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.
No, seriously. SFW.
It’s no secret I ride a lot. I love it, but I found late last year that I wasn’t improving as fast as I used to. It’s not age, or not exclusively age; it’s just that, beyond a certain point, you have to do something more than “just ride a lot” — you have to get intentional about it, and that means a power meter and structured training and a coach and hours on an indoor trainer where you can watch output and hit power targets and all that jazz.
Luckily, I enjoy data, so at least that part’s fun.
Luckily, too, is the fact that this new approach is absolutely working. There’s no coasting in an hour-long workout, nor is there drafting; you’re just putting in the work. SOME of these workouts I can do on the road, or at least on the closed track at Memorial Park, but mostly it’s on a trainer in my office starting at a bookcase.
Obviously, then, podcasts and music are involved. Sometimes it’s TAL or Omnibus or something, and sometimes it’s tunes. I made a playlist I shuffle over that’s got lots of music I like; it’s heavier with hip-hop than I would’ve guessed, but once you add some RTJ and Kanye’s “Stronger,” it’s easy to stay with the theme.
Today, I was having some trouble hitting the targets — the tl;dr is that I got stronger, so the workouts just got harder — but upon review I found there was an anomalously high peak in the final period of effort, which coincided with the end of a podcast and the start of the aforementioned shuffled playlist.
I know what song was playing, so I think I’m justified in identifying this phenomenon as the “Xzibit Peak“:
I fucking love the Skittles ads.
This year, Emmet Otter turned 40. It aired in Canada first, for Christmas 1977, before hitting HBO the next year, and network TV 2 years later.
Here’s a nice oral history. You probably remember it fondly from your childhood, but it’s also a tour de force of groundbreaking puppet filmmaking. No, I’m not kidding:
Though filled with old-fashioned charm, Emmet Otter actually employed a savvy blend of age-old puppetry techniques and cutting-edge animatronic technology. Engineering wizard Franz “Faz” Fazakas, a frequent Muppet collaborator, designed the rowboat that could be steered along the set’s 50-foot river, and rigged versions of Ma and Emmet that could be operated via remote control while they were on the water.
The tale of Frogtown Hollow continued to hold a special place in the hearts of those involved — including Henson, who included one of Emmet Otter’s songs in the musical program he designed for his memorial service [in 1990].
Paul Williams: The last thing that I ever expected was to hear “When the River Meets the Sea” at Jim’s funeral. It was an especially emotional moment in the funeral for me
(Oh, and, don’t miss the actual no-kidding blooper reel, shot during the 33 takes it took to get the “drum rolls out of the shop” shot.)
When I was a kid, my dad was a veterinarian. In the 1970s, there was no office computerization, so he kept his patient records on yellow cards. As each card filled, he’d add another to the top of the stack, forming a reverse-chronological record of the client’s visits.
(I’ve never seen these size cards anywhere else, but they were cleary a Thing at the time. In my memory, they were each about a third of a sheet of typing paper, but on heavier stock; he also had sturdy steel cabinets to file them in, so it was clearly a standard of some kind.)
Obviously, over time, these card stacks got thicker and thicker — some quickly, because the client had lots of animals; some more slowly, just on the strength of long-lived pets getting their annual attention for years upon years. By the early 80s, when I was working part time there, a few were over an inch thick; these belonged to the families that had sought my father out when he first hung his shingle in 1964, and still used him, many pets later, in the 1980s. Perhaps the fattest belonged to the Slay family.
When my father first opened, he sent my mother out to find an accountant about their age. People didn’t move around as much back then, so the plan was to find one they could keep forever. Mother found Herbie Slay, and as the story goes that same day Mrs. Slay brought their dog to dad for a checkup. In small towns, there’s a lot of that sort of backscratching. (Incidentally, the firm Mr. Slay founded still does my taxes every year; Herbie, sadly, passed away a year or two ago.)
