Archive for Dyssynergy

Degrees of discomfort

Lifted in its entirety from Morgan Freeberg’s Facebook wall:

Furnace just came on. I’m going to go get myself another beer and shut off the furnace.

An idea for an invention that will pay for the seven-building mansion: A secure electronic lock you put on the thermostat, that can only be unlocked with a SCROTUM. Let’s just face it, okay? This time of year, every married man North of Tijuana who pays bills, wishes for something like that.

And if she wants it to be 72 degrees all-the-time-everywhere so badly she’s ready to chop off your balls, you probably weren’t going to keep ‘em anyway.

This is probably not the time to note that I keep my house around 74 unless the HVAC is audibly straining to maintain that temperature.

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That crap is dangerous

The year I started grade school, my poor choice of base-running options during a game of kickball landed me about waist-deep in a metal can of raw sewage. I suppose it’s a good thing that at almost seven, I hadn’t started smoking or anything:

A cesspool filled with excrement exploded in a central Chinese city, injuring 15 residents and toppling a building on Saturday, police said.

Police in Zhangjiajie city, Hunan Province, believed it was an accident when a man surnamed Ding was burning waste outside his derelict house and near the cesspool at about 5 p.m.

Police said the fire ignited the methane emanated from the pit and caused the blast. The house has been abandoned since 2006.

Fortunately, China’s sterling environmental record insures that incidents of this sort are few and far between.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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Time your shopping accordingly

Lynn perhaps dreads doing the routine shopping for this particular week:

Today I need to go to the store and I’m in a bit of a panic about what to get and about remembering everything I need for the whole week so I won’t have to go back out on the day before Thanksgiving, or worse, the day after. Although, the grocery stores shouldn’t be too bad on Black Friday? Also, I’ve noticed in previous years when we drove past Walmart later in the afternoon on Black Friday that the parking lot is almost deserted so I guess all the craziness happens early in the morning then everyone goes home and passes out or something.

I generally avoid anything that smacks of retail on Black Friday myself, but then that’s just me.

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Buncha gubers

The Z Man, I surmise, would just as soon take a cab:

The new buzz phrase is “sharing economy” which is as devoid of meaning and value as the people who like to use it. The vapid hipsters love prattling on about Uber and how it is “disruptive” as if that’s always a good thing. Earthquakes are disruptive. The Black Plague was disruptive. Like everything else today, Uber is about signaling. You’re a beautiful person if you think Uber is the best. You’re a loser if you think it sounds like a handful of sharpies convincing hipsters to be gypsy cab drivers at below market rates.

That’s the thing about the “sharing economy.” It is not new. Ross Perot got rich doing much the same thing in the 70s and 80’s. In the old days, computers were expensive. Companies would sell their idle time to guys like Perot who would find customers in need or processing power, but lacking the money to buy their own mainframe. It was the technological equivalent of the oxpecker bird and rhino. The bird picks ticks and parasites from the hide of the rhino and functions as a warning system. The rhino can live without the bird, but lives better with him.

And when computers became commodity items — well, Perot Systems is now owned by Dell, which has come a long way from the parts-assembly operation Michael Dell ran out of his UT Austin dorm room.

So this is where things are:

Back then, the companies renting the time had an expensive asset they want to maximize. The renter was looking for a lower cost alternative to the million dollar mainframe. Cabs are cheap. No one gets rich driving a cab. How desperate do you have to be to be an Uber driver? How hard up are you if you want to take a ride from some hard up weirdo you met on-line?

Forty years ago a symbiotic relationship between mainframe users was a temporary solution to bridge the gap between the now and better future. Uber represents a desperate attempt to squeeze the remaining juice from the lemon of the modern economy. It is the equivalent of a widow taking in laundry and boarders in order to pay rent. It’s not something signaling a better future. It is a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable decline.

It doesn’t help that technology scourge Al Franken is now pressing Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick over alleged user-privacy violations.

