Archive for June 2013

Quote of the week

To set this up, here’s a WaPo headline: “Baby boomers are killing themselves at an alarming rate, raising question: Why?”

Now if you look at that URL, you’ll discover that in place of “raising” is the word “begging,” which is not what’s being done here, although “begging the question” is seriously misunderstood as a concept of late. As to “Why,” though, I can quote you the opinion of Vox Day:

The generation that has had to put up with the vagaries of the Baby Boomers for literally its entire existence knows very well why they are killing themselves at an unusually high rate. It is because Baby Boomers are disproportionately inclined to be narcissistic, selfish, short-sighted, superficial bastards who don’t give a damn about anything except themselves, and they are psychologically incapable of grasping the basic concepts of mortality or graceful old age… The realization that 65 is not, in fact, the new 18, and they really and truly are not cool anymore, is simply proving too much for them to bear.

Having never been cool, I’m having less trouble with the concepts of mortality and/or graceful old age.

Still, there’s an upside, according to Day:

Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to think Generation X is actually inclined to celebrate these rampant Boomer suicides. It doesn’t fill us with glee to know they are offing themselves en masse, merely a modicum of appreciation for the first positive and non-selfish consequences their generation’s actions have ever produced. Say what you will about them, but at least they are saving us an amount of effort.

Although I have to look at this in connection with a popular whine among Boomer kids, many years ago: “I didn’t ask to be born!”

The proper response, of course, is “If you had, the answer would have been No.” Day, I think, could appreciate that.

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For those who think younger

I knew next to nothing about Kidstock, which is an annual fundraiser for the Scholars Program at One Voice LA. (I did wonder if they licensed the -stock name from the owners of the Woodstock trademark; they did.) But Angie Harmon mentioned being there, and, well, there’s always a good reason to check out what Angie Harmon is doing.

In this particular instance, she’s wearing something you might conceivably see on someone one-third her age:

Angie Harmon at Kidstock June 2013

And, I submit, rocking it.

On her own, she posted this shot, which reminds me that she’s bringing up three very lovely girls. (There’s even video.)

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The boy who would be Queen

Elizabeth I, on the occasion of her accession to the English throne:

And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so shall I desire you all … to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth.

This is in accordance with the political theology of the time, which called for the monarch to be both an individual person and the embodiment of the aspirations of the nation.

An American author is now suggesting that there’s a wholly different body involved:

The bones of Elizabeth I, Good Queen Bess, lie mingled with those of her sister, Bloody Mary, in a single tomb at Westminster Abbey. But are they really royal remains — or evidence of the greatest conspiracy in English history?

If that is not the skeleton of Elizabeth Tudor, the past four centuries of British history have been founded on a lie.

Steve Berry, author of The King’s Deception (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2013), suggests that the real Elizabeth died at age ten, and was replaced by a stand-in:

[T]here was a boy, from a local family called Neville. He was a gawky, angular youth a year or so younger than Elizabeth, who had been the princess’s companion and fellow pupil for the past few weeks. And with no time to look further afield for a stand-in, [Thomas] Parry and Lady [Kat] Ashley took the desperate measure of forcing the boy to don his dead friend’s clothes.

Remarkably, the deception worked. Henry [VIII] saw his daughter rarely, and was used to hearing her say nothing. The last time she had been presented in court, meeting the new Queen Catherine Parr, she had been trembling with terror.

Noting that a DNA test had been run on the remains of Richard III, found recently under a car park in Leicester, Berry wants the joint tomb popped open and the bones analyzed. I suspect he will not get his wish.

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They responded with Snickers

Three firms are being charged by Canada’s Competition Bureau with illegal price-fixing:

The bureau uncovered evidence suggesting that Nestlé Canada Inc., Mars Canada Inc. and ITWAL Limited, a network of wholesale distributors, conspired, agreed or arranged to fix prices of Canadian chocolate products — a criminal offence under the Competition Act.

The Canadians, you may be sure, do things differently:

Three individuals were also charged: Robert Leonidas, former President of Nestlé Canada; Sandra Martinez, former President of Confectionery for Nestlé Canada; and David Glenn Stevens, President and CEO of ITWAL.

Said individuals face up to five years in le slammer and/or fines up to $10 million. American corporate types engaged in such things generally get a slap on the wrist, and often as not, they get their choice of which wrist gets slapped.

