June 21, 2017

I got nothin', here's Norm

June 17, 2017

The latest from the RNC

Weller and Lithgow discuss the movie here.

June 16, 2017

Put it on their tombstone

That’s exactly how I looked at the whole series, too: like a pickup game. The type of players that you would play pickup with, like, it felt like they were all on the court. Like you get the big, strong fast bully who just runs to the rim like LeBron James. You get the dude that’s gonna dribble the whole possession and look sweet while doing it in Kyrie Irving. Then you get the big white guy who can rebound and shoot 3s: Kevin Love. It feels like it was a team created at 24 Hour Fitness. That’s how I was looking at it.  

- Kevin Durant


That is the correct response

Durant:  And then out of nowhere you see Bill Russell walking up on the podium. I’m like, “That’s a legend.”

Simmons: What’d he say to you?

Durant: He was like, “Oh, you’re a pretty good player, huh?” And I was like, “If you say so.”


June 15, 2017


[UPDATE:  FiveThirtyEight does this properly here.]

As the players slip into their limos and run through their voicemails, let me make one or two observations on the greatest basketball team that ever played.  Kyle Wagner at FiveThirtyEight believes the Warriors defied basketball logic, and won by flouting sensible data-driven rules like "get to the free throw line as much as you can" and "never shoot deep twos."

Well, maybe.  It was tough to watch things like this - a play in which the Warriors make eight passes to set up Draymond for a three - and believe you were watching optimal practice.  (If Livingston hadn't restored order they might still be out there.)

But I would argue that the Warriors actually won because they did three things very well:

1)  Shoot really well and make the other team shoot a lot less well.  Here is a chart of the difference, for each playoff team, between its effective shooting percentage and its opponents' effective shooting percentage.  Spot the really good team:

2)  When you have the ball, play as a team, move the ball around, make the opposing defense work.  Here is a chart of playoff teams' assists per made field goal (and hats off to madman Brad Stevens who had the Celtics playing so well):

3)  Disrupt the other team's offense with steals and blocks.  Remember, this team was supposed to be soft, didn't have good rim protection, etc.  Playoff steals + blocks per game:

Amazing team.

June 13, 2017

Let the healing begin

June 12, 2017

An open letter to the Golden State Warriors


Put the motherfucking box into the motherfucking hole.

Yours etc.,
The Other Front

June 09, 2017

You know you're in the right forum when...

...participants are doing back-of-the-envelope math to determine whether dropping a frost giant from an airship will lighten it sufficiently to gain meaningful altitude (conclusion:  yes, probably).


June 07, 2017

Warriors recap

June 05, 2017

Meanwhile over at OOTS


(Fourteen years ago he drew like this... reminds me of the evolution of Trudeau.)

June 04, 2017

Stealth dunker

June 03, 2017

Drezner reflects

How bad is this situation? I look at Trump, at McMaster, at Tillerson, and conclude, “Yeah, I could do better.”

I cannot stress enough how much I should not be thinking this. I am an international relations professor: The biggest deliverables I’ve ever managed is the occasional conference and handing my grades in on time. In the past, whenever the prospect of a policy position has come up, I start getting the hives because of the myriad ways I know how to screw things up. I know my skill set, and am rather dubious that ably managing the foreign policy process is part of it.

All that said, do I think I could run American foreign policy better than the current team? Yes. Heck, I could be on Twitter all day and only pay partial attention to briefings and still do a better job than the current clown show.


Gregg signs off


It's horrible, it's contemptible, it's...not half bad...!

Terry Crews modern furniture collection.


Peculiarities of Plutocracy

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has promised to provide up to $15 million in funding that he says the United Nations will lose because of President Trump’s decision to pull out from the landmark Paris climate deal.


And Now, Hijacking Eisengeiste for an Ad for Rare Beach Property in Homer, Alaska

Lots more information at GoldenCrownedHomer.blogspot.com
Sale necessitated by the class paradox of art making. Edit: Link fixed!

