Cray Cray.

January 18th, 2018

When I was younger, I desperately wanted a desktop Cray.

Moore’s Law and all that (stuff), but this really brings home how much things have changed in (mumble mumble) years:

TMQ Watch: January 16, 2018.

January 18th, 2018

Yes, we know, we’re way late. It doesn’t have anything to do with something we’ll get to in a moment. It’s just been a matter of it being relatively cold here in the greater Austin metroplex. And like a giant lizard or some other cold-blooded animal, we’ve been curling up and conserving body heat. (We also fell into a time sink Tuesday night reading the archives of Damn Interesting. But that’s another story.)

But the cold spell is starting to break. After the jump, this week’s TMQ. Plus: viewer mail!

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Obit watch: January 18, 2018.

January 18th, 2018

Dan Gurney, one of the all-time great racing drivers.

In all, according to All American Racers, Gurney drove in 312 races in 20 countries in 51 makes of cars. He won 51 races, including seven in Indy cars and five in Nascar Winston Cup stock cars (all five in 500-mile races in Riverside, Calif.). He twice finished second in the Indianapolis 500.

…alternating with his fellow American driver A. J. Foyt, he won the 24 Hours of LeMans in France in a Ford prototype. It was the first time in that race’s 45-year history that it had been won by an American driver in an American car.
A week after that, Gurney won the Grand Prix of Belgium in a 416-horsepower American Eagle, a car he had designed and built himself. He was the first American in 46 years to win a world championship race in an American car.

Like Steve McQueen…

January 15th, 2018

Hand to God, when I mentioned Steve McQueen cosplay yesterday, I had no idea this was a thing.

Remember the Titans?

January 15th, 2018

They lost to New England on Saturday.

And head coach Mike Mularkey was fired today.

The Titans finished with a 9-7 regular-season record for the second consecutive season, reached the playoffs for the first time in nine years and won a postseason game for the first time in 14 years, rallying from an 18-point deficit to stun the Chiefs, 22-21, in a wild card game in Kansas City.

He was 21-22 overall.

Obit watch: January 14, 2018.

January 14th, 2018

Some more from the past couple of days:

Keith Jackson, legendary announcer.

Edgar Ray Killen is burning in Hell.

David Toschi passed away a week ago Saturday. FotB RoadRich mentioned this to me in the middle of the week – he saw it on a low-rent cable channel – but I had a lot of trouble finding a good obit. I couldn’t find the actual obit on SFGate: I was only able to get at an arthive.org version.

Anyway, “David who”? He was a famous San Francisco PD detective. He was one of the lead investigators on the Zodiac killings.

He was removed from the case after revelations that in 1976 he had sent several letters praising his own work to a San Francisco newspaper writer under fake names.
“It was a foolish thing to do,” he acknowledged at the time.

I don’t remember where I picked up this detail (maybe in the archive.org version), but that “newspaper writer” the NYT doesn’t name? Armistead Maupin, who was working as a reporter for the SF Chron at the time.

But that wasn’t the only reason he was semi-famous, at least among us common sewers connoisseurs:

Mr. Toschi was a personality in the police department even before his involvement with the Zodiac case, so much so that Steve McQueen had borrowed from him for the fictional police officer he played in the 1968 movie “Bullitt.”
“They literally were filming in my dad’s office,” Ms. Toschi-Chambers said. “My dad took off his jacket, and Steve McQueen said, ‘What is that?’ And my dad said, ‘That’s my holster.’ And Steve McQueen told the director, ‘I want one of those.’ ”

(I wonder what that holster was: and if it’s out of production, how much do vintage ones go for? There’s a discussion on defensivecarry.com, but I can’t judge how accurate it is.)

Clint Eastwood also drew on Mr. Toschi for his portrayal of the title character in “Dirty Harry,” Don Siegel’s influential 1971 movie about a San Francisco police inspector, Harry Callahan, who hunts a psychopathic killer. Mr. Toschi, though, was bothered by Callahan’s penchant for administering his own brand of justice. He is said to have walked out of a screening of the movie, which was released when the Zodiac investigation was in full swing.

(Damn shame. He missed out. And I still haven’t seen “Zodiac”.)

Edited to add: this might lead to a longer post later, but: there are certainly worse hobbies in the world than engaging in Steve McQueen cosplay. Though I will concede that could get expensive quick, especially if you go full “Bullitt” and start looking for a Mustang.

Don’t forget your mittens.

January 12th, 2018

Apropos of nothing in particular:

(Subject line hattip.)

Knife porn.

January 11th, 2018

Neat profile in the HouChron of Dr. Stephen Pustilnik, who is:

  • a forensic pathologist
  • an amateur chef, and
  • a custom knife maker, who specializes in knives for chefs and forensic pathologists.

As he cooked his way through medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, he realized that his success in both the kitchen and the lab depended on knife quality. His stiff steel chef knives severed animal flesh with ease, but the dull, flexible blades used in the morgue slipped against human organs and made dissections difficult.

Pustilnik, after spending years examining human bodies, speaks easily of the particular mechanics of the hands. He measures his customers’ palms and observes where the metacarpophalangeal joints – the hinges at the knuckles – rest on a knife handle.
The goal, he said, is for the chef to focus solely on the food, not the way the knife feels.
“When the hand and the blade come together in an ergonomic way, it’s seamless,” he said. “It’s just the chef executing his vision.”

TMQ Watch: January 9, 2018.

January 10th, 2018

We’ve finished the first week of the playoffs. Would you expect TMQ to be longer, shorter, or about the same?