And if one big name in chocolate is missing, there’s a reason for that:

A fourth company, Hershey’s Canada, has also been implicated; however, because it cooperated in the investigation, the bureau is recommending it receive lenient treatment.

That concept, at least, the Americans understand.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Meeting the road

Now that I have the correct size in place, I got to put some test miles on those new tires, and so far, they’re performing as expected. You may remember this particular experiment:

The ramp from I-44 eastbound to I-35 southbound, which I use five days a week, sometimes six, is about a 75-degree curve that I routinely take at 60 mph unless it’s wet or the 6:30ish traffic doesn’t permit. (I’m going from a road where the speed limit is 60 to a road where the speed limit is, um, 60, so 60 seems like the most logical speed.) In fact, I consider this a test of car and/or tires: if there’s any squeal, it’s a fail.

As fast as I was willing to go on those old Dunlops was 66 mph, and the results were just this side of scary. The first trial of the Coopers yielded a satisfactory 61-mph run; I think they might go 62, maybe 63, but I won’t know that until tomorrow morning at the earliest. The Traction rating is A, which sounds good enough, though the Dunlops were AA. (I don’t touch anything with a B.)

In terms of noise, the nod goes to Cooper, but only slightly; I wasn’t carrying a sound-level meter, but my seat-of-the-pants estimate — I was wearing pants — is about 1.5-2 dB quieter. (By which I mean, it’s more than 1, which is barely noticeable, but less than 3, which is obvious to everyone.) And now I can quit wondering if maybe it was the wheel bearings making all that racket.

The major gain, though, is in ride quality. The Coopers carry an H speed rating (130 mph), suitable for the mission of this vehicle. (The first Car and Driver review of the model contained a top-speed figure of 131 mph. I have not tried to get within, um, let’s say 20, of that.) The Dunlops were V (149 mph), which might have been overkill; certainly the sidewalls were stiffer, and every slight, or not so slight, irregularity in the road surface was duly transmitted to the interior. The upside of that was the creation of some artificial steering feel; the helm has now returned to its original factory numbness. Then again, my personal benchmark for steering feel is my old Toyota Celica, which actually had some of it, what with its complete lack of power assist; I have recorded no seat time in, for instance, an early 911.

So for now, I’m content, and will probably remain so until my bank statement comes out, a couple weeks from now.

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I don’t want to imagine what’s second

This appeared in my tweetstream identified as “Best Amazon.com book review ever.” No way could I ignore a claim like that. I assumed the book was probably not so good, and, well, let’s put it this way:

I took one for the team, so the rest of you would NEVER have to be subjected to this beast. I beg you, don’t let my selflessness be for nothing. Heed my warning. This is the worst book ever written.

And in 1400 words he makes a case for it being exactly that, though the book’s 1.8-star rating suggests that somebody must have liked it.

The author in question wrote another novel and a collection of short stories, which latter drew this response from a different reviewer:

This is a collection of gory, violent, chaotic, obscenity-laced, essentially plotless short stories about worthless, self-destructive people who like stabbing and torturing each other. They read like they were scrawled on the walls of a crack house, but hey, structurally at least, they’re an improvement over [his] other books.

(With thanks, I guess, to Julie R. Neidlinger.)

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On the road to Ponyville

Not quite the same as being on the road to Damascus — but perhaps more similar than you might think.

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Strange search-engine queries (384)

Monday morning means another batch of weird search strings received here at the site, scrutinized by the National Security Agency, and published in the hopes of garnering cheap laffs.

cross stitch patter song notes sexy sadie:  Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my knitters.

upholstery downholstery:  All around the townholstery.

a c an e-flat and a g walk into a bar. the bartender says sorry, but we don’t serve minors:  And that’s when all the treble started.

extend nissan leaf range:  Go downhill a lot.

netgeo I didn’t know that. Johnny About bra images:  Johnny was just like the rest of us: he’d give a year’s pay for a peek under there.

Suppose that nine-digit Social security numbers are assigned at random. If you randomly select a number, what is the probability that it belongs:  Ask the NSA. They’ve probably already looked it up.

dodie smith klothes that klank:  Made of some new mirakle kloth, I suppose.

BMW 750IL does not go in reverse:  What do you care? You didn’t buy it to drive; you bought it to be seen in.

emily brooks contortionist:  Oh, she left a message for you: “Get bent.”

beastly squirrel porn:  You mean like this?

