Archive for September 2012

Putting the “rank” in PageRank

This is not how you do search-engine optimization:

A man who terrified his customers with threats of death and rape so his business would appear higher up on Google searches has been sentenced to four years in jail.

Vitaly Borker, 36, from New York, was also ordered to pay almost $100,000 in restitution and fines when he was was handed down his sentence.

Then again, it worked, for a while anyway:

Mr. Borker was the subject of a November 2010 article in The New York Times in which he claimed that frightening consumers was a way to generate Internet publicity about his business, which purportedly elevated his profile in Google searches, generating more traffic and revenue.

Google, sensing the presence of evil, promptly tweaked their algorithm.

(Via Fark.)

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East-ish

Well, yeah, I can understand this:

The Big East is taking steps to “tweak” its name now that it includes schools from California, Idaho, Texas, Tennessee and Florida, according to Joe Bailey, the conference’s former interim commissioner.

The Big East has commissioned a study to consider alternative names, Bailey said [Thursday] at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit hosted by Bloomberg Link in New York. He wouldn’t say when the names would be presented to conference presidents for their consideration.

And who better to make such an announcement than the former interim commissioner?

I offer a cautionary tale from the world of lodging:

In 1964, Best Western launched an expansion effort of its own operations east of the Mississippi using the moniker “Best Eastern” for those properties with the same typestyle and Gold Crown logo as “Best Western.” By 1967, the “Best Eastern” name was dropped and all motels from coast-to-coast got the “Best Western” name and Gold Crown.

Representatives from neither the Big Ten (12 schools) nor the Big 12 (ten schools) were available for comment.

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The very model of a modern minor miracle

Herewith, Daniel Radcliffe does his best Tom Lehrer:

And there’s a pretty girl in an orange dress, whom I didn’t notice at all. (Looks sort of like Rihanna.)

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Meanwhile, far from Cremona

What makes a Strad a Strad? The short answer: it takes Antonio Stradivari to make a true Stradivarius instrument, and, well, he died in 1737. But it’s now speculated that he may have had a little help from a couple of fungi and the Maunder Minimum:

Low density, high speed of sound and a high modulus of elasticity — these qualities are essential for ideal violin tone wood. In the late 17th and early 18th century the famous violin maker Antonio Stradivari used a special wood that had grown in the cold period between 1645 and 1715. In the long winters and the cool summers, the wood grew especially slowly and evenly, creating low density and a high modulus of elasticity. Until now, modern violin makers could only dream of wood with such tonal qualities.

Professor [Francis W. M. R.] Schwarze’s developments could soon make similarly good wood available for violin making. He discovered two species of fungi (Physisporinus vitreus and Xylaria longipes), which decay Norway spruce and sycamore — the two important kinds of wood used for violin making — to such an extent that their tonal quality is improved. “Normally fungi reduce the density of the wood, but at the same time they unfortunately reduce the speed with which the sound waves travel through the wood,” the researcher explained. “The unique feature of these fungi is that they gradually degrade the cell walls, thus inducing a thinning of the walls. But even in the late stages of the wood decomposition, a stiff scaffold structure remains via which the sound waves can still travel directly.” Even the modulus of elasticity is not compromised; the wood remains just as resistant to strain as before the fungal treatment — an important criterion for violin making.

Dr Schwarze, in fact, has put this theory to the test:

At the 27th [2009] “Osnabrücker Baumpflegetagen,” one of Germany’s most important annual conferences on all aspects of forest husbandry, Empa researcher Francis Schwarze’s “biotech violin” dared to go head to head in a blind test against a Stradivarius — and won. A brilliant outcome for the Empa violin, which is made of wood treated with fungus, against the instrument made by the great master himself in 1711.

Assuming that the government allows it to survive, Gibson should have some pretty amazing Les Paul guitars in a few decades.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Cutting one’s losses

When does it become cheaper to buy a new car than to fix an old one? Right about the time Satan starts banging on the pipes to demand more heat.

