Archive for Dyssynergy

There will be no new name

The OtterBox is a popular case for Apple’s iPhone. It’s waterproof, keeps out dirt and dust, and protects against scratches. However, it offers no protection against actual otters:

Visitors to the Red River Zoo in Fargo found themselves laughing at a bit of irony unfolding at the popular otter exhibit.

Someone taking a photo of the otters apparently dropped their iPhone in the exhibit. The phone, equipped with an OtterBox case, was picked up by the animal. Zoo-goers watch as the otter rips apart the OtterBox case, dropping the phone into the water. Witnesses say the otter would retrieve the phone, chew on it, and drop it back into the water several times.

I wonder if they could have bribed the animal with Otter Pops.

(Via snipe.)

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Clippings from the dystopiary

Things can’t possibly get any worse. Or can they?

Yahoo Answers screenshot: What to do now that my soul is dead and I have abandoned all hope?

To elaborate:

I don’t know what to do now. The world has now gone completely insane and I’m literally counting down the days until I’m forced to attempt survival in a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

People are excruciatingly nasty and evil. Those who are not are a rare anomaly and very puny and useless.

All of my dreams are dead. There are no resources for the change that I’d like to make in the world. I have no partner and no children. There is no one that can make my heart soft again.

Day and night I drift deeper into hatred for the human race and for all of god’s failed creation.

Now what? Should I just get up and go to work again like a robot?

Based purely on my own experience, I’d say this sounds like a high-school student with no prom date. (Disclosure: I was once a high-school student with no prom date.) Anyone got any better ideas?

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Weird mutant cooties, or something

How is it that these people claim the right to have first crack, so to speak, at Presidential politics?

As though we needed another reason to abandon ethanol as a motor fuel.

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A taxing journey indeed

One might expect the collectors of state income tax to be, at the very least, enthusiastic enough about their work to cash your doggone checks in a hurry. (Refunds? Another matter entirely.) Sometimes, though, the weakest link is the Postal Service:

With the May 1 deadline looming, I decided to call the county.

They processed the check yesterday.

I sent it on the 20th.

It was received on the 28th.

Eight days to go eight miles.

Hmmm. I live about seven miles from the Oklahoma Tax Commission. I mailed my state return on the 30th of March, a Monday, to OTC’s box in the downtown Post Office at 5th and Harvey, four miles from me and three miles from them. According to my bank statement, the check cleared on the 3rd of April, which was a Friday. No laggards here.

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Inconceivably so

Holly Brockwell is 29 and quite determined not to have children; Britain’s National Health Service is equally determined not to sterilize her.

After stirring up that hornet’s nest in the Guardian, she decided to try a different megaphone: the Daily Mail. As usual with the Mail, the photographs are lovely and the comments are unreadable.

She says of the Mail experience:

[T]here are over 2,000 comments already and I did not in any sense read them all, because I still have to find time in the day to glare at children and milk the National Health Service dry. But here are some of my favourites, and my responses. Which I won’t be putting in the comments section, because that’s like trying to debate with a floor lamp.

I note for comparison purposes only that (1) I was sterilized the year I turned twenty-eight, but (2) I was married at the time and had already spawned the next generation, and (3) it was, unsurprisingly, a lot cheaper in 1981, even allowing for the relative simplicity of the procedure I had compared to the one she wants.

Still, I tend to take her side on general principle: biological destiny can go only so far. And the usual deployment of contraceptives made her quite ill, as was the case with the woman to whom I was married. (She’s 60 now and is much relieved not to have to think about such things.)

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Hostel environment

What can we learn from this?

For some reason, it appears that building hotels next to city convention centers is a honey pot for politicians. I am not sure why, but my guess is that they spend hundreds of millions or billions on a convention center based on some visitation promises. When those promises don’t pan out, politicians blame it on the lack of a hotel, and then use public money for a hotel. When that does not pan out, I am not sure what is next. Probably a sports stadium. Then light rail. Then, ? It just keeps going and going.

Two examples are offered, in Phoenix and in Baltimore, where city-owned hotels next to convention centers have dropped tens of millions of dollars. This is, of course, easily explainable:

All the companies who chose not to build a hotel with private money obviously knew what they were doing, and only the political benefits of pandering the the public at large and a few special interests in specific made it seem like an attractive investment to city politicians. Which is all pretty unsurprising, since hotels have pretty much been built off every exit ramp in this country, so there seems to be no private inhibition towards building hotels — just towards building hotels in bad locations.

