January 24, 2015

Next Xmas for sure

Klay is adequate


January 23, 2015

You're welcome

The blows continue to fall

Skymall is bankrupt.

January 22, 2015

Today is off to a good start


January 21, 2015

Hamilton: The Musical

I kid you not.  Sources report that it is very good.

January 20, 2015

Tavaris Jackson Psychs Out Aaron Rodgers in the Game's Most Underrated Coin Toss

From a most amusing and informative article on Field Gulls.

Rodgers comes out there to the middle of the field thinking to himself, "Heads, man. It's always heads. Everyone knows it's always heads. Just say 'heads' and you got this. Seattle will never get the ball back. Oh look, it's Tarvaris! I haven't seen him in ages. I wonder how he's been doing. Okay, what to do, what to do, don't blow this. Is it a half-hug daps? A handshake? No, no, a handshake is far too formal. What about like a high-five? Are people doing high-fives? I'll just watch what Randall does, then do that. Yeah, nailed it. You got this. Internal discount double-check signal. There he goes, it's daps. It's daps. Cobb got daps. Jordy got daps. I just get the- oh no he isn't even making eye contact. You're on TV, Aaron, keep it cool. Keep it cool. Hey, you're Aaron Rodgers. Who is he?! He's a guy that just dissed Aaron Rodgers on national TV. Hey, don't be like that. Don't beat yourself up. You're the MVP. You. You. Not him. Can you imagine if Tarvaris Jackson has more Super Bowl wins than me in a couple weeks? What if State Farm dumps me for him? I wonder if Randall likes him more than me. I mean look at him, he's like an even more handsome Omar Epps. I just can't- wait. The ref is looking at me. Is it on me? Well, say something, stupid!"
It's heads.

Dashiell Hammett's Years in Adak

Rather interesting story of Dashiell Hammett's U.S. Army Service in Adak during WWII.

Grudging attention from TMQ

On the down before the field goal, the injured Richard Sherman tackled Jordy Nelson shy of the line-to-gain. Had Nelson reached first down, Green Bay would have had about 15 seconds -- and all its timeouts -- to take shots at the end zone and try to win in regulation. Sherman hardly needs more attention. But making this tackle while playing with one arm hanging at his side was impressive.

January 19, 2015

Society 6 is like crack

I am getting four gross of these, stat.  Honorable mention here.

It's Been a Day of Victory Amusements

1) I'm in! 

2) Not nice, good, or even fair.


Chill, Example

Mr. Lynch demonstrates chill. Note the time.

January 18, 2015

"As cool as the other side of the pillow."

Punter John Ryan puts the first point on the board for the Seahawks with a TD pass.

All you need to know

January 17, 2015

Laughton's Claudius - the lost epic

 (The scene starting at 54:42 is...yes, epic.  For a guy who was having trouble getting into character, Laughton did a fair job.)

A sketch of Beerbohm

How might one describe Max Beerbohm to someone who knows nothing about him?  Well, for a start, one might imagine D.H. Lawrence. Picture the shagginess of Lawrence, his thick beard, his rough-cut clothes, his disdain for all the social and physical niceties. Recall his passionateness—his passion, so to say, for passion itself—his darkness, his gloom. Think back to his appeal to the primary instincts, his personal messianism, his refusal to deal with anything smaller than capital “D” Destiny. Do not neglect his humorlessness, his distaste for all that otherwise passed for being civilized, his blood theories and manifold roiling hatreds. 

Have you, then, D.H. Lawrence firmly in mind? Splendid. 

Now reverse all of Lawrence’s qualities and you will have a fair beginning notion of Max Beerbohm, who, after allowing that Lawrence was a man of “unquestionable genius,” felt it necessary to add, “he never realized, don’t you know—he never suspected that to be stark, staring mad is somewhat of a handicap to a writer.” 


There is honor in that, more than this reviewer seems to understand

[Blackhat is] upscale, modish and shot through with icicles of beauty. But in many ways the biggest hack you’ll find in this cyber-thriller is Michael Mann himself. That’s not a criticism; it’s a fact. Perhaps no director of such renown has been so flagrant in his copy-pasting of old material—from minor flourishes to major plot points, and everything in between. Yet his brazen hackery is not a bug, exactly, but a central feature of the work. Michael Mann repeats himself in movies in the same way that Ray Allen repeats himself at taking threes. He’s a professional. He’s a genius of his chosen craft.


January 16, 2015

Bedtime Books

I generally keep a few books at hand near my bed, to help ease the transition from this waking world to the comfort of my twitchy, disjointed, anxiety-ridden slumber.

