Archive for July 2017

Not who you think it is

Jennifer Hast got to this point on her Shoe Calendar, and she was generous enough to share:

Minna Parikka shoe that is not at all Rainbow Dash

Of course, my first response was “There’s a shoe calendar?”

And after jumping to conclusions, I thought: “Hold on there. Rainbow Dash doesn’t have a horn.”

Which is the point: this means that Finnish shoe designer Minna Parikka, who put out this shoe in 2015 for a staggering €345, is wise enough to avoid the mighty lawyers of Hasbro.

Or maybe not: it’s called “Celestia.”

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Enjoy your virginity

Because you’re never gonna get laid at this rate:

The quantity of sex to which you are legally entitled: zero. And I’m pretty sure you’ve just disqualified yourself for any conceivable mercy boink.

(Via Signe Dean.)

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A high point in town

This gorgeous private home on the city’s northeast side was on the 2014 Architecture Tour:

Mass Home on Persimmon Hill

At the time, I said:

Up on Persimmon Hill you’ll find the National Cowboy Museum, Coles Garden, and this five-acre plot, which used to be occupied by a small 1920s cottage, expanded a few times, and then rebuilt following the December 2007 ice storm. Somehow the place looks both traditionally rural and up-to-date suburban, which I attribute to the fact that they didn’t raze the original storm-damaged structure, preferring to incorporate it into the new one.

It is Bad Form, I think, to speculate on “What is this place worth?” at the time you’re getting a peek at the inside. But three years later, they’ve sold it — for $890,000.

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A headline for a summer’s eve

The story, such as it is:

Mayor de Blasio — forgetting that he’s accountable to eight million Big Apple residents — blew off a Post reporter Saturday after he gave a speech in Hamburg, Germany.

The mayor did extensive interviews with German media after delivering a speech to activists protesting the gathering of world leaders at the G20 summit.

But when a reporter for The Post greeted de Blasio after he’d talked to the German reporters, he smiled, turned and walked away without any acknowledgment.

That, by itself, would not appear to be a big deal. But:

De Blasio flew to Hamburg on Thursday afternoon after skipping a somber NYPD swearing-in ceremony following the murder of officer Miosotis Familia.

And the combination led to this Post front-page headline:

Front page of New York Post 9 July 2017

This would never have worked if the G20 summit had been held in Spain.

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Tenants, anyone?

As of last weekend, Vancouver, British Columbia, is imposing a 1-percent tax on empty homes:

Vancouver city council has voted to approve a tax on empty homes, the first of its kind in Canada.

Self-reporting owners will be assessed a one per cent tax on homes that are not principal residences or aren’t rented out for at least six months of the year.

That means a $1-million home left vacant would be taxed $10,000.

Mayor Gregor Robertson thought this was a swell idea:

Robertson has said the tax is a way to combat what he called the housing crisis in Vancouver, and justified the measure as a “business tax” on owners he said were treating housing as an investment property.

Robertson has said the tax will improve Vancouver’s rental vacancy rate, which is currently around 0.6 per cent, by persuading owners of thousands of empty apartments and houses to put them up for rent.

That was last fall. With the tax going into effect on the first of July, landlords have been in Scurry Mode:

[Real-estate agent Cameron] Fazli said many of the people he has talked to are thinking of renting or selling their properties. He recently met with a woman who owns three empty properties in Vancouver — and says one of them is now listed for rent, another will be listed shortly and she is thinking of selling the third.

“This is a scenario of someone who is kind of in a panic now and needs to rent them out,” he said.

Other property owners are still figuring out exactly how much of the year they spend in the property, Fazli said, and are seeing if they can find a family member to occupy enough to make it over the six month threshold.

The agent predicts that there will be more available properties, but not necessarily affordable properties:

Fazli said while it will lead to more housing being available because of lower vacancy rates, it won’t drive down prices.

“It’s going to bring more rental properties onto the market but, on the affordable aspect, I think we’re going to see the properties being more on the higher end side,” he said.

Which means likely no change to Vancouver’s status as the third most unaffordable housing market on the planet:

Vancouver ranks 3rd in the 2017 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey [pdf], down one spot from 2016 when it was second.

The survey compares 406 metropolitan housing markets in nine countries: Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It’s the 13th edition of the report, which links median house prices to median household incomes otherwise known as the “median multiple.”

A value 3.0 or under is deemed affordable. Vancouver’s median multiple is 11.8.

At the very top of the scale is Hong Kong, which posted a score of 18.1. Should anyone care, Oklahoma City rates a 2.9.

