Archive for November 2014

The yellow-ish peril

This probably will not end well:

Would Sephora really ban customers who spend thousands of dollars every year with them? Last year, frequent customers say they had their ability to place online orders taken away for buying too much stuff. This year, frequent customers report having their accounts shut down or their ability to place orders restricted. Funny thing though: all of these customers have e-mail addresses based in China, or Chinese surnames.

This must be one of those definitions of “funny” that don’t actually involve laughter.

Why would Sephora cut off any customers, let alone Asian customers, right now? This week, there’s a 20% off sale for Sephora customers who spend more than $350 per year, which is a fabulous time to go shopping and boost your profit margin if you’re a reseller. The question for Sephora is this: how can they tell the difference between someone who is reselling and someone who just reapplies eyeshadow a lot?

Angry customers claim that in the last day or so, Sephora has been using geographic and ethnic profiling. In addition, customers who use e-mail providers based in China like qq.com or 163.com say that their orders have been canceled and their accounts deactivated.

Well, duh, says Sephora:

[I]n some instances we have, indeed, de-activated accounts due to reselling — a pervasive issue throughout the industry and the world. As part of our ongoing commitment to protecting our clients and our brands, we have identified certain entities who take advantage of promotional opportunities to purchase products in large volume on our website and re-sell them through other channels. After careful consideration, we have deactivated these accounts in order to optimize product availability for the majority of our clients, as well as ensure that consumers are not subject to increased prices or products that are not being handled or stored properly.

You can probably imagine what reddit thinks of this.

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Keep stirring

Nobody sells software anymore. What is sold is “solutions,” amalgams of the stuff you wanted and the stuff they surrounded it with, neither of which works worth a damn after combining. A recent example:

[S]tuff needs to be simple and just work. Unfortunately, no one seems to be willing or able to design a system that works with default browser settings. In particular, everyone wants to design their software to require popups. I have no idea why. But time after time I put a system out for a subset of my employees to test and I immediately get 19 people calling me back saying that it does not work, they can’t get in, etc. The typical problem is that most of this software seems to require that the browser’s popup blocker be turned off. Why in the world would you design software for a feature that 99% of browsers today have turned off by default? And worse, that require users to change a setting that only exists deep in setup menus most users don’t even know exist. I am pretty capable and it took me some poking around to find the popup options in Chrome.

Not that you can complain about it, of course:

I had a long talk today with my onboarding company trying to explain why getting rid of an hour of HR time with their software at the cost of an extra hour of IT support time for each new employee trying to access the system does not save me any freaking money.

Went right over their heads, I’d wager.

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A vision of Lumleyness

You probably remember Joanna Lumley for one of two roles: Purdey in The New Avengers (1976-77), or Patsy Stone in Absolutely Fabulous (1992-1995, plus several revivals). Forgetting her, of course, would be out of the question.

Joanna Lumley on a billiard table

Joanna Lumley on the telephone

Joanna Lumley not on the wagon

Roles in which you might not remember her:

  • She had two lines in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the seriously underrated James Bond film with the competent George Lazenby.
  • She had one line on several million personal computers: she was the “You have email” voice of the British branch of AOL.

And she’s still busy at sixty-eight:

Joanna Lumley on the High Street

Peter Bogdanovich’s She’s Funny That Way, which debuted at this year’s Venice Film Festival, features Lumley as the ethanol-poisoned mother of a therapist played by Jennifer Aniston. The booze, we know, she learned from Patsy Stone.

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You’d think we’d have heard about it by now

What’s more, there’s absolutely no mention of the Koch Brothers. I have to assume this is purely accidental.

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Still more random rants

Or, “Things stuck together for no reason other than that I happened to be thinking about them this week.”

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44 down, six to go

This is a little gizmo to create a map of the states in which you’ve spent time, color-coded by the nature of that time:

  • red for states where you’ve not spent much time or seen very much.
  • amber for states where you’ve at least slept and seen some sights.
  • blue for states you’ve spent a lot of time in or seen a fair amount of.
  • green for states you’ve spent a great deal of time in on multiple visits.

Some of these criteria are highly subjective; however, I did the best I could, reserving green only for the states where I had something resembling a legal residence or a very long stay.

Places I have been

For the record: “Alaska and Hawaii are only included in the produced map if you give them a color.” Which I didn’t.

Update: Clarified, or obfuscated, the green stuff.

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What, this Sith again?

You can’t tell me this wasn’t inevitable.

(Via Bonnie Burton at CNET.)