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Not a laughing matter

The Guardian’s Sam Leith doesn’t see the humor in LOL:

In the last decade it has effortlessly overtaken “The cheque’s in the post” and “I love you” as the most-often-told lie in human history. Out loud? Really? And, to complicate things, people are now saying LOL out loud, which is especially banjaxing since you can’t simultaneously say “LOL” and laugh aloud unless you can laugh through your arse. Or say “LOL” through your arse, I suppose, which makes a sort of pun because, linguistically speaking, LOL is now a form of phatic communication. See what I did there? Mega-LOL!

Bonus points for “banjaxing.” As it happens, “banjaxed” is an Irish term for “broken or unusable, usually by result of violent damage.” (Admittedly, I JFGI’ed.)

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Striver’s license

The Bodacious Beaters series by Phil Coconis hits both Phil and me close to home this time around:

This time the subject is the very first car I ever owned — and it was one of these: a 1966 Chevy II Super Sport with 283 cubic inches of Bowtie Smallblock under the hood, and the venerable two-speed aluminum Powerglide under the SS console shifter!

Now step down a level or two and you have the very first car I ever owned: that selfsame Chevy II without the Super Sport credentials or the console shifter, but with the Powerglide, shifted from the column, and with Chevy’s boat anchor 230 straight six.

Still, this much we had in common:

Yes, it wasn’t particularly quick or fast — that Powerglide definitely not helping the cause in either department — and it didn’t handle anything like a sporting-type of car — although the lame “mono leaf” rear springs did provide a rather “jouncy” and otherwise unbalanced ride — but I just contented myself to crank up the in-dash stereo and cruise it.

Which I did, once I’d added a proper stereo — though I eventually mounted it on the hump where the shifter wasn’t, leaving the factory AM in place, and cut a hole for a second speaker. And the interior of the II, in Nova trim, wasn’t too unpleasant, although the seats were slicker than owl snot and the dash was liberally festooned with things to puncture you if something hit you head-on.

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Windswept

And still stylish:

Archer Hosiery ad from late 1930s

This is generally believed to be a 1956 advertisement. (The fact that it’s on page 56 is presumably a coincidence.) Archer Mills had merged with Wayne Knitting Mills (which in turn was owned by Munsingwear) back in 1940. And Vanity Fair was shut down and incorporated into Vogue in 1936, only to be spun off again in 1983.

About 2007, I flipped this and used it for a CD cover.

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In defense of education spending

Miss Cellania says she spotted this on Buzzfeed:

Sign about school levies

I’m just going to assume the poster of the original sign wasn’t Jewish.

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To those emerging from darkness

Smitty has advice. He who has ears, let him hear:

[T]o all of the new Tea Party folks, let me pass on a warning: the two ears, one mouth rule applies. There is much to learn about the sordid realities of our government, as it’s deviated well off course. Relax. Focus the passion on sober, positive deeds that advance the Constitutional ball. Screaming about Barack Obama’s Martian birth certificate and obvious status as a High Priest of Cthulhu is ONLY ABETTING HIM.

I have no idea if mentioning Doug Mataconis, who is cited in Smitty’s post title, will cause him to suddenly materialize, in the manner of Kibo or Dave Sifry or even Conor Friedersdorf, but we shall see.

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Which way is it going?

This came out last year, but things haven’t changed all that much except for a few more bright pixels:

Tornado tracks through 2012

Notes from John Nelson of IDV Solutions, who put this together:

Got this data from NOAA via the spectacular Data.gov. It tracks 56 years of tornado paths along with a host of attribute information. Here, the tracks are categorized by their F-Scale (which isn’t the latest and greatest means but good enough for a hack like me), where brighter strokes represent more violent storms.

Also from Nelson: earthquakes since 1898, major fires since 2001, and hurricanes since 1851. Obviously we need to get off this planet entirely before it kills us all.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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Rubber repossessed

I winced when I wrote the check for those tires the other day — the wrong side of $700, it was — but I take comfort in the fact that I could have done a whole lot worse:

Rent-to-own tire shops are among the newest arrivals to a sprawling alternative financial sector focused on the nation’s economic underclass. Like payday lenders, pawn shops and Buy Here Pay Here used-car lots, tire rental businesses provide ready credit to consumers who can’t get a loan anywhere else.

