Archive for December 2014

Oh, and try the veal

Mighty Pantone (PBUH) has declared Marsala the Color of the Year for 2015:

Pantone Marsala swatch

Surprisingly, this choice has not met with universal approbation:

Social media has questioned what Pantone calls “a naturally robust and earthy wine red color” as “a color that makes you want to go to Olive Garden or order Tampax in bulk.”

So the food connection doesn’t help?

For a color that shares associations with wine, chicken, and mushrooms, the color also summons pfth-sounding glops of mystery meat in elementary cafeteria lunches, liver (and not necessarily of the French, pureed, pâté class) whipped into a murky abundance atop bread, pink slime gone wrong, or meatloaf (with a healthy serving of that mystery meat, perhaps?).

And I wonder how many of us endured this shade of carpeting forty years ago.

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This never happens in Massachusetts

The architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times ponders an unexpected issue:

More so than “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula”? Are we talking “Chuyville” or something?

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Shift-4

“Ohio State?” spake the Twitterverse in disbelief, and accusations began flying: atavistic regionalism! religious prejudice! blinkered, Philistine pig ignorance!

Well, no. It’s something simpler than all of those things:

I can guarantee you that NOBODY at ESPN was excited about the idea of Baylor or TCU in the College Football Playoff’s inaugural game. Make no mistake about it, as far as Texans are concerned, TCU and Baylor are about the fourth and fifth most popular teams in their own state (after Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and maybe even Oklahoma). TCU and Baylor fans (if there are such things) aren’t going to travel en masse to a championship game. They won’t buy $800 tickets to the game. And, most importantly, neither school’s brand will inspire fans from coast-to-coast to tune in.

But Ohio State? Oh, yes. They’ve got an alumni base that is more populous than the state of Wyoming. Literally. They have an international brand. They’ve won more national championship rings than you can fit on one hand. And their fans travel. They’ll buy every available seat in that stadium. They’ll gobble up every minute of televised coverage you can give them. They’ll buy every t-shirt you can make.

And hey, at least it’s not the odious Bowl Championship Series, am I right?

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May I have some marmalade, please

In which the lovely and talented Taylor Swift does her best Paddington Bear look:

Taylor Swift in winter wear

Not that I’m going to tell her she can’t wear Ralph Lauren if she wants to:

Taylor Swift in Ralph Lauren collection

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A folkie not to be forgotten

I don’t actually have a copy of this — believe me, I looked — but it seems like it’s been here all the time.

“Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in early 1964 and cut at that time, but was left in the can until the Metamorphosis compilation of 1975. Dick and Dee Dee (!), a supporting act for the Stones during their 1964 US tour, got first crack at a cover, but the one that got airplay, albeit minimal, was this version by Vashti Bunyan, released in May 1965 on Decca (UK) with production by Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham. Some pressings list her only as “Vashti,” as did the credits of at least one episode of the US TV series Shindig. “Some Things” somehow never got a US release, and, her career faltering, she moved to a commune in Scotland, eventually emerging long enough to cut an album, Just Another Diamond Day (Philips UK). Reviews were kind — you can find rather a lot of them on her Web site — but sales were awful, and she decided she wasn’t going to get mixed up in that sort of thing ever again.

By the turn of the century, Just Another Diamond Day was commanding $2000 bids on eBay, prompting Spinney Records to reissue it on vinyl and CD; Bunyan’s second career, as an off-center folkie, was under way. She would cut two more albums: Lookaftering (2005) and Heartleap (2014); the latter, she says, is her last.

How influential is Vashti Bunyan? Let’s ask Beck:

In which he sings Vashti’s “Winter Is Blue,” a late-60s track that preceded her departure to points north. (Her own take sounds like this.)

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Fallen deer zone

Payback can be so sweet sometimes. The Bucks, who so thoroughly thrashed these Thunder in Milwaukee earlier this season, managed to lead by five after the first quarter, and were never heard from again; Scott Brooks, always cautious about proclaiming garbage time, pulled the last of the starters — except for Andre Roberson, who replaced the fouled-out Anthony Morrow — with three and a half minutes left and OKC up by double digits. It was 114-101 at the horn, and the Restored Thunder are now 3-1 — but still 8-13 overall.

