Wallride FTW

I’m not a motorsport person, but I AM a videogame person.

A NASCAR driver (Ross Chastain) just did a Mariocart wall-ride to come from way behind and put himself into the championship. It’s completely bananas.

The principle here is pretty simple: speed is limited by your traction. The rest of the drivers were held to their track by their tires (and aero downforce) alone. By putting his car against the outer wall, Chastain was able to floor it because the wall itself kept him on the track — though obviously at significant cost to the right side of the car.

Here’s coverage; in a postrace interview, Chastain explicitly cites using the tactic in the GameCube NASCAR game as a kid, and figuring it was worth a hail-mary move given the circumstances.

Here’s a longer video showing the move from a variety of angles — this is probably better, because from several you can see how WILDLY faster he was moving in the crucial moments.

The surprising youth of the American founding fathers

Kottke ran a re-run post today noting the ages of the American founding fathers on July 4, 1776.

  • Marquis de Lafayette, 18
  • James Monroe, 18
  • Gilbert Stuart, 20
  • Aaron Burr, 20
  • Alexander Hamilton, 21
  • Betsy Ross, 24
  • James Madison, 25

This is less shocking in a post-Hamilton world, wherein we were all treated to a more vibrant, active picture of several of the Founders (even so: Miranda’s original cast had actors older than their characters for Lafayette, Burr, and Hamilton at least), but it’s still striking. Several others, of course, were more “adult” ages:

  • Thomas Jefferson, 33 (& not for nothing: Daveed Diggs‘ actual age at the Off-Broadway premiere)
  • John Adams, 40
  • Paul Revere, 41
  • George Washington, 44
  • Samuel Adams, 53

And of course:

  • Benjamin Franklin, 70.

McKinsey: Just Plain Evil

I remember, when I was younger, being impressed by the “smart people for hire” model of high-end consulting, including and especially McKinsey.

Then, you know, reality intervened. McKinsey has been close to or part of some truly egregious and fucking EVIL things in the last couple decades. The first one people mostly know about was Enron, but it just keeps getting worse.

  • McKinsey helped the Sacklers create the opioid epidemic, and then helped structure the bankruptcy settlement hat kept the Sacklers’ billions of ill-gotten gains safe.
  • McKinsey helped ICE create the kids-in-cages concentration camps.
  • McKinsey helped the Saudi government hunt down dissidents.

The list goes on, but the current example is this: McKinsey is helping a giant nonprofit hospital gouge indigent patients by convincing them they owe money that they explicitly do not. McKinsey advised Providence to train its staff to avoid truthfully answer poor patients’ queries about whether they were eligible for free care.

One of the most haunting details in the Times’ report is the story of Vanessa Weller, a single mother in Alaska, who delivered a premature baby at the Providence Alaska Medical Center. The baby died five days later, but Weller was pursued for $125,000 in medical bills by Providence. As a manager at a local Wendy’s, she was entitled to have her bill erased. Instead, she was relentlessly chased by bill-collectors and her credit rating fell from 650 to 400.

Providence professes to be shocked, shocked, that all this happened. Providence CFO Gregory Hoffman told the Times that the news that his company had failed in its legal obligations after paying a consultant to teach them how to do this “very concerning,” adding that these victimized patients “have our attention.” McKinsey made at least $45,000,000 for designing Rev-Up.

The Times has more.

Working for or with McKinsey is, at this point, morally indefensible. To collaborate with them is to be an enemy of the people.

Kenneth Starr: Dead.

Starr, mostly of note for the sprawling, obscenely expensive and politically motivated investigation into then-President Clinton in the 90s, had a career well beyond that debacle.

For example, he worked in California to support the anti-marriage equality measure Prop 8; he defended Jeffrey Epstein; and he represented mercenary firm Blackwater in a lawsuit brought over the deaths of four civilians in Fallujah. What a guy!

He further covered himself in glory by providing support to child molester Christopher Kloman, a retired schoolteacher ultimately sentenced to 43 years in prison instead of the “community service” suggested by Starr.

It’s hard to say whether his worst final act was the defense of Trump in his Senate trial, or his role in covering up a sexual abuse scandal for the football team while serving as president of Baylor University, but I think we can call it a tie.

Starr died today in Houston, at 76, following complications from surgery.