The Slay file was, to my early teen eyes, an artifact from another time. Sure, the top page was from last week or last month, but there at the back were records my father wrote when Johnson was president, when men wore flattops, when Vietnam was in the news every day. Impossibly long ago, I thought. When Dad died, in 1986, I meant to save that file, or at least the first page, but in the rush and chaos and haze of funeral and clinic sale and grief, it didn’t happen, and so now it lives on only in my memory.
I’m nearly 48 now — older than Dad ever got to be — and I know better than to think of 22 years as an eon, though of course it still is.
Today, I took our cats to our veterinarian for their annual shots. They hate it, obviously, and they hate it moreso because even though the clinic is inside the Loop, there’s no good freeway option, so it can be a half hour drive on congested surface streets to get there.
Because of this, every year before now I thought “I should really find a closer vet, since it’s just shots,” and every year before now I quashed that thought out of loyalty. I started using this clinic in 1994, soon after I moved to Houston, and I am not good with change.
Back then, it was just Dr. Alice Frei and maybe one tech in a storefront in Bellaire, around the corner from my first home here, and chosen for proximity as much as anything else. Over time, she grew that clinic, and I didn’t always see Dr. Frei anymore. She’d taken partners, or hired subordinate vets, or something, but that’s what happens, and they were all nice people. At some point, she moved to a nice new building. I was happy for her growth and success, and we always got good care there. Even when our old girl Bob was so sick we had to seek out specialists, they still reached out to us for updates, and sent us a card when the end came.
It’s like that.
But this time around, when we called for our annual appointment — several months late, I must confess — I learned that Dr. Frei wasn’t there anymore, and that she’d sold the practice and moved to Virginia. “Good for her,” I thought. But also: “Well, crap.”
So we went today, and at the end I mentioned that, gosh, if it’s not Dr. Frei anymore, I’m not sure I’m going to keep driving this far, and how would I go about transferring records?
The veterinarian completely understood. Of course they’d send records over to wherever we wanted. “That makes perfect sense; most of our customers are very close, so we totally understand.” I felt awkward about it, but he was very gracious and kind.
We boxed up the cats, and I went out front to pay. As I was paying, though, the vet came back out, smiling. “You know, Mr. Farmer, we have a sequential numbering system for client records here. Each new customer gets the next number.”
Sure. That makes sense.
“The newest record in the system is 7200 something.”
“You’re number 35.”
I had the sense, 23 years ago, that Dr. Frei’s was a new practice, and I liked that about it. I didn’t realize how new, or how early I was on that August afternoon in 1994. Driving home, I couldn’t help but remember those fat, multi-stapled cards in Dad’s office 30 years ago, and the history they represented. But math will get you; our file at Southside Place reaches back to August of 1994, which is deeper than any file my father ever had. To my everlasting shock and bemusement, we’re the subject of a file just as ancient as the Slay file seemed to me in 1986.
Among the many surprises of middle age are these moments when you find yourself looking at some aspect of life from exactly opposite perspectives, separated by a decade or two.
Life is weird and wonderful. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
There is apparently a trend among halfwit, muzzy-headed interior decorators to encourage clients to shelve books backward because “more consistently neutral color” matters more than “being able to find a book.”
It’s probably time to bring back tarring and feathering.
This is old, but great: The Scariest Thing About the Hellcat is the Third Owner
For those of you who don’t know what the Hellcat is, please allow me to provide the following background: it is a 707-horsepower rental car.
Do you know that Dodge Charger you rented a few months ago? When you landed in Dallas? And they were out of midsize sedans? And you couldn’t figure out why it smelled so bad? And the interior was made out of the same quality plastic they use for a Parmesan cheese container? Well, imagine that thing with more power than a Ferrari Enzo. That’s a Hellcat.
At the moment, they sell the Hellcat in two varieties. There is the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which is a rather large two-door vehicle. And there is a Dodge Charger Hellcat, which is a rather large four-door vehicle. Reportedly they will soon be making a Hellcat version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which will serve as the primary example for at least the next decade when people in other countries discuss American excess.
