Archive for Dyssynergy

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; trinitysouthernuniversity.org is up for sale by the Chinese domain-parking operation that currently owns it.

(Via Jen Myers.)

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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 Omaha.com 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?

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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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Song of the sewer

About a decade ago, the city opted to replace the sewer line that runs along the west side of my property. I made a point of not watching the operation in progress, mostly because I have a certain familiarity with the concept:

The slogan at the base of the Sewer Statue of Liberty reads: Give us your pooped, your piss poor, your tangled masses of toilet paper yearning to swim free, the wretched refuse of your Happy Meal, but stop dumping grease down the drain you jerk.

The typical grease trap in a McPtomaine’s is maybe a couple of feet wide, a couple of feet deep, and perhaps four feet long. The top of it is flat, and it’s set just above the level of the concrete slab. When tile is laid atop the concrete, the top of the trap is level with the finished floor. It’s got a diamond-plate lid that’s bolted down hard — for a good reason. Its contents are the foulest smelling thing in the world.

It’s hard to describe the smell of a rancid grease trap to a civilian. Opening up a neglected grease trap is like sorting out corpses after a mustard gas attack on a Passchendaele trench. That was my grandfather’s job, by the way. The trench sorting, not cleaning out grease traps. So anyway, a little poop never hurt anyone. The sewer you send it down can kill you, however.

This is, not incidentally, why you never neglect a grease trap. I spent the better part of two years toiling behind Mickey D’s grill, and if it was any less lethal four and a half decades ago, it was only because the volume of business was lower in those days.

(Title in fond memory of Ed Norton, who, you may remember, was a “sub-supervisor in the sub-division of the department of subterranean sanitation” in the City of New York.)

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You are being followed

We all know about social media. This seems to be an early incarnation of antisocial media:

Do you want to be spied on by an unseen obsessive? I don’t but apparently some people do. If you’re one of them then today is your lucky day, assuming you live in New York (the service will expand to other cities). A new “social network” — I use the term sparingly — allows you to be stalked for a whole day. A follower isn’t just a number any more; it’s someone lurking in the shadows.

Follower is a service created by Lauren McCarthy, an artist and full-time faculty at NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program with computer science and art degrees from MIT. Envisioned as an art project but also a social experience, Follower lets you sign up to be followed for an entire day. You sign up on the website and select three preferred dates to be followed. You are sent a link to download the Follower app, which alerts you on the morning of the day you are to be followed. For the rest of the day, the app uses your GPS signal to notify your Follower of your location. You probably won’t see your Follower, though they intend to keep quite close. McCarthy claims that the goal is to be unseen but “in your awareness”, whatever that means.

I can see one very specific market for this service: people who are wondering if their anti-paranoia medication is working any better than placebo.

But this is the pitch:

Bottom line:

It’s creepy but at the end of the day at least it’s not LinkedIn.

A point I will happily concede.

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Corporate insecurity

It has long been my contention that surveys suck, though I regret to report that complaining about this level of suckage has not been enough to deter the pollsters. Bad enough that it’s an election year, but even the most routine contact with Corporate America these days seems to require a questionnaire the size of the decennial Census.

It wasn’t that long ago that my bank noticed I’d been on their Web site. Now I do this rather a lot, partly because I like to keep an eye on my finances, and partly because I know rather a lot of our customers at 42nd and Treadmill can’t be bothered to see if they have any money before trying to spend it, and it’s important to me not to be like them. In and out in 45 seconds, and that’s not even using their new smartphone app. And Gallup, freaking Gallup, sent me a stack of multiple-choice questions that took 15 minutes to answer. “Yes, I checked my balance. Yes, I was happy with the way it displayed, and the speed of the display.”

Now a second one has arrived. I’m not even going to look to see if it’s identical to the first.

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The stuff of nightmares

I’ve already gone into entirely too much detail regarding my Valentine’s Day-connected trauma, and it’s comparatively trivial compared to some. In fact, I’d say that if you dream of things like this, at the very least you should probably lay off the early-evening cocktails:

The octopus at the Seattle Aquarium won’t be getting any love this Valentine’s Day.