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Mutual disdain

The Kings, in days gone by, could pretty much count on being thrashed in Oklahoma City. Tonight, they came in with a stellar 5-1 record with their hopes high, but with their coach warning that even a 1-5 Thunder is still the Thunder and not to be underestimated. And Mike Malone was right, at least for the first half: OKC came on strong and took a 52-39 lead at the half. Then the Thunder faded, allowing the Kings to approach to within a bucket; it was 67-65 OKC through three. Scott Brooks shrugged and shuffled the lineup yet again, and the Thunder responded with a 5-0 run over 44 seconds to go back up seven. Thus reenergized, OKC proceeded to deal the Kings their umpteenth consecutive loss in the Big Breezy, though not before several anxious moments: the final was Oklahoma City 101, Sacramento 93.

Unexpected bonuses for the Thunder: Nick Collison’s fourth and fifth treys of the season — he’d had only four all of last year — and seven points in less than eight minutes from Ish Smith, the temporary third point guard. And free throws, an issue of late, weren’t a problem tonight, with OKC knocking down 23 of 27. (The Kings, who were leading the NBA in charity-stripe prowess, were held to 15-22.) No double-doubles, though Jeremy Lamb (17 points, 9 rebounds) and Serge Ibaka (14/9) came close; Reggie Jackson posted a team-high 22 points.

Rudy Gay did come up with a double-double for Sacramento: 23 points, 10 boards. DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore added 16 each; Cousins was his usual fearsome self on defense, and McLemore knocked down four of six treys, generally at inopportune moments. Is this a playoff team? Too early to tell, but I’m thinking they’re too good to finish near the bottom.

There follows a back-to-back sequence on the road — in Milwaukee on Tuesday, in Boston on Wednesday — before the Thunder return home Friday for a match with the somewhat-improved Detroit Pistons.

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Strange search-engine queries (458)

So you were Googling something in the dead of night, and you were hoping no one was noticing. Maybe no one was. Or, you know … not.

describing someone as fiendishly bright:  Certainly Congress doesn’t have anything to worry about.

www.bollywood shamita shetty.sex.com:  Send this guy back to Domain Registration 101.

1987 626 turbo gear ratio:  That’s probably in the manual.

mazda sedan 626 1988 manual:  I don’t think you’ll find a version that works on a Windows Phone.

yuja wang exposed:  We don’t expose any Wangs here if we can help it.

extra turkey program songs-babeee go baby go for serenay sarikaya:  Because that’s what we want above all else: extra turkey.

16th girl sax video free download:  Buy your own porn, ya schmuck.

front and rear car spoiler:  The fronts of most cars are spoiled these days by stupid-looking grille treatments intended as brand display.

gorf galaxian1:  Ah, a traditionalist.

what’s it gonna be merv:  Well? Speak up, Merv, we can’t hear you.

petticoat rule:  I think Merv may be exempt.

what are some reasons that make us save the mummer’s theater in okc:  As of now, none.

uses of fule in dustury:  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I try to keep my tank full of fule.

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Meanwhile on a cold and grey Chicago morn

Low — but not unprecedented — aspirations:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How do I become a drug dealer?

There is, of course, a motivation for this:

Im ******* sick and tired of being dirt poor, how do I sell drugs? IM NOT ASKING THIS FOR YOU TO TELL ME NOT TO, IM VERY AWARE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF SELLING DRUGS. AND THIS IS MY ******* CHOICE. So please take your scared of the police and getting into trouble, BULLSHIT elsewhere, unless you have some USEFUL ******* advice for ****’s sake.

Hey, it’s your funeral, pal. Amateurs don’t stand a chance against the pros.

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So how come you didn’t vote?

There is exactly one proper response:

I take voting seriously — if I have skipped an election, it is because my former party has nominated someone as objectionable as the other party has and I want no blame for whichever loser wins and subsequently makes losers out of the rest of us.

I will presume to speak on behalf of many registered voters of several parties and say that if those who send out letters about our voting frequency would like us to vote more often, they should make more of an effort to nominate candidates who do not suck.

But that couldn’t happen, could it?

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Among my souvenirs

I have lots of inexplicable stuff, but nothing in this league, to be sure:

An iron gate with the infamous sign “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will set you free”) at the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau in Bavaria has been stolen, police said [last] Sunday.

The theft of the historic wrought iron gate, which measures two metres by one metre, apparently happened overnight, police said in a statement.

The site has no surveillance system, but is monitored by security guards and the theft apparently took place between their rounds of the camp, said police, who have appealed for any possible witnesses.

Police are now offering a €3000 reward for information leading to the capture of the thieves, and Frau Bundeskanzlerin has weighed in:

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for thieves of a gate to the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau to be swiftly brought to justice, as she received an award from Holocaust survivors… “All the more appalling… are acts like the theft of the gate of this concentration camp memorial,” she said. “I hope that those who did that are caught quickly and held to account.”

