Archive for Dyssynergy

Fescue me

The general belief these days is that the smell you get from mowing the lawn is a distress signal from the poor beheaded plants. What hadn’t been determined up to now is the intended recipient of that signal:

The smell of cut grass in recent years has been identified as the plant’s way of signalling distress, but new research says the aroma also summons beneficial insects to the rescue.

“When there is need for protection, the plant signals the environment via the emission of volatile organic compounds, which are recognized as a feeding queue for parasitic wasps to come to the plant that is being eaten and lay eggs in the pest insect,” said Dr. Michael Kolomiets, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in College Station.

The research stems from a look at the function of a large family of lipid-derived molecular signals that regulate differential processes in humans, animals and plants, according to Kolomiets, whose research was published in The Plant Journal.

So cutting the grass invites wasps?

Suddenly Lisa’s Lawn Be Gone project makes a whole lot more sense.

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Checking those streams

Sometimes a paragraph just jumps out at you from the front page:

Oklahoma City Public Schools is the only district of comparable size in the state without an employee drug-testing policy in place, said Rod McKinley, the district’s chief human resources officer. “I don’t know why things didn’t happen in the past,” McKinley said.

Okay, that was technically about a paragraph and a third. Work with me here.

Now what I want to know is this: which of these two justifications will be invoked?

  • “Hey, all the other districts of comparable size have this, why don’t we?”
  • “Our schools are getting failing grades! Do you think it could be — drugs?”

Samuel L. Clemens was technically not available for comment.

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You can never plant enough trees

Nicole goes digging into deepest tax lore, and comes away annoyed:

[T]hat whole “Paperwork Reduction Act” that is cited on all IRS paperwork? That’s just insulting. The only thing the IRS is good at (besides being used as a tool of political vengeance) is killing trees. If all of this is reduced paperwork, I truly shudder to think of what it would be like prior to reduction.

The problem here is that it’s called the Paperwork Reduction Act, but nothing in the Act actually mandates the reduction of paperwork:

The Paperwork Reduction Act mandates that all federal government agencies receive approval from OMB — in the form of a “control number” — before promulgating a paper form, website, survey or electronic submission that will impose an information collection burden on the general public. The term “burden” is defined as anything beyond “that necessary to identify the respondent, the date, the respondent’s address, and the nature of the instrument.” No one may [be] penalized for refusing an information collection request that does not display a control number. Once obtained, approval must be renewed every three years.

The process created by the Paperwork Reduction Act makes OIRA into a centralized clearinghouse for all government forms.

And of course, OIRA generates paperwork of its own.

Consider: were this Act actually going to reduce a burden imposed by government, there wasn’t a chance in hell that Jimmy Carter would ever have signed it — especially since it was December 1980 and he knew he’d be out of work in a month’s time.

“The man whose life is devoted to paperwork has lost the initiative. He is dealing with things that are brought to his notice, having ceased to notice anything for himself.” — C. Northcote Parkinson

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Depressed for time

I wrestle with this quandary myself now and then:

I saw a story in the new Mary Janes Farm about a woman who works as an architect by day and makes incredible art quilts by night. And that makes me enormously sad; I count it as a good night when I have a half-hour to work on anything. I haven’t “designed” anything in a long time (as much as I ever “designed” anything — mostly just plugging a fancy stitch into a standard 64 or 72 stitch sock pattern). I don’t know what’s wrong with me that I never seem to do anything meaningful. I feel like when I’m gone I’ll be totally forgotten because there’s nothing I’m leaving behind that matters.

I think this explains my alleged productivity: I expect to be forgotten before I leave. And if none of this matters — well, when that’s determined, I don’t expect to be around to hear the verdict, so I’m not too worried about it. Then again, about halfway into the typing of this, I got a notification that someone favorited one of my stories, and, well, it’s halfway to 600 reads. Perhaps I’m the worst judge of my own material. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person suffering from that syndrome.