Each Valentine’s Day the Aquarium invites people to watch the sea creatures mate, but this year the chance to watch some 8-armed nooky has been called off.

Aquarium staff say they’re afraid that their male octopus — a 70-pound cephalopod named Kong — is too big for the females who are 30 to 40 pounds, and he may eat them.

And so Kong, faced with rejection by forces beyond his control, will return to Puget Sound, where his life will dissolve into bitterness and/or loneliness:

Octopuses only live about three or four years and mate once at the end of their lives.

Then they die.

Just in case you thought your life was depressing. And no, the Pacific Northwest tree octopus cannot serve as a substitute.

(Via Neal Stephenson.)

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DTs on aisle six

Somehow I have a feeling that this will not end well:

An expanding southeast Michigan grocery chain is looking to start a new concept in its stores by turning to by-the-glass beer and wine sales so that customers can drink during a shopping trip.

Busch’s Fresh Food Market is seeking a Class C liquor license for the store it plans to open in Canton Township, west of Detroit.

That store would mark Busch’s first foray into setting up an in-store ‘bistro’ with beer and wine sales for customers.

“It will allow guests to walk through the store and let them drink alcohol while they’re shopping,” said John Hunter, director of marketing for the Ann Arbor-based, 15-store chain.

The idea is not entirely unheard of — stores of the Whole Foods ilk occasionally have things like wine bars, though of course not here in sanitary Soonerland — but we’ve all seen shoppers who seemed like they were out on a day pass from the Home for the Bewildered, and somehow I don’t think their mien will be improved by on-site access to Michigan craft beers.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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In perpetuity

Despite 170 percent of normal rainfall last year, my town remains under alternate-day watering restrictions, which are considered permanent. And since so far this year we’re running about 20 percent of normal, I’m not complaining. This stance, however, is anything but universal:

We can no longer burn yard debris in our backyard. Never mind that before THEY passed the new rule you couldn’t burn in the summertime because it was too dry and you were liable to burn the whole town to the ground, and it’s too wet the rest of year to start a fire. Now you cannot do it at all. Ever. Stupid rule. Really chafes my hide, I tell you. Never mind that I haven’t tried to burn anything for the last ten or fifteen years.

We seldom have formal burn bans, but the National Weather Service routinely posts Red Flag Alerts when it deems the risk of wildfires to be substantially greater than normal: all it takes is a combination of high winds and low humidity. We’ve had days of 20-mph winds and 15-degree dew points this month, in fact.

I just hope they don’t find something common in area back yards that contributes to earthquakes, or the whole state will go ballistic.

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We’re gonna rock down to a greedy avenue

Apparently it is not wise to cross the President of the Borough of Staten Island:

A state Supreme Court judge has granted permission for Staten Island Borough President James Oddo to bestow unflattering street names spelling out greed and deceit on a private development he fought on the former Mt. Manresa site.

In a decision issued Thursday, Judge Philip Minardo ruled Oddo has the authority to pick street names of his choosing, despite a complaint from the developer, Savo Brothers, that the three he chose — Cupidity Drive, Fourberie Lane and Avidity Place — are “derogatory,” according to court papers.

Oddo didn’t like any of the nine names suggested by Savo, either, especially Timber Lane:

In December, DNAinfo quoted Oddo as having written on his Facebook page, “That’s right, ‘Timber’ Lane, as in the word of warning that is popularly known to be yelled out to warn folks that a tree is being cut down.”

The Mount Manresa property, home of a Jesuit retreat house dating to 1911, was sold by the Society of Jesus to Savo Brothers for $15 million in 2013.

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A Blossoming controversy

So Susan Sarandon showed a bit of flesh, and British toothache Piers Morgan took exception to it — not for the flesh itself, he insisted, but for the context in which it was revealed.

Mayim Bialik wasn’t buying it.

On the upside, it’s about time The Late Late Show with James Corden attracted some kind of attention.

