October 30, 2007
Stereo Tip from Dr. X
To All Ships: Pirates In Sight! Fire on My Signal!
The decline in sea piracy is over, and it's back to naval basics with a series of actions involving increasingly dangerous pirates in Somali waters, with high speed sea chases, old-fashioned gunnery, and the U.S. Navy and a North Korean ship on the same side!
Pirates sent to Davy Jones' Locker
Brave Korean crew members and American sailors battle pirates on the high seas!
"On Sunday, the destroyer USS Porter responded to a distress call from the Golden Mori that it was under attack from two pirate skiffs in international waters off the coast of Somalia near the Socotra islands in the Indian Ocean. The destroyer, on loan to an international task force aimed at stopping piracy and terror in the region, responded with deadly force, sinking both vessels, officials said."
October 28, 2007
You Suck Man
Dr. X posts this from the Bitterroot National Forest:
"Brian Griese was, um, not good.
"Yards passing: 208.
"Yards passing after imputing a 50-yard penalty for each interception: 8.
"Let's see, that's an IAYPA of, um, divide by 40, um carry the one...uh, yeah, 0.2 yards per attempt.
"Time for a new masthead..."
October 27, 2007
Can You Afford Not to Have This Information
October 25, 2007
It Makes No Sense - Play it Again
Dr. X posts this from the smoldering ruins of that girl's place by Pepperdine:
"This post perfectly illustrates why Defamer is cool, and why Robert Evans is cool, and why they're both awful, too. If you haven't seen The Kid Stays in the Picture, well, you should (trailer here).
"Comedian Patton Oswalt explains, honors, then utterly destroys, Robert Evans here (Warning: NECTSFW -Not Even Close to Safe For Work).
"Evans explains himself, briefly, here."
October 24, 2007
Threatdown! Colbert, Giuliani Split the Man Vote!
By today's Rasmussen Reports account, Stephen Colbert's run for president may discomfit Rudy Giuliani.
Hillary Clinton (D) 45%
Rudy Giuliani (R) 35%
Stephen Colbert (I) 13%
The Toughest Position to Fill
Dr. X posts this from Camp Quarterback:
"(As a reminder, IAYPA is a metric I developed, roughly simultaneously with the estimable Alan Barra, in the late 80s. It take yards-per-attempt - a metric highly correlated with winning - and adjusts for interceptions, which are costly. How costly? Football Outsiders thinks 35-45 yards. Sportsquant figures 4.35 points - basically an interception is a bit like a negative field goal. That counts for 4.35 points...but I digress. The point is, quarterbacks who don't throw a lot of interceptions are, all else equal, much more valuable than quarterbacks that do. IAYPA imputes a 50-yard penalty for each interception.)
"I haven't written much about IAYPA this season, despite the Laird's earnest pleas, because there really hasn't been much to say. The Patriots (Interception-Adjusted Yards-per-Attempt: 8.4) are #1...shocking! The Rams (2.3) are the worst in the League...you don't say!
"In fact, despite what they say about this being a quarterback's league, etc. etc., there is not much dispersion. YTD there are only six teams one or more standard deviation below the mean - Chicago (3.7), Buffalo (3.6), the Vikings (3.6), the Saints (3.5), the 49ers (2.6), and the Rams.
"And there are only three that are more than one standard deviation above the mean - the Patriots, the Colts (6.9), and Tampa Bay (7.3), riding the Garcia-Gruden West Coast Offense Mind-Meld.
"So, here are a few somewhat random mid-season awards for the rest:
"- Most-hated quarterback who really doesn't suck: I thought of Eli Manning (4.4 vs. League average of 5.0), but Donovan McNabb is the most deserving. He ranks 6th in the NFL in IAYPA, and 11th in passer rating, despite being sacked a league-leading 25 times.
"- Better than he looks: Jason Campbell of the Redskins ranks 22nd in passer rating, but 13th in IAYPA. He's only thrown five INTs this season (league average of 7). Washington is getting very solid play at the QB position.
"- Worse than he looks: Sorry, but Jon Kitna is not nearly as good as he looks. His passer rating of 89 looks good, but an interception per game takes the luster out of his numbers. He ranks 9th in passer rating, but 18th in IAYPA.
