The key to managing . . .

. . . baseball and everything:

“He’s unique with every individual personality,” said Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff, a star in 2010 and a backup now. “Some guys need a kick in the butt, and he’ll give it to you. And some guys need to be cuddled, and he gives you that. He knows personalities. I think it’s just intuitive about him. Some people have that gift of knowing what guys need to hear, and he’s got it.”

(Huff is talking about his skipper, Bruce Bochy, but the comment is universal. Of course, if the Giants lose, he'll be a bum like everyone else . . .)

The taxman goes topless . . .

This is going to hurt a lot of people I know, starting with Dogboy.


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Lap dances are taxable because they don't promote culture in a community the way ballet or other artistic endeavors do, New York's highest court concluded Tuesday in a sharply divided ruling.

A war by any other name


On Aug. 15, more than 55,000 Saudi Aramco employees stayed home from work to prepare for one of Islam’s holiest nights of the year — Lailat al Qadr, or the Night of Power — celebrating the revelation of the Koran to Muhammad.
That morning, at 11:08, a person with privileged access to the Saudi state-owned oil company’s computers, unleashed a computer virus to initiate what is regarded as among the most destructive acts of computer sabotage on a company to date. The virus erased data on three-quarters of Aramco’s corporate PCs — documents, spreadsheets, e-mails, files — replacing all of it with an image of a burning American flag.
United States intelligence officials say the attack’s real perpetrator was Iran, although they offered no specific evidence to support that claim. But the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta, in a recent speech warning of the dangers of computer attacks, cited the Aramco sabotage as “a significant escalation of the cyber threat.” In the Aramco case, hackers who called themselves the “Cutting Sword of Justice” and claimed to be activists upset about Saudi policies in the Middle East took responsibility. 

Summary of the attack and some notes on the present situation in cyber insecurity today's NY Times here. You should expect more and more of these attacks in the future.

The Yankees . . .

Having waded through a flood of What Went Wrong With The Yankees stories over the past week, I have three observations:

- stories about how “the Yankees got old” are amusing to begin with, but especially when written by sportswriters in their seventies;

- sports “analysis” is even more of a pure Rorschach Test than political reporting;

- it's amazing how much time and attention one can waste analyzing things that are beyond analysis.

The one story I haven’t read is how utterly useless statistical analysis is when you forget the psychological elements of success. Or to put it another way: I wonder how much of a role panic on behalf of management played in the team’s demise.

In defense of the LCS

Or, the Navy strikes back . . .

There has been a lot of carping about the Navy's new littoral combat ships: too expensive, supposedly not survivable, etc. At least some of the criticism comes from a false premise about the ships' mission and role; despite some of the early stories, the ships are not intended to be all things to all people.

Last week, the chief spokesman for the Navy countered the critics:

Nobody ever said this ship can — and no engineer can ever design a ship to — withstand every conceivable threat on the sea. But the LCS is significantly more capable than the older mine counter measure ships and patrol craft it was designed to replace, and stands up well to the frigates now serving in the fleet.
It is fast, maneuverable, and has low radar, infrared, and magnetic signatures. Its core self-defense suite is designed to defeat a surprise salvo of one or two anti-ship cruise missiles when the ship is operating independently, or leakers that get through fleet area and short-range air defenses when operating with naval task forces. 

Full statement, as a blog entry, here.

Frankly, if the Navy had called the design a minesweeper or counter-PT ship, there'd be zero critics. But it might not have gotten funded either -- "littoral warfare" was the buzz word at the time.
Coming soon:

To the UK and beyond - First Team, the British edition . . .
Baseball or football?

As a young man, future-five-star General Omar Bradley was an avid sportsman. He especially excelled in baseball, starring in the sport at West Point. Some witnesses believe he could have played professionally, had he not been in the army.