This was yet another game in which O. J. Mayo started out sort of slow and then gradually stepped up his production; he’d made it up to a game-high 18 points before fouling out late. His frontcourt served him well: Giannis Antetokounmpo had 17 points, Jabari Parker 15. The reserves were headed by Jerryd Bayless, with 11. Somehow, the Bucks managed only three fast-break points all night; even weirder, they were outrebounded 54-31. The Bucks did well at the stripe, though, with 29 hits in 35 tries. And while their bench was good for 36 points, the OKC reserves came up with 42, led by Reggie Jackson with 18.

Jackson, incidentally, played 30 minutes tonight, second only to Russell Westbrook. (Kevin Durant knocked out 29.) This is consistent with the last couple of games, indicating that Jackson’s spending nearly as much time subbing for Durant as he is for Westbrook. Russ kicked in 28 points tonight on 8-16; Durant went 7-11 for 23 and gathered nine boards, four more than even the mighty Serge, who was 5-5 from the floor and 5-5 from the line, +25 for the night. Nick Collison drew an unexpected DNP-CD, which I’m inclined to attribute to all manner of potential height mismatches.

Thursday, the Cavs come to town, and everyone says they’re ready. Me, I’m just grateful LeBron stayed in the East.

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Inflating the bounce rate

There was a report yesterday of domain hijacking, which proved to be a little bit less heinous than that but no less annoying.

It’s a third-party script, which apparently piggybacks onto the existing SiteMeter code. Fortunately, it was easy to identify. If you’re using some form of ad- or popup-blocker, this is something you’ll want to block:

http://x.vindicosuite.com/imp/…

If you’re not, well, why not?

(Hat tip to @GLHancock, who saw it here first.)

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Usually a dollar extra

I have to wonder whether this was actually planned, or somehow just happened:

Workers fled a Tim Horton’s restaurant in Canada after a patron threw a live snake behind the counter during an argument over sandwich toppings.

According to the Saskatoon Police Service, two 20-year-old men are in custody after they allegedly engaged in the snake throwing incident at a Saskatoon Tim Horton’s Monday morning.

The report indicates the men wanted their onions diced and as the argument escalated, one of the men reached into the pocket of his friend’s coat, pulled out a live snake and threw it behind the counter. According to police, no one was injured, but employees fled the store in fear.

On the upside, you have to figure that had they diced it for him, a man eating a snake, even at a Tim Horton’s, has to go over better than a snake eating a man.

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Hanging a bit too low

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root…”

At what point do you finally catch on?

A local public relations agency says it’s changing its name after a firestorm on social media over the weekend.

In a flurry of tweets and retweets that started late Saturday and continued into Sunday, people from across the nation and around the globe chastised Austin-based Strange Fruit Public Relations, which shares its name with a Billie Holiday song dealing with racism.

It is widely accepted that the song, based on a poem written in 1937 by Abel Meeropol, uses the term “strange fruit” as a metaphor for lynching victims hanging from trees.

It’s not that they were unaware, exactly:

Mary Mickel, who co-founded the firm with Ali Slutsky, told the American-Statesman the duo was unaware of the song when they first settled on the name in 2012.

“We thought the name would be perfect for a hospitality PR firm that specializes in food and drink,” Mickel said via email. “We of course Googled to ensure that it was not taken elsewhere and found the Billie Holiday song online. Thinking it would have nothing to do with our firm, and since it was written in 1939 it wouldn’t be top of mind in the public consciousness. We now know we were naïve to think that, and should have known better.”

I’m betting there probably isn’t a Dred Scott Real Estate, either.

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Winter tires

Not for use when it’s warm out:

Pumpkin Spice Rubber

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

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6 things we never want to see lists of again

Lynn was grumbling about yet another list, this one called “9 Things Middle-Aged Women Should Stop Doing Immediately.” Things got meta down in the comments when Nicole said there should be a list of “6 Things We Never Want to See Lists of Again,” and I said to myself, “Self? There’s your cue.”