And, just like those other operations, they work on massive margins:

[A] couple last September agreed to pay Rent-N-Roll $54.60 a month for 18 months in exchange for four basic Hankook tires. Over the life of the deal, that works out to $982, almost triple what the radials would have cost at Wal-Mart.

Still, if you have to scrape to get $14 a week, and there have been times when I have had to, what else can you do? Used tires? Bus passes?

(Via Outside the Beltway.)

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Wait a minute

There was a short Monty Python song called “I Like Traffic Lights,” sung by a character who was named something other than Bamber. Not everyone, however, is so enthusiastic about them:

I don’t like traffic lights. They are so sloooooowwwwww. I have learned to cope by counting the seconds I have to wait. I find that most of the lights at big intersections run on a one minute cycle. These are the ones where you have dedicated left turn lanes and signals, so you have four groups taking turns. Occasionally you will run into a big intersection, like one with five or six points that runs closer to two minutes. Counting the seconds gives me something to do until light turns green. I will have a bill for the traffic gods when I die.

Personally, I think the light should count the seconds for you:

This installation is located, says the video provider, in Chiayi City in southwestern Taiwan.

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Not so much as a Flickr of hope

I haven’t taken the changes at Flickr too badly, perhaps because I am a fairly light user of the service, my Pro status (which may be in jeopardy presently) notwithstanding. By contrast, Newton of Infinite Hollywood declares that it sucks:

The new Flickr is supposed to be a place where you post up all your random, pointless photos. The original Flickr gave you information on the camera used, aperture, shutter settings and allowed you to interact with the photographer to learn more. These options still appear in the new and “improved” Flickr, but they’re buried away because they aren’t flashy enough.

In terms of random, pointless photos, Flickr will never be able to compete with Instagram.

In terms of usability:

The old layout of Flickr wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but it was very functional. It wasn’t broken, so it certainly didn’t need fixing. But Yahoo has made sure that the new layout is super sleek and fancy. Unfortunately this also comes at the cost of slower loading times (to the point that apparently users with even slightly sluggish internet speeds can barely use the site) and almost zero functionality. Many of the old options are there, but they’re scattered throughout a clunky interface that’s designed to dazzle you, not help you.

And the search function is hosed, says JenX67:

I needed a picture of scattered feathers with the Creative Commons License. On the old Flickr, this would have been easy to find. But, before I even looked for such an image on the new Flickr, I decided it would (1) take less time to buy a bag of feathers and (2) photograph my kids scattering them and (3) clean up the entire mess than it would take to sift through the colossal junk that has become Flickr.

On a, you should pardon the expression, hunch, I checked in with Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr back in the Old Silurian times. She hadn’t a word to say about it, blogwise.

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You could have just asked

The Daily Mail comes up with another humdinger:

It won’t come as a surprise to most females that men mature later than women, but new research has pinpointed the exact age that boys mature completely as 43 — 11 whole years after women.

The study into the differences in maturity between genders revealed both men and women agree that males remain ‘immature’ well into their late 30s and early 40s. By contrast, the average age at which women mature is just 32.

Of course, your mileage may vary. I must, of course, point out that this particular study was paid for by the UK outpost of the television network Nickelodeon, which doesn’t exactly seek suave and sophisticated viewers.

And does this mean I should look for a mate 11 years my junior? I didn’t think so.

(Via Fark.)

Addendum: Now what could I possibly have done in my forty-third year to transform myself into a Mature Adult? Oh, yeah, right.

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Pass the Bufferin

Oh, wow! Streaming audio from the iTunes Store! There’s just one iFly in the iOintment:

It seems iTunes may dip into social media like Facebook or Twitter to see what you like and they say it’s to see which artists you like and don’t like so they can build a proper playlist for you, but we all know where it’s going. Selective marketing. You can buy any track you like immediately off iTunes Radio which isn’t a bad thing as long as the money gets to the artist. The problem here lies with the ads. The iTunes software is already resource heavy on machines in comparison to VLC Player or even the XBMC. Now take a resource heavy client and add in a live music stream and ads to follow every second song. It’s like taking a pack mule that is loaded with all your gear and sit on it expecting it to take you up the mountain.

Okay, it’s not a fly, it’s a mule. Either way, it’s bound to be stubbornly annoying — or annoyingly stubborn.

