Archive for the ‘Clippings’ Category

Reptile cults. Why did it have to be reptile cults?

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Today’s headline of the day:

Police: Woman kills boyfriend after spat with reptilian cult

More:

She said her boyfriend believed the cult’s leader to be a “reptilian” pretending to be a human, a police affidavit said.

And:

Online postings associated with the cult detail a theory that a group of alien reptiles is subverting the human race through mind control.

Sounds like David Icke, but the linked article doesn’t specify. Are there other reptile-based conspiracy theorists out there?

Real estate watch.

Friday, July 14th, 2017

I don’t have $1.25 million. And I don’t want to move to the Dallas area.

But I do kind of like this house, and not just for the associational value.

On the other hand: this one? In Waco? Listed at $950,000? For that? Not so much. (Admittedly, it would be possible for me to care less about “Fixer Upper”, but just barely so.)

Related:

“We have been intimidated and harassed,” she said. “People have complained about their taxes going up because we moved here. Store owners have complained about taxes.”

Random.

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Blood for the blood god! Skulls for the skull throne! Milk for the Khorne flakes!

And this one’s for Andrew:

Two thousand years ago, Roman builders constructed vast sea walls and harbor piers. The concrete they used outlasted the empire — and still holds lessons for modern engineers, scientists say.

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have…

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

…baseball bats and machetes.

(Also: “We were looking for ‘knife’ violence. ‘Knife’.”)

(Do I need a “machete” subcategory of “knives”?)

(Well, that guy thinks so.)

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

I’m sorry that I have to blog this, since:

  • It is a genuine tragedy, and I don’t mean to make light of it.
  • There’s no way that I could not blog this, for obvious reasons.

Fox News reports that Rebecca Burger, who has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram, was killed when a defective whipped cream dispenser exploded and hit her in the chest.

Ms. Burger is described as a “popular French fitness model”. Link goes to the Statesman and not to Fox News because the Fox News story has really obnoxious auto-play video.

I guess this is another one of those “tomorrow is guaranteed to nobody” stories. At any moment you could be hit by a bus, gored by a bull, hit by a falling beam, or even killed in a “freak whipped cream accident”.

Be careful out there.

Recommended reading: May 7, 2017.

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

I’ve stumbled across two articles in the past couple of days that I commend to your attention. At least, if you’re as fascinated with this kind of thing as I am.

1) If you own a Patek Philippe Caliber 89 watch (I know many of my readers do: if you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones who does not, Sotheby’s is auctioning one soon), you’re going to have to get it serviced.

Why? The Caliber 89 has a unique feature (or, as high-end watch folks call it, “complication”): it will tell you what day Easter falls on each year.

It turns out that computing the date Easter falls on is simultaneously two things:

a) Relatively hard to do.

Easter is one of the “moveable feasts” of the Christian calendar; it falls on a different date every year. The reason is this: the basic rule for Easter is that it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring (that is, the first full moon after the Spring Equinox) and because both astronomical events are variable, the Easter date changes every year. (As with any calendrical irregularity, there have been various proposals over the centuries to just pick a single date, but so far nothing has stuck). For this reason, Easter can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.

b) Relatively easy to do for a digital computer. I think you could probably fit a program to do this in 4K of BASIC, or even run it on a good programmable calculator.

But the Caliber 89 is a totally mechanical watch. How does it calculate the date of Easter? There’s the problem:

A method for calculating the Easter date is called a computus; is it possible to make a true mechanical computus, rather than relying on a program disk? The answer is, “sort of.” The first true mechanical computus appears to have been made not long after Gauss came up with his algorithm, and it currently resides in a place more horological enthusiasts should know about: the great astronomical clock in the cathedral at Strasbourg, in Alsace, France. There have actually been three successive astronomical clocks there since about 1354, but the most recent was completed in 1843. Designed by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué, it has a true mechanical computus – probably the first ever constructed. It’s not the only mechanical computus, but I haven’t been able to find anything in English on other computus devices (although a reprint of a review of a book on the Strasbourg computus mentions at least two other “similar” mechanisms).

Even if you are not a high-end watch person, there’s still a lot in this article that I think is interesting: mostly the discussion of how Easter calculations work, and of the Strasbourg clock (which I’d really like to see one of these days).

(Hattip: The YCombinator Twitter.)

2) I’m a fan of Stephen Hunter’s work, and one who wishes he had time to write more non-fiction. I enjoy his novels, but I also think he’s an outstanding non-fiction essayist and writer. (Mr. Hunter, if you’re out there: I’d buy a hardback collection of your shorter works.)

The most recent American Rifleman has a Hunter article that pushes several of my buttons at once: “A Battle At Barrington: The Men & The Guns”.