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Strange search-engine queries (597)

And here we are again, pretending to be awake on a Monday morning, while you get to read some of the gleanings from recent search strings that somehow were used to find this here site. Yes, we’ve done this before. (Rather a lot, actually.)

my cadillac 2005 sts makes a snapping sound coming from the rear and leans what could it be:  You can replace the entire rear suspension, one piece at a time, or you can hie yourself to a proper shop who can diagnose this correctly.

sevenland:  Next exit beyond Sixburgh.

Dr Rowe, Rhett wants you to know that he never has to go to another appointment and see those stupid:  Sick people. It’s so much easier being dead.

“roadtrips” -road -trip -trips:  I think you owe us one trip.

dumpster rental thoreau: I can’t imagine Thoreau throwing enough stuff away to justify renting one of those things.

my fb account is disabled how to enable:  You can’t. And if you’re like too many Facebook users, you were disabled because you damned well deserved to be.

tilapia taste:  This is your porn-star name, right?

it doesn’t taste like chicken:  Tilapia, maybe?

2001 mazda millenia hold light flashes:  Enjoy your new transmission.

accursed crawling cape:  We told you, “No capes!”

slightly damned rule 34:  You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.

driving directions to starbucks:  There should be one in any direction, unless you’re in some place like Labrador.

don’t stuff beans up your nose:  Wait a moment and we’ll tell you where you can stuff them.

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Yuckyness

Definitely. This is a job for the Little How-To Girl:

This runs 3:36, or about six times as fast as this repair will actually take. Good editing, I guess.

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The wind in one’s Versailles

An excellent Kim du Toit piece on Uniquely British Pronunciations brought lots of responses, including this bit of reciprocation:

The state of Arkansas is pronounced as if it were spelled “arkansaw,” but the city of Arkansas City, Kansas, is pronounced “Ar-KAN-sas,” exactly like it’s spelled.

Which brings you to the Arkansas River. Starting at the headwaters, near Leadville, Colorado — after the toxic metal, not something mentioned in Glengarry Glen Ross — and continuing through Kansas, it’s given the “Ar-KAN-sas” treatment; the moment it crosses into Oklahoma, it takes on the name of the state of Arkansas.

The capital of South Dakota, Pierre, is pronounced “Peer.” New Madrid, MO, is New “MAD-rid,” and then there’s Beaufort, South Carolina and Beaufort, North Carolina where one of them is pronounced “BYEW-fort” and the other is pronounced “BOW-fort” (and I honestly can’t remember which is which).

“BYEW-fort” is the one in South Carolina.

Then there’s Cairo, Illinois, like Karo the syrup. (Aside: If you’ve ever wondered about low-fructose corn syrup, that’s Karo.) And there’s Versailles, Kentucky, which is “ver-SAYLS,” nothing at all like its French forbear. (Likewise for Versailles, Indiana, and for Versailles, Ohio.)

And pity the poor Englishman who visits the Pacific Northwest and has to pronounce place names like Puyallup.

I never can be sure if I’m saying “Puyallup” correctly; I tend to render it as “poo-WALLOP.” On the other hand, I have no problem with Sequim, which is delightfully monosyllabic: “SKWIHM.”

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If that diamond ring don’t shine

It’s been a good year for the mockingbirds, reports Jess:

It appears they’ve had successful breeding, and the youngsters perch around the house to sing … and make noises that sound like back-up alarms … and electronic noises that start to become annoying after I realize they never shut up.

There’s one up the street that sounds like an intermittent leaf blower.

I’m thinking the parents will eventually chase them away, and the parents will be as before, and not sing to the point of me thinking of going for my air rifle.

I did notice the other types of birds will sing more, when the mockingbirds pause for a few moments. I think they probably feel the same way I do, and wish the children would be more seen than heard.

We had a couple of woodpeckers down the street, but they seem to have moved on. The usual mix of robins, jays and pigeons occupies this zone, with occasional cardinals and a flycatcher or two; they will flourish so long as the big nasty birds from the shopping center keep their distance, and as long as kids coming out of Target spill their popcorn, those birds will stay right there.

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Consider her still here

You have to dial back quite a number of years before you get to a point where Reba McEntire wasn’t a presence in country music or in American culture generally: her first album came out 40 years ago, her most recent this past February, and in between (early 1991) came a tragedy, in which one of her band’s two chartered planes crashed into Otay Mountain east of San Diego. She’d always sung, of course, though she expected to come out of Southeastern Oklahoma State University as a schoolteacher.

Reba McEntire in motion

Reba McEntire on the red carpet

Reba McEntire in portrait mode

Since 1976, Reba has released ninety-five singles; her six-year sitcom run notwithstanding, only three of them made it to the Top 40 on the pop chart. The most recent of these is 2009’s “Consider Me Gone”:

This was the second single from the album Keep On Loving You, which has nothing to do with REO Speedwagon.

