And now: The Football Previews

First, the usual Hater’s Guide at Deadspin, and then the somewhat more focussed and — let’s be fair — relevant Why The Rest Of The SEC Hates You.

The former’s best bit:

Turning our attention to football, how much fun is it that USC is ranked No. 1? That’ll make it all the more enjoyable when the Trojans get destroyed by an SEC school in the national title game. USC is 10 times more lovable when it’s getting crushed. And I remain in awe of Lane Kiffin, a man who now sits atop the college football rankings without actually having done anything, ever. He’s amazing.

So true. I’m not playing favorites; Deadspin continues thusly:

  1. Alabama. I appreciate Nick Saban for being, in essence, the anti-Joe Paterno. There’s no illusion of affection here. No coddling. No “I’m going to turn these wayward young boys into fine young men” bullshit. Saban is precisely what a college football coach should be: a merciless, evil man who will eat your liver raw if you dare get in the way of him winning football games. Anyone not interested in winning games can go get FUCKED, and I find that kind of attitude refreshing in a sea of phony sentimental profiles of coaching legends. No one loves Nick Saban, and that’s good because no one should ever love football coaches. Football coaches are horrible people.

And I salute Alabama fans for their terrifying devotion to FOOTBAW. Can you imagine what Alabama people would be capable of without football to occupy them? I think we should all be happy that the Crimson Tide are there to distract them from starting Racial Holy War. Such shiny helmets.

Once again, Roll Tide.

Even Fox News says Ryan’s full of shit.

I know you’ll be as surprised as I was to learn that, apparently, a Republican CAN lie too much for Fox News. This morning, Fox is running an editorial on Paul Ryan’s address that includes this:

On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.

The good news is that the Romney-Ryan campaign has likely created dozens of new jobs among the legions of additional fact checkers that media outlets are rushing to hire to sift through the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth. Said fact checkers have already condemned certain arguments that Ryan still irresponsibly repeated.

The author goes on from there.

Roll Tide. Hail Saban.

The WSJ has a piece on Saban and the Tide up. It’ll rot behind the paywall, so here’s a few key bits:

With all due respect to the 123 other schools that play major-college football, the sport’s foreseeable future boils down to one question: Can anyone stop Alabama?

The Alabama Crimson Tide, college football’s defending national champion, has become the game’s “it” team, an all-powerful and impervious Death Star of a program. Alabama has won two of the last three national titles. Its coach, Nick Saban, won another one while he was at Louisiana State—meaning he has won the title in three of the past seven college seasons he has coached.

The Tide is a 14-point favorite Saturday over No. 8 Michigan—repeat: a two-touchdown favorite against a top-10 team—in its season opener. The last time Alabama was an underdog was 28 games ago, against Tim Tebow and Florida in the 2009 Southeastern Conference championship game. Result: Bama 32, Florida 13.

And then there’s this:

Since Saban’s arrival in 2007, Alabama has produced 11 first-round NFL draft picks, by far the most in the country. Since 2003, only four colleges have churned out more first-rounders than Alabama has since 2009. Three of those programs—Miami, Ohio State and Southern California—have had NCAA rules-related scandals. The fourth school is LSU, which Saban coached from 2000 to 2004. He signed nine of the Tigers’ 12 first-round draft picks.

Hunter, on breakfast

Because we all need a mantra:

Breakfast is the only meal of the day that I tend to view with the same kind of traditionalized reverence that most people associate with Lunch and Dinner. I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon; anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every twenty-four hours, and mine is breakfast. In Hong Kong, Dallas or at home — and regardless of whether or not I have been to bed — breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess.

The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned beef hash with diced chiles, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of Key lime pie, two margaritas, and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert… Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next twenty-four hours and at least one source of good music… All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.

Carry on.

Dept. of HOLY CRAP

An Emirates passenger from Bangkok to Hong Kong decided to document his A380 First Class experience.

N.B. that I could not even SEE First on my trip in June. They entered (on the 777) through a different door, and that plane did not appear to have the lounge area the A380 has. But still: HOLY CRAP.

FWIW, economy looks about the same, as does business class.

Houston: Damn Right

John T. Edge on covers our exploding food scene in Savoring Mutt City: Why Houston is becoming a top-tier destination to eat and drink.

The story begins:

We’re boating the high-top cloverleaf in a kandy-kolored streamline baby, if you know what I mean. A 1967 LeMans ragtop, stardust blue, with red-lined fatties and cigarettes-and-whiskey mufflers.

It’s a summer night, circa right now. I’m in the backseat, leaching liquor and perspiration onto the vinyl. Chris Shepherd, who spent the afternoon at a Vietnamese nail salon here in Houston, is digging his shellacked toes into the front passenger-side pile, while Bryan Caswell palms the steering wheel and blasts Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears through a removable-face Blaupunkt that would have gotten him laid in tenth grade.

Goddamn if that didn’t just send me to eBay motors searching for late-60s absurd convertibles… Apparently, if you don’t care about “original” or “concours,” you can get something for well under ten grand…

“We came in peace for all mankind.”