  • “Ten Bands We Really Hate.” The only possibly interesting factor here is whether someone comes up with a way to mention Nickelback twice.
  • “Twelve Ugly Celebrity Body Parts.” Most of the time, this ends up being pictures of orange-peel deposits on the backs of their legs, or shots of their feet. (And if the latter, you will see Halle Berry, who really, truly does not have twelve toes, no matter what you heard.)
  • “Eight Ways to Reduce Carbs.” Scrape out the inside of the burrito, then give the hollowed-out husk to the stray cat from three doors down.
  • “Seven Shows You May Not Have Considered for Binge-Viewing.” At least four of them could be, and should be, According to Jim.
  • “Five National Conversations We Need to Have.” Inevitably, this translates to “Five issues on which you need to be lectured, since obviously you haven’t been taking the subtle hints we’ve been giving you all along.”
  • “Nine Ways to Look Better Naked.” You may reasonably distrust any of these that don’t begin with “Turn off the damn lights.”

Now I’m sorry I brought it up.

Addendum: Lynn herself weighs in.

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Emissions beyond control

When you get right down to it, nobody burns hydrocarbons like UN climate-change types burn hydrocarbons. And the next lovefest, in Peru, will burn the most of all:

The Lima conference is expected to have the biggest carbon footprint of any U.N. climate meeting measured to date. At more than 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the negotiations’ burden on global warming will be about 1½ times the norm, said Jorge Alvarez, project coordinator for the U.N. Development Program.

The venue is one big reason. It had to be built. Eleven football fields of temporary structures arose for the 13-day negotiations from what three months ago was an empty field behind Peru’s army’s headquarters. Concrete was laid, plumbing installed, components flown in from as far as France and Brazil.

Standing in the midday sun here can get downright uncomfortable, but the Lima sun is not reliable. That’s one reason solar panels were not used. For electricity, the talks are relying exclusively on diesel generators.

They’re claiming, of course, that all this is being offset elsewhere:

Nor is there a guarantee that the 580 square miles (1,500 square kilometers) of forest — the size of Houston, Texas — offsetting the talks’ carbon pollution won’t someday be gone. It must lie unperturbed for a half century in order to neutralize carbon emitted at the conference.

By which time, of course, all these self-appointed aristocrats will be long gone and justifiably forgotten.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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This morning’s instructional

A decade or so ago, I put out a threadbare little template for those who wanted to post the way I do, which turned out to be no one at all. The idea, however, has been steadily improved upon, and the current state of the art, I think, is in Jennifer’s “Eye Catching Title Referencing Something Controversial,” which offers not only a better title but the potential for actual controversy, something de rigueur in this age of fifty million blogs chasing the same ten million clicks.

(Oh, and read the comments. They’re actually in the spirit of the thing, for once.)

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Rabbit is retrying

We begin with a paragraph from Hugh Hefner’s The Playboy Philosophy, December 1962:

Some seem to feel that a happy, even frisky and romantic attitude toward life, and a savoring of its material pleasures, preclude seriousness, work, sensibility, a viable aesthetic. In our book (literally and in the slang sense) this position is untenable. It belongs with such other evidences of semantic dysfunction as the unreasoning suspicion that medicine can’t be good for you if it doesn’t taste bad; that robust profanity bespeaks a limited vocabulary (rather than one equipped with condiments as well as nutrients); that dullness is the ordained handmaiden of seriousness; that the well-dressed man is an empty-headed fop, perforce, and that conversely, the chap who can’t distinguish a fine Niersteiner from a plebeian bottle of hock is probably possessed of more intellect of character than the man who can.

In the Age of Dudebros, this sort of claim to the epicurean high ground gets exactly the amount of respect you’d think, which is why the keepers of the Rabbit are actually considering turning away from its signature offering:

“You could argue that nudity is a distraction for us and actually shrinks our audience rather than expands it,” says [Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott] Flanders. “At the time when Hef founded the company [in 1953], nudity was provocative, it was attention-grabbing, it was unique and today it’s not. It’s passé.”

So passé that he predicts it will eventually vanish from the Playboy brand altogether. Probably not as long as Hefner still owns a third of the company and personally selects all of the nude spreads in the magazine, along with each Playmate of the Month and Year.

Which, notes this thirty-year reader, do tend to be repetitive, though there does seem to be life in the old leporid yet:

Though he claims he has no actual editorial pull, Flanders nudged others within the company to contemporize the overall look and feel of the publication. He felt it had grown “stale,” mostly due to using essentially the same pool of photographers for more than 25 years. Updating the visual aesthetic, he says, particularly the eye candy, of Playboy was far from an easy sell.

