Archive for Entirely Too Cool

All zoom, no doom

So you’ve just picked up your brand-new Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster from the dealership, and suddenly the Worst Possible Thing ensues:

Things started on Monday, when the Miata’s buyer and his wife went to pick up their new, unashamedly red (“Soul Red,” according to Mazda) Launch Edition Miata, which is one of a series of only 1000. Barely a mile or so away from the dealership, a Ford F-150, slammed into the rear of the Miata without even taking the courtesy to brake.

The force of the impact shoved the Miata into the car in front of it, basing in both ends and seemingly bending the unibody itself — which means the damage is likely much worse than it looks. Happily, neither the owner nor his wife were seriously injured. They weren’t entirely uninjured, as there was bruising and other sorts of injuries you’d expect from having an F-150 slam into your ass.

The car, of course, did not survive this intrusion by a hulking beast roughly two and a half times its weight. Post-wreck depression settled on the couple. The dealership went looking for another Launch Edition MX-5 for them, since they’re good customers.

But this was wholly unexpected. The buyer posted the following on an MX-5 forum:

Then, yesterday afternoon, I received 2 calls from [Mazda North American Operations] informing me that my name was on a replacement LE 6MT that is in transit and will dock in Jacksonville around August 15. On to Tom Bush [the dealership] soon after that.

Dejargoning: “6MT” indicates a six-speed manual transmission. Otherwise, does that sound like what I think it does? Yes, it does:

Yep, Mazda is stepping up and sending them a replacement, brand-new Miata. It’s worth noting that Mazda was really in no way obligated to do this — the whole mess was clearly the owner’s and insurance companies’ problem at this point — but that they did it anyway speaks volumes, and I suspect the good PR they get will easily be worth the value of the car.

MNAO will take possession of the remains, perhaps for research purposes: this is the first car of this design actually to be crashed, and much might be learned from it. And if they sell only a dozen additional cars to people who are impressed by this gesture, they’ve more than earned back the price of that single roadster.

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Go fan yourselves

The Europeans — the taller ones, anyway — tend to look down their noses at us because we spend money on air conditioning. The proper response to this is “Who the hell asked you?”

For Europeans reading this, I may actually be able to clear up this baffling issue: Americans use air conditioning more because America is a lot hotter than Europe is. For example, in Washington, where the weather is apparently “pretty similar” to Berlin, it is expected to be 87 degrees Fahrenheit (31 Celsius) tomorrow. In Berlin, Weather.com informs me that temperatures are expected to be a torrid, sultry … 75 Fahrenheit (23 Celsius).

Of course, on any two random days, the weather might be unseasonably cold or unseasonably hot. You really need to look at monthly averages. And lo and behold, when we look, we discover that Washington has an average [high] temperature of 88 degrees in July, while Berlin has an average temperature of … 73 (yes, that is indeed 31 and 23 Celsius).

And we’re not talking about a place that’s really hot, like Dallas (average July [high] temperature is 96, or 36 Celsius) or Phoenix (106, or 41 Celsius). We’re just talking about a rather ordinary American city in roughly the middle of the country’s north-to-south span.

The District of Columbia, the home of our correspondent, would probably object to being called “rather ordinary,” but its weather is notable only because it inconveniences the government.

We do have some cities with more European temperatures, including San Francisco and Seattle, but they are not our largest population centers. The rest of the country, even places that are frozen wastelands in the winter, experiences summertime average highs above 80 degrees. That’s not a rogue heat wave, the kind that Northern Europeans complain about endlessly while futilely fiddling with their fans. That’s just what we Americans call “summer.” A heat wave is when it’s 100 degrees (38 Celsius) and your dog won’t go outside because the pavement burns his feet.

This latter example, incidentally, explains the practical superiority of the Fahrenheit scale: you go outside — without the dog, because he knows what awaits should he go — and when you return, you wail, “Jeebus, it must be a hundred degrees out there!” And you’d be right.