Neil Armstrong died over the weekend. He was 82. When he took that famous “one small step,” he was not yet 39 — which shows in his official NASA portrait.

If you haven’t watched it recently, this is a good time to review the video taken at the time. Also, io9 has the text from the Times coverage back in 1969, which is pretty great. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m not sure we as a species have accomplished ANYTHING even remotely as awesome as this since July 21, 1969.

This is my favorite picture of Mr Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin took it, after Armstrong had come in from the most significant walk in the history of mankind. You can see the gravity of the moment in his eyes.

Here’s the thing: Armstrong then mostly eschewed the spotlight, and never did anything to sully the accomplishment or what it meant for the space program, for the US, or for humans in general. He was, by all accounts, an unassuming and humble man who understood what he had been a part of in the larger, human sense despite (as is and was obvious) the Cold War aspects of the space race. In an age of serious term dilution, this was a guy who really was a hero.

There’s lots of grreat stuff in the Metafilter thread, which includes a pointer to The Big Picture feature on Apollo 11 from the 40th anniversary a few years ago. (Also noted in that thread: Charles Lindbergh knew both Armstrong and Orville Wright.)

And here’s the other thing. It’s awful that Armstrong has died without seeing another serious move in space in 40 years. We quit in 1972. Nobody’s been out of low earth orbit since, and that means — as XKCD points out — that we are quickly running out of people who’ve walked on other worlds.

This is shameful, and we should fix it.

Good Lord, there were only 12 to start with, and only 8 survive. (The youngest of these giants is the sprightly 76-year-old Charles Duke.) Perhaps, when someday we manage to escape low earth orbit again, someone can do for Armstrong and Aldrin what those great me did for Yuri Gagarin. The notion that these 8 may die without seeing us exceed their journey is the worst sort of anti-tribute.

Finally, here is a statement from the Armstrong family, which concludes with

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.

Will do.

PS: Another Neil has a nice blog entry on the subject.

Pelts and Vendettas and You

You probably heard the news today that Lance Armstrong has declined to engage with the USADA’s witch hunt and cherry-picked arbitration proceedings, which means that body will seek to have him stripped of his Tour de France titles.

Process for a moment that:

  • The most recent event for which he’ll actually be sanctioned is from 2005.
  • They seek to punish him going all the way back to 1999.
  • They have refused to disclose any evidence prior to arbitration.
  • Armstrong never tested positive when racing.
  • The “case” from the USADA is based entirely on accusations from racers who may or may not have made deals to protect their own careers or fortunes. They have zero physical evidence.

I don’t actually care, at this point, if he doped back then or not. Given what we now know of the culture of pro cycling until the last several years, it’s at least possible. But, as in any sport, there are rules and there are rules about following those rules. Lance’s career was during a dope-heavy era; he followed the rules, though, at least as far as not testing positive. And he was tested very, very often. There were no positive tests. Punishing him in 2012 for things that were gray areas or unclear in 2001 seems unfair. Punishing him for “suspicion of doping” — which is what this boils down to — is a travesty.

I think Lance is correct to refuse to engage any further. It is abundantly obvious that the USADA and Tyler Tygart are deeply invested in punishing him regardless of the facts. It’s unclear to me what benefit they’ll gain by doing this, or why this was a better use of their resources than clean-racing programs and enforcement for people actually still racing. It reeks of ex post facto enforcement, and it does not deserve to be treated with the dignity a fair proceeding would merit.

That’s not all, though. Tygart and his cronies will also, through this action, almost certainly harm the work that has defined post-Tour Lance Armstrong: Cancer support and fundraising. They’re not helping cycling, and they’re harming as “collateral damage,” and are apparently okay with this.

That’s some serious bullshit, and makes it look even MORE like an ugly vendetta.

If you agree with me, why don’t you go here and join me in supporting Livestrong’s efforts. (If you’re curious, here’s their CharityNavigator rating.)

They make it easy and painless to do one-time or recurring donations; the latter is my favorite option — it spreads gifts over time, and makes things automatic. You can even do it in honor, or in memory, of someone.

Go. Give. Make something positive of this witch hunt. You Heathen usually have at least a few extra bucks rattling around, right?

Oh, Right Wingers. You so crazy.

Only a truly ignorant, frothy, profoundly stupid movement could recast Agenda 21 — a nonbinding (obviously) 1992 UN resolution calling for cooperation to address hunger, poverty, sustainability, and related issues most people think of as worthwile — as some sort of sinister plot bent on robbing us of sovereignty, but, well, that’s where we are.

After a few more whereases, the committee gets down to the business of “exposing … the dangerous intent of the plan,” resolving to send a copy of this gem … to every Republican candidate and elected official in the country, and pushing for the resolution to be adopted into the official Republican Party Platform at the national convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.

But here’s the thing: Agenda 21 has been around for TWO DECADES, and, as the RNC resolution points out, “the U.S. government and no state or local government is legally bound by [it].” The agenda, which grew out of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, is a call for international cooperation to address poverty, hunger, and a host of other issues tied to the unraveling of natural ecosystems. It calls for “the broadest public participation and the active involvement of the non-governmental organizations.”

