Archive for May 2017

In case you hadn’t had a Hummer lately

Who knew these things were still around?

Bob Lutz and Henrik Fisker’s feisty Michigan-based VLF Automotive is bringing the H1 back to the masses — provided they don’t reside in North America. Lutz has struck a deal with Humvee Export, a small collective of off-road enthusiasts and entrepreneurs in Saint Clair, Michigan to assemble the trucks using GM powertrains at VLF’s petite factory in Auburn Hills.

Even though General Motors abandoned the Hummer brand in 2010, and H1 assembly in 2006, AM General has continued production of the High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle for allied military use. It has also begun offering a C-Series kit to private citizens for $60,000 in 2013, which includes the HMMWV platform minus a powertrain. Seeing an opportunity, Humvee Export began ordering C-Series kits that same year — finishing them off for sale in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. In 2017, they branched out to include export to China and are enlisting VLF in order to expand production.

The current-year production estimate is up to 100, largely because of the opening of the Chinese market:

Humvee plans to assemble up to 100 finished trucks by year’s end, with the majority going to wealthy buyers in China with a $150,000 starting price and loads of optional extras. The vehicles will be vintage Hummer in appearance and come in three trim levels: Bravo, Charlie, and Delta. Higher trims provide additional luxury, distancing the vehicle from the base model’s interior and its military roots.

Your guess is as good as mine, maybe better, about why they’re not selling an Alpha version.

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Four’s a crowd

First, the jargon:

Sinclair Broadcast Group has set a $3.9 billion cash-and-stock agreement to acquire Tribune Media, a deal that will bring more than 200 TV stations under one roof and vault Sinclair into the big leagues of national TV.

“This is a transformational acquisition for Sinclair that will open up a myriad of opportunities for the company,” said Chris Ripley, president-CEO of Sinclair. “The Tribune stations are highly complementary to Sinclair’s existing footprint and will create a leading nationwide media platform that includes our country’s largest markets. The acquisition will enable Sinclair to build ATSC 3.0 (Next Generation Broadcast Platform) advanced services, scale emerging networks and national sales, and integrate content verticals. The acquisition will also create substantial synergistic value through operating efficiencies, revenue streams, programming strategies and digital platforms.”

This is where it gets interesting, at least in this market: Sinclair already owns KOKH-TV (Fox) and KOCB (The CW), while Tribune owns KFOR-TV (NBC) and KAUT-TV (independent). Up to now, the FCC has allowed no more than two stations per owner in a single market:

The rule allows an entity to own up to two TV stations in the same [Designated Market Area] if either (1) the service areas — known as “Grade B signal contours” — of the stations do not overlap; or (2) at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (based on market share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination.

Condition 2 obtains here: KOCB doesn’t make it to the top four, as you might expect of an affiliate of the fifth-place network, and the Oklahoma City market has 13 full-power TV stations with 11 different owners. The third duopoly, should you want to know, is Griffin Communications’ KWTV-DT (CBS) and KSBI (MyNetworkTV).

Loosening of the FCC ownership rules is an ongoing process, headed by the FCC’s Ajit Pai, nomimated to the Commission by President Obama in 2012, and named Chairman by President Trump in 2017. However, I can’t see them loosening the rules enough to allow one entity to own four full-power stations in a single market; Sinclair, I’m thinking, will sell off one or two. And since KOKH and KOCB are pretty solidly integrated, I don’t expect Sinclair to break up the set; I mean, what would happen to the content verticals?

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Goal achieved

So Monday night it occurred to me: “Why not a football player for Rule 5 this week?”

Why not, indeed:

Stephanie Roche out of uniform

Stephanie Roche is Number 10

Stephanie Roche at the ball

Number 10 is Stephanie Roche, forward for Sunderland Association Football Club Ladies, and a member of the Republic of Ireland’s national team; she was briefly signed by the Houston Dash of the NWSL, but was subsequently waived.

And it wouldn’t be sporting if we didn’t include some video:

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Healthier meth

What if it were … gluten-free?

Public Service Announcement--The Tecumseh Police Department is offering FREE testing for gluten laced meth. Please bring your meth to the Tecumseh Police Department for your FREE test

Oklahoma law enforcement is nothing if not ingenious. In 2015, the Kiowa County Sheriff’s Office ran an ad in the Hobart Democrat-Chief to this effect:

“Is your drug dealing competition costing you money? … We can take your competition off the streets for free.”

I mean, it’s not like drug dealers exist in a Kumbaya-esque cooperation zone, you know?

(Via KFOR-TV, a Tribune Media station.)

