Friday, March 23, 2012

Link roundup

1. Neca's Portal gun is now available for preorder at Amazon.

2. Our ancestors weren't so different from us - - Medieval monks complained about their jobs in the margins of ancient manuscripts.

3. Stay away from trampolines.

4. Tremendous excerpt from Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing. A taste:

Bob Weiss staggered out of baggage claim, squinting into the canned light of the airport in the city of Taiyuan, where a nervous young man awaited with a large bouquet of flowers. The man was the general manager of the Shanxi Brave Dragons, the last-place team in the Chinese basketball league. Weiss, a four-time head coach in the NBA, had been brought to central China as part of a radical experiment. He would become the first former NBA head coach in China. And he had not come merely as a coach. He was supposed to be a savior.

"Welcome to Taiyuan," the general manager said in Chinese, as the team's interpreter translated for Weiss and they walked into the hot evening air for the ride to Weiss's hotel.

They soon arrived at one of the tallest skyscrapers in downtown Taiyuan, a glass building, unremarkable except that the glass was tinted the color of a ripe banana. It was too dark and Weiss was too exhausted to notice the color, but what seemed familiar was the Howard Johnson sign shining atop the building, an emblem of unpretentious Middle America gleaming in the central China night. Weiss took comfort in the sign. So much was already unfamiliar: He had moved to a city whose name he could barely pronounce to coach a team he knew nothing about, other than that it was very, very bad. He had not understood anything anyone had said to him since arriving in China less than eight hours ago, and still had not met the man who hired him, the team's owner, Boss Wang.

Weiss rode the elevator to his room, and opened the door and walked in. The overstuffed furniture was old and stained and crowded together in the small room. He smelled the acrid odor of stale cigarettes. There was a combined bedroom and living room, and the tiny bathroom appeared to be missing essential parts. There was a small sink and toilet, but the shower nozzle poked out of a wall next to the toilet. There was no tub or shower stall; the entire bathroom was the shower stall. When Weiss flipped on the water and stepped under the nozzle, most of the water sprayed upward, where it performed a bank shot off the ceiling before splattering down onto Weiss, the toilet, the sink, and the rest of the bathroom. His shower had flooded the bathroom.

Weiss flicked on the television. He had been promised international cable service, but every channel was Chinese, except for one with news updates from Canada. He opened his Apple laptop, but the room lacked the promised Internet connection, so he collapsed on the bed, disconnected from the world he had known, and fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning and stepped outside, he learned two things: He was living in a yellow skyscraper. And the Howard Johnson was not actually a Howard Johnson. The familiar Howard Johnson sign sat atop the yellow building, but a less conspicuous English sign above the door identified the hotel as the Howell & Johnson.

Bob Weiss had spent his first night in China at a knockoff HoJo.
Read on. $14 at Amazon.