Archive for Dyssynergy

Mow it alone

Remember that town in West Virginia where no cell phones or Wi-Fi signals or even radios are allowed? Robotic lawn mowers are right out:

The saga started in February, when iRobot filed a waiver request with the FCC seeking approval to use a portion of the radio spectrum to help guide its robomower. The problem with grass-cutting bots, according to iRobot’s filing, is the only way to get them to work is to dig a trench along the perimeter of a lawn and install a wire that creates the electronic fence needed to ensure the automatons don’t wander beyond the property line.

The iRobot people also produce the Roomba, a robotic vacuum cleaner, and the Scooba, which maintains hardwood floors. (I covet the Scooba.)

As a less arduous solution, iRobot proposes using stakes, driven into the ground, to act as beacons. The beacons will talk to the lawnbot, helping it map the area and stay within the designated boundaries. A typical user with a typical lawn (a quarter to a third of an acre) might need between four and nine beacons.

But the system requires special permission from the FCC due to its restrictions on fixed outdoor infrastructure. In a nutshell, the FCC doesn’t want people creating ad hoc networks of transmitters, which could interfere with existing authorized services like cellular and GPS systems. In its filings, iRobot says it should be exempt because it doesn’t set out to establish a broad communications network — its lawnbot networks would be tightly contained.

The problem, though, isn’t the network, but the frequency on which it operates so wirelessly:

Astronomers say that’s not good enough. The frequency band proposed for the lawnbot (6240-6740 MHz) is the very same one several enormous radio telescopes operate on.

And they don’t want that sort of interference, in West Virginia or anywhere else they may happen to operate.

(Via Hit Coffee.)


Inflation gone undetected

About 2006, the woman who’d been doing my hair for the past several years took off for points unknown, and inasmuch as it was a ten-mile-plus drive to the shop where she was working — for a while she’d had her own shop — I started looking for a new shop, and eventually found myself going to a unisex shop on the northwest side. By no coincidence, this was the same shop Trini was using. The tab was $14; I handed the guy a twenty and said “Swap you one of these for a one.”

Eventually, reasoning that the price had surely gone up, I simply handed him a twenty and let it go at that. And this worked just fine until this past weekend, when I popped open the billfold and said, “You know, I have no idea what this actually costs anymore.”

“Eighteen dollars,” he said.

I reached for another bill, but he bade me close up the wallet. “You’re fine,” he said. “See you in a few weeks.”

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Beyond the window of acceptability

Somewhere there must exist a correspondence course which local officials must pass in order to get certified as — well, hell, when things like this happen you figure they’re all certifiable anyway:

A police officer in Overton, Texas, told two elementary-aged sisters that they couldn’t sell lemonade without a permit. The police chief is very clear: The police officer did not shut down the girls’ lemonade stand, which they were using to make money to buy passes to a splash park for themselves and their dad for Father’s Day. The officer only told them that they couldn’t sell the lemonade unless they got what the city of Overton calls a “peddlers’ permit.”

Which invites several questions, mostly along these lines:

My question to the Overton law enforcement representative who acquainted the girls with the wonders of the modern regulatory state is to describe exactly what circumstances he envisioned that would make this move look good in the eyes of everyone who learned about it. Seriously, dude. What alternative world did you dream up in which a police department that makes little kids get permits to sell lemonade comes out on top? Were the kids named Lecter? Were they chanting Latin in reverse and laughing maniacally as they hand-squeezed the lemons and promised customers, “You’re next, human scum!” Did they intone, “Winter is coming!” and chop the head from a Sean Bean doll?

And once you learned they were raising money to buy passes to a splash park for a trip with their dad for Father’s Day? Their father who’s an oil field worker and who’s away from home for a few weeks at a time? What happened to the part of your brain that should have told you, “STOP DIGGING! BUY A GLASS AND GET IN YOUR SQUAD CAR AND ZOOM OFF!”