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On not blaming the Chinese

Jack Baruth quotes a couple of bicycle prices, and then shows you why they matter to us non-cyclists:

The Tomasso Corvo costs $1,699 through the direct sales channel, although it periodically goes on sale for $1,499. The 1987 Cannondale SR500 sold at a bike shop for full MSRP of $599. That’s $1,282 in today’s money. To put this in an automotive context: In 1987, a Honda Accord DX sedan sold for $11,174, which adjusts to $23,933. The 2017 Accord LX costs $22,455. In both cases, final assembly and much of the component production was done in Marysville, Ohio. And if you’re reading this site, chances are that you know enough about cars to understand the vast gap in power, capability, and equipment between a 1987 Accord and a 2017 Accord.

Which leads to a legitimate question: If Honda can make a better car for less money without moving production out of the United States, why have bike makers raised prices after moving everything to China, where costs are supposed to be lower? How do you manage to drop the labor rate from $25/hour to a fraction of that and still charge more for the product?

It turns out that Chinese labor isn’t as cheap as it used to be. Which leads to a frightening conclusion: Cannondale et al aren’t making bikes in China because it’s cheaper. It isn’t cheaper. Instead, they are making bikes in China because they’ve forgotten how to make them in the United States. This isn’t just true for bicycles. In every industry you can imagine, from watchmaking to commercial-vehicle production, Americans have simply let multiple generations’ worth of knowledge and expertise disappear. While we were all busy watching “peak TV” and selling each other real estate, the entire industrial base of this country was donated to the Pacific Rim. They now have an effective monopoly on many products and processes. And because they are intelligent, resourceful people, they are taking full advantage of it.

I wasn’t always a non-cyclist, of course; I ran up some serious miles on some low-end (by comparison) Schwinns, which ended when I got my hands on a similarly low-end Chevrolet. What happened to Schwinn? What do you think?

In September 2001, the Schwinn Company, its assets, and the rights to the brand, together with that of the GT Bicycle, was purchased at a bankruptcy auction by Pacific Cycle, a company previously known for mass-market brands owned by Wind Point Partners. In 2004, Pacific Cycle was in turn acquired by Dorel Industries. Once America’s preeminent bicycle manufacturer, the Schwinn brand was now affixed to bicycles fabricated entirely in China, fueling most of its corporate parent’s growth.

Dorel Industries, incidentally, is headquartered in Montréal, and as of 2008 is the owner of Cannondale.

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I know a place

Although “a cellarful of noise” doesn’t seem quite apt, unless you’re into joyful noises:

The Downtown Church in Springfield, Missouri

Brian J. says that no one is likely to get that particular pitch except for himself — and me. Further:

I’m not saying I’m old, but I have a Petula Clark album. I’m saying I inherited it from my sainted mother.

I am old, and I continue to acquire Petula Clark albums as she records them. (The most recent dates to, um, 2016.)

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A sort of oval orifice

The Friar previews The President Is Missing, by James Patterson and William Jefferson Clinton:

The novel represents a joint effort by the men’s two different publishers. It’s also probably one of the first co-author jobs involving Patterson where he will have to do most of the writing work. Mr. Clinton has written only nonfiction; his tale-spinning has been mostly in the spoken-word milieu. And if you think it was easy to not type “oral” there you are sadly mistaken.

Similarly, Conan O”Brien: “Clinton is describing the novel as part fiction, part alibi.”

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Whatever that may mean

Everyone over here seemed to have an opinion on the French election, and Dave Schuler points out that many of those opinions were horribly uninformed:

Some Republicans here backed Le Pen because she’s the “right wing” candidate without digging into what that means in France. Some Democrats backed Macron because he’s the center-left candidate, equally without learning what that actually means. IMO that’s incredibly short-sighted. You can’t understand another country’s politics without getting an in depth understanding of its economics, history, current events, and culture or, in other words, unless you’ve lived there, speak the language, and immerse yourself in it. Even then you probably won’t appreciate the nuances.

We’re not used to nuance. The American electorate, for many years now, has been mired in “We’re great and you suck,” and as a result we get the kind of candidates we so richly deserve. Naturally, we project our neuroses upon all those other candidates worldwide, when what we really want is to declare our allegiance to the one warlord who will crush all others. Warlords, unfortunately, ain’t what they used to be.

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Not the Bundeskanzler

Germany’s FKK-Museum, in its capacity as the chronicler of the nation’s naturists, was hit with a query: Is this really the young Angela Merkel in her birthday suit?

Apparently the old photo in question surfaced in 2013 and caused a brief flurry of speculation. The Museum reports that it’s not, and cannot be, not because Merkel objects to that sort of thing, but because the photo itself has been reliably traced to 1962, when Merkel was only eight years old.

(Via Breaking Shame. All links should be considered NSFW.)

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Watching it all fold out

Our days are numbered, every last one of them, and the only thing we know for sure is that one of them will be the last. Between Now and that indefinable (but final) Then, I’d hoped to have developed a different voice: still recognizably my own, but imbued with the sort of off-hand eloquence one supposedly develops after coming to grips with The End.