How conspiracy-mongering and deliberate ignorance hounded Cecilia Lewis out of TWO jobs

Go read this long piece at ProPublica right now.

The GOP’s hysteria about critical race theory — which, again, is a graduate-level / law-school topic, not something EVER part of K-12 instruction — is completely unhinged, which is exactly the way the GOP likes it. The lie runs ’round the world while the truth is still lacing its shoes, and the Gish gallop of bullshit wins the day for them.

Their pantswetting fear of the 1619 Project and ongoing crusade to make absolutely sure no student is told the unvarnished racist truth of our country’s history is just another step down the road to an Orwellian Ministry of Truth.

I mean, it’s a stone cold FACT that the nation was founded on slavery. Slavery is IN THE CONSTITUTION. When slavery ended, the whites in power waited about 30 seconds before encoding a system of racial apartheid into the country’s laws that persisted until the 1960s. What came after is a legacy of structural racism that is STILL part of everyday American life. You cannot understand America without understanding — or at least trying to understand — the African American experience in this country.

Seriously. Go read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Case for Reparations and tell me he’s wrong.

The Republican party is opposed to acknowledging ANY of this. They are the white grievance party now; they openly court white nationalists and place them in positions of power. And their mass of amped-up numbskull followers rally around school boards and engage in ridiculous and vindictive campaigns like the one that caught Lewis.

SCOTUS to Constitution: Drop Dead

In Egbert v Boule, decided yesterday, the conservative majority ruled that Federal agents are allowed to invade your home and assault you with impunity just as long as you live within 100 miles of the coast or a US border.

Conveniently for law enforcement, 60% of the US population lives in that now Constitution-free zone.

ACLU coverage of the case here, not yet updated for the decision. I expect SCOTUSBlog will be on it before long.

Do you like watches? I like watches.

Before I was absorbed into Apple Watch Borg, I was a longtime devotee of mechanical wristwatches. There’s something beautiful about them; a mechanical movement is the culmination of tech first used hundreds of years ago. A clockmaker from the 17th century could look inside my Omega and recognize the techniques even if he wouldn’t be able to understand how we got the device so small. It’s a lovely, lovely thing.

But most people have no real idea how they work beyond “uh, I wind it and it keeps time.” I sure hope you are just as delighted as I was when you look over, and hopefully read, this spectacular explainer about how mechanical watches work. It demystifies words like “escapement,” and details clearly, from a very simple and easily understood baseline, how a watch works.

Make time. This is what the web is FOR.

(As a bonus, allow me to point out some other topics the author has given the same treatment — it’s amazing. Gears! Cameras and lenses! GPS! The internal combustion engine! It’s deep-dive paradise! Creating these beautiful, interactive pieces is a hobby for the author, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider becoming a patron anyway. It’s beautiful work, well done, and authoritative, that helps explain the complex topics around us. In this, he makes the world a better place.)

Your Long-Awaited 2022 MS150 Recap!

FRIENDS!

Over the weekend, I completed my TENTH MS150 ride to end Multiple Sclerosis. I say that, and it’s true that this is the tenth time I’ve been REGISTERED for this ride, but the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have had their way with this event over the years. To wit:

