Seems really legit

Somehow this struck me as odd:

Taylor Swift turned heads Tuesday night when she accepted two major honors — including one named after her — at the 64th annual BMI Pop Awards held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Wait a minute. Named after her?

The country-turned-pop star’s family joined her for the special ceremony where she was honored with the first-ever Taylor Swift Award for “incomparable creative and artistic talent and influence on music lovers around the world,” as described by BMI.

In other news, Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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Potentially mortarfied

One of the great fears of our technological time is installing an update and then watching in horror as the device assumes the general position and activity level of a paperweight. I got a chance to anticipate just such a thing yesterday:

Some ASUS users are having UEFI-related Windows update problems that may brick their systems. A few news sites have stories on this:

[…] KB3133977, a security update for Windows 7, has been identified as the cause for this problem. Following its installation, it forces Windows 7 to enable Secure Boot, even though it is actually not supported by Microsoft anymore. This eventually prevents the system from properly rebooting. Microsoft has clearly stated that it is in no way responsible for this predicament. Providing clarification, a company spokesperson stated that the problem occurs because of how Asus has created some of its motherboards with its own modified version of the Secure Boot feature. In other words, users facing problems in this regard will have to contact Asus directly to have the issue addressed. […]

Well, actually, it was never supported in Win7; Secure Boot was an innovation, so to speak, that came with Windows 8. Still, I have an Asus mobo, I run Windows 7, and yesterday was the due date for Microsoft’s Patch of the Month Club. So when I got home, I dragged myself into UEFI — which, as the lovely and talented @SwiftOnSecurity reminds us, is not actually BIOS — drilled down a couple of levels, and hit the toggle on Secure Boot to match up, not with Windows, but with some mysterious “Other OS” that I don’t actually have on this machine.

And then down came fourteen patches, none of which turned out to be KB3133977.

I suppose I can toggle it back when I cede control to Windows 10 in the next couple of months.

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Neither Rand nor McNally

I suppose I could find a gizmo, or an app, that will find directions for me, but maybe I don’t want to:

The park rangers at Death Valley National Park in California call it “death by GPS.” It describes what happens when your GPS fails you, not by being wrong, exactly, but often by being too right. It does such a good job of computing the most direct route from Point A to Point B that it takes you down roads which barely exist, or were used at one time and abandoned, or are not suitable for your car, or which require all kinds of local knowledge that would make you aware that making that turn is bad news.

Death Valley’s vast arid landscape and temperature extremes make it a particularly dangerous place to rely on GPS. In the summer of 2009, Alicia Sanchez, a twenty-eight-year-old nurse, was driving through the park with her six-year-old son, Carlos, when her GPS directed her onto a vaguely defined road that she followed for 20 miles, unaware that it had no outlet. A week later, a ranger discovered Sanchez’s Jeep, buried in sand up to its axles, with SOS spelled out in medical tape on the windshield.

Too much faith in the machines, perhaps:

Most death-by-GPS incidents do not involve actual deaths — or even serious injuries. They are accidents or accidental journeys brought about by an uncritical acceptance of turn-by-turn commands: the Japanese tourists in Australia who drove their car into the ocean while attempting to reach North Stradbroke Island from the mainland; the man who drove his BMW down a narrow path in a village in Yorkshire, England, and nearly over a cliff; the woman in Bellevue, Washington, who drove her car into a lake that their GPS said was a road; the Swedish couple who asked GPS to guide them to the Mediterranean island of Capri, but instead arrived at the Italian industrial town of Carpi; the elderly woman in Belgium who tried to use GPS to guide her to her home, 90 miles away, but instead drove hundreds of miles to Zagreb, only realizing her mistake when she noticed the street signs were in Croatian.

I’m pretty good at fumbling with maps, if not with folding and refolding them.

(Via American Digest.)

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That wasn’t so easy

Staples and Office Depot will not be merging after all:

Office Depot and Staples called off their plans to merge, triggering a trading halt for the companies’ stocks Tuesday.

The retailers made the announcement after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday that had been requested by the Federal Trade Commission, which opposed Staples’ plan to acquire Office Depot for $6.3 billion.

Now the companies “plan to terminate their merger agreement,” Staples said in a statement.

