Even if you haven’t followed the whole Economist debate, Bruce Schneier’s conclusion is absolutely worth your time.
Monthly Archives: March 2012
It is entirely likely you are also unaware of the existence of erotic Charlotte’s Web fan fiction
It’s mostly about Wilbur, of course, but Charlotte does make an appearance. Not safe for work, church, life, or sanity. Nor do I think it is, strictly speaking, kosher. Or halal, for that matter.
Dept. of GOOD CHRIST WE’RE OLD AS DIRT
The Joshua Tree was released twenty five years ago this month.
Previously and also here.
Batman of Maryland
You may have heard the tale of a man dressed as Batman pulled over on route 29 outside DC last week.
It turns out there is substantially more to the story.
(Widely linked, good thread at MeFi.)
OH DEAR LORD
Apparently, Alan Moore was — briefly — in a band.
This Will Hurt Your Brane
Apparently, Nine Inch Nails made a (lip-sync’d) appearance on something called “Dance Party USA” in 1990.
It seems unlikely this video will last long.
Hey Chief Heathen, What Do You Hate Today?
Active Directory. “Hey, how do you get a list of nondisabled users from a given group?”
dsquery * ou=associates,dc=manassas,dc=[companynameredacted],dc=com -filter (!userAccountControl:1.2.840.113522.214.171.1243:=2) -attr name samaccountname > Associates.txt
Today at the Atlantic’s In Focus feature
I suppose the inclusion of No. 22 was sort of inevitable in this collection of kisses, but it made me smile anyway.
It’s just that kind of day.
Extremely high-volume mid-80s metal is pretty much the only thing keeping me from exploding in a paroxysm of sacrilegious profanity, cynicism, ire, and misanthropy.
Gather round, children, and let me tell you once again what a terrible idea code outsourcing is. The abominations I’ve seen rival the Great Old Ones for Things Which Should Not Be. As Cthulu is my witness, the dev manager showed me a place where they’d used string functions to determine absolute value, I shit you not.
Not even once, people. Not even once.
The TSA: Still Cowardly, Still Worthless
Security expert Bruce Schneier was scheduled to testify before Congress yesterday in hearing about the efficacy of the TSA.
On Friday, he learned that the TSA had struck him from the list of witnesses on the flimsy pretext that he is involved in a lawsuit over the pornocancerscanners.
As noted at Ars: “With Schneier booted from the panel, the remaining witnesses were all representatives of the Obama administration: two TSA officials, an admiral from the Coast Guard, and a member of the Government Accountability Office.”
Also of note: the TSA appears to be completely unwilling to appear on any panel with any critics:
This is not the first time the TSA has engaged in brinksmanship to avoid having to appear on a panel alongside its critics. The TSA abruptly canceled a planned appearance before the same committee last year. The agency objected to sitting alongside a representative of EPIC, a privacy group that also had a pending lawsuit against the TSA.
The TSA’s refusal to participate at last year’s hearing prompted a public rebuke from subcommittee chairman Jason Chaffetz. The TSA eventually backed down and agreed to appear on a separate panel following the other scheduled testimony.
Demand accountability from the TSA. They’re spending our money. Insist they act like it.
Edit: Nice graf from TechDirt:
Schneier is a clear thorn in the side of the TSA, and if it’s so afraid of having him speak to Congress, that really says a lot about the (lack of) confidence it has in its own arguments. If you can’t stand to let a critic speak, it suggests that perhaps your own argument isn’t very strong.
Dept. of Very Smart Football Writing
It’s rare you see a piece about any sport that’s both accessible to non-maniacal fans and astute in its analysis, so I urge you to take a moment and read Grantland’s piece on Tebow and the Jets. It includes this very succinct discussion of the mechanics of play design and what the “spread” or “wildcat” is that, even for a fan like me, seems perfect in its clarity:
With 11 players to each side, every play — but particularly run plays — often comes down to how the offense does or does not account for one or two particular defenders. In the modern NFL, if all of an offense’s players block their counterparts on a running play, the defense will have two defenders unaccounted for: The counterpart for the running back carrying the ball and the counterpart for the quarterback, who most likely has handed the ball off. Good quarterbacks like Peyton Manning seek to control their counterpart by faking a play-action pass, so that a deep safety must stand in the middle of the field.