"- Best QB by Committee: Somehow, the Carolina Panthers have achieved an IAYPA of 5.2 despite injuries to both the starter (Delhomme) and the backup (David Carr). Testaverde started the Arizona game, threw for 206 yards, and had no interceptions. Nice.
"- Best young turk: Romo (6.1). Peter King is a fool - Romo bears no resemblance to Tom Brady. For example, just to cite one or two things, Brady leads the league in yards, touchdowns, rating, and IAYPA. Romo does not. And Romo throws a lot of picks (9 vs. Brady's 2) - his IAYPA is still high because he is throwing downfield every time, which I admit is a good thing. Runners-up, Schaub (6.0) and Garrard (5.9).
"- The Unsolved Mystery Award: Who is wearing Drew Brees's (3.5) uniform? The 49ers and Rams have worse IAYPAs, but their offensive lines are unable to protect the quarterback, with each team giving up 24 sacks so far. So hasty decision making is...understandable. Brees, by contrast, has only been sacked 4 times, yet after being a top IAYPA performer in the past, has severely regressed - he's thrown 10 picks already (vs. 11 all of last year).
"And what about the big star, Brian Griese? Oh, let him have his day in the sun. Griese's an average NFL quarterback. In his career he's put up some impressive yardage numbers (e.g., 247 yards/game for the Broncos in 2002). But in most years (2000 being the stellar exception) he's thrown too many interceptions to be considered an elite (or even good) quarterback. The only really great quarterback who's thrown a lot of interceptions in the modern era is Favre. Griese's 3.4% career INT rate almost exactly matches Favre's 3.3%, but, of course, Griese does not have the offsetting positive accomplishments. In any case, his INT rate is nowhere near the lifetime marks achieved by really good players like Brady (2.4%) and P. Manning (2.8%).
"But it is never too late for redemption. The ball will be in his hands Sunday...let his enemies tremble!"
October 23, 2007
America: Total Surveillance Society
I still speak occasionally on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, so I was just reviewing the inexhaustible legal and moral assault on American freedom by the Bush administration, in particular regarding our kidnapping, torture and occasional murder of people in the course of the War on Terror, when I ran across the ACLU's really nice summary of the confluence of public and private initiatives which are rapidly creating the total surveillance society.
I can only take so much of this. I suggest you don't read it.
October 22, 2007
Special to the First Sea Lord
For One Shining Moment
Dr. X posts this from that bar where the Sun-Times people go after work:
"In a must-win game...
"...with two minutes left...
"...and no timeouts...
"...against one of the League's toughest defenses...
"...with no help from the coaches...
"...Brian Griese and the Bears must find a way...
"...to go ninety seven yards...
"...and save the Bears' season.
"And they did. Video here.
"See if you can spot when the Bears changed quarterbacks. Points scored, Chicago Bears, by game, YTD:
"Week 1 - 3
"Week 2 - 20
"Week 3 - 10
"Week 4 - 27
"Week 5 - 27
"Week 6 - 31
"Week 7 - 19
"Thanks to their soft defense, the Bears are just 2-2 under Griese, but those two wins were over Green Bay and Philadelphia. This is the best quarterback the team has had since Jim McMahon...or maybe Greg Landry or Doug Flutie... This website walks you down the trail of tears."
Wallpaper of the Computer
I Do the Only Thing That Still Makes Sense to Me
Dr. X posts this from 14 Moscow Road:
"Finally, someone has annotated Tim Curry's masterpiece, 'I Do the Rock'.
"A live performance, accompanied by a band of German stenographers, is here."
October 21, 2007
David Bowie, The Shriveler
October 20, 2007
General: We Got Plenty More For Iran
Dr. X posts this from the "Guns vs. Butter model":
"Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW! It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how. I can hold up the cup and the milk and the cake! I can hold up these books! And the fish on a rake! I can hold the toy ship and a little toy man! And look! With my tail I can hold a red fan! I can fan with the fan as I hop on the ball! But that is not all. Oh, no. That is not all...."
October 19, 2007
The Great Panty Raid of Myanmar
A movement is gaining, hitting the murdering thugs of the Myanmar government where it hurts: in their fragile self-concept of manhood.