Why the third owner, though? Well, he tells us:
You see, the first owner of the Hellcat is going to be a pretty careful, cautious, reasonable guy. The car’s price tag ensures that: most Hellcats cost somewhere in the $60,000-plus range, which is right in the heart of “careful, cautious, reasonable guy” territory. If you’re spending sixty grand on a car, you’ve probably been around enough attorneys in your life to know that the guy with the 707-horsepower car is the first person to get sued after an accident, even if the accident involved an industrial forklift and the 707-horsepower car was parked four blocks away. So you’re careful.
Sure. Okay. But what about #2?
The second owner is different from the first owner in the sense that he didn’t buy the Hellcat because it was the latest and greatest thing. He bought it because he lusted after it from the moment it came out – he just couldn’t afford it right away. So he buys the thing when it’s one or two years old, and he cherishes it. I mean he cherishes it. To the point where he creates one of those little plaques that he places next to his car when he brings it to cars and coffee.
The third owner will buy a Hellcat ten years from now. He will be under 30 years old. He’ll look for one with high miles, or a rebuilt title. And he’ll drive the thing like a cocaine fiend playing Mario Kart.
The problem with the Hellcat’s third owner is that he won’t be as cautious as the first owner, and he won’t be as obsessed with preservation as the second owner. He’ll just want cheap speed, and the Hellcat will provide it.
Now, if you’re the parent of a young child, this could be a serious problem when your kid grows up. Consider it: when I was 20, the fastest thing anybody could reasonably afford was a first-generation Cadillac CTS-V, which had 400 horsepower and a gear lever that felt like you were stirring butter with a rope.
But if your kid is eight or nine years old right now, he will reach 20 at a time when the seven-hundred-seven horsepower Hellcat is something his friends might be driving. As a parent, this changes your duties: you will have to educate your child about crossing the street, and talking to strangers, and finances, and sex, and friends with Hellcats.
Think of it this way: by 2026, a high-mileage Hellcat will be a sub-$30,000 way to get 700 horsepower; a 200-mph car that no longer requires a professional degree, or an MBA, or a long, successful career, or a profitable startup. All it will require is a promotion to assistant manager of a Pizza Hut.
When I see interesting things on Twitter I don’t have time for right away, I email the tweet to myself. Generally what happens then is I forget completely about it in my inbox, since I’m a proud practitioner of Inbox 9,028.
I was just reviewing some of those, and I found a tweet from @ParkerMolloy saying “This is the weirdest music video I’ve seen in a while” with a Youtube link.
Parker is not wrong. Stay with it until AT LEAST 2:00. Longer is better. Plus, it’s catchy.
Definitely NSFW, however. Also, trigger warning for puppet sex — which, I think, is a first for Heathen. Go us.
This blog is 17 years old today.
China has drones with flamethrowers:
I like riding, and I like data. I also like getting faster, so with the encouragement of a friend who offered to coach, I bought a power meter for my bike to facilitate more directed training.
In order for this to be useful, though, I also needed to establish a baseline of my maximum sustained effort. Cyclists call this the Functional Threshold Power. The truer test is an hour long ride where you go as hard as you can for the whole hour, leaving nothing in the tank.
That’s obviously unpleasant (you’re alone) and hard to gauge (am I going to fast? too slow?), so the more common approach is to do a 20 minute test and multiply by .95, which is what I did today.
This isn’t the sort of thing you want to do on public roads, obviously; fortunately, Houston has Memorial Park and the Picnic Loop, which is a closed, paved track available for public use. When the weather’s nice, you see lots of riders on it, but also walkers and whatnot. Anyway, it’s close enough to the house that I used the ride over as a little warmup, and then started the FTP test as soon as I hit the entrance to the track.
After 20 minutes, I backed off, exited the track, and rode home.
So, can you see the part of this graph from Strava that represents the 20 minute test?
