More on Tuscaloosa

There are lots more resources online about the Tuscaloosa storm, but the most useful I pulled from this Metafilter post: a zoomable “slider” graphic showing before-and-after satellite photos of the tornado’s path.

There are also some similar graphics at the Tuscaloosa News site.

Finally, my friend Quin — a Malleteer, former Army Ranger, and EMT working in Tuscaloosa — was interviewed by the Washington Post for a story that is worth your time.

Today in Heathen News

Thanks to the herculean efforts of Chief Technological Heathen, the developer formerly known as LHHFFH, the entire archives of Miscellaneous Heathen are finally online again. And, for the first time, they’re actually all stored in the same system — all prior “complete” incarnations of Heathen included some static page copies of the earliest entries, from November 2000 through July 2001.

The takeaway? Good CHRIST I post a lot. Anyway, here’s a few newly-restored delights for you:


Roll Tide.

This is not Bear, but it may as well be.

Awesome pic of Coach Stallings grilling burgers for tornado victims in Tuscaloosa(via @edsbs) #WeAreAlabama .jpeg

He is Gene Stallings, the only coach who won a championship in Tuscaloosa between Bryant and the incumbent, Nick Saban. Stallings is legitimately legendary in his own right — he was one of Bryant’s Junction Boys in the fifites back at A&M, and coached under Bear at Alabama from ’58 to ’64 before he came back to take the big job in 1990. Coach Stallings retired in 1996, but continues to keep a home in Tuscaloosa.

This is how a 76-year-old man came to be standing in a parking log, surrounded by debris and destruction, grilling burgers for tornado victims.

Roll Tide.

Dept. of Whoa


This past quarter, Apple actually made more money than Microsoft. Not “they had a better profit margin;” I mean they netted more actual dollars by a margin of $5.99 billion to Microsoft’s $5.2 billion. N.B. that Apple also has a higher market capitalization than MSFT — $323.53 billion as of this writing, vs. $215.44 billion for the “giant” from Redmond. (It’s worth noting that MSFT’s revenue for the period ($16.428B) was much lower than Apple’s ($24.67B), which is interesting in two ways: one, MSFT is just plain doing less business than Apple; and two, they’re still making more profit per dollar of revenue.)

This is not the result of Apple being overvalued, either, by traditional metrics — their P/E is well within the normal range for a company like theirs even if you discount how much cash they’re sitting on (nearly $30 billion, which is enough to, say, buy Sony (who once referred to Apple as a boutique firm) or Dell (whose founder once suggested Apple be closed and sold off) outright).

(Yes, Microsoft DOES have about 30% more actual cash, but they’re carrying about that much debt, too — and Apple has none, so it evens out.)

The point of all this: Should well all start rallying around the scrappy underdog from Redmond now?

Couldn’t Stand the Weather (Updated)

Alabama’s getting hammered by a massive tornado, and that includes areas near and dear to Heathen Nation. Here’s a roundup of the links sent my way in the last hour:

A little roundup of Alabama tornado links:

Also, not to make light, but no more HotNow, Tide faithful.

Reports put the wind at 177 knots, which would put it well into F4 territory.

Finally, there’s a longrunning live feed at ABC 33/40. This storm started in eastern Mississippi, and is still causing havoc east of Birmingham.

No clear word on any campus damage, but one bystander stated that it was possible to see Coleman Coliseum from the parking lot of University Mall. If true, that’s mindblowing.

Ol’ Mohney notes that this guy’s Twitter stream has lots of updates.

I have two words that will make you click this one

Chaos Monkey.”

Remember that Amazon Web Services outage last week? One firm that relies heavily on AWS was untouched: NetFlix. Why do you think that is?

Here’s a hint:

We’ve sometimes referred to the Netflix software architecture in AWS as our Rambo Architecture. Each system has to be able to succeed, no matter what, even all on its own. We’re designing each distributed system to expect and tolerate failure from other systems on which it depends.

If our recommendations system is down, we degrade the quality of our responses to our customers, but we still respond. We’ll show popular titles instead of personalized picks. If our search system is intolerably slow, streaming should still work perfectly fine.