Which shows you how far behind the curve we are in the Big Breezy: we haven’t even selected our bad location. Yet.

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Toward a hire purpose

Two things you should know here:

  • I haven’t updated my résumé in rather a long time;
  • I have, according to Windows, 247 fonts.

Not that all of those typefaces are equally useful to the job-hunter:

A résumé, that piece of paper designed to reflect your best self, is one of the places where people still tend to use typeface to express themselves. It does not always go well, according to people who spend a lot of time looking at fonts. Bloomberg asked three typography wonks which typefaces make a curriculum vitae look classiest, which should never, ever be seen by an employer, and whether emojis are fair game.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you which (overly) popular typeface is verboten.

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It was here six hours ago

An occasional recurring theme in my nightmares is the inability to find my car. This actually happened to me once, at the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City, circa 1979; however, after much backtracking and not so much sidetracking, I did eventually locate the miserable little sled, which puts me one up on this poor fellow:

A marathon runner who parked his car to take part in the Manchester race has been unable to find it — nine days after the event.

Jason Matthews, from Wolverhampton, left his black Saab 9-3 Sport somewhere near Old Trafford, but cannot remember exactly where.

The 40-year-old spent hours searching for the vehicle after running the race on Sunday, April 19, in a time of five hours and 11 minutes.

He even ended up walking back around some of the 26-mile course, before driving around in a taxi for 40 minutes and then going to a police station, all to no avail.

Eventually, he had to give up and get the train home to the Midlands. Mr Matthews has been unable to trace his car since.

Authorities in Manchester say the car has not been impounded or towed. He’s pretty sure it’s around somewhere and hasn’t been stolen.

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Now that’s time management

So this happened in Grand Rapids:

A former Grant High School science teacher has pleaded guilty to having inappropriate sexual contact with a female student with whom she exchanged about 14,000 text messages during a four-week period last fall.

Robert Stacy McCain, on that awfully large-sounding number:

Let’s see: 14,000 messages in 28 days? That’s 500 messages a day or — subtracting 8 hours a night for sleep, leaving 16 hours for daily texting — about 31 messages per hour. One wonders how either of them ever found time to do anything else except, you know, the “anything else” called criminal sexual misconduct.

Perhaps they weren’t getting much sleep.

Then there’s this old routine. Two women at tea. Says one: “Last night with him, wonderful! I came four times.”

Replies the other: “You weren’t screwing, honey. You were counting.

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Same surf, same turf

This turned up over at Interested-Participant, along with the note that “it seems to tell a story:”

Register receipt of some sort

Well, it’s marginally amusing in that the person drawing the line around “EBT FOOD STAMPS” prefixed EBT with a D to indicate “DEBT,” but there’s this undertone of “How dare these poor people eat like this!”

And that rang a bell over in the archives, circa June ’11:

There was some minor grumbling last month after word got out that some guy in Wisconsin had bought $140 worth of lobster, steaks and Mountain Dew with food stamps, and the usual noises were being made about how this was absolutely inevitable or how this was utterly unacceptable. (Best example of the latter, in fact a contender for QOTW here, was by a commenter at American Digest who said that there were only two things you should be able to purchase with food stamps: gruel and diet gruel.)

This is what you’re not seeing on that register tape: five 24-packs of Mountain Dew at 6.79 each, plus twelve bucks worth of container deposit. And it turns out that the actual purchaser, in fact, was not living large — not very large, anyway — at our expense; he was buying this stuff with EBT and then turning it over for cash, to the tune of 50 cents on the dollar. This isn’t what you’d call the highest use of taxpayer dollars, but anyone who is shocked — shocked! — to see this sort of thing going on probably isn’t paying attention: the system that can’t be gamed very likely can’t even be built, and I figure there’s nothing to be gained by paying some Federal agent to peer into people’s grocery carts.

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One out of twelve

The Friar notes that his particular calling might make his selection for a jury rather problematic:

My own profession is also sometimes considered a disqualifier; in the minds of some people the opinion of a clergyperson carries more weight than do the opinions of others. I am pretty well sure that none of those people are close friends or relatives of clergypeople.

Oh, that’s bad:

On the one hand, my low chances of service are kind of sad, because some aspects of the judicial system are pretty interesting when seen up close, as I remember from my previous profession as a newspaper reporter (protected by the same Amendment, just a different clause).

