Archive for Dyssynergy

The name gives it away

Laundrapp, as you’ve already guessed, is a laundry app for various devices, now building a reputation in the United Kingdom. From the description, it couldn’t be simpler:

You Order
Book a collection online or with our award winning app. We’ll bring a bag.

We Collect
Collection and delivery is free, just let us know where you are, office or home

We Clean
Our facilities are so good we guarantee you’ll be satisfied — we put a quality guarantee on all items

We Deliver
We’ll deliver your pristine garments back to you, anytime and anywhere

They run 16 hours a day — 7 am to 11 pm — and they’re looking to expand:

Laundrapp, an app that lets users have their washing picked up, cleaned and dropped off, will license its logistics technology to major laundry franchises in countries including China and Mexico.

The market for laundrettes differs around the world, with other countries having large franchises as opposed to the independent high street services in the UK. Laundrapp will license its technology to these major companies as part of its bid to expand internationally.

No indication that they’ll be coming to the States any time soon.

(Via Holly Brockwell, who admits: “I’ve got two huge sacks of clothes I don’t wear because they all need ironing.”)

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Sit there and take it

Like seemingly every other newspaper in the country, the Los Angeles Times is trying to shore up revenues from the online edition. Few, though, will go to these lengths:

The LA Times is a good newspaper and is currently doing the best political coverage in California. They are also the most aggressive ad shoveling website I have ever seen. Their ad blocker blocker and paywall works, preventing me from reading articles. I even tried installing an ad blocker blocker blocker which doesn’t work.

As a test, he opened up a single article and waited:

[T]he page requested 2000 resources totalling 5 megabytes in 30 seconds. It will keep making those requests as long as I leave the page open. 14 gigabytes a day.

Woe betide the man who reads the Times on his phone.

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Lawyer entangled by laws

I can’t help thinking this was a setup intended as public chastisement:

An offbeat Austin-area defense attorney who has built a practice representing clients accused of drunken driving and marijuana possession spent 11 days in an East Texas jail after federal authorities charged him with scamming $1.2 million from Colombian clients.

Jamie Balagia, who operates law firms in Manor and in San Antonio, was released on bond from the Fannin County Detention Center at 10:47 a.m. Monday, jail records show. Balagia, 56, agreed to stop practicing law until his case is resolved, according to court records that provide the conditions of his release.

The attorney who markets himself as the DWI Dude and the 420 Dude was arrested by the FBI on March 9 in McKinney near Dallas and charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and obstruction of justice. He was released on an unsecured $100,000 bond by U.S. Magistrate Judge Christine Nowak of the Eastern District in Sherman.

You should know that just about everyone named “Balagia” in central Texas is a relative of mine. (Jamie is in fact a first cousin.)

That said, he ran for Texas Attorney General in 2014 on the Libertarian ticket, promoting the legalization of marijuana. (The “420 Dude” is known for defending weed users.) He pulled about two percent of the vote.

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The way it used to be, twisted 180 degrees:

CenturyLink, our telephone company in Florida, called and said that our listing in the telephone book was no longer free and that they would begin charging us $20 a month if we wanted to stay in. LOL, I did not even know they made telephone books any more. Back in the 1980’s, when being in the phone book had value, the listing was free. Now, when being in the book has zero value, they want to charge for it.

I’m assuming that this is a business line, inasmuch as a couple of yellow-paged books — “Yellow Pages,” I further assume, is a trademark owned by someone — show up a few yards from my porch every year. The last actual White Pages I received, with residential listings and such, date to 2008.

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Upholstered in the finest Tweed

How things have changed:

Some background:

The neo-Georgian building known as Tammany Hall opened in 1929, and Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt used its stage to warn of corporate mergers that were putting too much wealth into the hands of the elite.

In 1943, Tammany sold its headquarters to Local 91 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which reopened it in 1947 as the Roosevelt Auditorium. In 1984 it was reborn as a 499-seat Off Broadway theater, the Roundabout Theater, and in 1994 it was rededicated as the Union Square Theater.

It received landmark status in 2013. But after the New York Film Academy moved out in 2015, the theater closed in January [2016].

William M. “Boss” Tweed was unaware of any of this, inasmuch as he had died in 1878.

(Via Jason Shevrin.)

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Revolt of the Underarm Gnomes

We have descended to this:

When we look back at the great social justice struggles of 2017, surely, neigh certainly, the cause of putting armpit hair on fictional women will top the list.

