Archive for Dyssynergy

Not a shelf date

I happened to be standing at an odd angle when I replaced the roll of toilet paper — in the correct direction, you may be sure — and a stray ray of light caught the inside of the roll, where I saw some actual printing.

Curious, I looked at the empty roll, which bore the same markings; I sliced it in two and plopped it on the scanner.

Inside of a toilet-paper roll

I remember nothing about the original package other than that it was a store brand that I had picked up because my usual name-brand product seemed unduly expensive for some reason.

I think we may safely assume that when kept dry, this product remains usable for over a year.


It’s not even walking

Remember this charming fellow?

The Zombie of Montclaire Moors

Amazingly, he’s not always welcome to the neighborhood:

If you walked up to one Nashville area family’s home, you may think it was Halloween due to a zombie statue climbing out of the ground, but now the family’s homeowner association says their zombie needs to go.

The Grinstead family has had their zombie, named “Clawed,” in their yard near Percy Priest Lake for [the] past five years.

“We could have gone with the traditional spelling, but C-L-A-W-E-D just really fit his personality and told you as much as you really needed to know about him.” Jim Grinstead said.

The nastygram arrived last week:

On Friday, Grinstead received a letter from the homeowners association that caught him off-guard.

“It had said, ‘during a recent inspection of the neighborhood, we noticed that you have a zombie in your front yard that must be removed’.”


You can still get your own zombie, assuming you don’t live down the street from the Grinsteads.

(Via Rebecca Schleicher.)

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The craven little toaster

This machine doth vex Roberta X:

My toaster has betrayed me for the last time. It has developed an unnatural hunger for Pop-Tarts; it’s sad enough I can only find the one flavor without frosting, sadder still that it’s not blueberry — alas, Babylon! Alas, vaccinium corymbosum! — and saddest of all that the toaster merrily pops up a pair of ’em with enough force that one leaps out of the bottom support (which is, I swear it, barbed), falls past it and jams in the crumbs at the bottom and the heating element at the side. Being a Pop-Tart, it’s got less structural integrity than wet tissue paper, so every attempt to free it results in more and more hot, sugared filling being smeared into unreachable corners, nooks and crannies. That evil machine has got to go!

Unfrosted blueberry is, of course, the Pop-Tart of choice.

My own semi-reliable machine, now closing in on 35 years, has a quite different issue: it occasionally balks at downward propulsion, meaning you have to push the lever down more than once to get it to budge. (Worst case so far: three iterations.) On the upside, so to speak, its ejection capacity remains undiminished after all these years.

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Unnecessary complexity

I didn’t think so, but then I’m not the guy writing the software:

My income consists of a pension, Social Security, and not much more. It’s generally pretty cut and dried. So I’ve usually done it myself. But this time I had a royalty check for a book I and some others wrote in 2002.

When I entered the figure — about 50 dollars — TurboTax got all high and mighty, refusing to do my taxes for the regular sum of about $40. I had turned out to be a very special taxpayer, one which would strain the algorithm and probably crash the entire system. So complex was my income that TurboTax stopped in its tracks. It shied like a horse who was asked to jump a deep ditch. I was informed that my royalty check made me an unusual taxpayer and I needed an extra $50 for them to continue my return.

OMG, another form! This is apparently how they subsidize e-filing for people who don’t actually earn enough to file.

I would now be paying a hundred dollars in fees for earning an extra $50. For a couple of hundred I could hire a live accountant.

I pondered the problem for a couple of days and then decided to file for a six month extension, thus evading the problem until the leaves turned color and started to fall from the trees.

Under the circumstances, I don’t blame her in the slightest.

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Stench warfare

Used to be, guys were expected to go easy with the whole fragrance thing. (I dabble in Ralph Lauren Polo, which is not the subtlest scent in the store, but I use it sparingly.) No more, it seems:

[N]o one is writing, shouting, or trying to criminalize the most offensive thing in our modern society. Yes, faithful readers, I’m talking about perfume and cologne. There is, until the coming change in weather (warmer/colder/wetter/drier/fires/ice/storms/drought) plenty of soap and water. Try a shower. You don’t need to bathe in man-perfume. You may like it, but most of us think you smell like a Parisian whorehouse, and not in a good way.