The FTC’s position is simple enough [warning: autostart video]:

The agency pointed to the market for large business customers, where Staples and Office Depot are often the top two bidders.

“By eliminating competition between Staples and Office Depot, the transaction would lead to higher prices and reduced quality,” the FTC said in a statement.

At 42nd and Treadmill, we buy from both, and we have no qualms about playing both ends against the middle.

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Be true to your shool

And remember: they’re concerned.

This particular Marietta is in southeastern Ohio.

(Title inspired by Little Stevie Weingold.)

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The Enucleator

Sounds like a straight-to-video semi-thriller, doesn’t it?

Oh, it doesn’t? Well, never mind then.

One thousand dollars Canadian

Pinicola enucleator, the pine grosbeak, is a Very Big Finch, and this is a very high-value banknote, as seen in a Guardian article on, um, high-value banknotes. Says the caption to this picture:

A Canadian $1,000 dollar note (£499), issued in 1988. It stopped being printed in 2000, but despite requests to return them to banks, nearly 1m of them are still unaccounted for.

“It stopped being printed.” Imagine the cry of the grosbeak: “Stop printing me!” The actual story is more humdrum:

The Bank of Canada will no longer issue $1,000 bills as of this Friday [29 September 2000] in an effort to fight organized crime and money laundering.

The bill’s extinction was made official Monday after formal approval from the federal government. It was the final step in a February proposal by the the Finance Department, the central bank and the RCMP to get rid of the bills which are favoured by criminals.

Nicknamed “pinkies” for their reddish-purple hue, $1000 bills were an easy way for criminals to hide and carry their earnings.

Of course, you’re looking at the back of the bill: Queen Elizabeth is on the front.

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Gimme five

After the thirteenth Thunder turnover — still in the second quarter, mind you — you might reasonably have concluded that OKC was going down, and going down hard. You might not have expected that they’d learn some ball control in the second half, but they manifestly did: in those last 24 minutes they gave the ball up only seven times. And with 42 seconds left, the Thunder actually held a one-point lead, 92-91. Danny Green stripped the ball away from Kevin Durant, but the Spurs weren’t able to turn that turnover into actual points, and after a difficult inbound, Russell Westbrook made a mad dash to the rim — “and one,” as Dion Waiters is wont to say — and the Thunder were up four with six seconds left. Kawhi Leonard tried a three, Tony Parker retrieved the miss and Green tried another, but to no avail. Oklahoma City 95, San Antonio 91, the Thunder lead the series 3-2, and suddenly something the local pundits had been suggesting started to make sense: give the Spurs three days rest, and they’re fine, but with only one day — well, Tim Duncan once got a DNP-OLD, and he’s way older than that now.

Then again, Duncan played 28 minutes tonight, and if he’s lost some speed, he’s lost none of his slyness. And Danny Green, held scoreless last time out, sprang for 20 points, tied with Kawhi and six behind LaMarcus. But the San Antonio bench, while it did yeoman work keeping the Thunder away from the cylinder, didn’t make much in the way of shots: five reserves, 11 points. (Then again, the OKC second string managed only 20.) The Spurs wound up shooting just under 40 percent, which doesn’t exactly shine. And they pulled in a mere 36 rebounds, while the Thunder collected 54.

Still, it’s never just numbers. And tonight it was Westbrook, blurry like he’d taken some of those Acme earthquake pills, with 35 points, 11 boards, and nine assists. (And yes, eight turnovers.) Kevin Durant added 23. It took those two 48 shots to get 58 points, but what the heck; Steven Adams went 5-8 from the floor and posted yet another double-double.

Game 6 is in OKC. Day after tomorrow. Suddenly that seems portentous.

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Grand appearance

In fact, several grand: back in 1990, supermodel Linda Evangelista said of herself and her few peers, “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.” On this, her 51st birthday, it seems fit to look back a bit: two of these shots qualify as vintage, but the last comes from 2015, part of a campaign she did for Hudson’s Bay. (I continue to be gobsmacked by the fact that this is the Hudson’s Bay Company that showed up in my history texts, many years ago: the firm dates to 1670.)

Linda Evangelista in red, white and blue, sort of

And who better to embody the red, white and blue than a woman from St. Catharines, Ontario?

