Obit watch: August 21, 2017.

August 21st, 2017

I didn’t post the Jerry Lewis obits yesterday because I wanted to give those some time to shake out. For the record: NYT. LAT. WP.

This was well covered over the weekend, but for the historical record: Dick Gregory.

You know what the problem with fiction is?

August 18th, 2017

It has to be believable.

22 years ago, four people were beaten to death in a hotel in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. The police believe that two men committed the crime: they had checked into the hotel intending to rob other occupants and were caught by another guest. They apparently beat that guest to death, along with the hotel owners and the owner’s grandson.

This became a cold case until earlier this year, when the police were able to do more sophisticated DNA analysis. They eventually narrowed the pool of suspects down to two men, a Mr. Wang and Liu Yongbiao. Both have been arrested, and Mr. Liu has apparently confessed.

The twist? Mr. Liu went on to become a moderately successful Chinese mystery writer.

In the preface to his 2010 novel “The Guilty Secret,” the Chinese author Liu Yongbiao expressed his desire to write a suspense-filled detective story about an alluring female writer who dodges arrest despite committing a string of murders.
“I came up with the idea after reading some detective novels and watching crime shows and movies,” Mr. Liu wrote at the time. “The working title is: ‘The Beautiful Writer Who Killed.’”

(As far as I can tell, “The Guilty Secret” is not available in a US edition.)

You put that into a novel these days, people will just roll their eyes and say, “Yeah. Right.”

And now here’s something we hope you really like.

August 17th, 2017

Tyler “Marginal Revolution” Cowen interviews Dave “Goat Boogers” Barry.

Link goes to the transcript on Medium, which is an annoying site, but I don’t have time to listen to any more podcasts than I already do. The conversation is actually surprisingly serious, for a guy as funny as Dave Barry is.

Apparently (I did not know this) there’s a whole series of “Conversations With Tyler” podcasts where he’s been interviewing some interesting folks: Atul Gawande, Fuchsia Dunlop (“She joined Tyler over dinner at one of his favorite restaurants in DC…” Sold!), and coming up, Mary “Stiff” Roach.

Late night thoughts.

August 16th, 2017

I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago, and she said something that triggered a mental connection. And then some other stuff happened that triggered some more connections. This is another one of these posts where I was thinking out loud when I wrote this, please forgive me if it goes astray.

I didn’t live back in the old days – 30s – 60s – but my impression (based on what I’ve read) is that, as a child, you were valued somewhat based on physical skills. That is, you were expected to be able to run, hit, and catch reasonably well. (Ruark talks about this a little in The Old Man and the Boy.) If you couldn’t, you were looked down upon by your peers. If you were actually physically incapable (lost a leg or an arm) you may have been looked upon with some pity rather than condescension, but there was still a feeling that the non-physically skilled were somehow inferior. It seems like that lasted well into the 1970s and possibly even into the late 80s.

(Question: what were the expectations for girls? I don’t have a good answer, not ever having been a girl.)

At some point, this changed. Physical skill, while still valued, began to be supplanted by other skills, specifically video games. If you couldn’t run, hit, or field well, being good at rescuing the princess from another castle or whatever the frack Sonic did could still gain you some level of respect. I don’t know exactly when this change started: I feel like it was after I went off to college, but before things changed again.

I still see parents getting their kids into sports, but soccer seems to be the thing now. And that seems to me to be less about the sport – there’s not that much talent required, just run and kick ball – and more about tiring the little s–ts out for a while so Mommy and Daddy can get stuff done. (There are other exceptions, such as Little League and youth football, but I have the impression that those sports are driven by parental nostalgia. “I loved Little League when I was a kid! Surely my kid will love it, too!”)

The third change was the growth of the Internet. Once that became commonplace and everywhere, it didn’t matter if you could run, hit, field, or what you were good at. If you had some kind of specific area of interest – something you were good at, something you were obsessed with – the Internet enabled you to find people just like you. Nobody knew you were a dog, or an awkward teenage boy. We accept you, one of us, one of us.

I used to think that was a good thing. I still do: I think it’s great that those awkward teenagers can find people who are just like them. I think the Internet has done a wonderful job helping people who are shut-in or disabled or just socially awkward interact with others. I think it’s incredibly empowering, and a good antidote to bullying and ostracism.

But recent events have me wondering: have we also built a bunch of individual echo chambers? Now that everyone can find people just like them, have we devalued social interaction and the ability to get along with other, different people? Are we raising generations of otaku?

I don’t want to seem like a cranky old man longing for a return to the good old days. There were bullies and thugs and cheaters and generally not nice people back then, there are now, and there always will be. “There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation.”

But could this be part of the reason why we have LARP Nazis?

Headline of the day.

August 15th, 2017

Live scorpion reportedly found in bag of Costco bananas

This is ridiculous, and Costco should be ashamed.

