Archive for January 2015

The paper gets pricier

An unsigned letter from the circulation department (I assume) at the Oklahoman:

You will note that subscription rates are slightly increasing this renewal period. The increased rates are the result of the economic realities associated with publishing a newspaper 7-days a week that contains quality investigative journalism, like our coverage of the problems at the Department of Human Services, along with the extensive information we provide each day about community news, sports & events.

Has to be circulation: nobody on the news side of the business writes with so little flair.

“Slightly,” incidentally, is just over 11 percent. Then again, without going through a box of bank statements, I couldn’t tell you the last time they raised the rates, so it’s not like the price is suddenly spiraling out of sight.

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It’s Deb, Jim

The disappearance of one-time mall stalwarts continues apace:

[A]nother mall staple is putting down the store gate for good: Deb is liquidating and closing all 295 of its stores.

You know, Deb. That store where you tried on a bunch of prom dresses but ultimately didn’t buy any of them. Or maybe that was me.¹ The chain was still in existence and almost 300 stores strong, but sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the end of 2014. Without a buyer, the company will close all of its stores and liquidate.

And actually, it’s not just Deb; dELiA*s is dead, and Wet Seal is shedding two-thirds of itself. This is not to say that retail targeting teens is in irreversible decline, but there seems to be a serious squeeze-out going on.

¹ [It wasn’t me.]

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Don’t blame Canada

Usually when it gets this cold, I start grumbling about the Great White North and the denizens therein for their failure to keep the damn cold air where it belongs, somewhere in the general vicinity of Baffin Bay.

I am told that this time, anyway, the stuff is coming from much farther away:

The cold comes courtesy of this wobble in the polar vortex, which is enabling pure, Arctic air from Siberia to migrate across the North Pole, head south across Canada, and cross the border at high speed — like a tourist without a passport. The Arctic invasion is occurring in the wake of a phenomenon that is well-known to temporarily destabilize the polar vortex, which is a sudden stratospheric warming event.

The unusually cold air mass is rotating around Hudson Bay, Canada, with spokes of frigid air descending into the U.S.

I guess the Russians should be grateful that their Arctic air is “pure.”

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Not one mention of vodka

The derisive term “Safety Nazis” has yet to make any headway in Russia, but their regulators are even wackier than our regulators:

Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences.

Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as “mental disorders” now barring people from driving.

The government says it is tightening medical controls for drivers because Russia has too many road accidents.

I can see wanting to put the voyeurs and the exhibitionists on the bus — maybe even the same bus — but trans people? Are they mistranslating the term as “transit”?

“Pathological” gambling and compulsive stealing are also on the list. Russian psychiatrists and human rights lawyers have condemned the move.

In other news, there are psychiatrists and human rights lawyers in Russia.

(Via Jen Richards, who quips: “I have both the poor driving skills of a woman and the aggressive rage of a man. Please stop me from #drivingwhiletrans!”)

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Improper use of force

The Thin Blue Line gets thinner, but better:

The Oklahoma City Police Department has fired an officer accused of rape and other misconduct last year.

Daniel Holtzclaw was arrested in 2014 in the parking lot of Gold’s Gym in northwest Oklahoma City… Police say Holtzclaw stopped women, threatened them and made them expose themselves and perform sexual acts. He pleaded not guilty to 36 counts of sexual assault.

An example:

One alleged victim was a 44-year-old woman who says Holtzclaw pulled up next to her, found a crack pipe, and told her “you know you could go to jail.” She says Holtzclaw then forced her to perform oral sex.

The Department has made public the letter dismissing Holtzclaw [pdf], which contains this statement by Chief Bill Citty:

Your offenses against women in this community constitute the greatest abuse of police authority I have witnessed in my 37 years as a member of this agency.

Words unminced.

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Reporting from a very wet garage

At some unknown point between 10 last night and 6 this morning, my garage began filling up with water. I’m not at the point where I have the plumbers on speed-dial, but I do have their phone number memorized, and they dispatched, luckily for me, a chap who’d been here before.

Now this house was built in 1948, and a garage was added on in 1951; when the big boom in home laundry equipment came, the path of least resistance was to install the washer/dryer pair in the garage. It’s only two steps from what used to be the back door, but there’s a substantial environmental difference. In 1997, in an effort to reduce that difference, the owners installed batt-type insulation along the outside garage walls and sheathed it with plywood. This works better than you might think it would: on the coldest day I can remember since buying this place in 2003 — this would be 10 February 2011, when the mercury dropped to -5°F — the garage was still in the upper 20s. Still, there’s always the danger of water-line freeze, even with the lines tucked away into that insulated space.