This week, Warner Bros. released the new trailer for Wonder Woman, and most problematically, the Amazonian warrior princess played by Gal Gadot did not have any armpit hair.

Twitter exploded at the revelation, claiming women of the fictional matriarchy Themyscira would probably not shave their armpits. Some speculated that Gadot’s armpits were photoshopped to show a sheen, immaculate visage, unattainable by real women.

Many woke, intersectional journalists were also angered by the lack of gross armpit hair.

I note for record that “fictional” appears in those four brief paragraphs twice. And who’s gonna tell Wonder Woman, of all people, how to take care of herself? Not I.

Besides which, you know what’s really gross? “Woke,” “intersectional” “journalists,” and I mean the scare quotes on all three. You were put on this earth to document life, not to remake it in thine own image, especially when thine own image is well-nigh puke-inducing.

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No matter how many payers

By now no one should be surprised by this:

[A]ll systems of paying for and providing healthcare suck; all of them suck worse if you’re poor and none of them are especially bad if you’re rich. There is no happy, Disney-movie solution and on many levels, the more lawmakers mess with it, the worse it gets.

Before all this started, if you were poor and didn’t have insurance, you were perfectly free to die in a ditch; if you chose not to, showing up at a hospital emergency room would get you treatment (hospitals are generally not allowed to turn away anyone who is genuinely ill or injured) and a whopping huge bill. Under ACA, you could also die in a ditch or walk into a hospital uninsured, but you were going to be fined in addition to the big bill*; under ACHA, the uninsured get the same two choices and skip the fine, but if they choose the hospital and survive to buy insurance they will pay a 30% surcharge on their premiums — and so will you, if you go more than two months without insurance. This is all very interesting, but if the initial aim was to reduce the number of uninsured citizens who die in ditches, exactly how does either plan accomplish that goal? They don’t, no more than a low-flow showerhead in Seattle or Indianapolis helps droughts in California or a shrinking fossil aquifer in Arizona.

The line I keep hearing is that “everyone has to be insured so the risk pool is large enough,” which will come as a surprise to the statisticians and actuaries who work for insurance companies. It does not take a huge pool to make the risk usefully predictable and there’s a lower limit to the rule that adding more people makes the risk more predictable and therefore allows reducing the amount of “just in case” money the insurer needs to keep for off-the-prediction surprises: you do have to pay all those mathematicians, adjusters, attorneys, salesmen, managers, top brass and support staff — and the investors are hoping for a little profit on the money they have put up to get the whole thing rolling, too. The thing people seem to think they are saying boils down to “if everyone pitched in a dollar, we’d all be able to afford healthcare when we needed it,” a charming sentiment that skips blissfully over what right the rest of us have to demand a dollar from every random stranger.

As always, there’s a footnote:

* The fine is (if I remember correctly) under $2500, which is just about big enough to be insulting and for the the person without two dimes to rub together, might as well be $25,000 or $250,000.

I’m awaiting the first proposal that calls for filling in all the ditches, so no one can die therein.

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And then the cycle repeats

Most places, you have two service providers and no more, which leads to situations like this:

I told my internet/cable provider to stick it up their … on Friday. I’m sick of the constant outages and frequent price changes — like charging me at random for premium channels I never asked for and never wanted. I told them to shut it off. I called the other guys who will be here Monday. I have no illusions, the other guys will be just as bad. I will save about $50 bucks a month with the new customer discount. When the new guys raise their rates I will just go back to the current crappy provider at their lower introductory rates. Neither company understands the value of customer loyalty.

Nor will they ever. This is a world of quarterly reports, and the person who claims to see beyond a hundred days is derided for his folly.

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A porpoiseful action

“Boycott Mexican shrimp,” says the URL:

The world’s smallest and most endangered porpoise lives only in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California. Only 30 vaquita remain, after suffering decades of decline due to entanglement in shrimp fishing gear.

Mexico’s fishery agency is failing to fulfill its promises to save the vaquita. Without strong action, these little animals could disappear from the planet forever by 2019.

You can help stop the extinction. The Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign is calling on Mexico to permanently ban all dangerous gillnets in vaquita habitat, step up enforcement, and remove illegal nets from the water.

Join the Boycott Mexican Shrimp campaign and send the strongest possible message to Mexico: Act now or we lose the vaquita forever.

