Archive for the ‘Schadenfreude’ Category

Knee deep in the schadenfreude.

Friday, April 28th, 2017

I should have worn waders today.

(Fun fact: “Knee Deep In the Schadenfreude” was Starship’s working title for “We Built This City”.)

Local elections are coming up. I’m not sure what’s on the ballot for Austin specifically and Travis County in general. But in Lakeway, where I’ve been spending a lot of my time, three city council seats are up. Also, the city is considering a proposition to issue $23 million worth of bonds so they can build a new police station.

The new cop shop is kind of a big deal. I haven’t heard a lot of opposition to it, but most of the people I’ve been around in Lakeway are police or police supporters. I’ve been down and toured the current police station, and it is small and cramped and crowded: there’s no room to grow. On the other hand, the figures I cam up with for a certain property owner I know came out to around %6 a month more in property taxes. This is someone who is on a fixed income: six dollars here, six collars there, pretty soon you’re talking about City of Austin property taxes.

Reasonable people can differ on the merits of the proposition and the candidates. But here’s the problem: Lakeway’s mayor, Joe Bain, who is active on NextDoor (and has a blog on the city website) decided he’d be smart.

“John Smart” on NextDoor, to be exact.

Posts made under the name “John Smart” included advocating that residents vote for incumbent City Council candidates Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa.

“Vote for Bridge Bertram and Ron Massa – they actually volunteered for the City and worked hard to make it better, unlike the other candidate that hasn’t attended a council meeting for a long time nor has every [sic] done any work to try to improve the city – no committees, commissions or any other volunteer work,” a post by John Smart reads.

The mayor has confessed and deleted the account.

Bain confirmed by phone Thursday evening that he was behind the “John Smart” account, adding, “The city really doesn’t have anything [to do] with this … there are reasons behind all this.”

I’m not currently on NextDoor, but looking over their rules, Mayor Bain’s behavior is a pretty clear violation. I had thought that NextDoor actually did some validation on signups to make sure you were a real person and lived in the place you signed up for. (I know, I know, silly me: expecting a website on the Internet to do validation.) The one person I’ve heard from so far who is on NextDoor says they didn’t go through any validation process, but they used an invite code provided by their local neighborhood association. Maybe that bypasses the validation?

The first question this leads to is: how did he get a fake NextDoor account? Was someone else…helping him out?

The second question: how is this going to impact the election? Early voting started Monday. I can’t vote in Lakeway, but if I could, I’d be looking cynically at Mayor Bain’s endorsed candidates. Perhaps it is time for some new leadership? (I’d also be thinking about my support for the new cop shop. But honestly, I’d probably end up voting for it anyway.)

As a connoisseur of disaster…

Friday, April 28th, 2017

…I am enjoying reading about Fyre Festival so, so much.

It’s the feral dogs that really make a good music festival.

That reminds me. (adds Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus to his Amazon wish list.)

William N. Finley IV’s Twitter feed: Finley was boots on the ground at Fyre Festival and is quoted in many pf the stories I’ve seen.

Questions, so many questions: could Ja Rule and Kendall Jenner be prosecuted for fraud? Would this have been a justified use of a MOAB? And is it true that United Airlines was an official Fyre Festival sponsor?

Random links: October 30, 2016.

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

A handful of random links that I’ve accumulated over the past few days. Some of these are arguably appropriate for the season, some not…

By way of Lawrence, the first air hijacking.

… Midway through the third of these sessions, while airborne at 5,000 feet and sitting in the rear seat of a tandem training plane equipped with dual controls, he pulled a revolver from a trouser pocket and, without giving any warning, sent two .32 calibre bullets through Bivens’s skull. Pletch then managed to land the plane, dumped the instructor’s body in a thicket, and took off again, heading north to his home state to… well, what he intended to do was never really clear…

By way of Hognose over at the Weaponsman blog, a retrospecitve from Philly.com on a crime story I’d never heard of: 75 years ago, a spaghetti salesman and his co-conspirators murdered somewhere between 50 and 100 people with arsenic. It was your typical life insurance/double indemnity scam, distinguished perhaps only by the number of victims.

By way of Stuff from Hsoi, through Lawrence: Massad Ayoob’s latest “Ayoob Files” entry for American Handgunner is about John Daub’s shooting incident. Briefly, Mr. Daub (who instructs part-time for KR Training) shot and killed a man who kicked down the front door of his house while he was inside with his wife and kids:

Few people are able to recall how many shots they fired in self-defense when the matter goes beyond two or three rounds. John was no exception. What we have with him, however, is the rare case of a man who was a deeply trained firearms instructor becoming involved in a shooting. It’s rather like an oncologist who is diagnosed with cancer himself: an uncommon opportunity for someone heavily experienced in the thing from the outside, to experience it from the inside.

For the record: NYT obit for Jack Chick.

By way of the News@Ycombinator Twitter: ESPN lost 621,000 subscribers in one month.

