Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Obit watch and random notes: November 24, 2015.

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

I’ve written previously about Ron Reynolds, a state representative and lawyer who was charged with barratry.

Well, it has been a while. The other seven people who were arrested with Rep. Reynolds took pleas, but Rep. Reynolds went to trial. And…?

You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena!

The Fort Bend County Democrat was convicted Friday of five counts of illegally soliciting clients, or misdemeanor barratry. A six-person jury on Monday rejected his plea for probation, and instead sentenced him to 12 months behind bars and a fine of several thousand dollars.

I’ve also written about Kelly Thomas, who was beaten to death by the Fullerton PD. The city (meaning local taxpayers) is going to pay out $4.9 million to his family, in settlement of their wrongful death lawsuit.

Obit watch: noted elsewhere, but I did want to mention the passing of Ken Johnson, former player for the Houston Astros (and the Colt .45s, their predecessor), and the only pitcher ever to “complete a nine-inning game without yielding a hit and still manage to lose it.”

(Oddly enough, there’s a good explanation of how this happened in the FARK discussion thread.)

Also among the dead: Adele Mailer, Norman’s ex-wife and the woman he stabbed in a drunken rage.

Some guests recalled that the point of no return came when she told her husband that he was not as good as Dostoyevsky.

Obit watch: October 14, 2015.

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Robert Leuci.

I don’t think he ever reached the level of fame Frank Serpico did, but he was part of the same NYPD anti-corruption movement.

Of the 70 men assigned to the Special Investigating Unit of the Narcotics Division from 1968 to 1971, 52 were indicted as a result of evidence gathered by Mr. Leuci. Two committed suicide with their service revolvers. Two others, both 42, died of heart attacks after they were indicted. One went insane.

Obit watch and more random notes: September 18, 2015.

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Milo Hamilton, sports broadcaster.

Hamilton called Major League Baseball games on radio and television from the 1950s into the current decade, working for the St. Louis Browns (1953), St. Louis Cardinals (1954), Chicago Cubs (1956-57, 1980-84), Chicago White Sox (1962-65), Atlanta Braves (1966-75), Pittsburgh Pirates (1976-79) and the Astros, joining the team in 1985 and serving as its primary on-air voice from 1987 through 2012.


Warren “Remo Williams” Murphy. I’ve never read any of the Remo Williams books myself, mostly because I don’t know where to begin with the series. I am told by trustworthy individuals that they are fun…

New indoor range coming to South Austin. Well. Well well well. Well. I am looking forward to trying this out.

Obit watch: September 17, 2015.

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

I didn’t know Frank James personally, though I wish I had. I did tell him on his blog that I wanted to meet him if he ever made it to Texas: he wrote Project 64: The MP5 Submachine Gun Story, a book I like a whole lot.

That wasn’t the only thing he wrote. He was a prolific gun writer and blogger. And everything I’ve read about him says he was a really good guy.

Tam has a nice tribute up that you should go read.

A few random things I found interesting.

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Some by way of the Hacker News Twitter, others from elsewhere.

Nice appreciation of Elmore Leonard from The New York Review of Books.

Brian Krebs goes to Mexico in search of Bluetooth ATM skimmers, part 1.

Fun with software defined radio, or scanners live in vain.

NFL loser update resumes tomorrow.

Oliver Sacks.

Monday, August 31st, 2015

NYT. Michiko Kakutani appreciation. LAT. WP. A/V Club.

“The Oliver Sacks Reading List” from The Atlantic.

I like what Kakutani says, and I don’t think I could say it any better:

The world has lost a writer of immense talent and heart, a writer who helped illuminate the wonders, losses and consolations of the human condition.

Dr. Sacks was a personal hero of mine. Unlike most of my personal heros, I actually did get to meet him once. He probably wouldn’t have remembered it, even if he wasn’t famously “face blind”…


Art (Acevedo), damn it! watch. (#V of a series)

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

The question of the day is: will we get to “Z” in the series?

Austin police Chief Art Acevedo is a finalist for the police chief of San Antonio Police Department.

(As a side note, I’ve always wondered what Sue Grafton’s going to do with Kinsey Millhone after she gets to “Z”. Two books to go.)

Obit watch: August 5, 2015.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Noted historian and author Robert Conquest has passed away at 98.

The scope of Stalin’s purges was laid out: seven million people arrested in the peak years, 1937 and 1938; one million executed; two million dead in the concentration camps. Mr. Conquest estimated the death toll for the Stalin era at no less than 20 million.
“His historical intuition was astonishing,” said Norman M. Naimark, a professor of Eastern European history at Stanford University. “He saw things clearly without having access to archives or internal information from the Soviet government. We had a whole industry of Soviet historians who were exposed to a lot of the same material but did not come up with the same conclusions. This was groundbreaking, pioneering work.”

