Archive for June 2014

Huge hugeness

This is startling for a couple of reasons:

Inga Eiriksdottir began modeling in her native Iceland when she was just 14 years old. But as her body changed, the modeling industry didn’t change along with her. Although she had appeared in campaigns for brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Max Mara and had worked with esteemed fashion photographers including Patrick Demarchelier and Steven Meisel, her agency, Ford Models, switched her over to its plus-size division when she was 21 years old. The 5’10” Eiriksdottir was a size 6 at the time, having started her career as a size 2. Though she saw other models taking extreme measures to stay thin, Eiriksdottir, who is also a trained yoga teacher, refused to put her body through unhealthy regimens in order to be superskinny.

From the Department of Syntactic Quibbles: Icelanders don’t have surnames. This is Inga, who is the daughter of Eirik.

But I have to wonder: what color is the sky in a world where size 6 — size six, fercrissake — is deemed “plus”?

(Via this Dan McLaughlin tweet.)

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Oscillation sensation

If the Best Popular Song of 2014 is going to come out of the second half of the year, this is what it has to beat:

And no, that’s not Sia herself in the video. (There’s also a separate lyric video, and she’s not in that either. Much.)

“Chandelier” topped out at #48 in the Billboard Hot 100, a chart position that belies its greatness. (Similarly stalled: “Lucky Man,” “Get Out Now,” “Street Fighting Man.”)

And if you’ve never been a party girl in serious denial — well, perhaps you should consider yourself fortunate.

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Strange search-engine queries (436)

Google, eventually, will encrypt all search requests, which will mean that the people who ask for this weird crap someday will be secure in the knowledge that it won’t show up here. In the meantime, though:

phil spector mono vinyl:  Mostly, yes. Why this matters on a Wii U, the device which requested this, I do not know.

the song there dosnt seem to be any one around:  Because, you know, one is the loneliest number, and all that jazz.

sarah michelle gellar double jointed legs:  Hmmm. Now I’m going to have to rewatch all those old episodes of Buffy.

http://sexy.mobi/watch-hidden-camera-videos-showing-girls-in-the-changing-room-doing-kinky-things.html?interstitial:  Probably none of them are double-jointed, and what will your mom say?

erotic video kid turns table on mom by turning invisible:  Yeah, like that’s really gonna press Mom’s hot buttons.

non nude pictures of girls in panties:  I suppose that would qualify for “non nude,” yes.

what happened between rebecca black and alexa losey:  I’m not sure, but I don’t think it involved panties.

is the 2001 mazda 626 automatic unleaded gas only:  Hint: Leaded gasoline was banned in the States in 1996.

1930 chevrolet roadster seats spanish grain fabric core 1930 explained:  What do you care? You can’t even run leaded gas in it.

animal and giral fual xxx pechar:  That “xxx” doesn’t make me feel any better about it, let me tell you.

Roger Miller song which mentions Baltimore Colts:  Um, that was Bobby Russell’s “1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero.” And, of course, the Colts moved to Indianapolis.

www.empty scrotum.com:  Now that took some balls.

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Just another girl

She never really wanted to be anything else.

Update, 9 July: Everything apparently came off well.

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Everything you always wanted to know about security

Regular reader and tech whiz Teresa Hummel has begun a small project called “Itty Bitty Security Podcast,” dedicated to the proposition that there’s something you can do to improve your position vis-à-vis the black-hatted guys out there on the Net. Three episodes — sensibly, numbered 0, 1 and 2 — are out there now, and listening to all of them will take a whole 16 minutes. It took me a little longer, but I was swooning at her voice, crisply Midwestern — yes, she lives in New England, but she didn’t always — and, to me anyway, awfully persuasive.

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That’s a switch

The General Motors ignition-switch incident is growing like the Blob, and the part that perplexes me is that so much of it seemed avoidable. Yes, GM’s part-handling procedures seem dubious; yes, this debacle should have been dealt with before the rest of the world stuck its nose in. I admittedly never have owned one of the cars in question. But it never occurred to me that having the switch slide over from ON to OFF or ACC in the middle of the road was a death-dealing scenario.

Car and Driver’s July issue checks out the claims. They got themselves a Saturn Ion, one of the vehicles being recalled, and then rigged it to kill power assist to steering and brakes to simulate the problem. The results were not surprising: steering effort went up markedly, though not to a point where it couldn’t be dealt with, and braking effort quadrupled — once the vacuum was gone. It wasn’t on the first panic stop, because there’s a check valve in the line.

Still, neither of these is a problem if you simply restart the car, no trick if you remember that there’s an interlock and you have to shift the lever into neutral. Somewhere around ninety percent of panicky drivers, I suspect, will not remember that. (Trini, who actually owned one of these Ions, and was almost certainly aware of the vagaries of the car’s ignition switch, having replaced one once, would have; then again, she’s one of the least-panicky individuals on the planet.)

There remains the question of why the airbags didn’t deploy when Mr and Mrs Panicky hit the wall, but since there’s no legal specification other than “test dummies must not be subjected to this much force,” it’s difficult to compare notes among individual incidents. And I am reminded of my one and only Major Crash, out on a two-lane state highway in 2006, in which my car and a doe came to mutual death blows at an appallingly high speed. The airbags didn’t budge. Then again, I didn’t get so much as a scratch.