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Followed by twenty years of groveling

News Item: The parent company of Ashley Madison, a matchmaking website for cheating spouses, says it was hacked and that the personal information of some of its users was posted online.

Yep.

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It’s bleeding demised

It was, however, quite impossible to nail to the perch:

To celebrate the achievements of the Monty Python crew, UKTV channel Gold — which will air the final performance of the [Python] reunion on Sunday — contracted with sculptor Iain Prendergast to create a 50-foot fiberglass version of the famous “Norwegian Blue” parrot. The parrot, which is famous for being dead from the moment it was sold, was placed on Monday at Potters Fields Park in South London, near Tower Bridge. This is both a fine reminder to tune in on Sunday to the broadcast and an outstanding opportunity to inspire countless visitors to declare in increasingly frantic tones that “This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late parrot! It’s a stiff!”

Actual picture at the link. We’re assuming that the Choir Invisible would in fact be available for comment if they weren’t also inaudible.

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Did I call it, or what?

Back in January I ran a shot from a Tesla Model S P85D’s touchscreen, with two speed options selectable: “Sport” or “Insane.” Total tool of pop culture that I am, I titled that piece “Ludicrous speed.”

And now “Ludicrous” is being added as a legitimate option:

[O]wners and buyers can now upgrade to the new Ludicrous Mode on the Model S P85D. This upgrade is quite involved, requiring a new, advanced “smart fuse” and upgraded main pack contacter. Together, the upgrades result in a 2.8 second sprint to 60 mph — an improvement of 10 percent — and a quarter-mile time of 10.9 seconds, states [Elon] Musk. Car and Driver says the upgrade gives the Model S 762 horsepower.

If you are ordering a new P85D and want the Ludicrous Model update, prepare to shell out $10,000 plus another $3,000 for the required range update.

As usual, the upgrade will be offered to current P85D owners, though since it involves about $5000 worth of new hardware, it will require more than just the usual software download.

Dark Helmet, I assume, will be pleased.

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A slightly quieter crash

A lot of different things happen during a car crash, none of them good and several of them loud. Mercedes-Benz is trying to offset that noise:

When your ear hears a sudden loud noise, the acoustic reflex contracts the stapedius muscle in the middle ear to block out the sound, protecting the sensitive eardrums and other bits of the inner ear.

Mercedes has taken advantage of this in the E-Class, with a new feature called Pre-Safe Sound. When the car senses an imminent impact (using onboard cameras and ultrasonic sensors), the stereo plays a loud static-type noise around 85 decibels. It’s not so loud that it hurts, but it’s loud enough to trigger the acoustic reflex and protect the ear from the much louder sound of the accident that arrives a moment later.

This strikes me as eminently more useful than, for instance, the recent tendency of automakers to pipe engine noise into the cabin.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Why we look forward to the weekend

When there’s a new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, there’s a manic Fark thread to discuss it, and inevitably thread drift is measured on the tidal scale. This week’s thread produced an utterly irrelevant but sort of amusing graphic, of Lyra Heartstrings sitting in the back seat:

Lyra Heartstrings as Rebecca Black

Which proves, I suppose, that it’s possible to get down on Saturday, if you get up early enough.

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Bless you, Ottawa

Hmmm. Maybe I need an “Entirely Too Warm” category. Or, you know, not:

A coffee cup from the Great White North

(Handed down through the years from Todd Wilbur’s Facebook page. Probability of Photoshop: greater than 50 percent.)

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Not from Federation stock

Flip phone chassis designed to look like a Star Trek communicatorThe argument for the flip phone, of late, has been pretty much limited to “Hey, they were good enough for Star Trek, weren’t they?” Well, things just got a little bit more complicated:

Structured-light 3D scanning allowed the Wand Company to ensure that every line and curve of the original communicator was perfectly captured. And while the Wand Company’s latest product won’t be able to call a starship orbiting the planet, it will pair with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to answer calls with a flick of the classic antenna grille.

The Communicator will include a sleek stand, using an invisible magnetic catch to hold the Communicator securely in place. It also has a built-in wireless charging capability, so that the Communicator will always be fully charged and ready for use.

