Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Christmas is coming.

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

I’ll post another reminder after Thanksgiving, but remember: clicking on Amazon links, or using the search box, gives us a small kickback on your purchases, and allows us to indulge our penchant for small electronics, knives, books, and movies from the 16 page list, “A partial and incomplete list of movies we might want to watch or have talked about watching (with annotations)”.

(I maintain that as a Google Doc which is shared with a few friends. I’m not sure I want to share it here, and if I did, it would be read-only. But if you ask directly, I might think about it…)

(Speaking of the Amazon search box, is anyone having trouble with it? It seems to be working okay for me, and I thought I replaced that when Amazon end-of-lifed the old version, but Lawrence made a comment to me the other night about it not working…)

I don’t expect gifts: the thoughtful and pleasant people who hang out here are more than enough of a gift for me. However, as an administrative note: if you are someone who feels inclined to purchase a gift for me, please do not purchase this book. Thank you.

(However, I wouldn’t object to a book on goat raising. Especially those Nigerian dwarf goats. I have been trying to persuade my mother that she needs a dwarf goat, or some dwarf cattle, to keep the Corgi company and give it something to do besides park itself under the bed.)

(Via. The funny thing is, I’d actually heard of this guy, or at least his toaster project. I would be more interested in the toaster, though it strikes me as an inferior version of “I, Pencil”.)

Obit watch: September 21, 2016.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Curtis Hanson, noted film director. A/V Club.

“L.A. Confidential” was a swell movie. I wouldn’t mind watching that again.

D. Keith Mano. I was most familiar with him as a National Review writer, and was unfamiliar with his work as a novelist.

“Seriously, at the end of a CC class when I was fed up with all the atheism, socialism and relativism taught, I went over to St. Paul’s Chapel and said, ‘If that’s the way the world is, I’d better turn to God,’” he told The Columbia Spectator in 1976.

Random notes and a whole bunch of obits: September 19, 2016.

Monday, September 19th, 2016

I didn’t have much to say about the Mew York attack because:

1) I was busy Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday.
b) It was an emerging situation that I don’t think blog posts could have done justice to.
III) I didn’t have anything to add.

I still don’t have much to add (except that I went “Holy s–t!” when I read about this morning’s shootout), but I did think this was kind of interesting: the NYT on the finding of the second device and taking it away in a “total containment vessel”:

The total containment vessel is essentially an inside-out diving vessel, Lt. Mark Torre, the commanding officer of the department’s bomb squad, said in an interview in July. “Instead of keeping the pressure out and keeping you alive in five fathoms of water, it keeps the pressure in,” he explained. Should a bomb explode inside, tiny vents allow pressure to escape. “It sounds like a hammer hitting a piece of steel,” he said.

I don’t remember if the APD has one (or even if we talked about that during the bomb squad presentation) but I’ll try to ask next time around. I keep thinking I should do a post on the APD bomb squad, bomb squads in general, and the weirdness thereof. (Did you know: you can’t just have a bomb squad? Even if you’re a police force. In some cases, even if you’re a major metropolitan police force, as opposed to East Podunk that has six officers and makes their entire budget off of catching speeders where the limit drops from 70 MPH to 25 MPH. Nope, no bomb squad for you.)

I made note of most of the big obits over the weekend, but there are quite a few others that I think are worth observing and commenting on.

NYT obit for W.P. Kinsella.

Charmian Carr, who was the eldest von Trapp in “The Sound of Music”, was in “Evening Primrose” with Anthony Perkins…and that was pretty much it. No snark intended, but I bring this up because: I keep thinking about a new series spotlighting actors and actresses (but most of the ones I’ve found so far are actresses) who had very short careers – like one, maybe two, at most a small handful of credits – and then left Hollywood for whatever reason. I’m thinking the first entry may be sometime in October.

James Stacy, TV actor. He was in a series called “Lancer” that ran for three years and which I have no memory of. Not long after “Lancer” ended, he was hit by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle: Mr. Stacy lost a leg and an arm, and his passenger was killed. He kept working in what the NYT describes as “specialized” roles, though his career was interrupted by a suicide attempt and prison time for child molestation.