Also the rent is too damn high.

June 02, 2017

Not Wasted Time

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

"Four Quartets" discussed on In Our Time.  (link)

The original work (read by the author) is here, text here.

Very interesting piece

Once dubbed "Milwaukee's angriest young negro" by the local paper, he's now a 69-year-old grandfather and live event D.J.

The scowl has been replaced by an easy smile. The anger remains.

"Remember him?" I ask, handing him a photo of Grandpa.

"Oh, yeah," he says without a second of hesitation. "Asshole. He was a real asshole. And the Tactical Squad was assholes incorporated."

. . . 

"I can show you, by every objective metric, verified by outside researchers, that…there have been declines in the uses of force by the police," Flynn says.

"Every year for nine years, there have been declines in the number of citizen complaints made against the police for upsetting behavior. It doesn't matter. If I have one controversial shooting, it can blow up nine years of restraints in the use of force, because the power of the story takes on its own reality. It is a rallying cry."


May 29, 2017

ELO is lousy at predictions, but very good at telling you what has occurred


Why Homer Matters

I have been working in fits and starts - mostly fits - on the newish (November 2015) book Why Homer Matters, by Adam Nicolson.  Having gotten through the introductory matter, I have gotten to the good parts, and they are very good indeed.  Nicolson is not, as near as I can tell, a 'qualified academic', but the sort of gifted amateur that used to be more prevalent in the British Empire, a guy who has put a hell of a lot of work into understanding this stuff.  The results are generally good:
The Iliad is soaked in retrospect. The Odyssey, the twin and pair of it, is filled with heroic adventurism and the sense of possibility, as if it were an American poem and the Iliad its European counterpart.  
There is no doubt that the poet of the Odyssey knew the Iliad. The Odyssey, with extraordinary care, is shaped around the preexistence of the Iliad. It fills in details that are absent from the earlier poem— the Trojan Horse, the death of Achilles— but never mentions anything that is described there. That discretion and mutuality is present on a deeper level too. So, where the Iliad is a poem about fate and the demands that fate puts on individual lives, the inescapability of death and of the past, of each of us being locked inside a set of destinies, the Odyssey, for all its need to return home, consistently toys with the offer of a new place and a new life, a chance to revise what you have been given, for the individual— or at least the great individual— to stand out against fate.
The two poems talk across that divide. The Iliad is rooted in the pain of Troy, the singular place and the sense of entrapment that it brings to everyone involved. The Odyssey is constantly free and constantly inventive. That difference is reflected in the two heroes. Achilles is fixed into rage, into the need to fulfill his fate, fixed into having to revenge the death of his friend Patroclus. Odysseus is always slipping out, the man who has been everywhere, seen everything, done everything, but also thought of everything, invented everything and changed everything. 
These are the two possibilities for human life. You can either do what your integrity tells you to do, or niftily find your way around the obstacles life throws in your path. That is the great question the poems pose. Which will you be? Achilles or Odysseus, the monument of obstinacy and pride or the slippery trickster in whom nothing is certain and from whom nothing can be trusted? The singular hero or the ingenious man?
Decent review from the NYT here.


May 28, 2017

Know your UK soul men

  • Cocker:  1944 - Sheffield, Yorkshire
  • Morrison:  1945 - Belfast, Northern Ireland

Song the world first noticed
  • Cocker: "With a Little Help From My Friends" (1969)
  • Morrison:  "Gloria" (1964)

Primary influences (according to Wikipedia)
  • Cocker:  Ray Charles and Lonnie Donegan
  • Morrison:  Much of Morrison's music is structured around the conventions of soul music and R&B... [However] an equal part of his catalogue consists of lengthy, loosely connected, spiritually-inspired musical journeys that show the influence of Celtic tradition, jazz and stream-of-consciousness narrative, such as the album Astral Weeks and the lesser-known Veedon Fleece and Common One. The two strains together are sometimes referred to as "Celtic soul".