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Cradle stick-up

There’s lots of stuff at Interested-Participant, but arguably the label most often used at that blog is “Women With Troubles,” and a rather large number of the women in question have been caught with some underaged kid, though usually not in mid-diddle. In one recent incident, a 31-year-old ex-band teacher, following an anonymous tip, was busted for a 2012 tryst with a 14-year-old of apparently indeterminate gender; there is no shortage of other examples.

Robert Stacy McCain, who has been covering this phenomenon for many months, explains how this sort of thing can happen:

If we set aside all moral, legal, social and ethical objections to such behavior, must we pretend that we are unable to explain why a woman would be interested in a 15-year-old boy? Oh, hell, no.

Having once been a teenage boy, I know exactly what she enjoys in this activity. If erection equals consent, I was in a condition of permanent consent from the time I was 13 years old. A teenage boy is capable of sexual arousal with the least provocation, or no provocation at all… [E]ven if we ignore whatever aesthetic appeal there might be in the youthful appearance of an adolescent, there are other attributes typical of youth that might lead an adult woman to desire a 15-year-old boy as a sex partner. The teenage boy is more or less a tabula rasa, a lump of unmolded clay, an empty page on which she can inscribe whatever she wishes. Suppose that the teacher, attractive as she may be, is dissatisfied with the quality of her relationships with adult men. There in her classroom is a teenage boy, who is ready, willing and able to attempt any sexual act his teacher may desire him to perform. Not only is the boy’s impetuous eagerness flattering to her ego — adult men are probably less impetuous and more demanding — but as the teenager is less experienced in sexual activity by comparison to her adult male partners, the teen may be more easily tutored to perform sexually in the precise manner that pleases his teacher the most. The boy is more eager to please, more cooperative and less judgmental, and probably far more grateful to have her as a sex partner than any adult male would be.

There’s a lot to be said for “less judgmental.”

This interchange from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer seems apposite:

Cordelia: So, does looking at guns really make girls wanna have sex? That’s scary.
Xander: Yeah, I guess.
Cordelia: Well, does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?
Xander: I’m seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.

Inevitably, there are some incidents where an adult (legally, anyway) woman has chosen a young girl as a partner, which is similarly heinous but is occasionally brushed off, because feminism, or some such excuse.

And there’s this:

We view as creepy the middle-aged executive who divorces his wife and acquires a much younger girlfriend. It’s not just that the 25-year-old female is young enough to be the 50-year-old executive’s daughter (triggering our crypto-Freudian suspicion of symbolically incestuous ideas lurking in the old man’s depraved psyche) but that we assume, without need for any evidence, the young girlfriend is a selfish gold-digger who is cynically trading sex for money and status. Certain other assumptions are involved in the case of an older woman who goes into “cougar” mode, pursuing sex with virile young studs.

One could argue, I suppose, that we don’t have the facts of the matter and therefore should not pass judgment. This works right up until the moment when those facts materialize — but not one second thereafter.

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Conference room A, one hour

The organization doesn’t exist that never holds meetings. But there is such a thing as overdoing it:

When I worked in the high-corp world, especially when I was the executive assistant to the vice-CEO of a NASA corporation, I learned the value of regularly held meetings. But my boss held back-to-back meetings all damned day, thus eating up my time with creating Excel spreadsheets, running upstairs to rip them off of the huge Calcomp printer, then running back downstairs to mount them on the wall of his conference room. Hour. After. Hour. Taking care of 12 departmental checkbooks, requisitioning tools and parts, and performing secretarial tasks for his departmental heads had to be sandwiched in between my jogs up and down stairs. It’s no wonder that I won an unofficial poll as “Best Legs in the Company” and that I brought home huge paychecks that included three or four hours of overtime every day. Those checks helped me pay for that penthouse with the view of the Pacific, which I seldom saw because I never came home until well after dark. That job taught me the frustration of redundancy and meeting overkill. I used to joke with my boss that he and his heads must be Baptists, who are famous for holding meetings to schedule meetings.

Grateful am I that I work on one floor and one floor only — though that floor has a single step that I must traverse dozens of times a day, playing hell with my knees. And none of my paychecks are huge enough to afford a penthouse, which may be just as well since the damned thing would perforce be upstairs.