Freezing, however, didn’t seem likely: it was 27°F this morning, so it would have to have been a byproduct of yesterday’s low of 11°F — though garage temperature that morning was a balmy-ish 38°F. And no, it was not frozen: I had the unfortunate combination of a rubber line to the washing machine that had split, and the faucet to which it was connected following its natural Spew procedure. New lines were obtained — I figure, if one’s gone, the other can’t be far behind — and the faucet was inspected and found merely to be full of looseness. Things are gradually returning to normal, though the concrete floor (and the rug that sits over some of it) will remain wet for a few hours yet.

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As distinguished from “card-carrying”

This is a press release, of course, and like most of its ilk, it assumes that those who read it will be overly impressed by it. Include me out:

Popular nudist dating site NudistDatingSites.net recently launched a new feature named “Certified Nudist.” This feature is similar to the verification option available on most dating sites.

Translation: “We’re adding a feature that everyone else already has.”

Now this next bit seems indisputable, which is probably why it was buried in the third graf:

Whilst online dating has certainly made it convenient for users to find their ideal match from the convenience of their couch, it has also given rise to several issues. “A lot of people confuse nudism with exhibitionism. They fail to understand the core idea behind nudism and look at it as a way to find a sex partner. When such people get onto nudist dating sites, it creates inconvenience for genuine nudists,” said psychologist Pauline Brown.

I am, I admit, curious about what goes into this “verification” program, because surely it has to be more than this:

The primary motive behind the launch of this feature is to differentiate a genuine user from a scammer. In order to become a certified nudist on this website, a member would have to put up their real photo. On the other hand, if the profile belongs to a couple, both the individuals need to be present in the photograph.

This invites a couple of obvious questions:

  • What’s to stop a scammer from disrobing?
  • If couples are allowed on a dating site, should we assume that either swinging or polyamory are on the agenda?

Disclosure: Once upon a time, I was a member of a social network aimed at this subculture; it folded after a couple of years. They didn’t require photos, but photos were, let us say, strongly encouraged.

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A vaguely spiritual quality to it all

High weirdness all night. We begin with this revelation on Twitter:

Um, no, he’s not. And anyway, Waiters’ undistinguished Thunder debut on the Left Coast was pretty much offset by his second appearance: in 11 first-half minutes, he went 4-7 and stole the ball three times.

But Waiters won’t make the highlight reel, and Trevor Booker’s late-second-quarter bucket will: with 0.2 on the shot clock, Booker got the inbound facing away from the basket, and without turning around, he tipped the ball in the general direction of the rim. And it went in. “Grandma shot,” quipped Brian Davis.

The Jazz didn’t work too many miracles tonight, but they outworked the Thunder in the first 44 minutes or so. Finally OKC scraped to a 92-90 lead. Conspicuously, Waiters was playing and Reggie Jackson wasn’t. And with 23 seconds left, Waiters served up his first successful trey of the night, making it 97-93. Gordon Hayward made one of two foul shots, pulling the Jazz to within three; Russell Westbrook put down one of his patented dunks, Serge Ibaka swatted away the last Utah shot, and Westbrook dribbled it out for the 99-94 win.

Waiters ended up with 15 of the 26 OKC bench points and four steals. Among the starters, Westbrook posted a double-double (25 points on 9-17 shooting, 12 assists), and Kevin Durant turned in a very Durantean 32 points on 14-21. Possibly alarming: Jackson was 2-6, Anthony Morrow was 1-6. And while Serge Ibaka did grab 12 points and seven boards, he blocked only one shot.

Speaking of blocks, the Jazz practically monopolized them, to the tune of 11-5; Rudy Gobert had seven of them. Utah also controlled the boards, 44-38. Three Jazz starters broke the 20-point mark: Hayward with 27, Booker with 20, and Derrick Favors collected a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Where did the Jazz go wrong? They left seven points at the stripe, 15-22 on foul shots. (Then again, OKC was 8-9, scoring, um, seven points fewer.) And while Utah put up 11 treys in the first half and scored seven of them, all 10 of their second-half three-pointers failed, which I suspect was at least partially due to Scott Brooks making some noise at halftime about how little long-ball defense the Thunder were showing.

And now: six days off. What are we to do? Speculate, of course.

