Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Power of the Pen

Low-tech Skilcraft pens endure in a high-tech world: "For more than 40 years, standard black pens have cluttered the desks of thousands of federal employees, hung on a chain at post offices across the country and slipped into the pockets of countless military personnel. Yet few have realized that this government-issue pen has a history to rival that of any monument.

Blind workers assemble the pens in factories in Wisconsin and North Carolina under the brand name Skilcraft as part of a 72-year-old legislative mandate. The original 16-page specifications for the pen are still in force: It must be able to write continuously for a mile and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero."

New Story at BEAT to a PULP

BEAT to a PULP :: Doggy Day Care :: Richard Prosch

Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio

Ten years ago at the World Fantasy Con in Corpus Christi, Texas, I met a young artist named John Picacio. He was, in fact, part of the crew that made a now legendary trip to Half-Price Books, the one where I had to out-muscle Joe R. Lansdale for the Gold Medal books that were being sold at half the cover price. I hadn't seen much of Picacio's work then, but I'd seen enough to know he was good. Little did I realize how soon he was going to become one of the best-known artists in the SF community and the first great SF illustrator of the 21st century.

The evidence is all gathered right between the covers of Cover Story. I hate to repeat the old cliche about the picture and the thousand words, but it fits here. Just open the pages and take a look. I don't have to say any more.

But I will, of course. There's more than just pictures here. You also get Picacio's comments on the pictures. Here's an artist who loves what he does and who loves to talk about it. He's also a reader who loves the stories and novels he illustrates. The book closes with a substantial interview with Picacio from 2005.

The book's several years old now, but it's still available. If you like SF art and don't have a copy of Cover Story, grab one soon.

Arizona Leads the Way

Arizona to allow concealed weapons without permit: "Starting later this summer, U.S. citizens 21 and older can begin carrying a concealed firearm without a permit in Arizona."

Today's Western Movie Poster

10 Best Assassination Movies

Best Assassination movies | Yakkin' with the Sherpa | STLtoday

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Rare Pygmy Loris Twins Born at Moody Gardens - ZooBorns: "Moving slowly through the tree tops and weighing only a pound or less in adulthood, the pygmy slow loris lives up to its name. On March 22nd, Moody Gardens in Texas announced the rare birth of pygmy slow loris twins to mother Luyen and father Icarus."

Magazine Cover of the Day

Betty White in a Metal Bikini Wielding a Flaming Chainsaw While Riding a John Ritter Centaur

Sunset Boulevard

Yet Again: Drugs, Guns, and Gators

Police: Raid turned up guns, pot, baby alligators: "Guns and drugs and alligators, oh my!

That's how the attorney for a South San Francisco man described the charges against her client, which she said were exaggerated.

Nevertheless, prosecutors say 39-year-old Lazaro Leon Jr. pleaded no contest Wednesday in San Mateo County Superior Court to possessing an assault rifle and marijuana with intent to sell, as well as two other gun charges.

The case stems from a January raid on Leon's home that police say turned up nearly two dozen guns, 13 marijuana plants, a pound of processed pot and three baby alligators."

Hat tip to Art Scott.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Bonds: 'Oversharing' Invades the Office - "It's official: The TMI phenomenon—as in 'too much information'—has invaded the workplace. You can thank reality TV and social-networking Web sites for creating a culture where people are encouraged to share every sordid—or boring—detail of their lives. They have desensitized us to the idea that some things are meant to be private."

Hat tip to Stephen Blotner.

Paris City of Night -- David Downie

This is a man-on-the-run thriller involving secret codes and lots of local color. Jay Grant is a former paparazzo who deals in vintage photographs and daguerreotypes, occasionally on the shady side (i. e. forgeries). Jay's father was a spy during WWII and used daguerreotypes to smuggle coded messages in Morse code. Now there are more coded daguerreotypes that might be connected to a terrorist attack on Paris. The CIA and Homeland Security want Jay's help, but he's not sure he trusts them. Other people are after him as well, and everybody's dangerous. Jay decides that he'd better not trust anyone until he figures out what's going on, including who murdered his aunt and his father.