Howard E. Butt Jr.. oldest son of the founder of the HEB grocery chain. HEB is huge in this part of the country, and Mr. Butt, Jr. was in a position to take it over. Except…

But Mr. Butt, a Southern Baptist, who as a college student and lay minister had led a Christian youth revival movement, wrestled with the dual pressures of the business and his spiritual pursuits. That struggle led to severe depression, which he later discussed openly.

He ended up turning leadership of the chain over to his brother, ran the family foundation, and continued his ministry.

At the same time, he continued to encourage the evangelical movement to engage other Christians, even those unaffiliated with a particular church. In 2000, he began giving a one-minute radio homily, a segment he titled “The High Calling of Our Daily Life,” which highlighted the role that faith has played in the successful careers and personal lives of ordinary people. His homilies were carried on 3,000 stations in every state, reaching millions of listeners.

I used to catch this on KLBJ-AM when I was driving to work at Dell and still listened to the radio.

Duane Graveline, who I’d never heard of before. And neither had my mother, who was an adult during this time. Dr. Graveline was an astronaut:

With much fanfare, the space agency named Dr. Graveline one of six new “scientist-astronauts” on June 26, 1965. The group included two physicians, two university teachers, a research physicist and a geologist, Harrison H. Schmitt, who would later walk on the moon and become a United States senator.

He was in the program for about two months. A month in, his wife announced she was divorcing him. Shortly after that, he “resigned”:

In his memoir, Donald K. Slayton, one of the original seven astronauts and a longtime NASA official, said: “The program didn’t need a scandal. A messy divorce meant a quick ticket back to wherever you came from — not because we were trying to enforce morality, but because it would detract from the job.”

I don’t recall Dr. Graveline being mentioned at all in any of the histories of the space program that I’ve read (and I’ve read several). It sounds like he had some issues: he was married a total of six times and lost his medical license twice. The first time, it was suspended for two years after “a large number” of Demerol went missing. The second time, it was revoked permanently “over allegations that he had sexually abused children” (though not, apparently, ones that were patients of his).

C. Martin Croker, animator and voice actor. I was most familiar with him as the voices of Zorak and Moltar on “Space Ghost Coast to Coast”. I’d include a clip here, but the one I want to use is actually on the A/V Club page. And: according to the A/V Club, most of the “Space Ghost” episodes are now up for free streaming on the Adult Swim website.

Don Buchla, one of the early electronic music innovators. I’d never heard of him (perhaps because Bob Moog got all the press). I’ll try to remember to ask Todd next time I see him if he was familiar with Mr. Buchla’s work.

Mr. Buchala and Mr. Moog were contemporaries:

In the early ’60s, the better-known Robert Moog, who died in 2005, and Mr. Buchla arrived independently at the idea of the voltage-controlled modular synthesizer: an instrument assembled from various modules that controlled one another’s voltages to generate and shape sounds. Voltages could control pitch, volume, attack, timbre, speed and other parameters, interacting in complex ways.

Part of the reason Mr. Moog may have gotten more press was that he put keyboards on his machines. Mr. Buchla “wanted instruments that were not necessarily tied to Western scales or existing keyboard techniques. To encourage unconventional thinking, his early instruments deliberately omitted a keyboard.”

More:

Mr. Buchla’s instruments had modules with more colorful names, like Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator, Quad Dynamics Manager and, for his random-voltage noise generator, Source of Uncertainty.

Damn. I want a “Multiple Arbitrary Function Generator”.

In 1965, with $500 from a Rockefeller Foundation grant made to the Tape Music Center, the composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender commissioned Mr. Buchla to build his first voltage-controlled instrument, the original Buchla Box.
It included a module that would transform both avant-garde and popular music. Called a sequencer, it vastly expanded the concept and functionality of a tape loop by generating and repeating a chosen series of voltages, enabling it to control a recurring melody, a rhythm track or other musical elements. It would become an essential tool of electronic dance music.

Things you may have wondered about. (#5 in a series)

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Somebody asked me this question this morning, and I thought the answer was interesting enough to make for a post in this department:

What was the name of Pavlov’s dog?

Turns out “Pavlov’s dog” is actually sort of a misnomer: good old Ivan had a bunch of dogs. I’ve seen 37 in one source, and 40 in another.

