Archive for October, 2009

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

I am not sure why this story is in the Statesman rather than the HouChron. However, the Statesman has decided to acknowledge the 35th anniversary of Ronald Clark O’Bryan’s murder of his son.

This happened shortly after my family moved to Texas. I remember reading about it in the Chron at the time, and the story still makes me angry.

“This guy had never had anything but a parking ticket in his life,” he said. “So how did the evidence support that he wasn’t capable of rehabilitation?”

Well, gee, Clyde, I don’t know. Maybe because the evidence shows he killed his own kid for the insurance money – and, by the way, also tried to kill four other kids to cover his tracks?

I’ve mentioned this at least once before, but, for the record, here’s one of my favorite Halloween stories.

Edited to add: I’m going to throw this in, for the benefit of Andrew and other folks who don’t read SlashDot; a pretty good explanation of what’s going on with the Bay Bridge, complete with photos and diagrams.

Edited to add 2: When I clicked through to this article on the NYT website, the Times decided to display an ad …for Brighton Beach Memoirs. And as a libertarian who eats out a lot, I don’t see a damn thing wrong with this list, except maybe that the people who need it the most are also the least likely to read it.

Random notes: October 28, 2009.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The NYT has an interesting article about Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame) and how he’s changed after the death of his father.

This has been linked elsewhere, but I wanted to throw this up mostly for Andrew: local coverage of the SF Bay Bridge closure.

I’ve also been meaning to note the unfortunate incident on I-40, mostly because I’ve been somewhat baffled by it; however, the linked article helps make a little more sense of it. It looks like the slide is in an area that’s not easily accessible to the heavy equipment needed to remove the rocks; it also looks like NCDOT is going to want to spend some time stabilizing the slope, and then you’ve got to make sure the road bed is in good shape…

Tim Page has been popping up a lot recently as I make my rounds; first (by way of Jimbo) on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, then in an online chat at the WP. For those who are unfamiliar with Mr. Page, he’s a former classical music critic at the WP (and winner of the Pulitzer for criticism in 1997) who briefly became notorious for going off on Marion Barry’s aides after they kept spamming him. (“Must we hear about it every time this crack addict attempts to rehabilitate himself with some new and typically half-witted political grandstanding? “)

Page has a new book out, Parallel Play, about discovering fairly late in life (age 45) that he had Asperger’s Syndrome. The Gross interview is particuarly interesting, as it concentrates on Page’s relationship with the music of minimalist composers such as Reich, Riley, and Glass. I’m wondering if there’s something specific about minimalist music that connects with Aspergerians and, perhaps, with the autistic as well. (As we know, Bob, much of the spoken text of “Einstein on the Beach” was written by the autistic Christopher Knowles.) I am curious to see if Oliver Sacks has any thoughts on the subject; I’m also interested in reading Page’s book.

(Before anyone asks: I have Look Me in the Eye on my stack to read, and will probably get to it eventually. I’ve been a little put off by the fact that Robison’s brother is Augusten Burroughs, of Running with Scissors fame.)

Your loser update: week 7.

Monday, October 26th, 2009

There’s not a whole lot to say at this point: Tennessee lost to the bye week, Tampa flew to London to get beat (thanks to Andrew for pointing that out), the Rams didn’t go anywhere and still got beat, and Jim Zorn is still employed at Washington (this could change after tonight).

NFL teams that still have a chance to go 0-16:

Tennessee (bye week)


St. Louis

Academic update: Fall 2009.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I seem to recall mentioning previously that the semester had wrapped, at least for me.

Before I left for work this morning, I checked my email and found that one of my professors had posted the final grades in her class. Which is a good thing; after all, it isn’t like I’ve spent most of the past week and a half checking the grades online three or four or five times a day. At least, not only because of that class…

Short summary: A in the speech class, A in the SQL Server admin class, the 4.0 GPA streak continues.

(I’m still looking forward to reading the speech prof’s comments on my final presentation.)

Random notes: October 22, 2009.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Today’s NYT continues covering the Sedona sweat lodge incident:

Dr. Bunn, who had signed up for the $9,695 “spiritual warrior” experience

It must be nice to have more money than sense.

A psychic in Waynesville, N.C., Page Bryant, who was among the first to claim in the 1980s that Sedona had several “vortexes” of high energy — the initial lure for the legions of seekers — said that she became fed up and left nearly two decades ago “because of the craziness I saw going on in the New Age community.”

Wow. When the crazy people think you’re too crazy, maybe that’s a sign.

…the comments of a self-described “channeler” who visited Angel Valley after the retreat. Claiming to have communicated with the dead, the channeler said they had left their bodies in the sweat lodge and chosen not to come back because “they were having so much fun.”

Also in the NYT, the latest “trend” story: the return of the restaurant matchbook.

On the “Art, damn it, art!” front, here’s the LAT on the art in front of the new LAPD headquarters building. I’m thinking #4 in the slide show looks a lot like someone with their head buried in the sand.

In local news, some folks in the neighborhood are trying to get TABC to pull the liquor and operating licenses for the Nutty Brown Cafe. I drive past the Nut on a fairly regular basis; it isn’t like there’s a whole lot out there. Additionally, my great and good friends Andrew and the actor we’ve hired to play Karl play live music at the Nut from time to time, and I do kind of like the food there (we had a dining conspiracy there recently, and I have to say my opinion was a minority one) so I’m not exactly sympathetic to these complaints.