That part, you have to assume, has long since been pushed to the sidelines — assuming it was ever on the playing field to begin with.

And it can’t be public-health considerations, because Overton doesn’t have any problem with giving the stuff away.

Oh, well. The two girls learned a valuable lesson here: government is just another word for people who want to do things to you.

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Watch where you stamp

About a year and a half ago, the price of a first-class stamp rose from 46 to 49 cents. Now it appears to be headed back down:

The U.S. Postal Service will have to roll back a portion of its largest rate increase in 11 years after a federal court ruled that the higher postage prices in place since January 2014 can’t be permanent.

Postal regulators had agreed to a 3-cent emergency postage hike for first-class letters, to 49 cents from 46 cents, after the Postal Service said it needed to recoup billions of dollars it lost during the recession. The 4.3 percent increase came on top of the customary 1.7 percent postage prices have risen to adjust for inflation.

But regulators set a cap on the amount of revenue USPS could recoup with the higher prices. The cap will be reached this summer.

On the upside, they won’t have to reprint any of the current “FOREVER” stamps, which are always valid for the current first-class rate.

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You’re not from around here, are you?

A rather disturbing incident today:

Which triggered a memory. I was in the laundry room at the CrappiFlats™ one summer Saturday in the early 1990s when I heard the utterly unexpected sound of exuberance. I abandoned the dryer for a moment, stepped outside, and traced the sound to the general area of the swimming pool, which was occupied by two Non-Resident Kids. At least, I didn’t recognize them.

For some reason, the pool hadn’t been opened up that day. Not to be thwarted, the youngsters — two boys, roughly seven and five, both black, neither with swimsuits — had climbed the fence, slid out of their clothes and jumped in. I approached. They withdrew, perhaps understandably suspicious; I assured them that I was fine with what they were doing. The younger one appeared slightly abashed, what with the nakedness and all; the older one, however, was gratifyingly brash, once he figured that I wasn’t going to turn him in. It helped, I think, that I didn’t ask him where he lived.

We talked about nothing useful for a couple of minutes, and I bade them farewell: “See ya later.” I gathered up my duds, crawled back to my flat, and sat as close as possible to an air-conditioning vent the rest of the day.

I heard later that the two boys were eventually apprehended by security and were escorted from the premises. Well, damn, I thought. It’s not like they were disturbing anyone. And I spent rather too much time wondering if they were busted for not being residents or for being naked on the premises — and if anyone would have turned in two white kids for the same offense.

Things got hot early in the morning, as they will in this part of the world, and at 9 am Sunday I was looking at the gate to the pool. I’d have been looking at the lock to the gate to the pool, but it was conspicuous by its absence. On an impulse, I popped through, looked around, stripped, and did my own little bit of skinny-dipping, displacing a heck of a lot more water than did two young boys. If anyone noticed, no one said a word. And if anything, I owe those kids for giving me the idea to do this in the first place, for I had never done such a thing before.

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Through the intercession of St. Willis of Carrier

There are people who speak out against air conditioning, and they should be dropped, en masse, into a Bessemer converter.

Meanwhile, there are normal people:

I am relying on my window-unit air conditioner in my bedroom to keep it cooler at night. I feel slightly guilty about all the power I am using but I sleep SO MUCH BETTER in a cooler room. When it’s really hot and I have no relief, I wake up feeling like I didn’t sleep, and I have bad dreams when I do. (I wonder how people managed before air conditioning, especially in the South. Did stuff just shut down in the summer and the expectation was you got little useful work out of people?)

Southern houses, at least up until World War II or thereabouts, were generally constructed for maximum potential cool: cross-ventilation was a must, and windows were big and easily opened. Ceiling fans were ubiquitous: a big room might have two or even three. We didn’t have A/C during our eight years in South Carolina, and we weren’t the only ones either. And in Charleston in particular, there’s a lot of rain in the summer: six inches in a month is routine, and I’ve seen over 20.

