Ballistics testing

So the Nerf Maverick is basically the gold standard of office warfare. Sure, you have your little hold-out guns, and you have your big belt-fed tripod-mounted joint, but the Maverick is really the best possible blend of capacity (6 shots before reloading), portability (fits easily under a coat or in a backpack), and rate of fire (single-action, slide-cocked reviolver; can empty the cylinder in ~3 sec). If somebody comes charging into your cubicle, you don’t want to be shooting back with some muzzle-fed trick, especially if it has to be air-pumped.

The Maverick is the standard loadout for the Alabama nephews, so naturally I have one and am well familiar with it. What I didn’t realize is that it is also the standard sidearm of my new work group. Turns out the other half of the team actually *has* the battery-powered belt-fed super-donkey-collider trick. Which means that if the balloon goes up, your boy needs an edge.

Thing is, though, the Maverick uses Nerf mini-darts with suction-cup tips. If you throw down $4 plus tax at Target, though, you can get a 10-pack of “Sonic Micro Darts,” a.k.a. whistletips. And unlike Bubb Rubb’s famous automotive modification, these are definitely not for decoration. Instead of a concave suction cup maximizing your air resistance, these are rounded at the front and have much more of their weight at the front, presumably to maximize the whistling.

Well, I loaded alternating standards and whistletips and did some test shooting* and made some interesting discoveries:

* The whistles go “WOOOOOO” but only about 15 feet from the muzzle.

* From a distance of approximately 6 feet, the Maverick shoots a standard dart about six inches below point of aim. Every slide-step backwards is good for another 4 inches drift and drop, which means that from more than 10 feet away you’re going to have to fire your darts in an arc like some sort of Elvish archer holding off the Orcs at Helm’s Deep* if you want any chance of hitting center of mass on a Tier I-technician-sized target.

* From about 20 feet, the whistletips can be shot more or less to point of aim with negligible drift or drop. I am willing to bet that if you were to tip the muzzle, you could probably put a dart on a technician across the full length of my office, which is 50 feet if it’s an inch.

The standard suction-cup darts are going in the bottom drawer for last-resort backup. From now on, I’m loading out with the whistletips, and anybody who snipes at me from a distance is in for a shock. So really, the question you have to ask yourself is…do you feel lucky, punk? Well do ya?

*Yes, I am a huge, huge, huge geek. I know it, I admit it, and I might as well be good at it.

** Meticulously observing the Four Rules: all guns are always loaded and are treated as such***, never point the muzzle at anything you don’t want to put a bullet through, never put your finger on the trigger unless you are firing, and always know what’s behind your target. Nobody on television – with the conspicuous exceptions of Battlestar Galactica and Torchwood – appears to have any clue about this.

*** If you say “treat it as if it were loaded,” you will invariably get lazy and assume that something isn’t loaded. Assume that every gun, everywhere, all the time, is ready to fire and you’ll be a lot safer, as will everyone around you. It’s amazing how much of this you are made to internalize before your dad will let you handle the BB gun.

There’s hope for that school yet

So Alabama hired Anthony Grant as the new men’s basketball coach. Everybody seems to be over the moon that they sailed in and got him before Georgia or Virginia could. Apparently he’s one of the names to mention in hot up-and-coming coaches in college basketball.

It was three days into the reporting before I realized that Anthony Grant is most assuredly not white.

The Crimson Tide hired a black coach for arguably their second-highest-profile sport (Sarah Patterson’s gymnastics team and their multiple national championships might have something to say) and nobody thinks to mention it in the reporting?

This is how you make progress…one piece at a time.

Actually, I just figured it out…

…a couple of different people have made a point and I have finally determined what’s wrong with that ad:
It’s not selling anything Microsoft.
It’s selling an HP (and a pretty crap-ass HP at that apparently). No mention of Vista, or WIndows 7, or even XP. Sure, it runs Windows, but it could just as easily run Linux, and with a little scuffling, maybe even Mac OS X (though I doubt anyone involved with the purchase could hack that).
Thing is, though, so will a Mac run Windows, right on the metal – and I believe a boxed copy of Windows makes more money for Microsoft than the licensing fee for a single OEM copy on a new machine.
I think the point from the last post is the same. Microsoft doesn’t have anything that goes along with the current hotness in personal computing – more to the point, nothing in the current hotness depends on Microsoft. And while their market share still dwarfs that of other OS makers (Apple or otherwise), their mindshare is shot to hell.
And oh yes, I am well aware that the redhead is actually an actress. So what? Did you actually think John Hodgman was a personal computer? Grow up.