I’ve been remiss in both processing and shooting this year. Here’s all that was in the pipeline:
- St. Vincent, Massseduction
- OH SWEET LORD YES.
- Jane Harper, The Dry
- BASICALLY MYSTERY BY NUMBERS.
- The National, Sleep Well Beast
- DEEP VOICE STILL SAD.
- Lord Huron, Strange Trails
- ABUNDANT PLEASING COUPLETS.
- Jonathan Lethem, A Gambler’s Anatomy
- LOTS OF BACKGAMMON. LITTLE ELSE.
- Edgar Wright, Baby Driver
- 20 MINUTES OF JOY.
- Ted Leo, The Hanged Man
- DO YOURSELF A FAVOR.
- The War On Drugs, A Deeper Understanding
- Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky
- John LeCarre, Legacy of Spies
- FUN, BUT ODDLY EPHEMERAL.
Except, well, this time. How can you argue with this?
Here’s the whole list. Enjoy.
Exhibit A, the 1980 video for Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” — a great song, to be sure:
Too bad about that video, because HOLY CRAP it’s kind of amazing this effort didn’t kill the whole notion of music videos in its crib. After about the 5th or 6th time I realized the shot was directly and literally mirroring the lyrics, I started making notes. Follow along if you dare.
- 0:20 “laying everybody low”
- As the Romeo actor saunters down a stylized hallway, actors he passes collapse to the floor.
- 0:47 “He’s underneath the window”
- He is underneath a stylized featureless wall with a high window, in which our Juliet lounges.
- 1:03 “…the dice was loaded from the start”
- A disembodied hand shakes and releases dice. The dice have Romeo and Juliet’s faces on them!
- 1:09 “…and you exploded in my heart”
- The Romeo die explodes.
- 1:18 “…the movie song…”
- New set, invoking a movie theater MST3K-style with patron silhouettes in front below a screen. Juliet is on the screen.
- 1:38 “..come up on different streets”
- Romeo and Juliet sashay towards the camera down two parallel, stylized hallways — separated by a wall, natch. Is nothing is too on the nose for this director?
- 1:57 “…fall for chains of silver”
- I think we have our answer.
- 1:59 “…chains of gold…”
- We absolutely have our answer.
- 2:05 “…pretty strangers…”
- A smiling, handsome man in a cheesy fedora rolls by in a T-top Camaro.
- 2:22 “…when we make love, you used to cry”
- This guy makes Brian De Palma look subtle. It’s a tight shot of Juliet’s eye and a single, absurdly large tear. Obviously.
- 2:28 “…there’s a place for us”
- Two folks enter the movie theater set, and take the only two seats left. At least the two people aren’t together, and aren’t Romeo and Juliet, so progress, maybe?
- 2:38 “…just that the time was wrong”
- We’re still in the theater, but the film stops on a shot of Romeo trying to speak to Juliet — but the film stops, and the celluloid burns away! Tragic! Edgy! (And, I assume, completely baffling to millennials.)
- 2:52 “I can’t do the talk like the talk on the TV”
- JESUS CHRIST JUST SHOOT ME. It’s a shot of woman’s disembodied legs wrapped around a small television, on which we see a nose-down shot of a male actor rapidly moving his mouth around as if he’s talking.
- 3:14 “All I do is miss you”
- Our Romeo has fallen from a height and is splayed out, miserably, against a wall. This may seem like progress, but you will be disappointed, because it’s just a setup for what comes next.
- 3:17 “…and the way we used to be”
- Juliet magically fades in, lounging beside him, and then fades away again.
- 3:23 “and keep bad company”
- Romeo is still splayed out as before, but is now surrounded by a several sets of standing legs.
- 3:27 “kiss you”
- Kisses mean lips! The shot cuts briefly from Romeo’s splayed form to a tight shot of Juliet’s lips, then back to Romeo, over and over.
- 3:39 “…used to cry…”
- Improbably enormous tear shot repeats from 2:22.