You may have heard of the “Battle of Barrington”, though not under that name. It is also covered in Bryan Burrough’s Public Enemies, a book both Hunter and I like a lot. This was the famous shootout between agents of what became the FBI and Lester Gillis, aka “Baby Face” Nelson. Gillis, his wife, and his partner John Chase were being pursued by (and shooting it out with) FBI agents when their vehicle was disabled: they were cornered by agents Samuel Cowley and Herman Hollis. In the ensuing shootout, Gillis killed Cowley and Hollis, and fled in their car: however, Gillis himself was mortally wounded by the agent’s gunfire and bled to death. (Chase and Mrs. Gillis were captured later: Chase spent 33 years in prison, and Mrs. Gillis served one year.)

The nice thing about Hunter’s article is that he addresses the firearms and tactics used by both sides. This sort of analysis is not a strong point of Burrough’s book: Hunter and his researcher actually went back to the old FBI files and turned up some new information.

The FBI’s records are full of fascinating facts about the event. For one thing: these guys weren’t just loaded for bear, they were loaded for bears, a lot of them. Found in the abandoned Model A: three bulletproof vests, five empty magazines for .38 Super automatics; two filled machine gun magazines (presumably Thompson 20 rounders); 200 rounds of loose .45 ammunition, three empty .351 magazines, three boxes of .30-’06 Sprg. soft-nose ammunition; one box of Springfield boattailed ammunition, five boxes, .45 Colt automatic ammunition, two boxes of Springfield bronze-pointed ammunition. One tan briefcase containing one loaded 100-round drum for the Thompson submachine gun; 10 boxes .22 Long Rifle; one Colt Ace .22 Long Rifle pistol and magazine. The last is a revelation: Chase had bought the M1911 variant with a lightweight .22 slide and barrel. Perhaps he and Les used it for low-cost practice on their various travels.

And, as you know, Bob, I love me some Thompsons. My one complaint about Hunter’s article, though, is that he consistently places the Miami Dade FBI shootout in 1987: it actually took place April 11, 1986.

This quote is for Karl (wink wink nudge nudge):

[Hollis] should have used his Super .38, firing prone, two handed, as that round’s velocity and straight-line trajectory could have gotten the job done, ending up center mass in Les. But he hadn’t been trained to two-handed prone shooting. In fact he hadn’t been trained to anything! The soon-to-be Bureau’s firearm training program didn’t begin until 1935!

Silly season.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

A few random items, some more silly than others.

  1. “I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza. I am glad that I do not hold such power. Presidents should not have unlimited power. I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don’t like. I would not want to live in such a country. For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”
    (I don’t have strong feelings about pineapple on pizza, but I like this guy.)
  2. Wayne Shaw is a backup goalkeeper for the Sutton United soccer team. “His own team referred to him as the Roly Poly Goalie. He is 46 years old, 6-foot-2 and somewhere around 322 pounds, or 23 stone as the British papers usually put it.” During their game against Arsenal on Monday, Mr. Shaw ate a meat pie on the sidelines. There was a spot bet that he’d do this, which paid off at 8-1.
    Problem: Mr. Shaw admitted that he was aware of the spot bet; and, while he didn’t bet personally, he was aware of other people who had. This could be considered “spot fixing”.

    On Tuesday, Shaw was forced to resign from the club after the Football Association’s gambling commission said it would investigate if consumption of the pie was a breach of betting regulations.

    (For the record, it was a “meat and potato” pie. The paper of record does not report the pussy content of the meat pie. Also, note that this silly article already has two corrections appended.)

  3. I haven’t been following this story closely (the Atlanta newspapers aren’t part of my nutritious media breakfast) but the NYT has a rundown of the Atlanta city contracting scandal, which includes bricks through windows and dead rodents left on doorsteps.

The lead isn’t the only thing that was buried.

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

I’m kidding. Mostly.

But there’s a story in the NYT about the archaeological excavation of what turns out to be a 19th century brewery, that makes me go “Hmmmmmm.”

Not so much for the excavation itself, but for some of the surrounding details. Either this guy was really unlucky, or the past really was a different country. Or maybe both.

Once a servant in Schnaderbeck’s house mistook arsenic for baking soda. The pudding she made poisoned Schnaderbeck’s family.

Damn. I hate it when I confuse the arsenic and the baking soda.

Another time, a man who had been staying in Schnaderbeck’s house died in bed. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said the coroner attributed the death to natural causes until a packet of strychnine was found “in the bed he had lain on.” The cause of death was changed to suicide.
“Apparently, Schnaderbeck had known about the packet,” Dr. Bergoffen wrote in one of her archaeological assessments, “but ‘kept mum’ as he said, ‘It was bad enough to have the old scoundrel die in my bed without having any more bother about him.’”