Bad judgement in broadcasting

Seriously, whoever makes Microsoft’s ads these days really needs to be dumped in the desert…or off the Bay Bridge in a sack. The take-home message of their latest ad campaign is that people look for Macs first, but wind up getting a PC because it’s cheap.

Personally, I would say that the additional software and the promise of an OS that doesn’t pick up viruses like a Tennessee co-ed at a family reunion would be a non-trivial consideration, but the take-home point ought to be this (and it’s something that a lot of people don’t seem to grasp): when times are tight – hell, even when they’re not – price is a lesser consideration than value for money. Sure, you can get last year’s Chevy compact for less money than a Honda Civic, but which one’s going to leave you on the side of the road first?

Coupled with Ballmer’s recent remarks about people not wanting to pay $500 for a label, you rapidly start to get a sense of the take-home message for Microsoft in the Great Recession: Apple is a frivolous branding exercise that people won’t spring for in difficult times.

Well yeah – I’m not going to deny that your typical Mac is way way way cooler than some brick-assed PC laptop that’s tarted up with more stickers than a nine-year-old girl’s Trapper Keeper. But bear in mind that you’re talking about an HP Pavilion laptop that described as “last year’s model” – one that can’t address all the memory installed (for some reason, 32-bit Vista can’t cope with 4 GB of RAM) and which shows 1440×900 on a 17-inch display – which isn’t all that hot a pixel density when you can get 9″ laptops that go 1024×600 and 10″ models that do true 720p HD.

Look, can you get a PC cheaper than a Mac? Hells yeah. You can get a PC laptop for $300 if you like, and it’s an incredibly fast-growing segment. Now you also get a Munchkin-scale keyboard, a processor that would have been a rocket in 2003, and no optical media drive at all, but it can be done. That’s because Apple’s not competing on price, they’re competing on value for money. At the high end of the range, too, the so-called “Apple Tax” has largely ceased to exist; the only place the wild disparity continues to exist is at the low end of the market – and that’s a pool that the Monster of Cupertino simply doesn’t fish in. In the end, the sense you get coming away from the ad is that the Windows machine isn’t the first choice, but it’ll have to do because it’s cheap. Which has more or less been the case for years and years – I just didn’t expect Microsoft to advertise with it.

But here’s the dagger of the whole thing: it doesn’t matter any more. What are the hottest things in high-tech right now? Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Hulu. What’s the common thread? It doesn’t matter what platform they run on. In fact, the hottest thing in high tech right now is mobility computing, being driven by RIM and Palm and Google – and the iPhone. A common refrain in the Valley is “if your next big thing only runs on a PC, it’s not the next big thing.”

In 1950, NBC launched The Big Show, hosted by Tallulah Bankhead (I would say “pray for us” but Alabama’s greatest daughter is about as far from a saint as you can get without committing actual murder). It was blockbuster programming in every way: top-notch writers, A-list celebrity guests, outstanding music. And it died in two years, having lost a million dollars, because it was a radio show – and a different form of media was taking over. Microsoft is making quite a stand, but when it comes to truly personal computing, I tend to winder whether the sub-$1000 laptop will last against the sub-$200 smartphone.

No beatdowns today…maybe.

I couldn’t have been in the gym more than 15 minutes but I can barely move my arms. I think it’s the connect points for the triceps at the elbow – whatever it is, they’re sore as hell and I have overexerted myself. SHOCKER. Naturally I have eaten a bunch of Advil and such, but it guarantees that I will not be able to to go work on anybody with a pipe wrench for their projector-based malfeasance. Instead, I will go over and run some calls on my primary group, who love me. I think. Strong like, anyway.

Speaking of malfeasance, I saw nothing in yesterday’s morning highlight reel to disabuse me of this notion: the principal problem of “Washington Insiders” has nothing to do with elected officials or career bureaucrats, but with 20 years of the same donks covering the same things and forming a self-reinforcing echo chamber so inbred that I’m surprised they don’t burn couches for Big East wins. (Cheap shot at the Baboon there.) Seriously, inbreeding reduces IQ, and if you listen closely to the questions last night, you can see that we’ve sunk a long, long way from the kind of people who used to holler on the POTUS.

