants the viewer to see Harry Stamper as the hero of the story, because in this parable of international diplomacy, Harry Stamper embodies America. All he wants to do is drill for oil, isolate his daughter from any support networks outside of the ones over which he has direct control, and kill any man who tries to form a meaningful peer relationship with her. In the scene which introduces the dynamic between Grace and her father—a scene in which he repeatedly fires a shotgun at her boyfriend, A.J. (Ben Affleck)—Harry asserts that he has repeatedly asked Grace to call him “Dad.” The camera lingers on his soulful eyes, and the viewer is reminded that he is Sympathetic. He wants what’s best for his daughter, the camera explains. It just happens that what’s best for her is the complete sublimation of her personal agency. Is that so much to ask?
The asteroid threat justifies the existence of the American Military Industrial Complex the way nothing else ever could. “Thank goodness we have nuclear bombs,” shouts Michael Bay over the half-eaten remains of a Thanksgiving dinner you wish you had found an excuse to miss, “because what if there was an asteroid?!”
Seriously. Go read this.
(This is also something that’s been buried in my inbox.)
Predator & similar drones are now showing up in traditional Afghan rugs.
14 years ago, promoting Anchorman, Will Ferrell visited Conan back when Conan was on Late Night, and really kind of before DVRs took over. Few watched or recorded; it was weird and chaotic and almost devoid of rules.
So they did this. It’s long. Stay with it. Make time, but if you absolutely cannot wait, skip ahead to 9:40, and realize that this joke only comes after Ferrell has been playing it straight on the couch for nearly ten minutes.
So for reasons known but to God, some Internet rando just favorited a picture in my Flickr stream from 2007. It’s from a then-current meme about what we carry in our pockets. Click thru, because the picture is annotated, but here’s a smaller version:
I’m amused at what’s changed, and also at what’s the same.
- I still carry a Swiss Army Knife, but it’s a smaller model, since I never have to take computers apart anymore.
- I still carry that coupon.
- After years off the road, I quit carrying a Bluetooth headset — until this year, when I bought some Airpods, which are kind of crap for real listening but GREAT for phone conversations and online meetings. What interesting is that the Plantronics in the picture also did the “case is also a charger” thing that the Airpods do, if I remember correctly.
- Same ring. The annotation on the ring notes our “days married” count at the time, which was 662. It’s now 1,293.
- There’s always a book.
- The current flashlight is MUCH SMALLER, much brighter, and much cheaper.
- I never carry a USB drive anymore, probably because online storage is more viable with better bandwidth, and also because our phones are so much better.
- Same money clip. Different money, though.
- I still HAVE that watch, but for the last 2 years I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch pretty much exclusively. I got a series 1 watch in the spring of 2016, to support training for a half marathon I was doing that fall, and the overall utility was so great I wore it pretty much all the time. When the S3 was introduced last year, with real waterproofing and on-board cell, I upgraded.
- Yup, still notebook nerd, and I still use a Vanishing Point, though several years ago my brother gave me a nicer iteration of that pen.
- I never leave the house, so keys are in the hallway.
- No more contacts. I stopped being able to tolerate them several years ago; oh well.
- It’s more about Burt’s Bees now than Carmex, but life goes on.
- That Microsoft/HTC phone lasted like 6 months. Pretty soon, I was too frustrated with how unremittingly DUMB it was about so, so many things. For one thing, you needed a 3rd party mail client for IMAP, which is hilariously stupid. For another, it would do astoundingly silly things like continue to refresh web pages with the display off, so if you were reading CNN and put it back in your pocket, odds are the phone would be dead when you tried to use it later. I replaced it with a first-gen iPhone, and I’ve been on iOS ever since (OG -> 3GS -> 4 -> 5 -> 6 -> 6S -> 8).
- The wallet finally gave up the ghost; current version is a Saddleback I’ve had for many years now.
Ewan McGregor is all-grown-up Christopher Robin in the upcoming film of the same name.
It looks to be a very by the numbers take on the “grown up revisits childhood to remember what’s important” trope, and yet shut up and take my money. Seriously.
Hayley Atwell is his wife. In theaters August 6.
William Eggleston first tried peyote one summer in the early 1960s while visiting a friend in Oxford, Mississippi. You can find the story in a memoir by University of Mississippi football star (and later Dark Shadows actor) Jimmy Hall, who was there at the time. Eggleston had invited Hall to join him and his friend, and the three men puzzled over the green-blue cactus in its cardboard box, purchased via mail-order from a nursery in Laredo, Texas.
