Author Archives: Fishbreath

Fishbreath Picks: AAF Week 7

Week 6 results

Memphis lost by 13 at Salt Lake, whereas I picked them +8.5.

Arizona beat Orlando, and I had Arizona +9.

San Antonio beat Atlanta 37-6; they were 1.5-point underdogs.

Birmingham beat San Diego 32-29; they were 6-point underdogs.

3-1 puts me two picks above .500, at 11-9. For double the fun, all of my picks were underdogs.

Week 7 picks

Orlando at Atlanta (Orlando -8.5)

I didn’t even have to get to the line to pick Orlando in this one.

Salt Lake at San Antonio (San Antonio -5.5)

Salt Lake remains better than their 2-4 record indicates, but San Antonio is playing at home and has been on a tear lately. I’ll go with them.

San Diego at Arizona (San Diego +3.5)

If you go back and look at my picks, I’m pretty sure I come across as a huge San Diego homer, despite having never even visited. Arizona is a very streaky team, and despite San Diego’s troubles on the road, I think they can keep it close.

Birmingham at Memphis (Birmingham -3)

Memphis is down there with Atlanta in the league’s garbage tier, and they lost a quarterback in Zach Mettenberger whose play was a bright spot on an otherwise dim-looking record.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 20, 2019)

Early post today, because I have lots to do and can’t afford the typical leisurely lunch. Late-breaking news will break next week instead.

Defense

Sub-Defense: F-35 vs. F-15(E)X

Pictures

Science and Technology

Sub-S&T: 737MAX MCAS

Guns

  • Hudson files for bankruptcy – Chapter 7, too. They plan to liquidate everything and pack it in. Doing my part for journalism, I used some of my free PACER credit to nab the relevant filings. Their list of creditors is not particularly pretty. They claim to have $50,000 in assets and between $10 million and $50 million in liabilities. On the plus side, apparently you can buy H9s for cheap as part of the liquidation sale, if that’s the sort of thing that interests you.

Grab Bag


  1. That’s why we run our own webserver here instead of paying someone else to host for us—better control over the site and its customizations, yes, but mainly that I can be exactly as obsessive about backups as I want. They’re in three separate places. 
  2. Although the modern world, in this case, is exclusive of us and our commentariat. 

Fishbreath Picks: AAF Week 6

Week 5 results

Orlando beat Birmingham 31-14. I picked Orlando -3.5.

San Diego beat Salt Lake 27-25. I picked Salt Lake +6.

Atlanta beat Memphis 23-30. I picked Atlanta -1.5.

San Antonio beat Arizona 29-25. I picked San Antonio +2.5.

My first perfect week erases my deficit and brings me back to .500: 8-8.

Week 6 picks

Memphis at Salt Lake (Memphis +8.5)

Salt Lake and Memphis are both bad teams. I don’t see either one winning by more than a touchdown.

Arizona at Orlando (Arizona +9)

Orlando may be the team to beat, but I think 9 points is too big a spread. Arizona hasn’t been winning games lately, but they’ve been scoring points.

San Antonio at Atlanta (San Antonio +1.5)

Atlanta’s on a roll, but I don’t believe they’re the real deal yet.

Birmingham at San Diego (Birmingham +6)

Nothing I’ve seen in the past few weeks of Birmingham and San Diego football suggests that San Diego ought to be a six-point favorite over Birmingham. In this battle of my rooting interests, I will take Birmingham.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 13, 2019)

I just realized last weekend’s post was dated March 27th, because I changed the month but forgot to change the day. Rest assured that, if we were to guess at news from the future, we would try a little harder than two or three weeks out.

Apologies for the lateness of the post. It’s Mrs. Breath’s birthday today1.

Defense

(Mad) Science and Technology

History

Guns

Grab Bag


  1. Pretty sure she’d object to being Mrs. Fishbreath, so we’ll just say it’s a very tightly coupled name and surname. 

Fishbreath Picks: AAF Week 5

Week 4 results

Memphis beat San Diego, and my pick was Memphis+6.

Orlando beat Salt Lake 20-11; my pick was Salt Lake+4.

San Antonio beat Birmingham 12-11; my pick was Birmingham-7. That makes Orlando the last undefeated team.