Diecast metal, stamped and machined aluminum, specially made microphone and antenna grilles and a painstakingly reproduced housing texture further ensure that the Communicator is a serious prop that will delight collectors.

“Serious prop.” I like that. It’s not really a phone itself, of course, but it will let you talk to one.

The Star Trek Web site is taking preorders at $149.95. The Wand Company has already begun producing phasers, kinda sorta.

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What’s new, non-pussycat?

In terms of sheer shock value, this announcement ranks second only to the revelation that the star of same is not actually a cat:

[T]here’s going to be a Hello Kitty movie. Repeat: Hello Kitty is getting her own movie. Need to hear this information one more time? Hello Kitty + movie = our wildest dreams have FINALLY come true.

According to Deadline Hollywood, Sanrio is ready to take this kitty to the big screen (OK, but she’s not really a cat, we get it). It was only a matter of time before she made this big leap. Our Kitty White already has a well established empire, including, but not limited to: television shows, conventions, cafes, food trucks, a clothing line, a jewelry line, an organic farm, appearances at theme parks, and the list goes on and on. A big budget blockbuster just makes sense.

Wait a minute. Big budget?

Deadline reports that it’ll be anywhere from $160 million–$240 million. Just for comparison, both Inside Out and Jurassic World had budgets between $150 and $200 million. So I assume Hello Kitty: The Movie will be made out of gold and then painted pink.

So in terms of production values, this is the anti-Equestria Girls. Got it.

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Engage

Surely this ring will persuade her to make it so:

Star Trek-inspired ring by Paul Michael Design

I missed this when it came out last year, but apparently it’s resurfaced in time for Comic-Con, or something:

Pittsburgh-based jewelry designer Paul Michael Bierker of Paul Michael Design created a ring worthy of any captain of someone’s heart.

The “Boldly Going Somewhere” ring, for sale on Etsy for $595 plus shipping, is available in a choice of metals and gems, including white gold with color-enhanced blue diamonds and white diamond galaxy; white gold with topaz and white diamond galaxy; sterling silver with blue topaz and cubic zirconia; or platinum with blue color-enhanced diamonds and white diamond galaxy.

But will this actually convince her? Dammit, Jim, I’m a blogger, not a fortune-teller.

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We trike harder

Yours truly, a few months back:

The Elio Motors three-wheeler, to borrow an old phrase, is the car of the future, and it always will be. I mentioned the little ultra-econobox last year, and quoted its ship date as “next spring.” It’s not going to happen in the next eighty days, guys.

That said, the unicorn has been sighted and even photographed:

Occasionally the Elio team travels around the country showing off the Elio. Last week I was finally able to see one in person and actually sit inside.

There’s a decent amount of room inside for humans. For baggage, not so much:

The trunk’s measurements are 27″x14″x10″. For comparison, American Airlines allows 22″x14″9″ for carry on bags. Essentially you’ll have enough room back there for one carry on bag and a couple of sandwiches or something.

None of that Dagwood stuff, though.

Still, hope springs eternal:

Currently I am holding a reservation spot with a $100 down payment, but based on what I saw I am thinking about upgrading to the maximum $1,000 spot. My only trepidation at the moment is that the car was originally slated for a 2014 release date and it has already been pushed back 2½ years to mid-2016 … and with where I would end up in line I most likely wouldn’t see mine until 2017, if the car ships at all. $100 isn’t much to hold a spot for a car that might eventually see the market, but $1,000 is a serious investment.

The incentive on non-refundable reservations: half again as much gets applied to the purchase price. So he’ll get $150 off when they ship. (For now, MSRP is a stunningly modest $6,800.)

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No computer left behind

The idea of the “user port” on the Commodore 64 was simply this: if you can program it, we’ll give you lines and a little bit of memory to support it. And now, 802.11 has arrived:

Schema is developing a Wi-Fi cartridge for the Commodore 64. At this moment he has a working prototype that is communicating on 2400 Baud. You can use a standard terminal program for the communication and all the RS-232 signals are supported.