- 3:46 “there’s a place for us”
- We’re in the theater set again, but now it’s just R&J seated front and center watching a film of themselves lying on a rug together all cozy.
- 3:56 “it’s just that the time was wrong”
- The movie versions of our heroes vanish, leaving the poignantly empty rug.
- INTERPRETIVE DANCE; fadeout as Knopfler plays.
At The Daily Beast, re: Mr Page’s baffling testimony, in an article with the fanTAStic title “The Strange Pleasure of Seeing Carter Page Set Himself on Fire”.
Watching Carter Page immolate himself and incriminate a half dozen of his colleagues from the Trump-Putin 2016 campaign has been a strange, almost guilty pleasure. Profoundly disconnected, socially awkward, and reeking of late-stage virginity, he gives off the creepy Uncanny Valley vibe of a rogue, possibly murderous android or of a man with a too-extensive knowledge of human taxidermy and a soundproofed van.
The whole piece is a gold mine, actually:
The delta between Trump’s imagination of himself and the brand image that he desperately wants to sell is always wide; he’s the “billionaire” lout playing the Manhattan sophisticate who gorges on fast food. He’s a man with a lemur wig and a five-pound bolus of chin-wattle who think’s he’s irresistible to women. He’s the serially bankrupt master of the Art of the Deal. The TV talk show character who snuck into the Oval Office on a tide of Russian influence and now thinks he won on the merits.
Recent testing showed they were still failing to find “threatening items” over 80% of the time in randomized tests.
We can expect Congress to yell about this, and the TSA to change procedures some trivial amount in an attempt to “improve,” but that’s the wrong lesson here.
Here’s what we know:
- The TSA just failed another test by an enormous margin.
- The TSA has failed these tests repeatedly for 16 years.
- This means the TSA is absolutely not stopping most “forbidden items” from getting on planes.
- And yet, air travel is absurdly safe.
The only intellectually honest conclusion here is that the TSA is utterly, completely pointless. We’re spending billions but failing to stop even trivially “forbidden” items. Those items make it onto planes. Nobody dies. The TSA has never foiled an actual plot; all they do is confiscate liquids and nail clippers, and generally increase the hassle factor of flight.
Their efficacy in thwarting airborne terrorism might be debatable if they were shown to do even a C+ level job of their mission, but here we see the truth: They’re crap at their job, have ALWAYS been crap at their job, and yet air travel is absurdly, mind-bogglingly safe — and that safety has nothing to do with the TSA, and never has.
Security is always about balancing access with safety. We put up with some hassles in exchange for value. The TSA provides no value, but is constantly ramping up their hassle. This is a bad deal, and we need to end it.
End the TSA. Now. We’ve wasted billions on security theater in the last 16 years, and we have nothing to show for it except angry travelers and long lines.
I am reliably informed that, last evening, the collection of millionaire athletes ostensibly based in Houston defeated a similar squad based on Los Angeles, and as such now engage in a break — I think it’s two months? — before starting the entire process all over again.
This calls into question the meaning of such an event, but you’d never know that from the city’s reaction.
I will, however, have to rejigger my maxim regarding big-time Houston sports, which heretofore I assumed were banned from championships by the Illuminati. The only exceptions up to now have been the ’94 and ’95 Rockets, and I think we can all understand how the Conspiracy was caught flat-footed by the utterly improbable development of Michael Jordan forsaking the Bulls and going to play baseball in Alabama for two years.
Still not as cool as the Cubs winning, though.
Ever see one go 450 miles an hour?
Also, TIL that there exists jet model airplanes.
(My assumption is that this is an impossibly expensive undertaking, obviously.)
Amazon Key is a new service that lets their couriers COME INTO YOUR HOUSE to drop off packages.
HOLY CRAP what a shitty idea. Please listen to me; I know things. For one thing, “smart” door locks absolutely aren’t. They’re less secure than conventional keys, because an attack on your door lock needn’t be local — even with a “smart” lock that’s not tied to Amazon.
