Archive for February, 2010

Art, damn it, art! watch (#3 in a series).

Friday, February 26th, 2010

One after the next, they trudged through the horizontal-blowing snow on Thursday, most focusing more on the icy sidewalk than on the body of a naked woman, who stood in a gallery window in Greenwich Village.

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna polka.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a libertarian  (well, 99 44/100ths percent libertarian). For that reason, I fully support the arrest and prosecution of people who make polka videos; I believe the production of said videos violates the non-aggression axiom, much like the production of bagpipe recordings.

(Hattip: Balko.)

“Would you say the time has come for us to crack open each other’s heads and feast on the tasty goo inside?”

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

As of this moment (7:55 AM Central) snow is falling outside my office window.

This means, of course, that we’re all going to die!

More later.

Edited to add: Statesman. Photo and video to come.

ETA2: More Statesman:

A large band of snow, which should bring more consistent snowfall, is expected to arrive mid-afternoon in Travis and Williamson counties, with snowfall subsiding sometime between late afternoon and after midnight.

But we are getting non-stop flights to Branson. I confess; I’m tempted to take advantage of the $49 special and blog the experience.

ETA3: Did you know “Nanook of the North” was public domain?

Book notes: February 22, 2010.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Kim Stanley Robinson in the LAT.

Slate has an interesting article by Deborah Blum about the government’s deliberate poisoning of alcohol during Prohibition. Based on Sarah Weinman’s recommendation, I had already ordered The Poisoner’s Handbook; reading Blum’s Slate piece makes me even more happy I did so.

Edited to add: Lawrence suggests that I may have seen this on Megan McArdle’s blog. I honestly do not remember where I ran across Blum’s piece first; it is a top-billed story on Slate at the moment. But I’m always happy to give a hattip to my favorite Certified Netware Engineer.

Edited to add 2: I missed this story over the weekend; The Last Train from Hiroshima appears to have some problems. As in, one of the author’s sources seems to be a liar. (Hattip: Insta.)

Obit watch.

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

General Alexander M. Haig, Jr. (United States Army, ret.) (Washington Post.)

I always felt Haig got a bum rap for his actions when Reagan was shot.

He knew, Reagan’s aide Lyn Nofziger once said, that “the third paragraph of his obit” would detail his conduct in the hours after President Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981.

Actually, the NYT waits until paragraph four, though that particular statement does come at the end of the third paragraph.

If the NYT obit is to be believed, he wasn’t much of a politician, and managed to irritate a lot of folks. But Ace of Spades has a good post up on Haig’s military record. He served his country with honor in Korea and Vietnam, which is not something I believe was as well known as it should have been.

Random notes: February 19, 2010.

Friday, February 19th, 2010

For my readers outside of Austin, here’s a link to the Statesman‘s second day coverage of yesterday’s attack.

And here’s a link to a slightly better obit for Jim Bibby from the NYT.

Breaker, breaker.

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A small plane has hit an office building in North Austin.

The Echelon building complex is where the St. Edward’s Professional Education Center (PEC) is located; I have classes there, and the PEC building is also the location of the local FBI office. According to the current Statesman reporting, the plane actually hit a building in the complex next to the one the PEC uses.

Edited to add: The Statesman is now quoting the FAA as saying this was “a criminal act”.

Edited to add 2: Unconfirmed speculation is that the pilot was a man named Joseph Stack. There’s an anti-IRS rant/suicide note posted here. The domain shows in WHOIS as being registered to a Joe Stack in San Marcos, TX.

Edited to add 3: Here’s a link to Internet Archive versions of the web pages.

Edited to add 4: Some people, mostly on the website, are posting what purports to be information about the pilot. I haven’t been able to confirm any of what’s been posted either in the FAA database or the one at The FAA hasn’t released the plane’s tail number yet, so I haven’t been able to check the registration.

Edited to add 5: The Statesman is now stating that Joseph Andrew Stack is confirmed as the pilot. Apparently Stack also set his house on fire before flying into the building. I have not been able to find a pilot named Joseph Stack or Andrew Stack in the FAA database for Texas and California. The FAA is stating the plane came out of an airport in Georgetown, but they still have not released the tail number.

Poor po-po.

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Kevin Leverenz, a sergeant with the Austin Police Department, is going to be promoted to lieutenant.

That’s good news, right? Certainly it is for Sgt. Leverenz. Not so much so for Chief Art Acevedo. You see, Chief Acevedo denied Sgt. Leverenz the promotion; however, the chief’s decision was overturned by an arbitrator.

Even better, this is the second time an arbitrator has overturned a promotion decision by Chief Acevedo in the past two months.

Acevedo said the ruling was based on a technicality, not the merits of his decision.

What, pray tell, was that technicality?

According to Miller’s ruling, Acevedo promoted Leverenz to lieutenant in June, the same day that City Council members cut several vacant positions amid budget reductions.

