Archive for November, 2008

29
Nov
08

The Perfect Knowledge Of Rinku And Dinesh

rinku

(Rinku Singh unloads the samosa)

I wasn’t expecting to proclaim a favorite National League team this year, but the Million Dollar Arm contest in India settled it for me:  I can now be counted among the Pittsburgh Pirates faithful.  The storied club of Roberto Clemente, Dock Ellis and Dave Parker can now boast a pitching staff that includes the first two hurlers from the Indian subcontinent ever signed by a major league baseball team, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel.

These guys, 19 and 20 respectively, throw around 90 mph and consistently for strikes. But at writing time, their knowledge of baseball is perfect – perfectly nonexistent.  While I look forward to their stint in spring training and what will probably be the Pittsburgh minor league system this season, their Blog and Twitter have already been nothing short of awesome and it’s my bet will only get better.  From a couple of days ago:

JB sir [JB Bernstein, Barry Bond’s ex-agent and mastermind of the whole contest] explained to us today about the mind tricking us.  He say that brain trick body to do bad sometimes.  What we have to do is learn to say no to our brains and tell our arms to just throw.  We need no excuses in our mind.  Just do our best and rewards will come.

He ask us what we would do if we were throwing Javelin against man who throw farther than our best throw…  We then realize that we trick our body to think we can do better than our best to beat other man.   That was good way to show us and we understand much better now.

We want to pitch very good.  We are working so hard and we are told that we may sign contract next week.  When that is true it will be the best day of our lives!

Following the baseball education of these two is going to be incredible.
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29
Nov
08

Tool Of The Manuals

geminimanual

In honor of my joining the Society for Technical Communications, it’s time to debut a new RW370 category dedicated to technical writing: RTFM. I took on a couple of projects for some hardware engineering outfits to develop installation guides, manuals, supporting animation and video too.  W00t.

There’s no point in a category without a payload, so dig these awesome relics of instruction courtesy of Wired.

21
Nov
08

Hard To Merge, Hard To Breathe, Hard To Believe

neckbrace

(Above: Just sore, not badly hurt)

It’s been 24 hours since I was rear-ended by a semi-truck while merging onto the Dan Ryan expressway. Let’s tally up that episode’s suck:

Both Maureen and I went to the emergency room. My neck felt screwed up so I took an ambulance. We’re both sore.

You’d think the notable part of the day would be over at that point, and you’d be wrong.

After discharge from the emergency room, we limped homewards, stopping at CVS for medication. Starving, we pull in to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Normally we don’t eat at this place, as it’s nothing special food-wise, but that morning’s situation forced an exception.

I walked into the front door vestibule and saw the following through the glass:

A small group was standing in the restaurant. In the middle of the group, a brown-haired woman stood, bug-eyed, mouth agape, hands reaching for her throat. She coughs a little. Her face is full of desperation.

The place is nearly empty. The people standing around her were all elderly and a couple were panicking. I enter the place and ask “Is she choking?” I got no answers in any spoken language, just a variety of visages of terror and despair. I noticed that the group is near a table and the food is half-eaten. Probably choking, I figured. “Call 911” I tell one of the dumbstruck waitresses.

Heimlich time.

I got behind her and remembered the old Red Cross bit about the balled up fist-grip and the solar plexus. I give her four or five heaves. It’s been a long time since I’ve had my arms around a woman who wasn’t Maureen I crazily think to myself as I apply the maneuver.

“Okay” I heard her say. I relented and looked around for the projectile that’s supposed to fly out, and don’t find it. She swallowed it, it’s okay. She’s coughing and wheezing but she’s okay. She was no longer choking.

We took a seat a table and cracked open our pills from CVS. The pills we were prescribed for the pain of being smashed into by a semi-trailer four hours before? Yeah, those pills.

After the Fire Department showed up and left, normality began to resume. The brown-haired woman moved to behind the cash register and I realized that she is the owner of the place.

We were visited at the table by one of the older women who was panicking when I got there. A family resemblance suggested she was brown-hair’s mother, although I can’t be sure. She graciously thanked me for helping out. I braced for more embarrassment, but I needn’t have worried.

The choking woman sat at her cash register while we ate, made phone calls on her earpiece, ran out to her Lexus SUV parked in the front, and was overheard to mention to someone that “the Botox injections make it hard to swallow”.

The breakfast was, as expected, no big deal – and the order was screwed up. Served us right for going there. When I paid my bill to brown-hair I did get a thanks for what I did.

Which beats getting a lawsuit.

