Puts the “ack” in “snack”

So apparently this is what we get for complaining about Cool Ranch Doritos:

Lay's Hot Chili Squid Chips from Thailand

The keepers of the late, lamented Munchies Blog tried a bag and lived to tell:

We at Munchies Blog have tried many strange chips here, but none had us as scared as Lay’s Hot Chili Squid. As Roy opened up the bag he simply exclaimed “Oh my god” and smelled the bag, “it’s like rotten fish.” I went to the bag and took a whiff and it was all true, it smelled like the bottom of the sea, but would it taste like it?

And actually, it wasn’t quite as repulsive as it sounds:

[T]he taste itself wasn’t particularly fishy or squidlike, but rather a mild fishlike taste and a semi-spicy kick at the very end. As you take the bite the hardest part is actually overcoming the smell of the chip and allowing yourself to eat them. Once that first bite is down, however, they aren’t so bad.

And I suppose that there are worse flavors out there.

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A bug in one’s word salad

Received in the comment-spam trap:

The umpire called after him, “Hey son, you have another strike left. It can be a bit tricky to apply, but once on there will offer superb protection as well as taking nothing away from the phone’s looks. You’ll have to go with your gut feeling on this one. We have polyester petticoats to support the various dress styles; including hoop petticoats. It is important to know what the evening may entail when determining how to dress. Get that coveted Cinderella princess costume along with the princess costumes adult. This article and photos are not available to repost on websites, blogs, Facebook, or elsewhere.

Well, thank heaven for that. I was worried about having to read this paragraph over again.

Oh, they did send a link, which promptly 404ed.


Strange search-engine queries (495)

Yes, folks, it’s time once again for us to shake out the logs and hope something funny, or at least inexplicably stupid, falls out. Fortunately, something usually does.

viascum scam:  Or is that “viascam scum”?

when you barely stick the tip in:  You get her just as pregnant, with none of the attendant pleasures.

just gopher it:  I can’t gopher that. (No can do.)

superior potassium:  Sort of like Special K, then?

bobby goldsboro ethnicity:  He Japanese boy, he love you.

nothing ruins hump day like:  Not humping.

bra “uncomfortable”:  Well, Chuckie, you probably shouldn’t have been rummaging through your sister’s underwear drawer.

men pee pants:  Well, Chuckie, you probably shouldn’t have been rummaging through your father’s liquor cabinet.

men pout:  Especially, I surmise, after they’ve just peed their pants.

spoiler on the back of a car:  Because putting it on the front would look stupid.

seven students — four girls and three boys — have volunteered to direct the class play. mrs. barry decides the only fair way to pick a director is to put all of their names in a hat and draw a name. what is the theoretical probability that a boy’s name will be chosen?  Zero. If they don’t pick a girl, they’ll be facing a Title IX hearing.

gruesome car accident photos with the dead bodies:  You know, Chuckie, I think you were better off wearing your sister’s underwear.


The new Shell game

I am a consistent user of Shell V-Power gasoline, partly because this town is awash in Shell stations, but mostly because Gwendolyn seems to like it, whether or not it’s cut with a few percentage points of ethanol.

Of late, Shell is claiming a new formulation which they have dubbed “V-Power NiTRO+,” a name it’s probably too late to change. I have just enough background in chemistry to wonder just what the hell difference a shot of nitrogen is going to make to the inside of a combustion chamber. I admit, I have my tires pumped up with nitrogen, mostly because it doesn’t leak quite as quickly as ordinary four-fifths-nitrogen air, but this wouldn’t seem to be an issue with engine internals, though Shell assures me that it contains “seven times the cleaning agents required to meet federal standards [and] removes an average of 60% of harmful intake valve deposits left behind by lower quality premium gasoline.”

In other words, their premium gas is premium-er. It’s certainly priced that way. Over the years, the gap between regular and premium has grown from 20 to 26 to 32 cents; the new stuff commands a 40-cent surcharge at two stations I checked, one a chain, one an independent. “Must be really Top Tier,” I said to myself as I listened to the gas cap click.

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Angle of attack

Professional race-car driver Jack Baruth has seen plenty of this:

[T]he average American driver merges onto the freeway by looking dead straight ahead, accelerating to about ten miles per hour below the speed limit, and rolling down said merge lane until it ends, at which point he moves over without turning his head a millimeter in either direction.