“People said, ‘Oh, we know what Hef likes. He likes this type of photography,’ and I said, ‘Well that’s bullshit. That’s like saying he likes the same meatloaf he’s been eating for 25 years. Let’s give him a piece of steak and see if he likes that,'” Flanders says. “And, sure as hell, as soon as they gave Hef more contemporary photography he loved it.”

Still, Hef is nearly 90. (Note: This Web site started on his 70th birthday.) At this point, we have no idea of the sensibilities of younger son Cooper, who is the designated heir to That Which Is Hef. And Playboy is trailing the recently de-fratboyed Maxim by half a million copies a month, which proves, if nothing else, that there’s a market for sideboob alone.

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Sooner than you’d think

I went public with this Saturday, once I had something to work with:

It was received well in the tweetstream, for the most part. I left the second part of the story unspoken, since it hadn’t come to fruition just yet.

Monday night it did: the school board voted 8-0 to change the teams at Capitol Hill High School from “Redskins” to, well, almost anything else. This didn’t go quite so smoothly, but ultimately I have to agree with board chair Lynn Hardin:

“We all have feelings about this and whether it’s right or wrong we have an obligation to be sensitive to our community,” Hardin said. “Once you know the truth, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. So we might as well address it and figure out how we can proceed.”

I have no doubt at least some of the folks who sat in on the meeting were also thinking about Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins, though if you ask me, the truly hurtful word in that name isn’t “Redskins.”

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New noises in the night

It started about 10:30. The furnace went through its usual startup routine, the piezo starter clicked, and then — nothing.

And then BAM! A very loud thump, and things continued normally. This had all the signs of being Not Good, so I turned to the keyboard and sought answers. Apparently the most common cause of this ailment is grunged-up burners which pass insufficient gas. (A problem I myself have never had, I noted.) The furnace is legally old enough to drink, and I don’t trust myself around things that might explode, so I cut it off for the night and the next morning summoned the pros from Dover.

And of course, my YouTube-enhanced diagnosis was wrong. Combination of two things: bad capacitor at the blower motor, and gas pressure about 20 percent off spec. Total outlay: just under $200. And at least it didn’t happen on a day when the temperature was down in the ridiculous zone.

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Until he took one to the knee

The absence of LeBron James, sidelined with a sore left knee, proved to be less of an issue than anyone thought: guard Matthew Dellavedova, averaging a hair over three points per game, started at small forward and dropped in four of five treys, contributing a great deal toward the collapse of what once was a 20-point Thunder lead. With 2:00 left, the Cavaliers had pulled to within four; back-to-back buckets from Kevin Durant, though, stretched the lead back to eight, and the Cavs would see no more daylight. Final: Oklahoma City 103, Cleveland 94.

King James was missed, yes, but it’s not like the Cavaliers were way outmanned: no team with Kyrie Irving really can be. (There were some anxious moments on the Cleveland bench late in the second quarter, when Irving came down hard on a knee; but he was back after halftime, good as new.) To go with Irving’s 20 points, Cleveland also had Kevin Love, 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Tristan Thompson, 14 points and 13 boards. (Cavs outrebounded the Thunder, 48-48.) Add fourteen points from Dion Waiters and fourteen more from the aforementioned Matthew Dellavedova, and here’s a team that can play with the best even without that James fellow.

But that James fellow is a formidable shot blocker, and in his absence, OKC shot 44 percent and 7-26 on the three-ball, most of which came in the fourth quarter. KD, right on top of his time limitation at 30:07, chunked in 19 points; Russell Westbrook checked in with a game-high 26 on 12-24 shooting, eight assists and seven rebounds. Steven Adams collected 10 boards. It was another weird night for Serge Ibaka, who fouled out in just under 26 minutes: he scored seven and blocked two shots, but grabbed absolutely no rebounds whatsoever. Reggie Jackson and Anthony Morrow contributed two dozen points between them.

Tommorow night in the Twin Cities: the 9-13 Thunder versus the 5-16 Timberwolves. You kind of figure both of these teams would be doing better than that. Then again, they could be 1-2 in the division, or 14-15 in the conference, and they’d still go at it with hammer and tong.

