Decency Explosion Ahead

At a horribly mismatched softball game in Indianapolis this spring, local (undefeated!) powerhouse Roncalli met Marshall, a team that had literally never played before. They had no equipment, no skills, and only a nominal coach. An inning and a half in, Marshall had walked 9 Roncalli batters.

Then something weird happened. Roncalli offered to forfeit — after not losing a game in 2.5 years — in order to spend the time teaching the Marshall players. And they didn’t stop there. They also raised $2,500 for the opposing program. Reebok’s also noticed (“What do you need? We’ll get it for you.”, and the Cincinnati Reds are donating raw materials for a new field.

Today’s Geekiest Bit

A Brief, Incomplete, and Mostly Wrong History of Programming Languages (widely linked, and which I think I’ve pointed out before, but anyway). Some bits:

1957 – John Backus and IBM create FORTRAN. There’s nothing funny about IBM or FORTRAN. It is a syntax error to write FORTRAN while not wearing a blue tie.

and

1972 – Dennis Ritchie invents a powerful gun that shoots both forward and backward simultaneously. Not satisfied with the number of deaths and permanent maimings from that invention he invents C and Unix.

and

1980 – Alan Kay creates Smalltalk and invents the term “object oriented.” When asked what that means he replies, “Smalltalk programs are just objects.” When asked what objects are made of he replies, “objects.” When asked again he says “look, it’s all objects all the way down. Until you reach turtles.”

and

1983 – Bjarne Stroustrup bolts everything he’s ever heard of onto C to create C++. The resulting language is so complex that programs must be sent to the future to be compiled by the Skynet artificial intelligence. Build times suffer. Skynet’s motives for performing the service remain unclear but spokespeople from the future say “there is nothing to be concerned about, baby,” in an Austrian accented monotones. There is some speculation that Skynet is nothing more than a pretentious buffer overrun.

Now, THIS is a film review

The Stranger’s Lindy West gives Sex and the City 2 both barrels, and it’s lovely. A few choice bits:

It is 146 minutes long, which means that I entered the theater in the bloom of youth and emerged with a family of field mice living in my long, white mustache. This is an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls.

Apparently, the plot involves them visiting Abu Dhabi. And so:

[...V]ery quickly, the SATC brain trust notices that it’s not all swarthy man-slaves and flying carpets in Abu Dhabi! In fact, Abu Dhabi is crawling with Muslim women—and not one of them is dressed like a super-liberated diamond-encrusted fucking clown!!! Oppression! OPPRESSION!!!

This will not stand. Samantha, being the prostitute sexual revolutionary that she is, rages against the machine by publicly grabbing the engorged penis of a man she dubs “Lawrence of My-Labia.” When the locals complain (having repeatedly asked Samantha to cover her nipples and mons pubis in the way of local custom), Samantha removes most of her clothes in the middle of the spice bazaar, throws condoms in the faces of the angry and bewildered crowd, and screams, “I AM A WOMAN! I HAVE SEX!” Thus, traditional Middle Eastern sexual mores are upended and sexism is stoned to death in the town square.

At sexism’s funeral (which takes place in a mysterious, incense-shrouded chamber of international sisterhood), the women of Abu Dhabi remove their black robes and veils to reveal—this is not a joke—the same hideous, disposable, criminally expensive shreds of cloth and feathers that hang from Carrie et al.’s emaciated goblin shoulders. Muslim women: Under those craaaaaaay-zy robes, they’re just as vapid and obsessed with physical beauty and meaningless material concerns as us! Feminism! Fuck yeah!

Heh. Goblin shoulders FTW.

How quickly will Rand Paul implode?

