Monthly Archives: November 2013
And they say AUSTIN’s the weird one
Naked man goes on window-breaking rampage near Galleria. The best quote, btw:
“The naked man (was) running around in the street breaking cars,” said the store manager of the W Luxury Car rental. “He looked normal but I am sure he was on something.”
“Normal,” except, you know, naked. And toting a shotgun. TOTALLY NORMAL otherwise.
KHOU has pics of the damage, which includes a UH flag driven through the windshield of a Rolls.
The Real Hero of Harry Potter
At our house, we call him Neville Motherfucking Longbottom, and SF publisher Tor agrees.
More evidence the TSA is useless.
Turns out, you can make all sorts of dangerous stuff out of items available inside security.
Hey, look! The TSA is wasting even MORE of our money!
$1 billion, down the drain on an utterly useless profiling program.
Feds: We don’t need no steenking transparency!
The Feds are refusing to comply with a court order insisting they disclose the secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act, under which they commit who-knows-what.
Yes, this means there are still secret laws and secret courts, and they insist it needs to stay this way. This can’t be allowed to stand.
On more minor notes, it seems that the NSA and FBI have decided that, as far as FOIA requests are concerned, enough’s enough. The NSA is (understandably) getting a LOT more requests — up almost 1000% — but it’s no trouble, as they just deny them all.
The FBI, for its part, has stopped responding to the most prolific requester on the grounds that, well, he might learn something. Guess we can’t have that.
Seriously, fuck ALL these people.
Man, that piano player SUCKS
On the other hand, he’s an elephant.
LG TV spy on you, and you can’t opt out
Under no circumstances should this guy get in a car with Kevin Spacey
Anybody notice that coke-gobbling Florida rep Trey Radel kinda resembles former Pennsylvania rep Pete Russo?
Dept. of Very Cool Architecture
Know who Eero Saarinen is? Maybe not. But you know his designs.
(Mrs Heathen: don’t miss this.)
If you only read one thing about Healthcare.gov, read this
Who Zimmerman Is. Who He Always Was.
Josh Marshall runs down the latest on George Zimmerman, and points out what can no longer be denied: that he is a small, frightened man with a penchant for violence and a tendency to wave guns around.
It is verging on impossible at this point to maintain, with a straight face, that he did not stalk, attack, and murder Trayvon Martin. His pattern of behavior makes his claim of self defense even more laughable than it was before.
How to Tell If You’re An Asshole
You’re a giant and fantastically profitable department store, and you feel the need to sponsor a food drive.
Look, if you’re making money hand over fist and employees can’t afford to buy food, and you’re asking your community to donate food so they can eat, you are the vilest sort of jackass.
At the interesection of “football” and “adorable”
Books of 2013, #48: The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
I would be substantially less annoyed by Donna Tartt‘s writing pace — at one novel per decade, Tartt makes George R. R. Martin look like Stephen King — if The Goldfinch hadn’t fallen so completely flat in its final third. Seriously, it just sort of comes to pieces.
It’s hard to explain or discuss much about this book without engaging in spoilers, but it’s probably okay to set the stage: our hero is a Theo Decker, and he’s a child when the book opens. He and his mother — his father has taken a powder — live in New York.
One day, his mother takes him to the museum, where he is thundersturck by the sight of a young girl being shepherded through the museum by an older relative. The museum, shockingly, becomes the target of a terrorist bomb. Separated at the time of the blast, our hero survives only to encounter a mortally wounded man — the same man who’d been escorting the young girl, who is nowhere to be seen. The dying man presses Theo to rescue the titular painting (a real one, by the 17th century painter Carel Fabritius), and so Theo becomes the guardian of a lost treasure — one presumed lost in the museum bombing. (Yes, real-world art losses are name-checked, so you get to feel clever if you know what happened to Rembrandt’s only seascape.)
What follows is a positively Dickensian Bildungsroman, at least for about 2/3 of the book. Who will care for Theo? Will it be his wealthy friend Andy’s family? Where is is his father, and will he turn up? What’s the story of the girl and the dying man? Where will all this go?
It’s the resolution of the last question, I’m sad to say, that Tartt kind of whiffs. We stay with Theo into adulthood, and the book holds together pretty well most of the way there, but the final sequence of events — which consume most of the last third of the book — aren’t quite right by my lights. There’s a weird shift in tone, and a strange sense of both too much and not enough. We reach an end, but it’s not really an end that feels right for the book. (I’m not alone in my reservations, as it turns out.)