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Nikolina

Nikolina Konstantinova Dobreva is not that overwhelming of a name, but it’s hard to fit on a marquee, which may explain how she became Nina Dobrev. Born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1989 — yesterday was her birthday, in fact — she grew up in Toronto. After several years as an unwed teenage mom on Degrassi: The Next Generation, she got the lead in The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, which has run six seasons so far.

I don’t think she’s changed much by all this exposure to the seamier side of (fictional) life. She’s a regular at the Coachella Music Festival, and in this shot from 2011 she looks all of eleven:

Nina Dobrev at the 2011 Coachella Music Festival

The chap with the hat is Vampire Diaries co-star Ian Somerhalder; they dated up until 2013 or so.

Nina Dobrev in a 2014 New York Post feature

Next up: The Final Girls, currently in post-production, about which we can say only this:

Max, a young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself transported back in time to 1988 and into the world of her mother’s most famous horror movie. Reunited, the ladies must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.

Probably not too serious, I surmise.

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Say hello, Bob

Up to this point, pretty much all the spammers putatively offering sexual services of one sort or another have claimed to be persons of the female persuasion. Then there’s “Robert,” who sent me this Thursday night:

My name is Robert, and this is the first time I write to a guy first. But I find you attractive and would like to chat about your interests.

Historically, men who find me appealing have been even rarer than women who find me appealing, so this was amusing for about forty-five seconds.

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A new Madrid

No, Spain is not moving its capital, nor is that scary fault line through the Missouri bootheel attracting more than perfunctory attention, except among geologists. “Madrid,” in this context, is a shoe from Klogs, which doesn’t appear to be an actual clog — I suppose we could see if there’s enough wood content to make them float — but which have a charm of their own.

Madrid by Klogs from their Villa Collection

From the Klogs Villa Collection, “Madrid” is available in Coffee Metallic (as shown), black, and white. The latter two colors have silver buckles. A Zappos customer likes them:

[I] have a high instep, wide toes, narrow heel, and I supinate and pronate. I have a history of falling arches with hairline fracture and tendonitis, not to mention diabetes and RA. The pain, swelling and fatigue in my feet, ankles, knees, hips and back are gone.

And Fillyjonk likes them:

I know there’s a school of thought that says women’s shoes should be alluring and “sexy.” And yeah, these shoes begin to approach the territory of what a college friend used to call “B.C. Shoes” (B.C. for “Birth Control,” as in “No man will look twice at you when you’re wearing these”).

But to be honest, any more, I dress to please myself rather than to please anyone else, and I like these shoes. I think they’re cute. And they’re definitely comfortable, which is a consideration when you spend multiple hours in a day standing on floors that are a thin layer of tile over poured concrete. They have good support built into the footbed, and I need that. They’re also not too flat, which is something else I need.

“Not too flat,” in this case, is about half an inch of heel rise.

The Villa Collection includes a couple of men’s shoes as well; assuming similar prices, they’d be worth my consideration if they made sizes larger than 13.

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Proprietary crap

This is disheartening, but really not at all unexpected:

For those of you who have wondered whether a cat litter box could achieve the same functionality as an inkjet printer, CatGenie has the answer for you. Jorge Lopez covered his experience with his brand-new purchase at Medium, swiftly discovering the downside of the litter box that cleans itself. While it does take care of most of the nasty business (disposing of feces — although occasionally leaving one behind to be baked into “poop jerky” by the heated cleaning cycle), it only does so if properly loaded with specific products made and sold by CatGenie.

There is, for example, a cleaning solution, circulated through the machine’s permanent-ish granules. It comes in what is called a SmartCartridge. How smart is it?

Contained within the SmartCartridge is an RFID chip that tracks fluid levels and turns the automatic litter box into a useless stinkhole once the fluid runs out. It can’t be tricked into believing you’ve refilled it. It can only be replaced with a new one. Like any number of printers that won’t let you print/scan/copy without replacing an ink cartridge, the wonderful, self-cleaning litter box refuses to do anything but collect cat excrement until new cartridges are installed.

That’s a $200+ litter box that becomes indiscernible from the $6.99 non-auto version once the proprietary cleaning fluid runs out.

Hats off to Techdirt’s Tim Cushing for describing that particular condition as a “bricked shithouse.”

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Replete with chiefs

An amusing (for once) Oklahoman editorial this morning:

[W]e couldn’t help but chuckle when Democratic Leader Randy Bass of Lawton announced [Senate] caucus leadership positions and committee appointments. The leadership positions included one Democratic leader (Bass), two assistant Democratic leaders, a Democratic caucus chair, a Democratic caucus vice-chair, two Democratic whips, and four assistant Democratic floor leaders.