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And we’re all gonna die

Well, yes, we are, but probably not the way the guy monopolizing the microphone is trying to tell you:

These prophets of doom rely on one thing — that their audience will not check the record of such predictions. In fact, the history of prophecy is one of failure and oversight. Many predictions (usually of doom) have not come to pass, while other things have happened that nobody foresaw. Even brief research will turn up numerous examples of both, such as the many predictions in the 1930s — about a decade before the baby boom began — that the populations of most Western countries were about to enter a terminal decline. In other cases, people have made predictions that have turned out to be laughably overmodest, such as the nineteenth-century editor’s much-ridiculed forecast that by 1950 every town in America would have a telephone, or Bill Gates’s remark a few years ago that 64 kilobytes of memory is enough for anyone.

More often quoted as 640kb, which is still nowhere nearly enough.

Often as not, these dire projections are full of crap. Here’s one which was literally so:

Nineteenth-century cities depended on thousands of horses for their daily functioning. All transport, whether of goods or people, was drawn by horses. London in 1900 had 11,000 cabs, all horse-powered. There were also several thousand buses, each of which required 12 horses per day, a total of more than 50,000 horses. In addition, there were countless carts, drays, and wains, all working constantly to deliver the goods needed by the rapidly growing population of what was then the largest city in the world. Similar figures could be produced for any great city of the time.

The problem of course was that all these horses produced huge amounts of manure. A horse will on average produce between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day. Consequently, the streets of nineteenth-century cities were covered by horse manure. This in turn attracted huge numbers of flies, and the dried and ground-up manure was blown everywhere. In New York in 1900, the population of 100,000 horses produced 2.5 million pounds of horse manure per day, which all had to be swept up and disposed of.

Ah, those were the days. And sayers of doom were duly heard from:

Writing in the Times of London in 1894, one writer estimated that in 50 years every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure. Moreover, all these horses had to be stabled, which used up ever-larger areas of increasingly valuable land. And as the number of horses grew, ever-more land had to be devoted to producing hay to feed them (rather than producing food for people), and this had to be brought into cities and distributed — by horse-drawn vehicles. It seemed that urban civilization was doomed.

It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, but the things that would probably kill us, such as the collapse of the global financial system, on the heels of its diversion from maintaining monetary policy to allowing the top one percent of the top one percent to ascend higher, will be discussed only by nimrods on late-night radio or other nimrods on YouTube or the likes of me; meanwhile, things that probably won’t kill us — North Korea, various Russian entities, sport-utility vehicles — fill the news cycle to the brim and then some.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Gamine the system

You almost wish Audrey Hepburn could come back to life and stomp this pompous character:

Let’s go over this block one more time:

Only once did this thread become even slightly amusing:

Not that I expect her to, but it would be funny as hell, to me at least, if she went full-Rapunzel for a couple of days, just to taunt that guy.

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Few trophies

If it sometimes seems these days that President Trump is desperately searching for things he can brag about, the problem, I suspect, resides less on Pennsylvania Avenue than on the GOP wing of Capitol Hill:

[T]hese pathetic mooks aren’t actually trying at all. And do you think they are worried by threats that they might lose their majorities? Why would that bother them? The only way they truly feel comfortable in Washington is when they are in the minority. They have no more idea how to actually govern than any other similar collection of hand-puppets would.

Trump, I suspect, knows this perfectly well, and when he’s not running off at the tweet in an effort to monopolize the news cycle, he’s scheming to cut the GOP off at the knees. And he’ll do a better job of it than the Democrats, I think.

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One o’clock jumpy

It’s like a dream come true, maybe:

Here’s the tickcker:

Holly Brockwell's very own Redundant Clock

Inventor Ji Lee answers the question “Does anybody really know what time it is?”:

When I was a graphic design student many years ago, I had a class project to design a clock. There have been so many great designs in the past that I couldn’t really think about anything original. Then, I had the most obvious idea and designed this Redundant Clock. I made one clock as a sample for the class, photographed it and put it on my website as a portfolio piece.

Over the years, many people have been emailing me asking where they can buy it. Blogs and sites talked about it too. Unfortunately, as a graphic designer who didn’t know much about product design, I couldn’t figure out how make this into a product. More recently, I found out that someone liked the clock so much, he made one and posted it on Reddit. The post was so popular, it became the number one post. That was the turning point for me. I thought; there are so many people who seem to like the clock, I HAVE to figure out a way to make it into a product people can buy.

