January 31, 2016


I am going with "brilliant, but unsound."


I think Richard Nixon has the right take here

Run Kasich, or the know-nothings — Palin, Kim Davis, Bundy, every son of a bitch who’d take this country back to the Articles of Confederation, or worse — will finally get the keys to the liquor cabinet.


January 30, 2016


That's one way to do it...

What great sportswriting looks like

Tufte gives this an A+.  He's not wrong.


January 29, 2016

Here is my Buddy Cianci story

I heard Buddy Cianci interviewed on the radio during his first term.  "What is the population of Providence?" the interviewer asked.  Cianci replied:  "For Federal grant-making purposes?  25 million."

He also once said:  “The toe you stepped on yesterday may be connected to the ass you have to kiss today.”


January 28, 2016

January 27, 2016

This is nuts... 42-4

Nemesis update: Spurs go all Kylo Ren on the Rockets

Aldridge was the leading scorer with 25 points, after the Warriors held him to five.  He has closed his Twitter account and, his cheeks hot with rage, indignation, and humiliation, has sworn revenge against all who wronged him, probably.

A little Wodehouse for a dreary January*

"Did you ever hear of a Captain Walkinshaw?"


"Captain J.G. Walkinshaw? Dark man with an eyeglass. Used to play the saxophone."


"Ah, I thought you might have met him. He trifled with the affections of my niece, Hester. I horsewhipped him on the steps of the Drones Club.  Is the name Blenkinsop-Bustard familiar to you?"


"Rupert Blenkinsop-Bustard trifled with the affections of my niece Gertrude. He was one of the Somersetshire Blenkinsop-Bustards. Wore a fair moustache and kept pigeons. I horsewhipped him on the steps of the Junior Bird-Fanciers. By the way, Mr. Mulliner, what is your club?"

"The United Jade-Collectors," quavered Osbert.

"Has it steps?"

"I – I believe so."

"Good. Good."  A dreamy look came into the General's eyes.

- From The Ordeal of Osbert Mulliner 

* According to Google, this is the first time the word 'horsewhipped' has appeared on Eisengeiste.  Late as the hour might be, I am at least relieved to have corrected this regrettable omission. 

Back on the line

It’s not entirely the case that the Warriors don’t have a true rival, it’s just that the team they’re playing against hasn’t existed for nearly 20 years. With their Monday night win, the Warriors improved their record to 41-4, tying the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the best start in NBA history. At this point of the season, 72-10 seems like a very possible goal. 


From Business Insider:

January 25, 2016


January 23, 2016

Let us begin

  • Warriors lead NBA in points per game.
  • Spurs allow fewest points per game.
  • Spurs lead NBA in margin of victory.
  • Warriors are second.
The teams are a combined 78-10 this season.  "There has never been a game with teams this good (Warriors 40-4; Spurs 38-6) playing this late in an NBA season."  - Matt Steinmetz
Monday night, Oracle Arena.

Scary story

We need a posthumous Pulitzer here

Stopped reading there

The other minor software-related problem with the Compute Stick as it’s being shipped is that Intel didn’t get the Windows 10 November Update included in the default software load. This has happened with several OEM systems that we’ve received lately, and it’s just going to be a reality of life with Windows 10. Right out of the box, you might be facing a big download and lengthy install process to upgrade to the latest revision of the OS.


January 22, 2016



Stupid kids

"Wow we finally did it!  We summoned a demon!  We're awesome!"

"Why is it so mean?"

"Why is it attacking us?"

"Oh no...!"


January 21, 2016



January 20, 2016



Back-to-back games on the road, this one against one of the best defenses in the NBA.  Didn't matter: game over in the first quarter.  The Warriors had more assists than the Bulls had baskets.

Nice play from the non-starters:

January 19, 2016

I know it's early, but here is my annual THIS

January 18, 2016

Nemesis update

Mother of...

Final was 132-98. Worst home loss of LeBron's career.

Nevertheless, this is no longer the best start in NBA history: the Warriors are 38-4 now; the 71-72 Lakers and 95-96 Bulls were both one win better through 42 games.  You can assess their position  here.

January 17, 2016

Please enjoy this October 2015 interview with William Devane

Having once heard from a friend about his willingness to take any role offered to him, Devane has become something of a professional role model for me.  When the phone rings and someone asks you to give a talk, you go give the talk.  If they ask you to be on a panel you go be on the panel.  If they ask you to teach a class you go teach the class (you were going to spend those two hours doing something more useful?).  It may or may not be optimal, but for most of us, Devane's approach is an extremely good starting point.