But did they have names? Yes.

Eleven years ago, I began a scientific mission with a trip to Russia, to find the names of Pavlov’s dogs. My intention was to name Drosophila memory mutants after the dogs.

This is a pretty cool article that I commend to your attention (especially for the photo of the author wearing Ivan’s old top hot).

The Quora article (with appropriate citations) lists the names of all forty known dogs, Just in case you’re looking for a good name for your new puppy,

Speaking of animal behavior, I’ve been wanting to link to this, and it seems like here is a good place for it. There once was a scientist named John Bumpass Calhoun, whp specialized in studying the behavior of rats and mice.

By 1954, he was working under the auspices of the National Institute of Mental Health, which gave him whole rooms to build his mousetopias. Like a rodent real estate developer, he incorporated ever-better amenities: climbable walls, food hoppers that could serve two dozen mice at once, lodging he described as “walk-up one-room apartments.”

His ultimate experiment, Universe 25, began in 1968 with eight mice.

The mice themselves were bright and healthy, hand-picked from the institute’s breeding stock. They were given the run of the place, which had everything they might need: food, water, climate control, hundreds of nesting boxes to choose from, and a lush floor of shredded paper and ground corn cob.

The population grew to 620 in about a year.

Then, as always, things took a turn. Such rapid growth put too much pressure on the mouse way of life. As new generations reached adulthood, many couldn’t find mates, or places in the social order—the mouse equivalent of a spouse and a job. Spinster females retreated to high-up nesting boxes, where they lived alone, far from the family neighborhoods. Washed-up males gathered in the center of the Universe, near the food, where they fretted, languished, and attacked each other. Meanwhile, overextended mouse moms and dads began moving nests constantly to avoid their unsavory neighbors. They also took their stress out on their babies, kicking them out of the nest too early, or even losing them during moves.

The last mouse was born in May of 1970.

And by the way, there’s also a literary tie to this story, but you’ll have to click through for that; I won’t spoil it here.

Obit watch: September 17, 2016.

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Edward Albee, noted playwright (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”).

I remember when I was growing up in Houston, Albee came to town – I think they were doing the world premiere of one of his works at tha Alley Theatre, though I can’t for the life of me recall what it was – and it was a huge deal at the time. As a teenager, I didn’t understand why; in retrospect, it may have been that Albbe’s coming to town put sort of stamp of cultural legitimacy on the city, at a time when many people outside Houston thought of it as a grotty oil boom town.

Thing I had forgotten:

He was also involved in one of the great flops in Broadway history, becoming a script doctor for the producer David Merrick’s 1966 staging of the musical adaptation of Truman Capote’s novel “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which starred Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Chamberlain and closed on Broadway before it opened, after its fourth preview.

He also did a disastrous adaptation of “Lolita” in 1981.

The Onion A/V Club is reporting the death of noted author William Patrick Kinsella. Kinsella is perhaps most famous for the novel Shoeless Joe, which, of course, was filmed as “Field of Dreams”

(I’ve never read any of Kinsella’s work, though I’d consider it: some of the things I’ve read about his work indicate he’s more interesting and complex than those other lyrical magical baseball happy horseshit writers. I did see the movie and didn’t care much for it, but, yoy know, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.)

(Amazon also lists something called “Rice Field of Dreams”. Turns out this is a documentary about the Cambodian baseball team; whle that sounds interesting, I was thinking it was some sort of Hong Kong movie. Perhaps one of those one-eyed priest/apprentice monk things Lawrence likes, where the good guys have to use martial arts and magic to battle evil spirits. Add some sort of sports element – not necessarily baseball, maybe soccer – and I’m sure it would make money.)

Obit watch: September 7, 2016.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Leslie H. Martinson, noted television and film director.

His output in the ’70s included “Ironside,” “Love, American Style,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Room 222,” “Mannix,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Wonder Woman” and “Dallas.”

His film credits included the 1966 “Batman”.

Anna Dewdney, author of the “Llama Llama” children’s books, passed away far too young. This makes me choke up a little bit:

In lieu of a funeral, Dewdney asked that people read to children, Penguin said.