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Greece is the word

Celebrating her 31st birthday today, Her Royal Highness Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark:

Princess Theodora

She comes by this complicated title naturally: she’s the younger daughter (fourth child) of former King Constantine II of Greece and Anne-Marie of Denmark. Constantine, as it happens, is connected to the Danish royal family on his own — he’s a lineal descendant of Christian IX — so the abolition of the Greek monarchy did not diminish his royalness in the slightest.

Theodora, born in London, attended Brown University under the name “Theodora Greece,” the same name she’s used for 52 episodes (so far) of the CBS soap The Bold and the Beautiful, playing Alison Montgomery.

Princess Theodora

She’s also dipping a toe into feature films.

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I’ll just sit tight

Friday, you may recall, the top portion of a dying tree decided it couldn’t take it anymore and plummeted to the ground, directly on top of my telephone line, pinning it in place and pulling out just about all of the spare cable in the process. I left it there over the weekend, having misread the phone company’s response to my repair order. I got the “Monday” part correct; what I didn’t catch was which Monday. Turns out to be, not yesterday, but a week from yesterday.

Curiosity is, of course, considered a major cause of feline death. Having guesstimated that the line voltage was probably about 48 volts, and being stupid enough to consider that quantity trivial, I took it upon myself to separate line and tree. This actually proved to be fairly simple: the offending branch was not actually connected to the enormous trunk section that came down. (Smashed on impact, I suspect.) About forty-five seconds from OMGIMGONNADIE to “Take that, you miserable hunk of deadwood!” The line is still about 18 inches off the ground, but there’s not much left to fall on it.

Actually, this was motivated, not by my wanting to save the Death Star some work, but to clear some space when and if my lawn guy, who bailed last week because of stormage, shows up. (We’re tentatively scheduled for Wednesday. The lawn after 18 days is verdant to the point of nausea.)

There are downed branches here and there throughout the neighborhood, but the worst casualty was the Little Free Library, which was, after all, a wooden box on a pole; it took a swan dive. It has (temporarily, I presume) been replaced by a rural-style mailbox.

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None of that girly stuff

One of the working definitions of “character actor” is “not the hero, but maybe the hero’s best friend”; as I recall, this was a common description of Ronald Reagan, affable on film but not awe-inspiring.

On this basis, almost every working woman in Hollywood is a character actor; she doesn’t get to be the hero, but she might be the hero’s girlfriend. In other words, nothing at all like real life:

We’ve become so used to Opinionated, Strategic Woman = Villain, and Beautiful Women = Piece of Ass With Perhaps Secondarily A Surprisingly Good Brain, that it’s hard to imagine an Oscar-style movie in which women like these are heroes, and in which their interactions have nothing at all to do with men. It’s totally rational that in the real world they could be. Women in the real world regularly kick ass in the sciences. They risk their lives photographing warzones. They spend a great deal of their time having nothing to say about men, weddings, menopause, periods, or their vaginas, and often can be found, you know, analyzing medieval marginalia, drafting policy arguments for politicians, and running through the park thinking about string theory.

You just won’t find them at the local octuplex:

Yet the movie versions of us — the mainstream Award Winning versions of us — are more typically found offscreen, coming on to serve the male world changers coffee, tie their neckties, support their ambitions, and look beautiful. We can be found bending over backwards in heels to show men how well we can shake it, while still maintaining the ability to raise small children, which startling capacity will, of course, help the male main character realize that he should be more emotionally available, and that he should also perhaps take some vengeful action against the things that have hurt the woman he loves.

We are told that this is because the single largest segment of the motion-picture audience is young men, and this is what they want to see, over and over and over again. And it’s not just movies, either:

[W]hen the novelist Mary Gordon spoke at a boys’ school, she learned that the students weren’t reading the Brontës, Austen or Woolf. Their teachers defended this by saying they were looking for works that boys could relate to. But at the girls’ school across the street, Gordon said, “no one would have dreamed of removing Huckleberry Finn or ‘Moby-Dick’ from the syllabus. As a woman writer, you get points if you include the ‘male’ world in your work, and you lose points if you omit it.”

There is, in fact, exactly one television series — not even enough to be a subgenre — in which the lads will turn out to see female characters doing it for themselves, with scarcely any references to males. Not that this is a harbinger of the future or anything; in fact, there are already signs of flankhurt.

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A yearn for the terse

I’ve gotten some pretty long-winded spams stuck in the spam trap over the years. Seldom, though, do I see anything like this:

“Hello. And Bye”.

They should all be so short. I mean, think of the disk space it would save.

Addendum: I did finally think of the disk space it would save, and it’s not really that much: the entire system database is only 75 MB, of which 20 MB or so is comments, and actual comments have somehow outnumbered spam comments 4 to 3, so if I’d kept all the spam I’d have a 90-MB database. Considering the fact that the site takes up well over a gigabyte, this should be considered potatoes of insignificant dimension.

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Wetter up

The city hasn’t published the new water rates yet, though William Crum of the Oklahoman has been keeping tabs on them, and the new proposal as a whole sounds plausible to me:

Significant provisions include:

  • A pricing strategy that produces 5 percent more revenue each year, with an overall reduction of 4.3 percent in water use after five years.
  • A three-year plan to increase the charge to hook up a new home — known as the “impact fee” — from $100 to $1,000, in $300 increments.
  • A strategy to make sure surrounding communities pay equitable rates for water bought from Oklahoma City and that they share in system improvement costs.