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Welcome to Batman

Street scene in Batman, Turkey

This is beautiful downtown Batman, Turkey, population 350,000, so named for its location on the Batman River, a major tributary of the fabled Tigris. It’s an oil town: the Batı Raman oil field, Turkey’s largest, is located just outside of city limits, and there’s a pipeline to the Mediterranean. In 1986 carbon-dioxide injection was introduced, later supplemented by polymer gel flooding, maintaining Batı Raman’s production level at around 7,000 barrels a day through 2007 or so.

There is some dispute as to the origin of the name “Batman,” which may be derived from an old Ottoman Empire unit of weight (approximately 16.5 lb), or from the Batı Raman — not the oil field, but a nearby mountain, height 1200 meters.

In 2008, Batman mayor Huseyin Kalkan made noises to the effect that he was suing Warner Bros. and director Christopher Nolan over The Dark Knight: trademark infringement, doncha know. Nothing came of the suit; presumably someone showed Mr Kalkan a copy of Detective Comics.

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For which they stand

Because, you see, this kind of stuff is important:

Ruling [Thursday], Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bernard M. Jones denied Oklahoma City Public Schools’ request for an injunction that would force Locust Grove and Oklahoma City Douglass High Schools to replay their Class 3A quarterfinal game, or to replay the last 64 seconds of the game, starting from when a mistaken rule enforcement cost Douglass a touchdown to which it was by right entitled.

And God forbid anyone should fail to get something to which it is by right entitled. Meanwhile, there exist issues of lesser import:

You, O Fine Reader, being the perceptive sort of person that you are, will probably have noticed that no one is threatening to go to court over Douglass test scores or building facilities, or the fact that the statewide testing mark for the school dropped from a C+ in 2013 to a D- in 2014, or that nobody noticed that school staff had let so many academic requirements slide for the class of 2013 that the discovery only a fifth of them could graduate was not made until November 2012.

None of those things are worth disturbing a judge and packing a courtroom for, apparently.

It’s all in the priorities. And in this state, that’s football, followed by Everything Else.

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Axe it anything

Sometimes it’s not always obvious where Apple should be going with a product line. And this is where the user base stands tall:

Of course, as an Apple accessory, it won’t be cheap, but so what else is new?

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Meanwhile on the Mad River

Welcome to Springfield, Ohio, population 120,000:

That’s sixty thousand humans, and sixty thousand crows:

Residents, business owners and police in Springfield have joined together in a bid to get rid of the “dirty” birds, which leave droppings everywhere and create noise pollution.

Volunteer armies have been brandishing lasers at the buildings from dusk until early night, while a biologist also recommended using sound machines.

Crows, however, are not dumb:

“The crows adapted quickly and realized that’s just a fake,” Roger Sherrock, CEO of the Clark County Heritage Center and one of the leaders in the fight against the crows, told the Springfield News-Sun.

CROWCON 2: Flare guns.

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And they call it puppy love

The key to tonight’s Timberwolves game, it appears, was the presence of Jeff Adrien. And the reason he was there is fourfold: Kevin Martin, Nikola Peković, Ricky Rubio, and Ronny Turiaf were out with various injuries. Adrien, therefore, is Minnesota’s Ish Smith: picked up under the NBA’s hardship rule while the roster is depleted. It wasn’t so long ago that the Thunder was in similar straits, and they played tonight like the Thunder’s opponents back then: the quantity of mercy is conspicuous by its absence. Oklahoma City jumped out to a 39-21 lead after the first quarter, running it to 70-49 at the half. But the Wolves dug in and concentrated on making high-percentage shots; by the end of the third, they’d cut that lead to 16, and the Thunder obligingly made only one shot in the next four minutes and one more in the next three and a half. The Wolves did not, however, capitalize on this opportunity, and OKC bagged the win, 111-92.

Minnesota, after working their shot percentage up over 50 in the third, dropped to a still-plausible 46, and five Wolves made double figures, led by Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad (off the bench!) with 18 each. Thaddeus Young, one of the few veterans available this evening, added 16. The Wolves were efficient at forcing turnovers, collecting 19 from the Thunder; they were soundly spanked on the boards, though, 47-31.

Kevin Durant stayed under his 30-minute restriction, and concentrated on moving the ball around: he had 16 points and five assists. Still, the team’s Master of Dime is Russell Westbrook, who served up six of them and scored 34. And Steven Adams put together a double-double: 16 points, 11 boards. Anthony Morrow led the bench with 14. The Minnesota bench actually outscored the OKC reserves, 30-27; most of those came from Muhammad, though Jeff Adrien scored 4 — exactly as many as Ish Smith.