Random notes: August 6, 2016.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Two more obits: we were waiting for the NYT to do a David Huddleston obit. Now they have. And it includes a great photo of him and Cleavon Little from “Blazing Saddles”, too.

The role he said he relished most was that of Benjamin Franklin, which he played in revivals of “1776” on Broadway in 1998 and at Ford’s Theater in Washington in 2003.

Yeah, we can see that.

Also among the dead: Chris Costner Sizemore. “Who?” The actual woman who the book (and movie) The Three Faces of Eve was based on.

Her new marriage turned out to be not an ending at all; she endured a fragmented identity until the mid-1970s, seeing several psychiatrists after Thigpen and Cleckley, until, in the care of a Virginia doctor, Tony Tsitos, her personalities — not three but more than 20, it turned out — were unified.

By most accounts, for the last four decades or so, Mrs. Sizemore lived a productive and relatively serene life as a mental health advocate and painter. She died on July 24 in Ocala, Fla. She was 89. Her son, Bobby Sizemore, said she had a heart attack.

The sunny narrative of Mrs. Sizemore’s triumphant second act was called into some question in 2012, when Colin A. Ross, a psychiatrist specializing in dissociation, published a book, “The Rape of Eve,” in which he accused Dr. Thigpen of having exercised an unethical, Svengali-like influence over Mrs. Sizemore and manipulating her for nefarious purposes during and after his treatment of her ended. Dr. Thigpen died in 1999.

And by way of the Times, we learn of a new box set of “The Untouchables”.

From the Department of I Kid You Not (talking about the campaign against the show, which was considered excessively violent and anti-Italian by some):

One prominent defender was Ayn Rand, who, writing in The Los Angeles Times, characterized “The Untouchables” as “profoundly moral.” Ms. Rand was particularly taken with Mr. Stack. His “superlative portrayal of Eliot Ness” was, she declared, “the most inspiring image on today’s screen, the only image of a real hero.”

Yes, we are trying to work on the DEFCON updates.

Obit watch: August 6, 2016.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016

Joaquin Jackson passed away June 15 of this year. I did not learn of his death until I flipped through this month’s Texas Monthly at the grocery store today, and I’m not sure how I missed that. Brief tribute from TM. Statesman.

For those folks unfamiliar with Mr. Jackson, he served for 27 years as a Texas Ranger, from 1966 to 1993. His time as a Ranger spanned what I’d call the end of the old Texas and the beginning of the new Texas; the evolution from horses and cattle to technology. He retired in 1993, ostensibly because of his discomfort at changes taking place in the Rangers organization. (However, he states in one of his books that his reasons were actually more complex and personal than that.)

In 1994, he appeared on the cover of Texas Monthly as part of an article on the changes taking place in the Rangers. The cover made him an icon. He went on to do some private investigation work, and appeared in several movies.

Jackson was a member of the governing board of the National Rifle Association, once getting into hot water over remarks he made about assault weapons.
“I personally believe a weapon should never have over, as far as a civilian, a five-round capacity,” he told then-Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith in 2005. “If you’re a hunter, if you’re going to go hunting with a weapon, you shouldn’t need over but one round. So five rounds would be plenty. … Personally, I think assault weapons basically … need to be in the hands of the military and in the hands of the police.”
He later backpedaled from the remarks, claiming that he was talking only about fully automatic weapons and not about semiautomatic rifles.

I remember that controversy, and I’m convinced Jackson knew exactly what he was saying at the time and was covering his butt later. (If you doubt he knew the difference between fully automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons, read Chapter 6 of One Ranger and then try to tell me otherwise.)

He also wrote two books. One Ranger is a damn fine book. I try to snap up firsts of this every time I find them, as I am convinced this will be seen as an important Texas book in the coming years. The sequel, One Ranger Returns, had a different co-author and is not quite as good, in my humble opinion. (There are some interesting things in it; mostly background from his family.)

In spite of my disagreement with him, I would have enjoyed meeting him and shaking his hand. I missed the chance, sadly: he appeared a few times as the Texas Book Festival, but I was never able to get down there on those weekends.

His passing leaves a hole that can’t be filled.

DEFCON 24: 0-day notes.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Another year observing DEFCON remotely. Maybe next year, if I get lucky, or the year after that.

