November 30, 2013

Bad-ass comet If embed doesn't work for you, it's here.

This strengthens our civilization

Christopher Buckley reviews Sebastian Faulks' Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, and we are all better off for it.
He does come off as a likable cove, this Faulks. There’s an “Author’s Note” — I gather that’s the prologue-bit where the author clears his throat and says: “Well, gosh, here I am. Deuced tricky, this homaging business. Hope you like it, but no refunds if you don’t. Ha!” He says it’s intended as a tribute, he’s just a fan, understands what a minefield he was walking into. Didn’t want to “drift into parody,” only trying to “provide a nostalgic variation” on the “peerless originals.” Etc. Hopes to introduce the old oeuvre to those what haven’t yet had the pleasure. Etc. As I say, likable. Not one of those pec-thumping literary types — I won’t get into names — who give the impression you’re bloody lucky they bothered to write the thing in the first place.


heh heh...

Oh who am I kidding, ROTFLMAO...

The only thing worth reading in 1994...

...was because of this guy.

November 28, 2013

OH COME ON…who among us hasn't…?

A toilet paper torch that sent a boy's bathroom up in smoke at West High School on Wednesday morning resulted in serious charges for a male student, police said.

A 15-year-old freshman boy was charged as a minor and faces a second-degree criminally negligent burning charge, a misdemeanor, and a first-degree terroristic threatening charge, a felony, said police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro.


November 26, 2013


Thomas Lake's "Book of Tebow"

What you remember from the following Thursday night is Tebow’s 20-yard run for the winning touchdown. What you forget is the rest of the game, which was a lot like the rest of the season, which was a lot like watching a drowning man pulled from deep water by the hand of God. It was riveting. America is still a Christian nation, and the story of Tim Tebow in 2011 looked a lot like the Christian story of humankind. Which says you fail and you fail and you flail and you flail, and all along God is giving you more chances.


(btw, if you can find a platform on which this report runs properly, please let SI know so they can break it.  I tried on four different devices before I found a semi-readable version.  Writing's still worth it, IMHO.)

November 24, 2013

How to Outsmart a Millionaire

Mr. Bigshot rolled up in a roaring high-performance Italian sports car, dropping attitude like his $22,000 watch made it okay for him to be rude. That’s when I decided to roll up my sleeves and teach him a lesson...


November 23, 2013

Begich needs to get on this

States lines redrawn to reflect natural watersheds.  Make it so.

Paging Luther

What does Obama have to do?

Here is your Peace in the Middle East, bitches.

Great deal

I've praised Ferling before, for his Almost a Miracle, but if I may broaden that a bit…  In an age when both political parties have sought to reframe history to their own ends, it is the mark of a useful, educated person to have some sense of what actually happened.

Ferling and David Hackett Fischer (Paul Revere's Ride, and many others) are the two academic historians who I think have done the best service in this. Both men write superb, fact-filled books about the American experience, or, in the case of Fischer's Champlain's Dream the pre-American experience (in this vein see also Calloway's eye-opening The Scratch of a Pen).

In 2010 Ferling wrote an interesting and well-reviewed book called Independence:  The Struggle to Set America Free, which detailed the complex and (he stresses) not necessarily inevitable descent of Anglo-American relations from discontent to confrontation, and then on to war.  It's excellent.

I raise this because it's $3.03 on Kindle today.

Pay the money.  Read the book.  Be a better American.

Some tips on following the big chess match

Nevermind, it's over.  There's a new sheriff in town.

November 22, 2013

Placeholder ("My Gal Sal", Greenland)



Maybe I should watch this show

November 20, 2013

Screw You, Colonel - A M*A*S*H* moment in Dalhart, Texas, 1943

B-17s in winter conditions in England in 1945

I was amazed to find a description on the internet of a story my Dad used to tell me from the war, about an asshole of a base commander who tried to order his B-17 trainees into the air in heavy icing conditions, Capt. Burt Bollenbach of course being the weather officer, trained in a highly compressed intense graduate program in the Univ. of Chicago's second meteorlogy class in 1941-42, only to find himself assigned to Texas.

