Archive for Dyssynergy

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

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

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

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

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

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Maybe not so much choice

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

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

Which, I submit, indeed should have been barred.

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, a check of the fine print reveals:

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

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

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

Web Collaboration nomination for Rebecca Black and others

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

Rebecca Black before the Teen Choice Awards

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

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The urge to wax has waned

Sometimes your first Brazilian wax is your last Brazilian wax:

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

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

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

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

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The tiger’s wide awake

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

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

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

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

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

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

Similar laws exist in Arizona, Kansas and Mississippi.

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

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Fan disservice

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

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

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

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

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Sentenced to retention

There is no way I could do this:

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

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

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

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

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

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Mineral wrongs

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

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

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

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

Says counsel for the plaintiffs:

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

Which could be as many as five hundred.

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

(Via Cheri Campbell.)

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Built for the long run

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

Online advertisement for Cree bulbs from the Home Depot

This is August. Is anyone even wearing pantyhose?

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“Tragic Sans” was already taken

This is not actually a joke:

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

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

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

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Out of the Garden, into the Sunshine

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

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

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

There is, of course, a drawback:

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

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

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

And people wonder why LeBron would go back to Cleveland.

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Standard issue

You can probably find a paragraph like this in almost any magazine on the stand:

Manuscripts, photographs, artwork, and other materials submitted must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Although I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to see it in Wired (August 2014 aka 22.08). Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 102-page issue of Wired before, either. (Remember when it was this thick? No more.)

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Two-buck shuck

Two of the dollar-store chains are about to become one:

Chesapeake, VA-based Dollar Tree announced Monday that it would acquire Matthews, NC-based Family Dollar for a whopping $8.5 billion, CNNMoney reports.

Combined, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar have more than 13,000 stores and annual revenues of $18 billion, propelling the combined company ahead of current dollar store leader Dollar General which operates 11,000 stores and has $17.5 billion in revenue.

Wait a minute. Did I say “become one”?

Officials with Dollar Tree say in a news release that the company will continue to operate under both brands when the merger is completed in early 2015.

It’s a bit startling to discover that three “dollar store” chains sold 35 billion dollars worth of stuff last year, about 20 percent more than, say, Macy’s.

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Patent nonsense (3)

From the summer of 2002, an example of Dubious Patent Usage:

So apparently British Telecom was combing through its archives and found something bearing U.S. patent number 4,873,662 which, BT thought, was the basis for the hyperlink. Visions of dollar signs (what with sterling giving way to the euro, doncha know) danced in their heads, and they hit up more than a dozen ISPs for licensing fees. When said ISPs told BT to go pound sand, BT decided to make a test case out of one of them.

The ISP in question asked for summary judgment while laughing out loud, and got it.

That ISP was Prodigy Internet. Less than a year later, its parent company, SBC (now AT&T), tried basically the same stunt:

SBC Communications, whose main contribution to the Internet up to this point has been putting perennial money-loser Prodigy out of its misery, is now claiming a patent on the invention of HTML frames.

Given the general opinion of HTML frames at the time, this was like applying for a job as sous chef and naming Jeffrey Dahmer as a reference.

Meanwhile, also around the turn of the century, an Australian bloke was trying to make a point:

Way back in 2001, the Australian patent office awarded a man named John Keogh “Innovation Patent #2001100012″ for his “circular transportation facilitation device.” Or what people who don’t work in a government office would call a “wheel.”

Mr. Keogh submitted his patent request as a way of illustrating that he thought the office had relaxed its standards a bit too much. He never tried to collect any money from people using wheels. So it turns out that the office recently revoked his patent, just more than a decade after issuing it.

Then again, since Mr Keogh did not in fact try to hit up unsuspecting wheel users for royalties, he would presumably not be considered a patent troll. Had he been an American, he’d probably have been looking for a courtroom in, say, east Texas, and a test case with a defendant with deep(ish) pockets.

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This doesn’t add up

Sure it does. You’re just doing it wrong:

A 2012 study comparing 16-to-65-year-olds in 20 countries found that Americans rank in the bottom five in numeracy. On a scale of 1 to 5, 29 percent of them scored at Level 1 or below, meaning they could do basic arithmetic but not computations requiring two or more steps. One study that examined medical prescriptions gone awry found that 17 percent of errors were caused by math mistakes on the part of doctors or pharmacists. A survey found that three-quarters of doctors inaccurately estimated the rates of death and major complications associated with common medical procedures, even in their own specialty areas.

So much for three out of four doctors. Not that we civilians have anything to brag about:

One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.

Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼” larger than the “3” in “⅓” led them astray.