Just this morning, I was deep undercover in the hinterlands of eastern Cheeseheadistan, choking down my Hampton Inn powdered eggs and watery oatmeal, when a dude plopped down at a table a few feet away. The wave of odoriferous scent slapped me in the face. It was as if Channel 3, 5, 7, and 9 tagged teamed with a musk ox to roll in the shattered detrious of a flower shop. Man, was it offensive.

I’m not sure whether he meant “detritus” or “deleterious,” but neither of those is exactly good, you know?

Of course, it’s not just the guys:

And how about the women who find the need to surround themselves with a Pepe le Pew-like cloud of fragrance just to buy bananas and hamburger down at the local Kroger?

Le mew.

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Off the bus

The problem with the bus is the problem with every form of mass transit: dealing with, well, the masses. One of several complaints:

You are out in public so you are liable to run into a lunatic. They might be harmless, or they might decide you are the object of their affection, or disdain, or maybe they just want to talk about aliens or their schemes or their in-laws. They might be drunk or sick or filthy and they may be depositing their debris on you. The odds of any of this happening on any one trip are very low, but if it ever happens it can really sour you on the whole going out in public experience.

Phrased that way, it’s almost an argument for a car. Said Paul Milenkovic in 2008 (linked here):

The signs on the sides of Madison Metro buses show people enjoying expensive warm-weather vacations, asking “What would you do with the $7k a year you could save by taking Madison Metro?” Even after therapy, I’d take that $7000 and make lease payments on a nice, roomy SUV so I won’t have to park my backside in a too-narrow transit seat and travel to work in bodily contact with a stranger.

Or, to put it slightly more bluntly:

Chevrolet Cavalier ad mocking bus riders

The VL trim level was about as low as you could go in Cavalierdom, but it’s still better than the bus — or the train. We won’t even mention the plane.

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The late residents of Venezuela

They’re late because their government is hell-bent on screwing up standard time:

Venezuela’s government is changing the clock again as part of its efforts to stave off an electricity crisis.

The move comes nine years after former President Hugo Chávez created Venezuela’s own, unique time zone in a stroke of anti-imperialist independence.

The current Venezuelan Standard Time is UTC-4:30, a time zone used by absolutely no one else on the planet, though I’m willing to believe that Chávez came up with this scheme after having a stroke.

President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday that the new change will take effect May 1. He didn’t provide details about how much or in what direction the clocks would move, saying only that it’s an additional emergency measure to prevent power outages as a severe drought reduces power output by lowering water levels at hydroelectric dams. As part of the energy-saving drive, he also declared Monday a public holiday.

“It’s a very simple measure that represents an important savings,” Maduro said about the shift in the time zone.

If you’ve lived for any substantial length of time under the strictures of American Daylight Saving Time, you might well believe that President Maduro is full of crap. And he’s not going to give you any reason to think otherwise:

The move follows Maduro’s decision requiring cinemas to close early and shopping centers to generate their own electricity and his call for women to ease up on hair blowers in a bid to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent.

See what I mean?

(Via Fark, which tags this story “Strange.”)

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Technically, it’s a highbrid

Two bad tastes that probably taste bad together, but who cares?

A Brooklyn-based lab has successfully bred the world’s first Kale x Cannabis hybrid. The company, Williamsburg Wonders, announced today that the new cross, called Kaleabis, would be available as a superfood juice shot in Oregon dispensaries this summer.

The successful cross is the culmination of a two-year project that began with a Kickstarter campaign by Williamsburg Wonders’ founders, Mark and Todd Takota. When the Takota brothers announced their desire to breed a plant with the dietary benefits of kale and the therapeutic properties of cannabis, funding poured in. The project reached its investment goal in less than a week, significantly outpacing other local investment opportunities like DIY mustache wax and kombucha colonics.

Where do they go from here?

The Takotas plan to launch a line of Williamsburg Wonders Kaleabis superfood drinks. A spokesperson confirmed the beverages will be available in dispensaries but acknowledged the ultimate goal of being the first cannabis product sold at Whole Foods.

It’s certainly more likely than a kombucha colonic.

(Via Christopher Johnson.)