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Sympathy given

Musician Emily Haines wears several hats, though the one that brought her to my attention was the one she wears as lead singer and keyboardist for the Canadian band Metric. Here she is, not wearing a hat at all:

Emily Haines photo by f_mafra

This particular song, from Metric’s 2009 album Fantasies, has been creeping into my subconscious for several weeks now, though I didn’t hunt down the video until last night. It’s at least somewhat incomprehensible, as is the song itself, but I’m fine with that, and as usual, I’m amazed at what can be done in a single shot.

Why “Metric”? Emily explains to Spin:

“[Bandmate] Jimmy [Shaw] had a song that involved a sound he’d programmed into his keyboard and called ‘Metric.’ When we saw that word on the keyboard’s LED screen it looked so electro. It had a no bullshit vibe. It was a little cold and standoffish and we’re down with that. It works for us. Some people think it has something to do with the fact that we’re from Canada — which uses the metric system. That was coincidental, though at the time we were into arty electronic stuff that was coming out of European countries that also use the metric system. But if we’d wanted to use a name that evoked Canada, we would’ve called ourselves the Toques or something.”

Besides, there’s a band called The Toques, from, um, northern Arizona.

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Plate tech ‘tronics

It’s tentatively called the “e-tag” — a name there’s still plenty of time to change — and South Carolina is contemplating putting such things on cars as a method of tormenting scofflaws:

[T]he tags would be electronically linked to the DMV, so if a driver’s license has been suspended or his insurance has lapsed, the DMV would send a signal to the license plate. The word “SUSPENDED” or “UNINSURED” would appear on the license plate.

If your car is stolen, the DMV could make the tag read “STOLEN”. The state could also use the tags during Amber Alerts or other emergencies.

I figure this system will be hacked approximately 90 minutes after the first deployment of tags.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Beyond the blue Verizon

Here’s another one of those dadburn dilemmas with horns:

I have a phone I hate.

It’s glitchy and horrible and dumb and I hate it. However, I have a service that I like. 4G coverage, unlimited data, usually works yadayadda.

It escalates from that point, and winds up here:

Do I replace this stoopid hated glitchy phone I have now by using insurance and paying a $100 deductible for the same stoopid hated probably still glitchy phone because Verizon claims that the scratches on the phone have invalidated the warranty? (They made a similar claim invalidating my warranty when my Droid X got bricked by their stoopid ice cream update two years ago. I hate them SOOO much, yet I know they have the best coverage in America. ARRGGHHH.)

Be grateful. Had it been AT&T, they’d have charged you a Bricking Fee for accepting the update in the first place.

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Pockets of cootie resistance

In my capacity as a person who knows some actual female gamers, I did manage to pick up on this:

Now I’m not a big fan of the “We Must Have Our Own Role Models!” shtick; but this woman got totally dumped on in the crudest and crassest manner possible, and I’m not a fan of that sort of thing at all.

Lara Croft was not available for comment.

Disclosure: I have purchased and played — and won at — exactly one game with a female protagonist. This, of course, was long before my plunge into the ponyverse.

(Via Fark.)

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And the number of the gigs shall be two

Can’t tell if trolling or too dumb to have a smartphone:

2GB data plan. how many gigs is this. I have AT&T

I’m tempted to say something like “Being as how it’s AT&T, probably 1.8.”

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Like Berle, if Berle could rebound

About fifteen months ago, which in NBA terms is about a quarter-century, Tim Duncan didn’t suit up for some Spurs game because he was old. Really. Said so in the box score.

I have to figure, though, that Methuselah Jr. shrugged it off; the man clearly has a sense of humor. Jeff McDonald, on the Spurs beat for the San Antonio Express-News, sent this up yesterday:

Tim Duncan explains Spurs’ game plan vs. LeBron this way: “We’re guarding him with five guys.”

Also yesterday, Royce Young of Daily Thunder tweeted this:

Tim Duncan was asked what he would hate most about the spotlight the Heat get, the second-guessing, the over-coverage, etc. Answer: “Yes.”

I hope I’m that funny when I get that old.

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24-pin salute

When I was a lad, we had only nine pins, and we liked it:

According to research firm NPD, Americans bought just less than 20,000 brand-new dot matrix printers in 2012. You can still find an entire channel on Amazon.com for dot matrix printers with pricing starting at a lofty $205, more than double the least expensive inkjet.

