A brand-new beat

Actually, this particular rhythm has been building in the streets since the 1960s, though not everyone heard the call. Still, if you can’t forget the Motor City, there’s a very good reason why.

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Upper-class twits of the year

Kim du Toit has seen enough of them for several years:

[O]n the way back I decided to take the No. 19 bus rather than the Tube because it was a lovely day and I felt like looking at London rather than at a tunnel wall.

Part of the route was along Sloane Street into Knightsbridge, and of course it’s on this street where you find all the Usual Suspects: Dior, Ferragamo, Versace, Hermès, Pucci, Prada and all those furrin names. As a place of wealth and ostentation, it’s difficult to top Sloane Street …

… except that it’s not. I’ve seen Sloane Street many times before, only it was called “Hofbahnstrasse” in Zurich, “the Golden Mile” in Chicago, “Kollmarkt” in Vienna, “Northcross Mall” in Dallas, “Champs-Elysées” in Paris and “Park Avenue” in Manhattan. It’s all the same stores, the same overpriced merchandise and (pretty much) the same customers, only speaking with different accents and languages.

Phooey. You can keep all that crap. Give me a street with character like King’s Road or Upper Street in Islington (further along on my bus trip) any day of the week. Luxury shopping isn’t just overpriced, it’s banal — and I want no part of it.

Then again, the Sloane Rangers themselves seem to have fallen on hard times:

By the 90s the Sloane style couldn’t have been more unfashionable. The accent, the language, the dress code, the “miniature stately home” interior styles were all wrong, wrong, wrong in the world of mild mockney, the “information super-highway” and mid-century modern. Sloane seemed archaic and unprofessional — only for the magic world of Richard Curtis rom-coms — in the new high-maintenance world of Big Money London.

And by 2000, the second great wave was underway. London was becoming the first international city of the global super-rich. Since then, London’s prime and “super-prime” property — particularly the best, biggest houses and flats in Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Mayfair and the top slice of Chelsea — were bought out by an extraordinary mixture of Russian oligarchs, Middle Easterners, new petrodollar types from Nigeria, Indians, Malaysians and, latterly, Chinese. These were people with money that dwarfed those 80s and 90s American bankers. People with hundreds of millions. People with billions. Driving up the prices of London property and driving all but the richest, most adaptable Sloanes further south and north — and some out of London altogether.

What goes around comes around, but the price never seems to go down.

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Toyota drinks the Romulan ale

And if you ask me, they earned it:

Toyota has received a US patent for “Apparatuses and methods for making an object appear transparent,” which effectively translates into a “cloaking device” you might expect in a science fiction movie.

Actual usage could prove to be less interesting than you might expect, though still proof to a wonder of science — the patent illustrates a potential use as making the A-pillars to the left and right of the dashboard disappear.

Which is something that can be done today [warning: autostart video], but at Lexus prices or higher:

These pillars have grown over time, as crash-test requirements get stronger, which can hamper visibility. Being able to see “through” (it’s more like “around”) the A-pillar without craning your neck every which way could greatly benefit pedestrian safety.

In the patent, Toyota points out that this sort of technology can already be put to use in vehicles, but it requires video cameras and other expensive materials and equipment. Therefore, an equally efficient but less expensive solution needed to be found, and Toyota believes its “cloaking device” fits that bill.

And it would be nice if the “device” could do something about the horrid front fascia of almost every current Toyota or Lexus, the gaping maw from which pedestrians never return.


The Orange Dreadful

Looks like candy corn to meA bag containing about seven pounds of candy corn — actually, 111 ounces, which is something like 6.94 lb — has arrived at my porch after a trip from Texas, and I’m pretty sure it would have been more sensible to have ordered it in a cold month, which August is most assuredly not, at least not in this hemisphere. (And I’m also pretty sure that this particular vendor doesn’t ship to Ecuador or to Tierra del Fuego.)

That said, the mandatory Nutrition Facts label promptly presented itself for inspection, and you’ll be pleased (or appalled) to hear that one serving = 19 pieces of the dreaded wedge = 140 calories. For your future reference or bar-bet use, this means that one piece of candy corn (Brach’s, if it matters to you) contains 7.4 calories.

And as long as we’re pretending this stuff has food value, here’s a recipe for deep-fried candy corn.

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Ethical treatment

I mean, you can’t get much more ethical than this, can you?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is going to pay a Virginia family tens of thousands of dollars after it was found that the animal activists euthanized a 9-year-old girl’s Chihuahua well before the state’s five-day waiting period.

Wilber Zarate sued PETA for taking the dog, which was at a mobile home park in Norfolk, unleashed and unattended, and for putting the dog down before the end of the state’s five-day mandatory grace period, The Associated Press reported.

How soon before?

PETA had been tasked with rounding up wild dogs and feral cats in the mobile home park where Zarate’s dog was captured. The dog, Maya, was killed later that same day. PETA was fined $500 for not waiting for the required five days.