Old C-64 hands will remember that the user port was forever limited to 2400 bps — until, of course, it wasn’t.

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A whole Heep of names

There is a very long Wikipedia page which lists various characters in the works of Charles Dickens. It turns out that he had plenty more to come:

Understandably, thinking of names for these characters was quite a task, and so Dickens kept lists to be considered for future use.

George Muzzle and Thomas Fatherly sound particularly Dickensian.

On the distaff side, you’ll find Matilda Rainbird, Birdie Nash, and two names I wish I’d thought of when I was projecting a female persona back in the Bronze Age: Miriam Denial and Verity Mawkyard. (There really needs to be a Verity Mawkyard blog.)

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Mercatoring to a niche market

Oh, look, it’s time for a new shower curtain:

It’s a map curtain. A map of the world. (And eeep, I might have to get a liner, there’s a lot of blank clear curtain there. No, not so that no one can see me, but so that it’s not such a clear sight into my tub when the curtain is pulled, because the tub is often the LAST thing I get around to cleaning.) (And I observe: it seems wrong you would have to CLEAN the place you go to WASH, but there you are)

Imagine how it might be if we had to dry-clean ourselves. (Some of those fluids are, um, nasty.)

Come to think of it, I’m at the point where I need a new liner. The curtain itself is okay, if flimsy. And the liner, I suspect, is probably not going to have a disclaimer like this:

“This curtain is intended for decorative purposes only and does not conform exactly to Global Map Accuracy Standards.”

This should serve as a warning to anyone planning to sail around the world using a shower curtain for navigation.

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Watching Kitty land

About three years ago, I did a brief piece on a Hello Kitty-branded jet, courtesy of Taiwan’s Eva Air. I did not anticipate it might ever fly to the States at all, let alone to Houston, Texas [warning: autostart video]:

When Taiwanese carrier Eva Air, which Friday launched its nonstop service between Taipei and Bush Intercontinental Airport, promises your flight will have plenty of Hello Kitty, it is not kidding.

The outside of the plane, newly painted, is emblazoned with Hello Kitty and related characters.

Inside the jet, Hello Kitty is queen. Carrots and fruit are cut in the shape of her face and into star shapes for in-flight meals. Hello Kitty keeps you company in the bathroom with printed toilet paper and helps you sleep soundly on a Hello Kitty pillow.

How much of this will Houston be able to take?

Eva Air’s Taipei-to-Houston route will initially have flights three days a week, all on the themed jet. The frequency jumps to four days in July, with the fourth flight on a regular plane. The Boeing 777-300ER has 333 seats, consisting of 39 business class, 56 premium economy and 238 economy.

Truth be told, the concept of “premium economy” perplexes me more than Hello Kitty ever did.

(Via Fark.)

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Reptiles in motion

Akiyoshi Kitaoka, way back when, created a fearsome optical illusion which he called “Rotating Snakes.” At full size (1024 x 768), it will make your head spin. And if it creeps you out, think what it does to an unsuspecting kitten:

This sort of thing ought to be in a scientific paper, should it not? Well, it is.

(Via Viralnova.)

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What a re-Leaf it is

A spent battery pack from a Nissan Leaf isn’t dead: while it may not have enough juice left to move a ton and a half of electric car, it’s still a viable storage device, which explains this scheme:

Instead of building fresh batteries for commercial stationary applications, Nissan will instead reuse lithium-ion batteries from the LEAF with partner Green Charge Networks.

The first application “will be installed at a Nissan facility this summer, where multiple Nissan LEAF batteries will be configured to offset peak electricity demand,” said Nissan.

Your air conditioner is already smiling, right?

“A lithium-ion battery from a Nissan LEAF still holds a great deal of value as energy storage, even after it is removed from the vehicle, so Nissan expects to be able to reuse a majority of LEAF battery packs in non-automotive applications,” said Brad Smith, director of Nissan’s 4R Energy business.

Which is better than pitching them into whatever other post-automotive hell exists.