Crum reported yesterday:

The average customer, who uses 7,000 gallons of water per month, will pay $19.11, up 55 cents; a customer using 15,000 gallons would pay $43.00, up $3.25.

This indicates the implementation of usage tiers: the more you use, the higher the price per thousand-gallon unit, which is consistent with the city’s ongoing water-saving program.

Most of the time, I’m billed for 3,000 gallons a month; sometimes it’s just 2,000. I figure I’m probably using 2,700 or so. I expect the new rates, which will undoubtedly include tweaking of service, sewer and refuse fees, will go into effect in October.

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Some spring in your step

Are these “the most comfortable heels ever”?

Kinetic Traces by Silvia Fado Moreno

Here’s the pitch:

[T]here’s a new heel in the works that looks pretty spectacular, and promises to break many of the negative shoe stereotypes that I hold dear. They’re equipped with hydraulic springs and shock absorbing rubber balls, so that you literally feel like you’re walking on air.

The Kinetic Traces collection by London College of Fashion alum Silvia Fado Moreno offers intriguing looking shoes with all of the support that we need to walk healthier. Every step is cushioned by springy heel technology, designed to ease foot pain, and minimize the feeling of walking in heels. And did I mention how cool they look? Seriously. These are totally the shoes of the future. Judy Jetson would probably wear them daily.

Far be it from me to frown at Judy Jetson. (The style you see is not, I assure you, the only one under development.)

And this statement from the designer caught my eye: “The mechanism can be bespoke according to bodyweight.” Variable, um, load-carrying capacity? I’m impressed.

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Boroughing further

Retired Thunder point guard Derek Fisher, we learned this week, is the new head coach of the New York Knicks; not only does he get paid four times as much as he did as a veteran role player, but he gets to wear a natty suit. (I mean, seriously, can you imagine Fish dressing like, oh, let’s say, Men’s Wearhouse escapee Scott Brooks?)

The Knicks, as I may have mentioned before, are in New York; they play at Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, which basically kills Jenni Carlson’s attempt to be funny here:

So, now that Fisher is taking his talents to Manhattan Beach, it’s safe to assume the Thunder is on the lookout for someone to take over that role.

Yes, there’s a Manhattan Beach up that way, but it’s in Brooklyn, which has its own NBA team, also coached by a former point guard (Jason Kidd). There’s also a Manhattan Beach in California, but maybe we shouldn’t bring up California in the presence of someone who works for Phil Jackson, as Fish now does.

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Bunch of overactive snatches

Of course, it’s government’s doing:

The federal government has seized a record $360 million from household bank accounts that have been dormant for just three years, prompting outrage in some quarters amid complaints that pensioners and retirees have lost deposits.

Figures from the Australian Security and Investments Commission (ASIC) show almost $360 million was collected from 80,000 inactive accounts in the year to May under new rules introduced by Labor.

The new rules lowered the threshold at which the government is allowed to snatch funds from accounts that remain idle from seven years to three years.

The ultimate goal — the same-day snatch — is probably still weeks away.

(Via Fark.)

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Dialed in to ponies

We have here a Mazda MX-5 with the Mane Six gauge package:

Custom My Little Pony gauges for Mazda Miata

With thanks to the fandom:

The MLP fandom is awesome. Artwork exists for just about anything you can imagine. Cutie marks for the main characters? How many different file formats would you like? Exact color codes for every aspect of anything ever in the show? Yup, those are plentiful too. The fans really made this custom gauge design come together quick.

Apart from “WANT,” all I can say is “You should see these at night.”

And no, I don’t know where you could work in an Applejack reference. The Malfunction Indicator Light, maybe? “Sugarcube, Ah don’t know just how to tell ya this, but yer emissions are worse than Big Mac after a bucket of broccoli.” Eeyup.

(Via this @LazyGrayBrony tweet.)

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Circular dialog

Somebody somewhere understands this. Not me.

Wonder what happens if you just press the X?

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This needs to happen

I suppose it’s redundant if your editor stores, or at least references, an actual date for each line, but if not, this is the way to go:

How about an editor that color codes the age of particular lines of source code? You have a piece of source that has been around for a while, either it’s under development or it needs some changes. Wouldn’t be nice if the older lines, lines of code that have proven themselves to be useful and correct were given a dark gray background, newer lines could be given a white background, and lines that have been changed umpteen zillion times a red background?

“Piece of source,” at least in some shops I could name, is usually shortened to “POS,” as in “Who the hell added that extra loop into this POS?”

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Fill those holes with money

A survey conducted by the American Automobile Association says that drivers would be willing to pay more in fuel tax:

Two-thirds of Americans (68 percent) believe the federal government should invest more than it does now on roads, bridges and mass transit systems, according to a new AAA omnibus survey of 2,013 adults. Only five percent of respondents believe the federal government should spend less on transportation. These results come as AAA urges members of Congress to increase the fuel tax, which will address significant transportation safety and congestion issues nationwide.

