Monthly Archives: December 2014

charles0I happened to run across an episode of Charles in Charge the other day. It was, as it turns out, an important episode: The bridge between season one and season two, when there was a massive recasting and the Pembrokes were replaced with the Powells. The premise of the episode is that Charles came back from a two week trip and enters the house and everybody is different. It is the source of humor.

A couple of the Pembrokes are there, to provide just a bit of continuity I suppose. Charles is relieved to see them. The funny thing is that I guess they couldn’t get the actress who played Mrs. Pembroke in season one, so they hired a stand-in. Which is cool, but adds a bit of irony in an episode where laughs are had because Charles doesn’t recognize anybody but her.

Two other notable shows that did retools after the first season due to a network change are Saved By The Bell and Mama’s Family.

Fun fact: I was once a part of a live studio audience for Mama’s Family. We were vacationing in California and wanted to do that. We wanted to do Perfect Strangers, but there was an age limit on that. Not Mama’s Family, which is I guess both more family oriented and not as big a draw so that they could discriminate as easily. The episode I saw live was the one where Iola had a boyfriend who turned out to be a cad.

charles1Anyway, back to Charles in Charge. That one is notable in that at least two of the kids from that show did go on to careers of sorts. Nicole Eggert had a stint on Baywatch. Josie Davis became a staple on Lifetime movies. Scott Baio, who was the star, didn’t do much afterwards. Willie Aames, who played Buddy Lembeck, went on to find Jesus and become the superhero Bibleman.

A couple other casting things. Sandra Kerns, who played Mrs Powell was often assumed to be related to Joanna Kerns, who played the mother on Growing Pains, but they are actually unrelated. Ellen Travolta, who played Charles’ aunt, actually is the sister of John Travolta.

I saw Charles in Charge almost entirely in reruns. It was a staple of WGN and TBS when there were only 30 or so cable channels. At the time, TBS ran 5 minutes late (instead of a show airing from 3:30 to 4, it would be 3:35 to 4:05). So I could watch the show in WGN but then get an instant replay of the last five minutes on TBS. It usually ran on both channels at the same time.

Category: Theater

furrythingsThe Washington Post makes the case that it’s bad for poor minorities if you give them money.

New Jersey is contemplating making lying for sex a form of sexual assault. So under this law, if a fifteen year old girl tells an eighteen year old guy that she’s legal, is she as guilty of rape as he is?

Speaking of such things, here’s an article about the gender double standard when it comes to statutory rape.

AT&T wants to know how come their 6Mbps DSL isn’t good enough for the folks of Chanute, Kansas.

New Jersey wants to become the first state to regulate pet grooming.

The Pirate Bay is down, maybe for good. Good riddance, says a former contributor, because theys old out a long time ago.

Owen Courreges says that New Orleans looks to become the model city for anti-smoking extremism. I don’t know that this is worse than New York City, but it’s pretty bad.

New York wants to give everybody WiFi, though some better WiFi than others. Before the rise of 3G and 4G, the case for municipal WiFi was stronger than it is now.

Does Obama’s amnesty give illegal immigrants more rights than legal immigrants?

Though they’re clearly doing so in their own self-interest, I’m quite glad that Netflix et al are trying to reverse the highly troublesome Innocence of Muslims verdict.

The problematic nature of problematicism. This article is very similar to a piece I linked about Too Many Cooks, though more comprehensive in nature (and somewhat more combative).

Contrary to the claims of many as well as intuitive sense, premarital cohabitation does not increase the odds of marital success. Scott Stanley asks why not?

Detroit is stuck in Windows XP.

MIT has removed (free) lectures from its servers because classes taught by (alleged) creeps are no longer educational and informative, I guess.

Category: Newsroom

FerretTelescopeHow being nice can sabotage your dating life.

WB/DC is ramping up its movie-making to compete with Disney/Marvel. I look forward to some of it, but they should focus on TV, though. They’re good at TV.