The battery pack, new, is good for 24 kWh; Nissan considers it usable for automotive purposes if 75 percent is available. So recently-culled battery packs should be just below 18 kWh or so, which is a fair amount of juice.

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No future for you: priceless

WFMU headlined it this way, and I can’t possibly top that:

But why? The bank’s director of cards explains:

“In launching these cards, we wanted to celebrate Virgin’s heritage and difference. The Sex Pistols challenged convention and the established ways of thinking — just as we are doing today in our quest to shake up UK banking.”

Not too anarchist, one assumes: the cards carry an interest rate of 18.9 percent.

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Rise of the composer

This may well be too much to believe, but I don’t find it so:

“[O]ne gentleman came by and he just looked at me and didn’t say anything. He walked on. And he stopped 50 meters later and turned around and came back, and said, what are you doing? The guitar? Are you a busker? I said, no, no, I’m writing a symphony. Oh, you’re a composer? I said, well, sort of. He said, well, have you got school? I said, no, I can’t write music. And he went, how are you going to write a symphony then? I said because I’ve got it on tape and I can play little bits of it. He said, where are you living?

“And I said, well, I’m living rough, actually. And I’m living in a hostel for the homeless and just bumming around, really. I’m looking for the next stage in my development of this great story. He said, I’m a jazz musician. Look, why don’t you come and stay with me for a couple of hours? I’ll take you back to my house. I’ve got a piano. Let me hear your melodies and I’ll see what I can do on the piano, see if I can extemporize it for you. So I said, well, that’s really kind of you. And he took me back to his house. His wife was absolutely furious. She said to him, are you going completely crazy? This guy could be a murderer. We’ve got a child — got a baby, and you’re bringing him — well, he was not to stay long, just for a few hours. Just kindly make him a bit of soup or something. And I stayed there for six weeks. The first night, I started playing the melody, and he started feeling it on the piano.”

That was 1982. Anthony Wade, the jazzman in question, told Stuart Sharp that yes indeed, this was a worthy work, but it would take at least a million pounds to get it recorded by, say, the London Philharmonia Orchestra. So Sharp went off to earn a million pounds:

He started off by getting a job at the homeless center. Then he got various sales jobs working exclusively on commission, something for which he showed an uncanny ability. He spent years flipping houses for the local council and then, he started doing it for himself. Many houses and 15 years later, he had saved one million pounds.

Wade, who’d evidently never expected to see Sharp again, was thunderstruck.

The entire work was recorded — by, yes, the Philharmonia — and about a third of it follows:

Says Dave Schuler:

I don’t know whether Stuart Sharp is insane or a genius or a huckster or maybe a little of all three but let’s take his story at face value. If everything happened as he said it did, his story sounds familiar. He had a genuinely transcendent experience. Like Moses, Paul of Tarsus, and Mohammed. He had the experience, it overwhelmed him, and, despite a lack of any training or professional experience, he felt compelled to put that experience into a form in which it could be shared with others.

I don’t know whether he was touched by the hand of God or not but I’m not sure we have a better way to describe it.

Asked if he’d go through this again, Sharp said: “I didn’t have any choice. You have been given a gift, go and use it. So there’s no choice for me.”

One does not, after all, argue with the hand of God.

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Not the middle of nowhere

We’re talking far off to the edge. This was just another item from RadioInsight, but it led me to other stuff. Prepare for Major Tangent Exploration:

Gambell, AK is located on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Strait closer to the Russian mainland than North America. The Nome Seventh-Day Adventist Church has applied to bring the first radio station to Gambell operating with 90 watts at 9 meters on 89.3. The new station would operate as a satellite of 89.3 KQQN Nome (Coverage Map).

Wikipedia reports on the town:

St. Lawrence Island has been inhabited sporadically for the past 2,000 years by both Alaskan Yup’ik and Siberian Yupik people. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the island had a population of about 4,000.

Between 1878 and 1880 a famine decimated the island’s population. Many who did not starve left. The remaining population of St. Lawrence Island was nearly all Siberian Yupik.