Libtard patriarch Ron Paul’s son Rand won the GOP Senate primary in Kentucky this week, which was a big damn deal considering how the GOP establishment lined up behind his opponent. Ordinarily, I’d be all over this despite being across the ideological aisle from either Paul, since pretty much any smack to the GOP is a good one in my book. However…

It turns out the younger Paul (and maybe the older; apples and trees and all that) has such a doctrinaire view of state power and private property that he, apparently, opposes the provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that made it illegal to run a public business in a discriminatory way — i.e., the provisions that made segregated lunch counters illegal. He won’t come right out and say it, since it’s clear what will happen if he does, but on Rachel Maddow he came very close despite tapdancing around her questions and throwing out gun-rights nonsequitors. I don’t think his general election Democratic challenger is likely to miss this, and it seems like Paul is the sort of guy who doesn’t see the implications of his position — or how dramatically out of the mainstream they are, or how explosive that kind of revelation is likely to be. One of his lines in the Maddow interview was something like “I don’t know why we’re discussing a 40 year old law,” but “how would you vote on legislation like X” is a perfectly legitimate question to put to a candidate; he won’t get far with that kind of defense.

The video is long (about 20 minutes), but Maddow and Paul are able to have a respectful conversation about this despite Paul’s clear unwillingness to answer Maddow’s oft-repeated question with a straight answer.

Here’s a Free Tip

When you coldcall me to try to sell my company something and suggest that “my company president said we should call you,” it’s more convincing if you can actually NAME the president in question.

When I ask that you email me your information, it’s also better if your PDF of talking points has actually been proofread, explains what you’re selling, and has a clear pitch the explains why I want it. A shotgun approach of unconnected capabilities and features is rarely the way to a sale.

Finally, if I reply with questions and explicitly state at the bottom of my mail that you should reply in email, not call me directly, why on earth would you call me? And when I point out your failure to honor my request, maybe it’s not a good idea to get defensive and suggest that you’re somehow doing me a favor.

Wow. Just wow.

Wired on the Lost Tribes of RadioShack

As a child of the 70s in a small town, Radio Shack was one of the only places I found where technology was just there to play with or even, if I saved my nickels even take home. My first computer came from a Radio Shack, and I sure wasn’t alone in that (hi, Rob!).

Back then, a Radio Shack was a haven of parts and gadgets and equipment for Serious Knowledgeable Hobbyists. Need a diode and a new soldering iron? Gotcha. Radio kit? Of course. And those wonderful 101-project kits defined my childhood. But it’s all gone now, for the most part, because people just don’t want diodes and soldering irons and DIY electronics anymore, and now all Radio Shack does is sell batteries and cell phones.

Anyway, Wired gets it.

What ought to be criminal, and yet isn’t

A Puerto Rican prosecutor decided the porn DVD an American man was carrying featured an underage performer based on pretty much his own judgement (plus that of compliant, prosecutor-friendly “experts” who made no effort to acquire legal proof of age), and decided to prosecute him — this despite the fact that actress in question, like all law-abiding adult performers in the U.S., had proof of age on file and easily acquirable. The only thing that saved the defendant? The performer’s unaccountable willingness to fly to San Juan, show her passport, and testify under oath.

Click through to Radley Balko’s site for more (totally SFW); it’s absolutely absurd. A man spent months incarcerated for child porn because the prosecutor was on a power trip. Said prosecutor will likely suffer no consequences even though the defense made it very, very clear that the woman in question was of age.

Instead, the prosecutor pushed ahead with child pornography charges against Simon-Timmerman, even after the man’s attorney was able to show that Fuentes had appeared in movies produced in the U.S., as well as other documentation that Fuentes was of legal age at the time the movie was made.

Hernandez-Vega still didn’t buy it. Her evidence that Fuentes was a minor was apparently so strong that she not only apparently felt she didn’t need to take 15 minutes to look up the proof of Fuentes’ age on file with the federal government, she could also dismiss the evidence produced by Simon-Timmerman’s attorney that his client hadn’t broken any law — all while keeping Simon-Timmerman locked up for months.

And what was that evidence? “Expert” testimony. At trial, Hernandez-Vega called Alek Pacheco, A U.S. Customs agent and self-described expert in child pornography who concluded (presumably after viewing the video several times) that Fuentes was “13 or 14″ years of age.