They’re not kidding. The vaquita (Phocoena sinus) is listed as “Critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List; the only worse categories are “Extinct in the wild” and “Extinct,” period.

Mexico’s previous efforts to save the vaquita have not been what you’d call notably effective:

[I]n 2008, Mexico launched the program PACE-VAQUITA, another effort to help preserve the species. PACE-VAQUITA compensates fishermen who choose one of three alternatives: rent-out, switch-out, and buy-out.

In the rent-out option, fishermen acquire temporary contractual obligations to carry out conservation efforts. They are paid if they agree to terminate their fishing inside the vaquita refuge area. There is a penalty if fishermen breach the contract which includes getting their vessels taken by the government. The switch-out option provides fishermen with compensation for switching to vaquita-safe harvesting technology. Finally, the buy-back program compensates fisherman for permanently turning in their fishing permits, as well as their respective gear. In 2008, because of how few fisherman were enrolling in the switch-out option, PACE VAQUITA added a yearly, short-term option for fishermen, letting them simply rent the vaquita-safe fishing equipment yearly for compensation. Then, in 2010, this option was broken down even further, giving fishermen the option of buying the vaquita-safe net, or paying the yearly rent, but for less compensation. Despite these efforts, the probability that these attempts at conservation will work is slim. Only about a third of fishermen in the area have accepted these terms so far.

I don’t buy a whole lot of shrimp from anywhere, but seafood is supposed to be marked with the country of origin, and it won’t hurt me to read the packaging material once in a while.

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Scarf now

Where, precisely, could feminism and Islam possibly find common ground? Steve Sailer thinks it’s the hijab, and imagines the thought:

[T]the appeal to American liberal women of the idea of the Muslims taking over is that if Society makes me wear one of those tents, I can be both a hot-looking (because all the other women will have to wear them too) woman of mystery and I won’t have to lose those last 15 pounds.

Sharia law is a small price to pay for that.

This is consistent with an earlier Sailer declaration:

The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.

The one problem with this scheme is that during a Revolution, you get to observe an awful lot of revolting people, and the memory fades slowly if at all.

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You weren’t reared that way

There’s pretty much no way you can get this to sound good:

The Justice Department unsealed a fresh indictment Tuesday charging eight Navy officials — including an admiral — with corruption and other crimes in the “Fat Leonard” bribery case, escalating an epic scandal that has dogged the Navy for four years.

Among those charged were Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, a senior Navy intelligence officer who recently retired from a key job at the Pentagon, as well as four retired Navy captains and a retired Marine colonel. The charges cover a period of eight years, from 2006 through 2014.

The Navy personnel are accused of taking bribes in the form of lavish gifts, prostitutes and luxury hotel stays courtesy of Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, a Singapore-based defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars.

This is the incident that will stick with you, so to speak:

On another port visit by USS Blue Ridge to Manila in February 2007, Francis allegedly hosted a sex party for officers in the MacArthur Suite of the Manila [Shangri-La] hotel. During the party, “historical memorabilia related to General Douglas MacArthur were used by the participants in sexual acts,” according to the indictment.

Historical note: MacArthur’s legendary catchphrase was “I shall return,” not “I’m coming.”

(Via Aaron Mehta.)


The new lie detector

Let us first get into the proper frame of mind:

And now perhaps we’re ready for this:

A Miami defense lawyer’s pants burst into flames Wednesday afternoon as he began his closing arguments in front of a jury — in an arson case.

Stephen Gutierrez, who was arguing that his client’s car spontaneously combusted and was not intentionally set on fire, had been fiddling in his pocket as he was about to address jurors when smoke began billowing out his right pocket, witnesses told the Miami Herald.

Judgment from On High?

He rushed out of the Miami courtroom, leaving spectators stunned. After jurors were ushered out, Gutierrez returned unharmed, with a singed pocket, and insisted it wasn’t a staged defense demonstration gone wrong, observers said.

Instead, Gutierrez blamed a faulty battery in an e-cigarette, witnesses told the Miami Herald.

Judgment from the jury box:

Gutierrez was representing Claudy Charles, 48, who is accused of intentionally setting his car on fire in South Miami-Dade. He had just started his closing arguments when the fire broke out. Jurors convicted Charles anyway of second-degree arson.

Pants, after all, don’t lie all by themselves. (Leggings? Well, they’re not pants.)