So if we’re very conservative and project that ESPN continues to lose 3 million subscribers a year — well below the rate that they are currently losing subscribers — then the household numbers would look like this over the next five years:

2017: 86 million subscribers
2018: 83 million subscribers
2019: 80 million subscribers
2020: 77 million subscribers
2021: 74 million subscribers

At 74 million subscribers — Outkick’s projection for 2021 based on the past five years of subscriber losses — ESPN would be bringing in just over $6.2 billion a year in yearly subscriber fees at $7 a month. At $8 a month, assuming the subscriber costs per month keeps climbing, that’s $7.1 billion in subscriber revenue. Both of those numbers are less than the yearly rights fees cost.

On a personal note, my mother is planning to dump cable in the next few days, and I don’t even think she realizes that she’s paying $80 a year for the NFL and other crap she doesn’t watch on ESPN, and another $30 a year for the NBA (which she also doesn’t watch).

NYT obit for John Zacherle, aka “Zacherley”, one of the early TV horror movie hosts.

I didn’t grow up in the NYC/Philly area, so I never saw “Zacherley”, but the obit got me to thinking about him and Ghoulardi and all those other guys who seem to have died off or disappeared with the increasing corporatization of television. I missed this when I was young: as I’ve noted before, I was culturally deprived as a child. Also, I’m not sure we had any “horror hosts” in Houston. I do remember “Captain Harold’s Theater of the Sky”, but I don’t recall that fitting into the “horror host” genre. (Also, I would have sworn it was called “Captain Harold’s Theater of the Air” when I was growing up: is nostalgia a moron, or did the name change at some point?) This is another one of those things where I almost regret not watching those people when I was young, so that I could have grown up to be a famous horror writer with groupies and a cocaine problem, but I digress.

There is a guy on one of the nostalgia TV channels on Saturday night who seems to be trying to revive the Zacherley/Ghoulardi schtick. I don’t even know his name, but we’ve caught a few minutes of his show during movie night at Lawrence’s. The 51-year-old me says, frankly, he’s not very good. The 11-year-old boy inside me says, “Well, yeah, you think he’s not very good. But you’re a jaded 51-year-old man who is incapable of experiencing joy, and can watch things like…well, like “John Carpenter’s The Thing” anytime you feel like it. What about me? When you were my age, you would have lapped this stuff up like a thirsty man in the desert, bad puns and all!” The 51-year-old me thinks the 11-year-old me is being a little unfair with that “incapable of experiencing joy” comment, but he does have a point.

With all the old “horror hosts” dying away, and nobody seeming to replace them, who or what is fueling the imaginations of the 11-year-olds out there? What are they going to write or draw or film when they grow up? Who is educating them in the classics like “Island of Lost Souls” (about which, more, later), even if those classics are kind of chopped up?

What have we lost?

With a rebel yell, they cried “More! More! More!”

Monday, January 11th, 2016

More firings, that is.

The Houston Texans have fired special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky, receivers coach Stan Hixon and defensive assistant Anthony Pleasant.

Some friends of ours who shall remain anonymous to protect their privacy (thank you, anonymous friends!) invited folks over on Saturday to watch the Texans playoff game. I was tied up with other events and arrived with only five minutes left in the game, but based on what I heard from my anonymous friends and Lawrence (and what I observed personally in that five minutes), it was a debacle.

Question: have the Texans gone far enough?

TMQ Watch: December 22, 2015.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

We pretty much have all of our Christmas shopping done now, barring a possible few last minute gifts or accessories for gifts already purchased. With that out of the way, we can focus on TMQ.

And what does he have to say this week?

(more…)

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#21 in a series)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

“…Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.”

Yes, I am chortling.

Indicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee will soon be convicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee.

Former California state Sen. Leland Yee pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering in federal court Wednesday, admitting that he “knowingly and intentionally agreed with another person” to take part in a criminal enterprise and commit at least two offenses and affect state commerce.

More from the SFChron:

In return for the payments, which totaled $34,600, Yee said in his plea agreement that he promised to vote for legislation his donors favored, recommend a software company for a state contract, arrange a meeting with another state senator over legislation, and illegally import firearms, including automatic weapons, from the Philippines. He said the transactions covered a period between October 2012 and March 2014, when he was planning his campaign for California secretary of state.

You may recall that Yee was a gun control advocate, and was honored by the Brady bunch.

Also pleading guilty to racketeering were Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president who served as a consultant and fundraiser for Yee, Jackson’s son, Brandon, and sports agent Marlon Sullivan.

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

The racketeering charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

This appears to be the Federal statutory maximum sentence. As we all should know by now, this figure is misleading. But:

Yee’s plea agreement, as described in court, did not include a recommended sentence. But the agreement for Keith Jackson, who admitted the same charge, specified that prosecutors could seek a maximum of 10 years in prison, and the defense could request a minimum of six years.

And the judge can ignore those requests and recommendations.

The important question: what of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow? Still awaiting trial, but the judge “asked prosecutors to include Chow, who is still in custody, in the next group scheduled for trial.”