Unnamed neo-Nazis seem to be on the police list of Expected Perps.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Old yarn, updated stretch

The best satire is sufficiently plausible to persuade all but the most cynical of us. Some of us, I fear, are insufficiently cynical:

[T]he rumour that Facebook will be charging users to use the service is NOT a hoax according to the National Report. It is reported that their will be a fee of $2.99 per month for users to use Facebook. However, there is an option to keep your Facebook account and use it for free for 1 hour per week. If the person exceeds that time limit, they will be charged .49 cents per minute. This is ridiculous!

Says the National Report:

Jack Phillips from DeQuincy, Louisiana told reporters that he is not happy with Facebook’s decision to implement a new monthly fee.

“I can barely pay for my girly subscriptions as it is, now this Zuckerberg character wants another $3 a month out of me? Well I don’t think so bud,” Phillips said. “There’s free news out there that I get all my learning from, like The Epoch Times. I know their stories are not real, some fancy word called ‘satirical’, but they makes me laugh. Sure, their grammar and spelling is just God-awful, but I like that; it makes me feel smarter.”

That passage, about halfway down the article, should have given it away. And if it didn’t:

To order your monthly subscription please call the 24-hour Facebook hotline at (785) 273-0325. Discounts are available to those who pay for an entire year at once.

Trust me, Zuckerberg can afford a toll-free number, and even if he couldn’t, he wouldn’t use a local line in Topeka, Kansas, especially one that’s billed to the Westboro Baptist Church.

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After a hot morning mess

Nineteen seventy-three. I’m wearing khakis because while I thought I looked better in fatigues, which isn’t saying much, the crusty warrant officer (then again, aren’t all warrant officers crusty?) who ran our shop insisted, and I wasn’t one to bend rules — at least, not his rules. Our little subcommand had lots of duty stations worldwide, some of them desirable, some of them less so. There was one post, though, that nobody ever seemed to want, and given the fact that transfer orders for enlisted personnel had to get past my desk, rather a lot of individuals who outranked me — I was a lowly Specialist Four at the time — seemed willing to do me favors to get them out of that assignment if at all possible. I never promised anything, and I never tried to collect on any of those markers, but sure enough, disposition forms materialized, signed by the correct officers, changing their destinations to some preferred location.

This could not possibly last forever, and of course it didn’t. Eventually they decided to fill one particular billet with me. It was a short tour — 12 months — and it came with a stripe. I shrugged. “I’m twenty years old,” I said, “and I’ve never been east of Boston or west of Amarillo. Maybe I should quit bitching.”

And so I was packed off to the Middle East, which was quieter than it is today and much quieter than some Southeast Asian locations at the time. It was, first and foremost, a duty station, so duty came first; but I did manage to spend some free time wandering about this crazed place without working up too much of a sweat. (Really. Typical middle-of-summer high temperature: 80°F. What was I worried about?) Of course, things can and do happen without notice, and as the phrase goes, everyone’s secondary MOS is Eleven Bravo.

That post has long since been closed, its need for it having largely evaporated and its host country having grown restive, even surly, over the years. Still, a lot of us passed through its gates over the years, and some of us are still around, even though we’re no longer wearing fatigues. Or khakis.

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All those clouds look alike

Even the National Weather Service says so:

Partly sunny, or is that partly cloudy?

Then again, there’s a lot to be said for getting multiple uses out of the same graphic, with the possible exception of the one they use with the word “Hot,” described by a regular reader as the Eye of Sauron; the less I see of it, the better. It’s not going to show up for rather a long time, though.

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Dollars for scents

Various forces converged this week to tell me that famed fashion designer Tory Burch now has her very own fragrance:

Tory Burch announces a new fragrance

As usual, I’m behind; she actually pushed out this product last fall, though apparently Bloomingdale’s had an exclusive for the first year.

Burch, arguably the wealthiest art-history graduate around — Forbes says she’s worth about a billion — is inclined to share the wealth:

The New York-based designer is promoting a new partnership between her Tory Burch Foundation, a nonprofit launched in 2009 to support the economic empowerment of women, and Bank of America.

The joint effort, launched in January, is known as Elizabeth Street Capital and named for the New York street where Burch launched her first boutique. Through it, Bank of America is giving a total of $10 million in loans to female entrepreneurs — first in eight markets, including Charlotte and the Carolinas region, New York, San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia, and then in other markets over the next two years.

An exceedingly comfortable place to be in. Then again, she always looks comfortable:

Tory Burch in her flagship store

Before you ask: she’s forty-eight.