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Every Texas sperm is sacred

That’s the premise of a law introduced into the Texas legislature [warning: autostart video]:

A lawmaker has filed a bill that would, among many provisions, create a $100 fine for men who masturbate and ejaculate outside of a woman’s vagina.

The bill, called “A Man’s Right to Know,” was filed Friday, the filing deadline for the legislative session, and appears to satirize current and proposed laws and regulations that have been criticized for restricting women’s access to abortions and health care choices.

The bill’s author, state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who has been outspoken against restrictive abortion laws, said on Twitter Saturday that the measure “mirrors real TX laws and health care restrictions faced by TX women every #txlege session.”

The bill calls “masturbatory emissions” outside of a woman’s vagina “an act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life.”

Amazingly, no similar measure has been introduced into the Oklahoma legislature, which I suspect is due to the difficulty in finding a member who knows the word “vagina,” or at least can pronounce it out loud.

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In case you haven’t noticed

For “Cats,” please feel free to read “Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats,” the Nickelback of musicals.

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Too much overhead

Technology, for the most part, is morally neutral: few inventions were actually intended for evil purposes. But you can’t assume that they will never be used that way:

Drones are a tool. In some cases, they can be a really useful tool (searching a large park area for a lost kid, for example: I suspect in some cases they could save lives). Or they’re a really cool tool: I’d love to be able to see my field sites from the air, and there are probably some research questions that could be answered faster or better with one.

But: like any tool, people can misuse them. When I first heard about drones for “civilian” use being equipped with cameras, practically my first thought was, “No woman is ever going to be able to sunbathe in the ‘privacy’ of her backyard any more.” (Not that I DO, but I know some people like to.) And I don’t even mean nude sunbathing, which is perhaps a legal gray area in a densely-populated area — even being ogled from afar while in a modest bathing suit is icky and gross.

Women, by and large, hate to be gawked at, not so much because they were told to hate it by the likes of Betty Friedan, but because it’s an invasion of privacy at a level they are disinclined to tolerate, and it doesn’t matter if they’re wearing DVF wrap dresses or hazmat suits or nothing at all.

And truth be told, as a person who is known to occasionally forgo clothing, I’m not that keen on being observed from a distance, though I will note for record that of those few people who have spotted me, only the males ever saw fit to complain.

But they had a reaction story from someone who owned, I think it was, a business that sold drones. And he was upset: why should homeowners be able to destroy someone else’s property?

And that’s where I got to thinking about the “living in community” thing: Sir, are you really saying you want your customers to be able to fly their mini-copters over their neighbor’s backyards without asking the neighbor’s permission first? You really want to be the guy who sells a product that annoys the heck out of people and makes them angry? Because I’d be angry if I were digging around in the garden and spotted a drone hovering around. Angry and creeped out, because why would someone want to be spying on me like that (provided the thing had a camera).

If someone else’s tree grows over the fence, I reserve the right to trim the branches on my side. (And if it’s my tree, I have no problem if a neighbor takes similar action.) If someone’s drone comes over the fence, I reserve the right to take whatever action I deem appropriate.

One thing about the Golden Rule: it’s eternal enough to cover even 21st-century dick moves:

The human population is ever growing (even though I live in one of the less-dense areas) and we have to be able to live with each other. To me, it seems simple: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” or “what would be abhorrent to you, do not do to your neighbor” and I know that having someone run loud equipment early in the morning (before I was up) would be abhorrent to me, and I also know that some people sleep a good bit later than I do on weekends. I just wish the 2-am drivers would realize the same thing. And if everyone followed the Golden Rule, we probably wouldn’t wind up with laws like “Homeowners who shoot down unauthorized drones will be held harmless” because there wouldn’t BE anyone flying unauthorized drones.

We are, alas, a long way from reaching that degree of perfectibility.

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Nothing happening here

I’ve felt for years that actual football was a low priority at the Super Bowl, but I didn’t know how low until someone ran the stopwatch during the three hours, fifty minutes of Super Bowl LI, and duly reported:

Time distribution in Super Bowl LI

And actually, this was an unusually large segment devoted to Ball in Play, inasmuch as the Patsys and the Farkers played 64 minutes instead of the usual 60.


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So you think you’re anonymous

You probably wouldn’t want to bet your life on that:

In the Morse Code era, the phrase “fist” referred to the unique style that every telegraph operator brought to their communications. The phrase “recognized the fist” comes up again and again in various wartime and spy literature; it refers to hearing someone tapping out Morse Code and being able to distinguish the operator by their style. This was far from a trivial detail of the telegraph era; in more than one case lives were saved (or lost) because someone was able to differentiate between who an operator was supposed to be and who they actually were.