Checking out the island itself (current population about 1,300):

The island contains two villages: Savoonga and Gambell. The two villages were given title to most of the land on St. Lawrence Island by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971. As a result of having title to the land, the Yupik are legally able to sell the fossilized ivory and other artifacts found on St. Lawrence Island.

Savoonga, you should know, is the Walrus Capital of the World. But this story from Gambell tore at the old heartstrings:

In 1982, George Guthridge brought his wife and two young daughters to Gambell, Alaska, a small village on the edge of the remote blizzard-swept St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, one of the harshest and most remote places in Alaska. Guthridge was there to teach at a Siberian-Yupik school — a school so troubled it was under threat of closure.

For its own reasons, the school district enters the students into one of the most difficult academic competitions in the nation. The school has no computers and very few books. The students lack world knowledge and speak English as a second language. Still, George resolves to coach them to a state championship. But the students have an even greater goal of their own.

And I have to grin at Guthridge’s bio:

I have published over 70 short stories and five novels, and have been a finalist for the Hugo Award and twice for the Nebula Award, for science fiction and fantasy. In 1998 my coauthor, Janet Berliner, and I won the Bram Stoker Award for the year’s best horror novel.

I am probably best known for having coached ten students from the Siberian-Yupik (Eskimo) village of Gambell, on blizzard-swept St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, to national championships in academics. They became the only Native American team ever to do that — and they did it twice.

Oh, and this is what they did.

If you’re curious, Guthridge and Berliner won that Bram Stoker award for Children of the Dusk, the third and final novel in the Madagascar Manifesto series.

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Synths and sensibility

This Fark blurb caught my eye last night: “Happy Birthday to Robert Moog. Stand up and give him a sine wave”.

And this is what it brought me:

Featured: a newly constructed exact duplicate of the Moog Modular Synthesizer from the middle Sixties, as used by Keith Emerson. Turn it up loud and scare the family pets.

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Apply Miskatonic as needed

InStyle.com has a little slideshow called “The Weird and Wonderful Past of the Hair Dryer,” from which I have plucked this one item for your dining and dancing pleasure:

1936 hair dryer

Of this particular model, they say:

Alien abduction, or hair styling session? This model, showcased at the 1936 Hair and Beauty Fair in London, featured a series of heat-radiating rods to completely cover the head.

If your stylist should resemble Ithaqua the Wind Walker, you perhaps should try another salon.

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Digging those deep cuts

So Russell Westbrook puts up a brief (well, it would have to be) Instagram video in which he’s singing along with Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.”

Swift, who seemingly never misses anything, was quick to respond:

Life is good, right, Russ?

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Fan services

This is one of those things that aren’t taught in schools:

My in-window fan has an option to direct the air outward instead of inward. I have absolutely no idea what the purpose of this is, but I am loving the white noise it creates without making my room cold, since the temperature dropped a bit over the last couple of days (and that it drowns out my neighbor’s child, whose goal in life seems to be to see how loudly and for how long he can pointlessly scream).

If it drowns out a noisy moppet, it’s already justified.

But directing the air outward — the “exhaust” setting — has a purpose besides white noise: it sends indoor air outside, which is useful if that air isn’t all that wonderful. (There’s a reason why all bathroom fans are exhaust fans.) I’ve been known to use a fan for white-noise generation myself; if the room doesn’t need cooling, I turn it away from me. Slightly different pitch, but similar results.

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Wear your dog tags

And nothing else, if you’re so inclined:

[A]n outfit in Scranton, Kan., just south of Topeka, seeks to honor troops and veterans in a rather unusual way — it’s a nudist colony that is waiving all admission fees over the three-day holiday weekend to any guest who shows a military ID card or proof of military service.

Yes, the 30-acre Prairie Haven nudist colony and campground, which features tent and RV sites as well as cabins, wants to give troops and vets a free opportunity to soak up more sun than perhaps they’ve ever soaked up in their lives.