Highlights from the interview:

  • "I don’t know. I usually only read the lines that I have."
  • "The only thing about that movie is that in my entire career, it’s the only time I ever missed a day of work. I had strep throat and couldn’t talk. Actually, you know, I did work, now that I think about it: I did that bicycle ride in the movie. But I was really sick..."
  • On Payback:  "They were looking for a gangster Yalie, and she thought that I fit the bill. That was fun, though...good movie."
  • "...the elephant got paid more than any of us."
  • "[T]hat was fun, because those two guys were just winging it all the time. They were really good at it, y’know? So you had a lot of fun working with them, and there was never any pressure. It was just a lot of fun. But you might have noticed that I do very few things that aren’t a lot of fun."

I was going to say this humanizes him, but it doesn't really - she is basically a valkyrie so of course he worships her

I knew that post on Svalbard would eventually catch on


January 16, 2016

In (alarmingly) heavy rotation at our house

(Listen to The) Flower People

I remain musically stuck in the Summer of Love, to the extent that I yesterday caught myself listening to a Jefferson Airplane song.  Recognizing the severity of the situation, I reached for the only rescue medication powerful enough to turn me against the aural charms of that intoxicating, rebellious time.

A couple of disorganized remarks on the song:
  • It tells you exactly how much the 80s hated the 60s.
  • The inability to execute on the harmonies in live performance is perfectly accurate.  This was endemic as bands struggled to replicate the sound of their overdubbed albums.  No surprise the Beatles stopped performing right at that moment.
  • This also points out what a torpedo amidships Pet Sounds was to the mid-range British rock bands.  For the Beatles and Pink Floyd, Brian Wilson threw down a challenge and pushed them to greater heights.  But for bands that were down in the pecking order, couldn't get studio time, didn't have the musical sophistication to do complex productions, it really was the end.  And it was a moment of revelation and opportunity for also-rans who could get things done in the studio (*cough* Moody Blues *cough*).  
Matthew Greenwald at Allmusic offers these thoughts on (Listen to The) Flower People:
One of the true highlights of the Spinal Tap film and soundtrack album, "(Listen to The) Flower People" is a straight parody of Scott Mackenzie's "(San Francisco) Wear Flowers in Your Hair." A Summer of Love classic, the song extols the virtues of the commercialized hippie movement, suggesting that people do exactly what the title explains. Using several musical references from the period, including an amateurish sitar, and even a quote from the harmony arrangement on Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne," it's one of the greatest parody songs of all time.
Now, you're probably wondering...where does The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society fit into all this?

Please continue to stand by...

The shame, it burns

Say what you want...

...our team's punter (Jon 'The Ginja Ninja' Ryan) has the coolest Twitter profile picture.

By the bye: tomorrow the Seahawks annihilate the Panthers.



The San Antonio Spurs have been overshadowed by the Golden State Warriors, but they are having a fabulous season. With the Warriors losing on Wednesday night to the Denver Nuggets, 112-110, the Spurs moved to the top spot in this week's NOLA.com|The Times Picayune power rankings.The first game this season between the Warriors-Spurs is Jan. 25 at Oracle Arena.


Epic low

January 15, 2016


A lot of talk on the radio about how flat the Warriors looked against the Lakers last night.  They won by 18.

The cool kids say San Antonio's better, though.

Badass on South Georgia island

After sailing his lifeboat 920 miles from Antarctica to South Georgia Island, Shackleton lands The James Caird before it sinks out from under him, and gets ready to hike 26 miles through the island's interior mountains to reach a whaling station on the other side.  Some of his men can't go, so he parks them by the boat, and writes this in Harry McNish's diary:

May 18th, 1916
South Georgia


I am about to try to reach Husvik on the East Coast of this island for relief of our party. I am leaving you in charge of the party consisting of Vincent, McCarthy & yourself. You will remain here until relief arrives. You have ample seal food which you can supplement with birds and fish according to your skill. You are left with a double-barrelled gun.  50 Cartridges,
40 to 50 Bovril sledging rations,
25 to 30 biscuits;
40 Streimers Nutfood.

You also have all the necessary equipment to support life for an indefinite period.   In the event of my non-return you had better after winter is over try and sail around to the [East] coast. 

The course I am making towards Husvik is East magnetic.
I trust to have you relieved in a few days.

Yours faithfully,
EH Shackleton

Then he did this little hike (never before attempted) and got back to them in a couple days.

January 13, 2016

Life is meaningless


January 12, 2016

Keres and the Man

Well, shame on me for not noticing until now that January 7th was the 100th birthday of Paul Keres, or that FIDE has declared 2016 the Year of Paul Keres.

Paul Keres was one of the greatest chess players who ever lived.  He was a friend of David Bronstein, and shared many of Bronstein's life dilemmas.  Like Bronstein, Keres was very good, but not the Chosen One of Stalin's chess machine.  But, unlike Bronstein, Keres was also a foreigner, hailing from Estonia, which as every schoolchild knows was full of hooligans, wreckers, and revisionists.  Which partly explains why he is generally regarded as the best player to never play for the World Championship.