Fast-forward a hundred years, and it’s now possible to spy on what someone is typing by leaving a phone on their desk and having it pick up the vibrations from the physical activity of typing. (A laser mike pointed at your window works equally well, unfortunately.) Your typing style is like a fingerprint. It doesn’t even take a high-power microprocessor to determine what you’re doing on a computer. My first wife claimed to be able to tell, from a distance of across our house, whether I was programming, writing for a website, engaging in an Instant Messenger chat, or arguing with someone online on my old IBM Model M mechanical keyboard. Well, I shouldn’t say “claimed.” More like she just plain knew. Her accuracy rate was effectively 100%. Never once did she accuse me of not working when I was working, or vice versa.

Incidentally, this idea of being able to identify patterns in communications behavior is also how most cryptography is undone. There’s a brilliant scene in the novel Cryptonomicon where a highly complex cipher is broken because a cipher clerk doesn’t always close her eyes when she reaches into a bowl full of wooden balls — and although that scene is written right at the edge of the reader’s credulity, it has mathematical basis in fact. The whole difference between “128-bit” and “2048-bit” encryption is how effective the method is in reducing the “fist” or “fingerprint” of a conversation.

I do believe that tale of the first Mrs Baruth; I bang on a Model M to this day, and what it sounded like when I wrote this paragraph is nothing like what it sounded like when I recapped the Thunder-Spurs game. I don’t think anyone is listening — why would they care? — but I have learned not to be surprised.

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Because it’s blue

I probably shouldn’t say anything here:

Whose idea was it to put that stuff in a pump jar, anyway?

(This is where she was.)

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The machines have not yet won

In support of that bold (or bald) statement:

Let’s hear it for staying on script.

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It begins with a nut

So-called “fake news” never sounded this fake:

If the fringe of the fringe of conspiracy theorists are to be believed, shape-shifting interdimensional reptilians from royal bloodlines are trying to thin the herd of humanity by covertly sterilizing the masses.

While the jury is still out on that wild claim, we do know for sure that a member of the British royal family has approved the large-scale forced sterilization of that other invasive mammalian species: squirrels. But it gets darker.

The members of this anti-squirrel cabal will be using everyone’s favorite “hazelnut” spread to do their bidding.

Wait. Hazelnuts? What?

According to The Independent, Prince Charles approved this plan during a meeting with the Illuminati-sounding UK Squirrel Accord, an association of 32 woodland, timber industry, and conservation organizations whose professed goal is to keep “red squirrel populations protected and thriving and greys controlled, through targeted and sustained action.”

Those targeted and sustained actions are set to include luring greys into a trap containing Nutella laced with GonaCon, a vaccine that sterilizes mammals by suppressing the hormones necessary for reproduction.

In other news, the United Kingdom has a Squirrel Accord. Sounds like something Chuck Windsor would come up with, don’t you think?

(Via Emily Zanotti.)

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This wasn’t supposed to happen

Bringing back long-extinct species is probably not a good idea:

Jurassic Park is a fun movie, but a terrible idea. Cloning a wooly mammoth falls into the same category. These animals are extinct for a reason. Humans might have wiped out the passenger pigeon, but maybe Nature wanted the skies cleansed of the immense herds of these poop machines. Imagine the ecological damage a thousands-strong flock of birds could do. Perhaps the mammoth was so terrifying that it was a good thing our ancestors killed them off?

One of the great unintended consequences was the absolute destruction wrought upon the indigenous peoples of the Americas by European diseases. It never occurred to the best scientists of the time that could happen. You may argue that we are much advanced scientifically in the modern times, but it was not so long ago the best scientists thought you treated a cut by smearing it with horse dung or that bleeding cured just about anything. Is there reason to believe future scientific minds will not look back on our own era and marvel at how crude, how inept, how wrong we are today?

Nope. They’re going to sneer at us the way we sneer at those medieval types, and for exactly the same reasons.

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Pieces of the action

So your car is a wreck. Wait until you see what else happens to you:

About twelve hours after you are the not-at-fault party in a car crash, no matter how minor, you will start getting calls from attorneys, body shops, and “official accident centers” that just happen to be affiliated with a local chiropractor. About thirty-six hours after the fact, you’ll start getting mail from various interested parties.