In perhaps the most surprising result of the week, and the one that makes me look the worst, Atlanta beat Arizona 14-11. (Remember that I switched my pick to Arizona-13.5.)

Another 1-3 week puts me at .333: 4-8.

Week 5 picks

Orlando at Birmingham (Orlando -3.5)

The Apollos are still the best in the league, and Birmingham has been struggling with quarterback play lately. Weather in Birmingham is expected to be bad on Saturday, which will likely dampen the Apollos’ offensive firepower, but I still think they’ll be able to carry it by more than 3.5.

Salt Lake at San Diego (Salt Lake +6)

Quarterbacks are even harder to come by in this league than in the NFL, and San Diego lost their starter last week.

Memphis at Atlanta (Atlanta -1.5)

I’m happy with Atlanta-1.5 in this one—Memphis got their win last week because San Diego’s starting QB went out.

San Antonio at Arizona (San Antonio +2.5)

Riding high, San Antonio seems well positioned to beat a recently-struggling Arizona.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Mar. 6, 2019)

In which I repeatedly type single quotation marks backtick-text-quote instead of quote-text-quote, thanks to a LaTeX project.

Defense

Photos of the Week: Bombers

Science and Technology

  • Chinese surveillance data found in a no-password, web-public database – Oops.
  • SpaceX’s successful Crew Dragon launch represents an American return to manned spaceflight – The big problem for SpaceX going forward is going to be finding new sources for revenue (like their Starlink Internet plan) if they want to keep on funding the BFR. As it stands, they’ve pretty much cornered the worldwide market on non-natsec launches. There’s only so much profit to squeeze out of that. Blue Origin has an edge on large rocket development in my book, because it’s a billionaire’s passion project.
  • University of California system cancels all its Elsevier journal subscriptions – Elsevier is a watchword in academia for ‘money-grubbing useless middlemen’, known for paywalling a bunch of journals so that universities have little choice but to maintain subscriptions for their own academics. Not that academia is without its flaws, but the least I can do is praise them for doing something so obviously right.
  • Another Intel speculative execution bug – This one lets you figure out memory mappings efficiently, which lets you do the Rowhammer attack from 2015 in Javascript in a browser.
  • The attention economy is saturated – That is, there’s too much entertainment for humans to consume all of it, so we’re into an age of prioritization. You’ve probably noticed this yourself. It also plays into the difficulty in getting off the ground as an independent creator of content—there’s more entertainment than ever before, but it’s still delivered through a small number of outlets. There are only so many screens at the local cinema, and only so many production houses which can afford to bribe their ways into your local theater. See also Amazon and books.

Money Matters

Special Report: Blacklisting and Politics in Publishing

Singal’s doing good work on that subject generally, although it’s amusing to note that he himself is an identitarian progressive, just a milder breed who hasn’t yet fully internalized that all revolutions eventually devour their children.

Re-evaluating leaders of the Civil War

It’s still Tuesday, so we haven’t missed a day.

Having finished Foote’s Civil War magnum opus, I find my opinion of some Civil War figures changing. Let’s take a look at how. I’ve noted changes of opinion in an upward direction with a plus sign, of downward direction with a minus sign, and no change (where some commentary is required to justify the choice) with an o.

Lincoln: +

Honest Abe, even in his own day, has (had) about him a sort of mythic status. The epithet ‘The Great Emancipator’ came about during Lincoln’s life. That’s the sort of thing that can go to a man’s head.

And yet it never did for Lincoln. Foote portrays him as an extremely human figure, warm to his family, fond of bad jokes, and distressed by the human cost of the war. He comes across as a genuinely good man, and one entirely equal to the task thrust upon him, no matter what his critics at the time said.

He only gets one plus because I had a high opinion of him before.

Jeff Davis: —

Ol’ Jeff Davis was not equal to the task before him.

Leaving aside the moral component of the war and any discussion of its secondary and tertiary reasons, Davis was simply not a great man. You couldn’t ask for a better parable: Lincoln, humble in the face of the many and varied slings and arrows thrown his way, led the Union successfully; Davis, uptight and concerned for his personal honor, never forgot a slight and drove away a number of capable subordinates over the course of the war.