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Nothing earth-shaking, apparently

You may remember this from 2011:

Six Italian seismologists and one government official will be tried for the manslaughter of those who died in an earthquake that struck the city of L’Aquila on 6 April 2009.

The seven are accused of misinforming the population about seismic risk in the days before the earthquakes, indirectly causing the death of the citizens they had reassured.

Convictions followed. Now those convictions — well, most of them — have been overturned:

Shouts of “Shame, shame!” greeted the appeals court … after the acquittal of six scientists convicted of manslaughter 2 years ago for advice they gave ahead of the deadly earthquake that struck this central Italian town in 2009. The scientists were convicted in October 2012, and handed 6-year jail sentences, for their role in a meeting of an official government advisory panel.

Only one of the seven experts originally found guilty was convicted today: Bernardo De Bernardinis, who in 2009 was deputy head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department and who will now serve 2 years in jail, pending any further appeals.

And this must be pointed out:

[The] original verdict generated controversy the world over and led many to argue that science itself had been found guilty. In explaining his sentence, the judge was at pains to emphasize that he had not convicted the experts for having failed to predict the earthquake — something, he said, that is beyond the powers of current science — but rather for having failed to carry out their legally binding duties as “public officials.” He said that the experts had not analyzed a series of factors indicating a heightened seismic risk, including the fact that previous quakes to have destroyed the town were accompanied by smaller tremors, as well as the nature of the ongoing swarm itself.

Note: the scientists go free, but the government official goes to the Big House. Clearly Rome has its priorities in order.

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Deer in gear

One statistic that was tossed around a lot during pregame: the Milwaukee Bucks did not have a winning streak worthy of the name — not even two games — all of last year. Then again, they were 15-67 last year, which doesn’t afford a team a lot of opportunities to pair off the wins. The wiser analyst ignored that number and looked at the 3-4 Bucks’ last win: over the mighty Memphis Grizzlies. All of a sudden, we knew they were trouble. The first quarter was all Thunder, to the tune of 22-15; but shortly thereafter, OKC lost the beat, or something. Milwaukee took a three-point lead at the half, stretched it to five after three, and cranked it up in the fourth, aided and abetted by some perfectly dreadful Thunder marksmanship. (How dreadful? They took ten minutes to score nine points in the fourth, and three of those came off an Ish Smith trey at the two-minute mark.) With 31 seconds left, a pair of Serge Ibaka free throws pulled the Thunder to within four, but that was it: the Bucks win it, 85-78, two in a row for the first time since 2012-2013, and OKC drops to 2-6.

Let me amplify that “perfectly dreadful.” On a night when Reggie Jackson rolls to a regular-season career-high 29 points, and sharpshooter Anthony Morrow is available for limited minutes, and Kendrick Perkins goes three for four, the Thunder shot … 33 percent. Factor out those three guys, and the team was 10-55, barely 18 percent. Ibaka had 14 points but only one block; Steven Adams had 10 rebounds but only two points.

Meanwhile, sixth Buck O. J. Mayo led Milwaukee with 19 points, Brandon Knight paced the starters with 16, and Johnny A (sooner or later someone’s going to call Giannis Antetokounmpo that, and it might as well be me) produced 14 points and nine rebounds. And when Johnny wasn’t pulling them down, Zaza Pachulia was: he had ten boards for the night.

By sunset tomorrow, the Thunder hope to have something resembling an offense, and they’ll have to try it out on the Celtics in Bosstown. Good luck with that.

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Bring your own leopard

In today’s episode of Security Theatre, we present the Password Rules from the Child Support division of the Texas Attorney General’s office:

  1. The password must be exactly 8 characters long.
  2. It must contain at least one letter, one number, and one special character.
  3. The only special characters allowed are: @ # $
  4. A special character must not be located in the first or last position.
  5. Two of the same characters sitting next to each other are considered to be a “set.” No “sets” are allowed.
  6. Avoid using names, such as your name, user ID, or the name of your company or employer.
  7. Other words that cannot be used are Texas, child, and the months of the year.
  8. A new password cannot be too similar to the previous password.
    1. Example: previous password – abc#1234, acceptable new password – acb$1243
    2. Characters in the first, second, and third positions cannot be identical. (abc*****)
    3. Characters in the second, third, and fourth positions cannot be identical. (*bc#****)
    4. Characters in the sixth, seventh, and eighth positions cannot be identical. (*****234)
  9. A password can be changed voluntarily (no Help Desk assistance needed) once in a 15-day period. If needed, the Help Desk can reset the password at any time.
  10. The previous 8 passwords cannot be reused.