Back home on Sunday to take on the Phoenix Suns, followed by a trip to the Left Coast: Sacramento Tuesday, Golden State Thursday, and the Lakers on Friday. The Suns can score, and so can the Kings; the Warriors can beat you every which way. We’ll leave it at that.

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Try the impossible

A tidbit of semi-wisdom from six years ago:

The mere fact that you’ve worn the same wristwatch for a quarter of a century does not mean that you know what size battery it takes.

361.

Yesterday, I faced down one of life’s minor unpleasant tasks: replacing that battery. It’s not that the process is difficult — pry off the back, drop in the new button, replace the back — but it’s a pain in the neck, or in the finger anyway, to reset all those little digits. Still, the LCDs had grown dim, so I fetched my one remaining spare, pried off the back, dropped in the new button, and replaced the back.

And the time was within 18 seconds of correct. Evidently I managed to swap the batteries under the mechanism’s little electronic nose before it realized that there’d been an interruption in the current.

I don’t recall this ever happening before, and, as noted, I’ve owned this watch for over thirty years.

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Faster, please

The opening sentence of John Phillips’ column in the January Car and Driver:

In 1991, I wrote about a Top Fuel dragster that was homing in on the NHRA’s first 300-mph quarter-mile pass, a velocity that many felt might teleport the driver so far into the future that he’d land in an era where Congress couldn’t pass bills.

Current NHRA Top Fuel quarter-mile record at this writing is held by Spencer Massey of Fort Worth, Texas, who has done the deed in a certified 332.18 mph.

Apparently that’s still not fast enough.

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Born 1989

It just dawned on me that today is Taylor Swift’s birthday.

Now we’ve already had a couple of pictures of Tay this week, but hey, it’s her birthday.

And I really wonder about this expression she’s wearing at the iHeart Radio Jingle Ball:

Taylor Swift for iHeart Radio

In a more mellow mood, here’s another shot from her Keds campaign:

Taylor Swift for Keds

Ah, those were the days.

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Out to launch

Would you like to swing on a star?

And yes, those are real NASA interns.

Meghan Trainor can probably retire next spring.

(Via Miss Cellania. See also this earlier example of Johnson [Space Center] Style.)

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Passing detest

Not the official Facebook Dislike iconOne can only hope:

[Thursday] during a Facebook Q&A with Mark Zuckerberg, the head of the social network said the company is mulling over the addition of a “dislike” button — a thumbs down to go with that ever-present thumbs up, reports Business Insider.

“We’re thinking about it,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s an interesting question.”

The problem with a dislike button could be bullying or shaming other users, Zuckerberg notes, though it would work for when people wanted to express themselves but didn’t want to comment or use the like button. For example, when someone posts about losing a beloved pet — you want to show support without typing a message, but “liking” the death of a pet can feel just … weird.

Still, I’m keen to see this button put to use, if only because I know I will put it to use with great vigor.

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Quote of the week

Dr. B on that “torture” report:

Expect this report to be used to bash Republicans (without noting that President Obama doesn’t allow the capture and torture of suspected terrorists: he merely kills the bad guys with drones instead). True pacifists know this, and complain.

How can you tell a true pacifist from a fake one? If they only bash the US and the west, they are fake.

War is hell, as one General said, and the dirty little secret is that often trying to make wars more humane merely leads to the next war because you didn’t kill enough bad guys, so they regroup and attack again.

It’s only a secret to the politicians: the rest of us knew this all along. Most of the rest of us, anyway.

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Thieves vying for honor points

Received in the spam trap yesterday afternoon:

Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any suggestions?

This might have carried more weight had the “author” been identified as something other than “buy litecoin With credit card no verification.”

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Non-smuggler’s blues

There’s a little listserv on an arcane topic that I’ve been part of for at least fifteen years; the founder/leader died back in 2005, but it continues, and occasionally someone new shows up.

A Canadian chap had tossed out a story idea consistent with the group topic, and over the next couple of years turned out a pretty decent story, vaguely erotic but not enough to upset anyone’s applecart, and after he finished it, he vowed to make a book out of it. Which he did: he hired an editor to go through it — a wise choice, we all thought — then went the self-published route.