The house in the photograph belonged to a man named Tom “T. C.” Boring, a dentist born and raised in Greenwood, whom Eggleston has described as the best friend he ever had in the world. He was the scion of a well-respected Delta family, a sharp and promising Southern archetype who glided his way through the University of Mississippi, Loyola University, and the Navy before coming home to Greenwood and gradually, ungracefully losing his mind.
[…]Boring had a penchant for exotic plants, younger women, and corn whiskey. In public, he often wore tweed suits and turtleneck sweaters, and smoked a pipe. But more often than not, he wore as little as possible; at home, he preferred to avoid clothes altogether. At the height of summer, he’d keep his air-conditioner cranked up to full blast so he could always have a fire going in his living room, for ambiance.
He slept odd hours. He made cryptic jokes. He owned a number of iguanas. His prized possession was his pet capybara, which he’d walk around the neighborhood on a leash.
Keep the South weird.
(Astute readers will of course note that the photo mentioned in the title is also the album cover for Big Star’s Radio City, though the edition you probably own is a combo CD with #1 Record that has a different cover.)
Wylie Overstreet took his telescope out to the streets of LA, and showed people the moon.
So, this story is already bananas, right?
It’s crazy even before you get to this:
Officers reported finding eight 75-mL vodka bottles — seven of them empty — in her purse.
7 x 75ml is 525ml, or more than 2/3 of a fifth.
BUT IT GETS MORE NUTS, because these are the links at the bottom for “related stories”:
Good lord, absolutely MAKE TIME TO WATCH THIS, because it’s awesome.
Every wonder why there are so many Thai restaurants? Given the proportion of Thai folks in the US, they punch WAY over their weight class in terms of ubiquity of cuisine (which is awesome), but how did that happen?
Turns out, there’s a thing called “gastrodipolmacy:”
Using a tactic now known as gastrodiplomacy or culinary diplomacy, the government of Thailand has intentionally bolstered the presence of Thai cuisine outside of Thailand to increase its export and tourism revenues, as well as its prominence on the cultural and diplomatic stages. In 2001, the Thai government established the Global Thai Restaurant Company, Ltd., in an effort to establish at least 3,000 Thai restaurants worldwide. At the time, Thai deputy commerce minister Goanpot Asvinvichit told the Wall Street Journal that the government hoped the chain would be “like the McDonald’s of Thai food.” Apparently, the government had been training chefs at its culinary training facilities to send abroad for the previous decade, but this project formalized and enhanced these efforts significantly.
The McDonald’s of Thai food never quite materialized as a government-operated megachain, but the broader goal of a government-supported increase in the number of Thai restaurants abroad has. The Thai government has continued earmarking funds for the global proliferation of galangal root and fish sauce, and it’s paid off.
The strategies for achieving this increase were manifold, run in parallel by various departments of the government. The Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Export Promotion, most likely run by bureaucrats rather than restaurateurs, drew up prototypes for three different “master restaurants,” which investors could choose as a sort of prefabricated restaurant plan, from aesthetic to menu offerings. Elephant Jump would be the fast casual option, at $5 to $15 per person; Cool Basil would be the mid-priced option at $15 to $25 a head; and the Golden Leaf prototype would cost diners $25 to $30, with décor featuring “authentic Thai fabrics and objets d’art.” (Does your favorite Thai spot have objets d’art? The restaurant may have been built from a government prototype.)
This is brilliant and awesome.
Scary as FUCK, that’s what.
Seriously, though, it’s a timed, multilap bicycle race over a relatively short closed course. We had one here in Houston on Sunday morning, and while I don’t participate, I have a lot of friends who do.
It’s not one big race, obviously. Bike racing, like most sports, is split into levels. Let’s be clear, too: Cat 5 riders are CRAZY strong compared to non-racing folks. I’ve been doing pretty serious structured workouts for 6+ months now, and I’m absolutely sure that I’d still be dead last in any competitive Cat 5 field.
- Rank beginners are Cat 5.
- Some of those will progress to Cat 4.
- Getting to Cat 3 involves a shitload of work and no small amount of talent. I don’t know many Cat 3 road racers.
- By the time you’re in Cat 2 or Cat 1, you’re getting lots of stuff for free.