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Give ’til it hurts

Okay, maybe you’ve overdone it a little:

If nothing else, this proves that there is no substitute for hands-on experience.

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Indy Rock City

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but paper causes lawsuits:

KISS bassist Gene Simmons is among the defendants being sued by a security guard over a confetti-initiated stage accident during a 2012 concert in Noblesville, Indiana.

Courthouse News Service reports security guard Timothy Funk says he worked the band’s September 1, 2012 show at the city’s Klipsch Music Center and was injured after falling on the “slippery, waxy, and glassy” stage.

According to Funk’s lawsuit, “some or all of the defendants” sprayed water from hoses “on the stage, the area around the stage, and on some of the crowd.” They also sprayed confetti around the stage and crowd “in a foolish and reckless manner,” Funk claimed.

Remember, kids: use confetti responsibly.

Said defendants include Live Nation (as owner of the Klipsch Center) and Simmons’ production company.

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Pity the needy corporation

I have been a member of the American Automobile Association for some twenty-odd years. I pay my Plus fee every year; I even follow the local incarnation on Twitter. What’s more, they follow me. You’d think this was enough interaction for both of us.

Then in comes an email that begins “It feels like we’ve grown apart.” I saw that in the preview pane, looked up at the subject bar, and there was this plaintive wail: “We’ve noticed… our emails are going unnoticed.” By “unnoticed,” they apparently mean that once a month they send me a metric buttload of links, none of which I ever click on.

If this is a scheme to get me to verify my email address — for which they did in fact provide a link — it’s a pretty pathetic one. And if it’s not, it’s even worse.

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Give us convenience

“Or give us death,” Jello Biafra might say. I don’t know if I’d go that far. But I’m back here in the office with the MP3s blasting, and I wonder: why am I not in the living room with the Big Stereo?

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They don’t care a fig for Newton

The argument that one culture’s just as good as another fails to take into account that practitioners of one are using their heads for target practice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that what goes up, eventually comes down.

Except in the reichlet of Gaza, and in most of the Arab/Muslim world.

When Muslims celebrate the beginning of a war, they fire their AK 47s into the air. When they celebrate the end of a war, they fire their AKs into the air. They blast away at weddings. They blast away when a Jew is kidnapped or murdered. Basically, they pull triggers at every opportunity.

Invariably, someone gets dead because bullets — surprise! — fall to the ground.

If this seems counterproductive — well, things aren’t going to change any time soon. A recent such incident:

As the cease-fire began in Gaza, Tuesday evening — it was supposed to start at 7 PM but rockets and mortar shells continued to fall in Israeli territory as late as 7:15 PM — the V Day celebrations erupted in Gaza, after 50 days of clashes.

As is common on such occasions, thousands flocked in the streets, with many shooting randomly in the air, because that’s how folks have been expressing happiness in this region since the invention of gunpowder.

And then people started to drop in the streets. According to tweets from Gaza, as many as 2 locals were killed from those gunshots, and at least 25 were injured.

Life is cheap; but ammo is even cheaper.

(Via The Texas Scribbler.)

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The latest dish

Nicole’s dishwasher has gone south, or some other dysfunctional direction, and the results have been twofold:

I’ve been doing dishes by hand for the last several nights. And because we have a tiny ant infestation that is not being eradicated by Terro, my normal ant scourge, I’ve been having to do them every night after dinner. First bad thing.

Second bad thing — doing the dishes every night means that I have it put in my face every night that we really don’t need more than 2 plates. Which is bad because my regular grocery store is next to Pier One.

Disclosures:

  • Last time I had a dishwasher was when I was living in the CrappiFlats™, eleven years ago.
  • At the time, I had four plates; I have since broken one.

Pier One is pretty close to my bank, but I try to avoid going to the bank.