Linda Evangelista sports a bob

Linda Evangelista for Hudson's Bay

She retired from the runway in 1998, only to return in 2001. Maybe she needed a reason to wake up in the morning.

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Boxed in

Well, the new Mini Boxes were not going to install themselves, and I wasn’t about to call in a tech for something I damned well ought to be able to do myself, so I set aside an hour to deal with both of my ancient television sets.

The Box box from Cox contains, in addition to the box and its power supply, a smallish remote (with a couple of AAA batteries), a large sheet of paper for the benefit of people with ancient television sets whose remotes need to be cloned, a Quick Start guide which I looked at once, and two cables: one HDMI and one with F connectors. The idea is that if you don’t have HDMI, as I don’t on the turn-of-the-century Sony WEGA, it will still be possible to hook up the box, though nothing is going to produce an actual HD picture. (With judicious use of a button on the remote, you can do the old letterboxing trick to get 16:9, albeit with the usual black bars at top and bottom.) The Vizio (2007) is a proper HD set, but the connectors, as I had forgotten, required me to turn the screen upside down to get to them.

That said, I didn’t actually use up the entire hour, though for some reason the install on the Vizio immediately phoned home for a software update, and it’s just as agonizing watching such things on TV screens as it is on proper computer monitors. And now, instead of 105 channels I don’t watch, I have about 225 channels I don’t watch.

Downside: Each box seems to eat up about 10 watts, whether anyone’s watching TV or not. This works out to somewhere around $20 a year on the electric bill. It’s not a Frigidaire, exactly, but it’s still noticeable.

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Synths and sensibility

After Switched-On Bach, the deluge: all manner of music was processed through the magical Moog and its rival devices. Perhaps the biggest hit was a Debussy collection called Snowflakes Are Dancing, on which Isao Tomita spent fourteen months trying to do polyphonics on a machine that did one note at a time. Wendy Carlos faced the same issue on her early Moog work, but she was doing mostly Bach, nicely mathematical and discrete. Debussy, a “tone painter,” would prove tricker, but not at all impossible:

The only off-note is the title of the collection, a slightly warped translation of Debussy’s original La neige danse. I played the very dickens out of this disc, and it still comes out a couple times a year to remind me.

Unfortunately, this came down the stream yesterday:

Tomita was 84. And before he was through, he did some Bach of his own:

The numbers still add up.

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Dollars here, dollars there

The apparently not-dead-yet Ted Cruz — at least, that’s the name in the From field — has issued this blurb on behalf of Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma’s 1st District:

There are hundreds of congressional races taking place across the country this year, but this election in Oklahoma is especially important.

Jim Bridenstine is one of the top conservative leaders in the House today and he isn’t afraid to stand up to the powerful interests in Washington.

He has fought to stop Obamacare, to defund President Obama’s executive amnesty, and to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving taxpayer money.

Time after time, Jim has stood with me and other conservatives in Congress to defend the Constitution, and now he needs your help.

The Washington establishment has recruited a candidate to run against Jim in the June 28th Republican primary election. He’s a threat to the Beltway insiders so they are determined to defeat him.

*Please join me in supporting this outstanding conservative leader by making a contribution to his campaign today.*

Some of us down here in Soonerland are, shall we say, suspicious of solicitations for out-of-state money. And we know this is going out of state, because Ted Cruz and/or his fellow travelers in this particular PAC didn’t send this to me; it was sent to good old Roger Green in Albany, New York, who isn’t the least likely person on earth to send a contribution to the Jim Bridenstine campaign, but he’s a long way from the top of the list, if you know what I mean.

There is no Democrat running in the First District, which should give you an idea of how this area skews politically. (There is an Independent in the race.) Tom Atkinson, the “establishment” Republican candidate, actually considered running against Bridenstine two years ago, but eventually thought better of it. With Bridenstine vowing to serve a maximum of three terms — he’s completed two — Atkinson may actually get a chance in 2018.

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Mere “stick” seems inadequate

I mean, this sucker might be a full-fledged rod:

A long silhouette found wriggling on a mountain road in south China has proved to be the world’s longest insect, authorities said Thursday.

Zhao Li, with the Insect Museum of West China (IMWC) in Chengdu, found the 62.4-cm-long stick insect during a field inspection in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2014, breaking the record for length for all 807,625 insects discovered so far, according to the IMWC.