Which is, admittedly, a lot of positions to be filled by only seven legislators. (There were actually eight at the beginning of the year, but Jabar Shumate resigned a few days ago.)

Still, the electorate should not feel bad for the badly outnumbered Democratic caucus:

The Democrats’ numerical challenges also were reflected in their committee assignments. Every Democrat will serve on eight committees or appropriation subcommittees. As a point of comparison, there were Republican senators who served on just five committees or subcommittees last year. If Democratic legislators make every one of their assigned meetings, no one can accuse them of not giving the voters their money’s worth.

And you have to figure that the GOP isn’t going to hold 40 out of 48 seats forever, just out of sheer fractiousness.

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I’ll take Continuous Exhibition for $1000, Alex

Now this may be an idea to conjure with:

Is such a thing technically feasible? I think it is. Even assuming the tapes of the old Art Fleming version are lost forever — which would be consistent with NBC tape-handling practice from the 1960s — there are about 7,000 episodes from the Alex Trebek days (1984 to present). At 48 episodes a day, they could go 20 weeks before having to repeat an episode, though it’s not likely they’d run a full 48: the temptation to turn the late-night hours into a venue for vendors may be too much to resist for niche channels.

So it’s doubtful whether such an enterprise would be financially feasible. But at any given moment on any given cable system, there are at least 60 programs less interesting than Jeopardy!

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Made with the shade

I’m old enough to remember when Crayola had a crayon called “flesh”; about 1962 it dawned on them that hey, not all flesh is the same color, and they wound up renaming it “peach.”

This particular insight was still catching on in the middle to late 1970s, when a small Chicago company decided to get into the pantyhose business:

Sugar & Spice hosiery ad 1978

This ran at least twice in Ebony, though the real test, I suppose, would have been getting it into something like Ladies’ Home Journal. Then again, LHJ, facing the usual magazine woes, has cut back from monthly to quarterly publication; Ebony continues to put out 12 issues a year.

Madijo survived, so far as I can tell, into the middle 1980s, but by then the major mills had figured out that they needed new shades.

And if you’ve never seen a Parklane Hosiery store, neither have I. The last one apparently was in the Mall of Memphis, which died in 2003.

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This may not garner more dates

I do not understand this request in the slightest:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How can I find a surgical body modification artist?

And this is the modification he desires:

I would like to ask a body modification artist if it would be possible to remove my testicles and use my scrotum to create a vagina below my penis. If it is possible, I’d ask if they have a rough guess as to cost. Any help in finding either the answers or an artist would be appreciated.

Please don’t tell me to think about it or give me alternative. I’ve thought about this and alternative for years and still have more time to think about it. Please only reply with answers, thank you.

Construction of the item desired is not, I am given to understand, overly difficult, though usually persons undergoing the procedure are having all the previous hardware — the exterior bits, anyway — removed. Last year I helped to fund one such procedure; the patient had asked for $6000, which she said was the amount not covered by health insurance. (In other news, some insurance policies apparently cover this sort of thing.) A subsequent patient without such coverage said that the price was closer to twenty grand, and was asking for fifteen.

While I can deal with those folks, I’m having trouble with the concept of Hermaphrodite After The Fact. British wiseguy Will Self wrote a couple of stories on the subject, neither of which could be said to end particularly happily. For now, I am working under the assumption that somebody told the questioner to go screw himself, and instead of taking umbrage he decided to fantasize about it.

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That one moment in the sun

Then again, we’re talking Yuma, Arizona, which gets a lot of sun. Curtis Lee was born in Yuma in 1939; in the middle 1960s he joined his father’s construction business, took it over entirely in 1969, and ran it well into the 21st century. Cancer got him this last week at the age of 75.

Why are we talking about an Arizona homebuilder? Because of this:

This was Lee’s third single for Ray Peterson’s Dunes label. Lee wrote the song with Tommy Boyce, before Boyce and Bobby Hart were a name-brand songwriting duo; Phil Spector (!) produced. In the background were the Halos, a doo-wop group from the Bronx who sang on another famed Spector production, Gene Pitney’s stirring “Every Breath I Take.”

Spector also produced the follow-up, “Under the Moon of Love,” another Boyce/Lee collaboration, which just missed the Top 40. (And the B-side, “Beverly Jean,” is a gem.) Further recordings went nowhere, and Lee went back home to Yuma to, yes, build houses.