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Taking the full upright position

Otherwise known as “Hey, you’re lucky we even let you on the plane”:

Next time you buy an airplane ticket check the fine print. What you probably won’t find: language to the effect of “the purchase of this ticket fully and without restraint entitles the ticketholder to the recline function of his seat for the duration of the flight”. That doesn’t mean one can’t recline. (It also doesn’t say you can breathe while on the flight…) It does mean however that claims like “I paid for the right to recline!” are made-up. No, you paid for an airplane ticket. There are some things explicit (we’ll take you from point A to point B, at such-and-such time, we kinda-sorta promise) and many things implicit. It didn’t specify a “right” to recline just like it didn’t specify a “right’ to occupy such-and-such volumetric cylinder of space extending from the tip of your seat up to the ceiling, and along the bisecting midpoints of the armrests on either side of you.

Ultimately, this is a good argument for taking the train, assuming there’s a train to take.

And my lowly 1970s Toyota would allow me to recline almost 90 degrees, useless for driving but wonderful for grabbing a nap in the Scenic Turnout.

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Odium at the podium

We are now a week and a half into the new school year in the Little Rock School District, and there’s nothing yet floating around about possible violations of the new dress code for teachers [pdf], enacted last year and now in effect. Some of the highlights:

“Foundational garments shall be worn and not visible with respect to color, style, and/or fabric,” the letter reads. “No see-through or sheer clothing shall be allowed, and no skin shall be visible between pants/trousers, skirts, and shirts/blouses at any time.”

T-shirts, patches and other clothing containing slogans for beer, alcohol, drugs, gangs or sex will also be prohibited. Other verboten garments will include cut-off jeans with ragged edges, cut-out dresses and spaghetti-straps if teachers aren’t wearing at least two layers.

Flip-flops will be banned. “Tattoos must be covered if at all possible.” No jogging suits, either (though gym and dance teachers do get a pass on this one).

And the very worst of all: No spandex.

I know of only one teacher — not in that district, or even in that state — who’s admitted to wearing flip-flops; if she ever went commando, I don’t know about it.

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Broaden the product line

Today’s consumers are demanding, and the one-trick pony seldom gets a second ride. Whenever possible, diversify. Here’s what we mean:

Ruth's Video and Seafood

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what we mean.

(Via Bad Newspaper.)

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Add a thin shiny veneer

Uber, up to now, has positioned itself mostly as the Anti-Taxi Service, but Instapundit pointed to this Wired piece as evidence that their ambitions are greater:

On Tuesday, Uber announced a pilot program for what it calls Uber Corner Store, a service that would allow Uber users in the Washington D.C. area to get staple items like toothpaste and bandages delivered from local stores. According to a blog post, the program will only last a few weeks, but it hints at CEO Travis Kalanick’s long-term vision for Uber, which is to transform the company from a pure transportation play into a full-fledged logistics company.

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, the other shoe dropped. Kalanick again:

Earlier this year, I made it a top priority for Uber to find a leader who could help cities and citizens understand the Uber mission — someone who believed in our cause, who understood how to build a meaningful brand, who knew how to scale a political campaign, and who knew how to get the support on the ground to win. We needed someone who understood politics but who also had the strategic horsepower to reinvent how a campaign should be run — a campaign for a global company operating in cities from Boston and Beijing to London and Lagos.

So today we are pleased to announce that David Plouffe will be joining Uber as our Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy. Starting in late September, David will be managing all global policy and political activities, communications, and Uber branding efforts. I will look to him as a strategic partner on all matters as Uber grows around the world.

David fricking Plouffe. Apparently what Kalanick thinks he needs is an experienced turd painter.

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That’s all I can Stanley

From these pages eight years ago:

In the context of Oklahoma City, David Stanley Ford is an automobile dealership at 39th and May.

Elsewhere, David Stanley Ford is a playwright, who has written an American historical drama I’d love to see: The Interrogation of Nathan Hale, in which the man who regretted having but one life to lose for his country reveals the last secrets of that life.

Since then, David Stanley the Ford dealer has sold out and acquired a Chevy store across town; he has long owned the Dodge dealership in Midwest City, which now carries all four Chrysler Group brands. And, reports the Lost Ogle, he’s been in deep doo-doo of late:

David Stanley Chrysler Jeep Dodge agreed to pay a $350,000 fine in March of 2014 for allegedly violating eight state regulations designed to protect consumers from misleading advertising practices.