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Reputations at stake

Remember when seemingly minor incidents drove people to buy up — or steal — all copies of the local newspaper, to prevent the world from finding out? Now scale that to a non-minor incident in the Internet Age, and this is what you get:

UC Davis contracted with consultants for at least $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative online postings following the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students and to improve the reputations of both the university and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, newly released documents show.

The payments were made as the university was trying to boost its image online and were among several contracts issued following the pepper-spray incident.

Some payments were made in hopes of improving the results computer users obtained when searching for information about the university or Katehi, results that one consultant labeled “venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the chancellor.”

Venomous? What, did someone not like being pepper-sprayed or something?

And maybe this needs to get around, too:

The release of the documents comes as Katehi is once again under fire, this time for her acceptance of seats on private corporate boards, including a textbook publisher and a for-profit university that was under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission. First revealed in The Bee, her outside board positions have sparked calls for her resignation as well as student protests.

Students have occupied the reception office outside Katehi’s office since March 11 in a sit-in that they say will last until Katehi resigns.

(Via Lindsay Beyerstein.)

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Presumably not working for tips

A small group of anti-circumcision protesters turned up at Penn Square around midday yesterday, the same group that had hit Springfield, Missouri on Friday:

The protesters here pulled out fake blood, splattered it on their pants and posters, and stood on the corner here for the past hour.

Despite the blood, and graphic pictures, they say the point is not to scare people, but to get you to see their signs which they say point out what they say is cruelty to boys.

The group “Bloodstained Men and Their Friends” are behind the protest. They’ve been traveling across the country with the same message against infant circumcision.

The protesters call circumcision torture to babies, and wear the blood to represent that. Protesters say boys should be able to choose whether or not to get circumcised when they become an adult — instead of being forced at birth.

When it hurts even worse.

Seriously, though: I am not particularly put out about my own foreskin, which hasn’t been seen in six decades or more, but I can’t help but wonder if this particular group has a problem with Jews, though nothing on their Web site suggests so. And to be upfront about it, female genital mutilation strikes me as even worse, but the Men don’t seem especially concerned about that.

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Worst-class seating

Consumerist reports that airlines may continue to compress passengers ad lib:

Earlier this year, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he would try to get federal regulators to come up with limits for airline seat size and spacing. But yesterday, his fellow senators shot down that effort.

Schumer’s legislation — introduced as an amendment to the bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration — would have required the FAA to set a minimum standard seat size for commercial airlines. The goal, said the senator, was to establish a hard line that the airlines could not cross in their effort to squeeze more passengers on to planes.

Existing seat sizes and spacing would remain in place, but any future changes would have to remain above whatever minimum the FAA set.

Schumer has said some fairly arguable things in his day, but I think he absolutely nailed this one:

“Over the last few decades, between the size of the seat and the distance between the seats, the flying public has lost half a foot of their space,” said Schumer before yesterday’s vote. “You would think that by cramming in more and more passengers on each flight, the airlines could lower their prices. Instead, several major airlines went in the other direction: They started charging for the extra inches and legroom that were once considered standard. So it practically costs you an arm and a leg just to have space for your arms and legs.”

There are, I suppose, some people who are willing to allow themselves to be rolled up like last year’s duvet cover to save a few bucks. I am not one of them.

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“Taxes” if it’s a boy

And, for that matter, “Taxes” if it’s a girl: WalletHub’s 2016 Tax Survey reveals that the desire for a tax-free future, were such a thing available, would motivate 8 percent of the respondents to name their firstborn child “Taxes” in an effort to ensure said future.

By comparison, 11 percent would be willing to clean toilets. For three years. At Chipotle.

(Via Nancy Man.)

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Stuck to one’s guns, as it were

The National Rifle Association, presumably having noticed that I overpaid the next three years’ dues, sent me a spiffy NRA-branded baseball cap, black with gold trim, with an American flag embroidered on the back. (Or, I guess, on the front, were I the sort of atavistic throwback who wears baseball caps backwards.)

Not that they spent the maximum amount possible on this headgear, given the blatant “MADE IN CHINA” label. Still, it is 100-percent cotton (per the same label), and it’s infinitely adjustable, for a small number of values for infinity. For now, I may let Twilight Sparkle wear it.