Response was good enough for him to start thinking in terms of “sequel,” and while I’d read the serialized version, I figured the least I could do is buy one in hardcopy. I contacted him offlist; he said he had a few copies on hand, and quoted a price. Fine, said I, what are my payment options? Apparently what gets to him fastest is MoneyGram, the successor to the old Travelers Express Company.

This next bit of history matters more than I thought it would:

In November 2012, MoneyGram International admitted to money laundering and wire fraud violations. MoneyGram services were used by unrelated parties involved in mass marketing and consumer phishing scams that defrauded thousands of victims in the United States. As a part of the settlement, MoneyGram created a $100 million victim compensation fund. MoneyGram also retained a corporate monitor who will report regularly to the United States Department of Justice for a five-year trial period. If MoneyGram fulfills its obligations under the settlement, prosecutors will seek dismissal of the charges of aiding and abetting wire fraud. MoneyGram also terminated any agents complicit in the 2009 scams and invested more than $84 million in improvements to the company’s consumer anti-fraud systems and consumer awareness education.

And apparently they’re taking no chances in 2014, because it took me half an hour on their Web site and another ten minutes talking to an actual rep for me to fail to persuade them to accept my payment to this Canadian guy, inasmuch as well, no, we’ve never actually met, and national borders are involved.

I said screw it, went to his publisher, and ordered a copy from them.

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Meanwhile, up in the sky

The spring storm season in this place lasts 14, maybe 15 months. On the upside, when the sirens pipe down we get a glimpse of something like this:

There was a tornado warning at the time, at a far corner of the county.

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A little dark spot

The Suns have been slumping of late, and the loss of Goran Dragić to back spasms wasn’t going to help matters. An ideal time, perhaps, for the Thunder to run off another 70-point first half. Both sides, however, looked tired in the third quarter, though OKC extended the lead to 25. There wasn’t any particular reason for the starters for either side to play the fourth quarter, and they didn’t; in fact, things got to the point where Mitch McGary actually got to play. (Jeremy Lamb drew a DNP-CD, though apparently he was not feeling well, in case anyone thought Lamb was residing in Scott Brooks’ doghouse.) And as it turned out, the fourth quarter, despite meeting the definition of garbage time, was actually a bit more entertaining than the third. Final: Oklahoma City 112, Phoenix 88, climbing to 11-13 and dropping the Suns to 12-13. Half a game out of eighth place, guys.

Gerald Green, subbing for Dragić, was the Suns’ high scorer with 15; fellow wingman Eric Bledsoe added 12. Rookie Tyler Ennis led the reserves with 11. The Suns put up lots of shots, didn’t make many: 34 of 99 for 35 percent. (OKC was 39-80 for 49 percent.) Thunder dominance on the boards was prodigious: 63-40.

In their brief appearances, Russell Westbrook (27 minutes) picked up 28 points and eight boards, and delivered eight assists; Kevin Durant (24 minutes, though Brooks would have let him go 35 if needed) picked up 23 points and eight boards, and delivered two assists. Top rebounder turned out to be Kendrick Perkins, with ten; Steven Adams had eight. The Thunder did not shoot the long ball well (4-18), though the Suns weren’t any better (7-31). Oh, and McGary? Three points and four boards in seven minutes.

That long West Coast haul is coming up. The Kings are struggling a bit, with DeMarcus Cousins unwell; the Warriors are not struggling in the least, and hey, Kobe Bryant moved into third place on the all-time scorers list, which has to make the Lakers happy.

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Strange search-engine queries (463)

Taylor Swift once wrote a song called “Back to December.” It had nothing whatever to do with this stuff, which is scraped out of the logs in a desperate attempt to find something amusing on a Monday morning.

don alverzo wiki:  You’d think people would check Wikipedia for wiki entries, but maybe not.

2001 mazda 626 and transmission problems:  Go together like a horse and carriage.

dolichocephaly cleese:  Not the lost nephew of John Cleese. I think.

on MTV who got Punk’d when they were told there’d $250,000 Porsche was stolen:  Not the lost nephew of John Cleese. I think.

jordache lard ass jeans:  Not actually made by Jordache.

pole vault plant box padding:  You might try cutting up some old worn-out jeans.

spearsling:  Britney’s daughter — some day.

rebecca romijn body paint see:  This is why Sports Illustrated has a swimsuit issue.

calf falsies:  Raw material for Mystery Veal.

nice japanese daddy:  He’ll wear the Hello Kitty sweater you bought him, and smile the whole time.