MIT OpenCourseWare: 6.00, the home game (Part 1).

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

School has wrapped up for the semester, at least for me. (Yes, I’m aware it is mid-October. Yes, I’m aware normal people are dealing with mid-terms. What can I say; that’s the way the St. Ed’s New College schedule worked out this time around.)

Now that I’ve got some free time, I can engage in some useful projects, like more Project e work (I’ve got a long multi-part post in the works that I hope to finish soon), updating the SDC pages, and perhaps some outside study.

I’ve written here before about the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative, and I decided this would be as good a time as any to start working through 6.00, “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming“. As I was reviewing the various readings, a thought came to me.

“Hey,” I said to myself, “wouldn’t it be nifty to blog this as you’re taking it?”

“That’s a definition of ‘nifty’ I was previously unaware of,” I responded.

“It’d give you some motivation,” I said.

“Why am I talking to myself?” I responded.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Have you considered medication?”

Anyway, my need for psychotropic medications aside, this seems like a good idea, if only to give my loyal readers something to laugh at. So…

Lecture 1.

Course readings.

Getting Started: Python and IDLE.

Problem set 1.

My code for problem set 1. (This has been tested on Project e with Python 2.6.2, on the MacBook with Python 2.5, and on the Nokia with Python 2.5.2. I haven’t tested it on my work machine yet.)

Comments on my code or coding style are welcome; as a matter of fact, they are downright encouraged.

Obit watch.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Howard Unruh finally died at the age of 88.

Unruh is mostly forgotten today; on September 6, 1949, he went on a shooting spree and killed 13 people before he was finally taken down. Unruh never stood trial; he was found to be insane and spent the rest of his life in confinement.

The Times obit does include a link to Meyer Burger’s story for the paper; that story won Burger the Pulitizer Prize for local reporting, and is also reprinted in the Library of America True Crime collection.

Edited to add: Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind has an excellent (and far more thoughtful) post up as well.

Your loser update: week 6.

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

The WP is reporting that Jim Zorn is no longer going to call plays; that duty will be turned over to someone to be named on Monday. I expect that Jim Zorn will no longer be employed by the Redskins as of Monday. Seriously, dude, you got beat by Kansas City?

On the other hand, I expect Jeff Fisher to stay employed at least until the end of the season; I believe he’s built up enough credibility with his past performance to be able to ride things out that long, even after being blown out 59-0.

Anyway, NFL teams that still have a chance to go 0-16:



St. Louis

Living on a prayer.

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

NBC, the 4th place network, and the home of Jay Leno in primetime, has named Jon Bon Jovi “artist in residence“.

Over the next two months Mr. Bon Jovi, whose new album, “The Circle,” will be released on Nov. 10, will be seen exclusively on shows on outlets owned by NBC Universal. These appearances will include the “Today” show, “The Tonight Show,” “The Jay Leno Show” and “Saturday Night Live” — and even an interview on the “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams. Mr. Bon Jovi also will appear on “Inside the Actors Studio” on the Bravo channel of NBC Universal.

I haven’t had enough coffee yet, so write your own joke.

Another one.

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

An impassioned review of Escape From LA, written in anger shortly after Lawrence and I returned from a free screening.

I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I remember Escape From New York fondly. It was a stupid, cheesy action flick, but it wasn’t without style or wit.
Then I saw the trailer for Escape From L.A., and was amused: I admit, I was looking forward to this movie. When I managed to score tickets to a free sneak preview, well…I went.
And I suffered for your sins.


Seasons In Hell: a review.

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Written a long time ago (back when the book was first released in hardcover). Reposted because I’m still rather fond of the book, and of the review.

Title: Seasons in Hell: With Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and “The Worst Baseball Team in History”-The 1973-1975 Texas Rangers
Author: Mike Shropshire
Publisher: Donald I. Fine/Penguin
ISBN: 1-55611-495-8
Price: $23.95

I hate baseball.
Actually, that’s not completely fair. I loathe baseball with the same level of intensity that I loathe whole tomatoes, Sarah and James Brady and their merry little gun-banning bund, and the various infestations of Star Trek. I look forward to the day (may it come soon) when I can piss on the metaphorical grave of the soon-to-be-ex Houston Astros: indeed, I look forward to the day when organized baseball in this country finally collapses under the accumulated weight of its own sheer stupidity.
In short, I am not a baseball fan.


Art, damn it, art! watch. (#2 in a series)

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Our great and good friend Mike points us to this artnet article about Damien Hirst’s “No Love Lost: Blue Paintings” exhibition.

As everyone must know by now, he has made these paintings himself, at an easel with paints and brushes, a fact that is remarkable for being remarkable.

Mr. Hirst is, as many of you know, the artist responsible for “The golden calf”  (“calf, 18 carat gold, glass, gold-plated steel, silicone and formaldehyde solution with Carrara marble plinth”) and “The kingdom” (“tiger shark, glass, steel, silicone and formaldehyde solution with steel plinth”).