Survey Highlights:

  • About half of Americans (52 percent) are willing to pay higher fuel taxes per month on average for better roads, bridges and mass transit systems.
  • Nearly three times as many people (51 percent) are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports increased federal spending on transportation than would be less likely (19 percent).
  • Approximately two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) agree that taxes on gasoline and diesel consumption are appropriate for transportation funding.
  • More people believe that roads, bridges and transit systems have declined in quality over the previous three years (43 percent) than those who believe the quality has improved (32 percent).

Not mentioned here, but not hard to find, are those who believe that any increase in the fuel tax will go, not to improving the state of transportation, but into general governmental slush funds: they’d support the tax if they thought it would actually do some good.

I suggested a plan about three years ago:

[I]ncrease domestic production enough to cause a noticeable decrease in the price at the pump, increase the tax enough to take up the slack, lather, rinse, repeat as necessary. It would never fly, of course.

Certainly not. In Glenn Reynolds’ immortal phrase, “insufficient opportunity for graft.”

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You can probably guess the menu

Bell Buckle, Tennessee, population 500, is known for two things: the Webb School, the oldest continuously-operating boarding school in the South, due for its sesquicentennial in 2020; and the twenty-year old RC Cola-Moon Pie Festival:

[O]n June 21st this quiet little town will become a bustle of excitement and activity when it celebrates the 20th Anniversary of its wildly popular RC-Moon Pie Festival. This year’s festival will spew forth the biggest Box Office news of the year — The return of your favorite Synchronized Wading Characters! After two decades of dry humor on a wet stage, the beloved characters will once again reunite. The stage will be a little different, the story may have changed, but your favorite characters are reuniting to celebrate in a way no one else could ever celebrate marshmellow and carbonation glory!

Known as the first “fast food” meal, these two Southern traditions, RC and a Moon Pie, are brought together for a grand celebration Bell Buckle style. The idea for the Festival first began in 1994 as a way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Moon Pie and to bring tourists to Bell Buckle. Bell Buckle called the Chattanooga Bakery to see about throwing a Birthday Party for Moon Pie. Little could anyone have expected what a huge event this would become!

Wikipedia claims the Moon Pie actually was invented in 1917, and therefore would have been 77 years old that first year in Bell Buckle; Royal Crown Cola (home town: Columbus, Georgia) dates back to 1905.

Incidentally, the Webb School was actually founded in Culleoka, Tennessee, but William R. “Sawney” Webb, founder and headmaster, uprooted it:

[I]n 1886, the town of Culleoka incorporated, making the sale of liquor legal within the city limits. This was too much for Webb, an ardent prohibitionist. Sawney and his boys packed up and headed to Bell Buckle, a village thirty-five miles west on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. On six acres of beech forest, about one-third of a mile from the depot, Webb dug a well and built a bigger and better schoolhouse than that in Culleoka. Leading citizens of Bell Buckle supported the move by raising $12,000 for the new school.

Today, according to Google Maps, Bell Buckle is 50 miles east of Culleoka. Go figure.

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Turned off by turnout

A friend from Canada weighs in on the desirability of a truly universal franchise:

There is one phrase you hear a LOT around election time which I can guarantee that my friends and acquaintances will never hear leave my lips. It’s “I don’t care/It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just be sure to vote!” Uh, no … not for me at least. The reason they’ll never hear it is simply because I care VERY much who people vote for and I can’t flippantly suggest otherwise. I also freely admit that while I am not at all a fan of voter apathy, if said apathy were to keep those who might be inclined to support the right-wing agenda from going to the polls, I’d be in no way broken up over their failure to exercise their civic duty. So yeah … that’s one phrase I never say.

I used to worry about voter apathy, but I don’t anymore.

And I’m just self-centered enough to figure that if fewer folks show up at the polls, my single solitary ballot is worth that much more.

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Testing Turing’s test

Chatbots have been around forever, or at least since the birth of ELIZA back in the 1960s, and we all know how that worked out:

ELIZA’s key method of operation (copied by chatbot designers ever since) involves the recognition of cue words or phrases in the input, and the output of corresponding pre-prepared or pre-programmed responses that can move the conversation forward in an apparently meaningful way (e.g. by responding to any input that contains the word “MOTHER” with “TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR FAMILY”). Thus an illusion of understanding is generated, even though the processing involved has been merely superficial. ELIZA showed that such an illusion is surprisingly easy to generate, because human judges are so ready to give the benefit of the doubt when conversational responses are capable of being interpreted as “intelligent”. Thus the key technique here — which characterises a program as a chatbot rather than as a serious natural language processing system — is the production of responses that are sufficiently vague and non-specific that they can be understood as “intelligent” in a wide range of conversational contexts. The emphasis is typically on vagueness and unclarity, rather than any conveying of genuine information.

There are, of course, examples that don’t actually involve software. For instance:

Think of the way the average politician responds to the average reporter’s question about a scandal in which he or she is involved. The responses are in the form of regular human speech, but they are pre-scripted and designed to carry the form of human speech without fulfilling its function, i.e., explain why campaign contributions got spent at a strip joint. They are instead designed to divert attention from the scandal in the same way that a chatbot is designed to fool people that it is a real live incredibly attractive member of the opposite sex who wants to interact with you and lives just a few miles away.

Some people disparage lower-level members of the current administration as “Obamabots.” This is, however, exactly those members’ designated function; operatives have had this function in administrations nearly as long as there have been administrations.