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Strange search-engine queries (345)

In this weekly feature, we examine the search strings found in URLs referring to this site, and hope we find some worthy of snark, because otherwise I’ve just read four thousand log entries without finding anything usable as content. The only other phenomenon that comes close to this degree of disgruntlement is watching political coverage on television.

adverb litter:  Now pick up those adverbs, and I mean immediately.

surrealist meme dimension dada you offer a hot dog:  The raccoons have already eaten the corn. Where were you?

she-had-polio, floppy:  Making fun of her won’t help.

effects of krispy kreme:  A broadening of your experiences, particularly those in the general vicinity of your waistline.

pry me a river:  Pried the whole night through, did you?

gary lord hydrogen:  His second cousin, once removed, is the Duke of Boron.

what’s going in at 150th and Penn in Oklahoma City?  Hint: it’s not an improved traffic-control system.

sell 2007 ford mercy hail damage:  Body shops are legendarily merciless. No wonder you’re selling.

how is climate change detected:  In hindsight, when someone says “Jebus, it’s hot,” and then inexplicably continues to breathe.

did barack obama say if people break their hips they can just die:  He did not say that. Though he might make an exception for Paul Ryan.

dixie whatley husker du:  Dü-dah, dü-dah; Dixie Whatley Hüsker Dü, all the dü-dah day.

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On paper

Mark Alger looks around his workplace, and finds traces of mine:

In small job-shops, nobody is a pure specialist. As Heinlein said, specialization is for insects. You learn to shift a ton of paper without a follow-on visit to an orthopedist. You learn how to — and develop the muscles for — jogging paper in “lifts” of 500 or 1000 sheets. And you learn why they designate paper in the weights they do. If a machine operator has a particularly tough one and needs someone to catch, you get over there and do your best Johnny Bench at the delivery and catch. If the plate-maker is sick, or there’s a rush job of a hundred thousand of anything to have picky and boring hand-work done to it, you turn to with your rubber fingertips and your glycerin and you do the boring and repetitive shit.

In a one-person shop, the hats just keep on coming, and I have to wear them all, usually the same day. Occasionally there is printed output, and sometimes I indeed to have to jog, though I try to keep the sheet count down to 200 or so. And while some of it is indeed picky and boring, it pays for my opportunity to be boring in a different way over the weekend, so I don’t complain. Much.

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Another happy user

You can quote Miriam on it:

I consider Facebook one of the most useless and time-sucking activities available to man, right up there with cleaning the grout in your bathroom tiles. When everyone started “friending” me I enjoyed hearing from people I hadn’t seen in years. Since most of them are doing exactly what I predicted 20 years ago, I was pleased to have my judgment vindicated.

Then, of course, things got predictable:

This is background stuff, preliminary to inform you about an e-mail I received from a close relative from the Commie side of the family. She upbraided me because someone she knew told her I “liked” Mitt Romney, and she was aghast. As it happens, I didn’t, and don’t, and I told her so. She seemed quite relieved. I suffer from l’esprit d’escalier otherwise known as staircase wit, meaning that I think of a witty retort on the way home from the party, when it’s too late. So here’s what I would have told her, after re-covering my wits:

“What’s it to you? And if I did ‘like’ Romney, so what? It’s not like ‘liking’ Goebbels. I don’t ‘like’ Romney but I’m voting for him just the same.

Of course, if you want to ‘like” Goebbels in the Facebook sense, here you go.

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Oh, that’s totally different

Scan from the Tribune Chronicle

Criggo.com, which has loads of these, saw no reason to comment further, and neither do I.

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The audacity of swipe

This part-time Target clerk apparently has persuaded himself that shoplifters are an important sector of the economy:

I see them all the time from my perch at the customer-service desk at Target. There are the return stringers — people on the front end of loose-knit shoplifting gangs — hired to return purloined merchandise for store credit using a driver’s license. Recently, a pimple-faced, tattooed and gap-toothed young man returned more than $60 of Oil of Olay age-defying cosmetics.

I did not ask what would have been obvious questions. Do you have a receipt? Did you pay with a debit or credit card? Have these improved your skin?

I gave him a gift card.

Because, you know, it’s better to indulge a little thievery than to hurt the feelings of someone who might be a paying customer some day.