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Grist for the diploma mill

There exists, to my delight and/or amazement, a Wikipedia page called “List of animals with fraudulent diplomas.” The gist of the matter:

Animals are often used as a device to clearly demonstrate the lax standards of the awarding institutions. In one case, a cat’s degree helped lead to a successful fraud prosecution against the institution that had issued it.

The “standards” most often in use, one might assume, derive from the question “Did the check clear?”

This one apparently did:

The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office … sued an online university for allegedly selling bogus academic degrees — including an MBA awarded to a cat.

Trinity Southern University in Texas, a cellular company and the two brothers who ran them are accused of misappropriating Internet addresses of the state Senate and more than 60 Pennsylvania businesses to sell fake degrees and prescription drugs by spam e-mail, according to the lawsuit.

Investigators paid $299 for a bachelor’s degree for Colby Nolan — a deputy attorney general’s 6-year-old black cat — claiming he had experience including baby-sitting and retail management.

The school, which offers no classes, allegedly determined Colby Nolan’s resume entitled him to a master of business administration degree; a transcript listed the cat’s course work and 3.5 grade-point average.

Obtaining the transcript, incidentally, cost an additional $99.

Texas subsequently froze all the assets of “TSU” and its operators, and enjoined them from further mischief; is up for sale by the Chinese domain-parking operation that currently owns it.

(Via Jen Myers.)


This earth in fast thick pants

Elizabeth Farrelly, fulminating in the Sydney Morning News:

Our ongoing inertia on climate change suggests that the problem is deep; not at root technical or political but spiritual, a direct consequence of the seven deadly sins run every bit as wild as the carbon we spew into the air. Easter, properly understood, is still the best antidote but its healing powers (since we’re in Harry Potter land here) are neutralised by the patriarchal corporation — the church — that holds it captive.

Tim Blair of the rival Daily Telegraph calls this dreamy drug-induced vision what it is:

Elizabeth left Harry Potter land a long time ago. She’s presently in a land more familiar to people who ate the entire contents of Samuel Coleridge’s medicine cabinet.

The nearest field of poppies thanks you for your support in the form of carbon dioxide.

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It could be worse, but not much

Some things are just too horrible to imagine. Judging from the description, this happened in Olathe, Kansas:

A tractor-trailer fire closed southbound I-35 past 119th Street for about a half-hour Tuesday morning.

The fire was reported about 9:30 a.m.

The big rig, which was hauling 34,000 pounds of chocolate, was on the right shoulder of the highway.

Seventeen tons of chocolate! And to think I shivered with fear at this.

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Wring around the collar

I have a desk job, kinda sorta, but I also do a metric buttload of printing — a couple of thousand pages yesterday alone — so I tend to think of myself as a blue-collar worker, and my position at the very bottom of the org chart reflects that particular hue.

That said, it’s a murky delineation at best:

I have read that “white collar” and “blue collar” don’t exist so much any more. And there are few true “blue collar” jobs you can support a family on any more — not like the neighbors I grew up around who worked at (I think it was) the Ford plant or another person who was in light manufacturing. I guess I’m technically an “information worker” but we’re in peril now, too: I could see robots very soon coming for our jobs; make Siri a bit more sophisticated and a bit more subject-specific and you’ve got a professor-replacement who can do one-on-one tutoring even better than the smallest class size.

The number of people who absolutely cannot be replaced is diminishing all the time. We used to have about 100 on staff at 42nd and Treadmill; today it’s fewer than 60, and attrition, at least in some instances, seems to be viewed as a Good Thing.

Perhaps we can blame the tax system. Employees, after all, are not assets; they’re expenses. You can’t tell me that this sort of accounting-think doesn’t seep into people’s brains.

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Just a hint of frivolity

The British Antarctic Survey is seeking a name for a new research vessel:

[Natural Environment Research Council] invites you to submit your suggestions for a name for the new polar research ship, currently under construction at Cammell Laird’s yard in Birkenhead. The closing date for entries is 16th April 2016.

Submit your suggestion online here and tell us why your idea is suitable for a polar ship. NERC will apply to register the new ship as a Royal Research Ship (RRS) so the name format is RRS NAME. An expert panel will review all suggestions before making the final decision.