Why use such a seemingly out-dated method of smuggling code? Because nobody has the technology to deal with it, for one thing. Only someone like Jay is equipped to develop the daguerreotypes and find the hidden messages. And he's the only one with the key to the otherwise unbreakable code. No wonder everybody's after him. It's a relentless pursuit, and you begin to wonder if sleep-deprived Jay will collapse before he can figure things out.

You can learn a lot about photography from Paris City of Night, and there's local color galore to go along with all the action. Check it out.

Passive Aggressive Library Signs

Passive Aggressive Library Signs: Pics, Videos, Links, News

Link via Neatorama.

Today's Western Movie Poster

Song Lyrics that ONLY Could Have Been from the '70s

Gen Xtinct: Song lyrics that ONLY could have been from the '70s

Donner Party Update

Donner Party Ate Family Dog, Maybe Not People : Discovery News: "The Donner Party, a group of 19th century American pioneers who became snowbound in the Sierra Nevada and supposedly resorted to cannibalism, may not have eaten each other after all, suggests a new study on bones found at the Donner's Alder Creek campsite hearth in California."

Friday's Forgotten Books: STONER #3: ALL THAT GLITTERS -- Ralph Hayes

Before Gabriel Hunt, there was Mark Stone, or Stoner, as he's called for no reason revealed in this book. He's not really much like Hunt, but he is a treasure hunter.

Ralph Hayes was a familiar name on paperback covers in the '70s. He wrote a lot of action-adventure series and westerns as well as standalones, all of them for the lower-end houses like Manor, Leisure, and Belmont. None of the ones I've read are anything special, but I was feeling nostalgic and thought I'd take another look. Sure enough, I was right. Nothing special.

In All that Glitters, Stone's not exactly hunting treasure. A famous (and priceless) artifact known as the Southern Cross is stolen from the Topkapi museum. It's taken so easily that it makes you wonder why Peter Ustinov had so much trouble. Once the cross is stolen, it's sold, stolen again, and so on, always with Stone in pursuit but one step behind. The characters aren't particularly memorable, the action isn't all that interesting, and the ending is no big surprise. All in all, a workmanlike job, but nothing you need to go out of your way to find. I like the cover, though.

All that Heaven Allows

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free Stuff and a Challenge

Check it out at the link.

Free Gischler � Chad's Site

They Must Be Stopped!

Jersey hit by potato rustlers - Telegraph: "Jersey's biggest potato farm has been hit by a spate of thefts in the last few days, raising fears that it has been targeted by professional 'vegetable rustlers' stealing a valuable crop."

I For One Welcome Our New Feline/Computer Overlords

Cat brain: A step toward the electronic equivalent: "A cat can recognize a face faster and more efficiently than a supercomputer. That's one reason a feline brain is the model for a biologically-inspired computer project involving the University of Michigan.

U-M computer engineer Wei Lu has taken a step toward developing this revolutionary type of machine that could be capable of learning and recognizing, as well as making more complex decisions and performing more tasks simultaneously than conventional computers can."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Rivals High - Texas school set to begin work on $60M stadium: "Just in case you forgot how important high school football is in Texas, the residents of Allen will soon have a $59.6 million stadium that will leave no doubt.

Next month in the booming north Dallas suburb, ground will be broken on a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat facility that will feature two decks, a video scoreboard, four concession stands and 12 restrooms. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012."

Hat tip to Seepy Benton.

About Mississippi Vivian

I wrote a column for Spinetingler about Mississippi Vivian. You can read it here.