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Women in several countries have begun sending their panties to Myanmar embassies in a culturally insulting gesture of protest against the recent brutal crackdown there, a campaign supporter said Friday.
"It's an extremely strong message in Burmese and in all Southeast Asian culture," said Liz Hilton, who supports an activist group that launched the "Panties for Peace" drive earlier this week.
The group, Lanna Action for Burma, says the country's superstitious generals, especially junta leader Gen. Than Shwe, also believe that contact with women's underwear saps them of power.
Rise of the Windjammers?
I found this New Scientist article on the new designs for sail-assisted cargo ships; from enormous kites (poetic beyond belief, and easy to retrofit) to airfoil sails, there is reason for optimism.
A more comprehensive story is from a 2006 report on naval shipping to Congress, which mentioned, much to my amazement, a sailing catamaran as a naval possibility. For a novel, I'd been toying around with the idea of a modern sailing catamaran, wicked fast and without engines or metal, as an anti-submarine boat. How would even a high tech sub, geared entirely for the acoustical and heat signature of engines, and metal hulls, attack a big catamaran doing 35 knots in racing tacks, armed with a modern torpedo?
What's been missing from modern ships? I was slightly amazed when Captain Richard agreed with me: a design which is far more sensitive to the hull's total relationship with the sea. A return to sail would go a long way to redressing this.
Note to naval architects- this would be a lot more convincing if you learned to paint.
October 18, 2007
Bring Back the Sailing Ships!
October 17, 2007
Has Anyone Seen This Movie?
Dr. X posts this from the cutting room floor of Mystery Men:
"Has anyone seen The Specials? A few reviews said it was quirky and well-done. Can anyone confirm or deny?"
1975 Was Tough for Everyone
Dr. X posts this from Granada Television:
"I remember being very frustrated back then at no news of the Beatles. Wish we'd had Youtube then, I'd have been in a better mood. Herewith: George Harrison sings The Pirate Song."
Cheney is French and Black
Dr. X posts this from the Neoconservative Women of Color Caucus:
"Cheney related to Obama, says the BBC."
October 15, 2007
The Last Man
Dr. X posts this from The Jungle:
"Jim Rome's Mack Strong interview is here. Two IDNTTs... 1) Mack Strong was an undrafted free agent, before playing 15 years in the NFL. 2) On his first trip to Seattle he was so poor he could not afford luggage."
Don Young's Numbered Days
A poll of Alaskans shows an early lead for the Democrat, Ethan Berkowitz, in contesting Don Young's seat, by about five points.
When a video of Don Young shooting a Beagle puppy in the head while being interviewed on Oprah is shown to voters, Don Young's support decreases by an additional 2 percent. Okay, I made that one up- if only to illustrate the incredible intransigence of Alaskans' historical support for this creature.
Attention Ethan Berkowitz: this better be worth the 35-year wait.
Side note: I'm following these Alaska politics because a) I spent 30 years there and am still seriously pissed off, and b) I am comparatively sanguine about true-blue Seattle. (Except for the Seahawks, of course: Alexander was just booed at home. Calling all nations!)
October 14, 2007
Captain Richard: Baggywrinkle and the Single Bowline on a Bight
Captain 'Richard' is a large man in his late sixties, who just lost nearly 200 pounds and had another 100 or so to go. He wore big shorts and a small knot around his neck, and he keeps with him his Master's license, eager, in spite of his quarterdeck manner, to introduce himself. He has no doubt of who he is. He worked commercial ships for 40 years, managed a state ferry system , and was the former Captain of the President Truman, built as part of the permanent strategic shipping fleet of the U.S. Merchant Marine. His actual Master's license reads "tonnage: unlimited." (His own tonnage was limited through consistent exercise. )
We started chatting while gazing at the wounded stem of the now dismasted Wawona, one of the last of the great bald-headed schooners that worked the Alaska cod trade, and sister to the recently restored C.A. Thayer in San Francisco. (The Wawona is under presently under attack by pirates, I mean the City parks division, who want her moved or broken up, to, um, make way for the new maritime historical park with the Center for Wooden Boats. Really. )
Captain Richard was clearly no man to be trifled with - one of those guys who could spot the wrong lines and knots used for the spring lines at the dock, cheerful explained the purpose and history of camber and sheer in cargo ships (the lack of which in modern container vessels, with their slab sides, causes serious trouble in unloading) and predicted with absolute accuracy the slight trouble another large historical schooner was going to get into while docking in front of us - down to the fender one of the deckhands was apparently going to forget to drop on the starboard side, all to the sound of an 80 year old ship's paint scraping on the dock. He was well aware - by experience - of the growing ferocity of Pacific storms induced by climate change, and noted that a full-fledged Pacific typhoon is up to ten times the area of an Atlantic Hurricane. He had also personally fought off pirates in the Malacca Straits in the eighties, noting that now it was much worse. His description of the attack was- evocative, enough that I feel compelled not to relate it here. He knew what baggywrinkle is and knows where to use it.