One of the first systems our engineers built in AWS is called the Chaos Monkey. The Chaos Monkey’s job is to randomly kill instances and services within our architecture. If we aren’t constantly testing our ability to succeed despite failure, then it isn’t likely to work when it matters most – in the event of an unexpected outage.

This is just cool

We’ve all seen annoying, silly animated GIF files before, but the odds are that you haven’t seen anything as cool as these animated GIFs they’re calling ‘cinemagraphs’ that seem to capture a single moment somewhat longer than a photo, but less immersive than actual video. Here’s an example:

In truth, they sort of remind me of the moving pictures in the “Harry Potter” world newspapers.

Definitely check these out. There’s more here.

Dept. of Surprising Facts

Buried in this “list of things” story at the Houston Press is staggering notion that John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States and a man born in 1790, has two living grandchildren today, in 2011.

  • Lyon Tyler, Jr , born in 1924, and
  • Harrison Ruffin Tyler, born in 1928, who maintains President Tyler’s home in Virginia.

This is, of course, only possible because President Tyler had many children between two wives; his oldest schild was born in 1815, but his youngest wasn’t born until 1860. The surviving grandchildren are sons of Lyon Gardiner Tyler, his fifth child from his second wife. Lyon Sr. was born in 1853 — when Tyler the elder was about 63.

Further, Lyon Sr. had these surviving sons quite late as well: he was about 71 and 73 for their arrivals. But that’s the kind of age spread you need to have living people with grandfathers born during the Washington Administration.


Romney’s Problem

Courtesy of the Onion:

Though Mitt Romney is considered to be a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, the national spotlight has forced him to repeatedly confront a major skeleton in his political closet: that as governor of Massachusetts he once tried to help poor, uninsured sick people.

Romney, who signed the state’s 2006 health care reform act, has said he “deeply regrets” giving people in poor physical and mental health the opportunity to seek medical attention, admitting that helping very sick people get better remains a dark cloud hovering over his political career, and his biggest obstacle to becoming president of the United States of America.

“Every day I am haunted by the fact that I gave impoverished Massachusetts citizens a chance to receive health care,” Romney told reporters Wednesday, adding that he feels ashamed whenever he looks back at how he forged bipartisan support to help uninsured Americans afford medicine to cure their illnesses. “I’m only human, and I’ve made mistakes. None bigger, of course, than helping cancer patients receive chemotherapy treatments and making sure that those suffering from pediatric AIDS could obtain medications, but that’s my cross to bear.”

“My hope is that Republican voters will one day forgive me for making it easier for sick people — especially low-income sick people — to go to the hospital and see a doctor,” Romney added. “It was wrong, and I’m sorry.”

Today in Nerd Culture

Perhaps the most popular and enduring of Doctor Who’s companions was Sarah Jane Smith, who first showed up with the Third Doctor in 1973, but who was best known for her adventures with the floppy-hatted, long-scarf-wearing Fourth Doctor through about 1977. Gamely played by Elisabeth Sladen, Smith was sort of the viewer’s proxy in riding along with the Doctor’s various adventures — attractive, sure, but not the almost pure cheesecake of some later companions (cough Leela cough, not that I minded at the time).

She even resurfaced in the recent revival, appearing opposite Tenth Doctor David Tennant a few times as an older, wiser Sarah Jane. So loved was she by the Doctor Who faithful that she got her own show for a few years, even.

Sadly, though, Elisabeth Sladen died today, of cancer. She was 63.

Dept. of Implied Airplane Matryoshkii

During my trips to Wichita, I had occasion to observe, from quite a ways off, a very unusual airplane.

The customer there makes airplane parts, and among the parts they make are components for both the Boeing 737 — sort of the default American airliner; if you’ve flown Southwest, you’ve been on a 737 — as well as the new 787 “Dreamliner,” a tremendously large plane indeed. The 737 bodies leave the plant on a rail head that backs up into the actual building, which is super cool in and of itself. But the 787 parts are too big for rail, or for truck. So what to do?