Some sensible names have been proposed — among them, RRS Henry Worseley and RRS David Attenborough — but the current front-runner is, um, RRS Boaty McBoatface.

I’m sort of hoping British whimsy is honored here, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.

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Yuge crapper

Behold the Trump Toilet:

Toilet by Shenzhen Trump Industries

Where does this come from? China, of course:

Shenzhen Trump Industries — no apparent relationship to U.S. businessman and presidential candidate Donald Trump — was founded in 2002. It makes high-end “smart” commodes for use in spas, hotels, beauty centers, and hospitals. The company’s Chinese name, Chuang Pu, means “innovate everywhere” and sounds almost the same as the nickname Chinese netizens often use to refer to the presidential candidate, “Chuan Pu.” (The Chinese pronunciation of both names is similar to Trump.)

The company seems to have adopted a bit of the Republican Party frontrunner’s characteristic swagger. On its website, Shenzhen Trump claimed that it was “the first company in the world” to use retractable toilet seat protectors to “solve the problem of toilet hygiene on a global scale,” and that its products have one billion “users” each year.

The toilet maker’s English-language slogan is “Triple Care, Double Enjoyment.” And kids just love ’em — the homepage features a photo of a smiling blonde toddler in a pink dress hugging one of the porcelain thrones.

Chinese interpretation of trademark law is, shall we say, unique. There also exists, for instance, a Trump Electronics firm, which makes, um, air purifiers.

(Via Kathleen McKinley.)

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Built to last, and then some

We bewail fragility in our luxuries, to the extent that we overlook the sturdiness of the everyday:

The cable was going to come out of the pipe, and it was going to bring things out with it. You don’t visit Beelzebub’s Disneyland without exiting through the gift shop. Over one hundred years of other people’s foolishness could appear from that pipe. I jerked my thumb to indicate REVERSE, held on to the whipping cable to avoid a proper drenching, and prepared to be surprised.

Out they came. The feminine pennants snapped in the breeze from the yardarm stay of my drain augur cable. Dracula’s teabags. The things no man is supposed to buy at the Rite Aid. Tampons emerged like an army on the march.

Now, it’s not up to me to decide exactly how tough a tampon should be. Smarter men than I have determined that feminine hygiene products should be able to withstand a shotgun blast and an acid bath at the same time. It’s a given that they should be more durable than space shuttle tiles. Fall protection harnesses and parachute cord should be made from the little strings, if you want them to last. Kevlar? Pfffffftt. That’s OK for stopping a high powered round and all, but if you need real protection, head to Walgreens and sew a vest out of these babies.

I first thought “automotive air bags,” but it occurred to me that this change in materials might not be desirable; the deployment of a passive restraint is probably not the ideal time for an almost-certain concussion.

(Via American Digest.)

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When nobody has your back

For what it’s worth, this is not just one person’s existential dread:

I had a dream the other night — this is another one of those things-breaking dreams — where I was driving down the interstate and a dashboard light I had NEVER SEEN BEFORE came on, and I didn’t know what it was for, and I figured it was bad, so I pulled off to the side and cars kept whipping by me and no one stopped to see if I was okay and I couldn’t find my cell phone and I thought that I’d be trapped there forever with no help. One of my fundamental fears is needing help — REALLY needing it, not stupid little things like wanting someone to come and hold a ladder so I can scrape the leaves off my roof that can just as well stay there — and not being able to get it. That’s the worst part of being single and living alone: that fear that sometime you may really need assistance and it will not be forthcoming, either because you have made yourself a low enough priority in everyone else’s life that they don’t have the time to help, or that you are unable to ask for help.

I have had exactly one instance of the appearance of a dashboard light I had never seen before. It was my great good fortune to have a co-pilot that day. Approximate dialogue:

Me: What in the pluperfect hell is that?

Trini: What is what?

Me: This [points to warning light].

Trini: You’re out of washer fluid.

Me: No, I’m not. [spritzes the windshield] See?

Trini: But it thinks you are.

The light went off about three miles later. There were several recurrences of the light over the next few months, and then it quit, so I’m assuming it was some particular combination of road speed, fluid level and sudden change in sensor height when traveling over some of our more heinous pavement.