But the ballcarrier still has a counterpart. NFL offenses work extremely hard to dictate who that guy will be — with motion, different blocking schemes, and even using wide receivers to block interior defenders — but at some point the math is the math. Until the quarterback is a threat, the math will always work against the offense. But spread coaches, without subjecting their quarterbacks to undue brutality, have learned to change the calculus.
(Via Rafe Colburn.)
So, what happens if you make friends with wolves, go away for 2 months, and then come back?
Apparently, this, which hits “Christian the lion” levels of adorable.
The Economist Debate: Has the TSA done more harm than good?
The whole thing is here (sadly, the navigation is a bit wonky). On the affirmative (i.e., “yes, post-9/11 airport security changes have done more harm than good”), we have security analyst and expert Bruce Schneier. Defending the TSA is its former head Kip Hawley — who, it will surprise no one to learn, has no security resume to speak of.
As you may imagine, Schneier completely destroys him. Hawley rattles off talking points, but doesn’t actually address the basic points of logic that Schneier advances, and in his first rebuttal comes dangerously close to the old “well, if you knew what I know gambit.”
This debate, fun though it is to read, amounts to pulling wings of flies. Hawley is getting his ass handed to him because his position is untenable: the TSA is a colossal waste of money and effort, and the divergence of resources into this money pit actually makes us worse off. The sooner we fix this problem, the better.
Dept. of Movie Theaters Committing Suicide
There is apparently now talk of theaters addressing the lack of demand for (and therefore lack of revenue from) more expensive 3D tickets by raising 2D ticket prices and then charging the same amount for both.
The official Heathen position is simple: Fuck 3D, and fuck absolutely everything about this idea. Hello, home rental! I mean, seriously: we barely go to the movies as it is because on nearly every metric important to us, the home experience is superior. There’s no chattering. There’s no texting. There’s no $17 “small” soda. There’s no parking. We can sit in the center of the room and control the volume. We can back it up if we need a line repeated, or pause it if we need to take a leak.
What, exactly, does Regal offer me besides overpriced snacks, extortionate ticket prices, and the “opportunity” to share the movie experience with a few hundred mouth-breathing jackasses.?
The difference between “Christ” and “Many Christians”
Pithy, vulgar, and completely accurate.
It works because the real one is only a little bit bigger
Le Petit Prince is an art project by Troy Gua wherein a certain Artist is rendered as a Thunderbirds-style marionette.
Do not miss this. It seems inevitable that the Purple One will be unamused when he finds it.
This is the coolest kid’s room EVER
It is, of course, accessed through the wardrobe.
Will Watch. For Sure.
Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day have created a new online show called Tabletop, which appears to be a merging of two things we loved at Casa Heathen: Jon Favreau’s Dinner for Five and the early seasons of Celebrity Poker Showdown.
It begins on April 2.
Where was this information 25 years ago?
Did you know that it’s possible to hide from the ghosts in Pac-Man?
Dept. of Interesting Windows into Smart Game Design
The author of the upcoming puzzle game Gunpoint just posted a smart piece on handling saved games. It’s always interesting to see how really GOOD sausage gets made.
Just wait til she swaps Colonel Reb for a swan dress
I mean, it’s obviously not what they mean, but still:
For what it’s worth, I loved the book and still loathed Classics
The Awl’s “Classic Trash” feature takes on The Secret History.
Nothing else i say will make this post more interesting if you didn’t wear out a copy of that book, but everyone who did has already clicked through. It’s that kind of book.
A Concise Rundown on the Trayvon Martin Murder
Courtesy of Mother Jones.
Because, seriously, how could I NOT run this?
Someone has compiled a visual database of all the nipples on display at the Met.
This Octopus May Be Watching You RIGHT NOW
Seriously, check this out.
Dept. of Pop Culture Obsessiveness
You know you want to read every Bart Simpson chalkboard message.
WTF, Consumer Reports?
When, exactly, did they become shamelessly inflammatory?