Not that it’s relevant, but Johnny Carson once announced in his monologue that McDonald’s had passed the sort of milestone they used to put on the sign, and mused: “Fifty billion burgers! You know, that’s almost 100 pounds of meat.” Then again, he paid people to come up with stuff like that.

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You can’t fool Jim Rockford

Who knew? James Garner, who died last night of presumed “natural causes” at 86, apparently anticipated our current police state way back in 1978:

Oh, hello, NSA.

(Via Steve Lackmeyer.)

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Not one of the Pointer Sisters

We start with a question that is essentially unanswerable to begin with:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Why is my index finger longer then my ring finger?

Actually, there is one sensible response: “Who the hell cares?” But then we get to the heart of the matter:

I am a male but I am not feminine?

This has got to be a metalaw somewhere: “All old wives’ tales end up being circulated by boys.”

I was tempted to tell him “Doesn’t matter, since either one is longer than your peen,” but that seems (slightly) unkinder than necessary. Still, this morbid fear that someone of equal immaturity will call him out will not serve him well in the future, assuming he has one.

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Paywall for one and one for paywall

NewsOK has started reproaching me for using AdBlock Plus, and has requested an explanation from among the following choices:

  • To stop automatic video ads from playing.
  • I have privacy concerns.
  • Blocking, speeds up page load times for me.
  • I didn’t realize I was blocking ads on NewsOK.com.
  • I don’t want to see any online advertising.
  • My company blocks online advertising.
  • Other:

For “Other,” try this: “I pay you guys a couple hundred dollars a year and should not be subjected to any further indignities of this sort.”

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Battle of divulge

This site admittedly has its confessional aspects, and of the several thousand topics that have come up over the past eighteen years, at least a handful have involved revelations that might be considered uncomfortable, not so much for me to say as for you to hear.

Still, I’m pretty sure I’ve never quite gotten to this point:

I’m sitting across a woman and her daughter, about ten, give or take a year, on the CDTA (local) bus. The mom is on the phone talking to her friend, and I’m not paying attention, until she says: “Do you know what I really hate about Eddie [not his real name]? He comes into the bathroom when I’m trying to pee and s###!” Then she goes on about how, when she closes the bathroom door, he pounds on the door and demands to know what she’s doing in there. And she repeats her intentions.

At this point, the daughter says, “TMI, mommy!” She actually used the initials, rather than “too much information.” But either the mom doesn’t hear her, or feels the need to continue with this important telephonic conversation.

The girl is sitting right across from me, and looks at me with this exasperated gaze. I give her the “what can you do?” shrug. She says, a little louder, “Mommy, everybody on the bus can hear you!” This was probably true.

But Mommy manifestly did not care: the denunciation of Eddie [not his real name] was uppermost in her mind, and her outrage trumps everyone else’s discomfort.

Then again, Ed is not entirely blameless: bathrooms being generally devoid of creature comforts not specifically related to the tasks at hand, it should have been perfectly obvious what she was doing in there.

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Leave it in neutral

The FCC has been taking comments on their “net neutrality” proposal, which is of course nothing of the sort. Author and media critic Jeff Jarvis has posted his online, from which I excerpt one paragraph:

We know that corporate incumbents in this industry will abuse the control they have to disadvantage competitors. I filed a complaint with the Commission last year when Verizon refused to connect my Google Nexus 7 LTE tablet to its network as required by the Commission’s own rules governing that spectrum as “open.” The incumbent ISPs have demonstrated well that they choose not to understand the definition of “open.”

Purely by coincidence, Entertainment Weekly senior writer Darren Franich notes (issue 1320):

[N]o one in America feels anything besides utter hatred for their cable company, so no one will mourn when all the Time Warners and Comcasts finally die two minutes after we press the “die” button on our remote controls.

Gee, where can I get a remote like that?

But that’s the deal: service providers, be they wired or wireless, have one goal in life, and making you happy is not it.

Side note: Entertainment Weekly was created by, yes, Jeff Jarvis, way back in the 1980s. (Issue #1 appeared in February 1990. I have read them all.)

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One of the safer aspects of Tornado Alley

We’re a long way from any of this carnage:

Though I suppose a funnel cloud could pick up a shark from Galveston Bay and drop it over Moore. Maybe.

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Reporting from hell’s 0.2 hectare

That Sunday quickie about the metric system has generated a concurrence:

I’ll let you in on how I feel about the metric system: it’s great for stuff that is too small to see and for stuff that is too far away to touch, but for everyday existence, I prefer American. A foot is a foot, a mile a minute is a good speed for getting somewhere by car. One hundred degrees is hot, zero degrees is cold. What are the values for these in the metric system? Prime numbers from the planet Xylorcanth. And before you go trying to tell me that we could have a kilometer a minute as a good speed, if we only changed the length of a second to a more metric-centric value, let me remind you that your heart beats once per second, or it would if you were a real human and not some Eurocentric cyborg wanna-be.

