Dept. of Shit I Wish I Was Making Up

Widely hated Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has repealed a law mandating equal pay in the Badger State. Walker ally and enthusiastic repeal backer Glenn Grothman has done no favors for the GOP, opining that money’s just more important to men, see, and dames have different life goals. And besides, he tells us Ann Coulter told him that there’s not really an income gap anyway.

No, I’m not making this up.

Six Degrees of Richard Speck in Mad Men

Last night’s Mad Men included references to the Richard Speck murders in Chicago, which places the episode just after July 13, 1966. (The last ep was clearly dated by the reference to the death of Pete Fox on July 5.)

The excellent Mad Men Unbuttoned blog notes that Life Magazins’s archives are online, and that you can read their account of the Speck murders from scans (which, appropriately enough, preserve the period advertising).

Today’s fun fact: the author of the Life piece was Loudon Wainwright — father of the folk singer and grandfather to Rufus — who wrote and edited for the magazine for many years.

I’m not sure if it counts as spoilers, but this page might give us hints about upcoming background events. Of particular interest in the summer of 1966, we have:

  • Charles Whitman did his Longhorn Sniping on August 1.
  • On August 8, Star Trek premiers.
  • In October, Toyota releases the Corolla.
  • LSD was legal in the US until October 6 of this year.
  • The AFL-NFL merger gains Congressional approval on October 21.
  • In November, John Lennon meets Yoko Ono.
  • Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball happens on November 28.
  • Lenny Bruce dies on August 3.

Unlikely to be referenced: On October 29, One regenerates into Two.

Dept. of Geeky Upgrades

My first DOS computer was a 286-based system. This was in a time when most folks still had 8088 or 8086 systems, so mine was the hot rod in my dorm at the time. It was pretty fast, for the era at least, and I never really had to wait on it doing many things. Of course, back then we didn’t ask our computers to do the sorts of things we ask them to do now, either.

Three years later, I bought a new computer. It was a stupid-fast 33Mhz 80386 system — top of the line at the time — and it was a complete fucking screamer. My buddy Mike and I spent hours basically marveling at how ridiculously quick it was at EVERYTHING. Even doing a directory list was blazingly quick. It was, truly, life in the future.

In the 21 years since that day, I’ve bought lots of computers, but I’ve never had an upgrade that blew me away like that again. Things got more incremental, as is the case with most progressions. The Pentium I replaced the 386 with was quicker, but Windows was more bloated, so the actual user experience uptick wasn’t that dramatic. That became the rule, even with the on-paper giant boosts in power that I’ve gained in my last few Macs. Quite frankly, for most people and most tasks, you’re nowhere nearly CPU bound — other things are in the way. Like, say, hard drive speeds.

That’s where the new development comes in. I say I haven’t had a “holy shit” upgrade experience in 21 years, but that’s no longer true. See, I bought one of these to replace the ailing traditional hard drive in my Macbook Pro, and when I booted it back up after the (lengthy) restore process, I was reminded of nothing so much as the first few minutes with that Gateway 386 in 1991.

Everything happens IMMEDIATELY now. There is never a disk delay. The absurdly fast processor is free to be, well, absurdly fast. Notoriously piggy apps (I’m looking at you, Office) spring to life like tiny utilities. Even Lightroom opens with a speed that beggars belief. Task switching? Trivial. My Windows VM sings. If I’d realized how dramatic this upgrade was going to be, I’d have done it years ago.

Vroom Vroom Sob.

And now, an even MORE iconic obituary: Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the man who designed the most beautiful car in the world, has passed away at 76.

Butzi was the third “Ferdinand Porsche,” and should not be confused with either of the other two.

The first was his grandfather, born in 1875, who founded the company and gained fame otherwise by designing (for the Nazis) the Volkswagen Beetle in 1934. He also had a hand in a number of German war machines, and was imprisoned for a time as a war criminal. Porsche the elder died in 1951.

The second was known as Ferry (b. 1909). Ferry designed the 356, and ran the company for many years including the critical postwar period. Ferry died in 1998.

I think I’ll go to lunch in my 911 now.

(h/t: Captain Butler)

Today in AWWWWW

Baby hippo likes swimming.

If you, like me, find yourself curious about hippos after his video, Wikipedia is of course a great destination. Therein you will learn, if you read far enough, that Pablo Escobar’s private animal collection included four hippos — animals that the Columbian government found logistically impossible to seize after the drug lord’s downfall, so they left them unattended on the estate. By 2007, the population had grown to 16, and is presumably larger still today. However implausible, it pleases me to think of the drug lord’s river horses spreading gradually northward, like the menacing killer bees of my youth.