I expect Lawrence will have more to say later, but I do want to tell my favorite Conquest story. When his publisher was going to issue a new edition of The Great Terror: A Reassessment, they asked Conquest if he wanted to change the title. Conquest supposedly suggested a new title of I Told You So, You Fucking Fools.

Edited to add: Lawrence’s obit is now up.

Obit watch: July 28, 2015.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Noted true crime writer Ann Rule passed away on Sunday. LAT.

(Hattip: Mom.)

The Ann Rule origin story is well known to true crime buffs, but since I’m not sure how many of those read this blog, I’ll recap it here: in the 1970’s, she was working at a suicide hotline and writing under pseudonyms. She became interested in some Seattle area murders and started investigating them; ultimately, it turned out those murders were committed by a close friend who worked with her on the hotline…

…one Mr. Ted Bundy. The Stranger Beside Me made Rule’s reputation and career.

“I really care about the people I’m writing about,” said Rule, whose accounts focused as much on the anguish of the victims and their families as on the depravity of the killers. “I finally came to the knowledge I’m doing what I probably was meant to do in life.”

Edited to add: WP article which goes into more detail about Bundy and Rule.


Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

E. L. Doctorow. LAT. WP.

Inverted Jenny watch:

…the agency’s watchdog has called the instant, manufactured stamp rarity issued in 2013 a huge mistake that broke the agency’s own rules, which prohibit postal officials from intentionally creating a rare stamp just to make money.


Postal officials gave 70 upright panes to post offices to distribute randomly to buyers. The 30 remaining panes were sent to the agency’s stamp fulfillment services office in Kansas City, Mo., to ship to customers who ordered the Jennies by mail.
But in Kansas City, officials “forgot” about their distribution plan for the newly created rare stamps, investigators found. They shipped just one pane between March 2014 and December 2014. As a result, 23 upright panes remain in Kansas City, where management has not decided what to do with the stamps, the report said.

(Previously. Previously.)

Random notes: July 16, 2015.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

The Birdman of Altiplano.

“There is already a significant problem every single weekend with widespread, out-of-control peeing,” Mr. Johnson, who represents much of Manhattan’s West Side, said.

(I love the “Citations for public urination” graphic that goes along with this article.)

I’m a little surprised this one hasn’t made FARK yet: local police find an unresponsive man in a car. He had bite marks on his wrist, and there was a non-venomous snake (and other animals) in the car. Man dies.

And it seems like his venomous cobra snake may be on the loose. (Hattip: Lawrence.)

(Huh. I didn’t realize that Frederick Forsyth won an Edgar for “There Are No Snakes in Ireland”. That’s not a bad story, but I like “The Emperor” from the same collection a little better.)

Edited to add:

Austin Animal Services is not actively searching for a missing monocle cobra that may have killed an 18-year-old Temple man on Tuesday.

You know what this means, folks. If Animal Services isn’t actively searching for it, it’s up to the rest of us to be on the lookout. Get that Taurus Judge out of the gun safe and load it up with snake shot! Fun for the whole family! At least, until someone gets bitten…

The monocled cobra causes the highest fatality due to snake venom poisoning in Thailand. Envenomation usually presents predominantly with extensive local necrosis and systemic manifestations to a lesser degree. Drowsiness, neurological and neuromuscular symptoms will usually manifest earliest; hypotension, flushing of the face, warm skin, and pain around bite site typically manifest within one to four hours following the bite; paralysis, ventilatory failure or death could ensue rapidly, possibly as early as 60 minutes in very severe cases of envenomation. However, the presence of fang marks does not always imply that envenomation actually occurred.

Edited to add 2:

Oh, thank God. They’re going to start an organized search. I was afraid they’d be engaging in a disorganized search.

(Hattp: the Austin Cobra Twitter. Hattip on the Austin Cobra Twitter to the great and good Joe D. in the comments.)

The Beams of New College, Oxford.

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

You know this story, right? At least you do if you’re weird like me and used to read Whole Earth Review (I think they used to sell this on a poster) or if you’ve read How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built (a book I tremendously admire).

If you don’t know the story, the canonical version (minus Brand’s “That’s the way to run a culture”) is here. I always thought that was a nice story.

Turns out that story isn’t exactly 100% true. And the true version of the story is arguably even better, if you’re looking for tips on how to run a culture.

(I think I got this from TJIC on the Twitter.)