  • 2013: YEAR ONE. I ride a two-day event ending in downtown Austin, but I do it SLOW because I am FAT.
  • 2014: Sure, why not do it again? I’m a little slimmer but still very slow. My team masses up just outside downtown to roll across the finish line together, which is EXHILARATING but also a giant PITA for our friends and family waiting at the ACTUAL finish.
  • 2015: The weather conspires to take the first day of the event, which is fine because I do not ride, owing to certain medical misadventures, but I still raise money — by now, the mission of the event has taken root in my head, and so fundraising tops $5,000.
  • 2016: Participation on the weekend is lower because of threatening weather, but my team saddles up for day 1, the hundred mile route into La Grange. Day 2 is cancelled during Saturday’s ride, which (unfortunately?) opens the door for a seriously epic bash in the campground. Fun was had, but the hangovers were definitely earned.
  • 2017: AT LAST a return to the two-day ride plan! We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last ride to finish in downtown Austin.
  • 2018: I’m a lot stronger, which is fun, and my pals and I knock out the first day in a hair over 5 hours. Day 2 ends at Circuit of the Americas, a huge Formula 1 track outside Austin. This is NOT a great endpoint, but any port in a storm.
  • 2019: COTA again, but by now acknowledged as a stopgap. This is my strongest two-day effort, and the only time I felt up to doing the “challenge” route through the state park outside Bastrop. I’m really bummed about that — I probably could’ve done it in ’17 and ’18, but confidence is a bitch sometimes.
  • 2020: The ORIGINAL plan for the 2020 ride, released in late 2019, was a reimagining of day 2 entirely. The day one routes and endpoint (La Grange) work well and were retained, but day 2 would bring the ride back east and forsake Austin for College Station. Texas A&M was VERY welcoming, and set up a plan for riders to finish ON KYLE FIELD. The logistics of ending this event in a place like that, which was already engineered to entertain 100,000+ people, were VERY attractive. And then COVID happened. Initially, the ride was pushed to the fall and reduced to a one-day event going to College Station, but that was just wishful thinking. COVID eventually forced a full cancellation.
  • 2021: With COVID waning a bit, they tried to do the one-day College Station plan again, but weather eventually forced an 11th hour cancellation. Even so, I hit a personal best on fundraising of over $17,400.
  • 2022: Now, finally, we get the full two-day College Station plan. It was, by all accounts a HUGE success!

So if you’re keeping track, out of ten rides, I’ve actually done a 2-day effort only 6 times. Two we lost to due to COVID; one I sat out entirely for medical reasons; and once we lost day 2. Oh well!

So, Chet, how’d it go this year?
Great question! Let me tell you.
You ride a whole bunch! I’ll bet you just ate this up with a spoon, right?
Well, funny thing about that. It’s true I AM a pretty dedicated rider, and usually notch 100-140 miles in any given week including back-to-back efforts on the weekends, especially this time of year, and largely to prep for this event. But this time around, a crash back in March utterly derailed my training at a critical time. I lost several weeks of those back-to-back efforts, and came into the ride at a lower level of fitness than I wanted.
Wait. Crash? What?
Yeah, not a big deal in the larger scope of things — nothing broken, gnarly roadrash, sprained shoulder, etc — but I had to lay off a while. Had it been a month further back, it would’ve made all the difference.
Quit bitching. You did the ride, didn’t you?
Damn right. It was just harder than I expected.
Define “harder”?
Well, we still kept a solid pace though the start of the hills on day one, but it was slower than in prior years owing to (a) a shared lower fitness with my immediate cadre of pals and (b) the fact that 3 folks made the choice to do the ride on mountain bikes as training for an ultra-endurance event called Leadville later in the year. The gearing on those makes it VERY hard to maintain speeds that are not especially fast on a road bike, but owing to point (a) this was less of an issue.
Who are these weirdos you rode with?
Aha! There’s a picture! L to R: Your Humble Author; Amish Mechanic; Everyone’s Favorite Bulldozer Rep; She Who Questioned Her Choices A Bit; Person I Don’t Know Well Enough To Have A Funny Name For; The Charming Axis of Bradford & Cody; The Amazing Returning Cory. (It amuses me to note that there are 5 A&M degrees represented across only 8 folks, but one person is double dipping.)

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Ok, so then what?
Well, as expected, things got harder for me once the hills hit in Bellville, or about halfway. You can see the elevation graph below; that’s where the Hill Country starts. I am a flatlander, and I am 52 and mildly overweight, and so these are hard for me. But that’s not what made the day suck.

Screen Shot 2022 05 03 at 11 30 11 AM

What DID make the day suck?
Cramps. I am not, historically, a person who cramps up. I ride thousands of miles every summer in Houston’s tropical humidity and heat, and it really never comes up. I only recently started carrying salt-supplement tablets, and I mostly have them to give to OTHER people. I’m careful about on-bike hydration and nutrition — any long effort is at least partly an exercise in body chemistry; you MUST eat and drink a LOT to ride 100 miles — and so I figured this was a solved problem for me.