No, that’s good:

But on the other hand, no jury service means a reduction of the number of hours I am required to listen to lawyers, as well as judges — who, more often than not, used to be lawyers.

Like seemingly everything else in life, it’s a trade-off.

I filled out the county’s questionnaire for the jury pool a few weeks back; my guess is they’re starting to run low of potential jurors. Mostly, I was surprised: I’ve been a resident of this particular county for the last 25 years or so and this is the first time I can remember actually seeing this form.

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Career dehancement

Meh.com’s parent company Mediocre Laboratories is hiring, and at this writing they’re looking for a “Member Engagement Specialist (Evenings / Nights / Weekends, PT or FT),” which boils down to this:

Do you enjoy receiving soulless, robotic emails? Do the typical customer service experiences you have make you happy? Do you loathe the opportunity to take ownership of a new process? If yes, stop reading now. But if you truly enjoy engaging with people, creating unique and memorable experiences and generally spreading sunshine and happiness with creative flair, you may have what it takes to join our mediocre staff as a member engagement specialist. If you can do all that while enduring gracefully the unavoidable rants, cranks, and jerks you’ll encounter, and say NO when required without being a jerk yourself, we should talk. Oh yea, and you’ll need to have the ability to work some unconventional hours — the mediocre shifts, if you will.

I’m not in this particular field myself, but I know from rants, cranks, and jerks; they’re dialing in more or less continuously from the moment the phone system starts letting them in to just before they get dismissed to voice mail.

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The most annoying name in sports

Boston is competing for the 2024 Olympics, and a Son of the Bay State explains why this is such a miserable idea:

I am of the opinion that all Olympics should be held in otherwise authoritarian countries. (Or, to be open-minded about the whole thing, in Barcelona.) A good, established dictatorship is usually the way to go. This is because agreeing to host the Olympics is agreeing to turn your city into an authoritarian state anyway, and we might as well just hand the work of organizing one over to the people who do it full time. The Olympics control your traffic. The Olympics control where you can walk or ride your bicycle. The Olympics overwhelm your infrastructure for their own purposes; a plague of be-blazered buffet grazers descend on your finest restaurants. For two weeks and change, every host city transforms itself into an armed camp with corporate sponsors. In 2004, the Democratic Party held its national convention in Boston. (You may recall that a jug-eared rookie from Illinois gave a helluva speech.) People howled. The city was rendered logistically inaccessible, and that was for less than a week. The Olympics are four times as long, vastly more sprawling, and infinitely more inconvenient. The local committee proposes, for example, to hold the canoeing and kayaking events way out in flannel-shirt country in the Berkshire foothills. People are going to be stranded so long on the state roads out there that they’re going to have to buy houses.

But this sort of thing would happen even in semi-sleepy burgs in Utah. In Beantown, things are infinitely more complicated:

And then there’s Boston itself, which was laid out in the 17th century and hasn’t changed a lot, except that it’s harder to get around than it used to be. There are parts of downtown that have survived relatively unchanged since the days when Samuel Adams himself was a brewer. The expressway situation has improved dramatically since they finished the mother of all money pits, the Big Dig — and, it must be said, since the Big Dig has stopped killing people. But the city itself remains an unwieldy beast to traverse. Let’s say, for example, that you want to watch a little badminton at Agganis Arena at Boston University, and then figure you’ll catch a little modern pentathlon at Franklin Park. You’d best leave your dental records with your loved ones back in Amsterdam so they can identify your desiccated corpse when it’s found in an abandoned cab halfway between the two venues.

Then again, Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter was laid out sometime around the 4th century.

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At the mercy of the F connector

“I’m calling you on Sunday and the earliest that someone can come fix this is Thursday?”

Last year, it was reported that cable-TV prices were rising at the official rate of inflation times four, and perhaps one reason for this is sheer ineptitude:

“Well, yes, that’s the earliest one is available.” After telling the technician that he has done a good job trying to help me but his company is pathetic and a four-day delay in a service call is the kind of thing that makes customers of other companies, I say go ahead and schedule it, my choices being limited.

This means that I will not receive the service for which I pay CableOne, but I know better than to ask if they will discount my bill. It’s not because I believe they are unconcerned with the reality that I will pay for something I don’t receive. They are, but that’s not the reason.