Three hundred backers anted up $22,000, about twice what he’d asked, to get the clock into production.

Instructions, probably also redundant, are included.

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Beating the spread

K-Chuck Radio has an interesting treatise on the way stereo used to be, complete with samples:

[E]ven producer Phil Spector completely eschewed stereo output, believing that his records sounded much better in mono.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean that record companies DIDN’T produce stereo versions of their big 1950’s and 1960’s hits … and when they did create stereo pressings of their big hits, the stereo versions were a simplified stereo — usually artist is centered in the two speakers, while percussion is shoved into one channel and other instruments reside in the remaining channel. It’s not true binaural stereophonic wonder … but it is a wonder in and of itself.

Often this was due to the limitations of the recording equipment available: sometimes there were only two tracks to be had, which generally explains those recordings with the lead vocal on one side and everything else on the other. Having a third track made things easier: almost all pop records issued in stereo by British Decca in the early to middle Sixties put the singer in the middle, the basic rhythm track to the left, and other instruments and singers on the right. An example: “Black Is Black” by Los Bravos.

EMI was willing to spend bazillions on the Beatles, but the best they had to offer was four-track, all the way through Sgt. Pepper’s. What they could do, however, was bounce tracks between two recorders and combine the various bounces into a final stereo master. Phil Spector had taken this one step further: combine the various bounces into a final mono master. But what few stereo tracks have emerged from Spector’s vault roughly followed the Decca pattern: lead vocal in the center, most of the instruments to the left, and whatever was added last was hung out to the right.

New York’s Bell Sound Studios hadn’t gotten as far as four-track in 1961, which explains, sort of, why Del Shannon’s “Runaway” seems to be mixed a bit weirdly for stereo. In fact, the 45 and the stereo version are two different takes altogether; I’ve often wondered if the stereo take was an afterthought. Be assured that Del’s next single, “Hats Off to Larry,” had no such anomalies.

(Via Roger Green.)

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A noun of pronounced fugliness

I guess this is for people who didn’t take enough umbrage at “staycation.”

And the “experience economy”? Oh, please.

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You all can’t sit in the back

What’s new for 2018 in the Honda Odyssey:

For 2018, the Odyssey received a full redesign and, as expected, the changes included a number of tech and entertainment upgrades. Namely, the van is now available with a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing music and video streaming while on the go.

The second relevant feature here is the inclusion of an EPIX entertainment app, part of a subscription service for the rear entertainment screen (which now measures over 10 inches). Here’s where things got sticky.

Yeah, I bet they did.

Reviewer Joann Muller was exploring the different kinds of fun you could have in the back seat of the Odyssey ahead of a Fourth of July road trip with her family. Bringing up the EPIX app, she browsed through the video categories, searching for the sort of family-friendly videos she knew Honda would provide for children residing in the Odyssey’s rear seats.

Indeed, there were many choices in that category. And there were several that, um, weren’t:

As Muller tells it, “we stumbled across some rather interesting movie choices: Gladiator Eroticus, Kinky Kong, An Erotic Werewolf in London, and Lord of the G-Strings.”

“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”

The Ody’s Wi-Fi was duly put to work to insure that this never happens again.

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Their eyes are up there

Not that you’re supposed to look at their eyes:

Be Ambitious by Dal ShabetThis spiffy Dal Shabet number from the summer of 2013 isn’t particularly weird as K-pop goes, until you find out that there are two titles: “Be Ambitious,” which is duly rendered on the sleeve in English, and “Look At My Legs,” which clearly doesn’t have to be.

Three days before the scheduled release of “Be Ambitious,” word came down from The Authorities that the lyrics were scurrilous and could not be broadcast on Korean television. New vocal tracks were duly patched in, but there was apprarently no time to reshoot the video. And shortly after the release, a men’s-rights group sought an injunction against Dal Shabet and their management, complaining about the portrayal of the males in this video. A couple weeks later, a joint press conference was held to announce that all charges were being dropped. But the damage was done: “Be Ambitious” was the lowest-selling Dal Shabet single up to that point, moving a mere 500,000 copies to Korea’s ambitious downloaders.

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Saving Tulsa money

At least, that’s the explanation I’d come up with [warning: autostart video], were I asked:

Residents who live at North Yale and East Marshall Street told FOX23 the city’s latest paint striping is leaving them laughing and also scratching their heads.

Residents in this part of north Tulsa pointed to road kill being painted over when the city reapplied the double yellow lines to the middle of the four lane road.

FOX23 spoke with one family who said they saw the city painting on the street and wondered if they would stop to remove the road kill. They quickly found out, the crews did not. They say they instead found animal carcasses with fresh yellow stripes through them.