(Disclosure: My son has occasionally driven for Uber. He is not, I assure you, a hard-up weirdo.)

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I need all the help I can get

This Ridiculously Small Handrail might be useful to, say, some geezer with bad knees:

Ridiculously Small Handrail

It does, admittedly, look a trifle absurd.

(From Twisted Sifter’s The Shirk Report via Coyote Blog.)

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Unsatisfactory crap

It wasn’t a fresh idea, exactly, but it filled a perceived need:

On-demand fecal delivery (or “shit-tech”) is one of the hottest sectors around. And leading the way is Shit Express, whose super-simple elevator pitch is that for $16.95, or 0.05 bitcoin, it will anonymously send a piece of shit to someone on your behalf.

You might think “That’s some expensive shit.” And it is carefully packaged, including a slip of paper containing a gentle rebuke. But it misses out on one quintessential component:

[T]he thing that makes shit so supremely offensive isn’t just the fact that it came out of someone or something’s asshole. It’s the smell. And so I had to unseal the Tupperware, not only to verify to the best of my ability that it really is shit, but also to determine how powerful an insult this gift really was.

One sniff. Nothing. Hmm maybe the odor-causing chemicals and bacteria of the manure need a minute to steam off. Two more big inhalations and still nothing. According to other testimonials, the shipments gave off an appropriately unpleasant barnyard stench. It certainly looks like manure, and to be honest, it’d be a lot harder to fake manure than to just buy some from Home Depot or wherever. But it would seem that my delivery came from a bad batch of perhaps over-aged manure.

Could distance have been a factor? This parcel was shipped from Slovenia to Brooklyn. (Slovenia? “What did they put on the customs form?” asks Consumerist.) Anyway, this particular steaming pile proved to be, um, insufficiently steaming, suggesting an area where the company may need to work on its quality control.

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That third year is the killer

I’m filling out the renewal for MAD, and while I noticed almost immediately that the magazine’s subscription pitch hasn’t changed in the past two years, the actual pricing contains a trap for the unwary:

  • 1 year (6 issues) — $19.99
  • 2 years (12 issues) — $29.99
  • 3 years (18 issues) — $44.99

They’ll let you have that second year for ten bucks, but the third one costs fifteen? Why, that’s … that’s utterly MAD.

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Just get up and leave, Steve

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

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

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

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

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

This USGS photo suggests several things:

Lava flow toward Pahoa, Hawaii, November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moral: Always bet on the forces of nature.

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Sweet spot apparently preserved

I repeat myself verbatim from this date in 2013:

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

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

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

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

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

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Hearts strong as horses

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

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

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

- Occasional stubbornness, no emissions controls.

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

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

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

And speaking of horse’s asses:

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

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

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Instructions to the victor

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

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

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

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Nothing earth-shaking, apparently

You may remember this from 2011:

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

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

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

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

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

And this must be pointed out:

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

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

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A sort of hairy discussion

Tam reports on a dog sighting:

RX: “Look! A… regular poodle? Large poodle?”

Me:Standard poodle.”

RX: “Is there a Non-standard poodle? A Sub-standard poodle? The Sub-standard poodle is made by children in Third World sweatshops and it has those puffs of fur in the wrong places, like on its neck or at odd intervals on its legs…”

Me: “…and it goes ‘fooW!’

Not that anyone cares, but the American Kennel Club recognizes three sizes of poodle, the largest of which is the Standard, over 15 inches tall at the withers. The smallest is the Toy, under 10 inches. In between is the Miniature. Similar standards exist in other countries.

Their formal appearance notwithstanding, the poodle is useful in field work. Wikipedia notes:

[I]n the past 20 years in North America … Standard Poodles have begun to be put back to their original purpose as duck and game bird hunters. The more commonly acceptable clips seen in the show ring and the local groomer’s have proven extremely impractical in action. In the US and Canada, most hunters are male, lower to upper middle class, and strongly dislike being seen with a dog that has had an effete reputation. Dyeing a white Standard Poodle’s hair flamboyant colours and putting bows in their hair has been a habit since the days well-to-do French ladies got their hands on them and circus acts made huge profits on them, but is unnecessary in the field for hiding in blinds.