Turns out, Boeing just made a bigger plane specifically designed to carry superbig parts back to Seattle for final assembly. The entire tail section swings open like a giant toy so that enormous components can be placed inside. How cool is that?

Now, of course, this begs the question: What do they move parts for THAT plane around in? Sadly, the answer is not “an even bigger plane!” Apparently, they’re custom jobs done in Seattle.

Happy Anniversary

Yesterday marked 150 years since the first shots fired at Fort Sumter, starting the American Civil War.

In an effort to counter the “lost cause” types, my online acquaintance Doug Masson lays it out in The Sesquicentennial of Treason. I think he nails it:

My purpose is not to berate the actions of people who lived 150 years ago. History is crowded to bursting with barbarity. And, for that matter, I’m sure our time will have plenty to answer for when future generations take a look back. But modern day Lost Cause apologists drive me crazy. It seems to me that our country is still wounded by slavery and the Civil War. And, while that wound is gradually scabbing over, it is still festering. I don’t think the wound can really heal until everyone in the country, including the south, recognizes: 1) that slavery was evil; 2) that the Civil War was prompted by a defense of that evil; 3) that the South was beaten; and 4) that it was a good thing the South lost because its reasons for taking up arms against the country were immoral.

Dept. of Unshocking News

It should surprise precisely no one that BYU has a very interesting history when it comes to applying its “honor code” to athletes. Hint: you are substantially more likely to get in hot water if you’re black and non-mormon. OTOH, if you’re a lilly-white son of Utah with a mission on your resume, odds are they look the other way. Imagine that!

Can you say “selective enforcement,” boys and girls? Remember, the LDS didn’t even admit that black (men) were fully members of the church until 1978.

More on SCOTUS evil and scot-free prosecutors

The fellow Harry Connick Sr.’s office framed for murder has an editorial in the NYT about his experience.

The prosecutors involved in my two cases, from the office of the Orleans Parish district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., helped to cover up 10 separate pieces of evidence. And most of them are still able to practice law today.

Why weren’t they punished for what they did? When the hidden evidence first surfaced, Mr. Connick announced that his office would hold a grand jury investigation. But once it became clear how many people had been involved, he called it off.

In 2005, I sued the prosecutors and the district attorney’s office for what they did to me. The jurors heard testimony from the special prosecutor who had been assigned by Mr. Connick’s office to the canceled investigation, who told them, “We should have indicted these guys, but they didn’t and it was wrong.” The jury awarded me $14 million in damages — $1 million for every year on death row — which would have been paid by the district attorney’s office. That jury verdict is what the Supreme Court has just overturned.

I don’t care about the money. I just want to know why the prosecutors who hid evidence, sent me to prison for something I didn’t do and nearly had me killed are not in jail themselves. There were no ethics charges against them, no criminal charges, no one was fired and now, according to the Supreme Court, no one can be sued.

This can’t just be the cost of doing business. These lawyers need to be held accountable. Of course, accountability for those in power is something folks like Scalia and Thomas think of as “bad,” and so they reversed the lower courts’ decisions.

More on the Shuttle

Jalopnik agrees with us, Gawker be damned:

Washington was not the first word spoken on the moon. When a situation turns bad no one says “Los Angeles, we have a problem” because no wants help from Charlie Sheen. Houston is Space City, the birthplace of the shuttle program, and the rightful home of one of the retired shuttles.

I’m not saying any of the cities who did receive a shuttle (New York, LA, and Washington D.C.) didn’t each deserve a space shuttle. I’m just saying none of them deserved one more than Houston, a city that would give the spacecraft the attention and reverence it deserves.

Dear Charles Bolden and NASA

LA, Chuckie? Really? Not Houston? Are you shitting me? And the old Enterprise goes to fucking New York?

Christ. I get that Texas gets to reap what it has sown, what with our statewide pols regularly flipping off Washington at every turn, but leaving Houston off the list of final Shuttle berths is just absurd. It’s even worse than putting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame somewhere like, oh, I dunno, Cleveland.