So here I am. I loved The Secret History in 1992, and The Little Friend ten years later. Her sensibility agrees with me. I suppose I’ll buy her 2023 book at publication, too.
But disappointments are easier to weather when there’s more work to enjoy. Write like the wind, Ms Tartt.
Books of 2013, #47: The Incrementalists, by Steven Brust & Skyler White
First, let me say it’s goddamn amazing I didn’t see more jokes about Brust’s co-author’s name here, especially considering that The Incrementalists dropped right about the time Breaking Bad was wrapping up. Maybe it was just too obvious.
Anyway, this one’s short: I think, despite enjoying his own output as well as his public persona at talks, readings, and whatnot, that John Scalzi and I must have different tastes in SF. Scalzi loved this book, and even blurbed it, and so I figured it might be fun despite having read and been underwhelmed by the similarly-blurbed Ancillary Justice last month. The Incrementalists at least sounds interesting, given the premise: a secret cabal of sorta-immortals are dedicated to improving human society via tiny nudges here and there.
Unfortunately, instead of telling a story about how this happens, and what they’ve accomplished, what we get here is a weird sort of backstage, inside-baseball we’re-in-love-with-our-idea mess that I found to be a complete slog. There’s no accounting for taste, but I really thought the “big idea” (to steal a phrase) deserved a better story than we get in this book. Is there an existential threat to the group? Maybe, but since we don’t really know what they’ve done, or how, why should we care?
Anyway. This would not be the only book to disappoint me this fall, sadly.
Important Internet News
I HAVE FOUND THE BEST PAGE ON THE WHOLE GODDAMN WEB:
It’s Wikipedia’s List of Fictional Badgers.
What if you never punted?
Coach Kevin Kelley of Little Rock’s Pulaski Academy can tell you. His team also almost always uses an onside kick, too.
Turns out, there’s a good reason to reconsider the automatic 4th down punt. And maybe the mechanics of kicksoffs, too. Kelley’s done very, very well with his unorthodox approach, and has some data backing him up.
(This reminds me of the New Yorker story about the girls’ basketball team that always did a full court press, which was (of course) written by Malcolm Gladwell. The girls’ success was ended not by spectacular tactics, but by a ref who decided he didn’t like the clearly legal approach, and started penalizing them; obviously, this isn’t happening to Kelley.)
There’s a seven minute prequel available now, ahead of the special next week.
The Doctor featured in it isn’t Matt Smith. Or Peter Capaldi. Or John Hurt.
I’ll say no more. Go. Watch.
This is quite incredible. The DOJ is BEYOND overreaching here.
Some major tech companies (Google, MSFT, etc) are suing the US government, claiming a First Amendment right to disclose the number of currently-secret information requests they get from the NSA under the FISA law.
The DOJ has filed a response, but is refusing to allow opposing counsel to read parts of it.
No, really. TechDirt:
[T]he DOJ is simply refusing to let the tech companies see its own argument. In response, the companies have filed a pretty direct and somewhat angry motion, asking the FISA court to either let them see the arguments, or to strike the redacted portions from the DOJ’s motion. Basically, the DOJ is saying that it can make legal arguments that only the court can see, but which the tech companies suing it cannot see. That goes against every basic concept of due process.
We cannot allow secret laws, secret courts, or secret arguments. All are anathema to liberty and democracy.
Oh, snap: Fred Clark on Quiverfull
That didn’t take long.
Fans of the original run of Sandman will remember how frequently issues were delayed, especially in the last third of the run. Comics are nominally monthly publications, but Sandman absolutely did not hew to this plan after a certain point; its 75 issues were spread over 84 months, with most of the disruption coming in 1994 and 1995.
Gaiman’s much-anticipated prequel, Sandman Overtures premiered last month. Issue 2 has already been pushed back until February for reasons undisclosed.