Rolling Stone says

  • (#96) Cocker would...interpret tunes by Randy Newman and Traffic as if they were R&B classics. And once he was done with them, that's what they were.
  • (#24) Morrison has left his mark on over 40 years' worth of rock, blues, folk, jazz and soul, as well as several genres that only really exist on his records. He's the most painterly of vocalists, a master of unexpected phrasing whose voice can transform lyrics into something abstract and mystical...

Best cover
  • Cocker: "With a Little Help From My Friends" or "You Are So Beautiful" or possibly "Feelin' Alright"
  • Morrison:  Gonna say the 2000 Skiffle Sessions with Lonnie Donegan, but YMMV 

Google hits when you Google their name and "crazy story"

  • Cocker:  25,000
  • Morrison: 55,800


  • Cocker:  "Joe" - real name was John Robert.  Performed as "Vance Arnold" for a while.
  • Morrison:  "Van the Man"

Big influence on...

  • Cocker:  Bryan Adams
  • Morrison:  Springsteen, Seger, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty for a start

Imitated by Belushi?
  • Cocker:  yes
  • Morrison:  no, although Kevin Pollak says they hung out a bit

Song I really like

Still alive?

May 27, 2017

Living the dream

I never meant to become a deadly threat in the low post.  Heretofore my basketball career was marked by a firm commitment to the aerial, a contempt for footwork, positioning, teamwork, passing, and other such "fundamentals".  Fundamentals my eye, Bobby Knight can teach that stuff in his damned labor camp, but in a pickup game I want to run and fly, and someone else can worry about the low post, the high post, the elbow and all that rot.

But about a year ago, something odd occurred.  I stumbled across the Rosetta Stone, a brief sequence by Hakeem Olajuwon from which a middle age man can transform himself from a retired ineffectual aerialist into a Dream Master.  I have studied carefully and learned my lessons well.  Here, in case of my untimely death, is the sum total of my knowledge in this matter.

1)  The quick little layup.  You can shoot a quick little layup, can't you?  Say you're dribbling with your right hand on the right side of the hoop.  A quick, hard dribble to push the ball to the left, go up strong with your left hand and tip it in.  Very nice when no one's guarding you.  Here is Hakeem driving for a quick little layup on David Robinson:

2)  As it happens, someone is often guarding you.  In this case, you will pretend that you are going to make a quick little layup, then stop and pivot.  Here is a picture of Hakeem about 2/10 of a second later after he has stopped and pivoted, and he prepares to take his deadly turnaround jumper.

The start of this video shows how it looked when Olajuwon converted the jump shot he is threatening to take here:

"They know you're going to turn," he says, "but they don't know which way.  And they don't know when."

3)  Now, sometimes the person guarding you is very alert.  David Robinson in the picture above has reacted instantly to Olajuwon's change of plan, and readies himself to leap and contest the shot.  It would appear that Olajuwon's try has failed.  But he has a trick up his sleeve.  He will pretend to take his deadly turnaround jumper, then step past Robinson for a quick little layup.

The whole thing looks like this in real time:

I should add that these moves look better if you are seven feet tall and extremely quick and well-balanced.

When I first saw this, I thought no human being could do it, but then I realized it's actually quite similar to a dance step. Footwork is all. At each stage you must maintain your balance to preserve your next option.  You don't lean into the initial layup, you don't fall away with the jumper - both shots/fakes are made from a well-balanced position so that you can transition to the next option if needed.

The key to making the move work in practice - and this is vital - is that you need to get really good at shooting turnaround jumpers.  I heard an interview with Kevin McHale a while back, and he said all of his fancy moves depended on opponents respecting his deadly turnaround jumper.  If you can't make that shot, the opponent can hang back and meet you at the rim as you try your quick little layup.  No, you must draw him to you, and to draw him to you, you must be able to convert that turnaround.

Fortunately, we have a wonderful practitioner of this art right here in the Bay Area:

The beauty of Livingston's game is that he can almost always get to that spot, and, being a point guard, is always a threat to pass instead of shooting the jumper (unlike McHale and Olajuwon who were notorious ball stoppers).  He's also five inches taller than Tony Parker, which makes things a bit easier.