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One step up from litter

Call it “time confetti,” as the cool kids are doing now:

I saw that phrase in an article — it was about “Time is a Feminist Issue” though I would argue that time is really a human issue, and it seems as many of the men I know as the women have their free time “contaminated” by various concerns ranging from caretaking to having to be “more available” at work. The idea of “time confetti” is that for a lot of us, our free time has been effectively put through a shredder and we get 10 or 20 minutes here and there rather than big blocks, and I can really feel that on weeks with evening meetings: I come home but can’t fully relax because I will have to go back out, and moreover, I will have to be sure my preparatory needs for the next day are done before I go out…

I work diligently to have as much uninterrupted leisure time as I can get, and sometimes — not always — I succeed. Fortunately, the office has (mostly) figured out that once I’m outside visual range, there’s no point in trying to talk to me until I return, whenever that may be.

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Poor but dishonest

Every barrel, it seems, contains a few bad apples:

GRACE Marketplace thinks of itself as being the Walmart of homeless centers.

In one centralized location in Gainesville, Florida, it offers end to end services: substance abuse counseling, help with signing up for public benefits such as food stamps, showers, restrooms, meals, a place to store personal belongings, an adjacent tent village called Dignity Village, and more.

Unfortunately, it just lost one crucial service: namely, the free Wi-Fi that could have helped Dignity Village residents to find or apply for jobs.

And how did this happen? Pretty much the same way a lot of people with roofs over their heads lose their service:

“We would love to be able to provide Wi-Fi out here, but we don’t have any IT support,” said Jonathan DeCarmine, GRACE Marketplace operations director. “We were notified by our Internet service provider that there were people downloading things illegally, and if we didn’t put an end to that, they would turn off Internet to the entire property, which would keep us from being able to do business and provide services.”

Meanwhile, at the next level up:

Theresa Lowe, executive director of the North Central Florida Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, said she has no plans to turn the Wi-Fi back on. They had some security restrictions in place already, but people found ways around them. She said there can be hefty fees for illegal downloads, and that’s something the center can’t afford.

“We had a couple complaints from our provider and notified everyone, ‘please don’t do this, we’ll end up losing the service,” and it happened again, so our decision was to disable the Wi-Fi because we would be charged,” Lowe said.

Those whose business model depends on depicting the homeless as saintly and utterly without blame will be crying into their kale smoothies; as with any other community, any other demographic, “good” and “not so good” live cheek by jowl.

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Proto-Superb Owl

The flap over the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game, later retconned into Super Bowl I, is simple enough: one guy in North Carolina has an almost-complete tape of the game, and the NFL declined to buy it from him. While looking around for supplemental materials, I happened upon this little contretemps:

Super Bowl I was the only Super Bowl in history that was not a sellout in terms of attendance, despite a TV blackout in the Los Angeles area (at the time, NFL games were required to be blacked out in the market of origin, even if it was a neutral site game and if it sold out). Of the 94,000-seat capacity in the Coliseum, 33,000 went unsold. Days before the game, local newspapers printed editorials about what they viewed as a then-exorbitant $12 price for tickets, and wrote stories about how viewers could pull in the game from stations in distant markets such as Bakersfield, Santa Barbara and San Diego.

The blackout is weird enough, as it always was; but focus, if you will, on that twelve-buck ticket price. At Super Bowl 50, $12 won’t even buy you a Bud Light.

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Specialty headgear by Alcoa

Usually we make fun of the questions at Yahoo! Answers. But this answer was so utterly mockable, it deserves attention of its own. Get a whiff of this:

Russia will destroy Turkey and America. Move to Ural. (666 times 3)+(6 times 3) = 2016. Jews want war between Russia and Germany from June to October. Tube people = demons. Clones = demons. Human costumes that demons wear = demons. Dinosaurs and 666ed people have triple stranded DNA. Demons live inside clones. Bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin (who discovered Bubonic plague) is depicted on the Shroud of Turin. There is another shroud on which blasphemer Yosef (who was crucified on a pole in 1066 AD) is depicted. WW3 happens; 7% of people will be left; after people are tired of war, they will elect the antichrist as one world leader; don’t vote. ISIS stands for Israeli Secret Intelligence Service. Next false flag: Statue of Liberty. Move away from coasts as nukes will go off in the ocean (at where tectonic plates meet; result: megatsunamis 1km high). Earth is flat; stands on 3 pillars (the Most Holy Trinity); pillars stand on water at zero Kelvin. Zodiac is planetary prison of demons; don’t believe in horoscopes or you’ll exhibit the traits of the trapped demons. Most thoughts and dreams are from demons; demons never do good. Sleep fully clothed; pray the Jesus prayer. Pray to your guardian angel to have normal sleep. Vyacheslav Krasheninnikov was the last prophet before Enoch and Elijah return to preach against the antichrist. According to Ruski Orthodox Christian Vyacheslav Krasheninnikov: Humans were created about 7525 years ago.