I advocate a gradual transition, not an extreme phase shift, but that is a personal preference.  Weldon Kees' protagonist Robinson used reading as a straight-up soporific, his Toynbee interchangeable with a bottle of luminol.  Perelman, on his own testimony, skipped the reading altogether and employed a cocktail of "allonal and Vat 69".  But I will stand up for reading as a transitional device, not an anesthetic or knock-out drop.  And to achieve this effect, the selected book must be special.

First and foremost it must be at least somewhat modular - one must be able to put it down at almost any point.  Gripping page turners have no place here.  Moreover, it must be somewhat tepid, lest a hyperbolic paragraph thrust the reader fully back into a waking state.  It does not hurt if the material is a little light - some narrative perhaps - but nothing requiring strenuous effort to comprehend.  Lightness can misfire as well - Wodehouse generally will not suit, given his occasional weakness for lunacy and monkey-shooting.  If humor is employed it must be quiet and droll, inducing chuckles rather than knee-slapping.

But our volume cannot be too light or trite, or it will not hold the attention sufficiently to allow the reader to settle in and enjoy those few minutes of calming communion.  And yet, it must be interesting in some way, although it should not touch on topics hinting at some kind of academic rigor.

Most importantly, however, it must be trustworthy.  This is not the time for tricky plot twists, or mysteries where the narrator is the murderer, or comedies that turn into tragedies, or vice versa.  One does not welcome nasty surprises at bedtime.  This is no time to learn that the author has the ethics of a Moorish assassin.

So, with some trepidation, here are some of the books that have served over the years:
  • Kevin Brownlow, The Parade's Gone By...  (link)
  • David Hackett Fischer, Historian's Fallacies:  Toward a Logic of Historical Thought  (link)
  • G.H. Fleming, The Unforgettable Season (link)
  • Tom Furstenberg and David Bronstein, The Sorcerer's Apprentice (link)
  • Dean King, with John B. Hattendorf, Harbors and High Seas:  An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Aubrey-Maturin Novels of PATRICK O'BRIAN  (link)
  • Every Bill James Baseball Abstract, and especially the Historical Baseball Abstract  (link)
  • A.T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783  (link)
  • Frank Muir, An irreverent and thoroughly incomplete social history of almost everything (link)
  • Royal Geographic Society, Heroic Climbs  (link)

The wit and wisdom of Napier

Since the aforementioned Napier is player-of-the-day at Chessgames.com, a few bon mots from his pen:

  • As player, [Mason] had the unique quality of competently simmering thru six aching hours and scintillating in the seventh. Others resembled him but forgot to scintillate.

  • Spielmann plays always like an educated cave-man, who fell asleep several thousand years ago, – and woke up quite lately in the Black Forest.

  • [T]he killing instinct necessary to success is the same that men take into Bengal jungles, – for a day.  A killing instinct which survives the day and endures month in and month out, is stark pantomime...

January 15, 2015

Re-powering the Power Glove


via Josh Marshall:

This is Roger Ver. Last year he renounced his citizenship to avoid paying US taxes. Now he's upset that the "tyrants" in the US government won't give him a visa to visit Miami this weekend to speak at a Bitcoin conference...

I don't think American citizens who renounce their citizenship for tax purposes should be allowed to return to the country ever, except possibly under highly extenuating circumstances. Ver is upset that he cannot ditch his US citizenship to live in a tax haven that is - let's be frank - under the de facto US security and economic umbrella and come back whenever he wants to hang out or hawk bitcoins. 


I also would have denied re-entry to the 2004 U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball team, but that's just me.

January 14, 2015


This has 114 million views on Youtube.

January 12, 2015

via Popova, history of the pencil

Includes picture of The Oldest Pencil in the World.


Stroud's Directions

I was in a bookstore last week, and picked up Keillor's Good Poems (available without going to a bookstore here).  Huh, is this good I thought, and opened it randomly to the following poem by Joseph Stroud:
Take a plane to London.
From King's Cross take the direct train to York.
Rent a car and drive across the vale to Ripon,
then into the dales toward the valley of the Nidd,
a narrow road with high stone walls on each side,
and soon you'll be on the moors. There's a pub,
The Drovers, where it's warm inside, a tiny room,
you can stand at the counter and drink a pint of Old Peculier.
For a moment everything will be all right. You're back
at a beginning. Soon you'll walk into Yorkshire country,
into dells, farms, into blackberry and cloud country.
You'll walk for hours. You'll walk the freshness
back into your life. This is true. You can do this.
Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells,
you can look down on that figure walking toward Scar House,
cheeks flushed, curlews rising in front of him, walking,
making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace.

Well that's fine, I thought, and bought the book.

Driving in the car Sunday we were listening to Prairie Home Companion's San Francisco show.  It turns out Stroud is a Bay Area guy, and he read this poem and some others.