"I was unlucky, like my country."

By all accounts he was a fine person, correct in all things.  He was a national hero in Estonia, and remains one to this day.

He almost didn't get the chance.  After World War II, the Soviets did some housecleaning in the Baltic states, including heavy re-education, extensive deportation, and light murder, depending on local conditions and the priorities of the occupation forces at that particular moment.  According to this excellent article on Chessbase, "Keres had participated in German tournaments during the war, and when the Red Army liberated the country, Soviet authorities planned initially to execute him. Botvinnik interceded by talking to Stalin and Keres was spared."

So, I wondered - what was Keres' record against Botvinnik?  Here are the games reported in the chessgames database:

Act 1 - Before the War
  • AVRO 1938 - Draw
  • AVRO 1938 - Draw
  • USSR Championship 1940 - Draw
  • USSR Absolute Championship 1941 - Draw
  • USSR Absolute Championship 1941 - Draw
  • USSR Absolute Championship 1941 - Botvinnik wins
  • USSR Absolute Championship 1941 - Draw
Act 2 - After the War
  • Moscow 1947 - Botvinnik wins
  • FIDE World Championship Tournament 1948 - Botvinnik wins
  • FIDE World Championship Tournament 1948 - Botvinnik wins
  • FIDE World Championship Tournament 1948 - Botvinnik wins
  • FIDE World Championship Tournament 1948 - Keres wins
  • FIDE World Championship Tournament 1948 - Botvinnik wins
  • USSR Championship 1951 - Draw
  • USSR Championship 1952 - Botvinnik wins
  • Budapest 1952 - Draw
Act 3 - After the death of Stalin
  • USSR Championship 1955 - Keres wins in final round, keeps Botvinnik from winning the tournament
  • Alekhine Memorial 1956 - Keres wins in final round, forces Botvinnik to share 1st place with Smyslov
  • USSR Team Championship 1966 - Botvinnik wins
  • Netherlands 1969 - Draw

So that's 0 wins, 1 loss, and 6 draws in Act 1; 1-6-2 in Act 2; and 2-1-1 in Act 3.

According to Chessmetrics, Keres was a pretty consistent performer throughout his career - there was no big dropoff in his results against anyone else after the war.  

Keres never got to play The Man even and walk away, like Bronstein did in 1951.  But it's nice to know that he did get to slap Botvinnik around a little, once the coast was clear.

As The New Republic Turns

"So, essentially, Hughes’s efforts to deviate from TNR’s business model proved even more disastrous than TNR’s traditionally unprofitable modus operandi."


January 11, 2016



Manchu? That's a language I haven't heard since...

In the decades after the revolution in 1911 that drove the Qing from power after nearly 300 years, Mandarin Chinese vanquished the Manchu language, even in its former stronghold in the forested northeast. But the isolation of the Xibe in this parched, far-flung region near the Kazakh border helped keep the language alive, even if its existence was largely forgotten until the 1940s.

For scholars of Manchu, especially those eager to translate the mounds of Qing dynasty documents that fill archives across China, the discovery of so many living Manchu speakers has been a godsend.


January 10, 2016

Even the intelligence agencies began to take notice

Experience shows that vast oil wealth encourages autocracy, whether it is in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya or Kuwait, but it also produces states that are weaker than they look, with incapable administrations and dysfunctional armies. 


January 09, 2016

Note the lookaway at the end


The NBA has existed since 1946.  No NBA team has ever done this.

Good start

Why the Internet was invented: Mat Johnson and Libby Watson live-tweet the Houston-KC Game


January 08, 2016


January 07, 2016

Roy Batty, 1/8/16 -


January 06, 2016

Holy crap

When the tsunami comes, the only place to go in Gearhart is a small ridge just behind the school. At its tallest, it is forty-five feet high—lower than the expected wave in a full-margin earthquake. For now, the route to the ridge is marked by signs that say “Temporary Tsunami Assembly Area.” I asked Dougherty about the state’s long-range plan. “There is no long-range plan,” he said.


Sounds right

Even during his worst days, Griffey remained an All-Star-caliber player; during his best, he really was the second coming of Willie Mays.



January 04, 2016

Please Enjoy Seahawks' Backup Backup Backup RB Christine Michael Looking at Things

Now in Kill Bill mode: https://twitter.com/whoisjoserivera/status/683792780733231105



A few brief notes on The Force Awakens

Star Wars was awesome, man.  It is my favorite Star Wars movie, in fact for me it's really the only Star Wars movie, because it is awesome.  

What made it awesome?  This has been overthought.