Sheesh. Just hand them a DNA sample and let them figure it out on their own. They think they’re pretty damn smart in Austin anyway.

(From @RooneyMcNibNug via @SwiftOnSecurity. Title adapted from H2G2.)

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Kicked to the curb

I’ve kicked into several Kickstarters over the years; most of them eventually reached their funding goal, though a couple missed the mark. It could have been worse, though: suppose there were no backers at all?

This happens more often than you (or at least than I) think, which is why there is Kickended. Buzzfeed (!) explains:

Kickstarter projects have a success rate of about 40%, according to Kickstarter’s site. Among the failed 60%, some come close to their goal, but some sad ones fail to get even a single donor.

These $0 are the ones that Italian artist Silvio Lorusso is interested in. That’s why he created Kickended, a museum of failed Kickstarters that couldn’t raise a single cent. Since it’s actually rather difficult to search Kickstarter for failed projects, Lorusso uses Kickspy, a site designed to help people find projects to fund. Lorusso automatically scrapes projects with $0 from Kickspy and feeds them into his site. So far, he has over 8,000 $0 projects archived. Unlike other collections of bad Kickstarters, Kickended’s interface looks the same as the real Kickstarter. It’s a weird, sad mirror image.

As Lorusso describes it on the site, these failed projects are “free from the pressure of money raising, these retain the purity of abstract ideas.”

Going to Kickended gets you a random project from Lorusso’s collection. The first one I got was called The Nu Envy Experience Fashion Show, from a woman in Memphis who has since deleted her blog.

(Seen here.)

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Instructions to the victor

If we ever actually win another war — and believe me, there exist people who would burst into tears if we did — we should not repeat an earlier mistake:

The Odious Wilson stuck his oar in the peace process and mucked things up, as was his wont, and the eventual Treaty of Versailles has mostly gone down in history as an example of how not to treat a defeated foe. Either plow the ground with salt and sell the population into bondage, or give them a magnanimous hand up, but don’t leave a beaten enemy to nurse grudges while inflicting gratuitous and punitive punishments on them.

On the whole, our handling of the second World War, which fell mostly on the “magnanimous hand up” side of the spectrum, was much better than what we did after the first.

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How this reminds me

Brian Ibbott, host of the Coverville podcast, seems like such a kind, gentle soul. Then this shows up:

Five will get you ten, or eight anyway, that at least one of my favorites will be thus characterized. This is not among them:

And let’s face it, ragging on Nickelback is practically a cottage industry.

Ibbott will record the show tonight. I am preparing for the worst.

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Warmed up in Beantown

No thanks to the Don’t Call It A Polar Vortex, it was about 25 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in Boston than in Oklahoma City. Then again, one does not expect a warm reception at TD Garden, especially when Rajon Rondo is in good form. And Rondo was in excellent form tonight, coming in just short of a triple-double. It didn’t help that the Thunder opened with a chilling demonstration of shooting ineptitude — 1-11! — and found themselves trailing 18-3 midway through the first quarter. Things settled down, but OKC was still down nine at the half, 51-42. And then suddenly things just started to work. Reggie Jackson, who’d had eight points in the first half, played the entire second half and ended up with a sizzling 28, one short of his regular-season career high. Lance Thomas, not previously known as a collector of rebounds or a deliverer of assists, had career highs in both: 13 boards, six dimes. Nick Collison tossed up two more treys and finished with 12 points. Then there was Scott Brooks’ decision to take the stopwatch off Anthony Morrow. Given 31 minutes to work, Morrow missed exactly one shot in the second half and wound up with 28 points. Despite a blah performance by Serge Ibaka (11 points/4 boards/1 block) and a sub-blah performance by Jeremy Lamb (2-10 for four points), the Thunder waltzed all over the Garden floor and left the Celtics on the bad end of a 109-94 trouncing.

Still: Rondo, excellent form. Twenty points, twelve assists, nine rebounds. Avery Bradley added 17; the other three starters — Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk — contributed 14 each, and Sullinger collected 11 rebounds. But that was about it for the Boston offense: the reserves, six of whom saw playing time, came up with only 15 points in aggregate, or just over half what Anthony Morrow did by himself. The extremely thin OKC bench — four, with Ish Smith getting a DNP-CD — managed, um, fifty.

A startling calculation: after that 1-11 start, the Thunder finished 40-82, a tick or two below 50 percent. They even outrebounded the Celtics by six, and the Celtics had been outrebounding everyone this season. But this may be the key: only eight turnovers all night.

Next: things resume at the ‘Peake, with the Pistons arriving Friday and the Rockets on Sunday.