All good so far?  So you have the ball at midcourt, and are dribbling toward the post.  When you arrive in the area you can simply turn your back to your opponent, notice his positioning, then turn the other way and like Shaun Livingston bury your deadly turnaround jumper.  OR, you can drive hard to the hoop for a quick little layup, and then spin to take your deadly turnaround jumper, and then step inside your leaping opponent and convert a quick little layup.  I have practiced this on all manner of middle schoolers, and I can assure you it is crushingly effective.

Now, if you watch Olajuwon's footwork carefully, you'll see that there are also many opportunities to pass to cutting teammates as well.  So this is not simply a sound platform for scoring in the low post, it can be a blueprint for all of your activity when you have the ball in your hands.

Now it is possible that, after seeing your deadly turnaround jumper a few times, opponents will decide that they must deny you that spot in the low post.  As you bring the ball up they may try to challenge you by guarding you closely and daring you to try to drive past them.  My older son, tired of getting Dream Shaken, has adopted this tactic.

I believe the antidote is a killer crossover.  I do not have this weapon developed yet, but this video from Jim Barnett gives me hope that I can master the requisite skills:


Here is a nice little documentary on Daniel Nagrin, one of the greatest dancers of the 20th century.  I greatly admired Nagrin's book How to Dance Forever, and found it really helpful as I tried to learn some steps in my 40s.

Nagrin was the expert on this.  He was born in 1917, bringing down the house on Broadway in the 50s, dancing modern art pieces like Strange Hero in the 60s, and still doing really hard stuff in the the 1970s.  He seemed to figure out before everyone else that the main thing holding back achievement in middle age was acknowledgement of the limitations of middle age.  He simply proceeded as if he could dance into his 60s, then did so.

I was sitting in a tea shop in Chinatown about 10 years ago, and hit a particularly good passage in Nagrin's book, which I read to my wife while we were sitting there talking.  I happened to look up and saw a well known comic actor eavesdropping with amusement.  So he and I will always have that moment:  him amused at my earnest discipleship, me amused that a guy whose magnum opus was Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo would look down on Nagrin, who put sincere effort into his performances.

In the documentary below Bill T. Jones says Nagrin was "for me, the epitome of artist as warrior.  The battle is against sloth, insincerity, and indecision.  He believes that the artist must win this battle, through daily effort."  Nagrin himself said he watched a film of one of his performances late in his career and caught himself thinking "he's not pretending."  That's about as good an artistic credo as you could ask for, I think.

I don't know enough to say if that particular ethos played a role in his longevity.  He certainly seemed to think so, saying "it's important not to die young.  You've got to last."

I wrote Nagrin a brief fan letter a few years before he passed away, and he sent back a nice thank you.


May 26, 2017

Great app

There's this editor called EMACS that you can get on a Mac...


May 25, 2017

Surprised to see me here...?

This is what it's all about.  I know we had to go through the formality of the regular season, we have to go through the playoffs...  But at the end of the day didn't we all know, and don't we all want to see...The Trilogy...?!   Well, let's settle it.  Everyone's healthy, they have a week to prepare, you've added maybe the second best player in the world in Kevin Durant...LET'S GO!  
- Reggie Miller

Because fuck the wild horses

Rats with hooves, I call 'em.


May 24, 2017

Farewell Mr. Moore

May 23, 2017

Get me some of that Stargoon

"The neural network has really, really bad ideas for paint names."


May 22, 2017

Objection withdrawn

Speaking of avoidable risky situations...

Botha was leading a group of hunters western Zimbabwe on Friday afternoon when they stumbled upon a breeding herd of elephants in Hwange National Park, the Telegraph reported.

Startled, three elephant cows charged the group. Botha opened fire, according to News24, but a fourth elephant rammed him from the side, lifting him with her trunk. One of his fellow hunters then fired a shot. The elephant collapsed on top of Botha, killing him, News24 reported...