END Police Immunity. Seriously.

This is what justice looks like in Bellaire, Texas. Radley’s on fire for this, as he should be:

Cop runs license check on a suspicious vehicle. Although they apparently committed no traffic violation, cop insists that his decision to run a check had nothing to do with the fact that the occupants were black, and happened to be driving in an affluent, predominately white neighborhood. The cop’s partner apparently then enters the wrong license number, which returns a car that had been reported stolen. So cop follows car into driveway, which happens to be the home of the driver’s parents, where he lives. Cop approaches driver and occupant with his gun drawn. Driver’s parents come out to see what’s causing the commotion. Cop roughs up driver’s mother. Driver gets up from ground to tell cop to lay off of his mother. Cop shoots driver, a full 32 seconds after pulling into the driveway.

The driver, who was unarmed, will now carry a bullet in his liver for the rest of his life. The cop was charged with first degree aggravated assault. A jury acquitted him. Now this week, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon dismissed the driver’s lawsuit against both the cop that fired his gun and the cop who entered the wrong license plate number, citing qualified immunity. According to Harmon, the officer acted “reasonably,” and moreover, wrongly accusing an unarmed man of stealing a car, pointing a gun at him, then shooting him in the liver, “did not violate [his] constitutional rights.”

Both cops are back on the force. The guy with the bullet in his liver? Tough luck. He’ll be paying his own medical bills.

Local coverage here. I hope the family appeals. I hope the get the cops’ houses. These jackasses are still on the force, still carrying guns, and are behaving as if they did nothing wrong. That’s fucking lunacy.

Gemini in Pictures

The Atlantic’s excellent In Focus feature this week is about NASA’s Project Gemini. The shots are amazing; take a minute and look. The Gemini astronauts included many who would go on to the Apollo program, including household names like Neil Armstrong — but also Edward White (the subject of the first photo and the first American to walk in space) and Gus Grissom, who would die in a launch pad fire with Apollo 1 only a few years later.

The group also included then-34-year-old John Young; he looks like a distillation of “astronaut” to me. Young would go on to walk on the moon with Apollo 16 in 1972 — and pilot the first shuttle flight in 1981. He still lives in Houston, apparently.

First World Travel Problems

Apparently, I’m going to Abu Dhabi later this month, which is one of the city-states that make up the United Arab Emirates. The most famous Emirate is, of course, its neighbor to the northeast, Dubai, but Abu Dhabi is the actual capital.

Today’s game is “how many connections do I need to make to get there?”, and the loser is probably me. For the record, all three options I’m looking at right now (sadly, only economy) cost about the same:

  • On Continental United, flying to Abu Dhabi is an ugly multi-stop process. The first leg is from Houston to DC or New York. Then you fly to Frankfurt, and only to Abu Dhabi. Transit time is 20 to 25 hours, depending. Ick.

  • On the same carrier, if I go to Dubai instead and plan on a longish cab ride, I go from IAH to DC and then straight on to Dubai in a long 13-hour stretch. Total transit time is about 18 hours, plus the drive, which I’m told about two hours. It’s probably a wash timewise, but this route means longer sleeps.

  • If I book with Air Emirates instead, I can go direct from Houston to Dubai in 15 hours. The actual departure and arrival times are hilarious: Leave IAH at 18:50 on 4/22, land at DXB at 18:45 on 4/23. The rub is that I won’t get any useful frequent filer miles here. ContiUnited miles are still (sort of) useful for personal travel, and a trip to that part of the world means 20K miles.

So yeah, first world problems.

At first it sucked.

I refer, of course, to the New Yorker‘s approach to the iPad. One had to buy individual issues. There was no provision for subscriber access, or discounts. It was awful double-dipping of the worst kind.

Then, all of a sudden, it got a lot better. Now subscribers can read nearly any issue of the magazine on their iPad. That’s a great boon, especially for travelers like me who may have several issues “in progress.”

But the goodness really stops there, and in the time since they made this shift it’s become clear that Conde Nast has made some very, very bad choices around this presentation.

I would write more, but it turns out that David Wheeler has pretty much already done that in a very detailed and approachable piece.

(Via Fireball.)

Dear Houston Chronicle

STOP THIS. No, I do not want your app. I do not need to see this information-obstructing hyperobnoxious ad every. single. time. I visit on my iPad.

Cron sucks