Around mile 60, it becamse clear that no, this was NOT a solved problem for me, and that the rest of the day was going to suck out loud.
That sounds bad.
Yeah, you’re not wrong. The weird thing is that, according to Strava for Day 1, I actually covered the second half of the ride in SLIGHTLY less time than I did in 2019. I have no idea how that could be true, because I felt like CRAP and could only occasionally really put my legs into it; most attempts at any real power would bring back the cramps. But I didn’t sag. I don’t sag.
What DIDN’T suck about the day?
The company. Even once I was mostly riding alone, I still ran into my friends on the regular — with the exception of the very HEAD end of folks, we weren’t THAT far apart on the route, and so we’d see each other at rest stops, or pass one another and start riding together again. The suck is ameliorated in good company.
I’ll bet it felt good to stop!
Absolutely, but in this case it was very much in the way that it feels good to stop smashing yourself in the head with a ball-peen hammer. I was so wrecked that I gave SERIOUS thought to bailing on day 2.
But did you die?
Reader, I did not in fact die. A coke, a beer, a giant jug of electrolyte recovery drink, and a huge plate of Mexican food led directly to about 10 hours sleep, and that helped a LOT. I wasn’t exactly bright eyed and bushy tailed by Sunday morning, but I was no longer in danger of quitting. After all, I had 70 donors watching me via LiveTrack!
So tell us about day 2.
Traditionally, day 1 of this ride, at least for stronger riders, is about seeing what they can do. Put your back into it, and drop the hammer, and test yourself. Day 2, on the other hand, is about riding with your teammates and friends, and for that I was GRATEFUL. I rolled out with a small set of pals — mostly the folks enumerated above — and we put some speed out for about 15-20 miles before a few of us decided to drop back and let the stronger ones surge ahead. That triad of folks — me, my pal Bruno, and Eric Cody from day 1 — really ended up doing most of the 80 miles into College Station in some flavor of together. Some of the time it was Bruno pulling me, and some of the time it was me and Bruno pulling Eric, but it was definitely cooperative.
Did the cramps come back?
NO, thank God. I had limited power until lunch, but figuring I was probably low on fuel we DID stop at the lunch stop and eat. We don’t normally do this — we skipped lunch on day 1, for example, as we nearly ALWAYS do — but on Sunday, I needed it. This made a huge difference for the back half of the day; I was finally able to put down a little power, and felt good about finishing the ride. Also, lunch pics with BRUNO and ELLENDROTT!

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Anything else?
Yeah, impromptu breaks helped, too.
“Impromptu?”
Yeah, the Society I guess lost the usual day-2 lunch sponsor (HEB), and as such had no drinks other than water or Gatorade at lunch. Eric and Bruno and I, though, REALLY REALY wanted (and had ANTICIPATED) a Coke. (You have NO idea how good a Coke can be on a hot day like that.) As luck would have it, a stopped freight train not long after lunch left us idle for a few minutes in front of a gas station, and so…

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Let’s talk about momentum
That’s where we find ourselves after the Cokes. We were over 50 miles into what we thought was an 80 mile day, so definitely on the downhill side. (Turns out, it was 85 miles, the extra 5 wasn’t on our radar until later.) Plus, the elevation gains for this ride were actually mostly behind us, which we knew, and which made us feel a LOT better.

Screen Shot 2022 05 03 at 11 23 57 AM

How about that finish?
It was, as expected, pretty damn awesome. A&M has every right to be proud here; they rolled out the red carpet for us. The ride literally finished on the football field. We did a “victory lap” around the field, and my name was announced (in my capacity as a top fundraiser) while Erin and other friends already finished cheered for me. That was pretty darn nice, and WAY better than the ending experience at either COTA or downtown Austin.

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And what about the REST?
Well, there is one other thing. This year, I topped $100,000 in lifetime fundraising for this event. If you’re reading this, there’s a very very good chance you’re a part of that. Your support means the world to me, and it WAS that support that kept me rolling when things were going poorly for me on Saturday. I thank you, and the Society thanks you.

Ken Paxton is a craven, evil, jackass

The new anti-trans opinion from the office of our criminally-indicted AG here in Texas directs the Texas Department of Child Protective Services to treat gender-affirming care as child abuse.

Caught in this fascist dragnet are innocent families doing their best to raise their children with love, including the Briggle family in Denton. The Briggles are interesting here because, in the wake of some bathroom bill nonsense 5 years ago, they invited Paxton to dinner on the theory that perhaps actually KNOWING some trans people might matter. He even came!

Spoiler: It did not matter to Paxton. It does not matter to Paxton that trans children are at DRASTICALLY higher risk for suicide and self harm. It does not matter to Paxton or Abbott or any Republican that steps like ones they’re taking INCREASE those risks. No, none of this matters to them because they do not actually care about trans people one way or another.