With something like this plan, where you trust a corporation to keep your lock closed, you necessarily create a HUGE target for bad actors even if we stipulate (which I absolutely will not) that no simple bug or software failure will compromise the lock on its own.
I remain ABSOLUTELY GOBSMACKED at the level of trust some people are willing to give massive corporations that already have terrible, terrible, terrible privacy records: Google, Facebook, and Amazon. People are literally purchasing devices from Amazon that listen to your house all the time without regard to the privacy implications. It’s bananas.
Don’t do that. And for the love of God, Tom Waits, and tacos, absolutely do NOT consider putting a lock on your house that Amazon has the key to. I mean, HOLY SHIT.
Black Panther opens in 121 days.
I hugged my wife this morning, when we heard about Las Vegas, and 50 more dead. I can’t stop thinking about that moment today, about our safety together in our bedroom as we got ready for work, and about the shattering loss to each of the victims’ families. It seemed bizarre to realize, in that moment, that the loss was certainly still unknown to many of those families, who like us were dressing for work, unaware of what was coming. I hugged Erin tighter.
But also, I think, we hugged because we know that no one really cares. We know this because it keeps happening, and no one does anything about it. Already I’ve seen on Facebook useless, empty blather about how gun rights are important, and let’s not rush into anything, and it’s the right of the citizen to be armed to protect himself and his family, and let’s not politicize a tragedy, and all the rest of that tired bullshit.
They needn’t bother. We know now, after Sandy Hook in 2012, that the ammosexuals have won. We as a nation chose guns over the lives of children. We stood in the aftermath of the deaths of 26 children and took no meaningful action.
The first thing I did when I got to my desk this morning was repost this Onion story, which is a thing of beauty in its brutal honesty. Here’s the text:
‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
ISLA VISTA, CA—In the days following a violent rampage in southern California in which a lone attacker killed seven individuals, including himself, and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said North Carolina resident Samuel Wipper, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this guy from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what he really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”
Two years ago almost to the day, in response to another shooting (in Oregon, at a community college), President Obama addressed our collective failure:
We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.
Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.” And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day! Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.
We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.
There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.
We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.
And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic. I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports. This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you. We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?
This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.
These were remarks given on October 1, 2015. We have, of course, done absolutely nothing. This is who we are.
It doesn’t have to be who we always are, but right now, in this mean and rude year of our lord 2017, this is America.
If you want more information, Vox has some charts for you concerning our uniquely American problem — and, by inference, our uniquely American refusal to do anything about it.
Funny you should ask. This Longreads piece is really fascinating, and gives an insight into a professional world most of us never see.
I am certain that it is not exceptional for a game to exist, but be rarely played.
I am, however, reasonably certain that The Campaign for North Africa is perhaps the only game that has never, ever been completed, not even once, by people who are not clinically insane.
You remember those “bookcase games” published in the 1970s and 1980s, from companies like Avalon-Hill and the like? These are a long way from Monopoly; they’re intricate and complex and intended for adult players or very enthusiastic teens; many take multiple sittings to complete, even at an hour or two per session. Some people like this sort of thing very much, even today, in this era of simple iPhone games.
CNA is the apotheosis of that genre, and may also be its nadir. It is so unbelievably detailed as to be, more or less, unplayable. For example:
- It ships with 1,800 counter chits
- The map can cover multiple normal-sized tables
- The rulebook comes in three volumes
- Gameplay is absurdly detailed, even down to managing individual planes and pilots in a campaign-level simulation
This complexity, of course, comes at a tremendous cost: A full game of CNA will take an estimated 1,500 hours, and requires 10 people. To put that in perspective, a 40-hour-a-week job takes about 2,000 hours per year.
Eight months ago, 6 faux-astronauts moved into a simulated Martian habitat in Hawaii as an experiment in closed-system living.