It’s because I believe that no one working at CableOne could handle the necessary math. Not that they couldn’t handle the math of trying to pro-rate everyone’s bill who has an interruption of service. I mean I don’t believe anyone there could handle the actual pencil-and-paper math of figuring out what fraction of channels I pay for were working, how long they weren’t working and apply that discount to the amount I pay for their service.

I wonder if they read their reviews.

(If “F connector” means nothing to you, have a look at this.)

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Dots rite

Even practitioners of Minnesota Nice can be sorely vexed when you misrepresent them:

For decades, the cheerful twin dots had hovered over the “o” in Lindström on the green highway signs that welcomed visitors to the small hamlet — population, 4,442 — that had been settled by Swedish immigrants in the 1850s.

After a highway project in 2012, the signs came down and were replaced with new ones. According to a city official, the Minnesota Department of Transportation denied the town’s request that the umlauts remain, citing a rule that road signs have only letters in a standard alphabet. So in a change that irritated some Sweden-adoring people here, Lindström became Lindstrom.

But in an announcement that was indignant, a little quirky and very Minnesotan, the governor intervened on Wednesday, releasing a statement that promised that the umlauts on the signs would be restored, and fast. “Nonsensical rules like this are exactly why people get frustrated with government,” Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, said in the statement. “Even if I have to drive to Lindström and paint the umlauts on the city limit signs myself, I’ll do it.”

In other news, The New York Times apparently thinks a town of more than four thousand people is a “small hamlet.” (Are there large hamlets?) Still, props to Governor Dayton for getting the message.

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What light with yonder price breaks?

Meh.com offered some LED floodlights yesterday, and while I didn’t buy, I was heartened by the front-page description:

Description of Optiled LED lights offered by meh.com

They asked four bucks extra for the bulb that dims.

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Better watch those English muffins, too

What do we know about Danish butter cookies? They come in this enormous metal tin, they contain no shortening ingredient other than butter, and you should probably keep them away from me.

One of the major distributors of Danish butter cookies is, surprise, Campbell Soup Company, which acquired Denmark’s Kelsen Group in 2013. And Campbell’s was not pleased to see a competitor named Danisa moving into their territory, since Danisa’s manufacturer, “Danish Specialty Foods,” allegedly in Copenhagen, is apparently actually in Indonesia.

Takari, US distributor for Danisa, argued before the National Advertising Division that they’re just the importer and have nothing to do with the contents, and besides, First Amendment. The NAD was not impressed with this argument, and Takari will revise the packaging and advertising.

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Open book, it isn’t

I came up with some weird ideas for exam preparation when I was a schoolboy, but I don’t think I could have even imagined a scheme like this:

A German schoolboy has taken exam preparation to ingenious new levels by making a freedom of information request to see the questions in his forthcoming Abitur tests, the equivalent of A-levels in the UK.

Simon Schräder, 17, from Münster, used the internet platform fragdenstaat.de (“ask the state”), to ask the education ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia for “the tasks of the centrally-made Abitur examinations in the senior classes of high school in the current school year.” He was specifically invoking his state’s freedom of information law.

One provision of that law, though, may yet foil his scheme:

Schräder set the ministry the legally allowed one-month deadline — falling on 21 April — to comply, though his first exam is on 16 April.

“If they answer in time it might fit for one exam,” Schräder told the Guardian.

(Via Fark.)

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Enabling escape

We begin with a quote from Oleg Volk:

I’ve followed the development of this mess for a couple of years now. A former competitive air gun shooter, Stacey modeled for several of my RKBA posters, and I got to hear a bit about her situation. My advice was “get out now!” but the reality proved more difficult.

And this is the reality:

In 2001 I married a man I believed to be the one who would love and protect me for the rest of my life. He had a volatile temper, but I just chalked it up to us being fairly young and didn’t worry about it much. A couple of years went by he began to not only punch holes in the walls and doors of our apartment but he also started to be physical toward me. While I was pregnant with our second son in 2004 my husband went out drinking with his friends and came home drunk.

After that, things got worse. And now it’s come to this:

He was arrested again but he has his attorney again and will probably get another light sentence. I tried to get help filing a divorce through the Legal Aid Society but they have not done anything to help. I recently started working outside the house again to be able to support my children and myself but have not been able to make enough to cover all the attorney fees and divorce filing fees so we can finally escape this completely. A few friends of mine have used gofundme.com in the past and suggested I try it. I hate asking for help, especially help with money, but I need it badly right now to get my children and myself out of this mess. So I’m setting my pride aside and humbly asking for help from my friends and family. I love you all and appreciate you more than you could ever know. Bless you!