PETA will pay Zarate $49,000 and will donate $2000 to a shelter in the area other than PETA’s own.

At least they didn’t eat the dog. That would be heinous. Unethical, even.


One hundred thirty-six

So I was restructuring my photo archive, and I got to wondering: “Geez, just how many pictures of Rebecca Black do I have?”

This, I think, gives her third place, trailing Taylor Swift (412) and Zooey Deschanel (628). It’s a distant third, but still: third. And she’s only 20. An opportunity, I figure, for a Rule 5 post.

Rebecca Black outside the Grammy Museum

Rebecca Black has lunch, sort of

Rebecca Black keeps her balance

Rumor has it that the long-awaited EP will drop on 15 September; at least one Major Fan is running a countdown.

For the heck of it, here’s a Just Stuff video from summer 2016:

She’s very nineteen in these scenes.

And this went up today:

It’s happening. (I think.)


The fabric of a nation (or two)

I have several shirts made in Pakistan, but none of them look like this:

She followed with a map of India:

If you’ve spent any time observing the Perpetually Outraged on social media, you know what happens next. Dammit.

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So sure about it

The single greatest song of the 1960s is still a topic for discussion half a century later, which I guess attests to its greatness:

Which is not an unreasonable thing to think:

When I was younger, I loved that song. I hoped that some day I would have someone in my life who would love me like that, where I was essentially the whole world to him, and to have that kind of meaning in someone’s life.

As I got a little older, and learned more about humanity, I realized how absolutely rare that kind of love is … and that it was probably something I’d never get to have (and with each year that passes, it becomes less likely).

I realized this morning (after a chain of clicking made me listen to it again) that it would be kind of exhausting for me now to have someone who depended on me so much that he could literally not imagine how he’d live without me there … and yeah, maybe that level of dependence is a little creepy, I don’t know, if you take it literally.

I get that the song is really late-teen/early-20s romanticism talking, but a grown-up person needs to depend on themselves and not be so welded to another person that they cannot envision life without them.

As it happens, I’ve already addressed this issue:

[A]s the Boys noted two songs later on Pet Sounds, “Love is here today and it’s gone tomorrow / It’s here and gone so fast.”

But lyricist Tony Asher knew what he was doing with that opening line. It’s that old perception-versus-reality thing again: you might want to question my devotion at some point, but ultimately “I’ll make you so sure about it.” And really, have you ever seen a couple this side of Darby and Joan who didn’t occasionally have their differences? “The couples cling and claw and drown in love’s debris,” noted Carly Simon (and/or Jacob Brackman) several years later. But still they cling.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a song from the Seventies answered a call from the Sixties. And despite their almost total absence from most of my own existence, I will always believe in hearts and flowers.


Embrace the sparseness

Racked talked to seven men about how they actually feel about baldness, and the last of those seven was moi:

I knew it was going to happen, of course; my dad was balding in his 30s, and for all I know it might have been sooner than that, since I was born the year he turned 26 and I had more immediate concerns than hereditary baldness. As it turns out, it was indeed hereditary: I don’t know if I got it worse than the others because I was the firstborn, but I did get it, and quickly. Things started getting sparse before I was 25; by 40, there wasn’t much left. I did not, however, take the usual steps to conceal my condition: no expensive drugs, no transplanted plugs, no squirrel fur glued to my head. It was, I decided, what it was, and while things seem to have quit receding for the moment, I’m way past 60 and no longer noticed by anyone, myself included.

I do not begrudge any of the other six. Or Sir Patrick Stewart, pictured at the top of the article.

Oh, and this:

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

This was one of the few times in my life I apparently did not need editing.

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Who gave this puppy broccoli?

The gassiest damn dogs you ever did seeThe time has arrived to come face to face, or preferably on some other vector, with the case of the Highly Gaseous Canine:

Dogs fart for many of the same reasons we do.

  • Change in diet
  • Food allergies
  • Aerophagia
  • Parasites
  • Parvovirus
  • Tumors
  • Food that doesn’t agree with them
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) illness
  • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Imbalances in the microflora in your dog’s stomach and small intestines. These organisms are responsible for the excess gas and subsequent farts that are making you and your dog miserable.

And fercrissake, don’t read this in front of the dog. Especially at dinnertime.

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They all have that, don’t they?

Some people know exactly what equipment their cars have. Jack Baruth tells us about the other people:

Many years ago I read that the majority of Volkswagen Vanagon owners were pretty sure they had front-wheel drive — because all the other Volkswagens at the dealership had it, so why wouldn’t the van? It’s also apparently common for owners of various European cars to think they have AWD when they don’t. No prizes for guessing that this is most common among second and third owners of entry-level Audi models.

This is not Jack acting superior, either:

I don’t blame these people. Some time ago my refrigerator broke down and I was utterly astounded to discover that it had two compressors; one for the freezer and one for the regular part. I would have gone to my death thinking I had a one-compressor fridge. The same is true for my heat pump; it wasn’t until it died that I fully understood the difference between my heat pump and my furnace. I thought it was all part of the same thing. Don’t get me started on what people think their computers can do, or what they believe regarding their insurance policies. Most of us are remarkably content to know nothing about anything outside our very narrow areas of specific interest.