- Above Cat 1 you find the Pro ranks — and it’s a long way from being a local pro to the class of folks you’ll see on the Champs-Élysées every summer.
And for logistics purposes, these categories combined for actual races. For example, we had friends in 4 different races on Sunday morning:
- 1 in the Men’s Cat 4/5 race;
- 4 in the combined Women’s Cat 4/5 & Women’s 40+ 3/4/5 race;
- Several in Men’s Masters 4/5 (35+);
- Plus my coach Jason in the Men’s Cat 3
Jason was doing well going into the final lap, but in close-quarters riding like this crashes are a risk, and they had one. Jason didn’t go down, but he was behind it enough that it blew his finish.
Someone very close to Jason in the peloton had Garmin cameras on the front and back of his bike, and has posted the final lap. You don’t really see Jason until the post-crash moments, when he edits in the rear-facing footage, but when you do it’s super clear how close he came to being in a super scary sprinting pileup.
He’s here (click to embiggen; note they’re at 25MPH here!):
And here’s the whole video:
Stay with the video until the finish, and pay attention to the lower left; the camera setup used by the rider allows him to superimpose his speed and power on the screen. Yes, they’re sprinting at 40MPH.
For more fun footage, check out this guy’s 7:30 video, which includes some sweet overhead drone footage.
If your guess was the (not so) charming shithole of my birth and its only slightly more modern doppelganger to the east, you win the prize.
In 46 days, I’ll ride my bike to Austin again. I’m in shape for it, and I feel good, but the real challenge this year is getting my fundraising to a new highwater mark.
Yeah, I said it. High. Water. My guess is that this year, on account of Harvey, the fundraising pace is going to be off. This isn’t just a number; less money donated means fewer resources for the National MS Society, and that translates to less help for researchers, less support for those living with MS, and — frankly — less good in the world.
Let’s do what we can to make it a good year. Here’s my link; I’m pretty sure you know how this works.
And now, as a reward, I give you TEN REASONS TO DONATE TODAY BESIDES IT BEING MY BIRTHDAY:
10. On this day in 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus. The jokes write themselves.
9. Microsoft went public on this day in 1986. Had you purchased the stock on the day of issue, you’d be able to donate much, much more!
8. What better way for the Catholics among you to honor the elevation of Jorge Mario Bergoglio back in 2013?
7. Not to be outdone by Herschel, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto on this day in 1930. (Shut up. It is TOO a planet.)
6. Ten years before I was born, the world gained US bassist Adam Clayton. There’s a joke here about still-not-having-found-what-I’m-looking-for, i.e. a donation, but let’s just ignore it, okay?
5. Perhaps you could spare a wad(d) of cash today in honor of the 30th anniversary of the passing of John Curtis Holmes?
4. Don’t forget! It’s National Elephant Day in Thailand! (I know nothing about this, but how can something called National Elephant Day be anything other than awesome?)
3. If you’re nerdy, perhaps you can donate partially in honor of VMS and WinNT designer Dave Cutler, who turns 76 today.
2. You like rear-engine cars? So do I! Drop a bit of coin in my fundraiser here in honor of The Love Bug, which opened on this day in 1969.
1. Block that Thetan! It’ll help make you Clear, since this is also L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday.
So, this is where your favorite gun-savvy lefty explains some things.
Lately, we’ve heard a LOT about the AR-15, which is the civilian and semi-automatic version of the M-4 used by our military. The rifle is ubiquitous today; until recently, I’d bet 90% of America was within 20 miles of a store that would sell them one this afternoon. They’re not that expensive, and they’re absolutely terrifying — it’s not for nothing that they’re the weapon of choice for mass shootings.
The the AR-15 is really just one of a class of magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifles chambered for a particular bullet type (the proper term is “round” or “caliber”) usually abbreviated to “5.56”. The proper name is 5.56 x 45mm NATO.
It’s not an especially beefy or powerful round in the realm of rifle rounds; most folks hunt deer with far larger calibers. It’s relatively small size, though, makes it very, very well suited for rapid fire because it produces so little recoil (“kick”). Sure, you almost never see a fully-automatic AR used for crimes, but it hardly matters because a semi-automatic version will fire as quickly as you can move your finger.
That small round packs a tremendous punch — especially since it’s usually shot from a platform that allows or even encourages the shooter to keep firing.