Ten days after a cheerful harmonica player and recreational marijuana enthusiast bopped his Mazda2 into my Accord, I’ve yet to hear from Liberty Mutual, the insurance company of said fellow. Well, that’s the way of the free market, ain’t it?

Afraid so. And where I live — I suspect it’s probably similar where you are — daytime television is loaded with advertising for those attorneys, ranging from blandly misinformative to borderline offensive:

Well, he isn’t bland.

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Where the dollars might be

Amazon sent me this list yesterday, suggesting I might want some or all of these items:

Various Trump-related items from Amazon

“This is how you get more Trump,” warns Glenn Reynolds.

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Everyday routine drones

The idea, at first, was to deliver packages to faraway places with drones. Now UPS is thinking closer to home:

After first testing the idea of using drones to deliver packages to extra remote locations, UPS is making its move into more residential skies with octocopters that can be launched from roving trucks.

The company says it successfully tested the HorseFly drone yesterday in Lithia, FL, along with the company that built both the drone and the electric UPS vehicle that launches it, Workhorse Group.

The drone docks on the roof of the delivery truck, and a cage suspended beneath it extends through a hatch into the vehicle. A driver on the inside loads a package into the cage, presses a button on a touch screen, and sends the drone flying on a preset autonomous route to its destination.

The drone has limitations: 10 pounds of cargo, 30 minutes of flying time. (When docked, the drone recharges.)

I worry that some aggrieved semi-suburban type will try to shoot the damn things down, as though they were skeet.

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Pot threatens kettle

You can’t get a whole lot more hilarious than this:

Wikipedia has banned the use of the Daily Mail as a source of information on its site. The self-styled “library of the web” has decided the largest tabloid news site in the world is “generally unreliable” and has a reputation for “poor fact-checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication”. Yes, a crowd-sourced website that can be edited by any Tom, Dick or Harry is now fretting about facts.

Truth be told, it’s not the Harrys and the Toms that I worry about.

The Daily Mail is subject to libel laws, and staffed by trained journalists. This is more than can be said for Wikipedia, which is hardly famous for its reliability. In the past it has included public entries calling actor Gary Oldman a “giraffe”, asserting that footballer Thierry Henry “was born a c**t and remains a c**t”, and accusing teeny-bopper band the Jonas Brothers of having genital warts.

Disclosure: I’ve written a few things for Wikipedia, and several things I’ve written elsewhere have been cited as sources. Nothing in either group was intended to advocate any particular cause.

Wikipedia is a valuable online tool. But if it wants to uphold a reputation for providing objective facts, it has to remain politically neutral. Given that the Daily Mail can legitimately be cited in academic papers, books and studies as a source (yet another advantage it has over Wikipedia) there is no just reason for Wikipedia to denigrate its worth.

I’m not above citing Wikipedia for things like musical trivia or geographical curiosities. But for anything with the slightest bit of controversy, I will go somewhere else. Fortunately, there are lots of somewhere elses.

(Via Tongue Tied 3.)

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Please be kind to Frank Ancona

Frank Ancona has been selling cars in the Kansas City area for over fifty years; his Honda lot on I-35 in Johnson County always catches my eye when I’m on the way to KC. His advertising tagline — “Please be kind to Frank Ancona” — may be one of the best-known slogans in the entire automotive business. (Heck, I know it, and I’m 350 miles away.) You go to the dealership’s Web site right now, though, and you’ll get a popup that explains this:

[Llast weekend, a body discovered on the banks of Missouri’s Big River — about a five-hour drive to the east — gave the dealership the kind of attention that no business wants. The corpse, which had a bullet hole in its head, also had a name: Frank Ancona.

No, the founder of Frank Ancona Honda is still alive and well at 85. But much to his dismay, the Frank Ancona discovered by the Big River was none other than the 51-year-old imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

There have been phone calls to the dealership. Many of them, in fact.

When Automotive News first broke the story, the dealership had already posted a disclaimer on its website. “Frank Ancona Honda is not in any relation to the KKK leader that was recently found dead,” read any car shopper browsing for deals on a Odyssey or Accord.

It was about two and a half years ago that the dealer became aware of the dipshit:

The owner of Frank Ancona Honda in Olathe is being mistaken for a Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard with the same name, and the confusion is costing the dealership money.