Oh, and I have no guilt at all about running the A/C; I pay for these stinking kilowatt-hours, and I figure I can do as I please with them. In the summer, my bedroom is the warmest room in the house, so it gets a box fan. Besides, cooler rooms are healthier, period.

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From the producers of Security Theater

We begin with the oft-butchered Ben Franklin quote: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Liberty, at least, is something that exists, or at least that can exist. Safety? Not so much. Said P. J. O’Rourke:

[S]afety has no place anywhere. Everything that’s fun in life is dangerous. Horse races, for instance, are very dangerous. But attempt to design a safe horse and the result is a cow (an appalling animal to watch at the trotters.) And everything that isn’t fun is dangerous too. It is impossible to be alive and safe.

At the political level, they trot out the word “security.” Also a non-starter:

The entire notion of “security” is a phantasm, a shiny bit of colored glass used to lure us away from that which is possible and attainable, and toward that which is not, has never been, and never can be. This is true at any level of organization, from individuals to nation-states. Indeed, the Earth itself is irremediably insecure, as earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, meteorites, near-encounters with asteroids, and the occasional solar flare should demonstrate to anyone’s satisfaction.

There is risk in everything. There are defenses against some sorts of risks, but no defense is “secure” in any sense that holds water. Human life is an ongoing game of rock / paper / scissors.

You have to figure — or at least I have to figure — that if all perils could be prevented, the death rate here at the top of the food chain, and for that matter at all points below, would be something other than 100 percent. Don’t hold your breath.


Periodical dysfunction

Magazines, says Doc Searls, are “screwing loyal subscribers,” and singles out five to which he subscribes:

My wife, who is more mindful of money and scams than I am, urged me to stop subscribing automatically to all of them, because all their rates are lowest only for new subscribers. So I looked back through my last year’s bills to see what I was paying for each, and then at what they pitched new subscribers directly, or though Amazon.

Only Consumer Reports’ price appears (at least in my case) to be lower for existing subscribers than for new ones. All the rest offer their lowest prices only to new subscribers.

My first thought was “loss leader.” I then went out and looked at Postal Service Form 3526, which in item 6 asks for “Annual Subscription Price.” I’m guessing that the Postal Service has ruled that somebody in the customer base must actually be paying that price.

So I went to check my two oldest subscriptions: Car and Driver (since 1978) and Playboy (since 1983). Hef’s back page, devoted mostly to Coming Attractions, contains the usual magazine boilerplate, and declares an oddly specific-sounding price of $32.97. This is my renewal month, and the bill is here on my desk: $32.97.

Meanwhile C/D, in their boilerplate, is saying $13 a year; last time out, I renewed for two years for $18, so I have no current bill for them.

I seem to recall that years ago, once in a while, a tardy response might result in a reduced rate, but this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. And I do have a current notice from Consumer Reports, which asks $29 for a year (including, while it lasts, the annual Buying Guide), with discounts for two- and five-year renewals. I have no idea what they’re asking of new subscribers, because the first thing I do when a magazine arrives is shake it until all the blow-in cards fall out.

Oh, and of the four others Searls mentioned, I get two: last time out I paid $32.95 for Vanity Fair and $20 for Wired, which if nothing else suggests that Condé Nast is not entirely monolithic.

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As smartphones get bigger

Amazingly, so do dumb phones:

What goes around evidently comes around, especially if you have a few thousand sitting in a warehouse somewhere. (Binatone’s history goes back to 1958, so it’s not entirely impossible that they might have made this sort, or at least this shape and size, of phone before.)

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Half a paywall

A note from Entertainment Weekly:

As an Entertainment Weekly magazine subscriber, you have full access to all of the great content on, including 24/7 news, engaging photo galleries, your favorite TV recaps, exclusive videos and more. However like many popular websites, will now cap the number of articles non-subscribers can access for free.

They didn’t say what the cap would be: I’m guessing five per month. And well, I am the oldest EW subscriber, or at least tied for oldest, ever since issue #1 in 1990.