Booklist Likes Mississippi Vivian

Get your copy today! Okay, Booklist didn't say that. I said that. Here's what Booklist says:

"Crider, an award-winning master of the small-town whodunit, is at the top of his game here, with the low-key Stephens and the acerbic Vivian providing some classic repartee. Quite enjoyable with a puzzler of a plot and satisfying conclusion."

You can order here, or here, or from your favorite indie.

Read all about it here.

Today's Western Poster

Steam Time

Yesterday I mentioned a visit to my hometown. While I was taking photos of the downtown area, I noticed a lot of people gathered down by the railroad tracks. I went down to see what was up and discovered that a steam locomotive was headed down the tracks. I stayed and snapped this picture.

On Tuesday a friend and train buff called me to ask if I wanted to see the train as it came through Alvin, so I took another picture as the train neared the depot.

Here's a link to an article about the train that appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

Get Dirty

Allergy expert: excessive cleaning increases risk of illness
| Mail Online
: "Excessive cleanliness which creates a sterile environment has led to soaring rise in allergies, a new report has shown.

Allergies have become widespread in developed countries - with hay fever, eczema, hives and asthma increasingly prevalent.

According to Dr Guy Delespesse, director of the Laboratory for Allergy Research at the University of Montreal, the hike in allergies is due to our obsession with cleanliness."

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

The Easy Way To Win A Bass Tournament: Stick A Lead Weight In The Belly Of Your Fish - Houston News - Hair Balls: "​Wily criminal minds never sleep. Luckily for the forces of good and justice, neither do the dedicated men and women of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

Robby Rose, 45, a competitive fisherman from Garland, was playing (fishing?) in a bass tournament in Rockwall County last October. Apparently the big ones weren't biting, so he decided to give Mother Nature a little help.

According to the TPWD, he stuffed a one-pound lead weight in the belly of one of the teeny, tiny fish he managed to catch."

Link via Neatorama.

The 10 Worst Villains in Children's Books

Be afraid: the 10 worst villains in children's books of all time - Telegraph

Written on the Wind

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

11 Career-Ending Facebook Faux Pas - 11 Career-Ending Facebook Faux Pas

11 Career-Ending Facebook Faux Pas - 11 Career-Ending Facebook Faux Pas -

No Comment Department

Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped - 2010-04-14 13:22:53 | Publishers Weekly: "A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of 'nontraditional' titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books."


`South Park' creators plan B'way musical for 2011: "The creators of the cheeky animated TV series 'South Park' are taking aim at Broadway.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone have written a musical comedy called 'The Book of Mormon' that will open on Broadway in March 2011. The two wrote the show's book, music and lyrics, along with Robert Lopez, one of the creators of the Tony-winning 'Avenue Q.' The musical will be directed by Parker and Jason Moore, who directed 'Avenue Q.'"

If You're Going to Mont-St-Michel . . .

. . . don't miss the gators!

Parc animalier - alligator-bay - Crocodiles, tortues...

Hat tip to Patrick Bowles.

The Forbes Fictional 15

The Forbes Fictional 15 - "Global markets are rapidly recovering from the 2008 financial crisis, and so are the fortunes of the fictitious. There are six new characters on the 2010 edition of Fictional 15, our annual ranking of fiction's richest, with an average net worth of $7.3 billion."

I can't stand it.

Deadly Weapon

Snake Attack! - April 14, 2010: "A South Carolina man was arrested last night for striking another man in the face--with a four-foot python."

No Comment Department

It Would Take 300 Years to Read All the Vampire Books at Target.

Photographic proof at the link.

The Old Hometown

Judy and I spent last weekend in my hometown of Mexia, Texas, where we visited some old friends and checked out the downtown area, which looks a little like a bombed-out German town after WWII. The area out around the Super Wal-Mart is thriving, however. I took some pictures, of course. This one is of the back of the building that once housed Eubanks Hardware, a thriving business for many years. You can see the ghostly painted sign that shows the name of an even earlier business that inhabited the building, which is now vacant, like many of those downtown, at least the ones that haven't fallen down or been demolished.