“Colony” is considered Oldspeak among nudists, but this does strike me as a heck of a deal, especially if there’s some therapeutic effect:

[A] 2013 report by WFTS, a television station in Tampa, Fla., featured former Army officer Max Sanchez, who said his regular visits to a local nudist colony in that state has helped him cope with behavioral disorders — flashbacks, nightmares, sleep problems — that he said were lingering souvenirs from a yearlong combat tour in Vietnam.

This is the second year Prairie Haven has offered this promotion, having discovered last year that some of their regulars were coming in from nearby Fort Riley.

(Via Breaking Shame.)

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No longer keeping up

Who says there aren’t any good new browser extensions? Not I, after this:

If you want to live in a Kardashian-free world, there’s now an ad block for that.

The KardBlock browser extension, created by the same person who successfully put his resume on Tinder back in September, removes the Kardashians from your feed.

This will perforce block most Bruce Caitlyn Jenner news, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

Coming soon: similar code to expunge all references to Justin Bieber.

(Via Fark.)

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Hang the fees

Another one of my lingering questions, answered while I wasn’t looking: “Is there an automatic teller machine in Antarctica?” There is:

Despite the frigid temperatures, ornery elephant seals, and months of perpetual darkness, Antarctica is still a place where money matters. That’s where Wells Fargo comes in.

The banking conglomerate installed an automatic teller machine (ATM) back in 1998 at McMurdo Station, the largest science hub on the continent. Depending on the season, McMurdo’s population ranges from 250 to more than 1000. And like any small community, commerce is crucial. In order to patronize the coffee shops, general stores, bars, or post office, money is exchanged in what amounts to a closed economy. Some places only accept cash; others have a credit card minimum that’s hard to meet when you need just a couple of items.

And who fixes it when it’s broken?

According to Wells Fargo spokesperson Kristopher Dahl, the company trains McMurdo staff to make simple repairs; more importantly, there’s a second ATM that can be cannibalized for parts. “Every two years, both machines are serviced and brought up to speed on the latest technology,” he says. The vendors chosen for that job undergo a psychological exam and a physical to make sure they’re equipped to deal with the Antarctic climate in case they get held over.

“Latest technology” tells me that they’re not running Windows XP, anyway.

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No needle and no damage done

A record player that costs as much as a small car:

ELP Laser Turntable

This Laser Turntable, in varying incarnations, has been made by ELP Corporation in Japan for a couple of decades now. The pitch has always been the same: the laser tracks the groove, but nothing ever actually touches the surface of the record, so there is no wear or degradation.

Surely there has to be a downside, apart from that five-figure price tag. I thought about it for a moment, and this bit from the archives popped into my head:

Do not use SensEpil on naturally dark skin complexion. SensEpil removes unwanted hair by selectively addressing hair pigment. Varied quantities of pigment also exist in the surrounding tissue of skin. The quantity of pigment in a particular person’s skin, which is manifested by their skin complexion, determines the degree of risk they are exposed to using SensEpil. Treating dark skin can result in adverse effects such as burns, blisters, and skin color changes (hyper- or hypo-pigmentation). Many other laser and light devices, professionally and at home, also have the same restrictions on naturally dark skin complexion.

And then I thought about that red-vinyl copy of Nazz Nazz sitting on the shelf, and concluded that this high-zoot turntable wouldn’t play it well, if at all. Turns out I was right:

Our LT Master #1 is our full-featured, entry level model. Like all Laser Turntable models, this unit plays only Black records. It supports LPs and 45s. It also supports standard album sizes up to 12 inches.

For most people, this is not a disadvantage: I don’t think I have more than a dozen examples of colored vinyl. One of them is that creepy glow-in-the-dark off-white, which for all I know might actually damage the darn machine.

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Entering maximum meta

I mean, you can’t get much meta-er than this:

And if you can, please send it along. In the meantime, here’s a classic from Roberta X:

This reminds me — the Hofstadter’s Law T-shirts are still running way behind schedule. Really thought we’d planned for that.

Now that’s meta within meta.

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