Michael Kazin is unimpressed with the current crop of independent politicians and candidates. I hope to write more about this, but what I find interesting is that among the electorate you have more defacto Republicans who call themselves independents, while among politicians, you have more defacto Democrats.

Germans do apprenticeships in a way that we don’t. The Atlantic looks at their system, and ours. It even confronts the “tracking” question.

Christopher Flavelle claims that Canada shows that the minimum wage has minimal effect.schoo

Shocker: Dating couples and married couples communicate differently.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry laments that Americans are refusing to learn from international methods of health care delivery.

Kinkisharyo International planned to set up some manufacturing in Palmdale, California. The unions decided to play hard ball, and now Kinkisharyo International will not be manufacturing any more in California than they are required to.

The good news is that if you got one of those flesh-tunnels in your ears, it can be fixed. The bad news is that it ain’t cheap. Business is apparently booming.

As micro-housing starts to take off in Seattle, neighborhood groups are flexing their muscle to put as much a halt to it as they can.

Thirty Americans die every day from the organ shortages. Keith Humphreys and Sally Satel discuss what effect compensating organ donors might have.

Category: Newsroom

When Popehat mentioned a lawyer ad with a flaming hammer, I said that I wanted to see it. I was expecting something incredibly hokey with a dollop of ironic coolness. When he showed the ad, it was instead an explosion of amazing (with a splash of hokey):

On the other side of the spectrum is the ad that precipitated my discovery of the other, which is one of the worst lawyer ads I have ever seen:

That ad would have been greatly improved with the inclusion of a flaming hammer.

Category: Theater

haikuThe Fire Phone was the product of a tragic miscalculation by Amazon. Joshua Brustein wonders is a retail outpost could save it.

Turns out, a dog-year isn’t seven human years after all.

The “ghost city” of Changzhous” actually has about 4.5 million people,.

Norway is looking at a technology that can capture 30 percent of a cement plant’s carbon dioxide emissions, while in Columbia they are working on a like-minded plan to save the world.

Crawfish are awesome. Unfortunately, they’re doing a number on Scotland (and their trout-fishing more specifically) right now.

A veteran teacher shadowed students for two days, and learned a lot about modern education.

Clay Shirky is not particularly sympathetic to Amazon, but he’s not really sympathetic to the publishers, either. It’s been interesting watching lots and lots of people rally around an industry that very recently was found to have engaged in price collusion. More from PEG.

Breast may be best, but women who go another route shouldn’t have to explain that they did so because they got cancer.

This is a pretty brilliant ploy, reminding me of the climactic line of A Time To Kill.

A new study looks at putting numbers the costs added to housing by community opposition, parking requirements, and so on.

Santiago Mostyn looks at race and Sweden.

Michael P Foley writes of tobacco and the soul.

Rural roads can change the world. Of course, it’s important that they forfeit their pride and voice in national affairs (or vote the right way).

Category: Newsroom

This video is easily the most painfully 80’s on my playlist.

So much to hate about the 80’s aesthetic, but I love the song all the same.

Category: Theater

Utah is talking about bringing back the firing squad:

The proposal from Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield would call for a firing squad if the state cannot obtain the lethal injection drugs 30 days before the scheduled execution.

Utah dropped firing squads out of concern about the media attention, but Ray said it’s the most humane way to execute someone because the inmate dies instantly.

“We have to have an option,” Ray told reporters Wednesday. “If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you’re still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?”

Firing squads are technically still an option for those on death row, if they were sentenced to die before 2004. I’m not sure how many condemned are left where that qualifies. The last time it was used was, according to the article, 2010.

Setting aside the limitations on lethal injection that are precipitating this proposal, Utah has a special relationship with the firing squad due to the Mormon belief in blood atonement, which was one of the stumbling blocks to getting rid of it:

The term refers to an arcane Mormon belief that a murderer must shed his own blood–literally–to be forgiven by God. Since Mormon pioneers first arrived in 1847, most formal executions (until recent decades) have been by firing squad, which is a lot bloodier than hanging or lethal injection.