I’m not really one for celeb pieces, but…
…this Clooney piece in Esquire is a goddamn delight. A bit:
Being Clooney, he does not only write to Brad Pitt, however. He also writes as Brad Pitt. A few years ago, he even had some stationery made up with Brad Pitt’s letterhead. Then he found a book about acting and accents and sent it to Meryl Streep, with an accompanying note. It said, “Dear Meryl, this book really helped me with my accent for Troy. I hope it helps you too.” He signed it “Brad Pitt.” Then he sent another letter to Don Cheadle on “Pitt’s” stationery. As long as Cheadle has been acting, he has dreamt of playing Miles Davis. So the letter informed Cheadle that Pitt’s production company had acquired the rights to Davis’s life story. The letter said that Pitt wanted him to star in it.
As Charlie Parker.
Delightful Football Schadenfreude
Roll Bama Roll has their Tuesday meltdown post up, which includes delicious, delicious LSU tears, though this time around there’s a shocking amount of realism vs. magical thinking, e.g.
BAMA owns us….it is what it is….
as long as Saban is there they will continue to own us…
LSU makes mistakes in big games.
Bama doesn’t.They are better. Better players. Better coach. Better recruiters. Better program. it was fun while it lasted.
Well…being elite was nice while it lasted. Back to mediocrity.
and the delightful
We could not win a street fight against a mini-van full of nuns.
but my favorite also says volumes
[Alabama QB AJ] McCarron speaks so coherently. Wish we had that somewhere.
In which Layla is Six
Not sure how this happened. Just last year, she was five.
You want to talk some shit?
Try the Gangsta Party Line. NSFW.
Today in awesome headlines
Gawker: “Woman Wears Hamburger as Sandal After Sex in Waffle House Parking Lot.”
As you do.
In Which Laurie Anderson Breaks Your Heart
Her remembrance of Lou Reed in the current Rolling Stone is tender, beautiful, and heartbreaking.
As it turned out, Lou and I didn’t live far from each other in New York, and after the festival Lou suggested getting together. I think he liked it when I said, “Yes! Absolutely! I’m on tour, but when I get back – let’s see, about four months from now – let’s definitely get together.” This went on for a while, and finally he asked if I wanted to go to the Audio Engineering Society Convention. I said I was going anyway and would meet him in Microphones. The AES Convention is the greatest and biggest place to geek out on new equipment, and we spent a happy afternoon looking at amps and cables and shop-talking electronics. I had no idea this was meant to be a date, but when we went for coffee after that, he said, “Would you like to see a movie?” Sure. “And then after that, dinner?” OK. “And then we can take a walk?” “Um . . .” From then on we were never really apart.
Lou and I played music together, became best friends and then soul mates, traveled, listened to and criticized each other’s work, studied things together (butterfly hunting, meditation, kayaking). We made up ridiculous jokes; stopped smoking 20 times; fought; learned to hold our breath underwater; went to Africa; sang opera in elevators; made friends with unlikely people; followed each other on tour when we could; got a sweet piano-playing dog; shared a house that was separate from our own places; protected and loved each other.
Like many couples, we each constructed ways to be – strategies, and sometimes compromises, that would enable us to be part of a pair. Sometimes we lost a bit more than we were able to give, or gave up way too much, or felt abandoned. Sometimes we got really angry. But even when I was mad, I was never bored. We learned to forgive each other. And somehow, for 21 years, we tangled our minds and hearts together.
They have this, and we can’t even keep Marfreless
What Snowden Has To Say
I’ve actually had this in tab for a few weeks; it’s worth your time to click through and watch the dialog available. Snowden makes some very, very good points. If you don’t have time, here’s the bullet points:
It’s led us to a point in our relationship with the government, where we have an executive — a Department of Justice — that’s unwilling to prosecute high officials who lied to Congress and the country on camera, but they’ll stop at nothing to persecute someone who told them the truth. And that’s a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy.
Hard to argue with that. But he keeps going:
This is not about any particular program. This is about a trend in the relationship between the governing and the governed in America, that is coming increasingly into conflict with what we expect as a free and democratic society. If we can’t understand the policies and programs of our government, we cannot grant our consent in regulating them….
He’s not wrong. Not even a little bit. And the vigor with which he’s been pilloried by those in power shows precisely why he fled rather than work through channels to correct the wrongs he saw happening.
Fun with NSA Apologist Bullshit
This TechDirt post in response to Rep. Mike Rogers’s hilarious pronouncements (basically, “Since nobody complained when nobody knew about this!”) is pretty fantastic.