Everybody knows that a beautiful bunch of ripe bananas hides the deadly black tarantula, not scorpions. Is this just cost-cutting on Costco’s part? Are scorpions cheaper than tarantulas?

(Sorry. I’m feeling a little punchy. You might even say me wanna go home.)

Timing. The secret of comedy.

August 15th, 2017

Remember that blog post from yesterday about the Toepperwein/Frye book?

I didn’t know anything about this at the time, and didn’t find out until great and good friend of the blog Karl (also official firearms trainer of WCD) sent along a link to the NRA Blog.

Ad Toepperwein’s Colt Target Revolver.

As you know, Bob, I’m a Smith and Wesson man myself, but I have to admit that is a pretty Colt.

After Ad and Plinky’s son Lawrence arrived in 1904, Plinky decided to slow down with her shooting career and began taking up bowling seriously. For Ad, this was heresy and he challenged his wife to a shoot-off to see if she had lost any of her skills. Plinky was still in her best form and was reported to have beaten Ad in two of the three matches that day.

She sounds like the kind of person very few people are lucky enough to find.

This also gives me a chance to mention something I forgot yesterday: Mr. Toepperwein was a native Texan, born in Bourne (between Austin and San Antonio), died in San Antonio.

(Also: I noticed that I wasn’t consistent in the spelling of his last name: “Toepperwein” versus “Topperwein”. I probably ought to go back and clean that up a little, but I’ve seen it rendered both ways in other sources. The NRA Blog says “Folks at Winchester weren’t slow to capitalize on the husband and wife combination and dubbed the pair, the ‘Famous Topperweins’. Ad had lost an ‘e’ from his surname with Winchester advertising, but had gained an enthusiastic partner.”)

TMQ update.

August 15th, 2017

The big announcement just dropped.

Where is Gregg Easterbrook’s “Tuesday Morning Quarterback” this year?

Would you believe…the Weekly Standard?

Yeah, that seems a little odd to me, too. Wikipedia characterizes it (fairly, I think) as “an American conservative opinion magazine”, and “conservative” is not a word I would use to describe Easterbrook. But, you know, whatever gets you through the night.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will TMQ go back to the pre-NYT days, with 2,000 word digressions on how unrealistic a television show is? Or will this be the leaner, tighter, more disciplined TMQ we saw on the website for the paper of record?

And will there be cheerleader photos?

The Weekly Standard isn’t on our list of publications and websites we don’t read. (Heck, Lawrence even subscribes to it. Or did at one time: I’m not sure if he still does.) So yes, there will be a TMQ Watch when Easterbrook’s column resumes next week. Watch this space.

Obit watch: August 15, 2017.

August 15th, 2017

For the record: Frank Broyles. ESPN.

It’s kind of interesting to see that he didn’t just have a good record on the field, he also had a good record of developing people:

His acumen in choosing assistant coaches was renowned. At least 30 became head coaches of college or professional teams. Among them, Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Johnny Majors went on to win national college championships, and Johnson, Switzer and Joe Gibbs won Super Bowls.

He also helped build national champions in track and field and cross-country. After Broyles hired Nolan Richardson, the first black basketball coach in the Southwest Conference, Richardson led the Razorbacks to their first basketball national championship in 1994, defeating Duke in the final.

Obit watch: August 14, 2017.

August 14th, 2017

Dr. Cathleen Morawetz passed away a week ago Tuesday. She wasn’t someone I had ever met or heard of before the Times published her obit, but she sounds like an incredibly neat person that I wish I had known.

Much of Dr. Morawetz’s research centered on equations that describe the motion of fluids and waves — in water, sound, light and vibrating solids. One of her first notable papers helped explain the flow of air around airplanes flying close to the speed of sound.

Wings can be designed so that transonic airflow remains smooth at certain speeds without generating shock waves. But Dr. Morawetz’s work demonstrated that such shock-free wings do not work in the real world. The slightest perturbation — an imperfection in the shape, a tilt in the angle of the wing, a gust of wind — disrupts the smooth flow.

I wonder if there’s a relationship between this and chaos theory, but this is way outside anything I’ve ever studied.

In later work Dr. Morawetz studied the scattering of waves off objects. She invented a method to prove what is known as the Morawetz inequality, which describes the maximum amount of wave energy near an object at a given time. It proves that wave energy scatters rather than lingering near the object indefinitely.

She was 94.

In addition to her husband, Dr. Morawetz is survived by three daughters, Pegeen Rubinstein, Lida Jeck and Nancy Morawetz; a son, John; a sister, Isabel Seddon; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and four step-grandchildren.

Brief book note.

August 14th, 2017

This is not a review or an endorsement, since I only picked this up yesterday and haven’t read it yet. But I do want to put in a quick plug for it: it was published last year by Texas Tech University Press and I am afraid it has already fallen into obscurity. I didn’t know anything about it until I stumbled on a copy at Half-Price Books.