When state Rep. Sheryl Allen began proposing eliminating the firing-squad option in the late 1990s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints itself did not object. Yet talk of blood atonement percolated “in quiet, backroom discussions,” she recalled.

“A couple of people in prominent positions said to me, ‘We’ve got to have blood atonement.'”

I don’t have a particularly negative view of firing squads compared to other forms of capital punishment, provided that the shooters can aim. Particularly if it’s just an option, and if there is a religious rationale for the condemned. I’m against the death penalty writ large, excluding hypothetical cases, but beyond that I actually think the more options that the condemned has, the better.

This, of course, relates to the most recent front that opponents of the death penalty have been fighting, which is by denying states the chemicals needed for lethal injection. Specifically, they were able to cut states off from sodium thiopental. Gabriel Rossman argued that those trying to prevent access to these chemicals bear some of the responsibility for the recent spate of botched executions:

Over the last months there has been a great deal of outrage over botched executions in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Arizona in which the executions did not go as planned and in at least one of the three cases the condemned suffered prolonged excruciating pain. Many stories about these executions explained that states had been experimenting with new formulas because anti-death penalty activists and governments had systematically cut off their supplies of sodium thiopental — the old and much more reliable lethal injection chemical. However this was all in terms of the historical chain of events and I saw basically nobody saying that the anti-death-penalty activists were morally at fault for preventing a well-established and relatively effective means of execution or that the Lockett, McGuire, and Wood executions demonstrate the need to restore access to sodium thiopental. Rather the ubiquitous assumption was that once sodium thiopental was cut off that the states of Oklahoma, Ohio, and Arizona should have said “wow, looks like you got us into a checkmate, guess we’ll just commute every sentence on death row even though our electorates favor capital punishment.”

When I linked to it, Alan Scott argued that this moral calculus is faulty:

And to say that an entity is to blame for a grisly death because they chose not to supply the killer with a more humane weapon is really, really gross.

I wouldn’t want a product I produce used in the death penalty. But it would be a part of my own moral calculations that the moral purity of refusing to participate comes at the cost of potentially making the executions less humane. Since that’s a foreseeable consequence of my actions, I don’t think I can turn around and wash my hands of it when less humane executions are performed. In other words, if I’m going to try to use my chemical as leverage to end the death penalty – and that is something that would interest me – I had better make sure it will work.

Will it? As Utah demonstrates, if you want someone dead, you can kill them dead. The calculus of those seeking to deny means of execution are hoping that there are lengths to which states won’t go. That’s probably right in some states, though Texas will keep executing by whatever means they can. If you view the means of death as actually unimportant, a saved life in a borderline state is worth a botched execution in Oklahoma.

As public opinion is less firmly in favor of the death penalty, it may be a calculus that ultimately works in all but the most execution-happy states. There is likely a group of states that doesn’t have the energy or momentum to abolish the death penalty, but neither do they have the energy or momentum to shoot people dead or even re-draft laws. Intuitively, I’m not a fan of “heightening the contradictions”, as Rossman puts it. But if it works, it works.

Category: Courthouse

Is Android’s app store anti-competitive?

The European Union, which is working on finishing up its investigation of Google’s Search business in Europe, may soon look into Google’s Android app store-related business practices, GigaOm reveals. Portugal’s Aptoide, an alternative Android app source that houses more than 200,000 titles and has more than 6 million active users, met with the European Commissions last week in preparation for its complaint submission.

I am not entirely sympathetic to the complaint here. When I first to install “outside” software, I get a notice that I need to change a setting and then directed to the setting I need to change.

I am, obviously, not the typical customer, but I have three different app stores on my phone (Google’s, Amazon’s, and Samsung’s) with very minor inconvenience. More tellingly, I think I could explain what to do with my father, and I could probably walk Mom through it.