So why would anyone want to use the best printing technology of 1983 in 2013? Apparently, many point-of-sale, warehouse inventory and other business systems still require carbon copy and multipart forms that work only with the hard impact of a dot matrix printhead and its continuous tractor feed. And, really, who can blame businesses for not modernizing their processes to use inkjet, laser or thermal printing? They’ve only had a couple of decades to think about it.

How about “The next level up is severely retarded and insists on multipart forms”? Does that work for you? Because it’s a reality for me.

And you’d be surprised how fast the least expensive inkjet goes through $205 worth of replacement cartridges — unless, of course, you own one.

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For which I claim full credit

Last week, I bought a set of shiny new Cooper CS4 tires for Gwendolyn, and industrialists in India were evidently watching:

India’s Apollo Tyres [will] acquire Cooper, of Findlay, Ohio, for about $2.5 billion, or $35 a share. That would be a 43% premium to Cooper’s Tuesday close at $24.56.

Apollo is reported to be the 15th largest tire manufacturer worldwide, and Cooper the 11th; the combined company will rank seventh.

The sensible part of this deal, if you ask me — and why should you? — is that the existing Apollo and Cooper markets have hardly any overlap: Apollo does most of its business in India, and Cooper is almost entirely American-based, though it does own the British firm Avon Tyres.

Note: Not intended as an attempt to sell securities.

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Quote of the week

John Naughton in the Guardian, on the cost of those “free” online services:

When the history of our time comes to be written, people will marvel at the way that billions of people were seduced into the kind of one-sided agreements they have struck with outfits such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. In the case of Facebook, the historical analogy that comes immediately to mind is sharecropping — the agricultural system in which a landowner allowed tenants to use his land in return for a share of the crops produced on it and which was once a staple of the southern states of the US. Its virtual equivalent is the Facebook system: a billion people till Master Zuckerberg’s land, creating all the content that is then harvested by him and his advertiser buddies. The only difference is that on Facebook the sharecroppers don’t get any share of the proceeds. They’re just croppers.

And here’s the really weird bit: the croppers are absurdly pleased with their lot. They get to post photographs of themselves drunk, sober, recumbent and upside-down. They get to “Like” their friends’ jokes and status updates and to organise parties and social events without having to use obsolete media such as email. And in the process they “pay” for this entertainment with their privacy and their personal data, apparently without batting an eyelid. Like I said: weird.

One assumes that these folks are happy with the deal. Now if the Big Zuckowski puts together an archive that barfs your status updates back at you exactly twenty years later — well, a little mortification is good for the soul.

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Finally, an argument for smartphones

Or a potential argument, anyway, pending this particular development:

“I’ve wanted someone to create a Taser app for some time now,” I said to the rest of the group. “It would be something you’d download on a friend’s phone unbeknownst to them. Then, you could Taser them by using the control portion of the app at your end. Most people carry their cell phones on their person. It would work, though be quite a battery drain.”

“It sounds like you’ve been giving this some thought.”

“Yes. I think many people would be interested in it.”

Really, the only way this could be better is if you could download it to a non-friend’s phone by pointing it in his general direction while he’s standing there demonstrating why he’s not your friend.

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Finally, another argument for smartphones

Last month, post-Chávez Venezuela, apparently in no better condition than pre-post-Chávez Venezuela, ran out of toilet paper and had to import several million rolls in what may be reasonably described as a hurry.

Supplies are still short, and there’s still plenty of caca in Caracas, but now there’s an app for that:

The new programme, launched last week, uses crowdsourcing technology to enable users to let each other know which supermarkets still have stocks of the tissue.

Called Abasteceme — “Supply Me” in English — the free Android app has already been downloaded more than 12,000 times.

Fausta reminds us:

Think about the wasted manpower and talent in a country where the government’s mismanagement has caused the country to run out of toilet paper.

Then again, this is what Comrade Hugo aspired to: a blending of the best of the old Soviet Union and the new-ish Zimbabwe.

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Switching lanes

How low-budget was the video for “Friday”? It was shot at Rebecca Black’s home in Anaheim Hills, with prop expenditures of approximately zero.

Except that while announcing that the family is moving out, she admitted that the bus stop was fake.

I think I speak for everyone here when I say “Duh.”

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It’s past, but is it prologue?