Which, it turns out, means that I wish I’d written this song, but Gordon Lightfoot got to it first:

It was 1974. I was just turning twenty-one, and I fancied myself world-weary. How much I had yet to learn.

(Track six on the Sundown album, if you’re looking.)

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We are but empty vessels

Or that’s the pitch, anyway:

The most inspired response:

And you can’t snap them open to pour out liquids, either.

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Penes from heaven

In case you wanted someone to go, um, eat a bag of dicks:

Remember that look of joy you got on your face on Christmas morning when you went downstairs and unwrapped a big bag of socks? Us neither.

Dicks by Mail is the easy way to send that feeling to anyone in your life that deserves that feeling of sadness, disappointment and betrayal (or laughter).

In only a few minutes you can send a literal Bag of Dicks to that special friend or dickhole in your life. Dickhole, you ask? You know the one. The annoying guy at the office. Your Ex who decided to see other people before telling you. The Teacher that doesn’t care about your dead grandma. The person that murdered your grandma.

Now if your teacher murdered your grandma, mere gummy weeners may not do the trick.

(These guys sent me an email invitation. Go figure.)

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Despite all your rage

You can now drive a Faraday cage, kinda sorta:

Last week, Nissan’s European division proudly announced that it had developed a new feature for use in the Juke that effectively eliminates all cellular signals. In the release, the company praised its UK team for coming up with a 21st century application that uses Victorian-era technology, saying “the beauty of the design is its simplicity.”

Victorian-era?

Literally a Faraday cage, an invention dating back to the early 1800s, Nissan’s Signal Shield allows drivers to place their cell phone into a center console that eliminates all Bluetooth and Wi-Fi communications when closed. The brand believes its invention will save lives, citing statistics from Britain’s RAC Telematics that show a significant increase of in-car smartphone usage between 2014 and 2016.

“Our research shows that handheld phone use by drivers has reached epidemic proportions,” RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said. “As mobile phone technology has advanced significantly many people have become addicted to them. However, the use of a handheld phone when driving represents both a physical and mental distraction and it has been illegal since 2003.”

Okay, almost Victorian. Michael Faraday built his first cage in 1836; Victoria assumed the throne in 1837. Consider this nit adequately picked. Still: do you need this gadget?

While we’d like to credit Nissan for making the effort here, we just can’t. You can build your own miniature EMF shielding bag for next to nothing, or purchase one online for about ten bucks. But it’s still not an effective deterrent until you place your phone inside and toss the bag into the trunk. Meanwhile, Nissan’s solution has the object resting less than a foot away from your arm at all times. The entire concept is on par with someone securing a handgun under a couch and relying on their children’s good intentions not to play with it.

Or you can avoid this whole issue by not buying a Juke from a Nissan dealer in the United Kingdom. For most of us, this will be no sacrifice.

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The evolution of scum

It doesn’t improve, exactly, but the stealth techniques are growing marginally more sophisticated:

[T]he phone rang as I was cleaning and I ran to check on it — a local number and the name Sheri McCoy. Well, years back, I knew some McCoys, they are since deceased but I thought, “Maybe Sheri is a daughter-in-law or granddaughter” so I picked up.

“Hello!” says a cheery male-bot voice “Our records show you stayed at one of our resorts in the past …”

I said another unladylike word and slammed the phone down. I know this is a scam because I think the last time I stayed in anything that could be deemed a “resort,” it was 1995 and I was at an Ecological Society of America meeting, and paying waaaaaaay too much for everything in a ski resort on the off season…

Okay, take that middle paragraph, replace “male-bot” with “female-bot” and “resorts” with “facilities,” and you get exactly the phone call I got Friday. I was sufficiently ticked off to take it to Twitter:

Especially since I had stayed at one of their facilities in the past. And they tried it again today, with 405-949-3304.

Dear Mr. Dante: What circle is reserved for these miscreants? Call me, but not on the landline.

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It’s all about the width

Last night, while the sound of lightning was doing nothing to enhance my AM-radio reception (Dodgers vs. Pirates, if you care), an ancient jingle popped into my head, complete with fuzzy visuals:

The Chunky was reformulated when Nestlé acquired it: gone were the cashews and Brazil nuts, replaced by comparatively mundane peanuts. And of course it’s no longer a nickel; in bulk from Amazon, they’re about a buck apiece.

And is that Casey Kasem doing the voiceover?

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Dumbass lacks remorse

But just the same, he wants a free pass:

I kind of went on a drunken rant in a personal message to a friend (girl) on Facebook, I didn’t attack her but I insulted some other people. Then she replied, and I engaged more which means in the future, it’s not like I could claim someone hacked my account or anything, it was clearly me.