Yuri, 50 Years On

File-Gagarin_in_Sweden.jpegFifty years ago today, mankind stopped being a strictly earthbound species. On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to orbit the planet. Eight years and change later, mankind had walked on the fucking moon.

Tragically, Gagarin himself died in a training crash a year before Apollo 11, and didn’t live to see it. Cold War or no, my guess is that he’d have been pretty pleased with what the space race bought us as a species, regardless of which flag was on the side of the capsule.

Celebrate Yuri’s Night any way you see fit.

The Snark Is Strong With This One

TBogg quotes it here, but the source is this two-year-old post:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Our favorite April 1 gag, over a week late

Star Wars Prequels Unreasonably Dangerous and Defective, South Carolina Federal Court Finds; go read the whole thing, as it includes some delicious snark.

the Lucas Defendants asserted the affirmative defenses of contributory negligence, assumption of risk, unclean hands, and equitable estoppel, essentially arguing that Plaintiff knew or should have known of the films’ lack of artistic merit and was thus barred from asserting any tort claims based upon his viewing of same. See In re: The Last Airbender, 523 F. Supp. 2d. 147 (N.D. Ga. 2010); In re: Ishtar Litig., 111 F.2d 102 (9th Cir. 1988).

In denying the defense motion for summary judgment, the court rejected the Defendants’ reliance on In re: Bob Dylan Live Performance Litig., 867 F.3d 539 (S.D.N.Y 2006), in which that court held that a once talented artist can devolve and become so well known in the community as a disappointment that damages are not recoverable as a matter of law. See also Shyamalan v. United States, 543 F.3d 129 (6th Cir. 2008).

A sound plan.

Angelo Kelly ain’t gonna pee pee his bed tonight.

I’m not sure, but I think God may be one of his backup singers. BTW, the entire bizarre Kelly Family idea is pretty hiliarious: American dude decamps to Spain, has a mess of kids, homeschools them all, and takes up busking as a weird, ersatz Von Trapp thing that — because, things are different in Europe — actually takes off.

They were, of course, HUGE in Germany.

The other side of life in the future

My Kindle experience last night is an exemplar of how tech done right looks magical. When a vendor is less careful about the details of their implementation, though, you end up with situations like my mother’s; I just spent an hour on the phone with her helping her sysadmin her sewing machine.

Gadget Love, or, Life in the Future

Being the travelin’ dude I am, I have abandoned my formerly monogamous book-readin’ ways and typically have at least 2 going at any one time. Usually, it’s a serious-ish tome and a lighter paperback, but not always.

Tonight, I stepped out after a day and a half of work (no kidding) for an errand and some thai, and grabbed my iPad, my phone, and what I thought was one of the books I was reading. When I got to Nidda, I realized it was another book altogether that just happened to be about the same size. It’s a great book, but I was fried and really wanted the lighter fare.

Well, no trouble. I’m also always reading one or two on my Kindle — which astute readers will realize I didn’t take. No worries; my iPad has the Kindle app, so I was able to pick up with some light SF fare. And then, just now at home, I turned on my Kindle and opened the book in question, and it immediately offered to sync up to the latest point read, i.e. the page I’d just finished reading on the iPad at Nidda Thai.

This is some Buck Rogers shit, right here. Making technology do fancy things is one thing; doing it seamlessly in a way that’s useful to people who don’t know how it works is something else again.

It’s that time again

The 2011 Name of the Year bracket is simply breathtaking. It’s hard to pick a favorite from such a field, but I think “Atticus Disney” probably earned his #1 seed, and that “Quadrophenia Taylor” may well be underseeded.

Remember: all of these people really have these names. No kidding. Hat tip to Rob. You may also wish to peruse the Names of the Year from past years, which includes the 2003 king, Houston attorney Jew Don Boney.

Sadly, he missed “porn”

Paul Baran died late last month. You don’t know the name, but his work informs your daily life in countless ways; Baran was a pioneer in networking, and his work on ARPANET paved the way for the public Internet by which you reach Heathen, among other wonders.

In 1971, when working on ARPANET, he and his group published a list of ways the nacent network might inform our daily lives in the future. All 30 are part of our daily lives today.