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Trial: Naked woman got intruder’s gun, shot him: "While naked in her bedroom, a woman surprised a masked intruder, disarming him and shooting him with his own gun, testimony revealed in a Tuesday burglary trial."

Show Me the Money

Handling cash 'better at killing pain than aspirin', study claims - Telegraph: "Researchers at the University of Minnesota carried out a series of studies which revealed those who counted money before taking part in an experiment where they were subjected to low levels of pain felt less discomfort than those who did not.

It's thought that fondling notes and coins helps ward off pain by boosting feelings of self-worth and self-sufficiency."

Today's Western Movie Poster

Gator Update (Another Druggie Edition)

KTTS 94.7 FM, Country's Best | Springfield, MO | > News > Story Detail: "Venomus snakes, posionous fish, and an alligator living in the bathroom. The Stone County prosecutor says that what officers found in a raid on a home near Reeds Spring last year. Cynthia Crowe has pleaded guilty to child endangerment after drug agents also found a pound of pot and five dozen bongs and pipes at the house on Friday Drive."

I'll Just Stay Home.

Avoid Spirit Airlines' Carry-On Baggage Fees With Nude Vacations - ABC News: "Spirit Airline's latest baggage fee -- up to $45 for the privilege of stuffing your bag into an overhead bin -- has at least one travel group hoping vacationers will start packing light... very light.

The American Association of Nude Recreation advocates vacation at nudist resorts and says the rising baggage costs make these so-called 'Nakations' even more attractive."

Trail Guide

10 TV Shows That Wouldn't Exist Without Their Cities

10 TV Shows That Wouldn't Exist Without Their Cities - "Here are ten current shows whose settings help define them."

Hat tip to Toby O'Brien.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Undercover with Bettie Page

Bettie Page, FBI Consultant - April 12, 2010: "Though J. Edgar Hoover's minions often probed the interstate transportation of obscene material featuring Bettie Page, the notorious pin-up model was nonetheless willing to help agents when it came to FBI inquiries about the production of certain 'flagellation and bondage pictures,' according to bureau records."

Way Down Deep

World's deepest known undersea volcanic vent found - Yahoo! News: "Scientists using a remote-controlled submarine have discovered the deepest known volcanic vent and say the superheated waters inside could contain undiscovered marine species and perhaps even clues to the origin of life on earth."

Hat tip to Angela Crider.

Peru Update - Massive Glacier Triggers 'Tsunami' in Lake: "A huge glacier has broken off and plunged into a lake in Peru sparking a 23-meter high tsunami wave that destroyed a nearby town.

The massive chunk of ice --called Hualcan glacier, it was around the size of four soccer fields -- tumbled into the '513 lake' in the Andes near Carhuaz, around 200 miles north of Lima."

John Schoenherr, R. I. P.

John Schoenherr, first artist to draw Dune, dead at 74 | SCI FI Wire: "John Schoenherr, one of the finest science-fiction illustrators of the 1960s and 1970s—and the first artist to draw Frank Herbert's Dune and Anne McCaffrey's Pern—died Thursday at age 74. Herbert was so taken with Schoenherr's images that he referred to the artist as 'the only man who has ever visited Dune.'

Schoenherr was perhaps best known for his illustrations for Dune, which was first published in two parts as 'Dune World' and 'The Prophet of Dune' in the science fiction magazine Analog in 1963 and 1965, respectively, and for which he won the 1965 Hugo Award for Best Artist. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through the late 1970s, Schoenherr contributed hundreds of distinctive and memorable illustrations for various science fiction magazines and books."

Happy Birthday, Bill Pronzini!

Bill Pronzini - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Bill Pronzini (born April 13, 1943) is an American writer of detective fiction. He is also an active anthologist, having compiled more than 100 collections, most of which focus on mystery, western, and science fiction short stories.