As if. I’ve seen no evidence of this among the deadbeats constantly trying to wheedle 42nd and Treadmill to accept their order today, for which they will gladly pay us at some unspecified future time. Once in a great while one of them does. (Plus fees, because we aren’t entirely dim.) But the idea of making an example of one of them as a signal to the others has never occurred, not to us, not to Target, not to anybody.

(Via Lileks.)

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Remembering this day

It’s a date that shall live in infamy, says Roberta X:

[N]ot only was it a sneak attack that ranks with Pearl Harbor, it’s the day “just give them what they want and things will work out” was completely disproved and the efficacy of vigorous resistance in limiting damage done was demonstrated.

And the day a lot of innocent people were murdered by criminals; except in his own mind, a criminal is all a “terrorist” is.

It gets better after that.

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A trivial pointer

I read the article twice, and I’m still not sure what I think of the fellow’s conclusions, probably because I know as much about “hookup behavior” as I do about string theory (unless it’s Silly String), but I commend it to you on the basis of its title: “The Return of the Ugly, Racist Pseudoscientist with a Small Penis.”

I mention in passing that Firefox insists “pseudoscientist” should be two words.

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Tablet computing

I take an absolutely astonishing amount of medication: around two hundred pills, capsules and whatnot, of varying shapes and sizes, each and every month. It is nothing sort of miraculous that I don’t screw up my dosages.

So I can see a reason for this:

I’ve got a pill dispenser, a box with seven compartments, one for every day of the week. Once a week I set down and load the seven slots in my magazine with my daily dose of pills. It doesn’t take long, five or ten minutes, but it is tedious, and I believe I need to be careful so I get the right number of magic potions in the right slots. So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be nice if the pharmacy could load up a month’s worth at one time so I wouldn’t have to perform this little chore every week?

The operative word here is “magazine,” since if I had an appropriate dispenser of this sort it would be the size of a Glock.

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She was looking for a watering can

Neither you nor I will likely ever be this lucky:

A woman who reportedly paid less than $60 for a box of assorted art items at a flea market may have cashed in big, for one of the pieces in her purchase is a canvas by famous French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The painting, a river Seine scene titled Paysage Bords de Seine [Landscape: Banks of the Seine] is scheduled to be auctioned at 10 a.m. on Sept. 29 by the Potomack Company, a fine arts and antiques auction gallery in Alexandria, Va. The painting is expected to sell for between $75,000 and $100,000.

Framed 'Paysage Bords de Seine' by Renoir

This is the part that hurts, though:

The unnamed woman told the auction house that she was “more interested in the frame than the landscape, and started taking it apart.”

The painting dates to 1870, after Renoir had relocated to Paris, but before the Communards tried to throw him into the Seine.

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Having been Schulzed

In Chapter 4 of The Sparkle Chronicles, the unicorn Twilight Sparkle, realizing that she’s starting to fall for an actual human character, asks him: “Oh, why couldn’t you have been a pony?”

It did not occur to me at the time that Charlie Brown, albeit for an entirely different reason, had once asked almost the same question of Snoopy:

Recolored Peanuts panel from 1965

Then again, that was way back in 1965. The color version you see here appeared 23 August 2012 — after the completion of The Sparkle Chronicles.

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Jacked-up silhouette

After a hiatus of several years, The Truth About Cars has reinstated the Ten Worst Automobiles Today awards, as selected by its user base, and as always, the conversation is spicy.

I single out this comment for being both wonderfully terse and highly specific. The target is Acura’s swoopy SUV-ish ZDX, which is:

A car designed by and for short women who love open-toed Jimmy Choo boots with 7″ heels.

Okay, 5″ heels. Be that way. Fortunately, these are rare, and so is the car: Acura struggles to sell 100 in a month nationwide.

And that wasn’t the only contributor working this angle, either:

If [the ZDX] actually was a rebadged Crosstour it would handle better and you wouldn’t need to be a five-foot, 90lb woman with a 34″ inseam to get into it.

Excuse me while I sigh.

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Who is this Ghanif?

Junk fax is more than annoying: it’s actually illegal in most cases.