Now I’m wondering if InStyle, the only other Time Inc. magazine I take, is considering a similar move. (And actually, I read their site more than I do

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Space invaders?

We may or may not be targeted by evil space aliens, but the Richmond (California) City Council has us, or at least their 52 square miles, covered:

After listening to horror stories from more than a dozen people who believe that government agencies and other parties are watching them from outer space — including one speaker who was “targeted” just before arriving at Richmond City Hall — the council voted 5-2 to approve a resolution to discourage the use of space weapons on earth dwellers.

This move is not entirely unprecedented:

The resolution approved on May 19 refers to an attempt by a U.S. Congressman 14 years ago to ban space-based weapons. In 2001, then-Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, introduced the “Space Preservation Act” and “Space Preservation Treaty” that would have banned spaced-based weapons.

The Richmond resolution from Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles doesn’t merely support those attempts to ban space-based weapons, it does so “to ensure that individuals will not be targets of space-based weapons.”

In other news, Dennis Kucinich has a legacy.

Mayor Tom Butt, on the losing side of the 5-2 vote, later got a disturbing letter from a constituent:

“My son suffers from mental illness and believes that Voice-Skull or electromagnetic waves generated by groups who target individuals” plague him, the woman told Butt. “He keeps using [the council’s decision] to support his theory that the reasons he hears voices is that he is being targeted! Of course, I find this hard to believe, but I can’t convince him otherwise. He often refers to and cites the Richmond Police and City Council.” She said the council’s vote is helping her son justify his beliefs and avoid taking his medication.

I suspect this will play out in the time-honored fashion: should you tell the Council majority that there has been a marked absence of earth-shattering kabooms, they will reply “See how well it works?”

(Via Rand Simberg.)

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No new missing planes

So this is what’s left to cover:

In other news, Count Chocula has apparently been busted to Baron.

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Male privilege in action

This spring, I haven’t done a whole lot of relaxing in the sun: the weather has seen to it that I am none too relaxed, and, well, there’s hardly any sun. So I haven’t had a whole lot of odd moments to look over my personal physical plant — not that this matters greatly, since there’s a full-length mirror in the hallway and I pass it often enough to notice that I’m still walking more or less upright.

So I’m pulling on a pair of sandals, my hand passes over my shin, and it dawns on me: this leg (it was the left one) is utterly hairless. I check the other: ditto. Apparently hair has stopped growing everywhere below the knee. It’s not like I make a point of shaving this particular zone, either; I think I’ve taken a razor to my legs three times in the last two decades, mostly for purposes of costumery. It’s like Hair Central just can’t be bothered. I can, of course, believe that, since no effort has ever been made to fill the ever-widening bald spot on top of my head.

In women, this particular phenomenon can apparently be a by-product of menopause, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the explanation that works for me, given my lack of feminine hardware.

So I’m working with the theory that it’s some combination of drugs and hormonal changes, and I’ll probably go with that, if only because I can’t see any point to sidling up to a woman my age and asking her if she still shaves.

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No Schlitz, Sherlock

The problem with beer commercials is that they’re aimed at guys who fancy themselves in beer commercials, which may do wonders for planting an association but which ignores (we won’t suggest degrades) roughly half the species. This sort of thing worked back in Don Draper’s day. Today, though, it apparently takes technotrickery to try to get women interested in the product:

How it works:

The campaign by advertising agency Philipp und Keuntje, Hamburg, Germany, creates personalised content for viewers, fabricated from 70 unique videos. Additionally, when the ad identifies men, or those who it deems underage, it will tell them to keep on walking.

The installation identifies commuters via a built in camera coupled with facial recognition technology.

Possible downside: if this brand catches on as, say, the Official Beer of Women, the sort of guys who fancy themselves in beer commercials will likely spurn it forevermore.