This account completely confirms the story I remember. My Dad was angry 4 decades later about it, knowing more than anyone how much danger the crews were being uselessly put in; Dad pleaded the science, but the Colonel simply would not listen to him- nonetheless, the Colonel's bullheadedness caused something of a blue flu mutiny, with a hilarious punchline, described below by CB "Red' Harper of the B-17 Buffalo Gal.

"We flew as much as weather would allow since it was winter and we had a lot of snow. One morning after the alarm clock had assassinated my sleep at 03:00 hours, I shaved and dressed at the tourist court we called home and was ready to pick up the other two pilots I shared cars with for the 60 mile trip to the base. I tried to open the door but it wouldn’t budge. I attempted to look out the window and only saw snow. We were buried all the way up to the roof with blowing snow drifts. We were thankful for steam heat. I went back to bed and it was two days before thawing out enough to get outside. We finally managed to slip and slide down the icy highway and get back to Dalhart. When we arrived, we were told briefing would be in half an hour. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There was at least six inches of ice on the runways. All the crews had to pass by the flight surgeon’s desk before each flight. If there were any physical problems that was the time to tell the Doc about it. I started coughing and gagging when I got to his desk. He grinned and marked the crew unfit for flying today. Each pilot had done the same so all crews were grounded for the day.  

"When word got to the commander he threw a wall-eyed fit. He announced on the PA system that all pilots and their crews would assemble in the briefing room on the double. He proceeded to rant and rave before the 300 grounded birdmen assembled in front of him using endearing terms like “yellow-bellied” and a lot of carrying on like that. Finally he announced that he was going to put a B-17 in the air and we were all going to stand out by the runway and watch and freeze our asses off until he got back. 

The colonel ordered his executive officer to fly copilot and he finally got to the runway for take off. The taxi strip was so slick he couldn’t run the engines up. He turned onto the runway and moved about 50 feet before loosing control of the beast. He did a 360 degree ground loop - winding up in a snow bank. They sent a 6 X 6 truck after him and he had to crawl out the pilot’s window to get out. As the truck came by with our over zealous CO in it, all 300 of us came to attention and saluted him.  
"That episode was the main course of conversation on the base for days after."

Bonus: Army AF Manual about how to crash your B-17 In Alaska and live. Complete with handy eskimo phrases.

Righting a wrong

Nice to see Bernard King - "the greatest player nobody talks about" (Simmons) - get his propers and go into the Hall of Fame.  Well deserved.  He was a ballstopper, and not a noted defender, and didn't rebound as much as Bird or Erving (see Erving comparison here)…but for about five years there you'd have to say he was the most potent offensive force in basketball.  Here are his legendary back-to-back 50 point games:

Watching these I'm struck by how complete his game is.  He's driving, getting to the line, dunking, taking alley-oops for layups, scoring off offensive rebounds…  But the core is the jump shot.  Long jumpers, short jumpers, face-up jumpers, semi-hook jumpers, turnaround jumpers, turnaround double-pump jumpers, etc.

I'm also struck by how often he beat the double team by going past one guy and shooting over the other.

He did not just do this against white men in Texas.  He also did it to good teams in big games.  He didn't fly like Jordan, but during his peak years he was just as capable of dropping 50 on you.  Simmons comments on the '84 playoffs vs. the Celtics:
That series went seven even though Boston had Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ, Maxwell, Ainge, Scott Wedman, Gerald Henderson and M. L. Carr; Bernard was flanked by Bill Cartwright, Truck Robinson, Darrell Walker, Trent Tucker, Rory Sparrow, Louis Orr, Ernie Grunfeld and a six-foot-seven homeless guy that they found on 34th Street right before the series.  How many players could have carried a lousy supporting cast to seven games against a loaded Celtics team? Other than Jordan and LeBron, I can’t think of another postmerger player who does it.
Well, Erving, but you get the point.  With all due respect (*snerk*), the early 80s Celtics could be hilarious underachievers.  Anyway, they tried triple teaming King in one game of the '84 series.  It worked, kind of:  he only got 46...