It may also be counterproductive to try to make them look like ponies.

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Hairs split upon request

“Tanj on your silly game,” said Louis Wu. He wasn’t talking about California and Federal regulations, but he could have been:

I watched them brag for half an hour about spending tons of extra money on … LEED certified buildings. As written here any number of times, most LEED savings come through BS gaming of the rules, like putting in dedicated electric vehicle parking sites (that do not even need a charger to get credit). In a brief moment of honesty, the architect presenting admitted that most of the LEED score for one building came from using used rather than new furniture in the building.

It’s okay. Getting the points, and the credits accrued therefrom, is far more important than the ostensible goals of the regulators; it was always thus, and always thus it shall remain.

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Queen Lucy the Plymouth Valiant

Does Hyundai have Narnia on the brain?

Buried in a Reuters article on Hyundai’s new Prius-fighter was talk of Hyundai’s new Aslan sedan. The Aslan is intended to take on the growing sales of imported sedans in South Korea, namely the VW Passat, BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. Based on a front-drive architecture, the Aslan seems to occupy a slot between the Sonata and the Grandeur (aka our Azera) — which made it all the more surprising when Reuters reported that “The automaker is also looking at introducing the Aslan in China, the United States and Middle Eastern countries.”

China I can believe — they thrive on largish sedans with either actual luxury or remarkable simulations thereof — but I can’t see how they’ll sell any of them here. The White Witch certainly wouldn’t put up with it.

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Far from upper crust

If you ask me, if you need this instruction, you’re too dumb to be eating pizza, or indeed anything else:

Open box before eating pizza

(Found by SnoopyTheGoon.)

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Almost rhymes with “vomit”

I have to admit, while I was sitting there watching Neil and Buzz traipsing about on the moon, it never would have occurred to me to ask what it smelled like, and if it had, well, given long-established family propensities, there inevitably would have been a response redolent of cheese, and green cheese at that. And being still a teenager, I’d probably have laughed at it.

Now this sort of question doesn’t seem so funny anymore, especially when there’s an actual answer:

A European spacecraft orbiting a distant comet has finally answered a question we’ve all been wondering: What does a comet smell like?

“It stinks,” says Kathrin Altwegg, a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland who runs an instrument called ROSINA that picked up the odor.

The European Space Agency has posted a full rundown of the comet’s BO on its website. The mix includes ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), formaldehyde (CH2O) and methanol (CH3OH).

Like the doo-doo room with the reek replete, as Frank Zappa once said.

Of course, anyone visiting the comet would be wearing a spacesuit (on top of that, the sense of smell is notoriously numb in space). Nevertheless, taking a whiff of this comet would be like sharing a horse barn with a drunk and a dozen rotten eggs.

The comet is currently hurtling towards the sun, which at least means it won’t be picking up any stray odors from Uranus. (You knew that was coming, right?)

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T-Motionless

T-Mobile apparently has been asleep at the switch for the past few days. Sunday night they sent me the usual “your bill is ready” email, and this morning they sent me two text messages to that effect. This is pretty much the usual thing — well, one text message — except for this: the bill came out a week and a half ago. I’d already checked their Web site and put the payment through my bank’s online gizmo Friday night, before receiving any of their advisories.

And right on schedule, they sent me a third text today, this one to tell me that the payment was duly posted. It still wouldn’t have been late had I dawdled — the due date is generally around the 7th — but I’m the sort of person who duns creditors for not sending their bills in a timely manner. If it happens again next month, they will hear from me.