This fundraiser went up this afternoon, and has already reached nearly more than a third of its goal.

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Not your tags to pop

I hadn’t heard this argument before:

Recently a lot of rich kids in my town have started shopping at the local thrift shop looking for cheap hipster clothes. I think this is wrong as thrift shops only have a limited amount of clothes and they should go to people who need them.

To me it seems like going to a thrift shop is like going to a food bank.

Patti, a thrifter for a decade and a half, begs to differ:

There is no used clothing shortage, as far as I can see. Our thrift has a back room piled with donated clothing to be sorted, priced and hung up. We are never going to be caught up, no matter how many “rich” people come in to shop. Used clothing, we has it.

And what’s more:

Well-off customers not only shop at our store, they donate. A lot. And they donate many items that less fortunate people don’t often buy, like pricey silverware and china sets, and valuable furniture and art. Hooray for that — and for the “rich” folks who buy them. They pay for a lot of cat food.

Besides, one grouch’s trash is another grouch’s outfit:

Awesome.

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Backstage at Security Theater

The Transportation Security Authority has guidelines it uses to determine if someone is more suspicious-looking than someone else. Quelle surprise:

The checklist is part of TSA’s controversial program to identify potential terrorists based on behaviors that it thinks indicate stress or deception — known as the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT. The program employs specially trained officers, known as Behavior Detection Officers, to watch and interact with passengers going through screening.

Cute names for government operations almost always indicate something controversial is afoot.

The checklist ranges from the mind-numbingly obvious, like “appears to be in disguise,” which is worth three points, to the downright dubious, like a bobbing Adam’s apple. Many indicators, like “trembling” and “arriving late for flight,” appear to confirm allegations that the program picks out signs and emotions that are common to many people who fly.

Stripped of point values, here are some of the behaviors that may trigger Double Secret Screening:

Things TSA is looking for

A sample SPOT form is here for your inspection.

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Weed killer on the rocks

Whatever the opposite of “well played” is, that’s what this incident was:

Dr. Patrick Moore tells the host that glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup that was recently linked to cancer by the World Health Organization, is not linked to Argentina’s increasing cancer rate.

“You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” says Moore.

At which point, the host actually offers Dr. Moore a glass of glyphosate. He declines, of course.

The standard for stunts of this sort, you should know, was set back in the early 1980s by, um, me:

All of a sudden this workaday chemical became a Major Hazard, and there was enough water-fountain chatter about it for me to justify a prank. This would require a confederate who was in on the gag: no problem there. The mystery fluid is furnished in brown bottles, the same shade used for hydrogen peroxide. (Whether it’s for the same reason or not, I couldn’t tell you.) We bought the stuff in case lots. We sabotaged one case: took one bottle, drained it, replaced the contents with tap water, marked the edge in some inconspicuous way, and resealed the case.

When the discussion came:

[S]omeone asked about whether this … stuff was really, you know, safe. The confederate chimed in with the opinion that it was highly dangerous and that we should switch to, for instance, some sort of correction tape. I scoffed. (Even then I was a good scoffer.) “You think this stuff is dangerous?” I fetched the rigged case, seized the faked-up bottle, and chugged its six-ounce contents. People stared at me as though I were Bruce Banner about to undergo Hulkification.

Now that’s how it’s done. Monsanto says it wasn’t paying Dr. Moore to speak on behalf of Roundup; whoever was, however, clearly didn’t get his money’s worth.

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Joining in

The old Orkut social network, put to sleep by Google last year, had one lasting effect on me: it got me on several Brazilian mailing lists, none of which I particularly wanted to be on.

A couple of the regular senders reference the city of Joinville, about which I knew nothing. Off to Wikipedia I go:

Joinville is the largest city in Santa Catarina State, in the South Region of Brazil. It is the third largest municipality in the southern region of Brazil, after the much larger state capitals of Curitiba and Porto Alegre. Joinville is also a major industrial, financial and commerce center.

The South Region is slightly smaller than Texas — about 230,000 square miles — and has a similar population: just under 30 million.

Now how about that name?

Even though it is considered a German-Brazilian city, its name is French (Joinville was named after François d’Orléans, prince of Joinville, son of King Louis-Philippe of France, who married Princess Francisca of Brazil, in 1843).

