Here at Miscellaneous Heathen, we don’t usually go in for the sorts of year-in-review bullshit you see elsewhere, but this time around my “list of cities visited” is at least nominally interesting. I count only places that were destinations, not cities I flew through (though, to be fair, I also didn’t connect for any flights this year):

  • Dallas, TX
  • Tuscaloosa, AL
  • Jackson, MS
  • Hattiesburg, MS
  • Laurel, MS
  • Naples, FL
  • Dubai, UAE
  • Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Al Ain, UAE
  • Louisville, KY
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Washington, DC

Odds are this is a calmer list than 2013 will produce, given our accelerating sales calendar, but it may be a long while before there’s any more international travel.

Say my name.

I have, finally, caught up on Breaking Bad. (SAY MY NAME.)

It just got bleaker and bleaker — and better and better — throughout the final half-season, right up until the very last cliffhanger moment. That seemed precious and contrived, honestly, and too cheap for a show with so much going for it.

Spoilery comments welcome here, so if you’re not up to date, don’t read ’em.

So, what kills us?

This set of interactive data visualizations is pretty amazing. You can filter by gender and by causes or groups of causes (say, communicable vs noncommunicable disease), with each change showing you the “probability that a 15-year-old in that country will die [of the displayed conditions] before reaching age 60 if mortality trends in that country remained the same.” It’s really a fascinating tool.

Via io9, who quite reasonably ask what the hell is up with the poison boom?

If this were about someone else, we’d call it character assassination

Fortunately, it’s just about Robert Bork. The first two paragraphs:

Robert Bork, who died Wednesday, was an unrepentant reactionary who was on the wrong side of every major legal controversy of the twentieth century. The fifty-eight senators who voted against Bork for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987 honored themselves, and the Constitution. In the subsequent quarter-century, Bork devoted himself to proving that his critics were right about him all along.

Bork was born in 1927 and came of age during the civil-rights movement, which he opposed. He was, in the nineteen-sixties, a libertarian of sorts; this worldview led him to conclude that poll taxes were constitutional and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not. (Specifically, he said that law was based on a “principle of unsurpassed ugliness.”) As a professor at Yale Law School, his specialty was antitrust law, which he also (by and large) opposed.

The new scripture.

This was forwarded to me on Twitter a few days before Christmas:

And in those days Caesar Augustus decreed that all must return to the town of their birth, that they might sort out their parents’ computers.

It made me laugh. And then I got to my mother’s house, where in the course of about two days, I:

  • Switched them from 800 Kbps DSL to 20Mbps cable, and saved them $8 a month in the process;
  • Checked their AT&T and Comcast bills to ensure they’re on the right plans;
  • Configured my mother’s new MacBook Air, and migrated all her old apps and data to it;
  • Upgraded pretty much every app after migration, since the old Mac was 5+ years old;
  • Upgraded her phone to the newest rev of iOS, so she can sync properly with the new Mac;
  • Set her up with a free Dropbox, to ease her management of iPhone pix;
  • Updated and reconfigured CrashPlan on both her new Air and my stepfather’s iMac;
  • Sorted out a Mailman “explosion” that filled my stepdad’s inbox (I’d love to know whose idea it was to sign every doctor in Mississippi up to a licensing listserve, but my guess is that they’re getting what-for already).

It’s a new holiday tradition!

Seriously, though, it’s good to be sure they’re properly configured, on good hardware, using good services, and that it’s all ship-shape.

Wait. What?

In this background piece on the AR-15 over at TPM, I was shocked to read this sentence:

Advocates say semi-automatic rifles are also becoming more popular for home defense. A recent article in Guns & Ammo, titled “Long Guns, Short Yardage: Is .223 the Best Home Defense Caliber?,” said sales of AR-15 type rifles “skyrocketed” after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The same article pointed to a 2010 National Shooting Sports Foundation survey which found that the second most popular reason for owning a “modern sporting rifle” — the polite term for semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 types — was home defense.

Jesus FUCK what a terrible idea. The AR shoots a tiny bullet, sure, but it throws it downrange at absurd velocities — enough to puncture a helmet at 500 yards. If Tommy Tactical locks and loads his AR when the hypothetical crackhead busts down his door, yes, it’s very likely the intruder will end up in the morgue. Sure. I’ll grant that. But the other thing that’s CERTAIN to happen is that our wannabe Rambo’s bullets will pass right through the bad guy, right through sheetrock, and out of his house into the rest of the world. This is called overpenetration, and it’s a serious problem for anyone shooting in a populated area.

A much better choice would be some lumbering slow-moving round like a .45ACP pistol, or even a shotgun loaded with buckshot. Your home is not going to be invaded by barbarian hordes; keep that .223 in the safe and shoot it at the range, for crying out loud.

