Archive for Entirely Too Cool

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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I’d call this a pro tip

I hadn’t seen it before. It’s a restaurant ticket, pretty much like any other, except that at the bottom it calculates the “suggested gratuity” for you at three fairly standard rates: 15 percent, 18 percent (“GREAT!”) and 20 percent (“WOW!!”) On the $43.50 check used as illustration, 20 percent is given as $7.99; since 20 percent of $43.50 is in fact $8.70, I’m assuming they’re figuring it before taxes. Me, I’d probably round it up to $9, because that’s just how I roll.

The chap who actually got this particular check, however, left quite a bit more:

It’s common to leave a nice tip for restaurant waitstaff who do a good job. But one man went above and beyond with his restaurant gratuity, leaving behind a $3,000 tip on a $43.50 check for a struggling waitress.

Mike, a resident in New York City, left the massive tip for a waitress who was facing some hard times. “This woman had been serving us for almost a year now. She’s a lovely individual, and she talked about how she was served an eviction notice last month,” Mike told ABC News.

Mike, who asked to remain anonymous, made the tip as part of the ReesSpecht Life foundation, a pay-it-forward movement started by teacher Ray Specht after the tragic death of his 22-month-old son. Mike asked the waitress to not “let ‘Pay it Forward’ end with you.”

Not all of us can afford to part with three grand on just such an occasion, but it’s heartening when someone can, and does.

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Stepping outré

I still think there’s a greater need for variable heel heights, but maybe that comes later. In the meantime, we’re on the verge of variable trim colors:

I do hope there’s enough security built into this system to keep other people from changing your shoes with their apps.

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Why Google still rules

Apparently they can handle even the most horribly mangled English:

(Via Rand Simberg.)

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Advanced shelling

The SB Nation title was “TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON,” and justifiably so, since it’s about a taco cannon:

The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks just had their most successful season in history, with the school’s hockey team making its first Frozen Four, and they’re building a new $80 million arena set to open in October. Whether that arena has good sports teams or nice seats or structural integrity is irrelevant, because it has something more important:

This is the sort of thing that has to happen when Pinkie Pie and Sonata Dusk get together.

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No place to dive

PB Jams is a little sandwich shop on 38th west of MacArthur, owned by Ashley Jiron. The other day, she was a bit unnerved to discover that someone had been Dumpster-diving on the premises: “I had noticed some bags, when I had taken out the trash, were torn open and some of the food was taken out.”

Someone else might have put up a sign saying Don’t Do That. She chose to do this:

Sign posted at PB Jams

“I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it,” Ashley said.

The sign, she says, will stay until the diver returns and takes advantage of her offer.

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Like the priests for whom they were named

The San Diego Padres are spending about $125 million on player salaries this year, ninth highest in Major League Baseball. And the team is spending money on a pitcher who can no longer pitch, there being no place for his wheelchair on the mound, but that doesn’t matter to the club’s front office:

San Diego has signed former left-hander Matt LaChappa to a minor league deal each year since 1996, when LaChappa suffered a heart attack while warming up in the bullpen for a Class-A game. He was only 20 at the time.

Now minor-league players aren’t exactly rolling in dough, so this isn’t costing the Padres a whole lot. Still, there’s a very good, even very kind, reason for this:

LaChappa, now 39, is now a wheelchair user, and his contract with the Padres gives him access to health insurance.

If possible, this is even more remarkable: LaChappa was pitching for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League, which in 1996 was the Class A affiliate of the Padres. Affiliations change over the years, and the Quakes are now a farm club of the Los Angeles Dodgers; the Padres’ current Class A club is the Storm, over in Lake Elsinore. This doesn’t matter one bit to the Padres. Says Padres director of minor-league operations Priscilla Oppenheimer:

“It’s our way of saying to Matt that you’re a Padre for life. When Larry Lucchino [the team’s former president who now holds the same position with the Red Sox] was here, he said that’s the way it should be. And as long as I’m here, that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

(Via Fark.)

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Support your local pony fan

Now here’s a perfectly reasonable question:

I can imagine a Brony scholarship … where maybe I get to give scholarships to the people who drew the cutest fanart or made the fan-drawn comic that made me laugh the hardest. Darn it, why isn’t that a thing?

Well, of course you can make it a thing. But you won’t be the first:

The Brony Thank You Fund is now raising funds to start a permanent animation scholarship to Calarts, the school where such people as Lauren Faust, Craig McCracken, and Tim Burton got their start, among many, many others.

It took a little over a year, but it happened:

Pony makes things happen.

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Flexibility is mandated

If this product actually exists, we’re going to have Rockette-level high kicks on every Main Street in the nation:

Perhaps these are repurposed High Tide Heels.

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Quitting time

If I ever again have to leave a job, I hope I have the presence of mind to do it this way:

I actually did give a letter of notice. I wrote it that morning, backdated of course, and shoved it under the rat’s nest of papers on BossMan’s desk. Archaeologists, later on in the millenia, find it and say “What does that mean, die in a crotchfire?” To which another archaeologist will sneer, “Let me Google that for you.”

“Crotchfire,” incidentally, is one of very few words that will reliably trigger involuntary leg-crossing.

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