The schedule is here. If I were going, what would I go to? What gets me excited? What do I think you should look for if you are lucky enough to go?

(As a side note, one of my cow-orkers was lucky enough to get a company paid trip to Black Hat this year. I’m hoping he’ll let me make archival copies of the handouts.)

(more…)

Quote of the day.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

The first time I went to Boston was in 1989, for the Worldcon that year.

I clearly remember walking down Newbury Street and visiting a funky little mystery bookstore (and I remember Lawrence’s annoyance at me for purchasing mystery novels when we were attending a SF convention). I also remember walking into Avenue Victor Hugo Books and feeling like I was home. And I remember going up to the front counter and reading their mission statement for the first time. I don’t mind saying that it made me choke up a little bit.

Whenever I made it up to Boston after that (and I was lucky: I got up there several more times) I always visited Avenue Victor Hugo, mostly so I could pay homage to that mission statement. If they had made it available as a poster, I would have bought one and hung it in a prominent place in my home.

Sadly, they closed in 2004. I’ve tried in the intervening years to find the text of their mission statement, but didn’t have any luck until this weekend. Somehow, either I put in just the right combination of search terms for Google, or it indexed a previously un-indexed page, or something.

Anyway. Hattip on this to Confessions of a Mad Librarian.

This small outpost of civilization exists because a few people still believe in the essential freedoms guarded by the first amendment to the United States Constitution. Some people believe that government should define for us what we should be able to say, write, or read. Most people think there should be limits to such rights, but are unclear on who should have the power to dictate those limits. Most of our rights have already been traded away by those who prefer the safety of government control to the anarchy of individual freedom. Very few people understand the Faustian bargain they have made. This shop is dedicated to those who have rejected the bargain. It is open to those who might reconsider.

Obit watch: July 29, 2016.

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Jack Davis, noted Mad magazine illustrator. There are some nice examples of his work in the NYT and also in the A/V Club’s.

Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind series of books. I actually have a copy of the first book in the series, but have not yet read it.

I’ve also never seen an episode of Babylon 5, but I keep hearing that it is above average for televised SF, and people who I do respect seem fond of it. So, for the historical record: Jerry “Michael Garibaldi” Doyle.

Easier for a teenager…

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Mike the Musicologist and I found ourselves at a Barnes and Noble the other day. (Criterion Collection 50% off sale through August 1st. You’re welcome.)

For various reasons, we were flipping through the new Dana Loesch book, Flyover Nation: You Can’t Run a Country You’ve Never Been To. The jacket contains this rather pithy line:

Coastals think they understand firearms because they watched a TV movie about Columbine. Fly- overs get a deer rifle for their thirteenth birthday.

Both of us got a chuckle out of that, since we couldn’t think of anyone we knew who got a deer rifle for their thirteenth birthday. (I think I was 13 when I got my .22, but it was for Christmas. And for my readers who are not people of the gun, a .22 is way underpowered for deer. I want to say my sister’s boys were 16 and 14 when they got a deer rifle, but I’m not sure that technically qualifies as “theirs” as much as it is “Dad paid for it and loaned it to them so they could go on a youth hunting trip.”)

Anyway, I thought of that when I read this Statesman story:

Dylan Owens got his first gun when he was 12. It was a .30-30 deer rifle that cost $200, and his father taught him to shoot it. He said all the sights were “canted,” meaning the piece used to aim at targets was bent out of alignment.

Mr. Owens is now a deputy with the Bastrop County Sheriff’s office. And he just won a gold medal in the precision/sniper rifle category at the 2016 Texas Police Games.

Owens said he drove to San Angelo on a Tuesday after work, with his Mark 12 special-purpose rifle and no air conditioning. He slept about two hours the night before his competition, when he went in and shot at 1-inch laser points on a human silhouette, in a timed, 20-shot course aimed at precision. He was positioned 100 to 200 meters from his targets.
On a regular day at his ranch in La Grange, he can hit from 600 meters.
Owens also took home a third place prize in patrol rifle, a five-hour course where he ran from bay to bay shooting enemy targets and avoiding friendly fire.

Cool story. Cool guy. I’d love to meet him somewhere with air conditioning and buy him a couple/three frosty beverages of his choice.