Friday’s Random News

I’ve got this giant stack of digital stuff on my desk (ok, they’re just bookmarks), so let’s get it on!

– Actor Ashton Kutcher made a biopic of former Apple head Steve Jobs. As part of “getting in to character”, Kutcher decided to go to Jobs’ famous “fruititarian” diet. Within days, Kutcher was in severe pain. Admitted to the hospital, his pancreas was all out of whack. What did Jobs die of? Pancreatic cancer. (story)

This editorial from TorrentFreak talks about jail terms for unlocking mobile phones and how it shows the “true black heart” of the copyright monopoly. Which is funny, because Canipre, a company that helps movie studios sue downloaders was recently busted for using Flicker photographs without permission.

– There’s a new technique for estimating a person’s time of death… and it involves the brain’s internal clock. Neat, yet somehow scary.

– Speaking of science, some scientists are convinced that the Planck spacecraft has shown actual, physical evidence that our universe might not be the only one.

– Also from the world of science, the Suomi NPP satellite recently captured images of gravity waves caused by a cyclone near the Bay of Bengal. The pictures are fascinating!

– You might have heard this already, but Georgia Tech will soon offer a full online master’s degree for only $7,000. In what educators are calling a “first”, Tech will offer full, genuine CS master’s degrees to folks who can ante up the bargain basement price (well, and pass the coursework, of course).

– Cops in California went undercover at a local high school to bust a 17 year-old special needs kid for selling them marijuana. The kid – diagnosed with “Asperger’s and other disabilities” was at first excitedto make a new friend, especially one who called and texted him around the clock. But then the “friend” tried to get the kid to sell his prescriptions meds. When the kid refused, the “friend” badgered him to get him some weed. What I want to know is… why do cops have such a GIANT HARD ON to bust kids? (story)

– I love it when liberals fight each other! In what had to have been one of the oddest scenes ever, a group of transgendered men attacked feminists at a conference at Portland State University. So, basically, this particular bunch of feminists believe that “social roles based on sex are undesirable and harmful to women”. And this particular bunch of transgendered men believe that “social roles based on sex are natural and innate and that it is instead the unchanging nature of biological sex that is undesirable.” The men approached the women, who were sitting at a table with books and pamphlets. The men knocked the table over and destroyed the books. Fun!

The Clock That Changed Everything

If you’re any kind of fan of professional basketball, you might have noticed that scores from games in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s look more like NFL scores than NBA scores: 42-35, 31-28 or even 24-21. Why were scores so low back then? Were the all-white teams of the 1930s that bad at shooting the basketball?

Actually, no. The problem was that they hardly ever shot the ball at all. There was no shot clock, so a team could hold on to the ball as long as they wanted to. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for a team to nurse a lead by simply tossing the ball back and forth for 3 or 4 minutes at a stretch!

If that sounds incredibly boring… it was. By the 1950s, attendance at NBA games was nearing all-time lows and NBC was this close to dropping its contract with the league.

The crisis peaked on November 22, 1950, when the Fort Wayne Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons) took on the Minneapolis Lakers (now the LA Lakers). The Lakers had George Mikan, who was 6 ft 10 in and 245 lb. (for those of you outside the US, that’s “one really big dude” in metric). Mikan was named league MVP several times, held several scoring records, was a future Hall of Famer, and was the first commissioner of the ABA.

Needless to say, the outmatched Pistons decided to keep the ball away from Mikan as much as possible. So they held the ball as long as they could. In fact, the Pistons held the ball for ten solid minutes during one stretch of the fourth quarter. There were only four total points scored in the last quarter, and the final score ending up being an embarrassingly low 19-18. And a few weeks later the Indianapolis Olympians and Rochester Royals played a six-overtime game… in which one shot was attempted in each overtime… and that’s one shot total, not one shot by each team.

Continue reading “The Clock That Changed Everything”

Stuff I Missed #324

As a kid, I remember that there was a bit of mild parental and feminist outrage over the movie poster for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only:


Of course, being an almost 11 year old boy, I loved it! Sure, the main attraction was the model’s butt hanging out. But there was more than that: the “shininess” of her long legs and the strappy heels were really hot (remember, this was 1981, when “shiny” and “strappy” were in vogue). And the crossbow was sexy. This girl, whoever she was, was not only hot, she was dangerous, too!

It wasn’t until a couple of nights ago, when I caught the film on G4, that I googled the movie poster for the first time in years… and realized that the photographer was able to make the model’s ass fall out… by having her wear the bikini bottom backwards. Which is now something else I’ll never be able to unsee.

Quote of the Day

“The whole point of this country is if you want to eat garbage, balloon up to 600 pounds, and die of a heart attack at 43, you can. You are free to do so. To me, that’s beautiful.”

– Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson
Parks and Recreation

Little Annoyances #107

Early in the film Pulp Fiction, Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) notices a hamburger that Brett (Frank Whaley) is eating. Jules asks if he can have a bite, and a terrified Brett says that he can.

When Jules picks up the burger, it’s whole:

(click to embiggen)

But when he brings it to his mouth, it’s nearly halfway eaten:

(click to embiggen)

Stupid, I know. But it’s one of those things that, after you notice it, is impossible to unsee.