According to this document that is just hanging out on the server at BartlesvilleRadio.com, the violations include deceptive, inaccurate and bait-and-switch forms of advertising.

The commercials in question ran in January 2014 and offered eye rolling, too-good-to-be-true, only-Grant-Long-would-fall-for-this deals that offered to pay $18,000 in the car buyer’s credit card debt if they bought a car.

If you have $18,000 in credit-card debt, why are you even thinking of buying a new car? Not that anyone at the dealership is ever going to ask you such a question, of course.

This story got no local coverage until TLO broke it, which just goes to show you:

That’s actually some delicious irony right there. While our TV news channels send their “In Your Corners,” “I-Teams” and “Consumer Watchers” to track down the contractor who didn’t finish a flooring job and ran away with some old lady’s hard-earned $1,000, the car dealership that advertises during the commercial break is using bait-and-switch advertising gimmicks and other deceptive tactics to lure consumers into high interest, ripoff, life-ruining auto purchases and loans. I guess never forget who the for-profit media really serves.

If you’re the audience, you’re the product: the station sells you to an advertiser. Your role is to shut up and keep watching and keep buying.

Perhaps David Stanley Ford ought to write a play about that.

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By the yarbles, downwardly

No one, I assume, has ever ordered one of these in January:

The husband, who is pretty good with this sort of thing, checked out the air conditioner and discovered that it had a bad capacitor. Just so happened we had another one from an old air conditioner so he installed that one and it worked. Yay, we’re cool again. But, not knowing how long that old part would last he looked up a new one online and asked me to order it. The total, with standard shipping, came to $19 and change.

This seemed to me like something we might want in a hurry. If the air conditioner quit completely with temps in the upper 90s we might think an extra $30 or perhaps even an extra $50 would have been worth it.

Which makes sense to me — and dollars for the vendor:

There are not enough curse words in the world to express my feelings upon seeing the price for two day shipping. Keep in mind this part is slightly smaller than a 12 ounce soda can and not exceptionally heavy for an object of that size. Total cost for 2 day shipping: $276. Or something like that. It was definitely 3 digits starting with a “2” and I’m pretty sure there was a “7” and a “6” in some order. Sorry, I’m a bit traumatized by the experience. I mean, what the hell? Are they going to hire James Earl Jones to bring it in a limo and deliver it personally to my front door? (Yeah, I’d pay $276 for that.)

It works the other way, too. I bought my Big Nasty Snow Pusher from Amazon one summer for $50ish. Same device last December: $109. (Shipping, at least, was free.)

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Still Electric, not so General

GE still plans to bring good things to life, just not anything you’re likely to own:

“We are the largest and most profitable infrastructure company in the world,” GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt said of the Fairfield, Conn.-based company’s identity in its 2013 annual report.

The company reinforced that message this week when it confirmed that it is in talks to sell its $2 billion appliances business to one of several possible bidders, including the appliance maker Electrolux. Several news outlets reported that Quirky, a New York-based startup that uses crowdsourcing to quickly develop its household products, is also interested in GE’s appliance business.

If a sale of the unit is completed, the company’s iconic toasters, refrigerators and washing machines may retain the GE brand name — but will no longer be made by the company. “Most U.S. consumers are not going to be touched day-to-day in a way that they know” by GE-made products, said Brian K. Langenberg, principal of Langenberg & Company.

Saturday night, I installed a GE-branded mouse on my desktop ($8.99, Target). It was of course made in China; the actual distributor is Oklahoma City-based Jasco Products, as revealed in the three-page (!) operations manual. (Actually, it was six pages, though 4 through 6 were basically 1 through 3 in Spanish.) It will be touched day-to-day, but GE didn’t have a thing to do with its production.

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Putting the “glob” in “global”

You almost certainly remember this from your childhood: “Now eat your [unpalatable food item]. There are children starving in [random Third World hellhole].”

The proper response, of course, is to point to the alleged food item and ask “Why don’t we send them this?”

This spirit, and I use the term loosely, still exists today:

Yahoo! Answers screenshot: Wasting Water™: Why does Lou Gehrig hate clean drinking water?