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I think I wear a 666

Neil Kramer sees a sign, and it changes his life:

List of Levi's jeans

What if I tried every single style Levi’s jean, making note of which jeans made my ass look the best, and then wrote about it in my first “fashion and lifestyle” post for middle-aged men, inspiring a whole generation to look to me as their sartorial guru? Who knows — by next year, I could be in a YouTube advertisement on the E-train, next to the fifteen year old YouTube stars?

And so he did, and at the link you can see him in every single one.

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Nothing in between

We talked about thumbs up and thumbs down last week, and as a system, it has one thing going for it: simplicity. Consider this:

Interpreting reviews is an art form. Amazon is a great example of what I call the 1-5 phenomenon. You’ll see mostly one-star reviews and five-star reviews on most review systems. People seem unable to understand the foggy middle ground of 2–4. What is good? What is bad? What is really bad? Thumbs up and thumbs down, that simple pass-fail system, is much easier. Five stars review systems require work.

Reviews are subjective and if you’re a generally kind and generous person, if the item or experience was reasonably good, you’ll head towards five. The one star reviewer, however, has a finely honed sense of self-importance, both in what level they think their abilities of discernment are and in how they believe they deserve to be treated.

Out of curiosity, I looked at an Amazon product I’d reviewed. The overall score was 3.8, figured as follows:

    5 stars: 68
    4 stars: 17
    3 stars: 6
    2 stars: 6
    1 star: 24

Inasmuch as the product was an inkjet cartridge, you’d expect fives from those who got it to work, and ones from those who didn’t; twos, threes and fours are perhaps inexplicable. (I gave it a four, mostly because Amazon was selling it at very close to MSRP.)

I must admit, though, that I hadn’t delved into the psychology of it all quite this deeply:

So what is the mentality of a solid one-star reviewer?

Blackmail only. They have only one star to work with. Everything is judged on a negative scale.

Whether it’s Google Glass users trying to sabotage a restaurant that won’t allow them to wear the devices by leaving one-star reviews whether they ate there or not, the general tendency to be an ass and complainer and social media blackmailer, or using sockpuppet accounts to boost reviews, very little about the review and comment ability gives me much hope that the human race won’t be extinct in about three years.

I give this observation four stars out of a possible five. (I’d hate to give up entirely my tendency to be an ass and complainer.)

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It’s always on sale

And therefore it’s never on sale, right? If you see it that way, you’re on the side of the Attorney General of the State of New York:

When a store runs the same promotion for 52 consecutive weeks, it’s really not a sale. It’s actually a type of deceptive advertising and that’s something the New York Attorney General’s office just isn’t going to stand for.

Hobby Lobby agreed to change its advertising practices, donate school supplies and pay an $85,000 civil penalty to settle an investigation into its alleged deceptive advertising practices, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says in a press release.

Background, from the press release:

The investigation began in 2013, when Attorney General Schneiderman’s office began tracking marketing materials advertising 50 percent off and 30 percent off sales. Hobby Lobby advertised its custom framing, furniture, and home décor products as sale items for more than 52 consecutive weeks. The investigation determined that Hobby Lobby violated New York’s General Business Law (350-D) for False Advertising. Sales that are never-ending are in violation of the false advertising law.

It could have been worse, I suppose: Schneiderman might have ordered them to start stocking birth-control products.

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Oily in the morning

I think this individual is looking for the wrong emollients:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Many woman trust castrol oil for their natural treatment. What are benefits of castrol oil for woman?

Then again, it’s more than just oil: it’s liquid engineering.

[insert “Fram filter” joke here]

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Avoiding transparency

One thing Oklahoma County does well, says Tulsa blogger Michael Bates, is that full disclosure thing:

Oklahoma County’s total budget [pdf] for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 covers $180.7 million: $132,019,665 in revenues, $48,712,216 in beginning fund balance, $149,331,246 in expenditures, and $31,400,635. Tulsa County’s budget for the same year was $83.6 million. Why is Oklahoma County’s budget twice as big as Tulsa County’s budget? Because Oklahoma County budgets all funds, all sources of revenue, and all expenditures, even if they involve earmarked revenue sources. Tulsa County’s budget includes only the bare minimum required by law. Previous year surpluses in non-appropriated funds, some of them under the sole control of an elected official, can be kept off-budget and out of the budget book.

Population comparison: Oklahoma County 755,245; Tulsa County 622,409 (2013 Census estimates). And here’s the punchline:

I would link to the newly adopted budget, but I can’t find it online.

That figures.

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And lo, the meter shall run

Nissan has been calling it the Taxi of Tomorrow, and this is what it’s like:

2.0L 4-cylinder engine, a low-annoyance horn with exterior lights that indicate when the vehicle is honking, sliding doors with entry step and grab handles, transparent roof panel (with shade), independently controlled rear air conditioning with a grape phenol-coated air filter, breathable, antimicrobial, environmentally friendly and easy-to-clean seat fabric that simulates the look and feel of leather; overhead reading lights for passengers and floor lighting to help locate belongings, a mobile charging station for passengers that includes a 12V electrical outlet and two USB plugs, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat that features both recline and lumbar adjustments, even with a partition installed; standard driver’s navigation and telematics systems; front and rear-seat occupant curtain airbags, as well as seat-mounted airbags for the front row; standard traction control and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), lights that alert other road users that taxi doors are opening.