The city ‘fessed up, but said it’s hard to stop the paint vehicle once it’s started, and that they’ll be out next week to clean up the mess.

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Watering holes to be dried up

The weirdly-shaped building where 50th meets the no-longer-circular Classen Circle is about to be replaced by More Fast Food:

Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores has filed plans that show the demolition of several historic structures near the old Classen Circle.

The company acquired a small house next to the HiLo Club, Drunken Fry and Classen Grill in 2015.

They have filed to rezone .48 acres which is all the properties bound by Classen, NW 50th and Military Avenue and documents show plans to raze all existing buildings and construct a new Braum’s.

Also on this block: a beauty salon and a record store. This is not any kind of historic or otherwise-special district, so as far as the city’s concerned, it’s just a matter of zoning.

Oklahoma City Twitter has been denouncing the plan all day, typically like this:

Personally, I think potential customers will pass it by, mainly because access is difficult: if you miss it the first time, you’re going to have to loop for more than half a mile, or you’re going to end up on Interstate 44. I can’t imagine a local firm not knowing these issues, so I suspect this is someone at Braum’s HQ who is shocked — shocked! — that there is drinking going on in those establishments.

If they must put up a new Braum’s, let them put it in Kansas City. The demand is there.

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Like walking on pillows

Cristina has a pair of these in teal, and that’s exactly how she describes them. Of course, this obligates me to check their papers:

Vionic Rest Nala Leather T-Strap Triple Stud Sandals

You’re looking at the red version of the Vionic Rest Nala Leather T-Strap Triple Stud Sandals, which Dillard’s has recently knocked down to $80 from $100. There are also black and white versions, though only the teal (at this writing) remains available in all the even sizes from 5 to 11. The straps are leather, the footbed EVA wrapped in microfiber.

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Our chief weapon is annoyance

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition in the self-checkout line

And not one of you had better try to give her rack a turn, either.

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Blood, toil, tears and sweat

“We have before us,” Churchill continued, “an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.” He then asked the Commons for a vote of confidence, and got it — unanimously.

A statement like that in 2017 might seem utterly implausible, but in 1940 the sentiment was just this side of universal. George Orwell, reviewing Mein Kampf, pointed out how essential it was to the Third Reich:

Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all “progressive” thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them “I offer you struggle, danger and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation “Greatest happiness of the greatest number” is a good slogan, but at this moment “Better an end with horror than a horror without end” is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.

Along more contemporary lines, Severian notes:

In 1940, when even Americans involuntarily went to bed hungry from time to time, you could forgive yourself for thinking that we’d eventually educate ourselves out of this bourgeois longing for something more than material comfort. But who can doubt it now? Everyone in the West has everything anyone could ever possibly want, to the point that poor people routinely die of heart disease, and we’re miserable. Does a person who’s content with life worry about which gender he is? Compared with your average modern SJW, Lenin was a sane, moderate, reasonable man. The greater the material security, the worse the mental instability.

I can understand someone not fitting the standard binary; that doesn’t mean there are thirty-one discrete types. And most of the trans women I’ve encountered — if I’ve seen a trans man, I overlooked him — are a lot less well off than Martine Rothblatt or the Wachowski sisters.

So for real dumbth, you’ve got to go back to college, which is why when Robert Stacy McCain points out something stupid happening in academia, which seems to be about 75 times a year, he is careful to point out the annual cost of “education” at whichever school is involved — in dollars, anyway. The cost in brain cells is several orders of magnitude greater.

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Still some glitter in the Golden State

And, of course, you’ll pay dearly for all that sparkle:

[A]gent Mark Wong sent out an email blast Tuesday revealing that around 60 South Bay homes, mostly in Sunnyvale and Cupertino, sold for $200,000 or more over the asking price in the last 30 days. And he wasn’t necessarily talking about fancy schmancy places. One modest Cupertino house — 1,046 square feet — sold for $660,000 above its listing price.

This is within a breadbox of the size of my modest house, which might be worth $100,000. Maybe. As long as the taxman says it’s in the 90s, I’ll happily nod in agreement.

“The listing price doesn’t mean anything anymore,” Wong said. “It’s just a number.”

“Most of the agents, they love to list under the fair market value, so that’s why it creates an auction-style sale,” he said. “The buyers are smart people. They look around. And when they see a property below the fair market value, they think they’ve found a good deal and they’ll jump on it. Then everybody jumps and it bids up the price.”

The sellers are happy because they need those extra dollars for their new digs. And so it goes, until it won’t go anymore.

(Via Fark.)