The problem with Tom

…he's only had two good games all year.

November 19, 2013

Upon further review...

Season-to-date IAYPA leaders (minimum 100 attempts)

Name, IAYPA / ATT / TD / INT


  • Nick Foles, 9.6 / 162 / 16 / 0 - there's a new sheriff in town
  • Aaron Rodgers, 8.8 / 251 / 15 / 4 - still the best quarterback in football
  • P. Manning, 8.8 / 409 / 34 / 6 - there is something to be said for throwing into the end zone
  • Michael Vick, 7.6 / 141 / 5 / 3
  • Russell Wilson, 7.5 / 275 / 19 / 6 - wearing big boy pants now
  • Case Keenum, 7.5 / 126 / 8 / 1 - who what 'em…?  these are really good numbers
  • Josh McCown, 7.5 / 101 / 5 / 0 - again, this is superb

Not Leaders

  • Josh Freeman, 3.8 / 147 / 2 / 4
  • Brandon Weeden, 4.3 / 197 / 5 / 6
  • Geno Smith, 4.4 / 295 / 8 / 16 - largest IAYPA penalty, 2.7 yard per attempt
  • Christian Ponder, 4.6 / 201 / 6 / 9 - Vikings need an OC
  • Terelle Pryor, 4.7 / 224 / 5 / 10

The median NFL quarterback is Jay Cutler.  
Smallest IAYPA penalty (>100 attempts):  Foles and McCown, 0.00 per attempt.  
Smallest IAYPA penalty (>200 attempts):  Alex Smith, 0.56 per attempt.

November 18, 2013

The Day The Playoff Picture Solidified

Compare and contrast.

November 16, 2013

Birthday music for #2 son

Timmy's done being a good boy

November 15, 2013

Grantland fights the good fight...

…but even I'm having trouble getting psyched for this:

It's time to get prepped for your new November obsession: the FIDE World Chess Championship finals between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand. This is the most hotly anticipated chess match since Garry Kasparov's prime. Aside from matches involving the Russian grandmaster, this is the most anticipated match since Bobby Fischer squared off against Boris Spassky. It's well worth your time.


The problem is that this will be like watching Ali fight himself - lots of smart, sound positional battles, few mistakes, everything at a high level.  I suspect it will be Alekhine-Capablance II, where the more dynamic Carlson will adapt his style to exploit small inaccuracies by the aging Anand.  Chaos, and the sense of chess as a game of risk and nerve, will not be present.  Hope I'm wrong.

We need to adjust the rules of chess so this guy gets a shot.  He's awesome.

Winner, by a nose

Very tough to pick a winner out of the pirahna-like skeletonizing of the JP Morgan #ASKJPM Twitter strategy.  I'm going with this one, despite its apparent randomness, because I think there is a better-than-even chance that Jamie Dimon knows the answer:

Honorable Mentions:

November 14, 2013

Today's Photoshop Fiasco: Among Whitest Photos Ever?

Although honestly, remote control yachting looks sort of fun, the real mystery is was this photo this white before (even more) white people were cut and pasted in at fairly random sizes, or after?  Also, nothing else at all in this cover photo looks right. I'm surprised Larry Elisson isn't bobbing up and down in 1910s swimwear.

November 10, 2013


November 09, 2013

Cool map

This very nice map helped me understand a few things:
  1. That there were still blank spots on maps in 1947.
  2. Why it was important to build out the Thule airbase in Northwestern Greenland after WW2.
  3. Why, if the Cold War had warmed up, Alaska would have been right in the middle of it.
    • I talked with an SF cabbie about 20 years ago who'd served at Eielson in the late 50's.  He said the Russians dropped by quite a bit.
    • No further questions on why the Nike sites were in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
  4. Why Alaska and Greenland were important places to put in Ballistic Missile Early Warning Systems (BMEWS).
  5. Also helpful for understanding why they're looking for these guys on the northern coast of Alaska.
One other thing - looking at this map you can perhaps get a little more appreciation for the flight Eielson made (with Wilkins) from Barrow to Spitsbergen…in 1928.