Still, that spill I took in the bathtub earlier this year set me on a scarier mental course: suppose the impact of the fall had left me unable to extract myself from the situation? What then? Do I wait for someone to come looking for me, several days later?

And I’m inclined to think that successfully extricating myself from such a predicament provides little consolation in the long run, because how often do you face the same disaster twice? Surviving A does not necessarily prepare you for B.

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This is his jam

Hero or zero? The Chicago police say the latter:

Chicago Transit Authority commuters have been complaining for months that their mobile devices were suddenly losing connectivity while riding Chicago’s subway and elevated train lines. Pictures of the alleged culprit had been circulating on social media and even on Reddit. An undercover operation, police said, led to the man’s arrest on a felony charge of signal jamming, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison.

About the suspect:

Dennis Nicholl was arrested after he was identified as the man utilizing a signal jamming device on the CTA Redline. CTA Authorities have been investigating complaints by passengers about cell phone reception. With the help of an anonymous 911 call, the Chicago Police Department and CTA Authorities were able to identify the suspect. Nicholl was observed utilizing the jamming device on the Redline by covert officers in a joint operation with CPD, CTA and the FCC. Nicholl entered the CTA Redline at the Loyola stop on the morning of March 8th, 2016 and utilized the interference device between the Loyola and Granville stops. He was arrested without incident on the Granville CTA Platform.

Counsel, of course, sees him differently:

The lawyer for the financial analyst at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System said his client just wanted peace and quiet on his commute. “He’s disturbed by people talking around him,” Chicago attorney Charles Lauer said of defendant Dennis Nicholl. “He might have been selfish in thinking about himself, but he didn’t have any malicious intent.”

I might give that statement a little more credence, were it not for this minor detail:

The Chicago Tribune said the defendant pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of jamming mobile phones in 2009. His equipment was confiscated, and he was sentenced to a year of probation, the paper reported.

Is there an app for recidivism?

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity, also on the “zero” side.)

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Those youthful newsrooms

The problem with online versions of newspapers, we are told, is that they can’t bring in the kind of revenue to support the traditional newsrooms. This situation, however, leads to another one, possibly worse: when the buyouts come, the experienced hands are the first hands on the door, and the new kids aren’t quite tuned in to the basic functions:

Even if some kind of online journalism develops that spends time on things like state legislature budget meetings — and no clickbait headline is ever going to make one of those appealing — will there be anyone around who knows how to bulldog the selfless public servants spending our money into saying how it’s being spent? Journalism may be the only profession that’s predicated on being a pain in the ass … to everybody. What happens when the only people who write just know how to do long form first-person celebrity profiles? Or can diagnose fifteen different kinds of patriarchy in a budget press release but can’t ask a coherent question about where the money goes?

This is why the Wall Street Journal has no reason to fear Buzzfeed. Yet.

If Donald Trump had actually run for president in the mid-90s, for example, newsrooms across the country would have salivated over the idea of telling people about his bankruptcies, ridiculous spending habits, whacko political positions, lack of serious thought to his policies and so on. Sam Donaldson would have taken a truckload of No-Doze in order to have been at every Trump public appearance possible and shout question at him until security dragged him outside. Some journalists would have done this because they disliked Trump, of course. But many more would have done it because it was their job to be a pain in the ass and there are fewer asses larger than Donald Trump.

We don’t have that today. We have Hitler comparisons and twenty paragraphs on Trump’s coded racism and dutiful snickering over his implications about the functionality of his genitalia. It’s not that today’s news folk like Trump — although when CBS chair Les Moonves chortles about how good Trump is for his ratings, you may wonder — it’s just that they really don’t know how to go after him on anything of real substance. Years of Bush/McCain/Romney/Palin/Insert Name Here are eeeeevilstoopid! work, combined with supine worship of President Obama’s pants crease, March Madness bracket and supergeniuscoolestever-ness, mean that news outlets that want to seriously investigate the emperor’s wardrobe can’t find the people to do it.

What isn’t being said here, of course, is Glenn Reynolds’ common dismissal: “They’re not journalists. They’re Democratic operatives with bylines.” Not all of them match that description, of course. But inevitably, institutions tend to move leftward, unfortunate consequences of the Gramscian Long March crossed with the Peter Principle.