Speaking of the Germans, many of whom settled in this area of Brazil back in the 19th century, one of their auto companies is now settling in:

The latest BMW Group production site is located in Araquari, a town in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. This allows the BMW Group to draw on the structures established in Joinville, located about 20 kilometers north of the new plant. At Joinville’s Perini Businesspark, the BMW Group is presently setting up a training center for the new plant. The centerpiece of this facility is an assembly line for training purposes, which is in keeping with the global BMW Group production standards.

And how’s the weather?

Although Joinville lies outside the tropic zone, and because of its low altitude and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean it sees little temperature variation throughout the year, with every month seeing average highs in the 20s C.

This picture of beautiful downtown Joinville is somehow enthralling:

Central Joinville, Wikimedia photo by Unmoralisch

At least from this angle, this town doesn’t look like it’s a mere 14 feet above sea level. And one expects a whole lot more traffic. Then again, Joinville’s 550,000 inhabitants are spread over 400 square miles — kind of like a Texas town.

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Flying solo

Torre DeRoche, who wrote the glorious travel tale Love With a Chance of Drowning (I discuss it briefly here), is on Twitter as @FearfulGirl, though there’s darn little she’ll shy away from:

For the last ten years, I’ve made a lifestyle out of pushing the boundaries of my own fears. I sailed the Pacific despite a phobia of deep water. I climbed Mount Kinabalu despite a fear of heights. I learned to dive despite the sharks. I walked through Italy and India despite the fear of being mauled. I did all of this for the sake of experiential learning, to test out my own hunch that the world isn’t as dangerous and hostile as it’s touted to be. Over and over again, I’ve come to the same conclusion: One must always exercise caution, and not all countries and places are safe, but, for the most part, humans are overwhelmingly kind and the world is overwhelmingly hospitable. Almost always, you are safe.

And people who throw crime rates and stuff at you? Forget about ’em:

The statements made by authorities and others like it are a blow to every woman’s sense of freedom. They’re potent bundles of psychologically damaging paranoia wrapped up in the packaging of a thoughtful gift. Every time you tell a woman “It’s not safe for you,” and “Be careful, you’re a woman,” you’re undermining her. Telling her that she’s fragile. Stupid. Weak. Incapable. Rape-able.

This fear limits her growth and deteriorates her quality of life. Fear is her greatest enemy.

There is such a thing as being too paternalistic. My daughter will be thirty-seven this year; I have long since learned that she seldom if ever loses her cool. (And I’m pretty sure she didn’t get that from me.)

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Gooder vibrations

The Friar, in the process of snickering at those folks who will pay four digits for very early record pressings, issues the following explanation of the record-making process, mechanical division:

Sound in vinyl records is encoded in the grooves, which are played when the turntable needle moves over them at the proper speed. The grooves are pressed or stamped into blank vinyl discs, and like all mechanical systems the stampers were subject to wearing out. Records pressed earlier in a stamping run were more likely to have grooves that are cleaner and more accurately reproduce the full range of the sound.

Ideally, the cutting speed and the playback speed should be identical, except when they’re not:

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs stepped in to fill the audiophile niche market. Their Half Speed Masters were special pressings of the albums. They (smartly) realized that not all audiophiles were classical music buffs, and that the rock generation was beginning to come into its own, with big bucks to spend. Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs had made superior quality pressings of albums by using thick, virgin vinyl, and by locating low-generation copies of the master tapes and using those as a source for their albums. The term “half-speed” refers to slowing the cutting lathe to half-speed while cutting the album stamper, resulting in a more accurate and deeply etched groove that held low tones better.

Yep. Those platters were cut at 162/3 rpm, to be played back at 331/3. The short-lived CD-4 quadraphonic LPs were cut at even lower speeds, in an effort to get a 45-kHz signal onto the vinyl.

Still, all these “improvements” aren’t always obvious to the ear, either mine or the Friar’s:

Too many loud concerts have helped my ears have trouble distinguishing all of the Vitally! Important! Distinctions! that are supposed to be in all of this stuff. Those distinctions themselves may be a whole lot of suggestion bias: When you’re told a particular copy of a record sounds much much better than what you’ve been listening to and you agree to part with a few Ben Franklins in order to acquire it, the chances are pretty good that you’re going to believe it sounds better. Sure, a good LP sounds better than an MP3 file, but 1) almost everything does and 2) the idea that there is an experience of listening to some record that’s “worth” four figures is a product of a mindset that is so far removed from the everyday reality most people live in that it ought to draw its own “Occupy” protest.