So in this context, take a look at this piece by a Parkland area radiologist, speaking about the wounds from the MSD shooting:
This is from a radiologist with plenty of exposure to handgun wounds. They tend to be relatively simple and manageable, and if the bullet manages to avoid something critical like the aorta or the heart, the patients tend to survive:
In a typical handgun injury, which I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ such as the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, gray bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.
I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?
Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.
I have seen a handful of AR-15 injuries in my career. Years ago I saw one from a man shot in the back by a swat team. The injury along the path of the bullet from an AR-15 is vastly different from a low-velocity handgun injury. The bullet from an AR-15 passes through the body like a cigarette boat traveling at maximum speed through a tiny canal. The tissue next to the bullet is elastic—moving away from the bullet like waves of water displaced by the boat—and then returns and settles back. This process is called cavitation; it leaves the displaced tissue damaged or killed. The high-velocity bullet causes a swath of tissue damage that extends several inches from its path. It does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. Exit wounds can be the size of an orange.
Let’s quantify this. Wikipedia can help; let’s compare the 5.56 to the most popular handgun round, 9mm.
Firearm ballistics are a complicated area that people LOVE to argue about, but the gist of the system boils down to the bullet’s mass and the amount of energy pushing it forward. The bullets are measured in grams (or sometimes another unit called grains); we talk about energy in terms of muzzle velocity and downrange energy. The difference, as the author notes, isn’t small:
- A 5.56mm round involves a fairly tiny bullet (~ 3-4 grams, so more than a penny and less than a nickel) moving at about 900 m/s, and will deliver on the order of 1,800 joules downrange.
- The 9mm pistol users a heavier bullet (7 to 8 grams, so twice as massive as the 5.56), but it’s moving far slower: usually the neighborhood of 350 or so m/s, so the energy delivered when it his something is also far lower (~ 500 joules).
An AR-15 is also engineered to shoot quickly, and shield the user from almost all the recoil. I’ve shot one several times; it’s very easy to shoot, and very easy to shoot quickly without losing the target. Frankly, it’s easier to stay on target with an AR than it is with most 9mm pistols.
This is why the wounds the Parkland physician saw were so much worse, and why mass shootings end with so many dead: because it’s easy to get a weapon that will fire very many of these very lethal rounds very quickly. And the NRA likes it this way.
Oh, one more thing: Gun violence is clearly a public health problem in the United States, but we don’t study it. Why?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the appropriate agency to review the potential impact of banning AR-15-style rifles and high-capacity magazines on the incidence of mass shootings. The agency was effectively barred from studying gun violence as a public-health issue in 1996, by a statutory provision known as the Dickey Amendment.
Why is it banned? Because the NRA doesn’t want it studied. Think on that.
Someone put a chained-up statue of Jason Voorhees in the bottom of a Minnesota lake, just to mess with divers.
Go read “The Entirely Unnecessary Demise of Barnes & Nobel”. It’s astounding and, near as I can tell, completely accurate.
On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location – that’s 781 stores – told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those are the people responsible for handling the money), the receiving managers (the people responsible for bringing in product and making sure it goes where it should), the digital leads (the people responsible for solving Nook problems), the newsstand leads (the people responsible for distributing the magazines), and the bargain leads (the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections). A few of the larger stores were able to spare their head cashiers and their receiving managers, but not many.
We’re not talking post-holiday culling of seasonal workers. This was the Red Wedding. Every person laid off was a full-time employee. These were people for whom Barnes & Noble was a career. Most of them had given 5, 10, 20 years to the company. In most cases it was their sole source of income.
There was no warning.
But it gets worse.
The people who lost their jobs had been actively assured this would NOT happen for the past several months. Home Office decided last year that these positions – head cashiers, receiving managers, leads – were due to be eliminated… but no layoffs were to take place. All current employees were to be grandfathered in. The positions wouldn’t go away until the people currently holding them chose to leave.
For months they told everyone this.
Then on Monday, each person was called into the manager’s office. Fifteen minutes later, each person gathered up their things and left.
But but but dropped sales, right? Well, about that: go read the whole piece. Barnes set this up by screwing up Christmas in an attempt to shore up the amount of cash on hand. The Barnes leadership are not trying to save the company. They’re trying to get out with giant golden parachutes, and give not two shits for their employees.
Sometimes, Twitter user @Sleep_Sayings’ boyfriend says inscrutable, hilarious things in his sleep. So she started a twitter account.