Botha's death comes just weeks after one of his friends was killed by crocodiles during a hunting expedition in Zimbabwe. Scott Van Zyl, 44, was with a local tracker and a pack of hunting dogs when he disappeared in mid-April. A week later, his remains were found in the carcass of a crocodile shot and killed by local authorities, the BBC reported.



May 21, 2017

Better days in LA

In 2008, over 1,600 people were hit by a bullet in Los Angeles, but the number fell by around 500 last year, Beck said. The city also experienced 384 homicides in 2008, but the number was 290 last year.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Beck said. “The proof is that we have a less violent society in Los Angeles because of gun buybacks, because of smart legislation, because of good cops and because of the strong will of the people to recognize that guns are what turns a minor dispute between young people on the street from a shouting match to a funeral.”


42 or 357?

What with all the Russian spies and other menacing characters around my neighborhood, I have thought in light of my advancing age that I ought to get a piece for my drawer.  You know, for punks.

Apart from the usual objections of "morality" I also have struggled with the national problem of overabundance: there are so many options, it is genuinely difficult to make a rational choice.  But I am making some progress.  I am not a sportsman or drug dealer, so long guns and Wonder Nines are out.  It needs to be something small, ideally concealable, but able to, you know, perforate baddies.

I had been considering the Walther PPK.  The merits of this fine firearm need hardly be rehearsed here, and how many personal defense weapons have such an impressive pop culture pedigree?

More prosaically, the slide burn issue has been addressed (after eighty years) with an extended tang.  It's a very good gun, as the estimable Hickock45 attests.

But the PPK has its problems.  It is hard work to shoot: the slide is stiff, and it kicks hard.  With some practice you can get proficient with it, but it's hard to imagine, in a sudden household firefight, tossing it to my wife and having her wield it effectively.  And in reality, most other compact guns have the same problem: the ones with stopping power are hard to shoot, and the ones that are easy to shoot may be too mild to achieve the desired results.

And there the matter stood with me, until the Glock 42 swam into my ken.  Glock took a lot of heat for the 42 because they decided to chamber it for .380 ACP instead of 9 mm.  This makes the gun more expensive to operate because 9mm ammunition is cheap and abundant:  it can be found on deserted beaches and school playgrounds all over America.  The .380 ACP, by contrast, must be bought in a store, with money, instead of stripping it from the bodies of the men who were so foolish as to betray you.

The PPK, which also uses .380 ACP is certainly the prettier of the two:
But the Glock has one huge advantage over the PPK and other "concealed carry" weapons:
[A]fter getting the hang of one of those little 9mm’s, switching over to the Glock 42 feels like cheating. With almost no effort at all, the front sight simply snaps back onto target after each shot. If all centerfire handgun calibers were equally effective for self-defense, the favorable combination of small size and light recoil found in the Glock 42 would instantly render obsolete dozens of other carry guns that are either more difficult to shoot or more difficult to carry.  (link)
So...have a couple of these babies around the house, toss them to the wife and kids when trouble starts, and the bad guys are going to learn what "downrange" really means.

But, the nagging thought pursues me...as appealing as it is to shoot people, what's the point if the ammo isn't up the the job.  We've all heard these "I emptied my Beretta Bobcat into a perp and he didn't even drop his milkshake" stories.  When we shoot someone, we want them to know they've been shot, and fall down without unwanted additional activity.

I am of two minds about this.  One part of me notes that this particular round has a long history of killing people, including (according to Wikipedia) the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophia.  That must count for something.  And when friends tell me the round has poor stopping power, I notice none of them accept my offer to be shot with the harmless ineffective little pea shooter.

On the other hand, this is not a game, and as a rawboned Alaskan used to negotiating safe passage with brown bears and wolverines, I know just how important it is that the things we shoot, stay shot.