Imagine how below-average American drivers must do it. I see plenty of them every day on the freeways of Oklahoma City, which have adequate capacity but which are often clogged because of said below-average drivers. One particular subgenus thereof has been on the receiving end of my wrath for at least seventeen years now:

Around here, the police call it “rubbernecking”, and you’ve seen it too: six-car pileup in the far lane, doofus driving by goes through some seriously-contorting neck-craning to get a good look at the carnage, and suddenly it’s a seven-car pileup. Needless to say, the fellows in blue are not thrilled with this sort of thing, but it’s never going to go away — it’s as American as baseball, apple pie, and the remains of a ’91 Chevy being dragged onto a tow-hook. As a people, we love it.

Which is of course untrue: we don’t love it, unless we’re doing it ourselves, as does some corksoaking icehole on I-35 north of I-40 a minimum of four days a week. Then again, traffic moving at 15 mph almost simplifies merging.

Almost. We must allow for the fact that until early in the twenty-first century, ODOT budgeted a maximum of $19.95 per onramp, and as a result the older freeway approaches are nasty, brutish and short. Few, though, are as bad as Classen to I-44 eastbound, which (1) approaches from the left and (2) does so blindly until the last possible moment. I take this every morning, every weekday morning, usually in the dark — the absolute earliest the sunrise comes in this town is 6:14 am, no thanks to DST — and whoever’s choogling along in the left lane, latte in hand, is never going to see me coming.

Reasoning that the latte-bearer is probably doing ten over, I make a practice of being fifteen over by the time the merge lane disappears into a line of Jersey barriers. This is more problematic than you think, since the approach starts on the last curve of the Classen Circle, and the first point at which oncoming traffic is visible is maybe 1.5 seconds away from the time you plow into it. I comfort myself with the thought that at 5000 rpm, I still have 1500 left. And this almost always works. But the operative word, once again, is “almost”:

I’ve seen plenty of cars just stopped dead at the end of on-ramps waiting for a thousand feet of clear space. That’s what happens when the driver simply can’t process the situation well enough to make it work any other way.

So I round the curve at 40, stretch toward the loud pedal, and as light falls upon the scene there’s someone just stopped dead, waiting for me to make his death a literal one. I have yet to plow into any of these folks, but the last time it happened there were two tailgaters trying to inhale my exhaust, and, well, it’s a damn good thing no one was around to take my blood-pressure reading.

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U wot, m8t?

If Australia’s anti-swearing laws are supposed to be protecting children, they’re doing a farking poor job of it:

In some Australian states, people can be spot-fined up to $500, and even spend time in prison, for swearing in public.

Quentin Bryce Law Doctoral Scholar at [University of Technology, Sydney], Elyse Methven, has pointed to research showing children are exposed to swearing at the age of one or two.

She said the evidence swear words were harmful was negligible.

And besides, the kids have already learned all those words — from you, okay? They learned them from you:

“Children around one or two know several swear words, and children of school age have a vocabulary of up to 42 taboo words.”

What’s more, there may be some therapeutic effect:

“There have been studies showing that when people swear, they can get some sort of pain-relief effect from the swearing.”

In which case, I know some people who should be able to smile while a lion gnaws on their extremities.


A somewhat bigger tent

Last month, Oklahoma Democrats let it be known to all and sundry that they were considering backing away from the closed-primary system by allowing registered Independents to vote in their primaries.

Yesterday, the state convention approved the proposal, 314-137. I asked a local activist if she thought this would be a boon to the party. Said she: “I think it’s worth a try. Status quo not in Dem’s favor.” Which in this state is surely true: registrations are about even, but the Republicans hold almost all the offices.

The GOP, which has already had its annual meeting, has given no indication that it might do likewise, and party chair/loose cannon Randy Brogdon has already poo-poohed the idea once.

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None of that microwave stuff

After hearing an actual popcorn machine, circa 1969, composer Gershon Kingsley put together a recording on Moog synthesizer, then titled “Pop Corn,” which became famous in electronic-music circles. In 1972, Kingsley associate Stan Free — they’d played together in the First Moog Quartet — cut an amped-up version that climbed to #9 in Billboard.