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Meanwhile across the yard

For a couple of years now, I’ve kept a backup blog at wordpress.com, mostly to explain why this one was down. With downtime seemingly diminishing these days — there have been some connectivity issues which probably relate to SiteMeter, but that’s another matter entirely — I’ve decided to drop in the occasional reblog from other wp.com sites, items that I feel like passing on but don’t have anything else to say about. A use-it-or-lose-it kind of deal, especially since I’m considering killing off one of my less-used domains.

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Strange search-engine queries (467)

If you’re new here: in this feature we sort through the logs and look for people’s search strings, and mock them when we can. This is partially in the spirit of Je suis Charlie — satire is the one true Fair Game — but mostly because we need to fill up this space on a Monday morning.

mazda 6 erratic shifting not starting:  Well, if it won’t start, what difference does it make how it shifts?

yujawang legs:  Find her piano, check just north of the pedals.

big daddy hamster:  Has his very own Man Cage.

“dosalike”:  Which will come in handy if anyone ever makes a followup to DESQview.

1968 hot 100 love machine:  And 57 years later, you can’t even get parts for it.

sox stereo to mono remix:  So basically, you’re looking to lose one sock?

Mazda 626 transmission leaks at extension housing:  Um, fix the leak.

94 mazda 626 transmission fluid boiling:  Well, thank God it isn’t leaking.

What is the code written in the illuminatium testament:  Probably COBOL. (There is no COBOL.)

how to reset nissan bluebird slphy seat belt after accident:  The body shop will do that for you, if there’s enough of the body left to send to the shop.

flakier than a biscuit:  Yes, sir, Mr. Vice President, sir.

jedediah bila stilletos:  Trust me, she takes those damn things off the moment she gets home.

“Rebecca Black is sweet”:  Just don’t get up in her face, or she’ll turn tart in a matter of moments. Her moments.

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A pretty ugly headline

From a recent Hackney Gazette:

Hackney Gazette headline: Missing Woman Remains Found

Mark Liberman said it best: “In some other place and time, perhaps there was a headline ‘Missing moonshine still discovered’.”.

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Quote of the week

Pergelator on the major difficulty with waging war these days:

The big problem with military action is that it is done by governments, and given our recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wouldn’t trust our government to go to the store for a jug of milk. Okay, they might be able to get the jug of milk, but they would have to borrow a billion dollars to equip their security forces to ensure that no one tampered with the jug on the way back.

Almost an argument for mercenaries, really. What’s Blackwater Xe Academi up to nowadays?

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Just don’t cross your legs

This is just vaguely disturbing, or maybe a little more than that:

Witness Elite advertisement from EAA

Mr Noggle has posted the full-size three-megabyte scan, and observes:

This being the Internet, undoubtedly there’s someone out there who’s into that thing. The ad designer was undoubtedly a fan of the film Grindhouse and the character Cherry Darling.

Me, I’m going to sleep with the night light on.

And Cherry Darling was pretty creepy. On the upside, at least someone’s ripping off Robert Rodriguez instead of Quentin Tarantino.

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Fark blurb of the week

Van Halen will let Van Halen use the name Van Halen, says Van Halen.

Explanation:

A three-year legal battle over the name “Van Halen” has finally been settled. Kelly Van Halen, who was once married to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band’s drummer, Alex Van Halen, until they divorced almost 20 years ago, has been fighting to use her famous last name on a variety of businesses like a construction and interior design company.

When Kelly Van Halen attempted to trademark products donning her name, ELVH Inc., the entity that protects the copyright of the band’s moniker, argued in various courts that Kelly Van Halen’s use of her name diluted their brand, the Hollywood Reporter writes, ultimately filing a lawsuit in October 2013 to prevent her from infringing on “Van Halen.” However, on January 5th, both parties alerted the judge presiding over the case that they want the lawsuit to be dismissed after settling the matter out of court.

Similarly: Katy Perry v. Katie Perry, no litigation ensued: J. Geils v. J. Geils Band, still up in the air.

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But where are the holes?

Seldom do I ask myself “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” Once in a while, though, the Tri-Shield tempts me:

Buick Avenir concept

This is Avenir, a concept created by GM Holden in Australia, and this is what it’s like:

Designed to be a proper Buick of the traditional fashion, the large coupe-like four-door sedan has the same 5.2-metre-long dimensions as the current Holden Caprice, and utilises rear-wheel drive (note: the original press release stated all-wheel drive, which GM withdrew), a nine-speed automatic, adjustable dampers and a next-generation (unspecified size) direct-injected V6 engine with cylinder deactivation technology.