He published his first novel, The Stalker, in 1971. However, his best known works are the Nameless Detective series, which he began in 1971. As of April, 2009, there are more than 35 books in the series, as well as a number of short stories. Over the life of the series, Nameless has gracefully grown and matured as an “everyman” character, aging along with his creator and audience. While the stories involve the usual range of crimes typical to mysteries, they depict relatively little violence. Pronzini’s style is more character driven than plot driven, giving his stories insights, depth, and durability atypical for the mystery field. Because Nameless develops over the run of the series, it's most effective to read them in sequence."

No Comment Department

Pornographic magazine for the blind launched - Telegraph: "A pornographic magazine for the blind has been launched - complete with explicit text and raised pictures of naked men and women."

Time to Buy!

I'm sure you pre-ordered, but in case you forgot, it's time to get on board! You can get a signed copy, eventually, from Murder by the Book. Or you get it on-line.

Today's Western Movie Poster

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Houston Burger Challenge: Can Your Stomach Handle It? - KIAH: "Nestled off the corner of Nance and Richey Street, Ray's Franks & More is known for its hot dogs and hamburgers, which are named after popular scary movies.

'People know the movies (like) The Blob, and they know leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and stuff like that,' said Henrickson.

One customer, who told us it was his fifth visit to the place, said their 'burgers are great. They have a different type of bun. They're pretty big too.'

If you have a big appetite, the King Kong burger is your best bet.

'It's five meat patties and the one (is) our vegetarian pattie, which is a black bean and rice patty we make here,' said Henrickson. 'You've got an incentive of getting a free over three pound burger if you finish it within thirty minutes with the fries.'"

They Could Hear Him Now

Avalanche Traps Hiker Who Calls 911 from Under Snow: Top News Stories at "Searchers rescued a hiker who was trapped by an avalanche after he called 911 from beneath the snow that partially buried him, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reported."

This Looks Like a Job for Droopy

Escaped convicts disguised as sheep evade Argentinian authorities | Courier Mail: "TWO escaped convicts in Argentina have dodged a huge manhunt by disguising themselves as sheep."

The 7 Most Horrifying Things Ever Discovered in a Human Body

The 7 Most Horrifying Things Ever Discovered in a Human Body |

Will the Persecution Never End?

Paris Hilton warms up Las Vegas night club by shouting expletives and playing with her boobs | The Sun |Showbiz|Bizarre|USA: "HERE's how PARIS HILTON warms up a crowd - shouting expletives and playing with her boobs."

Video at the link if you dare.
Hat tip to Jeff Meyerson.

Above the Law?

Movie star Steven Seagal ‘is a sex trafficker’ | News: "Action film star Steven Seagal has been accused of sexually assaulting a personal assistant and trafficking women for sex.

The martial arts specialist is being sued by 23-year-old former model Kayden Nguyen, who claims she signed up to work for him after responding to an advert on Craigslist.

She says he went on to treat her as “his sex toy” and expected her to live in his house in Louisiana.

Ms Nguyen also claims he had two young Russian women as “attendants” at his home “who were available for his sexual needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week”."

Former action hero Steven Seagal has strongly denied allegations by a former employee that he sexually assaulted her and 'treated her like a sex toy'.

Death Hunt

Monday, April 12, 2010

Once Again, Texas Leads the Way

Dallas Morning News wins Pulitzer for editorial writing |
News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News
| Latest News

Top 10 Most Expensive Sales on AbeBooks for March 2010

Discover the Top 10 Most Expensive Sales on AbeBooks for March 2010

It's National Library Week

No Comment Department

News: Male Studies vs. Men's Studies - Inside Higher Ed: "First came women’s studies, then came men’s studies, and now, a new field in reaction to both: male studies.