Had I a bunch of thousand-dollar records, I probably wouldn’t play them at all, lest I reduce their value. Then again, I have always had the most middling of hi-fi systems, to the extent that those systems had any fi at all.

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H-1B about the cheap

Remember when farm workers were imported en masse to California? Today tech workers are being imported en masse to California, and for much the same reason:

The current system to bring in high-skill guestworkers — on H-1B, L-1, and OPT visas — has become primarily a process for supplying lower-cost labor to the IT industry. Although a small number of workers and students are brought in as the “best and brightest,” most high-skill guestworkers are here to fill ordinary tech jobs at lower wages.

The most recent firing of 500 Southern California Edison IT workers, after they trained their guestworker replacements (as a condition of receiving their severance package), is being repeated by the tens of thousands across the country — Disney, Harley Davidson, Home Depot, Pfizer, and Xerox are just a few among the many companies that have all been doing the same thing.

The practice of using the H-1B program to replace American workers is widespread. In fact, currently as many as two-thirds of new IT hires are guestworkers; not because there aren’t enough skilled Americans but instead because guestworkers are cheaper. And if current bills … become law, the number of guestworker visas will be over 100 percent of new hiring needs — if it so chooses, the IT industry can legally hire only guestworkers without even having to look for an American to fill all new IT jobs.

Congress, of course, thought it was clever enough to ward off this easily predictable situation by requiring the Labor Condition Application with each H-1B, which must certify that the incoming worker is being paid no less than the prevailing wage. Now if everyone is on an H-1B, guess what? They’re being paid the prevailing wage by definition.

So I expect the new expansion to pass: Big Tech wants it, and Big Tech is willing to buy the allegiance of Congress to get it. I’m betting it passes by 31 March — which, in California, is César Chávez Day.

(Via Will Truman.)

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Careful with that underboob, Eugenia

Bangkok will make an example of you:

Thailand’s military government warned women on Monday against posting photos of the lower half of their breasts — a current social media trend — saying their actions could violate the country’s computer crime laws.

Thailand’s computer crimes act [of] 2007 bans material that causes “damage to the country’s security or causes public panic” or “any obscene computer data which is accessible to the public.”

It doesn’t sound like a “security” issue to me:

“When people take these ‘underboob selfies’ no one can see their faces,” [culture] ministry spokesman Anandha Chouchoti said. “So it’s like, we don’t know who these belong to, and it encourages others to do the same.”

Lindsey Robertson, writing at Hello Giggles, notes for record:

[T]he edict seems pretty slanted towards keeping women in their place. After all, the ministry has yet to make mention of what sort of selfies, if any, are off-limits to men.

First guy to say “kathoey” gets his peepee whacked.

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A miss, a palpable miss

This plaintive wail was leaked from those wonderful, and presumably sanitary, folks at Scary Mommy:

[I]if you’re squat-peeing in an effort to avoid maybe smearing your thighs in the dead skin cells of strangers, you are not part of the solution; you are, in fact, THE PROBLEM. Not “part of” the problem. But THE problem.

YOU are ruining peeing sitting down for everyone else. Because you, my friend, are the one who is pissing all over the seat.

The tricky thing about squatting is that we women can’t really control where our pee goes, which is kind of the reason toilet seats were invented in the first place. A woman’s anatomy is such that, in squat position, our pee is virtually guaranteed to hit everything but the intended target. We’re not like men, who are armed with what basically amounts to a water gun made of flesh. (Super not-fair, Mother Nature.) When squatting, a woman’s pee could just as easily spray like the “mist” function on a garden hose attachment as squirt straight down into the toilet. It could get on her clothes. Her shoes. The floor. And it will definitely get on the toilet seat.

Inasmuch as it’s the guys who are usually accused of bad aim — well, let’s not go there, and by “there” I mean on the floor surrounding the plumbing.

(Via OneFineJay.)

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A harder sell than usual

Almost makes you wonder if there’s something dreadfully wrong with the place:

Page from tylerhomes.com: For the love of God would someone buy this house?

A check at TylerHomes.com revealed no current listings at $415,000, so either this place has been sold already — or the price has been dropped.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Is this science settled?

Maybe it is. Take a look:

We may not know what is “correct,” but clearly we can see the inventor’s intentions.

(With thanks to Chris Lawrence.)

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