Archive for December, 2009


Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Mike Leach is now officially gone.

In February, Leach and the school agreed to a five-year, $12.7 million contract. According to terms of the deal, Leach was due a $800,000 bonus on Dec. 31 if he were still the head coach at Texas Tech

For the record, here’s a link to the Texas Monthly cover story from earlier this year. (Link does require registration; may work.)

Here’s a longish “web extra”,  also from TM that doesn’t require registration.

The local Lubbock paper appears to be slammed right now.

My view? I’m not a huge Tech or Leach fan, but I need to see more evidence before believing he did something wrong (for reasons I outlined yesterday). This sounds to me more like a power struggle, combined with disappointment over an 8-4 season, combined with not wanting to pay a huge bonus.

The curse continues.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach hasn’t been fired yet.

But he has been suspended. The father of one of his players is accusing Leach of treating his son in an abusive and improper fashion after the player suffered a concussion and couldn’t practice.

(The player in question, Adam James, is the son of Craig James, an ESPN announcer.)

I have a feeling this is going to turn into a strange story. First of all, there’s the whole “he said, he said” aspect to it; I find it very hard to believe that, after all the attention being given to concussions at the pro level, any coach who wanted to keep his job would pull this kind of crap. Add to that the involvement of an ESPN staffer (Tech is playing on Saturday in the Alamo Bowl, which is being broadcast by ESPN), stir, and we have a mess.

Saturday Dining Conspiracy updates.

Monday, December 28th, 2009
  • Added November and October of 2009.

Weapon test and evaluation: NERF N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25

Friday, December 25th, 2009
Caliber 10 mm x 70 mm NERF
Operation Electric (full-auto) or pneumatic (pump)
Cyclic rate 180 rpm (depending on charge)
Feed 25 round belt
Weight 7.5 lbs
Dimensions 30.5” long x 8.5” high x 14” wide (without tripod)
Barrel Smoothbore
Barrel length 12.5”
Sights Post front, limited adjustment for elevation; fixed notch rear
Finish Orange and yellow
Furniture Plastic
Optional accessories Tactical rail accommodates N-Strike line
Price $54 (MSRP), $40 (street)
Manufacturer Hasbro

The  Nerf N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25 is Hasbro’s first attempt at a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). It was a surprise to many people that a company specializing in handguns and rifles, with no previous experience in the full-auto realm, would even compete for the contract, and there was considerable controversy when Hasbro won the competition. Our testing and evaluation showed many rough edges on the EBF-25; we hope that these are just early production issues that will be ironed out in the field.



Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Seriously? Otters? In your cargo hold? It’s more likely than you think.

Warren Beatty dies at the end.

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Obit watch: Loren Singer, author of The Parallax View, which was adapted into an Alan J. Pakula directed movie.

Giggle. Snort.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Remember the drunk woman from Wimberly who walked into the offices of Triton Financial brandishing a gun and a bottle of wine? Remember that I noted Trition Financial had an interesting history?

That history just got more interesting; the SEC is suing them for securities fraud, and the State of Texas is attempting to revoke their investment advisor registration. I expect this to be an amusing show.

Edited to add: Oh, look, a link from the HouChron. A rather short link, but it does mention the SI article. You know, this one. The one that the Statesman article ignores. Even though one of the co-authors of the Statesman article (the Stateman‘s golf blogger) took the trouble to interview Trition Financial officials and provide their rebuttal after the SI article ran. Nor does the Statesman mention the drunk woman from Wimberly. Interesting lack of context there, guys.

More brains!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

More Henry Molaison brains, even. But this NYT article is mostly about the mechanics of brain sectioning.

The blade peeled off the top layer, rolling it up in slow motion like a slice of pale prosciutto.

Did they really have to say “prosciutto“?

To prepare a brain for dissection, Dr. Annese first freezes it in a formaldehyde and sucrose solution, to about minus 40 degrees Celsius. The freezing in the case of H. M. was done over four hours, a few degrees at a time: the brain, like most things, becomes more brittle when frozen. It can crack.

I think I had one of those sucrose solutions the other day from Sonic, and yes, my brain did feel like it was going to crack.

An entire brain produces some 2,500 slices, and the amount of information in each one, once microscopic detail is added, will fill about a terabyte of computer storage.

Earlier in the article, it states that the slices are 70 microns thick, so that implies the brain is about 6.8 inches from the very top to wherever the researchers are stopping; but it isn’t clear how far down they’re going. Are they going to section just the lobes, include the cerebellum, or go all the way down into the medulla?

It’s kind of neat to think that all of that data can fit on a single $69 hard drive from Fry’s. (I hope they’ve got RAID. And backups. And restores.)

Word of the day: simony.

Monday, December 21st, 2009

No, simony isn’t what happens when you finish in third place on Jeopardy and your consolation prize is a year’s supply of Simoniz.

n.  The buying or selling of ecclesiastical pardons, offices, or emoluments.

I hadn’t heard of anyone being charged with simony since Martin Luther and the Reformation. At least, until yesterday:

Simony was a common transgression in the Middle Ages, when simonists were condemned to hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” The modern consequences aren’t quite so dire, but in the most serious cases they can include a priest’s suspension.

Suspension? I would have expected excommunication.