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To know a veil

In 1933, Alfred Angelo Piccione and his lovely bride Edythe Vincent Piccione set up a shop catering to other lovely brides. You have to figure, given the American tendency to spend like crazy on weddings, that this business would be as recession-proof as you could possibly imagine.

And today it’s dead. Sixty-two Alfred Angelo stores nationwide, including one just up the street from me, were shuttered today, and the scene at the corporate office in Florida was pretty much an evacuation. No mention of it on the company web site, though.

At the Oklahoma City store, employees were telling customers to come pick up their orders before 8 pm. Similar stories are being reported nationwide.

And elsewhere? Wednesday this episode of Undercover Boss USA aired on a British TV channel:

Paul Quentel, president of Alfred Angelo, the second largest bridal retailer in the United States, goes undercover to solve any problems as quickly as possible. Posing as a contestant on a reality TV competition, he works among his own staff.

You just might have been a little bit late on that, Paul.

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Tidy profit turned

It wasn’t exactly Antiques Roadshow, but it might have been more interesting in the long run:

A €100 typewriter has sold for €45,000 (£40,000; $51,500) at auction, after it was discovered it was actually a German Wehrmacht Enigma I.

The World War Two cipher machine was bought at a flea market by a cryptography professor, who apparently recognised its true worth.

Enigma machines were used to carry coded military communications during the war.

First developed in Germany in the 1920s, the codes created by the electromechanical encryption devices were eventually cracked by mathematician Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park.

And these were pretty spiffy devices for their time, too:

To avoid merely implementing a simple (and easily breakable) substitution cipher, every key press caused one or more rotors to step by one twenty-sixth of a full rotation, before the electrical connections were made. This changed the substitution alphabet used for encryption, ensuring that the cryptographic substitution was different at each new rotor position, producing a more formidable polyalphabetic substitution cipher. The stepping mechanism varied slightly from model to model. The right-hand rotor stepped once with each keystroke, and other rotors stepped less frequently.

Artmark, an auction house in Bucharest, put the machine on the block at a starting price of €9000. The eventual selling price was formidable, but well short of the auction record: an Enigma was sold last month by Christie’s for $547,500.

(Via The Glittering Eye.)

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Spice is nice

That’s what they say. Sometimes, though, blood is shed:

I was watching an episode [of Good Eats] about pickles this evening and this blurb comes up on the screen about how back in the 1300s the Europeans wiped out half of southeast Asia in their quest for nutmeg. That seems a little extreme and a heck of long time ago, is there any truth here? Well, the Dutch did pretty much wipe out the population on one small island in the 1600s.

That sounds fierce, and apparently it was:

The Banda Islands became the scene of the earliest European ventures in Asia, in order to get a grip on the spice trade. In August 1511, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Malacca, which at the time was the hub of Asian trade, on behalf of the king of Portugal. In November of the same year, after having secured Malacca and learning of Banda’s location, Albuquerque sent an expedition of three ships led by his friend António de Abreu to find it. Malay pilots, either recruited or forcibly conscripted, guided them via Java, the Lesser Sundas, and Ambon to the Banda Islands, arriving in early 1512. The first Europeans to reach the Banda Islands, the expedition remained for about a month, buying and filling their ships with Banda’s nutmeg and mace, and with cloves in which Banda had a thriving entrepôt trade. An early account of Banda is in Suma Oriental, a book written by the Portuguese apothecary Tomé Pires, based in Malacca from 1512 to 1515. Full control of this trade by the Portuguese was not possible, and they remained participants without a foothold in the islands.

And then things got fiercer:

In order to obtain a monopoly, on the production and trade of nutmeg, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) waged a bloody battle with the Bandanese in 1621. Historian Willard Hanna estimated that before this struggle the islands were populated by approximately 15,000 people, and only 1,000 were left (the Bandanese were killed, starved while fleeing, exiled or sold as slaves). The Company constructed a comprehensive nutmeg plantation system on the islands during the 17th century. It included the nutmeg plantations for spice production, several forts for the defense of the spices, and a colonial town for trading and governance. The Dutch were not the only occupants of this region, however. The British skillfully negotiated with the village leaders on the island Rhun to protect them from the Dutch in exchange for a monopoly on their nutmeg. The village leader of Rhun accepted King James I of England as their sovereign, but the English presence on Rhun only lasted until 1624. Control of the Banda Islands continued to be contested until 1667 when, in the Treaty of Breda, the British ceded Rhun to the Dutch in exchange for the island of Manhattan and its city New Amsterdam (later New York) in North America.