It’s not the next-generation Riviera or anything like that, and the rounded-off boat-tail rear may be a bit much, but it’s a compelling pitch.

(If you must have holes Cruiserline Ventiports in your Buick, well, there’s that vent in front of the door; it’s actually subdivided into three sections.)

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At least somewhat duh-worthy

Then again, that’s why they’re lawyers:

And there will be someone trying to sign a contract with one of these contraptions. Depend on it.

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Defensive posture: supine

This will sell in huge quantities to the sort of doofus who puts up fake video cameras for “security” purposes:

Not really handguns

Erin Palette calls this a “dumb, useless thing,” which tells me that she was trying to be generous.

The manufacturer assures you that these gefälschte Gewehren “require no background check or permit.” Just like your rabbit ears don’t require cable.

Erin asks, reasonably enough:

What are you going to do when a criminal sees the fake pistol and decides that either you get shot first, or that he will take your weapon from you? (And believe me, if you aren’t mentally prepared to shoot someone for realsies, carrying a plastic totem is not going to give you confidence and an anti-crime aura. The most you will look like is an easy victim with a high-value item.)

And if there’s one thing the criminal element loves, it’s an easy victim with a high-value item. If you buy this thing, you might want to work on your Daffy Duck voice: “I demand that you shoot me now!”

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Those cads

If you’re in the States, nothing is happening to your Cadbury Creme Eggs:

There is much lid-flipping and out-freaking online today as UK news sites report a change to the recipe for Cadbury Creme Eggs, a change that everyone blames on the brand’s U.S.-based ownership. That very well may be true, but for Creme Egg fans stateside, it’s a non-issue as the treats you gobble down each spring are made by a different company.

See, while Kraft’s Mondelēz International controls overseas distribution of Cadbury Creme Eggs, and did indeed recently institute a recipe change, U.S. distribution of Cadbury products is handled by a different U.S. company: Hershey’s.

A rep for Mondelēz confirmed to Consumerist that the two products — the Creme Eggs it distributes and the ones distributed in the U.S. by Hershey’s — are now completely separate and a change to one does not mean a change to the other.

And while we’re clearing up matters, Mondelēz International was spun off from Kraft after the name change.

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Waiting for .gresham

The .click top-level domain is perfectly legitimate and open to all:

The reason .CLICK is such an attractive choice for a TLD is because it encompasses a highly used Internet buzzword, increasing memorability and functionality. But, because “click” also has a multitude of positive meanings, from getting along, to fitting together, is [sic] also works to create positive associations. This TLD is an open registry, meaning any individual, group, or business may register a .CLICK domain, making this extension choice flexible, memorable, unique, and marketable.

I have yet to see an actual .click site, though links to several of them have already shown up in my spam trap, substantially diminishing my “positive associations.”

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And now for someone completely different

Carol Cleveland, seventy-three today, is best known as the one biological female in the Monty Python troupe. (Not that the others wouldn’t wear dresses from time to time, except maybe Gilliam.)

She was born in London in 1942, and began studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1960, though you may not have known that she spent some of her formative years in Lubbock, Texas:

Carol Cleveland as a brunette in 1966

By 1969 she’d rolled up a fair number of film credits:

Carol Cleveland in 1969

But by then Python beckoned. From the second episode, here she is as Deirdre Pewtey, with her husband Arthur (Michael Palin) cowering at the door:

Carol Cleveland in a Python sketch in 1969

The Marriage Guidance Counsellor (Eric Idle), coming out from behind his desk, will shortly make recommendations perhaps inconsistent with his job description.

Just for the heck of it, here she is with the winning entry in a TV program’s contest to find the best derogatory name for residents of Belgium:

Carol Cleveland in a Python sketch in 1973

And for the sake of completeness, here she is at the Python 40th anniversary reunion:

Carol Cleveland at the Python reunion in 2009

Do you think that might be her real hair color? (And does it really matter?)

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C plus

I remember, from way down the timeline, a bumper sticker to this effect: “186,000 miles per second. It’s more than just a good idea. IT’S THE LAW.”

But apparently it’s not as ironclad as I’d heard:

Turns out you can, in fact, move faster than light, and when you cross that threshold you create a “photonic boom” the way a jet does when it crosses the speed of sound. The only problem is that in order to do so you must have zero mass, and that state is probably not going to be reached by switching from ranch to vinaigrette on your lunch salad.