Open thread: Christmas music that drives you nuts.

Friday, December 18th, 2009

The umpteenth repitition of “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” last night started me thinking, and I figured I’d do an open thread: what holiday music do you particularly loathe?

My thoughts, other than the aforementioned tripe (Hannah Montana did a cover? We are doomed, doomed I tell you!):

  • “Wonderful Christmastime”. Never been a real big fan of Paul McCartney solo. Sorry.
  • I don’t really care that much for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, but if you look into the history of the song, the original lyrics are actually much more suited for the present.
  • I actually kind of like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”, in an ironic “This is so bad, it’s almost good” campy hipster way. I’d punctuate that statement by slamming back a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, but I don’t have one on hand right now.
  • Edited to add: I say this as someone who likes Springsteen; that version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is tiresome.
  • One that I actually like: on my home machine, I have a wonderful cover of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” sung to the tune of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but Google doesn’t turn up a link. Any help here?

So, dear readers, what songs would you like to see kicked around the Christmas tree until they stop twitching?

Random notes: December 18th, 2009.

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Someone swiped the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign (which weighs 90 pounds and is 16 feet long) from in front of Auchwitz. This is the kind of work that doesn’t set you free; this gets you a short term in a pound you in the ass prison, and a long term in one of the lower circles of Dante’s Hell.

Three from the NYT:

  • Obit watch: C.D.B. Bryan, author of  Friendly Fire.

    He will be cremated in advance of a memorial service early next year, St. George Bryan added; until then, his remains are to be stored in martini shakers.

  • A touching and sad article about a retired policeman in Japan who spends his days trying to keep people from killing themselves.

    Mr. Shige and a group of volunteers he put together have saved 222 people so far, a tally that has made Mr. Shige a national figure in a country that often seems apathetic about its high rate of self-destruction. But he has also met with criticism from a conformist society that can look dimly on people who draw attention by engaging in activism, even of the most humanitarian kind.

  • Finally, on a much happier note, a review of “Chestnuts Roasting on the Flaming Idiots“. I saw one of their “last” shows at Zach Scott a few years back, and it wasn’t what I expected; I was totally blown away, not only because they’re talented performers, but their performance style is clearly influenced by people like Ricky Jay. I’m delighted to hear that they’re back; even better, they’re coming back to Austin.

How not to sell books.

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

ABEBooks sent me another spam email about their “Weird Book Room” and, like an idiot, I clicked through to take a look at the titles. Now that they’ve made me cranky and irritable, you get to benefit from my rant.

It seems to me that there’s quite a bit of condescension in the whole idea of the Weird Book Room. But worse yet, there doesn’t seem to be any logic or reason to what they consider weird. It appears to be based on reader suggestions, but it doesn’t look like anyone made any attempt to impose any kind of filter or sense on the whole affair. Some examples:

  • What’s Wrong With My Snake? A User-Friendly Home Medical Reference Manual . I’m sure this seems “weird” to ABEBooks patrons, but here’s a hot news flash; some people keep snakes as pets. Perhaps they could use a quick reference health guide as much as dog and cat owners.
  • The Social History of the Machine Gun. I own this and have read it. Ellis’s book is a highly regarded and well-written work of history, and one I frequently see referenced in footnotes for other books I own.
  • Taming a Liger: Unexpected Spiritual Lessons from Napoleon Dynamite. Not really interested in this book, but how is it any weirder than other books about the science and/or philosophy of “The Simpsons”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Star Trek”, etc.?
  • Nuclear War: What’s in it for You?. It’s easy to laugh at this now, but I remember when this book came out. I didn’t agree with the message, or the movement, but it was at least a serious attempt to advance a point of view on a subject that many people were concerned about.
  • Impeccable Birdfeeding. I haven’t read this, but I have read some of Adler’s other books, like Outwitting Squirrels and Outwitting Deer (the latter of which contains the classic quote, “Deer are just very large squirrels.”); he’s a talented author, and a book about birdfeeding and birdfeeder maintenance doesn’t trip my weird button.
  • The History of Torture. Have it, have read the first couple of chapters. A popular work of history by a well-respected author.
  • The How and Why Wonder Book of Guns. This is the one that really set me off. I owned a whole crapload of the “How and Why Wonder Books” when I was a kid, and this was probably my favorite of the lot. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll order a replacement copy for myself after Christmas. I can’t see anything wrong with a book for the intelligent child that discusses the various kinds of firearms, the history of firearms development, how guns work, and gun safety. Unless, of course, you’re the kind of yuppie East Cost liberal who thinks kids shouldn’t even know that guns exist.
  • Then there’s actual bestsellers like How To Survive a Robot Uprising and The Pop-Up Book of Phobias.

There are some legitimately weird books in the list, to be sure. Of course, some of those “weird” books are esoteric works intended for a limited audience (I’m not really interested in Jewish Chess Masters on Stamps, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that there’s probably considerable overlap in the Venn diagram of stamp collectors, chess players, and Jews.) and some of them are by people who are clearly batshit crazy (which gives me the uncomfortable sensation of “Hey, let’s go poke the crazy person with sticks!”).

It just grates on my nerves.

(In case you didn’t notice, all but the first link go to Amazon, because why should I give ABEBooks any more traffic?)