Important book



Reminiscing with total strangers, pt. 2

William Ewart Napier might be forgotten, but for...well, who am I kidding, he is already completely forgotten.  He is really only known to chess fans, and among them only those interested more in history than in play.

As a player he was one the few Americans who could beat really first-class opponents.  He won a match against Marshall, and won brilliant games against Chigorin and Van Bardeleben among others (this last being best known for his horrific loss to Steinitz, after which he threw himself out a window and into the imagination of Vladimir Nabokov).  He lost a famous game to Lasker, after which the great man said "it is your brilliancy, even though I won it."

But Napier does, in my opinion, deserve honor for his one literary work, a miscellany first published in three volumes as Napier’s Amenities and Background of Chess-Play.  Napier had more scope than the typical chess master, and clearly enjoyed engaging the masters of his time in conversation.  Here are three choice bits, along with a bit of backstory for each one:
  • Once in chatting with Janowsky at Lake Hopatcong, he referred to Maróczy as the gentle iron-man of Hungary, which was accurate as to both specifications.
Backstory - Marcozy, unlike many Central European masters, survived WWII.  When he died Hans Kmoch wrote of him that "the chess world lost more than a grandmaster and a fine gentleman. It lost the unchallenged champion of chivalry in chess.  This chivalry is hard to describe. It is sportsmanship with a medieval touch. It is the Occidental version of the Asian’s anxiety about 'face.' It is a basic and noble belief that a man should prefer to die than do wrong, to kill rather than submit to an insult; that honor is sacred."
  • I knew Dr. Tarrasch pleasantly at Monte Carlo, 1902. One day the fates had gone against me, malevolently, I felt, in a game against a man I had counted on beating. I got, by way of spur, this vitamin from the Doctor: “In these tournaments it is never enough to be a connoisseur of chess; one must also play well."
Backstory - Tarrasch, the great teacher, was not so fortunate.  Although he identified strongly as German, he was also of Jewish descent.  He died in 1934 - saddened and perhaps bewildered - after the National Socialists had taken power and begun their horrific program.  Harald Balló: "[a]bout Fritz Haber, Albert Einstein wrote something that could be equally applicable to Tarrasch: 'It was the tragedy of the German Jews, the tragedy of scorned love.'"
  • Pillsbury was present [at Thousand Islands, 1897] on other business, and I remember his taking me for a row on the river, in the morning, before play started. He lectured a bit on Steinitz’ opening vagaries; when we separated, he said – revealing perhaps a glimpse of his ruling philosophy, “Be steady, but not to the point of morbid restraint.”
Backstory - There is a great American tradition of American chess geniuses who reach the summit, and then go mad.  Morphy was the seminal example, Fischer the most recent.  Pillsbury, once steady enough to beat the best in the world, developed syphilitic dementia, and died in 1906.  

After his youthful chess adventures, Napier, in the great American tradition followed by other artists such as Wallace Stevens and Charles Ives, went into the insurance business, and apparently did fine for himself.  He liked music, wrote well, and for a chess master seemed unusually well-adjusted.  He is one of those historical figures I wishes I could actually meet.  Looking at him across a century, he seems like the sort of person who'd have some interesting things to say.

Wikipedia does a nice job with chessplayer biographies, Napier's is here.  The madman Edward Winter provides more Napier excerpts here.  After his death  Napier’s Amenities and Background of Chess-Play was bowdlerized a bit and republished as Paul Morphy and the Golden Age of Chess (link).  For even more information, get out eighty five bucks and have a look at this fine biography.


November 06, 2013

Right city, wrong season

I'm in Chicago this week, so here's Ted Leo with a summer song for the AV Club:

Ted Leo And The Pharmacists cover The Ramones

I hadn't realized that Leo's cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" was the first in this series, and having listened to a bunch of them, I still think it is one of the best, both for the fine execution of the song and the note-perfect replication of the conversation with his father.  The AV Club's moved the link, but that performance is now available here.

Covers are hard, but Ted seems to have knack for them.  There aren't many others in the series I think are great, but I enjoyed (for very different reasons) J.C. Brooks and Coliseum as well.