Birds participate in time creation. It’s a sin to kill birds. Dinosaurs live under our level. They will get out through sinkholes and lakes. To kill them, go for their nerves. Save the birds; but kill the dinosaurs. First dinosaur will come out of Volga River in Russia. Demons grow human skin (from a sample taken during abduction) and put it on so as to look like us. Demons will invite people to be healed inside their UFOs; those who go will be like zombies after. Gov’t provides demons with diamonds and allows demons to abduct people. If you’re being abducted, slowly pray the Jesus prayer.

Don’t panic. Demons use diamonds and souls to power their UFO craft. The bigger the diamond, the more it lasts. Demons have 4 UFO bases: 1)Moon 2)Inside fake mountain Kailash in Tibet 3)In lake Baikal in Russia 4)In Atlantis which is underneath the Mariana Trench in Pacific Ocean. There are no aliens. Nobody lives on other planets. Airplanes that go down are hit by demons because they need the airspace to fight Jesus. Antichrist is pale with red eyes. He’s possessed by Satan since he’s 12 years old. He flies. He wears gloves to hide long nails. He’s surrounded by demons who appear as angels of light.

Don’t go into a UFO to be healed by demons. 666 is given by isotope rays on wrist or forehead when people stretch hands to receive small plastic grey card with no name on it (World Passport). Police will microchip and isotope ray people on highways. Food stores will isotope ray people too. Antichrist will also release prisoners to mark people. Reject 666 at all cost. If you’re about to be marked, pray the Jesus prayer. Hide with Orthodox Christians to escape 666; leave all electronics behind so that antichrist’s minions can’t track you. Give to charity in the name of Archangel Michael; he rescues people from hell twice a year (or brings them up a level, that is, to a level with less punishment; eventually, people are freed). Feed the pigeons; when pigeons bow down, people are saved from hell. Forgive me.

How do we know this is a freaking nutcase? Because the question was “What Were Some Of Your Top Favourite Albums of 2015?”

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To the nines, or at least the sevens

Samantha Brick, four years ago, stirred the pot with the suggestion that women resented her because she was pretty, and that, well, they are wrong and they ought not to do that.

Today, she has more advice for women, and it’s decidedly harsher:

My, my how I chortled into my café au lait this week when I read that British mothers had plummeted to yet another all time low.

Yes, I’m talking about wearing pyjamas, which have become such common clobber at the school gate that a headteacher at a school in Darlington this week was forced to ban them. More worryingly, she caused such uproar for doing so one mother turned up wearing her nightclothes in protest.

Women what on earth are you thinking? The first crime you have committed is wearing clothes that should be left relegated to your childhood. Second of all, you’re wearing said saggy-bottomed, elastic-waisted, passion-killers in public.

She probably could have stopped there, but she didn’t:

Is it any wonder that your other half is sneakily logging on to Facebook in search of another lover, constantly volunteering to go overseas on “essential” work trips, and going to bed much later than you in a bid to avoid your could-try-harder, overweight self, encased in a sweaty man-made fibre outfit.

Samantha herself would never, ever do such a thing, but then she’s currently living in France, where such a thing is Simply Not Done.

Let me tell you, no French mother in possession of all her senses would ever dream of lounging around at home in a pair of pyjamas or even putting a pair on in order to go to bed (that’s what negligees are for).

As for sporting bedwear to the school gate? It would never ever happen in France.

Let us hope no one ever sends her a link to People Of Walmart.

And for the sake of completeness, here’s what she looks like today.

(Via Fark.)

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