Scholars of boys and men converged Wednesday at Wagner College, in Staten Island, N.Y., to announce the creation of the Foundation for Male Studies, which will support a conference and a journal targeted at exploring the triumphs and struggles of the XY-chromosomed of the human race -- without needing to contextualize their ideas as being one half of a male-female binary or an offshoot of feminist theory. Organizers positioned themselves in contrast to men's studies, which is seen as based on the same theories as women's studies and is grouped together with it as gender studies."

John "Jack" Agnew, R. I. P.

The Associated Press: Member of unit linked to 'Dirty Dozen' dies in Pa.: "John 'Jack' Agnew, one of the original members of a U.S. Army unit that operated behind enemy lines in World War II and is often credited with having loosely inspired the movie 'The Dirty Dozen,' has died at age 88.

Agnew belonged to the Filthy Thirteen, an unofficial unit within the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He was pronounced dead Thursday at Abington Memorial Hospital after becoming ill at his home in the Maple Village retirement community in Hatboro, where he and his wife moved about a year ago, his daughter Barbara Agnew Maloney said.

On D-Day, the Filthy Thirteen parachuted into France to take a bridge over the Douve River. It was 'a mission that would cost most of the men their lives,' according to an article in the winter 2008-09 edition of American Valour Quarterly, a publication of the nonprofit American Veterans Center."

Hat tip to Scott Cupp.

Eddie Carroll, R. I. P.

Actor Eddie Carroll dead at 76 - "The voice of Disney's Jiminy Cricket -- actor Eddie Carroll -- has died of a brain tumor in California at age 76, his wife says.

Carroll, who was also known for his stage tribute to comic Jack Benney, died Tuesday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, his wife, Carolyn, told the Los Angeles Times.

Carroll became the second actor to give voice to Jiminy Cricket, starting in 1973, the Times said. The native Canadian holds the record for voicing the same Disney character
longer than anyone else, Rick Dempsey, senior vice president of Disney's Character Voices division, told the Times."

Expiration Date -- Duane Swierczynski

It's been only five years since I reviewed Swierczynski's Secret Dead Men, and since then he's more than fulfilled the promise of that novel. His latest book, Expiration Date, was to be publishes as a serial in The New York Times Magazine, but when that publication dropped its fiction, Swierczynski decided to make the story into a novel instead.

About the only thing you can expect from a Swierczynski novel is that you never know what to expect. This one might (notice I said might) be described as a time-travel/serial-killer novel. When Mickey Wade takes what he believes is a Tylenol in his grandfather's apartment, a funny thing happens. He wakes up in 1972. He can see and hear people, but they can't see and hear him. Well, most of them can't. It's complicated.

And it gets even more complicated than that when Mickey starts trying to change the past. If you know about time-travel paradoxes, you know that making those changes might not get you what you want.

As usual with Swiercznyski, the book moves like a bullet. It's also short, which is fine by me, and Swierczynski manages to tie all the plot elements together in the end. There's some great local color for fans of Philadelphia, and there's a really nice nod to Secret Dead Men. There are even illustrations. Check it out.

Worst-Made Cars on the Road

worst-made-cars-on-the-road: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

5 Civilizations That Just Disappeared

5 Civilizations That Just Disappeared - Weird Worm

Link via Neatorama.
Some of you are going to be picky about this one, I'll bet.

I Am Not a Real Man

Real men get nostrils waxed - Salt Lake Tribune

Big Jim McLain

There Was a Time When Americans Took Risks and Dreamed of Travelling in Space

Commander: Apollo 13 was ‘successful failure’ - Space- "The 40th anniversary of Apollo 13 was celebrated Sunday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Sunshine Award

This blog is the proud recipient of a Sunshine Award presented by The Rap Sheet. Here's the deal: The award's supposed to go to bloggers whose “contagious positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging universe.” I hadn't thought of myself in those terms, but who am I to argue? After taking my bow, I'm supposed to applaud others.

The rules read as follows:

1. Put the logo on the blog within your post.
2. Pass the award on to 12 bloggers.
3. Link to the nominees within your post.
4. Let the nominees know they have received the award by commenting on their blogs.
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received
this award.