Okay, I admit it, I really liked this one, too, just because I hadn't heard it in years and it took me right back to to college, and I was weeping sentimentally until I looked it up and found it wasn't released until fifteen years after I graduated.  Senile, fine.  And you?

"I like reminiscing with total strangers."  - Stephen Wright

The answer may suprise you

Which of the following is unwilling to negotiate with the President?
  • Russia
  • Iran
  • Congress

  • "[T]he plan to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons is off to a bumpy but acceptable start..." (link)
  • "U.S. Nuclear Deal With Iran Could be Near" (link)

November 05, 2013

I got this link from a billionaire, so it might be a trick

[M]edia coverage of the NSA is a rare litmus test not for party bias, but for institutional bias—and as a Columbia Journalism Review study, proves, that bias in favor of power is severe. 

To spotlight this bias, CJR looked at NSA-related reporting by America's four largest newspapers. Aggregating all of the coverage, the journalism watchdog organization found that there has been a clear slant in favor of the government's defense of mass spying. 

"Key words generally used to justify increased surveillance, such as security or terrorism, were used much more frequently than terms that tend to invoke opposition to mass surveillance, such as privacy or liberty," the report found.


November 04, 2013

Rand Paul Speeches


It seemed like a good idea at the time

Stock photo model regretting decision now, probably.


November 03, 2013

Just 9-0

[T]he team that was in ruins has come back to be the most improbable team with the most improbable record. The team that lost a teammate and finished last season in ruins is undefeated heading into its bye week and game on Nov. 16 against division rival Denver. The team that most figured would be at the bottom of the AFC West shouted and laughed in its locker room again on Sunday – a day it won a game it should have lost.

"We're just 9-0," Berry said with caution..


In heavy rotation at our house (hide me)

Up the Queen

November 02, 2013

But…that's a great idea!

The Alamo will not fall under United Nations control if it is named a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Texas Land commission assured Texans on Wednesday, according to the San Antonio Express-News


November 01, 2013

Autotune this


Since I did my IAYPA post while I was falling asleep, and the output looked so strange, I took another look a the data.  Perhaps there was a data error?

None that I can find.  A few additional observations:

  • IAYPA rewards players who a) throw downfield and b) avoid interceptions.  Several lowly-rated players throw deep, but are killing themselves with bad decisions.  The largest INT penalty is for Geno Smith, whose respectable YPA of 7.4 drops to an IAYPA of 4.9, due to 13 interceptions.  For every 100 balls Smith throws, 5 are caught by the other team.  
  • Smith is an untested rookie, learnings the ropes.  So I have no idea why Eli Manning's numbers are virtually identical to Smith's.  E. Manning leads the League in interceptions, with 15, and is tied for second in INT/Attempt, behind Smith.
  • By contrast, Jake Locker has a slightly below average YPA of 6.9, but he has thrown fewer interceptions (1), and fewer interceptions per attempt (0.7) than any other quarterback who's seen significant playing time this year.  So he ends up with a very strong IAYPA (6.6 vs. league median of 5.7).
  • Tom Brady is more of a poor man's Jake Locker (only at Eisengeiste do you get this kind of insight!) - his INT penalty is relatively low (1 yard, 2% INT percentage vs. League median of 2.6%) - but the ball is just not going downfield.  Raw YPA is 5.9 vs. League average of 7.1, a figure we would typically associate with the Mike Nolan-era Alex Smith.
  • Alex Smith has regressed a bit on that score.  After a big improvement in raw YPA last year into truly elite territory, he is back down to a below-average 6.3 with Andy Reid.  The revelation of the past two years was that Smith can throw the ball downfield, and into the end zone, if you tell him to.  But with the strong KC defense Reid is all about field position and not making the big mistake.  Too bad - Smith has shown he can do more.
  • I heard on the radio today that KC will lose to Buffalo this week because Smith gets sacked a lot (#5 in the League) and Buffalo is good at pressuring the quarterback.  You can move on this game, the fellow said, as if it had already been played. 
  • The League median quarterback is Sam Bradford.