I am quasi-sympathetic to the next complaint, which are the requirements of Google apps being installed. The oddest thing about this is the redundancy in some programs. It’s one thing to have redundancy when you download an alternative application, but it’s weird when it comes with the redundancy. Even there, you can sorta say “Well, Google will have one and Samsung will have one”… except that Google itself often has two. Gallery and Photos, Browser and Chrome, and so on.

But that’s less a question of Google abusing its position and more a question of Google being kind of dumb.

With the exception of Google Maps and Google Search, though, almost all of the apps are pretty easy to ignore.

I know that Android isn’t as open as its advocated claim, but I’m pretty sure it’s still the most open of the three. Without rooting or jailbreaking, I can install apps of almost any type. There is no prohibition on dual functionality. I’m not sure that prohibiting you from installing your own video player would be anti-competitive, but installing their own apps doesn’t seem like too much of an imposition.

More than that, in the US (and I suspect in Europe as well), having access to Google’s apps is one of the main reasons to install Official Android to begin with. Samsung may be the kind of android handset makers, but even they have to make concessions to Google because if Google were to pull out their apps, it would undermine Samsung’s phones. Only Amazon has gone its own way with Google-free Android, and their smartphone was a bust. Google doesn’t leverage the OS to force the installation of their apps. It’s the apps (specifically the Google Play app) that keeps makers using Google’s Android instead of forking their own.

Category: Market

SantaFamilyJoel Kotkin writes about The Battle of the Upstarts, the Bay Areas of Texas (Houston) and California (San Francisco), and their very different models for recent success.

Do Americans have romantic standards that are too high? Ty Tashiro advocates “moneyballing” romance, giving yourself not lower standards, but better ones. Agree or disagree, I think he makes remarkable points about how we are influenced in mate-selection by our culture, and in counter-productive ways.

Slate has a collection of population-balanced maps of the United States. It’s interesting, though senate or no, and even though having less imbalance than we do now might be advantageous, having truly balanced state populations don’t really make a whole lot of sense and even if we were re-drawing the map (which I do for fun and fame!) it shouldn’t be the primary criterion.

ArsTechnica tests a $35 Firefox OS phone. It’s functional, but crikey I think Americans are throwing away better phones than this every day.

We’re fracking more than ever, and while methane emissions on public lands are up, they’re actually down, industry-wide.

Men and women approach marital happiness and divorce differently. Whereas women look for positive experience, men look for a lack of negative experiences. This actually plays in to certain stereotypes.

The biggest thing holding back Google Fiber, apparently, is television and our reluctance to actually cut the cord. Will HBO’s and CBS’s decision to offer Internet-only subscriptions change that?

JD Tucille asks if the end of extended unemployment benefits played a role in the return of jobs.

Where have all the good men gone? Maybe women shouldn’t insist on the “steady job” thing?

A new smartphone may be on the horizon, high-quality and cheaper than its rivals. Farhad Manjoo wonders how they’re going to make a profit. I actually think that getting the carriers to sign off may be the bigger problem. (Also, not only is “One” already taken, namewise, but it’s not a good name to begin with. What’s up with that?)

Julian Sanchez explains why the planet of Krypton doesn’t really make sense, when you think about it from an evolutionary standpoint.

Vox argues that feminism is the key to Japan’s demographic woes.

Category: Newsroom


The University of Alabama at Birmingham may drop its football program:

“I think it’s going to happen,” said Clark, who led UAB to a 6-6 record in his first season at the school. “Unless something changes before the weekend ends, I think it’s over. I think the odds are very high it ends this week. To shut the doors? That’s sad.”

Clark has been in contact with school and Conference USA officials as recently as Sunday. UAB commissioned a university-wide strategic planning initiative to evaluate things like fiscal feasibility.

Discussions have also taken place between athletic director Brian Mackin and the school on a separation agreement, sources told ESPN.

This is looking far less speculative than the situation at Hawaii that I wrote about previously. This looks like it’s actually going to happen.