But all this was simply to explain the knot he carried on a piece of small stuff around his neck. This is a particular type of bowline knot, simple but rare enough that it doesn't often make it into the books. He showed how to this make this to me with some care - it's an excellent, useful version of the bowline that distributes it's stress more evenly; and I am very grateful for this. This knot (which I eventually found here as well) and the way it was taught to me, was an ancient direct connection to the history of the sea.
It contrasted to the comment of a retired doctor in his eighties who noted sadly that this is the first generation of seniors whose long knowledge is of little use to the next generation; it is the sense of irrelevance and alienation that will break you. But Captain Richard found a way: walk right up to strangers, hand them his Master's license and a piece of living, working knowledge, which he wears worn around his neck.
October 13, 2007
Dr. X posts this from the Minnetonka Clinic for Pretty Anxious People of Northern European Descent:
"I'm in recovery mode fro m my last business trip. I'm officially sick of airports.
"In the car today my wife named all 50 states. I'm fuzzy on Kansas and Oklahoma. I have specific recollections of having been in all the others.
"When we got home I played the kids this fine Youtube photomontage set to Johnny Cash's 'I've Been Everywhere', and it was a big hit.
"But I'm a piker compared to Vasco de Gama, who sailed across 6,000 miles of open water, or Juan Sebastian Elcano, who proved you could sail all the way around the world, returning to praise, honors, and a chorus of whispered 'so what's?
"Or so says Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, in his magnificent history of exploration, Pathfinders. It is not possible to list all the virtues of the book - they leap from every page. It is physically beautiful (including unique color maps from these guys), and the text is scholarly but entertaining. Fernandez-Armesto is particularly good about telling you when the evidence is thin and when it is strong, and uses strong academic research as the basis for coherent arguments about the big picture.
"You should get this book, and it's worth the extra bucks to get the hardcover edition."
Swiss Army Knife Porn
I must recommend this new man-size Swiss Army Knife - with the 4" locking blade. The bigger size for the grip and locking blade gives it tremendous safety and confidence in use.
Showing it off in the coffee shop yesterday* the comment was: "Now you will have everyone's respect."
And when you are stripping a branch, it's great for cutting your thumb so cleanly that it heals right away.
*Useful as it is, to the extent of potentially saving your life in a survival situation, the Swiss Army Knife's primary purpose is to be shown off. People try to show off Leatherman tools, but the aesthetics are all wrong. It's like showing off a Phillips screwdriver. Swiss Army Knives are far sexier.
My best example was in my first week as a graduate teaching Assistant to the Artist Ann Gale. A student asked about the use of a traditional thumb-hole kidney-shaped artist's palette. There wasn't one around. I whipped out my last Swiss Army knife, with that awesome saw, and within 4 minutes had cut a pretty passable palette out of a piece of masonite, complete with thumbhole, had shaved off the rough edges with the blade, and primed the surface in linseed oil. Suitably impressed (partly because I hadn't suddenly stabbed the student in question) the Art Department subsequently hired me for every TA position for which I applied: an art career was launched. I owe it all to my Swiss Army Knife!
Autumn, and black earth and sunlight: the transcendent decay.
I found a yew tree yesterday in the park upon which a large ash had collapsed. The yew, an ancient source of bows, is an old and natural symbol of death; so in its creaking age, it is resilient.