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Bear don’t care

New York state having successfully, so to speak, banned “tiger selfies,” it’s time for other governmental bodies to go and do as likewise as possible. Forest Service, that’s your cue:

We’ve officially arrived at the point where people need to be told taking ‘selfies’ with bears is a bad idea.

That’s according to officials with the U.S. Forest Service in charge of maintaining the popular Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe.

The creek is the site of a spectacular annual run of kokanee salmon, which also attracts hungry bears. And lately it’s also attracting lots of smart phone-wielding photographers desperate for unique social media profile photos.

Really, that should be “smartphone-wielding,” or maybe “smart-phone wielding,” but definitely not “smart phone-wielding.”

(Via Consumerist.)

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Apparently it’s just this simple

Bark M. explains how to retain one’s job in the Ed Biz:

When I was a Music Education major at The Ohio State University, we had a guest speaker, the district Music supervisor from the Columbus Public Schools, come speak in our Introductory Music Ed class. He gave us the secret to keeping our jobs forever:

  • Don’t steal money from your district
  • Don’t have sex with your students

“They must not be teaching you that anymore, because we keep firing teachers,” he said.

I’m just trying to imagine Robert Stacy McCain’s response to that.

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Who put the bömp?

Opening statistic: Iceland has only 320,000 people, about as many as Corpus Christi, Texas. That number makes this more believable:

[T]wo random Icelanders have about as much in common as second cousins, once removed, according to Dr. Kári Stefansson, CEO and co-founder of deCODE Genetics. That might sound like a lot, but accounting for the vast possibilities for genetic recombination in each generation, it really isn’t.

A consequence of this genetic similarity:

A collaborative venture between deCODE and software engineer Friðrik Skúlason, the Íslendingabók site developed as a corollary to deCODE’s genealogical research. “The reason why we have been able to lead the world in genetic research,” Kári Stefansson says, “is because we understand the structure of Iceland’s population so well.” DeCODE has an advantage over “the big guys in human genetics” because the organisation has intimate understanding of Icelandic genealogy, he says. “Our history is mapped in our DNA.”

DeCODE has attracted no small amount of international press over the years, but it is unlikely that its student app competition would have created such fervour now were it not for one of the novelty features of the winning ÍslendingaApp: the Sifjaspellspillir or “Incest Spoiler” alarm which alerts a user if the person she plans on going home with is a near relation. Using the app’s “new bömp technology,” users can tap their phones together and see how closely they are related. If the alarm has been activated — it’s turned off in default settings — it will either erupt with a discouraging siren, or issue a gleeful “No relation: go for it!” message, while a Barry White-esque voice urges you on with a subtle “Oh, Yeeeaaah.”

There are parts of the US, I am told, where an application of this sort might be useful.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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Adequate cover

Given the deficiencies of the usual hospital gown, you might think this chap would have been pleased. But he wasn’t:

A man is suing Delaware Surgery Center for damages after allegedly waking from a colonoscopy medical procedure in women’s pink underwear.

Andrew Walls, 32, from the city of Dover, Delaware, was under anesthesia after the colonoscopy at the city’s Delaware Surgery Center in October 2012 when he claims he was pranked, The News Journal reported.

Why would anyone have a reason to prank this guy?

Walls was an employee of Delaware Surgery Center when he underwent the colonoscopy.

Oh. Did he at least get a discount on the bill?

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You live where?

If you can identify one house on my block, you can figure the addresses for any of them: the numbering is consistent — each lot west is plus four — and usually the number is actually readable. This is not, however, the case everywhere:

Older son is a pizza delivery guy. He routinely sees what the paramedics see: no house number, confusing house numbers, illegible house numbers, dark brown house numbers on black backgrounds, white house numbers on cream backgrounds, house numbers twenty feet off the ground where you would never look, house numbers painted on the curb with cars parked over them, house numbers so small they can’t be seen from the street, house numbers that appear to have been installed at random; the list is endless. The pizza guys would like to find your house quicker as time is money for them. The ambulance guys would like to find your house quicker as they hope to save your life. The FedEx guy and the UPS guy would like to find your house quicker too. So do plumbers, electricians, paper boys, and furniture delivery guys.