Dole it out

It’s hard to imagine — though, unfortunately, not hard enough — how someone could come up with an idea like this:

A dollar bill is a special kind of thing. You can keep it as long as you like. You can pay for things with it. No one will ever charge you a fee. No one will ask any questions about your credit history. And other people won’t try to tell you that they know how to spend that dollar better than you do.

For these reasons, cash is one of the most valuable resources a poor person in the United States can possess. Yet legislators in Kansas, not trusting the poor to use their money wisely, have voted to limit how much cash that welfare beneficiaries can receive, effectively reducing their overall benefits, as well.

The legislature placed a daily cap of $25 on cash withdrawals beginning July 1, which will force beneficiaries to make more frequent trips to the ATM to withdraw money from the debit cards used to pay public assistance benefits.

Since there’s a fee for every withdrawal, the limit means that some families will get substantially less money.

It’s even worse if the machine only dispenses twenties: you won’t be able to get even $25 at a time.

There were, of course, justifications offered:

“There are actual reports posted as to where the ATMs were that cards were used by Kansas residents,” said state Sen. Caryn Tyson (R), the Ottawa Herald reported. She said that beneficiaries were using their cards “at liquor stores, cigarette shops, strip joints. Casinos was another. There was a $102 [withdrawal] from a person in Colorado at a Rockies baseball game. We don’t know that they spent it on the game, we don’t know what they spent it on, but the ATM was at the Rockies facility. Another one was on a cruise.”

I am less inclined to grumble about the profligacy of some Kansans than I am about the assumption that We Gotta Teach These People A Lesson. Believe me, I know what happens when the money runs out before the end of the month, and by no means am I extraordinarily bright.

Let’s see if Governor Brownback ups the ante by setting up, say, a Meals On Wheels-like gruel dispensary.

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I’ll be there in a Jif

Daily Mail contributor Annabel Cole shaves her legs with peanut butterThere are dozens of things you might consider using as a substitute for shaving cream, though I’m willing to bet that peanut butter isn’t one of them:

Could my favourite breakfast spread also double up as the answer to silky smooth summer legs? I was doubtful — but intrigued.

Following instructions online, I spread the peanut butter on my legs with a blunt butter knife. Smoothing Sunpat [brand] down my shins, instead of my toast, took a bit of getting used to.

The stiff consistency made it hard to apply evenly, and the lumps of peanut rubbed painfully against my skin like a super-abrasive exfoliant.

Shaving was a nightmare. The blades became clogged with the thick peanut butter after one sweep of the razor. Washing them clean took several minutes and covered the bath with yellow clumps of peanut butter.

After three attempts — and with a significant amount of stubble remaining — I gave up and threw the razor away. The only upside was that my skin felt wonderfully soft afterwards.

I can’t help but think this might have worked marginally better with a peanut butter that wasn’t, you know, crunchy.

(Via Fark.)

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This guy’s shui is fenged

Or something:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Can I request a new SSN because I object to digits used?

Sorry, Bunkie, all of them use digits. And the Social Security Administration does not take requests: a reissued card will have the same number as the original.

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I has a Supersad

Specifically, Lancelot Supersad Jr., not for his run-in with the law in New Hampshire, but simply for his name alone:

In March, we ran out a field of 64 names and instructed our readers to whittle that field down to one. What followed was a two-month period filled with heartwarming stories, examinations of Southeast Asian cultures, and revelations about highly-paid (and splendidly-named) public employees. Ultimately, 62 of our competitors came up short, and we are left with two accused thieves who will battle it out to see who can swipe our 2015 Name of the Year crown.

The left side of our bracket had no answer for Lancelot Supersad, Jr. Over the first five rounds, Mr. Supersad dropped his opponents with ease and picked up plenty of momentum along the way. He took down LaAdrian Waddle, did away with Dallas Ennema, dispatched Jazznique St. Junious, thundered past Dr. Electron Kebebew, and then, in a Final Four masterstroke, outlasted the plural noun attack of the Bulltron Regional’s one-seed, Cherries Waffles Tennis. With his latest and greatest victory in his rear-view mirror, Lancelot has snowballed his way into the championship match.