Followed by this bit of harangue:

Every bucket dumped over the head of some self important celebrity is one less bucket of clean drinkable water when 780 MILLION people lack access to clean water and 3.4 MILLION people die each year from a water related disease.

Which, in turn, is followed by an infographic that repeats the same numbers:

water use infographic

If you’ve missed the meme, here’s the explanation.

Now what’ll you bet this person’s lawn is freshly watered?

Mr Gehrig, of course, is long gone, and since he doesn’t have to listen to this sort of thing anymore, he has to consider himself the luckiest man off (or under, depending on your cosmology) the face of this earth.

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Semi-exclusive OR

In this town, you have Cox Cable, or you have whatever the heck it is AT&T is selling; if there are other options, they’ve been tucked away behind a Concealment Spell or something.

This past week, AT&T sent me a big bruiser of an envelope with the breathless announcement that “U-verse is now available for your home!” As expected, they had a deal to offer. Not as expected, they were making serious speed claims: “Now with blazing-fast speeds up to 45Mbps.” Of course, “up to” is the inevitable weasel word: not all locations can get this speed. Specifically:

In areas where AT&T deploys U-verse through FTTN, they use High-speed digital subscriber lines with ADSL2+ or VDSL technology. Service offerings depend on the customer’s distance to an available port in the distribution node, or the central office. To qualify for U-verse TV service (only available through VDSL2), the customer must be less than 1000 meters (3500 feet) from a VRAD, the VRAD must contain an available port, and the copper wire-loop must pass qualification. Where pair bonding is available, the maximum service distance can extend to 1600 meters (5500 feet). Pair bonding is also necessary for U–verse’s fastest internet tier (Power Tier 45 Mbit/s down).

If they’ve built a VRAD in this neighborhood, I haven’t seen it. Old-style DSL had to be piped in from the Windsor office at 23rd and Portland, which is a heck of a lot farther away than 1.6 km, the main reason I didn’t order it back when I moved in.

The punchline, of course, is that during this same week, Cox dispatched an email to tell me I was being upgraded from 25 to 50 Mbps — assuming, of course, I have a DOCSIS 3.0 modem. I’m assuming I don’t, even though they supplied this box in 2011, five years after the introduction of 3.0; and anyway, I get a fairly consistent 30 Mbps, which qualifies, I suppose, for “up to” 50 Mbps.

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Maybe not so much choice

This year’s Teen Choice Awards were marred by the suggestion that someone other than teens might be making the choice:

The annual awards show, which hands out gongs for the best teen movies, music and this year — web stars, enjoyed its 16th instalment on Sunday and it is usually fairly innocuous — bar one pole-dancing routine by Miley Cyrus in 2009.

Which, I submit, indeed should have been barred.

But the ceremony’s officials may be kicking themselves for including the new category this year, after impassioned fans of losing “Web Stars” nominees claimed that the whole thing is set-up…

The latest furore started when Cameron Dallas, an 18-year-old Californian with 5.5 million followers on Vine, publicly denounced the process.

He won the award for “Choice Viner”, but was so incensed that he didn’t get the presumably more prestigious award of “Choice Web Star: Male” that he took to Twitter to reveal how he had been made aware of his win days previously.

“It’s funny how they told me I won the Viner award 6 days before the voting ended and made the runners up still vote to tweet for them,” he said, before deleting the tweets.

Meanwhile, a check of the fine print reveals:

According to its voting rules, which are published in its website’s fine print, “Teenasaurus Rox reserves the right to choose the winner from the top four vote generators.”

In other news, someone or something is using the name “Teenasaurus Rox.”

2011 Choice Web Star (!) winner Rebecca Black got one-fifth of a nomination this year:

Web Collaboration nomination for Rebecca Black and others

They did not win. However, RB says, and I quote, that she’s “blessed to be back at it.” And since I have it, a photo from one of the pre-ceremony parties:

Rebecca Black before the Teen Choice Awards

We’re just glad to have you around, Bex.