Which leaves one question: how did Connecticut, rather than New York, end up as the Nutmeg State? Skulduggery, of course:

Connecticut received its nickname from the claim that some unscrupulous Connecticut traders would whittle “nutmeg” out of wood, creating a “wooden nutmeg,” a term which later came to mean any type of fraud.

Sorry about that, New Jersey.

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Before Iggy’s time

There were in fact six Stooges, but you only got to see them three at a time. A re-recording was issued in 1959, but this is the original, as seen in a 1938 Columbia two-reeler:

I have no idea if this inspired Shirley Shirley Bo Birley in 1964:

And if you wondered why Shirley invoked a relatively uncommon name like Lincoln, it’s a shout-out to her co-writer, producer and manager Lincoln Chase.

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Without shrieks

Evidently someone’s hovercraft is no longer full of eels:

A whole hell of a lot of eels

The AP reports from the Oregon coast:

A truck hauling eels overturned on an Oregon highway, turning the coastal road into a slimy mess.

Oregon State Police on Thursday posted a photo on Twitter that showed damaged cars covered by the gooey eels. The agency also posed the question: “What to tell the #drycleaner?”

Meanwhile, the Depoe Bay Fire Department posted a video of workers using a bulldozer to clear the eels from Highway 101.

The fire department said no one was injured in the crash.

Said eels were apparently bound for dinner tables in Korea.

NOPE rating: At least 11.

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News from much farther south

Rebecca Black has a substantial Brazilian fan base. How substantial, you ask? Enough to justify a fairly spiffy Web site and a surprisingly newsy Twitter feed; almost enough to make me wish I spoke fluent Portuguese. And here’s their most recent piece of news:

The third single from the new RB album, or EP anyway, will be “Heart Full of Scars.” Regrets? Evidently she’s had a few, though she’s only 20 and presumably couldn’t have had too many. (Of course, I have the disc — an actual physical CD, not just a download — on preorder.)

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Presumably some kind of sexism

Though precisely what kind, I don’t even know:

Getting a 77-percent discount makes your face clear up?

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Rather familiar

Nawaz Sharif has served as the 12th, 14th, and (currently) 20th Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We may assume that he don’t like this:

The Panama Papers — a collection of documents leaked from off-shore law firm Mossack Fonseca in 2014 — included documents that appeared to indicate that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had accumulated a substantial fortune far beyond what he and his family legitimately earned. The Pakistani Supreme Court set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to determine where the money came from. Sharif produced documents to show that the money had been legitimately acquired, but the authenticity of those documents was in question. Daughter Maryam Sharif appeared to have signed forged documents to try to cover up the truth.

And how was the truth of the matter ascertained?

How was the forgery detected? A document purporting to have been written and signed in 2006 used Microsoft’s Calibri font. While Calibri was originally designed in 2004 and was available in betas of Windows Vista and Office 2007 throughout 2006, it didn’t actually ship in a stable version of Windows or Office until 2007. As such, its use in a document dated 2006 is extremely suspect. It’s not impossible that, for some reason, beta software was used to prepare the documents. But it is more than a little unlikely.

At least no one’s claiming they were done on an IBM Selectric.

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I never would have predicted this

Yet there it is:

And yes, both those tweets have legitimate URLs.

I’d suggest that we all applaud his efforts, but for all I know, he’s already heard the applause.

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But never, ever pitiful

Linda Ronstadt hasn’t sung so much as a note in public for most of a decade; Parkinson’s disease has taken what can only be described as a terrible toll. But during her four decades as a musical legend, she gave us some of our favorite records and a few thoughts which we will not dwell on here.

Linda Ronstadt holds serve

Linda Ronstadt stands there demurely

Waiting for the Double E

Warren Zevon wasn’t exactly a star when Linda recorded “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” and her cover version, released early in 1978, fell just short of the Top 30 in Billboard. She says she learned it from Jackson Browne, who’d produced Zevon’s own version. The video here is the standard album track, from Simple Dreams, with rather a lot of more or less vintage photos pasted over the audio.

Its chart position notwithstanding, it’s one of her best-remembered songs. At the opposite end of the familiarity spectrum, there’s this seriously weird commercial for the Remington electric razor:

And yes, that was Frank Zappa. This was a radio spot, over which a fan dubbed some startlingly appropriate visuals.

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Stay golden, puppy

Oh, wait. You’re green?

A dog owner couldn’t believe what she was seeing when her golden retriever gave birth to a green puppy.

Her beloved pet Rio, aged three, gave birth last week to nine puppies — but when one came out mint green Louise Sutherland was stunned.

I think we’d all be stunned at the sight of a green dog.

One green puppy out of the litter

How the heck does this happen, anyway?