To legally slash those jobs, however, the city had to first promote officers into those vacancies — state civil service law said they were legally entitled to the jobs — then demote them and place their names on a list for reinstatement.

Leverenz’s lawyer Stribling argued that Leverenz could not be legally bypassed for promotion in November once he had already been elevated a rank and was on that reinstatement list.

So it appears the “technicality” was that he had already been promoted, then the chief changed his mind and tried to yank the promotion. And this is such a minor “technicality” that the arbitrator didn’t even wait for a hearing; he issued his decision weeks in advance of the scheduled hearing, based only on the documents filed by both sides. Some “technicality”.

Now, to be fair to the chief, it looks like there are some questions about Leverenz’s record, and it is possible to argue that he shouldn’t have been promoted in the first place. (To be fair to Leverenz, it is also possible that the charges outlined in the Statesman are trumped-up.)


According to Miller’s ruling, city officials also argued that Acevedo was not responsible for knowledge about Leverenz’s performance and discipline history when he promoted him in June.

What? What?! I cannot believe the chief of police seriously made that argument. “Well, I’m not responsible for knowing the record of my officers before I make promotion decisions.”

That’s over the line.

Random notes: February 17, 2010.

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Since I have been critical of the NYT in the past, it seems only fair to note when they’ve done something right (in my humble opinion):

The Times has no intention of changing its approach: report results as soon as it can, as prominently as they deserve. “Our job is to report the news,” said Tom Jolly, the sports editor. He said NBC “has made a business decision to show the highlights on a taped basis. We’re not beholden to presenting the news the way NBC does.”

I think the question of “Do the results of sporting events count as ‘news’?” is perhaps worth discussing in more detail, but I still praise the NYT for taking this stand.

Obit watch: Jim Bibby, former pitcher for various teams including the Texas Rangers in those great early days. Bibby actually pitched the first no-hitter in Rangers history; he’s also one of the many memorable characters in Seasons in Hell. (What can I say? I love that book.)

Adult content after the jump…


What is the work of bookstores in this country?

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

In general, I don’t like telling people “Go over to this other guy’s blog and read his stuff”, especially when that’s instead of actual content. In this specific case, however, it will help considerably with context if you read Andy Ihnatko’s blog post about the City Lights bookstore historical reenactment and the comments on that post.

Still with me? Good.

My first reaction to this post was, “Yeah, Andy! Stick it to those snobbish bastids!” My second reaction was great annoyance at some of the comments, especially the one about City Lights as a bookstore with a “strong curatorial voice”. My third reaction was, “Wait a minute, do some of these people have a point?” This post is an attempt to work through those reactions.


Random notes: February 15, 2010.

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Longer NYT obit for Dick Francis, as promised.

Also among the dead: Doug Fieger, lead singer for The Knack and co-author of “My Sharona“.

By way of Lawrence, we note this LAT article about a new collection of work by St. Clair McKelway, longtime New Yorker writer.

For 37 years, McKelway was one of the New Yorker’s most prolific and inventive nonfiction writers. In his time, he was regarded as a master of the long-form profile, a superior chronicler of rapscallions and low-rent hustlers. Indeed, when he was on his game, McKelway might have been the best nonfiction writer the magazine had — this at a time when Liebling, Mitchell and E.J. Kahn Jr. were also producing signature work.

Yes, I will be purchasing this.

What are the costs of green energy?

A plan to boost Austin’s reliance on renewable energy would make it one of the nation’s greenest cities. That stature, however, comes at a cost: Bills would increase an estimated 20 percent over the next decade.

Edited to add: Today’s update from the Department of WTF: A French judge has issued an arrest warrant for Floyd Landis. Apparently, the judge wants to question him about an alleged computer hacking incident.

Today’s update from the Department of WTF, part 2: Dave Eggers can’t understand why Gourmet was shut down.

“It’s impossible” that Gourmet magazine wasn’t profitable, Eggers said, referring to the popular magazine Conde Nast shut down last year.  “It’s impossible that you have a million subscribers paying 50 bucks a year and it can’t work.”

$50 a year? No, Dave. $15 a year is more like it. I think I paid $12 for a year when I subscribed.

Nets watch: At the All-Star break, the Nets are 4-48, for an 0.077 percentage. For the 82 game season, that works out to a projected 6.314 wins.

Obit watch.

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Lawrence mentioned this to me a few days ago, but I wanted to have something better to point at than word of mouth: Philip Klass, who wrote SF under the name William Tenn, died on the 7th.

I wasn’t all that familiar with Tenn’s work, though I read “The Liberation of Earth” a long time ago in a Jerry Pournelle anthology and rather liked it; I always intended to ask Tenn, if I ever met him, if that story was inspired by a Bill Mauldin cartoon. And if anyone has any of the NESFA press collections they want to sell at a reasonable price, please contact me.

The NYT is also reporting the passing of Dick Francis, noted jockey turned even more noted mystery writer. If I can, I’ll try to link to a better obit tomorrow.