I tend to be skeptical of predictions that the football teams in the lesser five conferences of the FBS are going to hang up their spurs. There are, however, exceptions. Hawaii was one, and UAB is another. Not even due to their historically dreadful attendance issues, or the fact that they have twelve wins in the last four seasons or haven’t been to a bowl in a decade. That all may matter a little bit, or it may not. UAB is vulnerable for a specific reason that other, similarly troubled programs aren’t: The decision isn’t the university’s.

San Jose State made the decision not to terminate its football program, and didn’t. Tulane and Rice did the same thing. Eastern Michigan has considered it and has not, as of yet, made that decision. No FBS program has folded in almost two decades. But UAB’s program will be shut down not by UAB, but essentially by The University of Alabama:

Part of the problem, according to UAB football supporters and former players, is that the university doesn’t have its own board of trustees and is controlled by the University of Alabama System board, which oversees campuses in Birmingham, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.

Thirteen of the 15 trustees received undergraduate or law degrees from the University of Alabama, including Paul W. Bryant Jr., the son of legendary Crimson Tide football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Only three board members have academic ties to UAB. One of them, Barbara Humphrey, is the wife of former Crimson Tide star running back Bobby Humphrey.

There is actually a long history of friction ranging from indifference to animosity between the Tuscaloosa-dominated Board of Trustees and the Birmingham university. In 2011, the university was looking at building their own stadium instead of playing in the dilapidated Legion Field, and it was shot down by the Board. Fair enough, though, because committing the program to a $70-million project demands prudence. But in 2006, they had planned to hire a well-regarded coach named Jimbo Fisher, whose name may sound familiar because last year he won the national championship as Florida State’s head coach. Despite the fact that they’d already made a handshake deal, they’d already lined up the money to pay him, the Board didn’t let them do it. In 2004, UAB had a blockbuster season defeating Baylor, TCU, and Mississippi State on their way to a bowl game and right after the potentially program-building season ended… the Board made noises about reviewing whether UAB needed a football program. And here we are in 2014, UAB has had an amazing year and doubled their attendance, and this may be the last year they play football.

Notably, while the presidency at the University of Alabama at Huntsville was vacant, the Trustees dropped the school’s championship hockey program. It was shortly thereafter revived when money was independently raised to save it.

Will the same happen here? Some reports are suggesting that the football program would continue to 2016, which is how far out their present commitments run (coach’s contract, scheduled games), though most suggest that it would be ending immediately. If you’re sunsetting your program, it’s almost better to do it immediately because you’re never going to be able to recruit athletes for a program that’s going away. On the other hand, if the university can just postpone it to 2016, that would give them time to do whatever they could to make it not happen.

I have no special loyalty to the UAB program. Because of their unique situation, I am not the least bit worried that they will set off a chain reaction that will prove my long-running predictions wrong. They are a not-large commuter school that has struggled on the field, off the field, and in the stands.

At the same time, the manner in which this is occurring is strange. Alabama is over-extended in football, but it should not be UAB that is most vulnerable. UAB fans have complained for years and years that Tuscaloosa “has it in” for them, and this is providing a degree of justification for that view. It’s hard to figure out why, though, making me think it is probably more likely that Bama fans – like many fans of the big programs – can’t understand what the point of having a program at UAB’s level is (especially when you’re sharing a state with Bama).

And, of course, many would argue that they are right. One of the big reasons I do not predict a large-scale collapse of the lower FBS programs is that regardless of the merits of discontinuing a program, I think there are institutional reasons that schools will only very rarely see it that way. In that sense, one could argue that taking the decision out of their hands and putting it into the hands of a more neutral body is optimal. That, along with having seen some embarrassingly empty stands, is the best argument I can see for this.

Anyhow, so if the trigger is pulled, what happens? This is simpler than the Hawaii situation, because it would involve fewer conferences. UAB would need to be replaced in Conference USA, and C*USA would most likely choose either James Madison University (currently of the FCS Colonial Athletic Association and Atlantic 10 Conferences) or Georgia State (currently of the Sun Belt). If the Sun Belt loses a team, it is probably not replaced.

Category: Theater