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Nothing on the porch

This showed up in my tweetstream this morning:

For an explanation, we turn to Terry Kroeger, publisher of the Omaha World-Herald and head of Berkshire Hathaway’s Media Group:

Publishing both a morning and afternoon edition is referred to as an “all-day” publishing cycle. That idea lost popularity over the years, and you might find it interesting to know that the Omaha World-Herald, as near as we can tell, is the only remaining “all day” subscription-based newspaper in the world.

So the next sentence is really hard for me to write. We will become an all-morning newspaper, effective March 7.

It’s not hard to understand why:

For years our morning and afternoon editions have been more similar than different. Our newsroom aims to produce a daily print report full of interesting news, analysis and features. Nearly all of those enterprising articles begin in our morning edition. The afternoon paper is updated with all the latest breaking news, as is throughout the day.

In recent years our print readers have voted for their favorite delivery time — preferring mornings over afternoons by two to one. It’s a ratio that has flipped over the past 25 years, when subscriptions to the afternoon paper had dominated our metropolitan-area circulation.

As one of only a handful of people remaining who prefer an afternoon paper — to the extent that I don’t read the morning paper until afternoon — I mourn.

Perish the thought.

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Taken for a ride

This menacing-looking block appeared on page 4A of the Sunday Oklahoman:

Avoid Ride Sharing Vehicles - Public Is At Risk

Not hard to guess who put this up, I thought, and duly hauled myself over to the Web site in question. I was, of course, correct:

We are an initiative of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA). TLPA has been the leading source of for-hire vehicle industry knowledge since its founding in 1917.

But I was curious as to the pitch they’d make, so I read on:

Whether Uber and Lyft are referred to as “ridesharing” or “Transportation Network Companies,” the simple truth is that these companies provide for-hire transportation services. Understanding the methods by which Uber and Lyft undercut for-hire vehicle safety — via inadequate insurance, background checks and more — requires knowledge of the for-hire transportation industry. “Who’s Driving You?’ explains the safety components Uber and Lyft are evading and why they are vital for the wellbeing of passengers and communities.

There’s a whole page of “rideshare incidents,” linked to various local news sources, although the section that gives me pause is “Imposters”: incidents involving individuals who were posing as Uber (never Lyft) drivers.

In other words, it’s a trade association protecting its turf, as trade associations will do. I’ve ridden in lots of cabs, but never in one of these gig-economy entities, so I can’t tell you what they’re like. But you have to figure the cabbies realize they have competition now, and it’s a fairly safe bet they don’t like it.

Weirdly, at almost the exact moment I finished the first draft, this appeared in my tweetstream:

I know the tweeter in question, and she’s not one to trump up things, so I’m guessing people she knows have stories to tell. “Be careful out there” is always good advice.

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Near a Y intersection

Katies Crotch Road Embden MaineIn almost any place large enough to have local history, which is almost any place, there are things that nobody seems to know, and one of them is why this road is called what it is:

A Maine town that spends hundreds of dollars annually to replace stolen street signs is again asking residents to consider renaming one of the frequent targets: Katie Crotch Road.

The Morning Sentinel reports a referendum to rename Katie Crotch Road to Cadie Road is being considered in Embden in Somerset County.

Residents are sorting out the matter with a vote Friday and a town meeting Saturday.

At the very least, they should decide whether it’s Katie, as it says in the article, or Katies, as it says on the sign, and if the latter, whether there should be an apostrophe. No one seems to know for sure. And a similar measure in 2012 was not approved by voters, to the apparent dismay of local government:

Board of Selectman Chairman Charles Taylor says the thefts occur so frequently that “you would think every dorm room in the state of Maine should have one by now.”

Don’t encourage them, Mr Taylor, sir.

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Premium accommodations

Where does this rate on the Desperation Metric?

U.S. authorities say a Brazilian man tried to sneak into the country from Mexico by hiding in the gasoline tank of an SUV.

Customs and Border Protection says inspectors found the 38-year-old inside the modified tank of a 2001 Toyota Sequoia early Tuesday at a crossing in Calexico, California. An imaging device spotted anomalies in the SUV’s gas tank and back seats.