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A thin recruiting pool

The conventional wisdom, accorded even more conventionality during this particular administration, is that governors make better Presidents than do members of Congress. This sounds questionable to me, and downright ridiculous to Bill Quick:

Who were the most successful presidents of the past 100 years? I’d nominate Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Ronald Reagan, and LBJ. Three former governors, but one — arguably the most effective legislator post Roosevelt — a lifelong creature of Congress.

How about the worst Presidents? I’d go with Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and … George W. Bush. Three governors, one from Congress.

Being a state governor is no guarantee that a president will understand or be able to effectively deal with the intricacies of governance at the federal level, where the issues are larger and more critical, the bureaucracies more embedded and sclerotic, and the egos larger and more tender.

This makes more sense if one imagines, say, a Mary Fallin presidential bid: a nice pair of legs does not offset a tin ear.

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Just across from 419

420 is one of those numbers with so many recorded uses that Wikipedia maintains a disambiguation page for it. Unless you were concerned with 420’s status as a sparsely totient number, you were probably thinking hempish thoughts, in which case Nancy Friedman has a nicely informative piece called “420: The Brand,” inasmuch as 420 “has a long history in cannabis culture.”

420 Carpenter

420 Carpenter in Lacey, Washington, a suburb east of Olympia, provides its customers with, they say, “accessible, top quality cannabis and cannabis paraphernalia¹ in a friendly and professional environment,” which is now legal in Washington state, pending the Feds getting their BVDs in a bind. It does not, from the looks of things, resemble the stereotypical 1960s head shop: they’re vending a commercial product, not a transient lifestyle. If this state ever gets around to legalizing marijuana — and hey, we have gay marriage now, you have to figure anything is possible — we’ll have stores sort of like 420 Carpenter.

Then again, as Nancy Friedman points out:

The store’s actual street address is 422 Carpenter Road.

[Emphasis added.] Were it not for the fact that they’re not alone in their little strip mall — the store occupies Suite 105 — I’d think they’d be pushing city officials for a renumbering.

¹ Am I the only person who read that and thought “propane and propane accessories”?

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Long-term dementia

Someone has compiled a list of the Top 100 (or so) Demented Discs, as played on the Dr. Demento Show between 1974 and 2013, based on the annual Funny Twenty-Five surveys. I am still trying to figure out how I actually paid genuine coin of the realm to own all ten of the Top Ten.

At the other extreme, this is my favorite of the songs tied for Number 97:

It even exceeds this small-screen favorite, if you ask me.

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Where it all goes (’14)

The property-tax bill has arrived, and the bank will cut them a check on the 30th out of my depleted escrow account. Fortunately, while the amount isn’t exactly trivial, it’s smaller than it was last year, the result of stagnant property values and an unexpected decrease in the actual tax rate. As always, the county treasurer has sent along a manifest showing what this sum is being used to fund, and last year’s numbers appear in [brackets]:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $120.39 [$126.58]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $462.53 [$478.05]
  • Metro Tech Center: $120.39 [$122.50]
  • Oklahoma County general: $90.78 [$94.52]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.26 [$32.77]
  • County Health Department: $20.18 [$20.50]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $40.52 [$41.16]
  • Total: $887.04 [$915.88]

This year’s millage is 113.84, down from last year’s 115.70. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.)

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Damn right they is

Screenshot from the Oklahoman: Personal info breaches is a concern, many say

From this morning’s Oklahoman, page 3C. I couldn’t find the story on NewsOK for some reason, but since it’s an AP wire story, it’s all over the place. Try here.

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Hearts strong as horses

It doesn’t happen very often, but now and then Car and Driver will put together a comparison test of the sort that boggles the mind. In the December issue, it’s a comparo between a horse-drawn carriage in New York’s Central Park and the electrified buggy that’s been proposed as its replacement. The new horseless contraption has a couple of advantages, including an 84-hp electric motor — the original carriage has, um, 1 horsepower — and comparatively easy rechargeability. The horse, meanwhile, gets a minimum of five weeks’ pasture time each year by city ordinance. But both vehicles have rigid axles and leaf springs underneath.

C/D, as usual, presented their test results — the carriage with an actual horse, an 11-year-old gelding, was 1.2 seconds faster from 0 to 3 mph — and their conclusion box. For the original horse-drawn carriage:

+ Quaint, quiet, semi-autonomous, pleasantly furry.

Occasional stubbornness, no emissions controls.

= Working horses built civilization. Here’s one of the last that still has a job.

In terms of experience, the old-fashioned buggy outpointed the new one, 51-36:

Having two brains at the controls allows the driver to interact with his customers, face to face; that’s impossible with the eCarriage. A horse just makes it a better tourist experience, even if you’re looking at the back end of it.