Still a long way from Ramsgill, but it made me feel better.

Enough! Everybody just fucking chill

January 11, 2015

Naval Designs Highly Successful in Fending off Small Boat Attacks

Henry Grace à Dieu. 1574. .
Note the many manned light guns in the forecastle, stern, and the armed crows nests, not to mention the ease of boarding using running rigging lines and defense with anti-boarding nets, as well as the ability to throw heavy or pointy things down at belligerents. Effective against inflatable boats. Add a ship-to-ship missile system and a 100hp outboard and you're ready for the latest in asymmetrical naval warfare.

San Diego is already arming itself thusly. Let us not fall behind.

Know your Robins - a bat-briefing from Guest Blogger #1

[Updated for font, art, and some content, which although not inaccurate was nevertheless incomplete in ways that now seem quite consequential to Guest Blogger #1...]

How many Robins have there been? 
5, if you don't count Carrie Kelley, the Robin from The Dark Knight Returns, which describes what happens in the future, possibly in a alternate universe. (There are a lot of those alternate universes in DC...)

Is that all? 

Really?  Are you sure there have been no others? 

Ok, let’s get a rundown on the Robins...

Robin #1

Nightwing in Nightwing Vol. 4: Second City

Real name: Richard (Dick) John Grayson
Why he left: He needed a future that was not defined by Batman
Current identity: Nightwing
Comments on power or abilities: Well, he’s a better acrobat than Batman was, and probably ever will be, so he’s a force to be reckoned with. Also, he uses escrima sticks, and even though he’s only been using them in his time as Nightwing, he’s mastered using them.
Comments on personality: He followed orders as Robin, and now comes to Batman’s aid as Nightwing if needed. He is really easy to work with and a born leader.

Robin #2

Red Hood in Red Hood and The Outlaws: Vol. 1: REDemption

Real name: Jason Todd
Why he left: He didn’t. He got killed by the Joker. Fortunately, he was put in the restorative waters of a Lazarus pit, and came back, p.o.ed as heck and thirsty for revenge. Ultimately, he got payback on the Joker, made his peace with Batman (kinda), and continued as a ruthless vigilante.
Current identity: Red Hood
Comments on power or abilities: Not as acrobatically talented as Dick, but stronger, and his ruthlessness gives him an edge against his enemies.
Comments on personality: He’s like a time bomb, waiting to go off, and when he does, it’s not pretty. He’s ruthless, which I may have mentioned already, and that is what draws the fine line between him and his mentor.

Robin #3

Red Robin in Teen Titans Vol. 1: It's Our Right to Fight

Real name: Tim Drake
Why he left: Well, he pretty much got edged out by his successor, Damian Wayne. (See below.)
Current identity: Red Robin (Which was once Jason Todd’s role.)
Comments on power or abilities: His current suit has these extremely sharp metal wings, which he uses to fly. He’s not as acrobatically inclined as his predecessors, but he’s a much better detective than either of them. He deduced Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson’s secret identities quickly. He was also at Haly’s Circus the night the Flying Graysons fell.
Comments on personality: He is a born leader, but sometimes emotional, but he’s a lot better than Jason was.

Robin #4

Stephanie Brown as Robin

Real name: Stephanie Brown
Why she left: Again, she didn’t. She was shot and “killed” by Black Mask, but in reality was recuperating in Africa. It’s hard to believe she could’ve survived the trip from Gotham to Africa, especially since she died on a hospital bed before Batman’s eyes, but hey! It’s DC Comics we’re talking about here. Anything could happen.
Current identity: The Spoiler
Comments on power or abilities: Again, not as acrobatically inclined as her predecessors.
Comments on personality: Reckless, but smart. 

Robin #5

Damian on top of the Teen Titans

Real name: Damian Wayne
Why he left: Yet again, he didn’t leave. Yet again, he died. Yet again, he was resurrected. On the planet Apokolips Batman used a chaos shard to resurrect Damian, who now has superpowers! Super strength, etc, etc. Again, this is DC, folks. Anything could happen.
Current identity: Well, before he was stabbed and killed, he was just Robin, son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul, AKA Batman and his arch-nemesis’ daughter. Weird, right?
Comments on power or abilities: He was trained as a ninja, so again, ruthless, fairly merciless, and deadly.
Comments on personality: RECKLESS. The majority of the Robins have this problem, save Nightwing and Red Robin. He did enjoy video games and pizza and soda, since he was only ten at the time of his death.

EXTRA BIT:  *The images of Nightwing, Red Hood, and Red Robin are from the new 52, when DC Comics re-introduced 52 popular titles, even if it meant rewriting the character.*

January 10, 2015

Is Kam Chancellor okay?