Myself, I’m happier knowing nothing if I suspect that knowing something is going to make me despondent, or at the very least make me write a large check. I admit it.

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With August in mind

Few things in life seem quite so horrifying to me as waiting around to die because you no longer have any choice in the matter.

With that in mind, here’s a tale of a bird who might have frozen to death:

The important thing, of course, is that he didn’t. At least, not then.

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In lieu of actual improvements

Why did I keep my car after the insurance company declared it totaled? Because it has most of the stuff I need, and hardly anything like this:

Since we are on an Interstate highway, I would like to engage the cruise control. I don’t want to have to keep watching the speedometer and adjusting my speed to accommodate every little change in the road’s incline. Yes, we are in Iowa, and Iowa is very flat, but even the slightest grade can affect the car’s speed. I am pushing the envelope on what the cops will tolerate and I don’t want [to] push it too far. It would be easy to do. The road is flat and straight and the speedometer goes to 160 MPH.

There is a little mini-control-panel on the right spoke of the steering wheel and the top right button is labeled CRUISE. I push it and little green CRUISE word appears on the instrument panel. I try pushing several of the other buttons to see if I can set the speed, but nothing happens.

The upper left button appears to be a stack of paper (pages?) and pushing it causes the center display between the speedometer and the tachometer to change. I think there are four pages. Pushing this button allows you to cycle through these pages. Eventually I figure out that you can get the cruise control to engage only if you are on the correct page. I don’t know whether this is a feature or a bug.

In general, that sort of thing is considered a feature by its developers and a bug by those who must endure it out in the Real World™.

And this is pretty much the way cruise control works on my car, but the speed is set by accelerating to the desired speed and pushing a button marked SET. The sort of people who want the dashboard to answer their damn phones do not want a button marked SET. For them, even a ’17 Hyundai Sonata, which can be worried up beyond $30,000 with enough features bugs, is insufficiently bedecked with electricks.

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Points on the curve

Morgan Freeberg brought this up over on Facebook:

What are the bust/waist/hip measurements of a REALLY hot chick … in metric??

You don’t know, do you…

I can give them to you in inches, and you can instantly envision the shape … if it’s Raquel, or Marilyn, or Twiggy, or Kate Upton or Kate Moss. If we repeat the exercise in centimeters you haven’t a clue. Even if you’re one of these “dead parrot skit” crunchy-frog surrender-monkey Eiffel-Tower-dwelling Metric System advocates…

You can’t pop a woody to centimeters. It’s just a fact.

“Ninety-one, sixty-one, ninety-one? Maybe — if she’s 1.60 meters.” — Not necessarily Sir Mix-A-Lot.

At any rate, I wouldn’t expect any conversion factors from the late General Johnson:

And for this film, you’re on your own:

(If you need help, I reviewed it here.)

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How sweet the sound

Or maybe not so much:

I live in constant fear that one of the local mockingbirds will find a copy of this video.

(With thanks to Fillyjonk.)

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Knock, knock

Who’s there? Why, the Feds, of course:

For the past several months, DreamHost has been working with the Department of Justice to comply with legal process, including a Search Warrant [pdf] seeking information about one of our customers’ websites.

At the center of the requests is disruptj20.org, a website that organized participants of political protests against the current United States administration. While we have no insight into the affidavit for the search warrant (those records are sealed), the DOJ has recently asked DreamHost to provide all information available to us about this website, its owner, and, more importantly, its visitors.

Regular readers may recall that DreamHost has been bringing my site to you since the last day of 2001. So my interest in this case is not entirely theoretical.

Chris Ghazarian, our General Counsel, has taken issue with this particular search warrant for being a highly untargeted demand that chills free association and the right of free speech afforded by the Constitution.

The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website. (Our customer has also been notified of the pending warrant on the account.)

That information could be used to identify any individuals who used this site to exercise and express political speech protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment. That should be enough to set alarm bells off in anyone’s mind.

I’m pretty sure I’d be on the opposite side of the fence from the site’s operators and most of its users. But that doesn’t matter. This does:

The internet was founded — and continues to survive, in the main — on its democratizing ability to facilitate a free exchange of ideas. Internet users have a reasonable expectation that they will not get swept up in criminal investigations simply by exercising their right to political speech against the government.

We intend to take whatever steps are necessary to support and shield these users from what is, in our view, a very unfocused search and an unlawful request for their personal information.

The DOJ has appealed to the D. C. Superior Court for an order to force DreamHost to turn over all this data; DreamHost has filed arguments in opposition, and a hearing will be held Friday.

Addendum: DreamHost co-founder Dallas Kashuba is interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Update, 17 August: The hearing has been moved to the 24th. It is open to the public.

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