I know it sounds mean, but really, killing yourself in someone else’s bed and home is kind of inconsiderate, don’t you think? Schnaderbeck probably had to get all new sheets and bedding, and probably a new mattress as well. And this was the 19th century: it isn’t like he could just have ordered a new mattress from one of those Internet mattress sellers that I won’t give free advertising to here.

(Seriously, I feel a rant coming up in the not so distant future about the internet mattress/prepackaged meal delivery/website hosting based economy of podcasting. But that’s another subject for another day, after I finish updating some lists.)

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?

William Gibson, call your office, please.

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The street finds its own uses for things.

The Wi-Fi kiosks in New York were designed to replace phone booths and allow users to consult maps, maybe check the weather or charge their phones. But they have also attracted people who linger for hours, sometimes drinking and doing drugs and, at times, boldly watching pornography on the sidewalks.

More from the police beat.

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Lawrence put up a post yesterday on Austin’s murder rate, which is “up nearly 80 percent from the same time last year”.

So what is the cause of Austin’s rising murder rate? Possibly just random statistical variation. Possibly the result of understaffing the police department.

I’m not totally convinced on the “understaffing the police department” argument. It kind of seems to me that the police basically come along and clean up after the murder’s already been done. Even with more cops on the street, what are the odds that one of those cops is going to run across the guy with the knife raised in time to stop him from stabbing a woman to death?

The flip side of this is the “broken windows” theory of policing: by concentrating on reducing disorder in neighborhoods, serious crime can be reduced. When disorder increases:

…many residents will think that crime, especially violent crime, is on the rise, and they will modify their behavior accordingly. They will use the streets less often, and when on the streets will stay apart from their fellows, moving with averted eyes, silent lips, and hurried steps. “Don’t get involved.” For some residents, this growing atomization will matter little, because the neighborhood is not their “home” but “the place where they live.” Their interests are elsewhere; they are cosmopolitans. But it will matter greatly to other people, whose lives derive meaning and satisfaction from local attachments rather than worldly involvement; for them, the neighborhood will cease to exist except for a few reliable friends whom they arrange to meet.

(Hattip to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy for the link.)

This probably isn’t news to most of you, but I bring it up here because of a second item, from yesterday’s Statesman:

(more…)

Random notes: August 1, 2016.

Monday, August 1st, 2016

I’ve observed that sometimes the NYT will run nice obituaries for people who weren’t famous – the type of person whose passing would usually escape the paper of record’s notice, except that they were a community figure in their neighborhood or something very much like that.

The man who lost his voice was a gentle man who didn’t ask terribly much of life. He lived in a miniature space in a single-room-occupancy residence on the corner of 74th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan, above J. G. Melon, the popular restaurant and bar known for succulent hamburgers. And he was a New York story.

Another nice story from the NYT: Shannon Beydler and Kevin Hillery were married July 3rd. Ms. Beydler is a judicial clerk and a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps Inactive Ready Reserve. Mr. Hillery attended the Naval Academy.

But in the spring of 2011, during an off-road adventure race with three friends in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a storm blew in as he was biking down a hill; a tree hit his head and rolled down his back, crushing his spine. Mr. Hillery was airlifted to Charlottesville, Va., where he underwent surgery.
During months of rehabilitation, he wondered if he would ever be able to get back to the Naval Academy. Less than a year later, Mr. Hillery did just that, graduating with his class — the first paraplegic to do so in the school’s 170-year history.

See also, by way of Instapundit: “Can the New York Times Weddings Section Be Justified?”

Ace of Spades had a sidebar link over the weekend to the semi-finalists in the Texas State Fair fair food competition.

“Bacon Wrapped Pork Belly on a Stick”? Isn’t that just bacon-wrapped bacon on a stick? “Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers”? Can’t you get those at Chili’s? “Injectable Great Balls of BBQ”? Don’t know, don’t want to know, don’t believe the word “injectable” should ever be used with a food item. “Deep Fried Bacon Burger Dog Sliders on a Stick”? “Loaded Bacon Mashed Potato Egg Roll”? Okay, now these people are just stringing random words together; those last two sound like something that was auto-generated by a Perl script.

Historical note: today is the 50th anniversary of the UT Tower shootings. I haven’t written much about that, and won’t: other people have done it better, and this year’s anniversary is even more politically fraught than usual. (Today is also the day that the university’s new rules on campus concealed carry take effect.)

I haven’t gone through this, and am not sure if a login is required (or if you can get away with private browsing), but here’s the Statesman‘s 50th anniversary coverage. Noted: A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders by Gary Lavergne (the definitive book on the shootings) is available in a Kindle edition.