I was looking for deadfall that I might use for making a bow. No luck here, but I climbed up it while looking, my full weight barely sinking thin bows. Comfortable up there. Underneath the green-black canopy, I spotted Chantrell mushrooms. I think. Later I may brave the mushrooms under the death tree. At $15 a pound, isn't a little mortal terror a bargain?
A dull brown wren chirped oddly - normally a melodic bird - not as long as my thumb, light as a dust bunny, it hopped around its over-mossed den on the forest floor, broadcasting wrenformation.
A wise friend once told me: you must be an hour outside every day. She had eyes green like a northern sound, Vermeer lips, and perfect oval nostrils. You listen.
I am fond of Discovery park here in Seattle - but you already know how to sing praises to nature.
October 12, 2007
Q: Was Lynne Cheney Tim's Pen Pal?
Lynne Cheney's quick exit from the Daily Show, explained.
Well Done, Al Gore
The Nobel Peace Prize went to Al Gore.
John Edwards puts this nicely:
"The Nobel Committee's recognition of Vice President Gore shines a bright light on the most inconvenient truth of all -- the selection of George Bush as president has endangered the peace and prosperity of the entire planet," said fellow Democrat John Edwards, a 2008 White House contender.
October 08, 2007
Strong Has Played His Last Game
The Seahawks longest-tenured player (and Eisengeiste favorite) Mack Strong has retired.
The Sinking of the Torrent/ Kachemak Bay
Note From First Sea Lord: Captains found debauched within a cable's length of leeward rocks shall be immediately detached the service. Mates displaying cowardice in crisis shall be severely upbraided, or hung, as regard to circumstances.
(Originally published in January, 1872, in Overland Monthly under the title, "Cook's Inlet, Alaska") "(Upon entering Cook Inlet on July 8, 1868, aboard the Torrent) muskets were loaded and a watch set, for the instructions said: 'Beware of the Northern Indians. They are represented to be savage, treacherous and warlike, and should, on no account, be trusted.' This character the natives of Cook's Inlet do not deserve. We found them generally truthful; by no means warlike (although great hunters) and thieves only under great temptation. Even when we were later shipwrecked and at their mercy, they stole no more than wreckers' law permits. ...
"(On the evening of July 13, sailing south from 'Kenay Harbor'), the gale became so severe that several of our sails were blown away, and finding we could not weather Anchor Point, the Mate, now in command [the captain being intoxicated] put back to Kenay Harbor, where we lay at anchor all night. The following day we passed Anchor Point and reached the open waters of the inlet . ... On the morning of July 15th the Mate headed the ship into the harbor (at Port Graham).
"The coast appeared very rugged: as far as we could see it was a high rocky cliff against which the surf was beating furiously. There was but one landing-place -- a little sandy cove -- toward which the ship was headed. Extending out from the land was a reef of rocks, about a mile and a half in length, some above water and others sunken and only marked by the breaking of the sea. Across the reef a current was setting at a rate of seven miles an hour.
"The mate, fearing the responsibility, left his post on deck and running below called the Captain. He being still under the effects of his debauch, came on deck, and knowing, probably, his condition, said, 'We will not go in now; we will send a boat ahead to sound' -- and gave the order to tack ship. But while he had been hesitating, the current had carried us fearfully near the rocks. The yards were hauled, but the ship did not answer to the helm, and we saw that she was doomed."
October 07, 2007
Red Leader! We lost Porkins!
It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Dr. X posts this from Westpac:
"So, I thought, I've had it with the Seahawks and baseball and steroids and all the rest. I'll follow the All-Blacks, a legendary team with a fanatical following and a real sense of mission and accomplishment.
"Yeah, right. France 20, All-Blacks 18 in the quarterfinal. Season over. Recriminations to follow.
"These are the men who failed their Nation:
October 06, 2007
The Second-Greatest Day in Stanford Football History
Dr. X posts this from Gordon Biersch on Emerson:
"The greatest day in Stanford history was the 1971 Rose Bowl where Jim Plunkett and the boys knocked off #1 Ohio State.
"The second-greatest? Probably today. Stanford, coming off a two-year period in which the team went 6-17, is now 2-2 in the Jim Harbaugh era. That second victory, the one that boosted them to .500 for the season, was over #2-ranked USC, the most over-manned, over-coached, over-resourced professional team in Division I football.