Obviously, the action played a role, but there are lots of bang bang movies, and as Ebert noted in 1977, "there's hardly any violence at all in Star Wars (and even then it's presented as essentially bloodless swashbuckling)."

The plot?  Nah.  Ebert:  "The journey from one end of the galaxy to another is out of countless thousands of space operas." Canby:  "The story of "Star Wars" could be written on the head of a pin and still leave room for the Bible."

The characters?  Well, as beloved as the original characters have become, no one really thought of them as well-developed at the time.  In hindsight, Lucas got good performances from three rookie actors, and the vets Guinness and Cushing did a great job.

Star Wars won no Oscars for stunts, script, or acting (Guinness nominated).  It did win Oscars for:

  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Sound
  • Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Best Music, Original Score
These really did set the film apart at the time, and helped make it such an immersive experience.  Canby:
The true stars of "Star Wars" are John Barry, who was responsible for the production design, and the people who were responsible for the incredible special effects--space ships, explosions of stars, space battles, hand-to-hand combat with what appear to be lethal neon swords. 

True as far as it goes, and it is good to see Jodorowsky getting his due after all these years.  

But I say Star Wars would have been successful even if the special effects had been a little less spectacular.  I say you could have made the movie with Star Trek TOS special effects and still gotten a great movie.  Why?  Because of that other thing they got an Oscar for:

Best Film Editing

Best Film Editing

Best Film Editing

The genius of Star Wars, which to this day remains unsurpassed (I guess, probably...I don't know, I don't see many movies), lies in its pacing, its steady escalation, its ability to always find another gear and keep surprising the viewer until the big explosion at the end.  

The other movies in the franchise don't have this.  My sophisticated movie friends enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back, but I had trouble staying enthused; by the time Return of the Jedi came around, with its wampas and walkers and woodland creatures, I really felt Lucas had lost the thread.  And I wished that, some day - some day! - they would quit catering to the toy market and make another movie that moved the way Star Wars did.

The Force Awakens is that movie.

There are a hundred things I didn't care for in The Force Awakens, but who cares.  Ebert wrote this in 1977:

Every once in a while I have what I think of as an out-of-the-body experience at a movie. When the ESP people use a phrase like that, they're referring to the sensation of the mind actually leaving the body and spiriting itself off to China or Peoria or a galaxy far, far away. When I use the phrase, I simply mean that my imagination has forgotten it is actually present in a movie theater and thinks it's up there on the screen. In a curious sense, the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them. 
"Star Wars" works like that. 
And so does The Force Awakens.  The editing is there, the pacing is there, and the story rushes forward, punctuated by fights, explosions, wisecracks, and the diverting conniptions of the most punchable dark lord ever to grace the silver screen.

Of course, despite superior special effects and pretty good acting, The Force Awakens cannot quite match the original.  Much has been recaptured, but not all. There are stretches where detachment and analytical reserve go missing, but they do drop in from time to time.  Both Ebert and Canby used the word "innocent" in describing the original movie, but we cannot use that word anymore.  We know too much now, there's too much fucking backstory.  Mandalorians, midichlorians, shaddupalorians.

Abrams and Disney have been criticized for The Force Awakens' debt to the original Star Wars, as if it were wrong to copy the biggest movie ever made, as if just anyone could remake that film, as if no one has tried.  It brings to mind C.S. Lewis' response to Eliot's criticism of Hamlet:  
If this is failure, then failure is better than success. We want more of these 'bad plays'.
Or to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, imitation of perfection is no vice.  More, please.

His pastiches have a kind of integrity

[I]t must be satisfying to see his gifts as a director, so long forgotten, be praised. “The Force Awakens” makes it once again possible to think about George Lucas as a man of imagination, of conviction, and (minus Jar Jar Binks) of taste—as a brilliant appropriator rather than an average one. It took a forgery to get him called an artist.


January 03, 2016

Meanwhile (via 538)


End of an era

Maybe there should be more attention paid to the stunning but inevitable news that Kubiak confirmed on Wednesday: For the first time since he was a freshman at Tennessee, Peyton Manning is a backup.


January 02, 2016


Failure of elites

Finally, a nice clear statement of the problem, via Pankaj Mishra of The Guardian:
The modern west has been admirably different from other civilisations in its ability to counterbalance the arrogance of power with recognition of its excesses. Now, however, it is not only the bankers who radically expand our notion of impunity. Their chums in politics and the media coax, with criminal irresponsibility, the public into deeper fear and insecurity – and into blaming their overall plight on various enemies (immigrants, budding terrorists in Calais’s jungle, an un-American alien in the White House, Muslims and darkies in general). 


January 01, 2016

The sadness of expanded universes

Tolkien -

I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall, but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless — while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors — like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the plot and its discovery and overthrow — but it would have been just that. Not worth doing.