19
Nov
08

“It’s laisseiz-faire until you get into deep shit.” – John Gutfreund

bull

Are you like me? God help you, then. Because if you are, you are allergic to a great many things. I don’t mean molds or foods, even though I suffer from plenty of those maladies. I’m talking about cultural allergies.

For example, I have always been allergic to Wall Street culture. And my condition has constantly hampered my understanding of said culture.

As an informed layman, well-enough versed in some of the plumbing and jargon of professional capital allocation, I have nonetheless never arrived at any real understanding of the psychology or choreography of the market in stocks or bonds or derivatives. I know (with varying degrees of roughness) the wheres and the hows of many common financial instruments and markets – but the whys and the whens and the whos have not been nearly as clear.

Much of the opacity is due in the end to the constant repulsive stink the trading class gives off. It’s a greasy, tacky aroma of people in full estrus, chasing down a class entitlement with the kind of abandon that absolutely precludes being introspective, interrogative or interesting. Deprived of such traits to gravitate toward, I have been at a perpetual disadvantage in my ad hoc anthropology.

When regarding such a rut culture, suspicion is king. Decades of observing profitmaking by legions of certifiably dim and/or crazy persons leads one to infer that there is in fact far less than meets the eye in the culture, not more.

My first taste of this came in the late 1980s when I read the book Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis. Lewis, a Princeton grad who stumbled into investment banking out of school and stayed there for three years before leaving with his dignity, wrote a terrific book on his way out the door that lifted the lid on a very ridiculous, empty place. But a place that was busy changing the rules for itself in ways that directly resulted in the 2008 meltdown.

I don’t mean to review that volume, but I do want to spread around a link to a new Conde Nast Portfolio article by Lewis that revisits the Street today. The corpses of the giant investment banking houses strewn around him, he tells the tale of one guy and his crew who saw it all coming. Many many many whos whys and whens in this one. Enjoy, if you have the stomach. As far as I’m concerned, it’s must-read, Pulitzer material.

18
Nov
08

Playlist: Late-Aught UK Rock

weekthatwas2
(The Week That Was: Just wait until their fans discover XTC)

When it comes to music on the internet, I’m a fan of Seeqpod.  And when it comes to music of the rock and roll variety, I’m also a fan of the United Kingdom. Bless their snaggle-toothed, pasty-faced little hearts for what they’ve given rock music lo these many decades.

But what have they done for us lately?  I try to clear up that question with my UK Late-Aughts Seeqpod playlist.  From the dual-guitar harmony swagger of Lords to the thoroughly problematic Montana Pete to a very pretty pussy named Colin, the meat pies keep coming.  Do enjoy.

NOTE: Embedding. WordPress no like today. Oh well, click it then.

RW370: UK Late-Aught Rock

16
Nov
08

“Ladies And Gentlemen, I Resent This Applause”

Brother Theodore drifts from his original premise (promoting quadrupedialism) in this Letterman appearance, dating from 1983 or thereabouts.  The party is indeed over.

10
Nov
08

Apologists For Lawlessness Start To Feel The Heat

liberty3

Glenn Greenwald’s piece in Salon today illustrates an episode in what I consider the Obama administration’s most serious task.  Having sent a constitutional scholar to the White House, it is only a tiny leap of faith on our part as voters to expect that such a scholar, no less than the Chief Editor of the Harvard Law Review, would see the Bush executive branch as dangerously swollen, distorted and in urgent need of restoration and rollback.

The extremist assaults on civil liberties post-9/11 have been many, to the enduring shame of the US.  These were challenged far too weakly by the legal establishment, and depending on where you looked, they weren’t challenged at all. Now that Dick Cheney is to be finally smoked out of his bunker, the question remains: who collaborated?  Who apologized for and legitimized the Bush administration’s illegal power grabs?

Seven years in to the monumentally bogus “war on terror” with its warrantless wiretapping and magic words like “enemy combatant” we find many okey-dokes from GWU Law Professor Orrin Kerr.  Kerr is the kind of professional you need on your side when you have radical ambitions and a fetish for security theater: a mild-mannered intellectual whose dispassionate support of eye-popping illegality lends the impression of normality and reasonability to what is no more than thuggery.

Greenwald’s online argument with Kerr is entertaining, and a little nauseating.  It is likely a precursor to others like it when John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales and their ilk are called onto the carpet for their distortion and cheapening of our most precious legal framework.   As these scholars complete their deficient educations in public, let their discredit be at least as injurious to them as their opinions have been to the Constitution.




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1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
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