The dextrosphere seems interested in stirring up a tempest about this revelation:

The former host of “Erotica Night” at a Baltimore bookstore will be the first-ever female No. 2 official at the CIA… 20 years ago, [Avril Danica] Haines opened and co-owned Adrian’s Book Café in the Baltimore waterfront neighborhood of Fells Point. She opened Adrian’s after dropping out of a graduate program in physics at Johns Hopkins University. The store featured regular “Erotica Nights.” including dinner and a series of readings by guests of published work or their own prose, according to a 1995 report in the Baltimore Sun; couples could attend for $30, while singles paid $17.

Color me unimpressed, though not so much as Kathy Shaidle is:

Shouldn’t we be thrilled that at least this broad ran a business of some kind once, unlike 90% of Obama staffers and appointees?

Based on that consideration, Haines, rather than John Kerry’s brother, should be running Commerce.

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Call me Ishkabibble

This should end well:

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute is working on a new ebook DRM dubbed SiDiM that would prevent piracy by changing the actual text of a story, swapping out words to make individualized copies that could be tracked by the original owner of the ebook.

Reports about the work first popped up on German blogs this week, with one blogger revealing examples that include changing wordings like “invisible” to “not visible” and “unhealthy” to “not healthy.” Other examples included sentences in which the order of words was changed, or in which hyphens were added to words.

I have to figure that Fraunhofer, the inventor of MP3 file compression, knows its way around a digital file — but any lock can be broken. Then again, this isn’t technically a lock.

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Meanwhile in Smallville

Have you learned nothing, Clark Kent?

Seriously? Someone who has lived in Kansas for their entire life says “Hide under the underpass” when the tornado is coming? Seriously?

And you can’t use the excuse that you were trolling General Zod, either.

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Meanwhile in Largeville

Jack Baruth, like me “a lumbering elephant among sleek greyhounds,” has finally figured out why the semi-supersized men’s wear is always sold out:

[S]omewhere, in a deep bunker, there’s a Secret Cabal Of Chunky Clothes Horses. A room full of 240-pound, six-foot-two men, laughing, joking, comparing their newest Kiton jackets and Zanella pants. And whenever something in their size comes up for sale, they act in a coordinated manner to sweep the entire inventory off the shelves in minutes. They’re great guys, these Star Chamber hiphopapotamuses, able to tell the difference between Super 120s and Super 180s with a flick of the thumb, always interested in full-thickness mother-of-pearl buttons and sterling-silver collar stays, tucking Marol shirts into their spreading waistlines and using Alden alligator belts to cinch up the resulting mess. They’re always one step ahead of me, laughing as I pick up the stuff they’re too sophisticated or tasteful to buy.

I’d like to think I’d balk at paying $300 for Zanella pants, though I wonder what it’s going to be like when Nordstrom opens its Rack not quite two miles from me.

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Brand distention

“In whose world,” asks Gael of Pop Culture Junk Mail, “did this sound like a good idea?”

Watermelon Oreo

To get this to work for me, Nestlé is going to have to update Nesquik, the milk-flavoring powder formerly known as Nestlé’s Quik, with a Fried Chicken flavor.

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Silverton in orange

From closing night at this year’s Festival de Télévision de Monte Carlo, we bring you Bitsie Tulloch, who plays Juliette Silverton in the NBC series Grimm. I haven’t gotten an ID on the dress yet, but boy, is it orange.

Bitsie Tulloch in Monte Carlo

Around the 22nd of November, you can see Bitsie in Parkland, a Peter Landesman film set in and around the Dallas hospital of that name shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. She’s playing Abraham Zapruder’s receptionist, who helped him with his 8mm movie camera when the ill-fated motorcade came through Dealey Plaza, and who was later called as a witness during the investigation. Zapruder, you should know, is played by Paul Giamatti.

(With thanks to Go Fug Yourself.)

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Four legs better

If you ask me, the colossal joke about Equestria Girls, the mostly-human theatrical spinoff from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is that it’s been booked in exactly one moviehouse in the entire state. In Stillwater, for Celestia’s sake.

Not that I’m thinking the film is going to be terrible or anything. Some extraordinarily talented folks brought us MLP:FiM, and by and large they’re the same folks behind EqG. So I’d expect, at the very least, technical proficiency throughout, and several really spiffy scenes.