These Chiefs and Those Chiefs

The Atlanta Chiefs were a professional soccer team that existed from 1967 to 1973, and again from 1979 to 1981. They were originally owned by the Atlanta Braves baseball team, hence the “Chiefs” name. They played the 1967 season in the National Professional Soccer League, but in 1968 the NPSL merged with the United Soccer Association to form the North American Soccer League (or NASL, which was occasionally pronounced “nasal”, for obvious reasons).


Depending on how you look at it, the Chiefs brought Atlanta the city’s first professional, major league sports title:

– Georgia Tech won college football national championships in 1917, 1928 and 1952 (and, later, 1990). But college sports are strictly amateur, and were especially so 50 years ago.

– The Atlanta Crackers were a minor league baseball team that existed from 1901 to 1961. They played in the Southern Association and were league champs 17 times. In fact, the Crackers were the winningest team in Southern Association history, and were sometimes called the “Yankees of the Minors”. However, while they were “professional” (in the sense that they were paid to play, unlike college teams), they were only a minor league team.

– The Atlanta Knights hockey team won the International Hockey League’s Turner Cup – no relation to Ted – in 1993, their second year of existence. But they, like the Crackers, were a minor league team, in this case, an affiliate for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sadly, the arrival of the Atlanta Trashers caused the team to move to Quebec, where they were known as the “Rafales” from 1996 to 1998, after which the team was shut down for losing too much money.

– The Atlanta Braves didn’t win a World Series until 1995. However, they won two previous World Series, in 1957 (as the Milwaukee Braves) and in 1914 (as the Boston Braves). Thus, not only are the Braves the oldest continually-operating sports franchise in North America, they’re the only team to have won a World Series in every city they’ve called home.

– The Atlanta Hawks basketball team was originally founded as the National Basketball League’s Buffalo Bisons in 1946. However, just 13 games in to their first season the team moved to Moline, Illinois. There they became known as the Tri-Cities Blackhawks, and were led by legendary coach Red Auerbach. But it soon became obvious that the “Tri-Cities” area (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa) was too small to support a team in the new NBA. So in 1951 they moved to Milwaukee. And in 1955 they moved to St. Louis, where they won their only league title in 1958. They moved again to Atlanta in 1968. The Hawks’ 55 year championship drought is the second-longest in the NBA after the Sacramento Kings, and the Hawks haven’t even advanced past the second round of the playoffs since moving to Atlanta.

– The Flames NHL hockey team – which played in Atlanta from 1972 to 1980, when they moved to Calgary – has never won a Stanley Cup. In fact, neither the Atlanta Flames nor the Calgary Flames have ever even won their division. And the Atlanta Trashers – now the Winnipeg Jets – won their division exactly once, in the 2006-2007 season. And this also makes Atlanta the only city to lose not one, but TWO NHL franchises.

– The Atlanta Falcons have been to, but have never won, a Super Bowl. Which puts them in the same boat as the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans. It also puts them ahead of the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, none of which have ever even been to a Super Bowl.

But this post is about the Atlanta Chiefs.

Continue reading “These Chiefs and Those Chiefs”

That Strange Attraction

There’s an “old” superstition at the Tower of London which states that if the ravens held there ever escape, the monarchy will collapse and Britain will fall. For that reason, the birds have their wings clipped, and are given great care. And I say it’s an “old” superstition because it’s attributed to Charles II, although many historians are sure it’s a Victorian invention attributed to Charles II.

I have a similar superstition, only mine is about a computer. Specifically, this computer:


You’re looking at the venerable (if unsexy) Enlight 7237 case. Inside is an Abit BP6 motherboard, one of the first consumer-grade motherboards to accept multiple processors, and certainly the first to allow multiple Celeron processors. The two heatsinks (the revered GlobalWin FEP 32s) disguise two Celeron 466 mHz processors. The big green heatsink hides the 440BX chipset, arguably the best product Intel ever made. And rounding out the ensemble you have a Diamond Multimedia videocard of uncertain name carrying the NVIDIA RIVA TNT 2 chipset. There’s 512MB of assorted RAM in the machine, as well as four IDE hard drives from Western Digital, IBM and Maxtor, all connected to a Promise Ultra100 ATA card.

The computer is practically a museum of late 90s computing in a single box! I built it in 1999, and I went with the Celeron processors because at the time one could buy two Celeron 466 mHz processors for around a quarter the cost of Intel’s then top-of-the-line 933 mHz processor.

Of course, I don’t think anything will happen to me if this computer dies. And Britain will certainly not “fall” if something happens to this old computer. But my life would somehow not be the same if this old box died.

I cut my teeth on Windows NT on this box. Like a lot of folks, I got really sick of the instability of Windows 98 and wanted something better. So went on eBay and bought an OEM copy of NT Workstation 4 for around $35. I then built this box specifically to run NT. And, after a couple of weeks, I fell in love with the OS, and kept 98 on one of the hard drives just to play the occasional game, or whatever thing NT couldn’t do at the time.

Continue reading “That Strange Attraction”

Quote of the Day

“Coming of age in a fascist police state will not be a barrel of fun for anybody, much less for people like me, who are not inclined to suffer Nazis gladly and feel only contempt for the cowardly flag-suckers who would gladly give up their outdated freedom to live for the mess of pottage they have been conned into believing will be freedom from fear. Ho ho ho. Let’s not get carried away here. Freedom was yesterday in this country. Its value has been discounted. The only freedom we truly crave today is freedom from Dumbness. Nothing else matters.”

– Hunter S. Thompson
Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a
Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days
of the American Century