And speaking of horse’s asses:

In the long run … NYCLASS [New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets] will likely win this battle, if not because it’s able to get the horses banned, but because the land under the horses’ stables is so valuable that the stable owners won’t be able to resist selling.

Those stables are located just off the West Side Highway in Hell’s Kitchen, an area of Manhattan that has been rapidly gentrifying of late.

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Plunging into it once more

About to come upon us, so to speak, is the annual presentation of the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award, for which ten nominees were perhaps too easy to find.

And as always, they’re all pretty dire, though this one recommends itself for being (1) consciously overpoetic and (2) not particularly explicit as these things go. From Ben Okri’s The Age of Magic:

She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour. Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a low rhythmic wail. She was a little overwhelmed with being the adored focus of such power, as he rose and fell. She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body. The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her.

The complete shortlist is here for your perusal: the winner will be selected on 3 December.

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Sweet spot apparently preserved

I repeat myself verbatim from this date in 2013:

A couple of years ago, I did a piece on The Incredible Shrinking Consumer Reports Buying Guide Issue, which over a five-year period had dropped from 360 to 221 pages. The following year, I noted that the Buying Guide had actually grown to 223 pages.

How big is it now? [#twss] Once again, two hundred twenty-three pages. (As with last year, that last page is devoted to the mandatory Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.)

This issue is dated 2015, which means that I’m on record as predicting it’s the last hard-copy edition:

By 2015 at the latest, you’ll have to be subscribing to their Web site and/or installing their app to get any of this information. Count on it.

If there actually is a 2016 issue come November ’15, I will recant with vigor.

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Still pretty after all these years

Last time we checked in with Tristan Prettyman, she’d been let out of her major-label contract, for which she blamed me. Still, she keeps working, and right now she’s touring with Eric Hutchinson on what is called the City and Sand Tour. For a surfer girl from Southern California, this makes perfect sense.

Tristan Prettyman at Waikiki

(Parenthetical — obviously — note: Waikiki, seen here, is a sister city to, um, Bixby, Oklahoma. I have no idea how this happened.)

This trip to Hawaii, I should point out, was not actually on the tour: that was, I think, last year. (All these pix are from her Facebook timeline.) This on-stage shot, however, is from the current tour:

Tristan Prettyman on stage

Of course, unless you’re an A-list star, the road can be a tedious and boring place, and there are tedious and boring things that have to be done, like this:

Tristan Prettyman kills time while doing the wash

Her new EP, Back to Home, released independently, is on my Get list. No videos yet, but here’s a take — literally, a take — on “Say Anything,” which you might have heard in the film Safe Haven:

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Crank sensor

Sometimes it’s just hard to watch. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Detroit led Oklahoma City 77-70, a score which suggests the presence of many, many bricks tossed up by both sides. This obviously would not do, and the Thunder put some effort into catching up. With a minute left, it was tied 82-82; the Pistons burned up two timeouts on a single possession, and came up empty when Kyle Singler failed to get a shot past Steven Adams. Reggie Jackson’s fadeaway jumper at the horn proved to be invisible, and overtime ensued. A lot of fumbling in the first couple of minutes, and then Detroit leaned on the loud pedal. In those five minutes, Brandon Jennings outscored the Thunder, 8-7, and the Pistons got their first win ever in the ‘Peake, 96-89.

Were I inclined to look for moral victories, I’d point to the three OKC double-doubles: Jeremy Lamb (24 points — a career high — and 10 rebounds), Reggie Jackson (20 points, 12 assists), and Serge Ibaka (19 points, 10 boards). But here’s the amazing statistic: the Thunder took only six foul shots — and missed five. Remember “close to the worst foul shooting in NBA history”? This was more than 10 percentage points worse.

And really, nobody expected this from Brandon Jennings, who checked into the locker room at halftime with four points. He wound up with 29 on decently efficient 10-18 shooting, including five of eight from far outside. The Detroit frontcourt also performed, with Josh Smith salting away 18 points, Greg Monroe (+30 for the night!) 14, and Andre Drummond nine, albeit with 15 rebounds. The Pistons collected 55 boards, 13 more than the Thunder, and outshot them by about 3 percent. (They were a blah 9-15 from the stripe, but hey: nine points. OKC should try that more often.) Meanwhile, a couple of blocks away, the D-League Blue dropped one to the Maine Red Claws, 111-105. Cold hands all around?

The Houston Rockets, who managed to beat the hapless Sixers by one point tonight, will be here Sunday. Pray for snow.