Shooting for the Record: Adolph Toepperwein, Tom Frye, and Sharpshooting’s Forgotten Controversy is a book about Topperwein, Frye, exhibition shooting, and the world record controversy.

Back in the old days, the various gun companies paid “exhibition shooters” to travel around the country and put on shooting demonstrations with their products. Adolf “Ad” Topperwein was a shooter for Winchester (along with his wife, known as “Plinky”). At one point, Mr. Topperwein held the world record for aerial shooting: “…more than 72,000 hand thrown blocks 2½ inches in diameter, and missing only nine“.

Then Tom Frye came along. Mr. Frye was an exhibition shooter for Remington, and was a little younger than Mr. Topperwein. In 1959, he used the then newly introduced Remington Nylon 66 rifle to shoot 100,010 wooden blocks over a 14-day period, hitting 100,004 of them and breaking Mr. Topperwein’s record. However, Mr. Topperwein apparently felt that Mr. Frye’s setup wasn’t entirely fair: specifically, the distance Mr. Frye was shooting at was too short, and Mr. Frye’s throwers were using a different technique that made it easier for him to hit. (Also, the Nylon 66 was much lighter, and thus easier to hold for long periods, than the Winchester rifles that Mr. Topperwein used.)

As I said, I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I did get through the author’s preface. One of the things that interested him about the Frye/Topperwein controversy was that Mr. Frye may have actually been using “performance enhancing drugs” in his record attempt, predating Barry Bonds by about 40 years.

This book pushes a couple of my hot buttons. In the past couple of years, I’ve become more interested in the 20th Century exhibition shooters, like the Topperwins and Frye and Herb Parsons and others. (There’s a pretty good DVD, “Fast and Fancy Shooters“, that has vintage footage of some of these people at work. Link goes to Amazon, but I was able to find it cheaper on eBay when I bought it.)

In addition, I have my own personal reasons for being interested in Mr. Frye: one of these days Real Soon Now, I’m going to finish the long post I started a while back about my Nylon 66, Tom Frye, and childhood nostalgia.

In general, out of my group of shooting friends, I think I’m the most interested in shooting history of the bunch. I expect this to be a swell addition to my library, and I encourage anyone who has a set of buttons like mine to pick up a copy.

On a semi-related side note, you know who else is interested in firearms history? Karl of KR Training, official firearms trainer of Whipped Cream Difficulties. I bring this up here because he’s been working on a series of “Historical Handgun” courses: the first one was a 1/2 day course he ran this past weekend, and he has a full day class coming up in September. For personal reasons, I can’t attend, but I’m looking forward to the two-day version of the class he plans to run sometime in 2018.

In the meantime, though, he’s got some blog entries up: an after action report on the 1/2 day class, discussion of the FBI’s qualification course circa 1945, and even a couple of book reviews. I encourage my readers to give Karl’s blog some affection, even if you do live too far away to enroll in his classes.

(I think it’d be kind of fun, though, if Karl could develop this into a sort of standard curriculum and share it with instructors in other regions. It might be fun to have people all over the country running these classes and showing how it was done in the old days. Heck, maybe we could make this a thing, like cowboy action shooting and the zoot shooters: combat matches with “appropriate” guns from different eras. This could be a whole bunch of fun.)

Headline of the day.

August 14th, 2017

Fruitcake From Robert Scott Expedition Is ‘Almost’ Edible at 106 Years Old

“almost” edible. So pretty much the same as a regular fruitcake.

(Thank you. I’ll be here all week. Try your waitress and remember to tip the veal.)

TMQ watch.

August 10th, 2017

I see a decent amount of traffic in the stats from people looking at old TMQ Watch entries. I'm glad for any traffic, but I wonder if they're actually coming here because they Googled something, or if they're looking for updates on the status of TMQ?

No matter what, there is a TMQ status update. Of a sort. According to Gregg Easterbrook's Twitter, "TMQ relaunch 8-22-17 details soon."

As soon as I get details, I'll post an update. Will I be doing TMQ Watch if TMQ comes back? As always, it depends on where Easterbrook ends up: there are certain sites that shall remain nameless that I won't follow him to. No matter what, I do plan to post at least one update.

Edited to add:

August 21 will be a total eclipse of the sun as the gods wax wroth.

How do you wax your wroth? My family was a big fan of Turtle Wax and Simomiz.

Also, given that solar eclipses are perfectly understandable astronomical phenomena, and have been for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, why is Gregg Easterbrook claiming they are a sign of the gods waxing wroth?

Edited to add 8/11: Easterbrook's Twitter now promises the big reveal for August 15th. I feel the anticipation rising…

Oh, wait. That was just gas from the tacos at Maria's Taco Express. Sorry.