I enjoy so many blogs that I'm going to slight someone for sure, but what the heck. I'll give it a shot and try not to repeat any from The Rap Sheet. My memory's not so hot, but I'm sure any repetition will be forgiven. Here are 12 good ones, in no particular order.

1. James Reasoner's Rough Edges
2. George Kelley's Shocking Full Book-Length Website
3. Paul Bishop's Bish's Beat
4. Janet Rudolph's Mystery Fanfare
5. Randy Johnson's Not the Baseball Pitcher
6. Patti Abbott's Pattinase
7. Cullen Gallagher's Pulp Serenade
8. Juri Numelin's Pulpetti
9. Ed Gorman's Blog
10. Jen Forbus's Jen's Book Thoughts
11. Rick Robinson's The Broken Bullhorn
12. Vince Keenan's Blog

I could easily name another two dozen. I'll save them for next time.

New Story at BEAT to a PULP

BEAT to a PULP :: The Show Must Go On :: Mark Robinson

8 Products Designed to Fail Early

Planned Obsolescence - Products Designed to Fail Early -

Hat tip to Stephen Blotner.

10 Cars to Drive Before You Die

10 Cars to Drive Before You Die - Feature - Auto Reviews - Car and Driver: "10 Cars to Drive Before You Die - Feature

For the broadest automotive experience before your dirt nap, we suggest these 10."

Why Didn't I Think of This When I was Teaching?

Outsourced Grading, With Supporters and Critics, Comes to College - Teaching - The Chronicle of Higher Education: "Lori Whisenant knows that one way to improve the writing skills of undergraduates is to make them write more. But as each student in her course in business law and ethics at the University of Houston began to crank out—often awkwardly—nearly 5,000 words a semester, it became clear to her that what would really help them was consistent, detailed feedback.

Her seven teaching assistants, some of whom did not have much experience, couldn't deliver. Their workload was staggering: About 1,000 juniors and seniors enroll in the course each year. 'Our graders were great,' she says, 'but they were not experts in providing feedback.'

That shortcoming led Ms. Whisenant, director of business law and ethics studies at Houston, to a novel solution last fall. She outsourced assignment grading to a company whose employees are mostly in Asia."

Dixie Carter, R. I. P.

'Designing Women' star Dixie Carter dies at age 70 | "Actress Dixie Carter, 70, who most memorably portrayed Southern interior designer Julia Sugarbaker on the sitcom Designing Women from 1986 to 1993, died Saturday morning, her publicist confirmed to “This has been a terrible blow to our family,” Carter’s husband, actor Hal Holbrook, told Entertainment Tonight. “We would appreciate everyone understanding that this is a private family tragedy.” Carter is survived by Holbrook, her husband of nearly 26 years, and two daughters from a previous marriage."

Two Texas Locations Included

Endangered Vacations - 10 Vacations Endangered by Environmental Problems -

Hat tip to Doc Quatermass.

Bad Juju -- Jonathan Woods

Jonathan Woods his is own take on noir, and this short story collection is pretty much guaranteed to be unlike anything else you'll read this week. Or month. Or, probably, year. There's nothing conventional or usual about any of them. Some of them, in fact, are almost surreal, like a fever dream of noir.

Sex, murder, killers, and con men? All present and accounted for, along with assorted lunatics, lawmen, and lawyers. I'd describe the stories themselves, but it's almost impossible. I'll just say that my favorite was the last (and longest) in the book, "No Way, Jose." It brings together one of the oddest assortments of characters you're likely to find one one place, along with enough plot for a full-length novel. All you can do is fasten your seat belt and wait to find out who lives and who dies. Heads roll.

The next time you're looking for something really different, pick up a copy of Bad Juju. It has the goods.

New Post at the Running Blog

It's called "Jerks." Click here if you want to read it.

The Hill