Which didn’t keep me from getting this little abomination:

Junk fax

I suspect Samuel’s dad, the late John Atta Mills (1944-2012), would never have countenanced this sort of thing — or, for that matter, the (probably feigned) use of a Kazakhstani domain.

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Your first issue for 2016

The conservative — or anti-crony capitalist, anyway — argument for single-payer health care, in preference to whatever the hell it is we have now:

[It] would be more open and honest, with an easier to understand relation between inputs and outputs. Reasonably designed it would also almost certainly be simpler for the end-user. Meanwhile Obamacare commandeers a patchwork of insurance companies, who (therefore) become essentially yet more GSEs to distort the economy, their function being to launder the left’s socialist aims in opaque and rent-seeking ways, and also largely preserves the (dumb) connection between health care and employment. This gives the end user even more confusing bureaucracies to deal with from the IRS to the “exchanges” to their companies’ HR ladies just to see a doctor.

I once joked that I’d be in favor of single-payer, if that single payer were George Soros. At least, I think it was a joke.

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And still more on engine mounts

So I had two of the miserable beasties replaced, and things underhood were delightfully unbuzzy for about, oh, 75 miles.

Then, I’m thinking, the other mounts got jealous: “Hey, we want some attention too!” Like I have an extra thousand to lavish on them all of a sudden.

Some days it’s not worth even gnawing through the straps.

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Cheap stuff, Aisle 6

I’m not really sure what this wireless customer is all butthurt about:

She has tethering on her smartphone, which lets her use her phone as a mobile Internet hotspot. Yes, apps exist that can help you get around this limitation. Officially, if you want to tether, you generally have to pay for a data plan that includes it. [She] was paying for a $30/month plan, but learned that she was grandfathered in, and a cheaper plan existed. Sure, the cheaper plan only includes two gigabytes of data, but she never uses that much anyway. It costs $10 less. She wanted to alert her fellow Sprint customers to this change, and complain that the company didn’t let her know she had an opportunity to give them less money in exchange for capped data.

The $30 plan apparently included 5 GB.

Now my first thought is “Geez, you can look up plans ’til you’re blue in the face. Why didn’t you?” But this seems rather peremptory, so I’m willing to entertain other suggestions.

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Fark blurb of the week

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With charity toward Faith

“Sometimes,” said FYI news babe Corky Sherwood, “this body is such a curse.” (I loved that line so much I made a post title out of it.) Faith Ford, who turns 48 tomorrow, probably wouldn’t toss off a line like that anymore, but she hasn’t gone Full Matronly just yet:

Faith Ford at the Prom premiere

This shot dates from the spring of ’11, at the premiere of the Disney teen flick Prom, in which Ford plays mom to Aimee Teagarden, class president who is determined to make this year’s event the Best Prom Ever, despite minor problems like, oh, a fire in the shed where the decorations were stored.

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Corianderthal Man

You may be genetically hardwired to dislike cilantro:

Julia Child loathed the stuff, one in six Nature staff (informally surveyed) says it tastes of soap, and a popular website collects haiku poems denouncing it. Now, researchers are beginning to identify genetic variants behind the mixed reception for the herb Coriandrum sativum, which North American cooks know as cilantro, and their British counterparts call coriander.

Now the last time I had a really good taste of soap, I’d earned it, having said something unkind (and almost unprintable) about one of the kids in the neighborhood, so I’m not making the connection here, but then I wasn’t one of the research subjects:

[R]esearchers led by Nicholas Eriksson at the consumer genetics firm 23andMe, based in Mountain View, California, asked customers whether coriander tasted like soap and whether or not they liked the herb. The researchers identified two common genetic variants linked to people’s “soap” perceptions. A follow-up study in a separate sub-set of customers confirmed the associations.

(Via this syaffolee tweet. She “loves the stuff.”)

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Running Amox

So far as I know, I am allergic to exactly one substance on the face of the earth, and it’s this stuff:

Like a good little patient, I took the week’s work of Amoxicillin. Side effects: rising blood pressure, insomnia, mental confusion, stress.