Quit poking’ me. (Traditional)
Slacktivist on Trayvon Martin
It should surprise precisely no one that Slacktivist has an excellent post on Martin’s murder.
What Rick Perry and the GOP Did To Texas Women
My friend Andrea really nails it here, but I’m copying-and-pasting for brevity:
1. When Texas joined the Women’s Health Program, which officially happened in December, 2006, the rules were the same as they are now. Planned Parenthood was an approved provider. In other words, Texas knew that funds would be going to Planned Parenthood, and our state government was OK with that.
In December, 2006, and in the lead-up during our application process, George W. Bush (R) was the President of the United States and Rick Perry (R) was the Governor of Texas.
So, the Women’s Health Program (a.k.a. the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver program) was overseen by Republicans at the federal and state level. Republicans approved our state’s application. Under the rules that allowed Planned Parenthood to be a provider.
The Texas legislature, a majority of whom were Republicans in 2011, decided to change the state law in order to exclude Planned Parenthood as a provider. They did this knowing that the waiver would expire in December, 2011, and that Texas would need to reapply in order to continue receiving the highly advantageous and money-saving 9 to 1 federal matching funds.
The federal government, following the rules established during a Republican administration, warned Texas that dropping Planned Parenthood would terminate the state’s right to participate in the program.
The Republican Texas legislature dropped Planned Parenthood anyway.
Today in Single-Serving Tumblrs
One Tiny Hand is just what it says on the tin.
Presented without comment
Apparently, in Florida, it’s legal to pick fights with people and then kill them in “self defense”
Trayvon Martin’s murder by a gun-toting neighborhood watch doofus with delusions of grandeur (reports note his “criminal justice degree,” which says “cop wannabe” to me) has gotten the attention of the Justice Department because, apparently, Florida’s stand your ground law means local prosecution is unlikely (though apparently a grand jury will look at it).
We at Heathen are all about citizens being allowed to protect themselves, even including lethal force, but laws that protect people defending themselves should not be so broad as to encourage would-be vigilantes like Zimmerman (who, it should be noted did pretty much everything wrong in his zeal to catch that suspicious youth armed with Skittles and soda).
More at NPR and, via them, The Orlando Sentinel‘s “Breaking New” page, onto which updates about this (and other) stories are frequently posted.
Dept. of Being Known By The Company You Keep
I really wish ol’ Rick Santorum would’ve saved stuff like this for the general election.
His ongoing self-destruction is a real bummer for those who want to see him running after the convention. ;)
Yet Another Liar
Look, if reasonable people reading or listening to your work could come away with the impression that you’re reporting facts, just saying “What I do is not journalism” doesn’t get you off the hook.
It just makes you a weasel and a jackass.
Update: “Not a journalist” link fixed.
Things You MIght Want To Watch
Here is Bruce’s 50-minute SXSW keynote. Enjoy.
The $8 Billion iPod
Groups like the MPAA and the RIAA are so openly, brazenly mendacious that they make Republicans look like Girl Scouts. Seriously.
To put this in perspective, have a look at this video, which explains the brand-new field of “copyright math” — wherein the absurd figures for economic loss due to piracy are compared to actual facts.
It’s short. Watch it.
No wonder they named a town after him
On this day in 1861, Sam Houston was forced to resign as Governor of Texas for refusing to secede and swear allegiance to the Confederacy:
Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas . . . I protest . . . against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.
Houston retired to Huntsville, and was dead by 1863. To say he’d had an interesting life is to understate things rather dramatically. Immigrants to Texas like myself would do well to review that Wikipedia article, since we missed the no-doubt otherwise inescapable “History of Texas” classes in middle school.
In 1998, Texas Monthly‘s Skip Hollandsworth wrote a long piece called “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas” about Bernie Tiede, a somewhat effeminate undertaker in rural Carthage, TX, who befriended a nasty but wealthy local widow named Marjorie Nugent. He left the funeral business and took a job basically looking after her; they’d travel together — first class all the way — and he would tend to her affairs.