Still, it’s worth the shot, if only because you’re no longer eating ranch. And keep in mind: Hidden Valley Ranch brand, which started it all, is owned by Clorox.

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Just say no to drugs

Wait a minute. Not these drugs:

Is this some quirk in New York law, or does someone simply not know how to set prices?

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We don’t care who’s your daddy

The Z Man suggests that the very idea of a Jeb Bush candidacy would have been anathema in the early days of the nation:

The Founders certainly had a dim view of political dynasties. They had that in mind when designing the national government. They wanted the best and brightest to be attracted to state and local government, not the national government. This was, in part, to make political dynasties difficult to establish. A look through the biographies of the Founders say they knew a thing or two about the children of powerful men turning out to be nitwits.

There is an expression that goes, “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations.” The first generation builds the family fortune, starting from the working class. The next generation does its best to maintain it, but mostly lives off the fruits of their fathers. The third generation blows through what’s left and ends up back in the same level as the founding generation. The Kennedy family is a good example.

No matter how it looks, this is not an argument for the estate tax. Then again, if we argue that there must be upward mobility for those at the bottom, we can’t really complain about downward mobility for those at the top.

I think the children of the king probably do, on average, possess more of the magic stuff that makes for a good king than most children. I also think they have precisely the wrong environment to cultivate that magic stuff. Poppy Bush served in WW2 and almost died in the Pacific. In other words, as a young man he had to cultivate his leadership assets under duress. His kids cultivated their assets getting drunk and chasing tail at elite preparatory schools. Seeds amongst the stones.

This does not sound hopeful for George P. Bush, son of Jeb. Let’s hope George P. has no political aspirations beyond Texas Land Commissioner.

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A neck for a neck

It’s gonna be hard to top this headline. Indiana Senate panel passes bill for harsher beheading penalties:

Decapitation soon could be punishable by death in Indiana. The state Senate criminal law committee unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for beheadings.

Said penalty presumably will be lethal injection; I doubt these dead-serious Hoosiers are inclined to build a guillotine in Michigan City, although the idea has some marginal charm in terms of sheer symmetry.

Supporters of the bill cite an increase in beheadings including one last year in Oklahoma as a reason for the change.

So: one, then? Because what the Daesh-heads do doesn’t really count, except maybe as encouragement from afar.

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50 shapes of something

There are many brave souls willing to risk themselves for truth, or a reasonable facsimile thereof:

There is a tradition of human guinea pig pieces in the world of journalism. Morgan Spurlock, of course, in Super Size Me. Chuck Klosterman, who ate only McNuggets for seven straight days. Gawker’s Caity Weaver did an amazing job chronicling her 14-hour attempt at conquering TGI Fridays’ endless mozzarella sticks. Our willingness to torture ourselves for the sake of entertaining and informing readers is well documented. But they all had a point to make, or a hypothesis to see through.

I have none of this.

What he did have, though, was fifty Chicken McNuggets. It’s not as easy as it looks — and it doesn’t look easy at all.

I’m estimating my maximum McNugget capacity at twenty-seven, and no, I’m not going out to test this. I did once polish off nineteen at a sitting, and I was woozy for the next half hour, and not the good kind of wooz either.

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Allergen detection kit (home version)

If you ask me, this can’t happen soon enough:

“It would be really nice if a person with food allergies could get test strips that they could dip into a food they were concerned about, and it would turn color if the allergen was present.”

I was thinking about the glucose test strips we use in one of the labs I do — they are a product sold for diabetics, so they can test their urine. There are also color-changing tests for lead in paint, and I am sure other things I am not thinking of.

But what nice peace of mind that would be — “I don’t know for sure if this broth might have miso in it, so let me check.” or “Could there be peanut proteins in this smoothie?” (I can see how it would only work for liquid things.)

I doubt you could get every possible allergen detected by a single strip. (Then again, I am not a biochemist, nor do I play one on television.) But even if you have to special-order strips for your one-in-a-million sensitivity, it’s still better than hives.

Disclosure: I don’t have any food allergies, or at least I’m not aware of any. I still think it’s a swell idea.

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Driveover zone

Lynn’s been reading the Extinction Point series by Paul Antony Jones, and she has a question. maybe two, to ask:

A mysterious red rain falls, destroying almost all life on Earth. Emily Baxter, a journalist for a NYC newspaper heads off on a cross-country trip to find other survivors. (And I have another small quibble. Emily is from Iowa. Is it just me or does it seem like young women who move to New York are always from Iowa? More bothersome is the fact that she does not know how to drive. If she was from Iowa and moved to New York City as an adult she would at least know how to drive. She might not own a car and might not have got a license in NY but she would know how to drive.)