You know how I can tell? Because the intelligent questions are coming from web guys and Ebony and outlets that have traditionally not had that kind of access. So they actually take it seriously and do their work and try to ask smart shit. Meanwhile, that clown from Fox, who is soiling the perfectly good first name of St. Ogilvie (pray for us), is too bloody stupid to understand what a reserve currency is. Here’s a hint: you don’t get it out of the ATM or change it for dollars when you fly in from abroad. The new guy from NBC is way way WAY over his head – Chucky is like one of those NFL coordinators who gets hailed as a genius, gets hired away for a head coaching gig with another team, and gets that Lauer-in-the-headlights look (ZOMG SEE WHAT I DID THERE HA HA) when it comes time to actually run a whole team. (Actually, like most newly promoted and unready head coaches, he grasps for what would have worked out great four or five seasons ago, which explains a lot about how the Redskins donked off 7 of their last 9 this year.) And as for CNN – nobody I know watches CNN or takes it seriously, not for any partisan reasons, but because the channel that used to be first in and last out in places like Baghdad or Tienanmen Square is now the Octomom Channel, at least when Larry King’s not pooping on himself again.

You know how I know these people are idiots? How about Obama just rolled out the much-remarked-upon “Geithner plan,” the thing that basically turns the US into the world’s largest hedge fund manager, the presumed last best hope short of nationalization, something that’s oddly pacified Wall Street while causing most liberal economists to flip out? I mean, this is a seriously big deal with major implications for where we go from here.

No questions about the Geithner plan. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Don’t believe me? Read the transcript.

This is not even taking into account the fact that a certain morning program thought the best solo commentator they could ask about said presser was an opposition leader who actually spent the evening at a Britney Spears concert.

Seriously, people: the enemy isn’t conservatism, or liberalism, or Democrats or Republicans. The enemy is bullshit. And it’s got the best-organized permanent lobby in Washington.

ETA: But then again, sometimes you can drown in your own bullshit, i.e. today’s “budget” rollout. If I made a living as an elected Republican, I would probably have gone home tonight and stuck a gun in my mouth.

you wanna play with fire, scarecrow?

If you have an 11 AM presentation, and call at 10:20 to ask your offsite support to bring a laptop you can use for it, and they can’t get there until 11:05, and they’re coolly yet inwardly frantically trying to get your trilobite-encrusted projector to work with the one spare Acer POS that was available after a half hour search through all of IT…do NOT ask the room if they have any issues for the IT guy while he’s here.

Well, I mean, strictly speaking you COULD do that. But you should probably have somebody else start your car for you. For a while. I’m just sayin’.

The other other field of 64

The Birmingham News is shaking down a field of 64 to determine Alabama’s top musical icon. Check out the field and be amazed. Say what you like about my old state – God knows I do – but you have to concede that the Heart of Dixie punches well above its weight when it comes to American music in the 20th century, from W.C. Handy to American Idol.

In fairness…

…yes, the SEC was godawful this year. But consider that by January 1, the seniors on Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt – three teams used to playing into March – had combined to score a total of three points. This was an abnormally young league this year (example: fully half of Vanderbilt’s man-minutes this year were played by six different freshmen). That kind of youth means crazy inconsistency, and crazy inconsistency keeps you at home in front of the HDTV at tournament time.

However, much like the miracle 7-6 football team (returning 21 of 24 starters), this Vanderbilt team had no seniors – every single player is back including some who spent the whole year injured on the bench. I fully expect the SEC to pull six or seven bids in the 2011 tournament.

And while I have absolutely no problem with the Big Beast and the ACC getting 7 each, I think the Big Ten getting 7 and the Pac-10 getting 6 is a bit of a reach. I’m going to have to see some serious ass-kicking out there if we’re going to justify the likes of Wisconsin and Arizona getting seats on the starship at the expense of a St. Mary’s, for instance (ask Dick Vitale about that one and then plug your ears).

Let’s see: laptop charged, iPhone charged, Wi-Fi streaming video March Madness app installed ($4.99 at the iTunes App Store), and all onsite tickets closed in advance of tomorrow…maybe I can actually get away with going in to work and still not miss much…

Burn them all

Contractual obligations, my balls. So when the auto companies need $25 billion, that’s unacceptable because they won’t throw their unionized workers under the bus, but when AIG needs $170 billion, they MUST pay out huge bonuses to the very people who ran the company in the ground because of “contractual obligations?”