I should state here that when I took over the palatial estate at Surlywood, there were two sets of numbers, neither of which passed muster: a set of chrome digits over the garage door, fine once, not so fine once new guttering was installed just over it; and a set of black digits on a brown background, not readable except under very specific lighting conditions.

I toyed with moving the black digits to a pink background, but ultimately decided to install a vertical plaque, black on white, 19 x 4 inches, just east of the garage door. It is not as handsome as I thought it might be, but it’s readable.

On the curb? One set of digits painted on each of the two curved sections, where it takes considerable effort to block them with cars.

And I should probably admit that maybe my block is not so easy after all: the numbering is as I stated, but there are eight houses on the south side of the street, only four on the north. This seems to baffle some people, even when they can read the digits.

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Pointed rejection

Somehow I don’t think this will work:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Can i put barbed wire on my fence?

Reason for the decorations:

i like going in my hot tub at night naked and recently i found out all the neighbour kids watch me and i havent been able to go out since and i was wondering if you can put barbed wire up its like all the back gardens are a strip by the house and a long parallel fence and then each seperated by another fence i want to put wire all around the fences that define my garden an i allowed to do that and if not what can i do to get rid of them

Barbed wire doesn’t do a whole lot to block anyone’s view, so we’re forced to assume that the kids are having to climb up to see. The path of least resistance here is either a taller fence or enough of a hedge to block the line of sight.

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Modestly paranoid

And by “modestly,” we mean “out the wazoo”:

The 10,000 doves released in a ceremony Wednesday for China’s National Day underwent unusual scrutiny, each having its feathers and anus checked for dangerous materials, state-run media reports said, reflecting government jitters over possible attacks.

The symbols of peace were released at sunrise in Beijing’s symbolic heart of Tiananmen Square in a ceremony for the Oct. 1 holiday to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Beijing domestic security police officer Guo Chunwei was quoted in the Jinghua Times as saying workers checked the wings, legs and anus of each pigeon ahead of time to ensure they were “not carrying suspicious material.” The entire process was videotaped, and the birds were then loaded into sealed vehicles for the trip to Tiananmen Square, the newspaper said.

Snoopy the Goon points out that this intrusive procedure could have had, um, undesirable consequences.

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The weed from hell

Doesn’t this sound wonderful?

A weed strong enough to stop combines and resist many herbicides has been confirmed in South Dakota for the first time, raising concerns it could spread and cut deeply into crop production in the Upper Midwest — one of the few areas it hadn’t yet invaded.

The threat from Palmer amaranth [Amaranthus palmeri] is so great that officials in North Dakota have named it the weed of the year, even though it has yet to be found in the state.

“If you think you find plants — kill it!” North Dakota State University Extension Weed Specialist Rich Zollinger said. “Don’t even think. Just kill it.”

Even glyphosate, Monsanto’s mighty Roundup, is helpless against this stuff:

Weed scientists have performed tests on resistant Palmer pigweed. In this study, glyphosate was sprayed on resistant pigweed three times at 88 ounces per acre. The Palmer pigweed that received 264 ounces of glyphosate was still alive and healthy. The drought-plagued cotton plants were dwarfed by the glyphosate-resistant weed.

And, just our luck, it’s prolific:

The plants can grow as tall as 7 feet, each one producing as much as a million seeds. Its stems can grow as thick as baseball bats.

Which certainly explains how it can stop a combine.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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A John Deere letter

I’m half hoping this is a trick question:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Does the new 22 horsepower engine on a john deere have as much power as the old 26 horsepower engine?

Perhaps what she wants to say is more like “Is the new line of John Deere implements with 22-hp engines up to the performance standards set by the old line with 26-hp engines?” She didn’t say that, though, so she’s basically earned a “Duh.”