None of those things is exactly new to me — my blood pressure is usually decently controlled unless I overdo the sodium or something — but I get some distinctive symptoms anyway: I break out in a red facial rash, like I’d spent half an hour trying to use an onion for aftershave, and my hands get unbelievably itchy, to the point that scalding water seems delightful by comparison.

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Howard the Doc

In a piece on why the Democrats ostensibly have “no bench,” Steve Sailer asks: “Whatever happened to Howard Dean?”

As you’ll recall, Dean was the Democratic frontrunner for all of 2003 due to his opposition to the Iraq war, but when he finished 3rd in Iowa and gave his supporters a high school coach-style war whoop to keep them motivated, he was immediately discarded in favor of the big stiff John Kerry. As a consolation prize after Kerry lost, the Democrats made Dean chairman of the party for 2005-2009, where he did, by all accounts, an excellent job, bringing his campaign’s Internet sophistication to the party in the service of tying the liberal base to the Democratic brand and helping the Democrats win the House in 2006 and 2008.

To me, Dr. Dean looks like the natural leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. I suspect other people think so, too, which may be why he’s on the shelf.

One of Sailer’s commenters suggested:

Dean pissed off some significant figures, including Rahm Emanuel, during his tenure at the DNC. And I think 60-something white guy is just not the direction the Dems are ever going to go for the foreseeable future.

Dean is 63. And I always figured his problem was anger management. Cam Edwards, now at NRANews.com but then a local radio guy, quipped: “I look at Howard Dean and see a guy who’s going to invade Mexico because Taco Bell got his order wrong.”

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Frontiers in synthetic oil

No, not for your engine. This is another oil entirely:

The olive oil you buy in the store is probably not olive oil. Back when olive oil got to be popular the Mafia got involved. Now what you get is canola oil colored with a little chlorophyll. You can tell the difference by putting it in the fridge. Real olive oil will coagulate, canola oil won’t. There is an outfit in Australia that tests olive oil. They started up a few years ago and so far they have not found any real olive oil.

Well, not a lot of it, anyway, and what they found often wasn’t all that great. Then again, I tend to get suspicious of stuff that can be sold for ten bucks a quart, even if it’s 5W-20.

(Normally this is where I would say something along the lines of “Popeye was not available for comment,” but there are times when I regret my keen grasp of the obvious, and this is one of them.)

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Semi-instant quasi-feedback

There’s a lot to be said for having the price posted right in front of you:

Quick — in your last fill up, how much did you pay for gas? About how many gallons did you use?

If you are like most people, you can probably come pretty close to this. I paid somewhere just north of $4.00 for about 18 gallons.

Shell V-Power, 9.9 gallons, $3.919 each.

OK, second set of questions: On your last electric bill, how much did you pay per KwH? How many KwH did it take to run your dishwasher last night?

Eight point four cents; and I don’t own a dishwasher.

Don’t know? I don’t think you are alone. I don’t know the answers to the last questions. Part of the reason is that gas prices are posted on every corner, and we stare at a dial showing us fuel used every time we fill up. There is nothing comparable for electricity — particularly for an electric car.

Well, electric meters are fairly easy to read, but you can’t single out any one item: even a so-called “smart” meter won’t tell you if it’s the fridge or the bedroom lamp or the security light that just kicked over a digit.

Addendum: New rates are in play as of the current electric bill, which only just arrived.

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Free the radicals!

Why, if it weren’t for free-radical polymerization in aqueous solution, we’d never have Orlon:

Orlon hosiery

This particular ad — by DuPont, which no longer produces acrylic fibers — appeared in the summer of 1966, just as people were noticing that kicks just keep getting harder to find.

(I turned 13 that year. Imagine how traumatic this was for me.)

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Not to be confused with “sembling”

Smitty has a neologism to offer:

The sense of the word prevaricate seems to be a sequence of fact distortion moving from false to true, as investigation drags facts to light.

Maybe one of the few genuine “accomplishments” of this administration is creation of a new form of lying: postvarication, where the truth is served up for the target audience, and then a pile of hooey follows for the purported rubes. Postvarication goes from true to false.