Needless to say, this little darb is controversial. Consider, if you will, Greater New York Taxi Association v. New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which apparently has now gone as far as it can:

New York’s plan for a new fleet of cabs from Nissan Motor Co. is legal, an appeals court ruled, overturning a judge who said the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission overstepped its authority by requiring owners to buy a specific vehicle.

The so-called Taxi of Tomorrow program is a “legally appropriate response to the agency’s statutory obligation to produce a 21st-century taxicab consistent with the broad interests and perspectives that the agency is charged with protecting,” Justice David B. Saxe wrote [this week] for the appeals court in Manhattan.

Nissan won a contract in 2011 valued at $1 billion over 10 years to supply more than 15,000 minivans with sliding doors, more luggage space and airbags in the back, for the city’s taxi fleet. The commission in September 2012 designated the Nissan NV200 as the official “Taxi of Tomorrow” and required owners of medallions, which confer the right to operate yellow cabs in New York, to buy the $29,700 vehicles.

What does Hizzoner think of this?

Mayor Bill De Blasio, who received more than $200,000 in taxi-industry donations during his campaign, said before taking office that he opposed the plan because not all cabs would be wheelchair-accessible. The proposal calls for about 2,000 of the taxis to be fitted for disabled riders.

But this, too, had apparently been settled:

U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels ruled in December 2011 that the commission subjects disabled people who use wheelchairs and scooters to discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York overturned Daniels’ ruling in June 2012 and found that the act doesn’t obligate the commission to require taxi owners to provide access for disabled people.

It seems to me that we could have avoided all this, or most of it anyway, by forcing Ford to keep building the Crown Victoria.

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Phriday photo

Rebecca Black put in an appearance at DigiFest NYC last weekend, and left behind a trace of her existence:

Rebecca Black at Digifest NYC 2014

That logo for Dormify made me think: “Surely Nancy Friedman has seen this name before.” (And she has.) Dormify, they say, “gives you fresh, chic apartment and dorm room decorating ideas,” which is a good thing, given the blanded-out cubicle that is Rebecca’s bedroom. (Assuming that the videos she made in her bedroom were in fact made in her bedroom.) And she’s their target market:

Nearly all of Dormify’s customers are young women and their mothers, although … it is launching a new line of “performance sheets” for men’s beds.

Dormify offers free consultation online and has an average sale of $125 per customer. Zuckerman said students can decorate a dorm room for about $500. A set of sheets, a duvet and pillows start around $150.

“Performance sheets”? Words fail me.

And what’s that blacked-out thing on the backdrop? Not having a copy of the miraculous software used by law enforcement on network-television procedurals, I cranked up various aspects of the picture to verify that it is a logo of some sort, but no way could I read the red-on-black printing, either here or on the other half a dozen I looked at.

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A killa in manila

Friday the 13th started out about the way I thought it would: my weekly file-purge routine crashed, not once but twice. Eventually I figured out that the size of one particular array was set too low, and ran it twice more, each with half the batch. No one’s reported anything horrible to me yet, so I’m assuming this workaround actually worked.

Still, this was nothing compared to the horror that awaited me in my mailbox at home: a large, official-looking envelope from the bank that holds the note on my house. It didn’t precipitate a cardiac event, but it seemed to come awfully close. What in the world was this? Foreclosure? Not likely: I’m never actually late on a payment. Eventually I picked out one of the swirling thoughts that sounded plausible, and decided that they were selling me out to some uninterested (as distinguished from “disinterested”) third party.

It was, of course, none of the above. They’d sent me a copy of an appraisal they had ordered, stating no particular reason, though I figured that a two-year decline in property taxes might have spooked them about the value of the place, property values in this area having been stagnant for a while — or maybe it was just that I’d been here ten years. Worse, the cover letter was signed by someone from the Loss Mitigation Department, and contained the inscrutable phrase “one or more of the enclosed valuation(s) may or may not be used in determining the value of the property.”

The drive-by appraiser, though, figured it at about $8k above what the County Assessor had calculated earlier this year, and more than $25k over what I actually still owe on the place. (Status: Not underwater.) Still: never underestimate my ability to panic.

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At least it’s steady work

Back in February, the Knicks bought out the contract of Metta World Peace and put him on waivers. He’s still looking for a gig, but in the meantime you can call him “Coach.” An assistant coach, anyway:

Metta World Peace is an NBA free agent, but he has found a home for next season: The Palisades High girls basketball team.

The former Lakers forward will be an assistant coach for the Dolphins, Palisades coach Torino Johnson confirmed Thursday. Johnson has been friends with World Peace since coaching his daughter Sadie in the Palisades program four years ago.

Admittedly, this sounds like looking for a faculty advisor for your debate team and hiring Donald Rumsfeld. But who knows? This may be just what the Dolphins need:

“No one else that I know of in high school basketball has this opportunity, where they have a current NBA veteran on their coaching staff who can divulge that expertise,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of all hands on deck for us and we’re very fortunate and excited about him wanting to be a presence in our program.”

And this is hardly the first time The Artist Formerly Known As Artest did something odd. Before his rookie season at Chicago, he applied for a part-time job at Circuit City, allegedly hoping to get an employee discount. (As the #16 draft pick in 1999, his salary was $1,079,760.)