National media, by and large, have been hostile, as they have been for all three seasons of the television series, mostly because they profess to be horrified that there is an audience for it outside the target market, by which they mean, um, guys. They’ll forgive the adult women in the fandom, maybe, but woe unto you, bearers of the Y chromosome. (I once called out Breitbart contributor Kurt Schlichter on some related point; he was apparently shocked to see such a thing in his tweetstream, but to give him credit, he kept his cool during the subsequent discussion, unlike a few of his putative acolytes.) Apart from the Hub itself, the only television source that’s generally pony-friendly is WTVY, the CBS affiliate in Dothan, Alabama; I am told that this is because there’s an actual brony on the news staff.

But nothing the ponies did in 65 episodes is quite so heinous as what their miniskirted teenage-girl counterparts do in 65 minutes, for several reasons:

  • The aforementioned miniskirts;
  • They’re all kind of on the thin side;
  • [insert “ponies of color” joke here].

Equestria Girls

Role models, doncha know. And it’s not like the, um, girls are being slutty or anything; it’s just that We Don’t Like This.

I’m not enthusiastic about it either, for the same reason I don’t particularly want to see a version of The Tempest with an all-marmoset cast. I realize that Hasbro, knowing that MLP is one of its few reliable gold mines of late, would like to extend the brand; then again, not all brand extensions are successful or even desirable. Be assured, though, that my little ponies — it says “My” right there on the label — are, and always will be, quadrupeds.

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Lest the flood subside

Who wants open borders? Why, the rich who want to get richer, says the Crimson Reach, but not for the obvious reasons like cheap labor:

Notice that the places with the highest and (to the rest of the country) nominally-shocking house prices tend to all be places in which wealthy people live but with lots of lower-class people, including immigrants, in close proximity. Manhattan. The SF Bay Area. The Washington DC area. In all those places one finds huge disparity and stratification by class and (yes) race, geographically close but distinctly separate. Accordingly, in all those places one sees bidding wars to pay 2-3x to live in Good Location X (with “good schools”, wink) rather than 5-miles-away Bad Location Y.

Who does this help, most of all? The people who already own the “good locations”. Such people have a direct financial stake in making the “bad location” all the more badder so that the “good location” they own, automatically scarce as it is, gets only more valuable and in demand by people fleeing and scared of the “bad locations”.

This is probably less of a factor in Manhattan — all five boroughs are served by the New York City Department of Education, though there will be variations even then — but the same thing happens on a smaller scale in mid-sized metro areas too: if you duplicated a $250k Deer Creek house at, say, 36th and Post, you’d be hard-pressed to get anyone to pay more than $150k for it.

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Turkey going to pieces

The front page of today’s edition of Taraf, a left-of-center (according to Wikipedia, anyway) newspaper published in Turkey, circulation around 80,000, is full of penguins. Now you should know that Taraf has locked horns with the Turkish military before, and is not exactly beloved of the Erdoğan government either.

But what you want to know is “What’s with the penguins?” This is what’s with the penguins:

Data surveillance? Where have I heard that?

If you haven’t been keeping up, here’s the BBC timeline so far:

31 May: Protests begin in Gezi Park over plans to redevelop one of Istanbul’s few green spaces

3 June: Protesters establish camps with makeshift facilities from libraries to food centres

4-10 June: Protests widen into show of anti-government dissent in towns and cities across Turkey; clashes between police and demonstrators

11/12 June: Night of clashes see riot police disperse anti-government demonstrators in Taksim Square, which adjoins Gezi Park; camps in the park remain

13 June: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issues a “final warning” to protesters to leave Gezi Park

14 June: Government agrees to suspend Gezi Park redevelopment plans until a court rules on the issue, PM holds talks with members of a key protest group

15 June: Police move in, clearing protesters from Gezi Park

But that’s not the whole story either. Again, the Beeb reports:

What began as a demonstration by environmentalists has mushroomed into something far bigger: a fight by disparate groups for greater freedom in Turkey and a preservation of the country’s secular order.

They see a government with an authoritarian, neo-Islamist agenda: the highest number of journalists in the world in prison, restrictions on alcohol sales, massive construction projects prioritised over human rights.

“This is not an Arab spring”, one protester, Melis Behlil, told me.

“We have free elections here. But the problem is that the person elected doesn’t listen to us.”

“The person elected doesn’t listen to us”? Where have I heard that?

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