SupraModem 2400:  But was it Hayes-compatible?

well turned ankle:  Good at a fashion show; not so good at an NBA game.

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No place left to hide

The quality of exhibitionists has declined markedly of late:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Will the host see me on nude adult cams?

Here’s where it gets pitiful:

I don’t want the hosts on nude adult cams to see me during the private shows because I really can’t risk being recognized. Is there a way for me to remain hidden?

So: (a) gutless; (b) underage; (c) gutless and underage?

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Blasts from the past

The very last time I can remember calling up a radio station and asking “What the hell is that?” was for this very track, some time in 1990.

I’m not sure that stills of Mount Etna in mid-eruption are the ideal visual complement to Paul Speer’s guitar and Leroy Quintana’s keyboards, but it’s what we’ve got. (And the tune runs only to 5:10, so there’s two minutes more volcano without accompaniment.)

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Nobody likes price hikes

Especially if there’s a good reason for one, and in this case there was:

Uber is reportedly charging its users in downtown Sydney a minimum $100, a result of surge pricing introduced in the midst of an armed hostage crisis, Mashable has learned.

An executive in the city’s Central Business District (CBD) sent Mashable screenshots of the Uber app that show the company is charging up to four-times the normal rate because “demand is off the charts.”

A hundred Australian dollars is about $82 USD.

“I have never, ever seen it at four-times [the normal rate] and I’m a 1% top Uber user,” said Matthew Leung, the user in contact with Mashable. “I understand the way the business works — higher the demand, higher the charge — but four-times at $100 minimum is ridiculous. Almost price gouging at its worst.”

Rather a lot of Twitter users chose to ignore that word “almost”; reaction was swift and almost entirely negative. Uber’s Sydney office issued a statement:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not driving my way into that sort of catastrophe for a lousy 82 bucks.

Later, in an effort at damage control, Uber began waiving fees for riders leaving the CBD, and offered refunds to the truly distraught.

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Oh, what a night

Late December, back in ’53,
What a very special time for me,
As I remember — what the hell?

Hoover vacuum ad from 1953

Sixty-odd years later, Susan and Tom are still not speaking to one another. The Hoover, meantime, sucks as much as it always did. (I have one such machine, admittedly not that old; it’s still functional as its 40th birthday approaches.) Not that anyone born in the last 25 years is going to believe that humble household appliances were once considered dynamite Christmas fare.

(From Pop Sugar via Miss Cellania.)

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Sometimes it even works

We are heavily reliant on systems that work not quite 100 percent of the time:

Our modern world runs on giant, soulless corporations that mostly work very well. They keep us supplied with food, water, power, transportation, entertainment and an endless variety of gadgets. A great many people have worked very hard to make these organizations productive and efficient. Problem is that in streamlining these operations they become more susceptible to grit in the gears. Their normal reaction is to just kick it out. That’s when your high-tech new ride breaks down, you find yourself stranded by the side of the road with a dead cell phone that wouldn’t work anyway because your account has been terminated for non-payment, because your credit card has been canceled because your number and 27 million others got stolen by the Romanian mafia who sold it to some grifters in Kansas City who tried to buy a boatload of Christmas presents over the internet.

And we will never, ever run short of grifters.

One corollary: inevitably, this sort of system-building leads to atrocities like the construction of voice-mail systems that can handle any conceivable inquiry except the one you’re trying to put in. Technology has only so much imagination.

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Seeming incompatibility

Subject line on a spam received last night: iPad Owners Overjoyed by Revolutionary Keyboard. Second One 1/2 Off.

Actual text of the spam:

Just Fresh Direct Unfiltered Olio Novello. Imported straight from Italy within one week of pressing, this oil is delicious enough to drizzle on bruschetta but affordable enough to use in cooking, too. (Note: Only available in select markets).

I, for one, do not look forward to keyboards that can be drizzled.

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Struggling with style

I’ve mentioned before that occasionally I page through the archives, and sometimes, I have to admit, I like what I see.

And then there are the times when I don’t.

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