Frank Ancona also is the name of the KKK leader for the Traditional American Knights KKK chapter in Park Hills, Mo.

Dealership manager Leon Wharton says it’s not really a factor right now:

“February is usually one of the worst months in the automobile business as it is,” Wharton said. “It just never does do very well in comparison to the other months. So could it have some impact? Yes. But can I pinpoint that it’s negatively affected business? No, not really.”

“I’ll use this reference,” he said. “I’m sure there’s several James Smiths in prison around the country, and I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of James Smiths running around, law-abiding citizens, paying their taxes and taking care of their families and being good members of the community.

A lot of them, in fact, are members of the Jim Smith Society.

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And maybe you’ll even be understood

CFI Care (not its real initials) has duly sent me a Form 1095-B, which states that yes, I had health insurance for the whole tax year just ended. Okay, fine. There was also an instruction sheet, which contained the following statement: “If you, or someone you are helping, have questions, you have the right to get help and information in your language at no cost. Talk to an interpreter at [some toll-free number].”

This is, I assume, the usual governmentally-inspired misapplication of the word “right.” On the other hand, it’s probably a good thing that the instructions can be had in other languages. Which other languages, you ask? The list:

  • Arabic
  • Burmese
  • Cherokee
  • French
  • German
  • Hmong
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Navajo
  • Persian
  • Spanish
  • Tagalog
  • Thai
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese

The toll-free number is the same for all of them, and now I feel sorry for the callers: this is way more complicated than the usual “para Español, marque el numero dos.”

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In order of pain inflicted

Hell, Dante would have you know, is not homogeneous: Inferno is divided into nine circles, each one worse than the one preceding it. Equivalent experiences on this side of the grave are somewhat less heinous, but then there is heinous and there is heinous. If your feet are bare, almost all LEGO blocks will cause you pain when you tread upon them, but some of them are worse than others:

There are a few criteria to consider, the most important being natural resting position. Think about it this way: Stepping directly on an upright knife would be acutely unpleasant, but how likely would it be to find a knife on the floor in that position? More often than not, a knife on the floor will be laying flat and relatively harmless, which is why a LEGO piece like 2m cross axle w. groove didn’t make the list. It would be killer to step on upright, but that’s just not prone to happening.

The list contains 25 different blocks, and the worst of the lot tend to be the smaller ones, due to the laws of physics:

Small bricks are a theme on this list, due to the definition of pressure: force per unit area. In stepping on a LEGO, the force applied by our hypothetical stepping foot will be the same, so as the unit area gets smaller, the pressure, and therefore pain, increases.

It’s enough to make you put on your shoes.


Snow is your friend, officer

It’s just as simple as this:

Mother Nature gave Olympia [Washington] Police officers a crime-fighting boost when they responded to a burglary call Monday morning.

Footprints in fresh snow greeted officers who responded to the 911 call about a commercial burglary alarm at the Taco Bell in the 1100 block of Cooper Point Road at 3:30 a.m. Monday.

Officers saw footprints approaching the building, according to Lt. Paul Lower. The footprints led to a ladder where the snow also was disturbed, Lower said.

The ladder led to the roof, where more fresh footprints led to an open hatch with more disturbed snow.

That’s some mighty fine police work there, Paul. But it’s also eminently sensible:

Lt. Lower’s conclusion? “Snow makes crime scene investigation much easier.”

(Via American Digest.)

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Spam is everywhere

Spam can in the Mariana TrenchWhich includes, yes, the “most remote place on the planet.” The caption on this picture, as reproduced in the Guardian: “A container of Spam rests at 4,947 meters on the slopes of a canyon leading to the Sirena Deep in the Mariana trench. Photograph: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration.” Three miles down! Is this unusual? Not in the slightest:

Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.

Not a good sign. Remember PCBs? They’ve never truly gone away:

PCBs were manufactured from the 1930s to the 1970s, when their appalling impact on people and wildlife was realised. About a third of the 1.3m tonnes produced has already leaked into coastal sediments and the open oceans, with a steady stream still thought to be coming from poorly protected landfill sites.

And “landfill” may explain the artifact pictured above:

An expedition conducted by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year also found various manmade items on the slopes leading to the Sirena Deep, part of the Mariana trench, and the nearby Enigma Seamount. They included a tin of Spam, a can of Budweiser beer and several plastic bags.

The appalling impact of Budweiser beer has long been established.

(Via Holly Brockwell.)

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