The rare occurrence is only known to have happened only three times before in the world.

It is caused by a bile pigment called biliverdin that is found in the placenta of dogs which can stain the puppy’s coat when it mixes with the mother’s amniotic fluid — the liquid that protects her pups.

I’m guessing if this happened to, say, a black lab, no one would be the wiser.

Anyway, it won’t last long: little Forest (yes, they named him that) will look like the rest of his siblings shortly.

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Like you wanted to play golf in heels

But just in case you did:

You probably don’t need these for miniature golf, unless:

And who’s gonna tell Grace not to wear that kind of stuff? Certainly not I.

(Via Cristina.)

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You can’t take it with you

But this guy says he’s going to try:

I’ve decided I’m going to try and take it all with me. The cars are to be crushed and buried in plots next to me (at the executors’ expense), my bank accounts will hopefully be cleaned out by me prior to my demise and any other remaining trinkets (automobilia, LPs, tapes, Quad stuff, etc) is to be burned.

Why? Well, five generations of my family have died without wills leaving the survivors to their own devices. This has caused many family members’ true colors to emerge what with the theft, the lying, and general ridiculousness that comes when family members feel they are entitled.

Therefore, since I have no children, no spouse and will probably be outlived by a bunch of cousins whom I care nothing for (and the feelings are reciprocated), I’m going to leave them nothing but emptiness and debt.

Well, I might leave one of them a dollar in the hopes the little ******* might finally learn the value of a dollar.

I’ve got plenty of emptiness to show, but the only debt I owe is on the house, and while it’s a substantial sum, it’s far less than the value of the property.

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FLOTUS blossoms

From the increasingly misnamed neo-neocon, a bit of political fashion commentary:

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, I said that one thing I planned to enjoy was Melania’s fashions.

And so I have.

I especially love the simple, elegant suit that Melania wore today on her visit to France. Not everyone can wear these midi skirts; it helps to be tall, and Melania is almost six feet tall even without her heels, so she can wear it with tremendous panache (hey, that’s French!).

Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron, side by side in Paris

I point out merely for completeness that Michelle Obama is almost six feet tall even without her heels, though I concede that this red suit would not have been ideally cut for her; Mrs O would not have looked her best with that skirt length.

Then there’s Mme Macron’s dress, which is not especially loved:

I feel for Macron’s wife Brigitte having to stand next to her. Not only is she about fifteen years older than Melania, but she’s so much smaller she would look like a pipsqueak in comparison no matter what she wore. But I see her choice as especially infelicitous. A miniskirt? Why? I know she must think her legs are her best feature (I share that conceit about myself) and the legs tend to be the last thing to go, but miniskirts except for the most casual of occasions are not flattering to those over 60. Maybe not even for those over 50. They make us look somewhat desperate, I think.

Brigitte Macron on the beachI admit here that I’m not entirely sure about that last bit. In my experience — caution: small sample — women who think their legs are their best feature are usually correct in this judgment, and with few exceptions, they know how to deploy them for maximum effect. This shot of Mme Macron on the beach, wearing a presumably tiny swimsuit and a short coverup, persuades me that she knows what she’s doing. Admittedly, beachwear is expected to be somewhat abbreviated, and it seems unlikely that she’d wear a dress that short, but the First Rule of Hemlines — you can go as high as you like so long as you don’t expose something that really ought not to be exposed — tells me that she could go at least a couple of inches above the knee without any hint of scandal. (And, come to think of it, she has.) For a woman my age (we were both born the same year) this isn’t exactly miraculous, but it is something I would never, ever want to discourage.

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Fearfully yours

It’s okay to be scared if you’re three, or if you’re six. If you’re sixty-three, perhaps not so much.

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Das Alphabet ist größer

The German alphabet has just expanded, ever so slightly:

Have you ever been typing in German in a blaze of BLOCK CAPITAL anger, but been stopped short by the inability to write the next letter of the word SCHEI…? Help is finally at hand.

At the end of June, the German Spelling Council decided to add a capital ß (Eszett) to the language, bringing to an end a debate that had raged on in the world of German orthography since the 19th century.

Now, instead of using SS to capitalize the Eszett, Germans should use ẞ.

In other news, there is a German Spelling Council, and this is their rationalization:

In German passports, names appear in uppercase, meaning that until now, someone with the surname Großmann has had to put up with the humiliation of being confused with a Grossmann.

So now at least those writing angry uppercase emails who get stuck at the “SCHEI” in “Scheiße” have their solution.

A hundred years from now, this little dustup will be forgotten. (Worst case: this little dustup will be forgotten because the official language of Germany will be Arabic.)

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