I’m now thinking that in the future, she could pull that out and really tarnish my reputation. I know deleting it on my end doesn’t delete it on hers so,

—Is there any law that would protect me from her publishing it in the future?

and

—If I start a new FB account with a separate email, and shut down my old account will her official record of the conversation go away with it?

I feel like there should be some way to demand FB erase something you put out there. But I’m sure you sign that all away in the TOS.

What do you think?

I think you should have thought of this before you went on this “drunken rant.”

And no, there should be no way to demand FB erase something you put out there. Stupidity, by design, is intended to be self-correcting; the putative trashing of your precious reputation is a part of that correction.

Actions have consequences. We all learn this in different ways. Welcome to yours.

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I blame Mr. Slate

In Canada, just as it is here down south, the bureaucracy has the brains of a lump of Bedrock:

A 75-year-old Ontario woman has a pre-historic bone to pick with two of Bedrock’s most famous residents.

Documents show fictional characters Fred Flintstone and his daughter, Pebbles, have taken out very real liens against a Perth, Ont. woman’s van.

The woman, named Maureen, learned of the bizarre situation nine months ago, when the liens prevented her from selling her van to a car dealership. The sale cannot go through until the cartoon characters cancel the liens, or the government steps in.

Documents obtained by CTV Toronto show Fred and Pebbles Flintstone listed as debtors claiming liens against Maureen’s vehicle. Their address is listed at 9 Yellow Brick Road, Markham, Ont.

The registering agent is listed as “PPSR Test Data1,” which suggests the lien may have been created as part of a Service Ontario system test.

That address should have raised eyebrows:

The Flintstones had three addresses during the series’ six-season run. First: 222 Rocky Way. Second: 345 Stonecave Road. Third: 301 Cobblestone Way.

Not a yellow brick in the bunch.

Service Ontario will be cleaning up its act:

Tracy MacCharles, Ontario’s minister of government and consumer services, said she will look into the problem to ensure that no other real vehicle ID numbers were used in the test.

“To my knowledge this has not happened before and I’m making sure that it doesn’t happen again,” MacCharles told the Assembly.

[PC MPP Randy] Hillier called the whole situation “Looney Tunes,” and called for assurances that the next time this happens, it won’t take nine months to fix.

Although to be fair, such a problem would have taken much longer to resolve in the Flintstones era, when Service Bedrock employed dinosaurs and pelicans, not humans.

And it wasn’t Looney Tunes; it was Hanna-Barbera.

(Via Fark.)

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Some weird grasshopper/ant hybrid

Perhaps that should be a model for how we conduct our financial affairs in our middle years:

I’m busy taking steps to insure I at least have my house paid off, my debts gone, and a bit of money around when I’m in my 60s. I drive an Accord and I’ve sold two of my three Porsches. I’ve spent more money on bicycles for my kid in the past year than I’ve spent on Italian menswear, although admittedly in both cases I’ve laid out more cash than was strictly prudent.

Still. I’m trying to think about what I’ll have in the future. It won’t be anything like what I’d have if I had devoted the last 15 years to saving money and living within my means. I didn’t do that. I devoted the last 15 years to having unprotected sex with random women, most of whom were already married, in the carbon-fiber-clad cockpits of leased luxury vehicles. I don’t want to say how much money I spent in that lifestyle. The sum would be inconsequential to Sheryl Sandberg but it would make the average American dry-heave.

You know what? I don’t regret it. I don’t regret any of the money I spent on cars. I don’t regret any of the money I spent on hotel rooms, expensive meals, linen Kiton sportcoats, last-minute flights, or arrive-and-drive expenses. I might be 45 years old but I’m not stupid enough to think of that as “middle-aged.” That implies that I’ll live to be 90. Let’s say I’d saved all that money and I retired at 65 with $5 or $10 million bucks. What would I do with it? Would I go back and sleep with all those women I’d missed out on because I was driving a seven-year-old Sentra and pinching my pennies? Would I enter all the races that I’d skipped in the past to save money? Would I buy my son an expensive bicycle for his birthday, even if it’s his 35th birthday?

And how would I feel if I wound up with a late-stage cancer diagnosis of my own at the age of 61? As I lay dying in a semi-private hospital room, watching my savings disappear at the rate of two Brioni sportcoats a day for amenities to include one IV drip and three assisted trips to the toilet per day, how would I feel about all those days I’d spent behind the wheel of a Sentra, waiting for the future that would never actually arrive?

The most specific advice here, I think, is to avoid the Nissan Sentra at any cost.