A little reminder about Senator Daniel Inouye

The recently deceased senior senator from Hawaii was also a complete and undeniable badass. Initially denied the right to serve his country because of his Japanese ancestry, he eventually managed to enlist.

Then this happened:

Inouye’s platoon had been ordered to capture a German strong point along the Colle Musatello Ridge, so naturally this guy decided to go in guns blazing. He led his team through intense fire to capture an observation post, a mortar team, and an artillery position (no bigs), and then moved his troops within 40 yards of a heavily-fortified defensive line, where they immediately came under heavy suppressing fire from three different heavy machine gun positions. Inouye didn’t give a fuck. He started chucking grenades like a madman, trying to blast the bunkers apart. This was fun for a while, but as he stood up to lob yet another explosive he was suddenly shot through the abdomen by a German MG bullet that passed all the way through his torso and came mere inches from severing his spine.

Naturally, this only pissed him off.

So, with the rest of his men pinned down by heavy weapons, the wounded Lieutenant grabbed a backpack of frags and started army-crawling up the ridge towards the enemy guns. As soon as he was close enough, he assaulted the first machine gun nest on his own, taking it out with a grenade from just five yards away and then clearing the rest of it out Al Capone-style with a spray of .45-caliber ammunition from his badass Tommy gun. When that one was taken care of, Inouye sprinted to a second position, dual-chucking two grenades that redecorated the walls of the bunker with Fascist parts.

Unfortunately, the time Inouye was headed for the third position, the Germans were ready for him – the dudes in this nest had just watched this insane-as-fuck little Japanese dude flying around bombing the shit out of their buddies, and these motherfuckers weren’t about to sit back and let Inouye just hand-deliver a fragmentation explosive into their rectums without a fight. So when Inouye was sprinting across open ground a mere 10 yards the machine gun nest, suddenly he saw a German dude pop up from behind a sandbag, aim a rifle-mounted grenade at him, and blast him at point-blank range with the WWII version of an RPG.

The blast covered Inouye with shrapnel and shredded his right arm to the point where it was barely still attached. This, however, failed to stop him. Inouye simply looked down at his useless arm (which was still clutching a hand grenade), pried the grenade out of it with his left hand, and lobbed it underhand right into the dumbfounded German’s face from about 15 feet away. The results weren’t pretty.

From this point on in the battle, Lieutenant Daniel Inouye of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team went into Total Fucking Berserker Meltdown Mode. He doesn’t even remember what happened next – but his awestruck platoon members sure as fuck do.

While still bleeding profusely from the mangled stump that used to be his right arm, Daniel Inouye ditched the grenades, unslung the Tommy Gun, and started firing it one-handed while running all over the goddamned battlefield like a fucking maniac, blasting the holy living shit out of anything with a gray helmet. He cleared out the third machine gun position with the Tommy Gun, changed the magazine, and then started running towards the main body of the enemy position, by himself, shooting the machine gun with his off-hand, wasting Nazis left and right in a hail of gigantic bullets. Finally, after rampaging like a madman, Inouye was shot in the leg, lost his footing, and fell down a hill. Unable to move, but unwilling to back down, Inouye propped himself up against the nearest tree, kept firing, and refused to be evaluated until his Sergeants had moved the unit into position and prepared defenses for the inevitable German counterattack. All told, he had killed 25 Germans and wounded 8 more, and he’d literally done it all single-handedly. When the men in his unit came to the hospital and recounted the events to Inouye, his exact words were, “No, that can’t be… you’d have to be insane to do all that.”

No shit.

Daniel Inouye received the Distinguished Service Cross, which was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He lost the arm and had it replaced with a badass hook, and after 20 months of surgery and recovery in various military hospitals, he went home, got a law degree, and worked as a prosecuting attorney. In 1962 he was almost unanimously elected to the Senate (thus making him the first Japanese-American in Congress) — he’s won the post nine times since then, making him the longest-serving current member of the Senate and the second-longest serving Senator in the history of the United States.

And people say WE never clean up


The owner of this apartment, Mrs. De Florian left Paris just before the rumblings of World War II broke out in Europe. She closed up her shutters and left for the South of France, never to return to the city again. Seven decades later she passed away at the age of 91. It was only when her heirs enlisted professionals to make an inventory of the Parisian apartment she left behind, that this time capsule was finally unlocked.

Via Kadrey.


Go here, to the Atlantic’s first installment of 2012 in photos, and scroll down, immediately, to photo number 19:

Julian, a two-month old pet monkey, bites the ear of Kan, a transvestite performer, backstage at the Tiffany’s Show in Pattaya, 150 km east of Bangkok.

Posted in Pix