This is over two feet of six-legged bug.

(Okay, it’s technically not a bug.)

Zhao took the insect back to the IMWC, and it laid six eggs. After hatching, Zhao found the smallest of the young insects’ bodies measured at least 26 cm, almost twice the size of those at the Natural History Museum.

The insect has been named Phryganistria chinensis Zhao, and a thesis about it will be published soon.

(Via Fark.)

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In lieu of a business model

Is my face insufficiently spited? Here, let me take a blade to that proboscis there:

Wired magazine's popup box

Here’s the thing with us paying magazine subscribers: we hate being presented with crap like this on the mag’s Web site, and if you really don’t want us around, we can take a hint, and you may never get another dime from us for the rest of your miserable lives.

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But can she dance?

This shot of singing group Fifth Harmony apparently came from a Billboard cover shoot, and there’s something seriously wrong with it:

Fifth Harmony for Billboard maybe

I’m pretty sure Ally Brooke Hernandez, known professionally as Ally Brooke (seated, center), wasn’t born with two right feet.

Billboard said it wasn’t any of their doing:

“The photo circulating on the internet is a manipulated outtake from a Billboard photo shoot. It was never published by Billboard.

But perhaps the best commentary came from Hernandez herself:

Where this would get complicated, I submit, is when you have not only two right feet but a left one as well, as with this character from American Horror Story a couple of seasons back:

Three-legged woman from American Horror Story

I’m sure she can dance, especially the waltz, but I’m not so sure I want to find out for myself.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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Taking four years off

And fercryingoutloud, get your passport in order:

Whether it’s luck or fate, we’re starting Dispatches Europe at the very time an increasing number of Americans are considering their expat options for the next four years or so. In fact, there’s a new poll out indicating one in four Americans would consider leaving if Trump is elected. Others claim they will leave if Hillary Clinton is elected. In terms of trend lines, more Americans are renouncing their citizenships.

From a recent Forbes post:

“[T]he number of published expatriates for the first three months of 2016 was a record 1,158. In 2015, there were approximately 4,300 expatriations. Comparing present to past suggests that Americans renouncing citizenship have risen 560 percent from their Bush administration high. There are now 18 times as many renouncers as in 2008.”

The discerning reader will already have discerned that 4,300 is a hell of a long way from “one in four.” Still, if you’re on your way out of here, we wish you well, and don’t let the door strike you as you leave.

(Via Cameron Aubernon.)

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Strange search-engine queries (536)

Data-acquisition methods have changed somewhat over the ten years we’ve been doing this feature, but the motivation remains exactly the same: find out what people are searching for, and make fun of it whenever possible.

are the goats in the hsbc ad really up the tree:  You wanna try telling a goat it can’t go up a tree?

mark never stops ranting about the dangers of pornography. he gives endless examples of smut he has seen in movies and on television, and spends a lot of time hanging around porno houses to get even more examples:  And his right palm is covered in coarse, sticky hair.

unmitigatedly cute 18y.o. virgin skinny young teen & compacted breast strip:  That you, Mark?

10000 leagues under my nutsack:  No, maybe that’s Mark.

definition of a nerve:  Whatever it is, Mark’s got a lot of it.

chickens could not be taught to play baseball because they would chase the ball after it was batted, rather than run to first base:  Perhaps if you built a road perpendicular to the base path.

oldest known board game: Um, Great-Uncle Wiggily?

sofia still lives at home, but helps with the rent paying $200 per month. she has a job that pays about $700 per month after taxes. she has to pay for her own personal items such as clothing and toiletries spending about $120 per month. going out with friends is important to her, but she also wants:  To buy a brand-new car, because, by golly, she deserves one.

barista salaries:  I hope they make more than Sofia.

relative silence:  Most people’s relatives are anything but silent.

jose had a small bag of marshmallows. the bag contained 5 pink, 6 blue, 7 orange, 9 yellow, and 3 green marshmallows. he picked one of the marshmallows from the bag:  And somewhere, a leprechaun died.

by publishing information packed articles, you’ll soon enjoy rectum:  Not here, you won’t.

meghan trainor tongue:  Her tongue is No. (You need to let it go.)

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