This photo is included in his scrapbook, and has been assumed to be of a baseball team:

I thought (and wrote) that as well, but sharp-eyed baseball historian William Swank recently pointed out that it would seem likely the kids in the photo were playing football, as three of them have old-fashioned nose guards hanging from their necks. Here's an image of similar guards, circa the early 1890s:

I note too that one of the kids (on the right) is wearing what looks like an early football helmet. But is that a backwards baseball cap on the boy in the middle? And why aren't they all dressed for a game? Is the fact that there are twelve people in the photo - eleven players and a coach (the older-looking young man in the middle)? - another clue? Or is it just an accident - was it really the baseball team quickly gathered from other activities for a photo?

I think Bill is right that this must be a football team, though admittedly there is room for debate. It's an interesting historical mystery, if definitely something of a footnote. (More on Bradley here, on my website.)

Touch and go


The new Chinese J-15 has reportedly practiced touch and go landings aboard the country's training carrier.

(Touch and go - basically a practice landing where you don't actually set down. Easier than actually landing on a carrier, but still a very significant step in the training and development process.)

Toys for Tots . . .

One of my favorite charities, Toys for Tots, will be stoking up efforts again with the holiday season, with the Marines ready to do their typical Marine-like job. Everything you ever wanted to know about the charity can be seen here.

Information on local drives should be available soon.
One more time

One more way for authors to go nuts . . .

Writers have something new to obsess about: had launched a new metric (at least, I guess it's a metric): Author Rank.

The rating purports to measure authors against others, using overall sales. Or at least I think that's what the explanation amazon has posted means. There's an overall rank, and different breakouts, including Kindle and what will soon be called legacy"book-delivery-systems. And then there are subcategories as well.

It updates every hour. So now writers don't have to fret about missing royalty sheets or unanswered phone calls from their agents; they can freak about how far they're falling behind Sylvia Day and E.L. James, numbers 1 and 2 respectively as I'm writing this.

As if we're not neurotic enough.

For the record: As I'm writing this, I'm number 14 in History. Number 18 in biography and memoir. (Better in Kindle.) Fiction? Number 225 in fiction, thrillers, etc. And my grand, overall author of all time rating:  303. But trending downward, I'm afraid, and no doubt very quickly.
Sleeping spam?

Having just spent a good hunk of time deleting some 2,500+ spam comments (ouch), I am left with the question: Why would anyone fool with Internet Ambien?

Old-school sedatives, tranquilizers  even Viagra - that I understand. But black-market sleeping pills? Not only is the stuff easy to get legitimately, but it's not exactly known for getting you high.

I suppose if you need to get down off a buzz and don't want to explain the circumstances, it has a certain appeal. But doesn't beer work nearly as well with less hassle? Or is it a gateway drug . . . to aspirin?

Israel shoots down drone

Video released Saturday afternoon, not long after the shootdown. No definitive word on where the drone was flown from, or what it might possibly have been spying on.

On the horizon . . .

There are a few adjustments to be made to the cover, but the mass market version of Helios should arrive by the end of January . . .
Shades of Holy Terror

. . . must be a Rogue Warrior fan. Hopefully he didn't use the book as a guide to how to get there.

(News story here. Yes, that book includes quite a lot of action on top of the basilica. Sacrilegious, I know.

Amazon vs. B&N - battle joined

Barnes & Noble has told any of its stores that have stocked Penny Marshall’s My Mother Was Nuts to remove the book from shelves. B&N has a corporate policy to not carry physical copies of books acquired by Amazon Publishing in its stores . . .

Full (though brief) story here. Just to explain briefly, the ebook at present is only available for Kindle, which B&N doesn't particularly appreciate.
Readers send pictures . . .

This one kind of struck my fancy:

So true.
The playoffs, wild card and otherwise . . .

I admit it: I thought the one-game wild card playoff was a dumb idea and kvetched long and often. Call me a traditionalist: Baseball is a long-term commitment and a long-time sport; championships should be won over course of many games.

But I have to admit: the new format has made the playoff races much more interesting and intense, and restored meaning to winning the division.

Just as long as they're not too interesting this year: With the way the tiebreakers work, even though they are tied for first, the Yankees can win every game and still end up with the wild card rather than the division lead.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that in that case they will have a one-day playoff with Baltimore, with the loser then having a one-day Wild Card playoff. Sudden death baseball - it's a brave new world.