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Peak sand

How could we possibly be running out of sand?

Never before has Earth been graced with the prosperity we are seeing today, with countries like China, India and Brazil booming. But that also means that demand for sand has never been so great. It is used in the production of computer chips, plates and mobile phones. More than anything, though, it is used to make cement. You can find it in the skyscrapers in Shanghai, the artificial islands of Dubai and in Germany’s autobahns.

In 2012, Germany alone mined 235 million tons of sand and gravel, with 95 percent of it going to the construction industry. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates global consumption at an average of 40 billion tons per year, with close to 30 billion tons of that used in concrete. That would be enough to build a 27-meter by 27-meter (88.5 feet) wall circling the globe. Sands are “now being extracted at a rate far greater than their renewal,” a March 2014 UNEP report found. “Sand is rarer than one thinks,” it reads.

And renewal is a long, tedious process:

Sand is similar to fossil fuels like natural gas, coal or oil: It takes thousands of years to form — for rock to be naturally ground down into sand with rivers washing, grinding and breaking up stone on their long journeys to the sea. But the global population is growing, and since the start of the economic booms in Asia and Africa, sand doesn’t even make it to the oceans anymore in some places. It often gets fished out before getting there.

One perhaps-unexpected source of sand depletion is fracking:

According to the 14Q2 ProppantIQ report, recently published by PacWest Consulting Partners, robust growth in frac sand demand is driving dramatic growth in the North American proppant market. Proppant demand is expected to grow by 23% per annum through 2016, driven primarily by frac sand (+24% per annum). The RCS and Ceramics markets are also expected to grow at 9% and 2% per annum, respectively.

“We forecast strong growth in the North American market for proppant due to increasing horizontal wells and frac stages, in addition to increasing proppant volumes per stage,” says Samir Nangia, PacWest Principal. “However, there is considerable upside in our forecasts, due to the potential for faster-than-expected increases in proppant intensity (i.e. proppant/well and proppant/stage).”

“Proppant” is the stuff you mix with water plus Mystery Additives and send down the tubes to keep the fracture open while drilling. Garden-variety sand is not especially effective, but it’s cheap and cement-ish.

(With thanks to Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Droning on

Remember when stupidity had its consequences? I miss those days. And apparently so does the Z Man:

Cheap flying gizmos with cameras means every dickhead in the neighborhood will have one. In the not too distant future some jerk-off will have a drone spying on the woman next door and her husband will throttle the guy. The reason the general IQ has fallen is modern technology has allowed the stupid to escape the natural consequences of their genetics. At the tail end of the technological revolution, assholes get to easily reach out and share their asshole-ishness with the rest of the world.

See also “trolls,” seemingly motivated almost identically.

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Click here to agree to the divorce papers

PayPal and eBay, joined forever in 2002, are falling apart:

eBay and PayPal are going their separate ways, with the payments company moving out from under the eBay umbrella to form its own, publicly-traded company. The move follows a strategic review conducted by eBay, Inc. and its Board of Directors, and is intended to help both businesses grow faster in their respective markets.

The spin-out of PayPal is expected to be complete by the second half of 2015, provided all regulators sign-off on the agreement. As TechCrunch reported, both companies will get new CEOs as part of the deal, with eBay Marketplaces President Devin Wenig taking over at eBay, and PayPal President Dan Schulman presiding at PayPal.

While I’ve had no particular problems with either eBay or PayPal since the merger, I’ve often wondered if eBay sellers were chafing under the “suggestion” that they accept payments only through PayPal. And PayPal has been looking for partners far removed from the auction biz; about twice a month they send me email to tell me about a new one — as distinguished from the twenty times a month I get phishing email from parties pretending to be PayPal.

Note that word “spin-out,” in place of the more-usual “spin-off.” Is there a difference? Maybe it lies in the fact that PayPal is on its way to being a bigger business than eBay.

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