Still, settling down a bit and taking a wife — his own, not someone else’s — might buy him a few years at the far end. Maybe. My relatively sedate existence isn’t likely to buy me a ninth decade, or even an eighth. And the only way I’m going to retire with five or ten million bucks is if some wacko billionaire decides to bestow twenty million on me. It’s times like these that I appreciate the wisdom of Katie Scarlett O’Hara: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Oh, and my son is already thirty-five.

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Himmler is somewhat similar

Does it ever seem to you that all these alleged Nazis look alike?

Back in November, the Left and the #NeverTrumpers (BIRM) wanted James Comey fired. Now that he actually has been fired, it’s a “coup.” Or is it a Reichstag fire? I thought Sessions’s appointment as Attorney General was the Reichstag fire, but maybe that was also a “coup.” He’s Literally Himmler, I’m pretty sure of that … if you wanna get technical I guess he’s Literally Otto Thierack, but since the Left doesn’t read they don’t know but three or four Nazis … which is funny in itself, given how much they love to throw Third Reich allusions around (for the record, comrades, CIA director Mike Pompeo is Literally Reinhard Heydrich, Education Secretary Betsy de Vos is Literally Bernhard Rust, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is Literally Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel. Why? [Belch] Why not?! And besides, it’s more fun to say “von Stülpnagel” than “Mnuchin,” and Trump’s Literally Hitler cabinet needs at least one guy with an umlaut in his name. Remember that, it’ll be on the midterm).

If you ask me, I’d be perfectly content were the rights to all that Nazi crap assigned to the one man who’s done something useful with the concept:

I tell you, that guy’s got balls.

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Ears to you

I don’t think Rebecca Black is telling us that the revamped MTV Awards are still kind of a Mickey Mouse operation:

Rebecca Black at the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards

And the next morning, she was back on message:

After six years on the edge of the spotlight, she’s fairly unflappable.

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Cheese achieved

How would you set off a thousand mousetraps at a time?

Difficulty: You have to engage the trap mechanisms first.

Do not try this with glue traps. Don’t even think about it.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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Whatever the traffic will bear

Drizly vehicle in metropolitan Boston

Drizly was founded by Nick Rellas and Justin Robinson, two Boston College graduates, in 2012 when they encountered the question of why almost anything was available through an app — except for beer. They realized the alcohol business had not changed its ways since Prohibition ended, and they began to figure out how to integrate technology into the industry. The company launched its service in the greater Boston area in 2013, then expanded to New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

I don’t expect to see them in this market any time in my lifetime.

(Photo by Craig Sprout.)

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Thorny theological question

In general, I don’t get that many visits from Jehovah’s Witnesses, inasmuch as my stepmother (age 64) is a Witness and they consider that it’s her responsibility to make the appropriate invitations and such. That said, I don’t find them particularly bothersome, and I was probably neither wise nor kind to open the door to them that day in 1977 when I was too lazy to get dressed. Still, they’re just far enough off the Standard Christian Shtick to leave me with occasional puzzlements.

Yesterday they left me a tiny, almost inconspicuous, flyer announcing a three-day convention next weekend at State Fair Park. The schedule struck me as slightly inscrutable:

Friday, May 19, 2017
9:20 am to 4:55 pm

Saturday, May 20, 2017
9:20 am to 4:55 pm

Sunday, May 21, 2017
9:20 am to 3:35 pm

Sunrise on those days is around 6:21 am, and sunset 8:32 pm (CDT); it’s the only thing I could think of that would mandate such specific-sounding times, but it also sounds a bit, well, pagan for proper JWs. Color me confused.

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London calling

“It’s only a thimbleful of a voice,” Julie London once explained, “and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.”

She’d been singing for a decade before her breakout hit, “Cry Me a River.”

Julie Is Her Name sold a heck of a lot of copies for Liberty Records, partly on the basis of that song, but also partly because of that cover. (Edsel Records reprinted the cover photo for this vinyl reissue in 1980.)

Reissue of Julie Is Her Name on LP

In fact, a lot of Julie’s LPs sold pretty well, for reasons that weren’t always in the grooves — although she herself was always in the groove.

Swing Me an Old Song by Julie London

Marginally more modest materials were used to support her acting career:

Portrait of Julie London

And she continued to have hit records through the 1960s, the last of which was perhaps extremely unlikely but was suitably oversmoked:

Never quite made the Hot 100, but no one who ever heard it ever forgot it.

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Something in between

The first sandwich, we are told, was a piece of salt beef between two slices of toasted bread, and it was named for, if not necessarily created by, John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). With Lord Sandwich’s tricentennial upon us, we should not be surprised that the definition has spread out a bit:

Personally, I’m not a purist, but I am loath to classify a Pop-Tart as a sandwich.

(Via Neatorama.)

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And shame on me for thinking it

It’s a seemingly random homicide in the Old South:

The Dale County [Alabama] Sheriff’s Office is investigating a fatal drive-by shooting near Level Plains.