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Quote of the week

“If only” seems to bedevil all of us at one time or another. (If you’ve managed to avoid it thus far, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.) Sometimes it goes like this:

I wish I were one of those “successful” bloggers. You know. The kind who can paint a pretty picture of their lives — they have lovely kids, they are super-good at their work, their hobby projects always turn out lovely and just as they planned them, they never seem to struggle or agonize. All their pictures are nice and none of them turn out to have a bit of the laundry basket peeking out in the corner of the picture of something else. When they bake bread, it looks like a picture in a cooking magazine. But I don’t have enough perfection in my life to be able to do that — it seems like my whole life is a big hot mess, and so all I can do is show the slightly-more-successful parts of the hot mess here. Maybe if I had a spouse or family close by or lots of close in-person friends I could talk about the stuff that bothers me instead of posting it here, I could be one of those serene bloggers who seems to have a perfect life. I don’t know.

Truth be told, I think the warts-and-all approach is much more appropriate, at least at this level, where you’re not counting on the daily bloggage to pay for your daily bread. I often wonder how much I’d have to scour this place if I were trying to make a living from it, instead of writing off some insignificant sum each year. (By “insignificant,” I mean “somewhere in the high two or low three figures.”) Besides, we have the example of Adobe Photoshop to guide us. In the smallest possible doses, it can shed light on important details. Overused, it creates a monster.

On the term “hot mess” itself, I like this below-the-top paragraph from Urban Dictionary:

No one set of guidelines can perpetually determine what distinguishes a “hot mess” from an above-average train wreck. Regardless of the circumstances, you know it when you see it; because they are typically conspicuous, and obviously they are always awesome.

And you know, if you’re going for a train wreck, you might as well go for above average.

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Hemline news

It has long been a tenet in these parts that the legs are the last things to go, and further, that women are generally aware of this. To illustrate this premise, here is a 1988 appearance in Esquire by Meredith Vieira, who was then working on the CBS news show West 57th:

Meredith Vieira in Esquire magazine

At the time, she was thirty-four. Compare to this shot from March of this year, when she appeared on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson:

Meredith Vieira on The Late Late Show

This fall — she turns 61 in December — she’ll be hosting her own daytime talker, distributed by NBC Universal. And the keyword here is “daytime,” which pretty much guarantees that they won’t stick her behind a desk.

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Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb

And sometimes it takes 70 years to finish the job:

A bomb dropped by the US Air Force on Leipzig during World War II was blown up on Thursday morning. It was discovered on Wednesday night near the east German city’s main train station… The 75-kilo bomb was found during building work on Wednesday and it could not be defused so was blown up instead.

Then one of life’s little jokes kicked in:

Bomb disposal experts from Dresden blew up the explosive shortly before 10.30am.

Dresden? But of course.

(Via Fark.)

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No, a fence intended

Municipalities in this state have always been fond of the process known as “fenceline annexation,” in which the town surrounds an otherwise unincorporated area by a narrow strip of land within the corporate limits, thereby blocking other towns from annexing the area themselves. The high, or low, point of this exercise came in 1999, when Seminole annexed a strip of land along the west side of OK 99 to the right-of-way of I-40, a strip approximately ten miles long and three feet wide, which drew a lawsuit; Seminole was eventually forced to back off, and the state started tightening the rules after that.

Which is not to say that the practice is obsolete or anything:

The Town of Slick has begun proceedings to create its own fenceline annexation in an effort to circumvent and nullify the City of Bristow’s annexation made this past March. At a press conference held Friday afternoon, Clayton McKinzie, the chairman of the Citizens Against Annexation announced that shortly after Norman attorney William Dill filed a class action law suit against the City of Bristow, it was discovered that there was a “hole” in Bristow’s legal description of its newly annexed lands, which left a physical gap in Bristow’s line. The fenceline annexation has been described by Bristow officials as a protective border around the unincorporated boundaries of the city to protect from annexation from outside entities. Officials say that the “fence line” would protect potential growth areas or areas where the city already has substantial investment, for example a new water line. According to the Citizens against Annexation, this is exactly what they want to prevent.

And water, not surprisingly in Oklahoma, even the relatively damp-ish eastern half, is the issue:

According to McKinzie, the CAA is concerned that the annexation makes it possible for Bristow to start drilling wells and pumping water out of the area which could affect the area’s water table. As a result, the CAA filed a class action lawsuit in April to stop Bristow’s annexation. It was then that the hole in the fence was discovered. Attorneys for the Town of Slick drew up their own version of a fenceline annexation, slipping their boundaries in through the hole in the Bristow fenceline and creating a line just inside the City of Bristow’s, essentially cutting Bristow out of its own annexation and nullifying its line.

They don’t call that town “Slick” for nothing.

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At the very least, they’re not pleased

That chap on the left looks vaguely familiar.

Update, 7 am Monday: Tweet has been pulled. However, there are other resources, and so:

Very angry birds

Should have gotten this before I posted, I know.

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Not your mom’s shoes

Something called the 2014 Wildlife Conservation Society Gala took place at New York’s Central Park Zoo, and Chelsea Clinton, somewhere around 16 weeks pregnant, put in a vaguely Kardashianesque appearance:

Chelsea Clinton at 2014 Wildlife Conservation Society Gala, New York

This prompted some Smitty snark:

We’ll let Dustbury review the footwear, but how about the trou? As Obama’s fundamental transformation of our country continues to move us off that pesky Constitution and pave the way for Rule By Overlords, it’s important that the peasantry be afforded at least the hope of distraction by fashion.