They emerged on the 17th, and the spin iO9 has put on it is “Hopeful Martians Emerge from 8-Month Experiment To Find Earth Horrific As Ever,” but you have to ask yourself: if you locked yourself away the day before Trump took office and only just emerged, isn’t everything pretty much exactly the shitshow you’d expect?
Here he is, at the 2012 Sketchfest, as Maurice Evans as Dr Zaius as Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain.
They’re not baiting relatives of the undocumented and charging them with crimes.
Real talk: if your job seems predicated on increasing human misery, then maybe you’re evil. Nobody involved in chasing down noncriminal undocumented people ought to be able to sleep at night.
Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream. Eat the ice cream.
This is a great timeline piece about an alternate universe wherein the Beatles accepted Lorne Michaels’ 1976 offer to reunite on SNL for $3000.
Far-flung folks are worried, so, first: Erin and I are fine. We stay fine. Our home has never, ever flooded, and probably won’t this time, just because of the mild elevation our area enjoys.
We have power. We have food, bourbon, wine, cable, and Internet. But much of Houston has none of these things right now, and there but by the grace of God, you know? I’d love to be able to say I made a study of Houston flood plains when I bought this place, but in truth I just bought what i could afford in the neighborhood I wanted to live in — the elevation is a happy accident, but it’s a VERY happy accident indeed.
Now, some context.
There’s a picture being tossed around in social media that I want to share, and annotate a bit. It was taken from a high-rise apartment building at Studemont and Memorial, and looks back to the southeast towards our neighborhood, and includes Buffalo Bayou, which is one of the many natural waterways that run through Houston.
Here’s the neighborhood in question from Google maps:
Key things to look for are the headquarters for Service Corporation International (who are, by the way, straight-up evil) and the studios for local TV station KHOU.
And here’s what the bayou looks like normally, with the same points marked — n.b. that the bayou is lined by a couple levels of paths and no small amount of greenspace. It’s a lovely area; people run and bike and walk and picnic there all the time. Trails there are connected to a network that stretches through huge parts of the city, and that network is growing all the time.
And here’s what it looks like right now:
KHOU has had to evacuate. The uphill grade on Taft is what’s saving us, basically, but the waterline ON Taft is far, far higher than we’ve ever seen it — only a block or so north of Dallas, which is completely BANANAS, because the idea of the water at that point covering even Allen Parkway is pretty unusual.
Now, that’s still a long way from us, both in terms of distance but also in terms of elevation, but it’s still shocking.
After Trump’s speech in Phoenix, Don Lemmon was a bit taken aback, and minced no words.
A transcript, in case the video link rots:
Well, what do you say to that?
I’m just going to speak from the heart here. What we have witnessed was a total eclipse of the facts. Someone who came out onto the stage and lied directly to the American people. And left things out that he said, in an attempt to rewrite history. Especially when it comes to Charlottesville.
He’s unhinged. It’s embarrassing—and I don’t mean for us in the media because he went after us—but for the country. This is who we elected president of the United States. A man who is so petty he has to go after anyone he deems to be his enemy, like an imaginary friend of a six-year-old. His speech was without thought. It was without reason. It was devoid of facts. It was devoid of wisdom. There was no gravitas. There was no sanity there. He was like a child blaming a sibling on something else. ‘He did it, I didn’t do it.’
He certainly opened up the race wound from Charlottesville. A man who [is] clearly wounded by the rational people who are abandoning him in droves, meaning those businesspeople and the people in Washington who are now questioning his fitness for office and whether he is stable. A man backed into a corner, it seemed, by circumstances beyond his control, and beyond his understanding.
That’s the truth. If you watch that speech as an American, you had to be thinking ‘what in the world is going on? This is the person we elected as the president of the United States? This petty? This small? The person who is supposed to pull the country together?’ It certainly didn’t happen there.
I remember thinking we were better than this, that there was no way we’d elect this guy. But the hard truth is we’re not, and we never have been.