Burn it down. Let it die. That $170B will cover unemployment benefits for the innocents caught in the crossfire and the actual insurance part of the business can be spun off and sold to Lloyds or Swiss Re or the Willis Group or something, and just to cap it off, we’ll change the logo on Man U’s shirt from “AIG” to “I’M A PRETTY PRETTY PRINCESS.”

There exists in this country and in this economy a class of scum, of unbearable douchebags who view the Whiffle Life as their divine right, who are so convinced of themselves as the engine of civilization that they threaten to drop out and bring us all to our knees for want of their unique gifts. They are full of shit. Their bluster is to cover their panic, because they realize two things: one, they are helpless without the indulgence of their “inferiors,” and two, in the words of Chris Rock, “ain’t NOBODY above an ass-whuppin’.”

The mighty Randian masters of the universe are dangling by the cliff from their fingertips. It is our duty as a society, as a civilization, as decent human beings, to tie on the steel-toed boots and stomp. Hard.

Hanging Out Saturday’s Wash

* This is the most wonderful time of the year. If you disagree, you are entitled to your opinion, but you are factually wrong.

* Back in the day, 19 wins and a .500 record in the SEC would almost be enough to get you into the Big Dance, but times have changed, and Vandy’s not going to pull any Cinderella shit this year. That said, to get that record with no seniors and getting major minutes from a lot of frosh is not a bad outcome. That said, I think this is the first year of blogging that I haven’t had a MEMORIAL MAGIC SIGHTING #n post anytime during the season, and I don’t think the ‘Dores really had a signature victory this season – the closest thing would be the road win at LSU and keeping the home victory streak against Kentucky. Make no mistake, it was a down year for the ‘Dores – but if this is a down year, the program is already at a higher level than it was when Kevin Stallings took over ten years ago.

* Think of what the Vanderbilt Class of ’09 has seen: a football win over UT at Knovxille, a run to the Sweet Sixteen and two home wins over the #1 team in the country,the baseball team spending almost an entire regular season ranked #1 in the nation, having both men’s and women’s basketball and baseball AND FOOTBALL all ranked in the top 25 in the same calendar year, ESPN College Gameday on campus, a WINNING SEASON in football, complete with a BOWL GAME WIN, a world of VU hand signs and charging out of the tunnel and “Who Ya Wit?” and one Thursday night win after another and “CONQUER! AND! PREVAIL!” and don’t look now, but Vanderbilt has finally established a baseline that you can be a top-25 school academically and athletically at the same time. Look out, Duke and Northwesten and Cal and Stanford and Virginia…the ‘Dores are on the way.

* Why is it that people who are wrong, over and over, who have absolutely nothing useful to contribute and do nothing more useful than they neighbor’s dog that won’t shut up – why does anyone take these people seriously? Why do people even acknowledge that this horseshit belongs in our discourse? I mean, to pull out the Slashdot line, you don’t blame a dog for doing what’s in its nature and humping your leg, but when he doesn’t stop, after a while, you cut his balls off.

* Every time I see Digger Phelps now, I just laugh my ass off thinking of him dancing with the Cal cheerleaders in a timeout. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

* I am sorry to see the American version of Life On Mars go. Sure, it’s not a patch on the original, but for some reason I have always had an odd attraction to New York City in the early 1970s, after the age of the Dodgers and Guys and Dolls and the largest-city-in-the-world days but before the blackout and the Bronx Zoo and “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Basically that last transitional moment hanging over the precipice. And I think they’ve captured a lot of that, with Harvey Keitel as a much more understated Gene Hunt and Michael Imperioli almost stealing the whole damn show with a FAR more complex and interesting Ray Carling than has ever been offered in the UK shows. I think once you just accept that it’s never going to hold a candle to the original and look at it on its own, they did a fine job and deserve the opportunity to wrap up their story in a neat little package (and it looks like they will at least get that much).

* Can’t wait for the tournament. Gus Johnson could do commentary on a turtle trying to screw a doorknob and make it sound like the Miracle On Ice. He has officially become this generation’s guarantee to peg the needle on the Fun-O-Meter.

* My Buddy Vince Sez nothing. I blame him for buying a 40 of Miller for my birthday (and paying a college student to get it for him, in keeping with the high-school theme, only to go back in himself and demand a brown paper bag for it) and getting me all banged up. Besides, he should be focusing on beating “Looks like Heaven’s easier to get into than” Arizona State today.