As Her Majesty uncoils from her torpor and prepares for residence in the Oval Throneroom, the peasants can be pleased at the style on display by the underpaid, pauper princess.

I should be so underpaid. Maybe then I, like Chelsea, could afford shoes with a four-figure price tag. (I do well to be able to buy — occasionally — something in the low three figures.)

Still, this is a pretty standard, as distinguished from custom couture, Christian Louboutin peep-toe pump:

Close-up of Chelsea Clinton's shoes

And, unlike some of her ostensible Hollywood peers, she seems to have gotten close to the right size. I’ll give her a B-plus, knocking off a couple of points for that weird blue stuff on her toes. As for the trou: like I said, Kardashianesque, although Kimmie always creates the illusion that she’s had something — collagen, helium, Oreo Double Stuf — injected into her seat, something one simply does not look for behind a Clinton. Besides, there’s the question of whether leggings actually qualify as pants.

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More green for those greens

It wasn’t all that long ago that hipsters discovered quinoa, with one predictable result: the price skyrocketed. The same thing seems to be happening to collard greens:

They’ve become a “superfood,” a catchphrase embraced by yuppies who think they can eat their way to health, and they’ve also become something edgy and hip that hipsters eat — these brave new explorers on the food frontiers who miraculously “discover” things like inexpensive, nutritious fruits and vegetables from exotic locales like the backyard gardens of the people they kick out of gentrifying neighborhoods, or offal. Hipster menus are increasingly filled with foods that were once considered discards by the middle class, things that people disdained as soon as they could afford not to eat them.

Consequently, something troubling is happening in the grocery store aisles. As foods get popular with people who have more money, grocery store owners are raising the prices on these foods, secure in the knowledge that they now have a higher-paying audience for them. This, in turn, makes it harder for the poor communities who once relied upon them to afford them. The price of kale went up 25% after it became a hipster food, and this was in a recession, when even many hipsters were struggling to make a living in an economy that was collapsing in on itself. What can collard greens expect?

Having grown up as a less-than-affluent Southerner, I’m of course familiar with the stuff, and once swore, in sort of a sideways-Scarlett style, that as God is my witness, I’d never eat it again. I am not prepared to see it as a seven-dollar side dish, though vendors of soul food are going to have to make up for price increases somehow.

Oh, well. At least they haven’t dubbed it “Dalmatian cabbage.” Yet.

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The Death Star comes through

You’ve already read about my downed phone line, and also about my failure to read my trouble ticket correctly:

I got the “Monday” part correct; what I didn’t catch was which Monday. Turns out to be, not yesterday, but a week from yesterday.

Or, in other words, tomorrow.

I am pleased to report that AT&T actually beat their predicted repair time by a whole 24 hours. The tech explained that they were actually caught up from the stormage. The repair was completed in less than 15 minutes.

What still amazes me after a decade is that the phone line and the cable line actually cross, halfway across the yard — the poles are about 35 feet apart — and what has amazed me this month is that the cable line wasn’t affected when the phone line went.

No, seriously:

Non-intersection

The actual electrical power line doesn’t come close to either of these, but of course it has had its own issues with trees.

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Strange search-engine queries (437)

While the attention of the world is focused on the World Cup, I’m busy sorting through the last 3600 or so log entries, trying to find what possible reason your search string ended up here. I’m figuring I probably work best uninterrupted.

coaxed pronunciation  See, for instance, Hamlet: “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you: trippingly on the tongue.” Any more coaxing than that and it would border on coercive.

320porn .com:  This is less than 360, so I assume there are 40, um, activities not covered.

paray full naked pictures:  Must be from one of the 40 not covered.

Is Frosty Troy a socialist?  Naw. But if you need to find one, it won’t be difficult.

waldorf records corp 10″ dean martin LP cover:  Truth be told, and given the fact that Waldorf, despite its name, was purely a budget label, they might have sold it in a plain sleeve.

spendophobia:  A common disease among the middle class, though the US Congress, curiously, has a natural immunity to it.

busty.mobi/young-french-21yr.html?interstitial:  Don’t be picky. There are some perfectly lovely French women over the age of redacted.

Should i drive with hold on 93 626:  Look at it this way: the car’s over 20 years old. You can’t make things much worse than they already are.

anna swenson equestrian:  And a princess, no less.

how to set up weatheradio model 181b:  Short version: install battery, turn it on, turn tuning knob until you hear something other than noise.

one is never too old to yearn meaning:  Meaning you’re probably too young to understand.

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Some weird hybrid appliance

This particular example of comment spam is perhaps a tad less illiterate than average, and each paragraph can stand on its own — but the combination of the two makes no sense:

So no matter how large your laundry load is, rest assured that every article of fabric is going to be getting thoroughly washed. When you have a washer that is this massive, you will likely be able to wash up to three times more laundry in comparison to a top load washer. This system actually helps you save money by conserving your water and use.

It will depend on the screen size and also the whether the device is standard resolution, the kind of backlighting (LED, plasma, or fluorescent), and the size in the TV.

Of course, a top-loading washer has room for a TV screen on the front, but — dear God, what am I thinking?

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