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The urge to wax has waned

Sometimes your first Brazilian wax is your last Brazilian wax:

[T]he awkward sexual innuendo and the pain are not the reasons I will no longer be getting Brazilians. No, I could deal with those again. There are three other reasons I will no longer be waxing the hooha.

We’ll just mention one of them here, since it’s one I wasn’t expecting:

After the technician left the room, I picked myself up off of the table. Actually I kind of slid off of the table in my own sweat. I walked over to the mirror to examine myself, and I was horrified. Not because I looked like a prepubescent girl (although that was slightly horrifying). I was horrified because it was at that moment that I realized that my pregnancy stretch marks went ALL THE WAY DOWN INTO MY TANTALIZING TRIANGLE. They look like grotesque, greedy little fingers pointing the way down. Or lightening bolts threatening to strike any who enter.

One of those “Abandon Hope” signs in post-topiary form. I don’t think that it necessarily discourages visitors, but anything that makes you doubt your curb appeal can kill the deal. Or that’s what they tell me, anyway.

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The tiger’s wide awake

So if you want a picture of yourself with the big cat in New York state, you’d better get it now:

[Yesterday,] the governor of New York State signed a bill banning the practice of paying to have your photo taken with a large cat. Yes, this will be commonly referred to as the “tiger selfie” ban.

As radio station WPDH in Poughkeepsie points out, businesses that let you pet and take a photo with tigers and other exotic animals have been popular attractions at county fairs, including the nearby Dutchess County Fair, in years past. You get a sticker that says “I touched a tiger,” and a photo perfect for your online dating profiles. Starting in 2015, exchanging money for tiger photos will now be illegal in New York state.

Governor Cuomo, you may be sure, is not overly concerned with your safety here:

Wildlife advocates say the trend is not only hazardous to humans but encourages mistreatment of endangered animals. The big cats are often taken from their mothers as cubs, poorly cared for and then neglected or discarded when they grow up.

“They breed the cubs, use them for photo-ops, and then when they can’t use them they breed more,” said Carole Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, a Tampa, Florida sanctuary that has more than 100 big cats.

Similar laws exist in Arizona, Kansas and Mississippi.

(Source of the title, in case you were wondering.)

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Fan disservice

Bayou Renaissance Man and Miss D. are once again Not Sweating:

To my surprise (and irritation), we learned that modern A/C motors are no longer the simple units of old. Apparently one has to tell the supplier the type of unit (manufacturer, model, etc.) in which it’ll be used, and it’s then “programmed” to work in that particular system. I can see how making a single motor that can be programmed to work in 20 or 30 different units is easier from the factory’s perspective, but it means one can’t just walk in, buy the motor one wants, and take it out the door. Now one has to provide the necessary information and wait two to three hours until the supplier can put it through the programming process — and pay rather more for the motor as a result. I’m not sure this is an improvement from the user point of view.

It’s not. Then again, the last motor I had to buy (back in 2009) was specifically designed for this oddball unit: there are others, much more common, with exactly the same specifications, but the output shafts are something like a quarter-inch too long, so they won’t actually fit. This could not possibly have been good for the price. (I asked an HVAC tech once if the shaft could be filed down a bit: he looked at me as though I’d asked him for a Federal unicorn license.)

The only time I’ve come close to this sort of predicament before was with my old Toyota Celica. Apparently at the beginning of model year 1975 they changed the starter design, and then midway through the year changed it again because the newer design sucked the Japanese equivalent of donkey balls. Replacements, therefore, were difficult to come by. In the twenty years between Off The Showroom Floor and Off My Hands Entirely, little Dymphna went through four starters, and judging by the scratches in the paint, her fourth one was her first one, rebuilt. Too bad they can’t rebuild air-conditioner motors — or at least they say they can’t.

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Sentenced to retention

There is no way I could do this:

I was not even a retention specialist. Part of my job, though, was to prevent calls from having to go there. Which is to say that someone would call in wanting to either scale back or cancel service, and my job was to either (a) convince them not to or (b) wear them down to increase the chances that the retention specialist would succeed. As near as I could tell, if they wanted to cancel the account, I would present a whole bunch of reasons why they shouldn’t, and then if I failed they would go to a retention specialist who would then say all of the same things (maybe in a different order, maybe not).