Not that this necessarily replaces the old forms of lying, which are still getting plenty of use on both sides of the aisle, but hey — progress!

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Isn’t it great?

A lesson in self-acceptance, inspired by the wiser-than-we-thought Derpy Hooves:

This is here mostly because I need it from time to time.

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A lot of Fridays ago

One of the things I do in my not-exactly-copious free time is field Rebecca Black questions on Yahoo! Answers. For the first time in quite a while, my standard search criteria (opened in the last three days, unresolved) produced no results yesterday.

Not much going on, in other words, though she’s unearthed a couple of photographs from when she was very young and then Instagrammed them. (Is that even a word?) This shot is almost terminally cute.

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Pung

Every single time a track comes up in iTunes, a little Ping button appears, suggesting that I share the existence of this track with the rest of the world. Not once did I ever do so, which of course explains why it’s dead:

Introduced at a September 2010 Apple event as “a social network for music,” Ping never really caught on with music-listeners. A kerfuffle with Facebook over sharing activity may have doomed Ping from the start: Facebook blocked access to Ping, which made it impossible to find Facebook friends who were also using Ping.

The Zuckerborg Collective will apparently not be resisted.

Ironically, Ping will be replaced with deep Facebook integration in iTunes 11. When that version of iTunes becomes available in October, you’ll be able to see whenever your Facebook friends “Like” an artist, song or album on iTunes.

Finally, a persuasive argument for Winamp.

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The Gas Game resumes

After a one-year hiatus, Oklahoma Natural Gas has decided to reinstate the Voluntary Fixed-Price Plan, which freezes the Cost of Gas section of one’s bill for twelve months, this time at $4.257 per dekatherm. My long-time readers may recall that this program was first offered in the fall of 2005, with a price of $8.393; I spurned it, and wound up paying out over $60 for having done so, over half of it in one single horrible month.

Last posted price was $4.934, so I’m tempted, especially since we have no way of knowing when they contracted to buy this gas, though the spot price of late has been well below $3, which suggests to me that those contracts are probably two years old and the posted price likely won’t drop below $4.257 until next summer, when I really won’t give much of a damn because the Cost of Gas will make up maybe ten percent of the actual gas bill.

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In fact, just don’t leave home

Nice little fake payment confirmation in the inbox yesterday, pretending to be from American Express:

Bogus payment confirmation from American Express

I’m pretty sure I didn’t send Amex $4,564.29. I’m also pretty sure yesterday wasn’t Tuesday. All the links in this thing go to a domain in the Netherlands which is reported as “compromised.”

Addendum: Speaking of Amex, an expired card used (and signed) by Michael Jordan is going up for auction.

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At a thousand words apiece

I was scrolling down the front page last night, and thought to myself, Geez, this is a whole lot more graphic content than I used to have, isn’t it?

So I went back ten years, to September of 2002, the first full month of something resembling a content-management system on site — for the six years before that, everything here was coded by hand — and glanced at every single post that month. Number of photos, pictures and embedded whatevers in those thirty days: zero.

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Girl with a Fender

The 16th of this month marks the 51st birthday of Bilinda Butcher of the alt-rock/shoegaze/whatever band My Bloody Valentine, seen here in a shot from Coachella ’09:

Bilinda Butcher

No mention of MBV would be complete without 1991’s “Only Shallow,” the closest they came to a hit in the States, with vocals and rhythm by Butcher and strange guitar noises by Kevin Shields. This song has only grown on me over the years.

(This is the single edit; the track on the Loveless album runs about half a minute longer.)

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Big Brother gets siblings

WaPo blogger Mike Rosenwald finds this just a little hard to believe:

This is 100 percent One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest crazy. But true. It has to be true: My brain is not sophisticated enough to create something so meta and surreal from scratch.

WTOP’s Ari Ashe is reporting that Prince George’s County [Maryland] is mounting cameras to monitor its traffic cameras. This comes following a half dozen incidents of vandalism and general meanness toward the cameras in the county.

A camera was actually shot with a gun. Another was set on fire. Those attacks mark a step up in looniness from a man who allegedly fired glass marbles at a Howard County traffic camera earlier this summer.