Level Plains Police Chief Billy Driggers says it happened late Friday night on Dale County Road 24 south of the town. It is believed the suspect fired from the tree line. The shooter is still at large.

And yes, there was a brief twinge of “That poor woman, no way she could possibly deserve this,” but mostly I was thinking: “Aren’t all Plains more or less Level?”

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Waiting for the baritones

The Answer Record is a hoary old tradition, dating to well before the so-called Rock Era, usually motivated by the desire to cash in on somebody else’s hit. Seldom did an answer record pull the numbers of the original — one of the few that did was Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” a response to Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side of Life” — but most of the time, they were good for a couple minutes’ worth of smiles.

Very rarely does a hit yield up two totally different answer records. In early 1963, Johnny Cymbal got a fair-sized hit (#16) out of this paean to the man at the bottom of the vocal range:

“Mr. Bass Man,” off-kilter as it was — Cymbal’s “bass” noises are none too persuasive, especially next to the real thing from Ronnie Bright — proved to be inspirational. Lou Christie, a man who could sing higher than Cymbal, or almost anyone else, came back with a song of his own:

“Mr. Tenor Man” was stuck at track two on Christie’s first album, right behind “Two Faces Have I”; to my knowledge, it did not get a single release, perhaps because Christie was on his way into the Army.

The last word, however, went to the Marcels, whose bass man, Fred Thompson, is justly famed for this explosion back in 1961:

Two years later came this single, which asserted that what mattered was who got to be the frontman, range notwithstanding:

And that’s where it stands, for now.

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Going through the motions

The Space Pope’s advice — “Don’t date robots!” — notwithstanding, there are some advantages to the purely synthetic partner, says Fred:

Consider the charm of a sexbot. She will be not only beautiful, indeed perfect, but perfectly beautiful just as you want her to be. She will have an “Off” button. She will have user-selectable personalities instead of changing wildly and unpredictably as happens with human women. You can choose sweet, furiously lustful, kinky to taste, shameless hussy, Honkytonk Angel, whatever floats your boat. She won’t do relationship talk. She will do quickies and nooners without complaint, never have a splitting headache, and never have three-day huffs that no man can figure out. Fast, easy, back into her closet, and you can get to work again.

Variety appeals. It will be unlimited. There will be streaming services. Realdoll.com offers “Extra Faces.” Feminists sneer at this as mere masturbatory fantasy. To which a guy might respond, “What you mean mere, Sugar Britches?” Anyway, America was built on self-reliance.

I see a potential problem here. For one thing, music streaming services impose limits on skipping tracks. (Why? “Because if you could skip unlimited songs, there would be no reason to get a premium account. You would just be able to keep skipping till you found something you like, and nobody would purchase a premium account.”) I’d expect similar limitations on fembots.

Actual women, some of them anyway, will not much like this situation:

While women are more sexual than men — the better ones are, anyway, usually Democrats — men are more urgent about it. This gives women great power as they are the only sexual outlet men have, except in Scotland. Now they watch the coming sexbots with the unease of a McDonald’s worker watching the installation of an automated burger-flipper.

I’ll take Fred’s word for that business about Democrats, inasmuch as I have insufficient personal experience to the contrary.

Still, if this is going to be the future of sexytime, I’d just as soon do without the hardware: give me an operating system with the voice of Scarlett Johansson, and I’m fine.

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Ol’ Bone Face is back

Actually, Ol’ Bone Face never left; the Grim Reaper is never, ever far away. That said, I’ve used these pages several times to make fun of the Reaper; and since I am nothing if not inclined to fairness, you can consider this Equal Time for that scythe-wielding son of a bitch:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned across the centuries, it’s that the futile resistance to the inevitability of life’s end is one of the most preventable causes of human suffering. I understand why. It is has been my sombre duty to attend countless deaths that violated society’s cherished sense of justice and decency. That is why I heartily applaud traffic lights, vaccines, hand washing, antismoking campaigns, flush toilets, international diplomacy, biomedical research and all the other nifty advances that have extended life. But this benefit has been largely enjoyed by the young, so that more of you get a kick at the can to make it into old age. The maximum age at death — 100 years, give or take a few — has held steady for quite some time now. Fact is, death wins, every time. Not that I am keeping score, but the dead outnumber the living, by a lot.

If you ask me, many of those privileged with the resources to entertain the likes of head transplantation, or its little sister, cryonics (don’t get me started!), fail to enjoy their lives to their fullest precisely because they are so ill-equipped to deal with death. The longest life is nothing but a flash in the course of time. Even when plagued with regrets and failures, it is to be lived forwards and not backwards. Each moment is a precious gift. Savor as many of those as you can, because at the end of the day, there will be no do-overs.

(Via Signe Dean.)