If we must have metric, let us have Metric, a Canadian band whose 2012 album Synthetica has been boiled down to a bunch of lyric videos, including this one:

The guy who’s singing with Emily Haines? Lou Reed, in what might have been his last studio performance. He sounds downright upbeat at times.

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An ounce of wisdom

Spotted over at Topless in Tupelo:

there are two types of countries in the world:
1) ones that use the metric system.
2) ones that have been to the moon.

Several conclusions are available, but I know which one I like.

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Less of a Hoot

I’ve looked into HootSuite once or twice, to the extent that Google’s ad tentacles managed to shovel promotions for it into my Web surfing for several weeks, but I never quite bought the premise, or the package. And after hearing Mack Collier’s story, it’s just as well:

Now normally I hate these “give us a tweet and we’ll give you this” offers, but I do use and like HootSuite, and I have been curious about trying out HootSuite Pro, so I decided to send the tweet. And as promised, I immediately received my email telling me how to get my 60 days of HootSuitePro for free.

Whereupon they told him: it would be added onto his existing HootSuite Pro account — you know, the one he didn’t have yet.

Mack Collier says:

I see this sort of stunt all the time, and it doesn’t build brand loyalty, it builds brand distrust.

And it motivates customers to write about how they were shafted by the deal, which in turn builds brand distrust among non-customers.

Subsequently, HootSuite’s Offer Manager came on to explain what was supposed to be happening, and admitted that maybe the wording wasn’t ideal. All new users of HootSuite, he said, were routinely offered a thirty-day trial; this promotion was intended merely to double the length of the offer.

If there’s a lesson in this, it’s perhaps that firms with mad tech skillz are not equally adept at presenting their products — and that a “What does this mean?” note, sent to the correct person (if you can find the correct person), goes a long way toward avoiding misunderstandings.

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On the streets of Laredo

I used to — repeat: used to — have family in Laredo, Texas, but I haven’t had a whole lot of reason to talk about the third-largest city on this side of the Mexican border, except for that time when the only full-line bookstore in town was closing.

This is not a selling point, so apparently now the city fathers are pushing another angle: it’s the 19th safest city in the US. This is perhaps not surprising, considering El Paso’s tiny but largely unnoticed crime rate.

But while looking that up, I found something else: El Metro Transit, the bus system in Laredo, serves 3.2 million passengers a year, in a metropolitan area of a quarter million, more than either Oklahoma City or Tulsa, who have four to five times the population. Each. The only reason I can think of, other than mere ethnicity, is that the Laredo system is privately owned.

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Burning not too bright

Meanwhile in Albany, the concern over Big Game grows:

State legislators in both houses have passed a bill banning people from posing for photos while hugging, patting or otherwise touching tigers in New York state.

Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal explained that she introduced the legislation to increase safety at traveling circuses and county fairs that allow the public to get up close and personal with their big cats.

Which is a major problem in New York, what with, um, two tiger-related incidents at such exhibitions in the past ten years, suggesting that there might be ulterior motives for this measure:

But the Upper West Side Democrat acknowledges proudly that the bill would also destroy a trend now prevalent among users of dating apps — men snuggling with tigers in reckless attempts to look brave or cuddly or, even more implausibly, both in their dating-profile photos on online services like Tinder and OKCupid.

Remember when a woman could point and laugh, and that was the end of it? Now apparently she has to have the Assembly backing her up.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Papa’s got a brand new Baghdad

So what happens next in Iraq? What will the US do?

Based on recent experience, something feckless and incompetent that makes America look stupid and does nothing to stop the killing. Worst case, something so blisteringly stupid that the Muslim fanatics take a temporary break from killing each other to kill Americans.

I know that sounds harsh and mean and unsympathetic, but really there is no action the US government can take to stop the killing in Iraq or any other Muslim nation. For a significant fraction of Muslims, killing is what they do.

And, of course, they should be allowed to do exactly that. Because culture. Beheadings? Female genital mutilation? Forced marriages? Well, at least they don’t say anything about having to pay for contraception.

It’s easy and not unreasonable to call out the feckless incompetence of the Obama administration on foreign policy. But in the case of Iraq, it seems to me that it’s mostly the fault of the Iraqis.

Save a slice of that fault for George W. Bush, who tried to follow something sensible — deposing Saddam Hussein — with something essentially impossible: so-called “nation-building.” That’s done from within, not from without. Always.