Good Christ, likely Texas senator Ted Cruz (R-wingnutistan) has been citing it as an all-purpose boogeyman, and is freely telling complete lies about its contents. Granted, that’s a pretty safe sort of lie; nobody ever accused the frothy right wing of, you know, reading these sorts of documents. (You can, if you like, peruse it on the UN’s own site — I found it in about 2 minutes, though I’m one of those educated types.)

Four Minutes with Tony Scott

If you remember him for nothing else — which is patently absurd, given his resume, which includes The Hunger, Top Gun, Man on Fire, and others — remember him for directing Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken in this scene from 1993’s True Romance (written, famously, by Tarantino).

I remember watching this in a theater with Chris Mohney and the rest of our pals, all of us absolutely on the edge of our seats as the tension built to impossible, unimaginable levels. (Watch closely, and see if you can spot Tony Soprano.)

Roger Ebert has more about Tony Scott.

The Onion is at its best when it’s also at its darkest

Pregnant Woman Relieved to Learn Her Rape Was Illegitimate.

Though she was initially upset following the brutal sexual assault last month that left her pregnant, victim Martha Byars told reporters she was relieved Sunday to learn from Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) that her ability to conceive her unwanted child proves she was not, in fact, legitimately raped.

“Being violently coerced into having sex was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, so I take comfort in knowing it wasn’t actually rape,” Byars said[.]

Unless you live under a rock…

…you’re aware of the dustup with Progressive Insurance this week.

Thanks in part to rapidly spreading outrage, Progressive has agreed to a settlement with the woman’s family. However, we should not interpret this as them doing the right thing. This is them trying to make the pain stop.

There is no reason to believe they’re any less reprehensible today than yesterday. Actual virtue is what happens when nobody’s looking, and we’ve seen how Progressive behaves in that context already.

Dept. of Excellence Elsewhere

This great post and thread at MetaFilter covers my early computing life rather thoroughly.

Apple had effectively no presence in south Mississippi in the early 1980s, but Radio Shack was there. My friend Rob had a no-shit TRS-80 Model 1; my friend Paul got a TRS-80 Color Computer soon after. Eventually, I got a Color Computer II, which was the first machine of my own that I wrote code for — before this, I’d written some BASIC on other oddball micros over at USM.

That CoCoII — which I think is in a closet here in Houston as I type this — had no disk drive. Instead, I stored programs and files on a cassette drive, which was WAY cheaper. And, of course way more prone to failure. Interestingly, the word processor I used all through high school was cartridge-based, like an Atari game, which had at least one advantage over floppy-based programs in that the cartridge bus was many times faster. I didn’t realize this was a Thing until later, when I was first using a dual-floppy PC at the high school and couldn’t figure out why the word processor took so long to change between modes…

I left the tiny computer world in 1988, when I bought an AT clone for college, but parts of my nerdy heart will forever belong to Tandy and their computing family, first introduced now 35 years ago. Ouch.

(Oh, and I still have one of these somewhere. I took notes on it in college. Back then, laptops were prohibitively fiddly and heavy, but this little bastard ran for weeks on AAs. I’d transfer the files to my desktop with a null modem cable, since back then there was no wifi and there were no SD cards.)

Money is ugly

Specifically, our money. Other countries have perfectly attractive currency. Why can’t we have cool looking money? I mean, sure, people might quibble about Obama and FDR (though it’s not hard, I imagine, for even a die-hard Teabagger to admit the historical significance of Obama), but putting a cool graphic of American accomplishments in the 20th Century on the $20 bill is genius. Not to mention way cooler looking than what we have.

Here’s another thing: In common circulation, our currency honors no one and no concepts any younger than FDR, who graces the dime. Common paper money honors nobody more recent than Lincoln. Sure, Grant’s on the $50, but ATM culture ensures we mostly never see anything but twenties and hundreds — and Grant’s only marginally more recent than Honest Abe. (Yes, currency nerds will note that McKinley, Cleveland, and Wilson used to be on bills, but not in recent memory.)

Not to take anything away from these seminal and significant 19th century figures, but shouldn’t we stretch a bit and think about the incredible contributions of 20th century Americans? Who not extend the honor to our scientific or literary or artistic heritage, even? Who wouldn’t want to pay for dinner with a Faulkner, an Armstrong, and a couple of Jimis?

What “Papers Please” Laws Get Us

A native-born American citizen in Arizona was arrested and jailed for 4-1/2 months, and charged with forgery, because the cops and prosecutors refused to admit her drivers’ license and birth certificate were genuine. As a consequence, she lost her job, her home, and her car.

More here.

Again: Shit like this will not stop until the individual humans who make choices like this can be held civilly and criminally liable far more easily. End immunity. Now.

Dear United:

You lost a little girl? Really?

It’s really amazing how quickly you chuckleheads have turned a good airline into just another cog in the ongoing customer-hostile shitstorm that has always defined United. Good timing, too, as Southwest is flying more and more flights from Houston!

A note re: Paul Ryan and his Randroidism

Via John Rogers:

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.