The agency says the man acknowledged he wasn’t allowed to enter the United States. Deportation proceedings will begin following criminal proceedings against the driver.

Wonder if Toyota sells this as a package.

But mostly, I wonder about this:

The driver is a 40-year-old U.S. citizen from Calexico. Customs and Border Protection says he will face federal charges.

Wait a minute. We threw him out, and he’s coming back for more?


Slightly incendiary remarks

This may be the best line ever delivered by a customer to a supplier:

We are all in the big conference room. The heavies from the plant were present — plant manager, department heads, production control, and little insignificant me. Mr. VP ranted and cursed. The team from our side told how we have striven to fix the various problems in procurement, production, and quality. We described our heroic efforts in spite of nearly insurmountable issues to get the big customer his product.

“I get it,” he said. “You guys are great firefighters. The only problem is it looks like every single damn employee here is a fucking arsonist.”

It was harsh, but apparently it broke the ice.

Certainly none of our customers ever came up with anything quite that pointed, but then we’re in an industry that would pat itself on its back for its passive-aggressiveness if it could do so without disturbing the knife repository.

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This month has gone on too long

Personally, I tend to believe twenty-eight days is too long for a month like February, so you can imagine what I think on those quadrennial occasions when it has twenty-nine. I’m not as vexed as this guy was, though:

In February 1997, John Melo was convicted of home invasion and sentenced to ten years and one day in prison. Seven years later, he filed a motion complaining that the [Massachusetts] Department of Correction had miscalculated the length of his sentence. Why? Because it had failed to credit him for the additional days he had to serve on account of the February 29’s during leap years.

Melo’s motion was allowed, but he didn’t win the case. In 2006 the Superior Court ruled (Commonwealth v. John Melo) that not only did his case have no merit, but it had been a mistake to ever allow it to proceed in the first place, noting that he had clearly been sentenced to a term of years, no matter how long each year may be.

And besides, we’re talking two whole days here, 2/29/2000 and 2/29/2004. He probably spent more time than that in the prison library, looking for loopholes like that.

Melo may not have had a compelling case. However, it is true that the extra day in February can be somewhat unfair. For instance, if you’re a salaried employee you essentially have to work an extra day for free during a leap year, whereas hourly employees get an extra payday. Similarly, banks often don’t include February 29 when they calculate the interest they owe their customers, thereby giving themselves an extra bonus day of profit at everyone else’s expense.

At 42nd and Treadmill, at least, we don’t have the payday issue: both hourly and salaried employees are paid biweekly. And my bank account earned a whole six cents in interest last time around; it’s hard to imagine one day more or less would make much difference.

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You’ve got (marginally cheaper) mail

The price of a first-class stamp is about to drop two cents, and the Postal Service is not happy about it:

Absent Congressional or court action to extend or make permanent an existing exigent surcharge for mailing products and services — including the Forever stamp — the Postal Service will be required to reduce certain prices on Sunday, April 10, 2016. This mandatory action will worsen the Postal Service’s financial condition by reducing revenue and increasing its net losses by approximately $2 billion per year.

“The exigent surcharge granted to the Postal Service last year only partially alleviated our extreme multi-year revenue declines resulting from the Great Recession, which exceeded $7 billion in 2009 alone,” said Postmaster General and CEO Megan J. Brennan. “Removing the surcharge and reducing our prices is an irrational outcome considering the Postal Service’s precarious financial condition.”

An order from the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) requires the 4.3 percent exigent surcharge to be reversed after the Postal Service has collected surcharges totaling $4.6 billion. As outlined in a notice filed with the PRC [Thursday], that amount is expected to be reached by April 10th.

She keeps using that word. I do not believe it means what she thinks it means:

ex·i·gent, adj. 1. requiring immediate action or aid; urgent; pressing. 2. requiring a great deal, or more than is reasonable.

Decide which of those you like better, and compare to this:

Postal Service prices for Mailing Services are capped by law at the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U). However, the law does allow for exigent pricing (price increases beyond the CPI-U cap) due to extraordinary or exceptional circumstances.

On the upside, this is the second time I’ve had reason to mention the Postmaster General, Megan Brennan, in a mere two weeks.

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