Until, they say, he killed her. Which was unfortunately about 9 months before anybody actually noticed she was gone; he’d stored her body in a deep freeze at her home, which he continued to tend. The residents of Carthage were, somewhat amusingly, untroubled:
Sitting at his regular table at Daddy Sam’s BBQ and Catfish (“You Kill It, I’ll Cook It”) in the East Texas town of Carthage, district attorney Danny Buck Davidson began to realize that he might have some problems prosecuting Bernie Tiede for murder.
“Bernie’s a sweet man, Danny Buck,” a waitress said. “He’s done a lot of good things for this town. He’s given poor kids money to go to college and everything.”
“You got to admit nobody could sing “Amazing Grace’ like Bernie could,” someone else said.
The bulldog-faced Danny Buck took a bite of slaw and sipped his iced tea. “Now y’all know that Bernie confessed, don’t you?” he said, trying to keep his voice calm. “He came right out and told a Texas Ranger that he shot Mrs. Nugent four times in the back and then stuffed her in her own deep freeze in her kitchen.”
There was a long silence. “Danny Buck,” one man finally said, “it’s just hard for me to believe that old Bernie could fire a gun straight. He acts…well, you know…effeminate! You can tell he’s never been deer hunting in his entire life.”
“And you know what?” a woman told Danny Buck later at a convenience store. “I don’t care if Mrs. Nugent was the richest lady in town. She was so mean that even if Bernie did kill her, you won’t be able to find anyone in town who’s going to convict him for murder.”
Yeah, I know. It’s total Southern Gothic territory. I only read this story because it showed up in inbox thanks to the excellent SendMeAStory people (whom you should check out, if you like that sort of thing). It’s a bizarre but compelling account.
It turns out that Richard Linklater thought so, too. Jack Black is Bernie. Matthew McConaughey is local DA Danny Buck Davidson. And Shirley MacLaine is the widow. In theaters next month. Here’s the trailer.
Dept. of Updates
Those lion photographers have posted an amusing followup video that includes encounters between the roving cameras and the lions.
Since one of those things apparently contains a 1D, I think they may qualify as the most expensive cat toys EVER.
I swear to god I only buy it for the articles
Memo to Republicans whining about Obama
No, he’s not the brown-skinner foreigner with socialist tendencies who wants to give everyone free health care. You’re thinking of Jesus.
Dept. of Really, Really Cool Flasks
The Encyclopedia Britannica announced this week that they would no longer publish a paper version of their 244-year-old enterprise.
I believe Josh Marshall has nailed down the proper reaction to this over on Twitter:
With demise of encyclo britanica, sad my kids will never know a hard 2 navigate, poorly written, 300 lb set books that got outdated each yr
This is not a sign
Dispatches from Mississippi
Longtime Heathen R. supplied this anecdote from his father, who still lives in our former state. Both R. and his pop are, like Heathen, Cracker-Americans:
Went into vote in the primary. Went to the Democratic side, manned by three elderly black volunteers. “I want to vote.” “You don’t understand, sir, this is the Democratic side.”
- 1337% of π, which is kind of cool.
- The answer to life, the universe, and everything.
- Old enough now to drink twice, which means it was 21 years ago today that I turned 21 standing in line at The Corner in Tuscaloosa, holding a two-pack of Grolsch and a 12-pack of Beast Light.
- Happy to make it this far.
- Still mildly vexed to be sharing a birthday with L. Ron Hubbard, but that it’s also Adam Clayton‘s, which sort of makes up for it.
- There are other birthdays noted in my first birthday post eleven years ago.
In celebration thereof, we’re heading to the Mythbusters live show this evening, preceded by some happy-hour tomfoolery at Samba.
Things that, if you thought about, you’d already know
Dept. of Hurty Things
The debut of Buffy was fifteen years ago. In the comment thread under the linked MeFi post, someone pointed this out:
If Buffy were real, she’d be 30 years old.
An idea more honored in conception than execution, of course
You know what this world needed? A double-barreled version of the M1911.
Given the difficulties involved using .45ACP in conventional double-stacked pistols, my assumption is that this thing is utterly impossible to hold for anyone with hands not absurdly larger than average.
But it’s still just the right kind of ridiculous to be awesome, so there’s that.