He seemed pretty listless, today. Like his heart wasn't in the game.

A post in which I strike a blow for Freedom of Speech

Today's Seahawks - Panthers game is going to make the Charlie Hebdo massacre look like A Charlie Brown Christmas.

(Too soon?)

James Fallows is correct

This has become the way we assume the American military will be discussed by politicians and in the press: Overblown, limitless praise, absent the caveats or public skepticism we would apply to other American institutions, especially ones that run on taxpayer money. A somber moment to reflect on sacrifice. Then everyone except the few people in uniform getting on with their workaday concerns.

Original article:

Blog post with links to interesting other articles:

In other news, the Navy is developing a "high-tech laser weapon system" to be used to "disable and destroy" enemy drones, small boats, and civilian protestors.  Ok, I made that last one up.  But seriously:  small boats?  Small boats?  How did the Navy get this far without weapons capable of destroying small boats?


January 08, 2015

A few remarks from Ted Rall


That's my President

President Obama said Thursday that he would propose a government program to make community college tuition-free for millions of students, an ambitious plan that would expand educational opportunities across the United States.


If I may editorialize briefly:  FUCK YEAH!!!

Notes on Premier League

How it works
  • The season runs from August to May.
  • There are 20 teams, they all play each other twice.
  • You get three points for a win, one point for a draw, no points for a loss.
  • No playoffs:  the team with the most points at the end wins.
  • Four teams are allowed to win:  Man City, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal.
    • Ok, sometimes Liverpool, but not lately.
    • Defending champion:  Man City
    • Current leaders are Man City and Chelsea (tied w/ 46 pts).
  • The top four teams in Premier League qualify for the opportunity to lose to Madrid or Barcelona in the continental Champion's League.  Fifth place qualifies for Europa League, (as do the winners of the FA Cup and the Capital One Cup - see below).
  • The bottom three clubs get relegated to the Championship League (the UK minor league, not the big-time European Champion's League).
  • All the teams are owner by Russian tycoons, who use them to launder money from drug and weapons deals.  As a result, there is no salary cap, there are no rules, and it is good to be Gareth Bale.


  • The FA Cup, in contradistinction to the Premier League championship, is a knockout tournament open to all clubs in Premier League, plus several lower levels of the English football league system.  This is generally won by Chelsea, Man City, or Arsenal.  Defending champion is Arsenal.
  • During my visit I made the unforgivable mistake of confusing the FA Cup with the Football League Cup, also known as the League Cup, but officially titled The Capital One Cup.  This is more of a minor league championship.  Although Premier League teams are eligible, they treat it as lower priority and tend to play their younger players in these matches, which has led to some entertaining upsets.  After that's all done with, a Premier League team wins.  Defending champion is Manchester City.
  • Premier League clubs do not participate in the FIFA Club World Cup, which reduces the number of times they have to lose to Real Madrid each year.

Who to root for?

I was partial to the Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Mick McCarthy era, but not since the team's arrogant dismissal of him and ensuing double relegation - first to Championship League, then to League One.  Wouldn't it be nice if that could happen to the 49ers?

Louis Van Gaal is the manager of Manchester United.  He is Johan Cruyff's sworn enemy, a man who promotes disciplined, orderly, military football, not the free, creative, beautiful and loving kind advocating by Cruyff.  There is no middle ground, you have to take a side here.  It says here than Van Gaal is bad, and anyone who roots for Manchester United is bad, so don't.

The correct team to root for is Tottenham Hotspur.  

#2 made van Persie a deity at our house last year, led to demands that we emigrate to the Netherlands

A Totally Comprehensive Voter’s Guide to Soccer’s Best Goal of Last Year

"[A]ny pro can hit a sweet volley, but not many can make the Willie Mays catch with their goddamn face."


January 04, 2015

Qianlong and all that

Rough and incomplete sketch of Chinese dynasties since the year 960, when the Song era began.  As every schoolchild knows, this roughly coincides with the accession of Edgar the Peaceful to the throne of England, although it very slightly predates his murder of Æthelwald.

  • Song Dynasty (Han Chinese):  960-1279
  • Yuan Dynasty (Mongol):  1279-1368
  • Ming Dynasty (Han Chinese):  1368-1644
  • Qing Dynasty (Manchu):  1644-1911

The Qianlong Emperor is Manchu, and reigns from 1735 to 1799.  A few details:
  • Here is his jade bi, as discussed in A History of the World in 100 Objects.
  • He is the patron of the talented Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione, who apparently made a lifetime commitment to working in China (died in Beijing at the age of 77).
  • Castiglione's portrait of the Emperor is here.

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