Two minuses, because I went from a neutral opinion of him to a very negative one.

Grant: o

Grant goes up in my estimation in some ways and down in others.

The downsides first: Grant didn’t have very many battles where he wowed me with his tactical prowess. Once forces were engaged, he strikes me as a fairly conventional commander, buoyed by an unflappable confidence, good subordinates, and a willingness to improvise.

The upsides next: Grant was an excellent strategist, and very hard to discourage. In both the Vicksburg Campaign and the Overland Campaign, he parlayed repeated failure into ultimate success. On the Mississippi, he had the hardest of times getting below Vicksburg, kept trying, and eventually penned Pemberton in and stopped Johnston from getting there with reinforcements. North of Richmond, he correctly realized that his side had a natural supply line from the sea and a much larger army, and that Lee couldn’t abandon his capital. A few leftward sidles and a long siege later, and Grant had his victory.

Sherman: +++

Sherman is an interesting one, and the only man to get three pluses in this article.

Why? Because I think Sherman was probably the best Union commander of the war. He was an able battlefield leader, as he demonstrated under Grant, but he was also a superb strategist in his own right. The campaign from Chattanooga to Atlanta features Sherman waltzing around Johnston, who found himself turned out of strong position after strong position. Sherman’s superpower was looking at a map, pondering for a bit, then deciding exactly where to march to make an enemy fortification useless.

Sherman gets three pluses instead of one or two because I’d previously thought of him as Grant’s shadow, when he might have been the better general in the final reckoning. I would have loved to see a Lee vs. Sherman campaign.

Lee: +

Lee had a superpower, too, in which he would say, out of nowhere, “I think those people will march to Location So-and-So,” and be one hundred percent spot-on correct, sometimes before the Union line officers even knew where they were going.

Lee has a bit of a mythical reputation already, but the fact that he was right so many times earns him a plus.

Beauregard: –

Beauregard was widely beloved and effective on the rare occasions he actually had some men to command, but spent so much of his time cooling his heels away from battle, planning insane long-shot schemes for Confederate victory, that I find his prominence in history is not commensurate to his prominence in fact.

Johnston (Joe): –

Given half a chance, Johnston would have retreated all the way to Tampa Bay.

Stuart (Jeb): –

Jeb Stuart loses a plus for abandoning Lee on the way to Gettysburg, and hence causing Gettysburg.

Lee might have lost some points for Gettysburg if he had his cavalry at hand, too.

Rosencrans: +

Rosencrans is my first pick against the spread, as it were. He was extremely slow to get moving, but I have a hard time arguing with his results. The Tullahoma Campaign, unlike many of the large-scale, multi-column plans in the war, went off pretty much without a hitch. Largely bloodless, it allowed for the capture of Chattanooga and enabled later victories on the road to Atlanta. Unlike Sherman’s campaign, Rosencrans conducted it against an enemy who had roughly equivalent forces, even if that enemy was Braxton Bragg.

Rosencrans did lose Chickamauga in rather embarrassing fashion, and bears a good deal of responsibility for it. Had he shown a bit more battlefield spine, he might have gone down in history as one of the Union’s best.

Burnside: +

Burnside knew the Army of the Potomac was a job above his competence, said so, and did his best not to lose the army after he was appointed over his own protests.

His plan for Fredericksburg was sound at heart, and in fact Burnside is in rarefied company as one of the few men to steal a march on Lee. He doesn’t get full marks for it, however, because ensuring you have adequate bridging material is part of your job as general.

Meade: ++

Meade was a workaday commander who was perfectly effective under Grant, and Grant had confidence enough in him to leave the Army of the Potomac under his control when Grant had other places to be.

He gets some extra credit for taking over the army in the midst of its pursuit of Lee toward Gettysburg, and reacting quickly enough to news of the developing battle to get his entire army on the field. Most generals looked bad facing Lee. Meade merely looked average.

Sheridan: –

Sheridan gets a lot of credit as one of the Union’s only reasonably competent cavalry commanders. I think he gets a bit too much. He never really faced a peer cavalry force and won, most of his great victories were won against weakened enemies. Against better opposition, his aggression might have gotten him into trouble.