With all these electronics going on, the temptation to do “Popcorn” unplugged occurred to many; Herb Alpert’s version, which showed up on the 2005 Lost Treasures compilation, is a gem. But this sort-of-classical take by the composer himself is something else entirely:

This was recorded eight years ago, when Kingsley was a lad of 85. He’s still around today.

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You’ve got jail

Or at least you’re about to buy one, and you probably won’t like the financing options.

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A perfect night to dress up

Taylor Swift T.S. 1989 sweatshirtAbout five and a half billion people on this plain granite planet will recognize this sweatshirt as being part of Taylor Swift’s new clothing line, intended to promote her platinum / palladium / unobtainium album 1989, in stores now and not streaming very much. That leaves a billion and a half who might see something different in it:

The date — as well as being Swift’s year of birth — refers to her album and live tour of the same name, which she will perform in Shanghai in November.

But the date — and the initials TS — are particularly sensitive in China, as they signify the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, when hundreds of students were killed in pro-democracy protests.

Bad move? Maybe not. Chinese retailer JD.com, which will carry the Swift line, doesn’t seem to have any trouble selling the 1989 CD.

(Via Marginal Revolution.)

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World’s hottest politician

So said Maxim, once upon a time. Mara Carfagna, currently a member of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, started out as an actress and model; in 2004 she entered politics, and two years later won a seat as a member of the party Forza Italia. (Blatherskite Silvio Berlusconi, then in his second term as Prime Minister, quipped that Forza Italia, his own party, practiced the rule of droit du seigneur; this wouldn’t be the first time Berlusconi said something untoward about her.)

Mara Carfagna strikes a pose

For three years Carfagna served in Berlusconi’s cabinet as Minister of Equal Opportunity; when he resigned in 2011, she returned full-time to her seat in the Chamber of Deputies.

Mara Carfagna strikes a pose

And she also blogs. A recent post [Google translation, slightly tweaked]:

A run scored on behalf of all Italians. The OK by the Chamber’s Judiciary Committee to the proposals of Forza Italia who wanted tougher sentences for property crimes, such as robbery and burglary, is a small step forward to make citizens feel safer, or at least to make them feel more protected.

Mara Carfagna strikes a pose

Incidentally, that Maxim list showed up in 2008. (You’d never believe who came second. Or maybe you would. I think I would.)

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Fuzzy message

Haval is a Chinese automotive nameplate, an SUV-only line manufactured by Great Wall. (It does not include the teensy Great Wall Coolbear, which is strictly a city car, mentioned here solely because it’s called “Coolbear.”) In the opinion of Matt Gasnier, Haval did themselves proud at the Shanghai Auto Show, but one particular bit of news makes no sense:

Haval unveiled a new Red/Blue logo strategy at the Show. It’s a mystery to me that some Chinese manufacturers seem to often mess with something very clear and single-minded — this time brand positioning — by confusing the heck out of it. The creation, success and growth of the SUV-exclusive Haval brand in China in the past two years is potentially the most impressive strategic achievement of any Chinese carmaker, ever. Now to confuse it with two different philosophies and logos — labelled as “an impressive fission of Haval that will bring the brand to a new level” (cough) — this new strategy means Haval’s products will now be divided into two lines represented by a red or a blue logo. “Luxurious and classic Red Logo Haval targets mainstream families, and cool and trendy Blue Logo Haval targets young consumers” (Haval words). In the future, Haval’s sales network will be divided into the red network and the blue network, too. Say what?

Let’s see now. Who else had a Red and a Blue network?

On January 1, 1927, NBC formally divided its programming along two networks. The two NBC networks did not have distinct identities or “formats.” The NBC Red Network, with WEAF as its flagship station and a stronger line-up of affiliated stations, often carried the more popular, “big budget” sponsored programs. The Blue Network and WJZ carried with a somewhat smaller line-up of often lower powered stations sold program time to advertisers at a lower cost. It often carried newer, untried programs (which, if successful, often moved “up” to the Red Network), lower cost programs and un-sponsored or “sustaining” programs (which were often news, cultural and educational programs).