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The eighth time around

“New Face” is one of two (!) lead singles from the eighth PSY album, 4X2=8:

(For the record, as it were, this is the other one.)

The man is, shall we say, somewhat single-minded.

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Strange search-engine queries (589)

As your mother has warned you already, this is where weird search strings go to die. The odd aspect of this, of course, is that they were headed this way anyway.

technology semiaccurate:  This is maybe partially true.

charles barkley fathead:  Thia is maybe partially true.

alice has seven times the amount of pens that maurice has. paul has two- thirds of the amount of pens as alice and suzy have combined. dawn has a dozen more pens than paul. suzy has half the pens that maurice has. if suzy has 2 pens, how many does dawn have?  This is obviously a plot by Alice to maintain her near-monopoly over the pen market.

prndl clothing:  Sounds kinda shifty to me.

carbohydrates in the morning:  Carbs in the evening, carbs at suppertime; be my carbohydrate, add glucose all the time.

taint technical term:  If you have to ask, we should probably change the subject.

“five rings”:  Therefore it’s not a genuine Audi.

mohamed kotbi:  This is not Kathie Lee Gifford’s co-host.

misery index venezuela:  Pretty much zero, if you’re Nicolás Maduro. Otherwise, you’re screwed.

item is not found at this moment, if necessary, please verify with the package sender and check back later:  This is what life was like before there were tracking numbers.

60 seconds of solitude in year zero torrent:  It’ll take you a lot longer than 60 second, Leechy Boy.

shoes off at the door:  This is actually fairly common. Pants off at the door, not so much.

texas asshole massacre:  But they’ll never get all of ’em.

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A place to drill, baby

The argument is often made that if we restore the gross production tax to 7 percent — in 2014, the legislature cut it to 2 percent for the first 36 months — we will lose oil production to neighboring states with lower taxes. Banker (Bank of Oklahoma) and oilman (Kaiser-Francis Oil Company) George Kaiser argues that this is a load of dingo’s kidneys:

There are virtually no lower tax states! All of the other major oil-producing states charge 6 percent to 13 percent. Restoring the new well gross production tax from 2 percent to Oklahoma’s previous level of 7 percent would reduce a well’s revenue by only about 2 percent to 3 percent, not enough to affect any drilling decision, since pre-drilling estimates of reserves, costs and prices can each vary by more than 50 percent. We drill where God put the hydrocarbons, not where the tax rate is lowest.

“Don’t have an oil well?” asked Eddie Chiles’ Western Company in the 1970s. “Get one!” The oil bidness is cyclical; for the moment, it’s nearly as ebullient as it was in Chiles’ day, and they can certainly absorb five cents’ worth of excise. And it’s not like the state has to lean on Big(ish) Oil to balance its budget: it’s going to take adjustments everywhere to patch this $900 million hole in projected receipts.

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Why aren’t there more female programmers?

A student asks the crowd at Yahoo! Answers:

I’m a university student studying game and graphics programming and I’m a girl. In my class there are a lot of guys but only few girls, only two or three of us. I also heard there’s a bit sexism when it comes to applying for programming jobs for women. Is it true?

A Level 6 answerer (highest is 7) replies:

I’m a female software developer. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and I have to admit that there are a lot less women in the job now than there were when I started and even I’m not sure why.

I work for a global organization, of which I think about 5% of the software developers are female. Most of the women working in our various IT departments are in project management, business analysis, quality testing or frontline support.

When I first started programming, at university, I guess about 40% of the class were female. In my first job about half the programmers were female. Even as recently as the late 1990s about one third of the programmers I worked with were female.

I really don’t have an answer on the decline. The only thing I can think of is that, when I started, object oriented languages and PC development weren’t really a thing. We wrote code in languages like COBOL on mainframes. There was a whole other team of computer operators whose job it was to look after the mainframe, run backups, look after operating system patches and disaster recovery wasn’t really something people thought about. Now, developers are much more expected to be conversant with server architecture, web configuration etc. It’s like that old adage that women are hopeless at programming their video recorders. I must admit I struggle with the server configuration side of things but it’s part of my job now and I get by. But I am much better at the core logic of writing code, which unfortunately only takes up about 20% of my working day these days. Maybe that’s part of the reason.

This latter problem, I suspect, is due to ever-diminishing staff: the gods of commerce have decreed that if a task can be completed with a staff of ten, it’s even better to do it with five or six.

And while not everything can be explained away by sexism, there’s plenty of it out there.

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Kernel panic

You spend enough time debugging, and eventually the apocryphal seems like God’s Own Truth:

Of course I’d be entirely unsurprised to hear the story being quite apocryphal, but sometime back I did hear of a computer tech with a seriously active pagan(ish) background, where on one occasion he was dealing with some variety of computer equipment that had been assessed and poked at forwards, backwards and upside down, and the contraption still would not behave.