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Walk this way, or else

TSA scanner usage is on the wane, says Jack Baruth:

Use of the scanners is decreasing, slowly but surely, as TSA holds out exemption from them as a piece of candy to be given to the subservient. Are you a child? You don’t have to go into the scanners. After all, no child has ever carried a bomb anywhere. Are you the parent of a child? You also get to skip the scanners, because no parent anywhere has ever sacrificed themselves or their children for a political ideal. Are you old? You can skip them, because old people never do anything rash.

The most recent exemption, which I’ve witnessed twice in the past week, boggles the mind. If you are traveling with an emotional comfort dog, you can skip the scanner. That’s right. Carry a dog, skip the scanner. This is where we are as a country: we value the emotional comfort of an emotional comfort dog over the safety of Americans on a plane. Of course, since the scanners are just there for theater, it doesn’t really matter if you’re carrying a dog or not, they’re useless and the metal detector is to be preferred for all reasons that are grounded in reality — but what does this say about the ridiculousness of the TSA? Do they really think that Al-Qaeda can’t get their hands on a small-breed dog?

Perhaps they’re thinking that the traditional Muslim eww-dogs-have-cooties doctrine would stay the hand of the jihadi — in which case, perhaps you should obtain an emotional comfort piglet and be sure.

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We don’t read in this town

“This town” being Leawood, Kansas, hard by State Line Road and therefore practically in Missouri. The 30,000 or so residents are generally wealthy and possibly happy, and the authorities are decidedly anal:

Over the last year or so, Little Free Libraries have been sprouting up across the Kansas City metro. The idea is pretty simple: You construct a birdhouse-like box, paint it up, put it in your yard, and fill it with some books. Anybody who passes by is free to take a book, swap a book, or add a new book to the little library. It’s an informal thing that’s meant to promote literacy and community in a cute, friendly way.

Leawood ain’t about that life.

Brian Collins and his son, Spencer, built a Free Little Library as a Mother’s Day gift this year, at their home in north Leawood, near 89th Street and Ensley Lane. They went out of town for a few weeks and arrived home recently to find a letter from the city informing them that the structure ran against city codes. “Your take a book leave a book structure must be attached to the house,” the letter read.

Collins has since taken down the box, to the delight of at least one person:

KCTV 5 found a neighbor who is glad the city is forcing Collins to remove the library because it’s an “eyesore.” That person chose to speak anonymously, probably because he or she did not wish to be outed as the most boring/crotchety/joyless human in the metropolitan area.

If there’s a Homeowners’ Association in the neighborhood, this jerk(ette) is almost certainly on the board.

Note to Oklahoma City: Don’t even think of doing this. We’re doing fine.

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A suicide booth for your old phone

It’s called “ecoATM,” and this is what it’s supposed to do:

ecoATM is the world’s first automated eWaste recycling station. That’s a fancy way of saying that we’re a friendly green machine looking to pay cash for the responsible recycling of your old cell phones, MP3 players and tablets. Sell your phone or other device by placing it in the ecoATM kiosk, and we’ll tell you how much it’s worth. What happens next? You get instant cash. With ecoATM kiosks all over the country, and with your help, we’re working hard to solve the eWaste problem facing our planet.

It probably isn’t a whole lot of cash, but it’s something. And what does it cost you?

I had an old phone hanging around and I was going by a mall which had that machine set up. And honestly, the phone is so old as to be functionally useless. If someone offered me a U.S. quarter for it, morals would dictate that I politely suggest they were about to drastically overpay. But I was curious, and so I dropped in, found the machine, and started with the procedure.

First, it asked for my general category of device. Phone, says I, figuring we’ll sort down to the exact model later.

Next, it tells me to see if it has power and that all my personal data has been wiped. Good on both counts.

Then it asked for my driver’s license and thumbprint.

This is the point where the procedure pretty much stopped.

I gently inquired as to why the machine needed this, and was informed it was to make sure the phone was in fact mine and not stolen. Plus a human would check the other end of the connection to see if my license picture matched the live one. Because I was being filmed, a detail which had not been mentioned up to that point. Oh, plus thumbprint, which it didn’t bother going into.

Hang around to see if it’s worth a whole twenty-five cents? No, thank you.

I suspect that pawn shops and such are required to jump through similar hoops, but frankly, I’d just as soon drive a truck over a device as many times as it takes to render said device unrecognizable. At least that way there’s some return on one’s emotional investment.

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Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb

And sometimes it takes 70 years to finish the job:

A bomb dropped by the US Air Force on Leipzig during World War II was blown up on Thursday morning. It was discovered on Wednesday night near the east German city’s main train station… The 75-kilo bomb was found during building work on Wednesday and it could not be defused so was blown up instead.

Then one of life’s little jokes kicked in:

Bomb disposal experts from Dresden blew up the explosive shortly before 10.30am.

Dresden? But of course.

(Via Fark.)

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