There is the theory that the moment you take up residence in the Big Apple, your ability to drive instantly atrophies, since theoretically you don’t have to anymore.

And if you live in Iowa and want something seemingly better for yourself, you’re probably not going to go to [redacted to avoid nasty letters].

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Convenience for all, like it or not

The IBM Model M keyboard on my desk has been on said desk more or less continuously — there was a brief period when I took it out of service because I thought I’d ruined it, only to discover that it was stronger than my stupidity — since my very first “PC Clone” in 1991, a wondrous little XT-compatible box running off an NEC V30 CPU at a startling 10 MHz. In the two dozen years since then, I’ve never once considered moving to a wireless keyboard, and apparently it’s just as well that I haven’t:

If you use a wireless keyboard you may be broadcasting everything you type to hackers — from passwords to credit cards numbers and private emails — as a researcher shows how a homemade bugging device can be made for just £6.

The creator of the listening device — who has also built a predatory drone which chases and hacks into other drones — has posted a list of components, instructions and source code online to allow anyone to make their own.

Samy Kamkar built the “KeySweeper” after discovering that Microsoft’s wireless keyboards sent keystrokes to PCs in a way that could be easily intercepted.

The tiny device cost just a few pounds to create and looks exactly like a USB charger that is shipped with any number of phones and other devices.

Ah, the charms of obsolete hardware — and, I suppose, software, since I didn’t actually move to Windows 7 until right before Microsoft took XP out behind the woodshed and shot it, and Windows 10 is now imminent.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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And I thought I was observant

So this appeared in my tweetstream (it’s from someone in protected status, so no embed):

Just watched Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” vid for the 1st time. Anyone else notice she throws a Galaxy S5 into the water? It’s waterproof!

“Migawd,” I thought, “that’s brilliant.” I was all ready to go frame-by-frame through the video, when this popped in:

Taylor Swift dangles a Galaxy S5

Yep! Just watched it again & paused. That’s a Galaxy S5! Oh, Taylor.

I’m not sure who impressed me more in this incident: Taylor Swift, for being shrewd enough to trash a fairly pricey phone without actually trashing it, or my correspondent, for having a really good eye for detail.

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They’re Joshing us

I blame Josh Smith. The Pistons waived him, the Rockets signed him, and by all evidence both teams were improved.

That said, the Thunder boomed out to a 4-0 lead early. And that was the end of that: the Rockets responded with a 16-0 run and never trailed again. It was 40-18 after the first quarter; a 35-point second quarter brought OKC to within 11 at the half, though they’d never quite get within 10, and inside the three-minute mark, with Houston up 108-91, the white flag was hoisted. James Harden hung around a little longer, perhaps in search of a triple-double — he wound up with 31 points, 10 assists but only nine rebounds — but after a 5-0 run by the Thunder reserves, Kevin McHale presumably saw the light and pulled all his starters except for Donatas Motiejunas. Just as well: all five of those starters made double figures, as did, um, Josh Smith, on the way to a Houston win, 112-101. (There will be only one more game between these teams, so the Rockets win the season series.)

The Rockets shot 48 percent and 16 of 36 treys. (Thunder: 43 and 11-29.) Most of the other numbers were pretty close, so you have to look for other factors, and one of the most obvious was Trevor Ariza’s stifling defense against Kevin Durant. KD got off only 12 shots all night, though he hit eight of them and finished with 24 points. And there was progress on another front: getting good production out of both Dion Waiters and Reggie Jackson, each of whom scored 16, as did Russell Westbrook. Serge Ibaka anted up 13, but no one else in Thunder blue (actually, it was those black-ish alternates) managed more than six.

Good news: after this single road loss, the Thunder go back home. Bad news: the Golden State Warriors, already 2-0 against OKC, will be waiting for them. And instead of five days between games, this time the Thunder get zero. After that, five games on the road against the East, a brief stop at home to welcome the Timberwolves, and back on the road again. If you haven’t fastened your seat belt yet, what’s holding you back?

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An insistent voice in the dark

This has been passed around 125,000 Tumblrs so far:

brain: i see you're trying to sleep, can i offer a selection of your worst memories from the last 10 years

There are times that I think this must happen to everyone, with the only difference being the number of years.

(Via Rebecca Black.)

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