With the specter of antitrust action — remember antitrust action? — hanging over its head, NBC took its name off the Blue Network in 1942, then sold it the next year to a group that renamed it the American Broadcasting Company.

Still, that scheme lasted for a decade and a half. It shouldn’t take that long for Haval to figure out that this is a dumb idea.

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Confiscation nation

You can probably find someone Stateside who thinks this is a swell idea:

Venezuela’s embattled government has taken the drastic step of forcing food producers to sell their produce to the state, in a bid to counter the ever-worsening shortages.

Farmers and manufacturers who produce milk, pasta, oil, rice, sugar and flour have been told to supply between 30 per cent and 100 per cent of their products to the state stores. Shortages, rationing and queues outside supermarkets have become a way of life for Venezuelans, as their isolated country battles against rigid currency controls and a shortage of US dollars — making it difficult for Venezuelans to find imported goods.

The state stores, numbering 7245, are presumably hoping to get some coin of the realm back from people who prefer the 113,000 or so grocers in the private sector, represented by the Venezuelan Food Industry Chamber. You can guess what Pablo Baraybar, head of the Chamber, thinks of this whole scheme:

“Taking products from the supermarkets and shops to hand them over to the state network doesn’t help in any way,” he said. “And problems like speculating will only get worse, because the foods will be concentrated precisely in the areas where the resellers go.

“Consumers will be forced to spend more time in queues, given that the goods will be available in fewer stores.”

And you might think that Venezuelans have suffered enough already:

In March, Venezuelans were so worried about food shortages and diminishing stocks of basic goods, fingerprint scanners were installed in supermarkets in an attempt to crack down on hoarding.

Venezuela’s official rate of inflation hit 64 per cent last year — the highest in the world. The government hides the scale of shortages, but angry consumers regularly post photos of empty shelves on social media.

As with all socialist (and more than a few non-socialist) governments, “official” numbers are arguable at best.

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Meanwhile in Anaheim

What's next for Rebecca Black?Rebecca Black is at VidCon this weekend, and she sat for an interview with People and Entertainment Weekly, wherein one question that had been pushed to the back burner for a while was brought forward again:

[W]hile the recent high school graduate says that she’s been working on her debut album (which she hopes to have out before the end of the year) since the “Friday” video hit the web, it wasn’t until recently that things really started to take shape.

“I found a producer that I could work with well and that really understood what I wanted,” Black said. “A lot of it beforehand was sort of like songs picked for me, and I wasn’t really cool with that. Once I started actually getting into the writing process and being a writer on every song and loving and really connecting with every song, I think we are creating something really magical.”

Since to my knowledge she had only one writing credit in her eight previous singles (“Person of Interest,” fall 2011), this suggests that the whole album is New Stuff, and so does this:

Black also revealed that the inspiration for her new sound (“indie-alternative,” she says) came from the music she likes to listen to and her own life experiences — after all, she wrote most of the record while she was still finishing up her senior year of high school.

And when it finally drops, you’ll hear about it here.


In lieu of actual improvements

Flickr Pro, which was dead two years ago, is now somewhat less dead. Per an email received from their current overseers:

We’re re-launching Flickr Pro and making it available to all Flickr members.

The new Flickr Pro includes:

  • Stats and analytics on your photos and more detailed referral traffic
  • Ad-free browsing and sharing

Yearly subscriptions also receive:

  • FREE standard shipping on Flickr photo merchandise within the US, and 50% savings on international standard shipping ($25 minimum)
  • 20% off Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan for the first year

All this for only twice the price:

For new subscribers, Flickr Pro is $49.99 per year or $5.99 per month.

And here is where it gets good as a Loyal Flickr Pro Member: You get these additional Flickr Pro features and continue to receive unlimited space, with no change in price for the next 2 years.

“How much does it cost to go back to the old-style, uncluttered embed?” he asked, expecting no response.

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Quote of the week

Preston Lerner, in the September Automobile, on Nissan’s entry at 24 Hours of LeMans:

Some race cars inspire love. Others generate hate. Nissan’s GT-R LM NISMO does both. It couldn’t be more polarizing if it were a nuclear-powered, transgender cyborg engineered to perform Masses and abortions on alternating weekends.

I’m betting editor-in-chief Mike Floyd stared at that for several minutes before finally putting down his pencil.