J.B. Hood: +

Hood was an aggressive, competent commander hamstrung by the fact that his side was badly deficient in providing men and matériel. Had he been a Union general, I suspect he might have been one of Grant’s favorite corps commanders.

He wasn’t really cut out for command of an army, though, easily frustrated as he was; he needed a superior to draw rein now and then. After his well-planned first sortie from Atlanta met with failure due to bad luck and bad subordinates, he planned a bunch of less likely sorties. Later, on the road to Nashville, his attack against Franklin was an ill-considered disaster.

He’s the nega-Grant, in a sense—pretty good at tactics, not very good at all at strategy.

Fishbreath Picks: AAF Week 4

Week 3 results

Well, not covering myself in glory.

Arizona lost 23-15, so my Arizona-4 pick was no good. I was right on some of the commentary (Salt Lake is better than their record indicates), but wrong on the particulars. Importantly, Arizona lost their starting QB to injury.

Orlando-14.5 beat Memphis 21-17. 4 is notably less than 14.5, but how was I to know that Memphis would finally bench Hackenberg?

Birmingham-6 won over Atlanta 28-12, my only correct pick of the week.

San Diego beat San Antonio+2 by 20. My rooting interests did well for themselves, but alas, I did not trust to homerism enough when making my picks.

Going 1-3 this week puts my overall record at a not-great 3-5.

Week 4 picks

San Diego at Memphis (Memphis+6)

I’ve been burned by picking favorites so far, and Memphis in particular is no longer the Christian Hackenberg show, so I think they’ll keep it close.

Orlando at Salt Lake (Salt Lake+4)

Picking against the Stallions also burned me, so I’ll give them the chance to un-burn me or to finish the job. Their starting quarterback is healthy again, which gives them a good shot at keeping it close with the class-of-the-league Apollos.

San Antonio at Birmingham (Birmingham-7)

Birmingham’s defense is proving to be the AAF’s best, and San Antonio had a rough week last week. At home, I expect another Iron Curtain shutdown. (Clearly, they picked the name Iron for just that joke.)

Atlanta at Arizona (Arizona-13.5)

Picking Atlanta, even spotting them 13.5 points, is bold, but given that Arizona is starting a backup quarterback, I think it’s maybe possible that Atlanta covers. … and, shortly after I completed the draft of this post yesterday, Mr. Wolford put in an appearance at Wednesday practice, so I’m going to take that excuse to switch my pick.

Wednesday What We’re Reading (Feb. 27, 2019)

This is the 20th Edition of Wednesday What We’re Reading. It’s been a fun feature so far, and well-received to boot, so with a little luck, the next time I make mention of anniversaries in the introduction is when we’ve been doing them for a year.

Defense

History, Photos, Paintings

Science and Technology

Other

  • On wage stagnation – Slate Star Codex is tops on my list of blogs whose authors I would disagree with on nearly every matter of substance, because the guy who writes it is so sharp. Also, the commentariat there is in the same club as ours—good ones.

Fishbreath Picks: AAF Week 3

My picks in parentheses. NoExtraPoints is now my go-to source for box scores.

Arizona at Salt Lake (Arizona-4)

Salt Lake is better than their record indicates, I suspect, but they fell 38-22 to Arizona in week 1. Team quality in the AAF has so far been more important than home-away as far as picks go, and Arizona is currently the AAF’s best passing team.

Memphis at Orlando (Orlando-14.5)

Memphis has played execrable football so far this year, as Christian Hackenberg reminds us that not every NFL washout is a diamond in the rough who just needs a bit more development. Taking a 14.5-point favorite in a league where teams rarely score more than 25 points is maybe a bit risky, but Orlando’s averaging almost 40 points per game and Memphis is averaging 9.

Birmingham at Atlanta (Birmingham-6)

Atlanta has an accurate quarterback but a bad offensive line, and Birmingham has been good at pressuring quarterbacks. We know from Week 1 that the Iron can move the ball and score on bad teams, so I’m going with them here.

San Antonio at San Diego (San Antonio+2)

San Antonio won the week 1 meeting by 9 points, prompting a mid-game QB switch. Philip Nelson, who took the helm for the Fleet (see what I did there?), is not a dramatic improvement over whoever they had in week 1, and I expect San Antonio to, at the least, keep it close.