And now for a completely different kind of nerdery

A British sniper has taken the longest-sniper-shot record from the Canuck who bagged it last year. Both the old record (2,757 yards) and the new one (2,707) are about one and a half MILES. Oh, and he did it three times in a row, since after taking out two bad guys he destroyed their machine gun, too.

I’m not sure if it’s more or less impressive, given its sniper-specific provenance, but the new record was made with the relatively modern, smaller, lighter, and shorter-ranged .338 Lapua round, not the venerable .50 BMG used by the Canadian. (An American made a similarly impressive if much shorter shot at 1,367 yards with a 7.62NATO in 2005; the 7.62mm does not have the reach of the Lapua or .50.)

The real nerdery of this story, though, comes from the strange editing choices made in its presentation. I assume the range of Corporal Harrison’s shot was provided by the UK military to the press in meters, and yet it was converted to Imperial units for publication. This part makes sense, because as I understand it, the British public still “thinks” in those units (just like we Yanks).

However, the calibers of the weapons mentioned are completely inscrutable, since they’ve also “helpfully” converted the Imperial names to metric. This is weird and probably wrong.

Caliber names do have their roots in bullet (projectile) diameter, and express that diameter in either Imperial units (as a fraction of an inch — a .45 bullet is just under half an inch in diameter) or metric (e.g. 9mm). However, once named they are typically considered “proper nouns” stylistically, and not converted, for reasons of precision, because bullet diameter is only one measurement when it comes to defining a round. There’s also bullet weight, case dimensions, and (importantly) length and powder load, variances in all of which produce a different round that probably requires a different gun to shoot safely.

Consequently, “9mm” is always 9mm, even in the U.S. where we think with inches, partially because there are several handguns (and several more rifles!) that use bullets of roughly that diameter — .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .357 Sig, .380, etc. There is no ambiguity in saying “9mm”. There’s plenty of imprecision, though, if you just refer to the bullet size.

All this means that converting the “real” name — in this case, .338 Lapua and .50 BMG — to metric is just plain weird if not outright incorrect, and leads to reader annoyance. I had to go to Google to determine what the hell caliber he’d used, since 8.59mm means nothing to me. 12.7mm was big enough I was pretty sure what they meant, but odds are that the bullets for both guns were marked in fractions of inches.

But anyway: A mile and a half. Three times in a row. Damn.

Lives Saved by Rock and Roll

Today’s best phrase: [H]ow a fourth-hand Rat pedal and a borrowed Peavey Bandit can save your life for a little while, from Merlin’s post about music, heros, and saving your soul. (Also, Merlin has excellent taste in heros.)

I don’t think I can overstate how completely TRUE this post is. He totally nails it in all sorts of ways. Plus, I had the “Kurt Bloch” experience with Pat DiNizio in a Memphis bar called Alex’s one time, and it went pretty much the same way. For a certain class of misanthropic types — especially folks like me, and Merlin, who grew up far away from the music centers of our youth — Lou Reed wasn’t kidding or exaggerating when he talked about lives being saved by rock and roll. He was telling the gospel truth.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run the cats out of my office by playing the stereo as God, Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, and Pat DiNizio intended. Roadrunner once, roadrunner twice…

Continental to Houston: Drop Dead

Houston’s hometown airline has agreed to merge with industry fuckwits and apotheosis of customer hostility United — and relocate to Chicago! — thereby ensuring that all further Heathen air travel will be on Southwest.

Fuck you, United. Every time I’ve ever flown a United plane, you’ve screwed me. You once lost my bags between LAX and SFO, for crying out loud. Granted, you’re bigger than Continental, but in Houston we’ve typically been able to choose between two highly decorated airlines from a customer satisfaction perspective: Southwest and Continental. United’s always been a joke from a customer service perspective, so we figure it’s that culture that will predominate in the new United.