As I think about it, most gunfights are over very, very quickly.  Whomever puts a round into their target first probably wins - if the round is up to the job.  So, reframing the question, is there a reliable and easy-to-operate small weapon that can put serious ammo to work instead of these .380 Lucky Charms or whatever you call them.  Well, I can think of 38 reasons to consider a J-Frame...

"Remarkably accurate and easy to shoot for a gun this small," Hickock says.

But only five shots.  Well, would you rather have five 38s or six 380s?  It's a difficult question.  My current thought is that the greater power of the .38 round in the J-Frame is not enough to offset the shooting ergonomics of the Glock 42.

But...you know...some of those J-Frames can handle a .357 Magnum load.  Oh yes.  Yes they can.

Tactical Tim says "you can have five rounds of .357 Magnum on your person for just a touch over one pound."  Therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome not included:

So are you going to go with the one that loves you, or are you going with the one you love?  I really admire the understated murder efficiency of the Glock 42, but as a middle aged man I'm not sure I want more potency issues to worry about.  The M&P 340 resolves those questions with total finality, but at what cost?

At what cost?

May 19, 2017

Also: founding member of the ACLU


Last show 5/28, info here

May 18, 2017

Stay tuned for our big post on the best pate foie gras to eat while playing the Volga gambit

Last 30 days

An interesting crop of obituaries

Using this space for excerpts and linked to Roger Ailes obituaries:

Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we're that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered.

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans' worst fantasies about each other.


Bill O'Reilly, USA Today

When stuff hit the fan, as it will when you are doing daily political commentary in a polarized nation, Roger had my back. Even in the beginning when my ratings were not dominant. He defended me in public even while sometimes mocking me in private. He was genuine, charismatic, profane, generous and sincere in his beliefs. He could be brutal verbally but if you were straight with him, he would protect you.

Over the years, I saw Roger literally save people from destruction. And more than a few. He didn't have to do it, there was no benefit to him. In the callous world of TV news, that kind of generosity is rare. If a Fox person had trouble, Roger was the guy to go to. But you had to be honest...

It's easy to make judgments from afar — but fair people know that seeking the truth is a complicated and demanding process. In my opinion, few sought the comprehensive truth about Roger Ailes.


Michael Carlson, The Guardian
While working successfully for big tobacco to stop Bill Clinton’s healthcare reform, Ailes also began producing a syndicated TV show for the radio “shock-jock” Rush Limbaugh, which became a massive hit. He took over the failing CNBC business channel, tripled its profits and made stars of the combative host Chris Matthews and stunning business reporter Maria Bartiromo, setting a formula he followed at Fox: men apparently chosen for bombast and women for looks. But when a second channel he started for NBC, called America Talks, was taken from him and turned into MSNBC, Ailes left the network in 1996 and teamed up with Rupert Murdoch to launch Fox News.


Clyde Haberman, New York Times

As [Fox News'] chairman and chief executive, Mr. Ailes was widely feared, particularly by conservative politicians who sought his favor. He cultivated a swaggering persona, accentuated by bursts of obscenity-laced anger. Once, he became so enraged that he punched a hole in the wall of a control room.

“I don’t ignore anything,” he acknowledged in a 2003 profile in The New Yorker. “Somebody gets in my face, I get in their face.”

Years earlier, Lee Atwater, whose remorseless approach to politics matched that of Mr. Ailes when they worked together on George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, described his colleague as having “two speeds: attack and destroy.”


Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times

[Former CNN president Rick] Kaplan said Ailes was also a brilliant TV producer who was keenly aware that even with talking heads, he was working in a visual medium. Fox News always had state-of-the-art graphics and animation. His penchant for putting attractive women on the air, with legs displayed on the set, was well known.

“Roger has a very visually pleasing network in terms of look and color and form,” Kaplan said. “Roger cared about what it looked like.”


The Onion


TOF Comment
Say what you want about the whole sex predator / wrecking American political discourse thing, I thought this book by Ailes, first published in the late 80s, was excellent.  Following its advice helped my career.  Goes in the same bin as the Cosby albums now, but still.