Related question that you may have been wondering about: does the plea deal mean that Yee is going to roll on Chow? I can’t deny it: I love using the phrase “Yee is going to roll on Chow”. But:

The plea agreements do not require any of the four defendants to testify or cooperate with the prosecution, said Brandon Jackson’s lawyer, Tony Tamburello. Both Brandon Jackson and Sullivan pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy involving the Ghee Kung Tong.

The Ghee Kung Tong was Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow’s organization, which is described as “…as a racketeering enterprise that trafficked in drugs, weapons and stolen goods” in the Federal charges against Chow.

Edited to add: Thanks to Ken at Popehat for linking to convicted former California Democratic State Senator Leland “Uncle” Yee’s plea agreement. I apparently can’t copy or paste stuff from the plea agreement PDF, so I’ll just note that Yee specifically admits to the gun running charges in his plea.

Your loser update: April 17, 2015.

Friday, April 17th, 2015

The end of the NBA regular season has snuck up on us.

Early in the season, it seemed like Philadelphia was the favorite to go 0-82, or at least set a record for futility.

How did that work out for them? Well, they finished 18-64. Which is bad.

But it isn’t as bad as the New York Knicks, who finished 17-65. Philadelphia didn’t even lose their own division. Which I think says something about the team, but I’m not sure what.

But, surprisingly, the Knicks weren’t the worst NBA team this year. That honor goes to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finished the season at 16-66, for a winning percentage of 0.195. ESPN has a very nice list of the worst NBA teams, which currently includes the Timberwolves, and lets you do side-by-side comparisons with the legendary 72-73 Philadelphia team.

By the way, the Lakers finished 21-61. Just saying.

In Birmingham they love the football (woo woo woo)…

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Previously on WCD: the University of Alabama-Birmingham shut down their football program.

Now:

In the turbulent weeks since the University of Alabama at Birmingham announced that it would shutter its Division I football program, rallies and protests have erupted on campus, powerful donors have threatened to withhold their support, and the faculty senate approved a resolution of no confidence in President Ray L. Watts’s ability to lead the university.

The university has appointed a task force to review both the finances of the athletic department and the consulting firm’s report that led to the decision.

And in other news:

Kent State recently paid $35,000 to an outside consultant to review the fiscal viability of its $26 million athletic department and its football program, which has had only one winning season since 2006.

There once was a man from Nantucket.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

The storm may not have lived up to its billing in New York City, but it more than delivered in New England. It cut off Nantucket, where almost all 12,000 year-round residents lost power and telephone service, and it flooded the Atlantic coastal town of Scituate, where a car floated downtown.

My phone tells me it is currently 81 degrees here. I may have to turn on the AC when I get home.

Yo, dawg.

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

The bankruptcy of SkyMall and their parent company, Xhibit, has been well covered in many places.

But I wanted to link, again, to this Priceonomics article from 2013 about SkyMall, Xhibit, and their questionable dealings, just in case folks forgot about it.

Skymall is by all accounts a reasonably successful company with $130 million in annual revenue, a differentiated offering, a well known brand, and at least some happy customers. Xhibit on the other hand, appears to be a company with dubious sources of revenue, a very thin competitive advantage, and more hype than substance.

God and man don’t believe in modern farmer.

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

A while back, I briefly touched on the “Modern Farmer” situation. Briefly, “Modern Farmer” was a promising and National Magazine Award winning magazine:

From its start in an airy office above a Swedish cosmetics store in Hudson, N.Y., the magazine was both admired and skewered. Intended as a media and lifestyle brand for what Ms. Gardner, a former Manhattan magazine editor, liked to refer to as people who want a little more back story to their food, its initial Spring 2013 edition had a stylish rooster on the cover, an alarming feature on the problems of wild pigs and a column called Ask an Ag Minister.

I never actually read it – I’m not sure I ever saw a copy for sale, and it sounded a little pretentious – but I was interested in what was happening with the magazine, especially after the editor resigned.

Well, the other goat has fainted:

Modern Farmer, the 100,000-circulation quarterly and website that tried to link effete urban farmers’ market culture with the practicalities of actual farming, became a magazine without an editorial staff on Friday, when its remaining paid editors walked out its doors. The future of what remains of the Modern Farmer brand is uncertain.

More:

By Friday, when the remaining two paid editorial staff members departed, the sales manager had already left after having told advertisers like Dodge and the Detroit watchmaker Shinola that they weren’t going to publish a spring issue. Reached at her home in Hudson, Ms. Gardner said she could not speak about the matter and feared legal action. She remained unsure about her next move in the media world.

I’d actually never heard of Shinola, the watchmaker. I guess this goes to show how effective advertising in “Modern Farmer” was.

(Hattip: Jimbo.)

Look for the label, the union label…

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Heh. Heh. Heh.

PHILADELPHIA — A former union leader was found guilty on Tuesday of extortion, racketeering and conspiracy for overseeing a campaign of violence and vandalism intended to force nonunion contractors to hire union members.