It is generally believed that it costs less to retain a customer than to acquire one, which, if nothing else, makes me wonder how much it costs to acquire one.

I am temperamentally unsuited to this sort of job, and I am not alone:

There were a lot of things that I didn’t like about the job. I am not a phone person to begin with. I am not the most social or friendly person, and I was in a job where both were expected of me. Over the phone. I had angry customers, demanding customers. I was cursed and yelled at. Even one guy who liked me started cussing me out when he found out that he could not direct future customer service calls to me specifically.

Fortunately, no one calling the organization to complain has demanded an audience with me. The spectacle would not be pretty.

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Mineral wrongs

This seems like it could be just a simple mixup, but nothing in the energy biz is simple anymore:

A Hancock County [WV] couple whose mineral rights were used without their knowledge as collateral for a $500 million loan have filed suit against Chesapeake Energy affiliates, claiming Chesapeake’s debt was improperly recorded as a lien against their property.

Homeowners John and Jacqueline Bird of New Manchester filed the suit in Hancock County Circuit Court, saying the enormous lien has imperiled their ability as property owners to buy, sell or borrow against their property, “thereby depreciating its market value, restricting plaintiffs’ full use and enjoyment of the property, and hindering plaintiffs’ rights …”

The suit, which seeks class action status, also claims the landsman who arranged the deal, Chris Turner, prepared, explained and modified legal documents, including leases, even though he was not an attorney.

Says counsel for the plaintiffs:

[T]he Birds signed “what they thought were leases, though there’s a question (now) whether it was a lease or an option. They signed it because they hoped to get some royalties… What they didn’t know or understand because it was never told to them was that their lease would become collateral for a $500 million loan, that there would be a lien on the property of every person who is in the class.”

Which could be as many as five hundred.

Chesapeake, perhaps not surprisingly, has petitioned to move the case to U.S. District Court.

(Via Cheri Campbell.)

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Built for the long run

I snagged this ad in the sidebar at, um, Equestria Daily:

Online advertisement for Cree bulbs from the Home Depot

This is August. Is anyone even wearing pantyhose?

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“Tragic Sans” was already taken

This is not actually a joke:

Supporters of Venezuela’s late socialist leader Hugo Chávez have unveiled yet another novel way of keeping his memory alive — a font for typing in “El Comandante’s” handwriting style.

The distinctive ChavezPro font was launched on Monday by a group of young “anti-imperialists” to coincide with nationwide commemorations of the 60th anniversary of his birth.

Fausta has samples. And yes, there really is a Tragic Sans font.

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Out of the Garden, into the Sunshine

There is much chatter about the 21st Century Exodus, from California to Texas. We don’t hear so much about this move down Interstate 95:

I moved to Florida from New Jersey a couple of weeks ago because of a number of personal and financial reasons.

Many New Jersey residents are doing the same, including my accountant. She, as I, can pay for a small mortgage, real estate taxes, insurance and association fees on a condo in Florida on what we paid for real estate taxes alone in New Jersey. Add the fact that Florida has no personal income tax, and you’ll have loads of New Jerseyans heading to Florida. I had my car transported by truck, and the man who delivered it told me the 9 other cars belonged to people who are moving to Florida.

There is, of course, a drawback:

New Jersey is hot and humid in the summer, but you don’t know humid hotness until you’re in South Florida to stay. The main difference between the two is, Miami doesn’t really cool off at night.

I’ve never been to Miami, though a couple of trips to Orlando gave me a healthy respect for — or maybe an abject fear of — Florida humidity, especially since it can do things like this:

Morning walks before the temps hit the mid eighties (in both temperature and humidity) become a streaming flow of sweat pouring down from my scalp, through my clothes, slowing down enough to puddle in my bra — not stopping until reaching my ankles. Anything not made of natural fabrics (including two tops made of “wicking” material) then becomes clammy the moment you step into an air-conditioned building. The result can best be called a synthetically-induced hot flash: Brutal sweat followed by chilling dampness.

And people wonder why LeBron would go back to Cleveland.

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