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Just get up and leave, Steve

On the 27th of June, a particularly hazardous new flow of lava emerged from Pu’u O’o, a cone in the eastern rift zone of Kilauea, modestly described by Wikipedia as “perhaps the most active volcano on earth.” Last eruption, say sources, was in January 1983 — and is still going on.

It’s possible, I suppose, that residents of Hawaii’s Big Island, which is basically five volcanoes glued together, have gotten jaded about such things. Still, reportage is cautious:

Hawaii County Civil Defense says that several lava breakouts in Pahoa are advancing Friday morning.

These breakouts are located in the area of the cemetery below Apa’a Street; above Apa’a Street in the area west or upslope of the transfer station; and 300 yards upslope of Apa’a Street.

Officials say the breakouts currently do not pose an immediate threat to area residents and will be monitored closely. The breakout near the transfer station has stopped flowing and is not active at this time. There is no burning asphalt at this time and all other burning with other breakouts is limited to vegetation only.

This USGS photo suggests several things:

Lava flow toward Pahoa, Hawaii, November 2014

To me, it suggests “Run for your life.” On Monday, the lava engulfed a house:

The first home has been claimed by the Puna lava flow, just across the street from the Pahoa Transfer Station along Cemetery Road/Apa’a Street.

Hawaii County Civil Defense officials confirm it ignited just before noon, the home was completely destroyed and collapsed around 12:45 p.m. Officials say the property owner was on site when the lava reached the 1,100 square foot home.

Cemetery Road? Excuse me while I facepalm. (Actually, I did that about “no burning asphalt at this time.”)

The next question: Are there, in fact, 50 ways to leave your lava? In the short term, time is on your side: lava speed has been variable, but it hasn’t gotten up to 1,000 feet per week lately. Still, it’s not like you can stuff it back into the volcano, and this eruption has been going on since, well, this:

An accord with Moscow is possible, the Reagan Administration said in response to a detailed Soviet criticism of the American position in the strategic arms talks that was carried in Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper. Administration officials repeated their optimism that an accord could be reached. There are two sets of negotiations in Geneva. One is focused on the medium-range missiles of the two sides in Europe. The other deals with longer-range strategic weapons. Both negotiations are in recess and are scheduled to be resumed later this month.

Moral: Always bet on the forces of nature.

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Techlet

Those of us who routinely outsource computer maintenance to younger folks will probably not be too surprised at this:

A boy from Coventry has become the youngest computer specialist in the world.

Ayan Qureshi is now a Microsoft Certified Professional after passing the tech giant’s exam when he was just five years old.

Ayan, now six, whose father is an IT consultant, has set up his own computer network at home.

He told the BBC he found the exam difficult but enjoyable, and hopes to set up a UK-based tech hub one day.

The Fark blurb for this: Five year old boy passes exam to become Microsoft Certified Professional in spite of being younger than most Microsoft bugs. And, I might add, way younger than this one.

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Chicks unfilleted

If you thought “What Does The Fox Say?” was a bit too, um, cerebral, here’s a Chinese video that makes approximately one zillionth as much sense:

(Via Incredible Things. They didn’t believe it either.)

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Beyond gossamer

An (almost) actual necklace made out of nothing:

NECLUMI is the first projection-based interactive necklace. We’re posing a question if we’re willing to abandon atoms of gold for the waves of light? At the current stage the whole setup is based on iPhone running custom app and a picoprojector connected via hdmi cable and attached to the wearers chest. Given the rate of miniaturisation of the picoprojector technology and observing the trend of wearables treated more as jewellery and fashion accessories rather than just gadgets, we predict that wearable projection and projection-based jewellery become a reality in a few years. We’re currently committed to create a standalone version of the project and we’re opened for funding and collaboration.

Watch the video at the link. It’s spellbinding, and maybe more than a little scary.

(From Wearable Technologies via Dan Gordon.)

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No size is Fun Size

Nathan Gunter found this at the local Sprouts:

Alive & Radiant Organic Kandy Kale

I’m having trouble trying to figure out what “holiday” is involved. April 15th, maybe?

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Not Meow Mix

She has no mouth, but she can apparently feed you:

North American fans of the mouth-less Sanrio feline can now rejoice as the first ever Hello Kitty Cafe will finally land on their continent!

Announced in the form of a bright pink food truck at the Hello Kitty Convention held in Los Angeles, fans were elated to learn that Hello Kitty will finally get her own cafe in California! Judging by the extreme cuteness of the pictures released so far, it seems like this cafe will take kawaii to a whole new level!

There’s a placeholder site for now. And didn’t they tell us that Kitty is not in fact a cat?

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pH 7+

And once again, I drift back to high-school chemistry — with a contemporary bounce:

Meghan Trainor, what hath thou wrought?

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