All they care about is riling up their increasingly reactionary and dangerous base. They need an inflammatory issue to drive voter turnout, and the vanishingly small minority that is the trans community is a convenient target.

This is, I think, even WORSE than them being simply bigoted assholes. I mean, I think they probably ARE bigoted assholes, too, but the absolutely craven and monstrous disregard for the lives of real, actual people here is breathtaking, and it has real-world consequences.

If you vote for this man, or any of his cronies, you are dead to me.

Our Increasingly Gibsonian Future: Robot Dogs Hunt Migrants at the Border

I am not kidding.

DHS’ choice of vendor sparked additional concern. While most police departments leased their pups from Boston Dynamics, which forbids customers weaponizing any of their tech, DHS chose Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics. Late last year, the company debuted a version of its robot dogs equipped with long-range guns capable of hitting targets at a reported 1,200 meters.

OH NOES! WRONG MAGIC WORDS!

This is fucking hilarious:

A Catholic priest has resigned after a church investigation found he performed invalid baptisms throughout most of his more than 20-year career, according to Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix.

Father Andres Arango, who performed thousands of baptisms, would say, “We baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” But Olmsted explained the words “We baptize” should have been “I baptize” instead.

Apparently, as a result of the incorrect pronoun, God doesn’t consider these folks properly anointed, and the “victims” will need to get baptized again. BUT THERE’S MORE:

The error also means that because baptism is the first of the sacraments, some people will need to repeat other sacraments, according to the diocese webpage for frequently asked questions. CNN has reached out to the diocese for comment on other sacraments.

Grown adults in the United States are taking this seriously. Jesus wept.

Guess what? CSI is a lie.

That’s the takeaway from this well-sourced piece by Radley Balko that is entirely worth your time.

We’ve all seen stories, both in life and in fiction, about how bad guys got caught by fiber analysis, or bite analysis, or ballistics reports that conclusively prove that a given recovered bullet came from a specific gun, or whatnot. Turns out? None of that is backed by science, and when examined in blind tests the so-called pattern-matching experts tend not to do any better than a 50% accuracy rate. The root of the problem is that these “sciences” have typically been invented by law enforcement to achieve conviction, and those same organizations are DEEPLY unwilling to re-examine the accuracy of these kinds of evidence because, for them, convictions are FAR more important than anything so quotidian as justice.

The current exemplar of this attitude is the assistant general counsel of the FBI crime lab, a guy named Jim Agar, who is actively telling analysts

how to circumvent judges’ restrictions on unscientific testimony. He even suggests dialogue for prosecutors and analysts to recite if challenged. Most controversially, Agar advises analysts to tell judges that any effort to restrict their testimony to claims backed by scientific research is tantamount to asking them to commit perjury.

People are in PRISON over this stuff. People have been EXECUTED. It’s only been with the advent of DNA that the unreliability of pattern-matching evidence has really come to light, which is definitely good news — except one remaining are of pattern matching is not nearly as likely to be disproven by DNA: firearm tracing.

Guns work at a remove. You can shoot someone without being near enough to deposit DNA. And in the absence of DNA evidence to disprove an unethical prosecutor’s pattern-matching-backed theory, you might be up shit creek. Especially since, as the Agar memo shows, law enforcement organizations care far, far more about winning cases than they do about accuracy. Even at the FBI.

“We could be heroes.”

Take a moment today to remember Bowie, who would have turned 75 years old today. In retrospect, his passing two days after his 69th birthday in 2016 was the point at which everything turned to shit. Next came Prince, and after that, well, Trump and COVID.

There’s lots of ways to remember him. If you have to pick one, you can do a lot worse than “Heroes.”

Another great option is his final album, Blackstar, released on his birthday the year he died. At the time, I thought it was easily among his strongest albums, and the six intervening years have done nothing to change my mind. Listening to it now, understanding that he knew he was dying as he wrote those words, gives it a weight beyond the text.

“Public health is invisible when it works”

Hey, there IS good news re: COVID. Read here.

The tl;dr is that vaccines WORK, and that we probably got a break on omicron. But there’s data on both points that is reassuring.

Does this mean unmask and lick strangers? No, absolutely not. Just keep being careful, and the graphs will keep looking good.