Colbert’s bits are stellar here; really TOP NOTCH:
Let’s say, instead of falling in the forest, the tree is standing outside your house and I’m hiding in it watching you shower. So far, I’m not violating your privacy. But the second you see me through the window, suddenly I’m the criminal? What about my privacy? I’m trying to masturbate here. Come to think of it, there are all sorts of victimless crimes like this. We know people getting assaulted because they call the police. But I’ve never heard of anyone calling the cops because they were murdered. Therefore, clearly, no one was killed. **By the same logic, folks, I have not insulted Mike Rogers as long as he never hears me say: The reason Mike Rogers uses circular logic is because his head is jammed up his own ass. **
I admire what historians will now call “The Rogers Doctrine”: when it comes to privacy vs. security, we can have one of them, as long as we don’t know which one it is. That way, we can maintain our constitutional rights. Or, if they do take away our rights, just don’t let us find out. That way, we’ll still have them.
How Good Tech Firms Tell the NSA, et. al., to fuck off
The first example is Apple’s new “Warrant Canary” clause. It works like this: there’s a section in their periodically-released transparency report that states very clearly that
Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.
This report is re-issued periodically. Apple may receive a gag-protected demand for user data at some point, and not be able to say anything about it, but if this happens we can expect this clause to vanish from future transparency disclosures. If it’s gone, Big Brother came calling.
The even better example is how furious and enraged Google’s security team is about the disclosure that the NSA was listening on their internal traffic. As a result, they’ve encrypted every bit of that traffic, which renders the NSA’s taps worthless:
We designed this system to keep criminals out. There’s no ambiguity here. The warrant system with skeptical judges, paths for appeal, and rules of evidence was built from centuries of hard won experience. When it works, it represents as good a balance as we’ve got between the need to restrain the state and the need to keep crime in check. Bypassing that system is illegal for a good reason.
Unfortunately we live in a world where all too often, laws are for the little people. Nobody at GCHQ or the NSA will ever stand before a judge and answer for this industrial-scale subversion of the judicial process. In the absence of working law enforcement, we therefore do what internet engineers have always done – build more secure software. The traffic shown in the slides below is now all encrypted and the work the NSA/GCHQ staff did on understanding it, ruined.
Thank GOD for Snowden’s disclosures.
Look. It’s Neko Case in a gorilla suit. What’s not to like?
NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert is always a delight, especially in this Case.
(I am not sorry for that pun.)
A sort of summary of several conversations I’ve had with Mrs Heathen
Cops now literally all up in your ass in New Mexico
A New Mexico traffic stop somehow concluded with a forced colonoscopy in a search for phantom drugs that were not there.
Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.
Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.
Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time. Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool. No narcotics were found.
Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.
Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines. No narcotics were found.
The doctors should lose their licenses; the police involved should be fired, forever barred from law enforcement or security work, and be held personally and criminally liable.
Instead, while I’m sure Eckert will end up with a giant settlement from the county and state, I’m equally sure we’ll see the policemen involved given commendations or promotions, or quietly allowed to take employment elsewhere with no personal or professional repercussions at all.
H/T: Ol’ Rob.
Dept of WHAT IS THIS I DONT EVEN
Because, you know, that’s exactly what I think of when I think of deodorant.
Net Neutrality is Almost Over
Hope you enjoyed it. If the telcos get their way, the Internet as we know it will be over, and with it the greatest catalyst for entrepreneurship ever created.
You should read this story, even if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Josh Marshall point us to this interview with a remarkably disarmed and happy Reed on Charlie Rose, shot soon after Reed’s episode of “American Masters” was shown on PBS, around 1998.
And now, painful satire for nerdy heathen
Introduction to Abject-Oriented Programming.
Inheritance is a way to retain features of old code in newer code. The programmer derives from an existing function or block of code by making a copy of the code, then making changes to the copy. The derived code is often specialized by adding features not implemented in the original. In this way the old code is retained but the new code inherits from it.
Programs that use inheritance are characterized by similar blocks of code with small differences appearing throughout the source. Another sign of inheritance is static members: variables and code that are not directly referenced or used, but serve to maintain a link to the original base or parent code.
Seven Minutes of Christian Paranoia
Phil Phillips and Gary Greenwald were key parts of the “toys are satanic devices for corrupting your children” hysteria in the 1980s. IO9 has a 7 minute supercut of them becoming more and more unhinged about Yoda, GI Joe, the Smurfs, He-Man, and (obviously) Dungeons & Dragons.
It’s bananapants and delightful.