And at some point as he was glaring at the assorted issues, someone had a passing comment about sacrificing a chicken. The tech stared into space for a bit, then wandered off to borrow someone’s lunch, given the theory that regardless of the cause, dead chicken is dead chicken.

A few minutes later he wandered back with a bucket of KFC, intoned something appropriate for the occasion, ritually waved the bucket about in the vicinity of the recalcitrant circuitry, and then headed off to return the donation. The computer is stated to have then booted up just fine, all assorted bits and pieces in perfect working order.

Colonel Sanders. Is there nothing he can’t do?

Apparently not:

Book acquired, for the sake of, um, research. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

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A new(ish) face

Where have you seen this face?

The sunny side of Son Na-eun

Another side of Son Na-eun

Answer: In the PSY video “New Face,” debuted last week, and presented right here yesterday.

Son Na-eun, twenty-three, born in Seoul, is perhaps better known for being in the K-pop girl-group Apink, here seen in the video for “Mr. Chu” (2014):

On her own, she’s done a couple of films, a lot of television, and several TV commercials, including this spot for a Korean diet supplement:

“Calobye,” indeed.

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She will never overcharge you

I haven’t changed my own oil in several years. (Why should I? I write a check for $45, they lend me a car for the day, and they wash mine.) And my technique, I may as well admit, is no better than that of this presumably relatively-untried mechanic:

It’s the same oil I use: Mobil Super, guaranteed to contain dead dinosaurs. And while I’d be expected to dab some oil onto the filter gasket, apparently that’s no longer recommended on some newer cars.

What’s worse, she can also change ignition coils, which I can just barely comprehend at all.

(Via Fark.)

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Sort of hot-swappable

We mentioned this about six months ago, as found at HelloGiggles:

Meet German shoe retailer Mime et Moi! Back in April, the brand started a Kickstarter campaign to create one shoe that has five different heel heights! (We will give you a second to bask in that awesomeness.) High heels really do complete certain outfits! So say goodbye to painful feet, and HELLO to blissful fashion. The heel options range from stilettos to flats. With a quick snap on/off option so you will be able to change your look in 1,2,3!

I said at the time: “The Kickstarter raised nearly €20,000 from European Union countries; I don’t know if they’ve started retail sales in the States yet.”

Six months later, it appears they have:

Lugging around all those spare parts might be something of a nuisance, though.

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Calling all fourth-graders

I bet you could answer this one:

In AutoCAD, if you want to make text one-fourth the size of the decimal units for your drawing, should you type .25 or .40?

What’ll you bet me the guy also pirated the software? He’s manifestly too dumb to be in a position where he can afford a four-digit license fee, or to work at a place that can.

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You’re gonna go far, kid

Dexter Holland — it says “Bryan” on his birth certificate, but no matter — is the main singer/songwriter for the punk-rock band The Offspring. He also writes stuff like this:

Based on our earlier proteomics and bioinformatics studies, we have identified 8 cellular miRNAs that are predicted to bind to the mRNAs of multiple proteins that are dysregulated during HIV-infection of CD4+ T-cells in vitro. In silico analysis of the full length and mature sequences of these 8 miRNAs and comparisons with all the genomic and subgenomic sequences of HIV-1 strains in global databases revealed that the first 18/18 sequences of the mature hsa-miR-195 sequence (including the short seed sequence), matched perfectly (100%), or with one nucleotide mismatch, within the envelope (env) genes of five HIV-1 genomes from Africa. In addition, we have identified 4 other miRNA-like sequences (hsa-miR-30d, hsa-miR-30e, hsa-miR-374a and hsa-miR-424) within the env and the gag-pol encoding regions of several HIV-1 strains, albeit with reduced homology. Mapping of the miRNA-homologues of env within HIV-1 genomes localized these sequence to the functionally significant variable regions of the env glycoprotein gp120 designated V1, V2, V4 and V5.

Translation per Wikipedia:

The original academic paper describes the use of computational molecular biological (in silico) approaches to identify microRNA-like sequences in HIV. These sequences are suggested to have evolved to self-regulate survival of the virus in the host by evading its immune responses and thus influence the persistence, replication, and pathogenicity of HIV.

If you’d like, you can read his thesis, based on an extension of that work. He was awarded a PhD in molecular biology at the University of Southern California commencement last Friday.

Well done, sir. Now why don’t you get a job?

Note: The Offspring will appear at the AT&T Center in San Antonio a week from Saturday (27 May).

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Suddenly ill

This scheme is older than I am, and it will long outlive me:

Woman feigns illness to get out of a date

In fact, I’m surprised I’ve never been on the receiving end. Didn’t date enough, I suppose.

(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)

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