One camera monitoring a camera is already up. Ashe reports a dozen more are planned.

This surprises me less than you think it might: I hear lots of horror stories about PG County, and, well, not taking kindly to traffic regulation is hardly a Beltway phenomenon. On a World Tour a decade ago, I was climbing through northwest Tennessee to the Kentucky Bend, and noted that “the bullet-holes-to-traffic-sign ratio [was] about 12 to 1.”

Note: Working title for this piece was “3936256,” which of course is 1984 squared.

(Via Autoblog.)

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The return of the Band of ’59

Way back in 1997, I brought up this curious bit of musical history:

It was August 1959, and the Los Angeles-based musical group known as Big Daddy had finally wangled a recording contract. Their manager, wanting to give the waxing as much of a push as possible, got the band booked on a USO tour of Southeast Asia, hoping for some positive publicity. Unfortunately, the United States had no military involvement in Southeast Asia in 1959, or so the official story said, and therefore the publicity value of the tour would have turned out to be nil — had the band come back at all, which it hadn’t.

Or something like that. Anyway, when the band was ostensibly released by the Chicoms in 1983, still owing one album on their contract, they sought out new material to cover; but, not having heard anything since the 1950s, they duly played it in exactly that style.

As legends go, this is marked by both moderate bogosity and high entertainment value: Big Daddy would go on to record several albums, including a complete (well, perhaps excluding the 20-kHz tone in the runout groove) reimagining of Sgt. Pepper’s, all done in their patented pre-British Invasion style. (An example is this Elvisoid R&B take on a too-familar Sting number.)

Inevitably, rock stars turn to show tunes, and Big Daddy has turned to Kickstarter to help finance a new album, to be called Smashing Songs of Stage and Screen. I, of course, could not resist plugging it here.

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It’s a small brothel after all

A woman hands a book to the librarian. Only it’s not one of the library’s books:

She pulls out of her bag a beaten-up copy of Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho.

Lady: “You are a young girl. You are not an old fogey. Therefore I am not intimidated to tell you what the book is about.”

She leans over and whispers, “It’s … all … pornography.

[Librarian]: “Oh…my.”

Lady: “Do you know why men visit prostitutes?”

[Librarian]: “I don’t…I’m not really…”

Lady: “It’s not about sex. You’d be surprised.”

The librarian duly tweets about the experience.

Which tweet is promptly retweeted — by Paulo Coehlo.

Tipping her hat to this review — okay, I don’t know if she actually ever wears a hat, but work with me here — she announces that she’s going to read the book, once the library’s own copy is returned from loan.

Which got me thinking: do we, here in the Big Sanitary, have this book in our library? Yes, we do: two copies, one at the branch nearest to me, neither of them checked out at the moment.

Maybe I need to read this book, just to keep the momentum going. And no, it’s not pornography.

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Bill, George, anything but Sue

Getting a legal name change in this neck of the woods is convoluted but not complex: you fill in the forms [pdf], you arrange for a Legal Notice to be published, you appear before the judge, and once he signs off, you go to the Department of Public Safety for a new driver’s license. All this happens in a month or so.

The major exception to this rule is (1) if you’re transitioning M2F and (2) you are unfortunate enough to be assigned to the court of Judge Bill Graves, who will not approve name changes for trans women:

The judge in [a] 2011 order gave three specific reasons against allowing name changes in transgender cases.

He wrote it could result in someone unwittingly marrying a person “who appeared to be of the opposite sex but was actually of the same sex.”

He wrote it also could hinder crime investigations — causing police officers searching for a male based on DNA evidence to ignore a potential suspect the officers believed was female.

He wrote it also could let someone circumvent the state’s prohibitions against same-sex marriage.

Technically, this would also block F2M transitioners, but Graves has yet to encounter one; the two he’s refused so far were M2F.

The legal forms require the applicant to state that no fraudulent purposes is intended; Graves’ rulings have been based on his idea that sexual reassignment is by definition fraudulent. The first ruling is being appealed.

(Title, of course, by Shel Silverstein.)

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