And from the right side of that bracket:

His final quest will require another heroic effort, because his opponent has steamrolled through her matchups as well. Amanda Miranda Panda began by thumping Shanda Licking before taking down Tunis van Peenen in round two. She continued her assault through the Chrotchtangle Regional by felling Beethoven Bong in the Sweet Sixteen and Miraculous Powers in the Elite Eight. Her Final Four showdown with Infinite Grover wasn’t particularly close; she ended the Staten Island man’s deep run by collecting nearly two-thirds of all votes.

Last I looked, about eleven hundred votes had been cast, probably not including yours. Get with it.

Update, 19 May: Amanda takes it all.


Decidedly unparalleled

There are regular street grids, and there are street grids that are not so regular. An example of the latter:

Apparently 4th Street turns sharply northwestward from 6th Avenue, and eventually runs into 12th Street. Not neat, perhaps, but comprehensible from a map. Similarly, if not so dramatic, is the corner of NW 23rd Street and Meridian Avenue in Oklahoma City: crawling off to the southeast is NW 19th Street. This makes more sense in the grid context when (or if) you remember that 19th was a streetcar route back in the day.

Turn this premise several degrees, and you have the next scenario. The big blue dot represents 4900 Springdale Road, Austin, Texas:

Bing Maps segment from east Austin

This is, on first glance, perfectly sensible: were the grid extended this far east, 4900 would be about two blocks south of 51st. But Martin Luther King used to be 19th Street, and it’s practically on your doorstep: you can see segments of 16th and 12th, right where they’re supposed to be. From 4900 to 1200, it’s only a mile. But 1200 to 700 (at 7th Street, natch) is 1.8 miles, because the east Austin street grid is convoluted in such a way you almost wonder if those crazy New Yorkers had something to do with this.

For the record, I have bicycled the entire length of Springdale, which disappears into Manor Road near US 290, resumes on the far side of the freeway, and peters out into insignificance a couple miles farther north; I eventually threaded my way to Pflugerville, which in those halcyon days of 1970 had 550 people instead of its current 55,000.

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Where all the blights are light

Jack Baruth here is talking about Columbus, Ohio, but some of this could apply to any capital of a state beginning with O:

These people have used the force and power that comes with money to have their dirty work done for them. Via the proxies of developers and city officials, they’ve eminent-domained hundreds of acres and forcibly displaced the people who lived there. They’ve torn down hundreds of homes and businesses to re-create the “Short North” in the image of Williamsburg. (Brooklyn, of course.) They’ve paid for this dirty work to be done and they are unhappy when it’s not done to their complete satisfaction. They want their Disney World, a “downtown” filled exclusively with high-net-worth individuals and a fascinating variety of shopping opportunities staffed by people who vanish into the ether when their shifts finish, and nothing less than perfection is acceptable.

It’s easy to hate them, easy to despise the unthinking, callous way in which they assume that the mere fact of their willingness to pay $500 a square foot for downtown condo space should remove all barriers, human or otherwise, to the SoHo lifestyle. But the real problem is that there aren’t enough of them and that they aren’t parents. The existence of a large group of successful young parents in downtown Columbus would improve everything from the streets to the schools, and those improvements would be shared with the people who live there now.

Unfortunately for that plan, most people with any sense, and certainly most people with any combination of sense and children, wouldn’t move into downtown Columbus if the housing were free. You get all the inconvenience of living in Manhattan with none of the benefits. You can’t park your car anywhere but there’s also no grocery to which you can walk. It’s noisy at night but there’s not a single jazz or blues club open. Most of the shops close at seven or before.

In some regards, we’re doing better: most new downtown housing is $300 a square foot or less, there’s something of a club scene, and there’s the John Rex School. The Native Roots Market in Deep Deuce is smallish as grocery stores go, but it’s close by, and it’s open most nights until 10 pm.

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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.


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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