We expected shorter. We got “about the same”: almost 5,200 words by our count. Of which the first 1,600 (nearly 31%) are devoted to one theme, which we can summarize in four words.

After the jump, this week’s TMQ

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You’re going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena! (#45 in a series)

January 10th, 2018

Pamela Harris, a Brooklyn assemblywoman, was indicted yesterday.

…accused of four counts of making false statements, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of bankruptcy fraud, and a single count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, witness tampering and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to Richard P. Donoghue, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Ms. Harris is a “retired New York City correction officer” who took office in 2015. She is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, but it sounds like her fraud was wide-ranging, and the prosecution has plenty of evidence:

In one scheme, authorities accused Ms. Harris of trying to capitalize on a natural disaster, improperly receiving nearly $25,000 in federal funds by falsely claiming that she had been displaced from her Coney Island home by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In another, she is accused of siphoning money from a nonprofit she ran to pay her mortgage, take vacations and shop at Victoria’s Secret, according to the indictment.

The charges suggest a striking degree of planning and elaborate attempts to cover up illegal actions. Prosecutors said, for example, that Ms. Harris used a forged lease to draw down discretionary funds from the City Council, money that was supposed to be used to rent a studio space for the nonprofit, which seeks to involve children and young adults in the arts. Instead, Ms. Harris diverted the money to her personal checking account. All told, some $35,000 was received in two separate instances using such funds, prosecutors said.
In the Hurricane Sandy scheme, Ms. Harris is accused of creating fake lease agreements and receipts, and forging a landlord’s signature, to receive housing assistance money from FEMA for 14 months after the storm, a ploy that she also used to receive financial assistance to repair her Coney Island home in 2016. And once she became aware of a federal investigation last year, Ms. Harris told potential witnesses to lie to federal agents, the authorities said.

(Hattip to Mike the Musicologist, who pointed out that the NYPost coverage waits until paragraph 21 to mention Ms. Harris’s party affiliation. Say what you will about the NYT, but they got that into paragraph 2.)

Obit watch: January 8, 2018.

January 8th, 2018

A roundup of obits from the past couple of days:

John Young, Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle astronaut. NASA.

Jerry Van Dyke, noted television actor (“My Mother the Car”).

Peggy Cummins. She’s mostly forgotten now – she stopped acting in the 1960s – but she was the female lead opposite John Dall in the famous 1950 noir film “Gun Crazy”.

Start with a badass, end with a badass: Ulrich Wegener, founder of the German Border Protection Group 9 (aka Grenzschutzgruppe 9):

The unit, also known as GSG-9, was created after the September 1972 attack on the Summer Olympics in Munich, when Palestinian militants kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes. Ill prepared for terrorism, and lacking a tactical sniper team, the German police botched an attempt to rescue the athletes, who were killed, along with one police officer and five of the eight kidnappers.

One of his first accomplishments: Lufthansa Flight 181.

Around 2 a.m. on Oct. 18, Somali soldiers lit a fire 65 yards in front of the jet, creating a diversion. As the hostage takers entered the cockpit to see what was going on, Colonel Wegener and his commandos stormed the aircraft. Over the next seven minutes, three militants were killed and the fourth was wounded. Three passengers, a flight attendant and a commando were injured. But all 86 passengers, along with the four surviving crew members, were saved.

Later that night, three members of the Red Army Faction — Gudrun Ensslin, Jan-Carl Raspe and Andreas Baader — were found dead in their cells, having committed suicide, and Mr. Schleyer, the abducted executive, was murdered.

Briefly held by American troops as a prisoner of war, he returned home, to what became East Germany, to finish his schooling.
Caught handing out leaflets critical of the Communist government, he was jailed for 18 months. Upon his release in 1952, he fled to West Berlin, where he went on to join the police.

(I haven’t found a source I consider completely trustworthy for this, but there are reports that Colonel (at the time) Wegener also participated with the Israeli Sayeret Matkal in the raid on Entebbe.)

An embarrassment of Rich.

January 3rd, 2018

Rich Rodriguez fired last night as head coach of the University of Arizona.

Why? Would you believe…sexual harassment?

The former employee on Thursday filed a $7.5 million notice of claim with the state’s attorney general’s office alleging Rodriguez ran a hostile workplace, according to the Arizona Daily Star. A notice of claim is a legal document that signals a lawsuit will be filed.

Arizona Daily Star (really obnoxious about ad blockers). NYT. ESPN.

Part of what makes this interesting is that RichRod was fired, but the university admits it wasn’t “for cause”: this means that they have to pay his contract buyout ($6 million) plus whatever the plaintiff wins (or settles for) in their pending claim against the university. So this could add up quick. And, as the Daily Star notes, this isn’t the only sports related problem the university has.

(Also: why does a university football coach need representation from CAA?)

Rodriguez’s contract was set to run through May 31, 2020. His buyout as of Dec. 1 was $6.45 million, according to USA Today’s annual survey of NCAA football coaches’ salaries. Because he was let go before March 15, Rodriguez will miss out on approximately $3.2 million from a master-limited-partnership provision in his contract. That pay came via publicly traded units on the so-called “Longevity Fund.” Rodriguez was set to receive 25 percent of the value on March 15. If he had been fired any time after that, he would have been entitled to the full value of the fund.

“publicly traded units on the so-called ‘Longevity Fund'”? Have I just not had enough coffee this morning? Or did RichRod have some sort of weirdly structured deal?