"Stanford was a 41-point underdog going into the game. Their starting quarterback was on the bench (medical precaution after a seizure last week). The big question was, how bad would Pete Carroll run up the score, after what Harbaugh said about him?
"Stanford got 24
"USC got 23.
"It has come to the attention of The New York Times.
"And let me just say, God Bless you boys!"
October 05, 2007
Those Discrete Quotation Marks
Dr. X posts this from the Main Editorial Office:
"The BBC discretely questions the quality of the crap they are being fed with this headline:
"- US Kills '25 Militants' in Iraq
"- US Kills '25 Militants' in 'Iraq' - ...or what's left of it
"- 'US' Kills '25 Militants' in 'Iraq' - Or was that Blackwater?
"It's the killing part we can be sure of. Everything else is pretty much up for grabs."
October 04, 2007
Speaking of Seppuku
UC Berkeley: Complete Courses Webcast
Wowser. No excuse for being stupid now.
A big set of complete Berkeley courses online for free. Choice possibilities:
The state as a work of art.
Sensation and Perception -
Heideggger - Spatiality I. (Mp3 only)
Of course you would think a psych prof lecturing on Sensation and Perception might do a little better than Powerpoint. Ack.
Fortunately, learning up them students in the Art seems to require extensive personal interaction. Until the Art Faculty Robot comes along.
"YOU SHOULD DRAW THE OBJECT, NOT THE SYMBOL OF THE OBJECT. BZZT."
And there you have my entry for the next Whitney Biennial.
*Robot image from Bennet Robot Works
October 03, 2007
Kyle, Rex, and Brian - Why?
Dr. X post this from The Baddest Part of Town:
"Sorry, one more on Bears quarterbacks. This is interesting to me because the bottom of the IAYPA ratings is not stable - the worst five or six performers are always hustled off the stage in short order. Except in Chicago. In Chicago they hold the job all season - and then are replaced by someone just as awful. TMQ asks the question on everyone's mind:
As for Grossman -- I mean Griese -- what is it about being a Chicago Bear that devours quarterbacks? This team has not had a top passer since Jim McMahon, and even he was effective mainly because defenses were stacking up against Walter Payton. All three of Griese's interceptions were terrible throws forced into double or triple coverage. You'd think a team with decent defense, four blocked kicks already this season and two kick return touchdowns would be flying high. In case you're wondering, Chicago's third quarterback is Kyle Orton, who was good at Purdue but, upon arriving with the Bears, immediately became terrible."Well, a couple of thoughts.
- "The Bears have always been a rough, tough, physical team. Maybe passing doesn't, how you say, fit their culture? But I reject this hypothesis. The Steelers have had excellent play at the quarterback position, yet are not viewed as a finesse team. Ditto the Schottenheimer San Diego Chargers. In fact, the commitment to the running game should open up opportunities for the passer.
- "Preparation has been an issue. Grossman said last year: 'It's the last game, it's New Year's Eve and there were so many other factors that brought my focus away from what is actually important.'
- "Orton, Griese, and Grossman - the entire quarterbacking unit - have drunk life to the lees. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I myself have downed a few, and then a few more, many many times. Butnot as a highly-paid member of a professional sports team. When you think about the physical dangers of being a quarterback, it's somewhat amazing to me that these guys would do anything that could slow their reflexes during football season.
"And yet they accomplish nothing. They are, as a group, noteworthy for their poor performance. As have been all prior Bears quarterbacks. I've been running IAYPAs for five years - and a there's always a Bear near the bottom.
"I root for Brian Griese - I think he will play better the next few games, and if he can stay healthy he might even play very well. When healthy and focused, he's had good seasons. If not...well, there are always quarterbacks around. And Jake Plummer's not doing anything right now...he might need the money..."
You Are A Sorry Excuse for A Human Being. Sir.
"Some reactions to President Bush's veto of a bill expanding health insurance coverage for poor children."
- The Guardian
October 02, 2007
Hmm. Could Very Large Oil Companies Have Bribed Anyone Directly?
NOW we're getting somewhere. The Anchorage Daily News finally asks the key question:
Did the major oil producers know about - and participate in - illegal acts of bribery and corruption?