Strange search-engine queries (526)

Once you get past the novelty of having five of these in February, it’s the same old thing: mine the search strings for comedy gold, or at least zinc.

turn your radio on john hartford:  What did John Hartford ever do to you?

juan and dori recently got married. if current demographics continue, what is the likelihood (percentage) they will get divorced or separated?  Depends on how quickly Dori finds those photos of Vivian on Juan’s phone.

the strange case of avogadro’s airline flight 6.02 on october the 23rd:  The entire cargo compartment was filled with moles.

i was born unicorn:  Yeah, Blueblood, we know. Now go away and do something vaguely prince-y.

not a clever pony:  No excuses. Act like the noble you’re supposed to be.

shoe morass in a sentence:  The higher the heel of your shoe, the morass you’re likely to show.

trying to be less of an asshole than i was yesterday:  Not to worry. The primaries will be over soon.

web toys for your procrastination pleasure:  Finally, a workable definition of Wikipedia.

fork enid:  Yeah, that’s what they say in Alva. Almost.

fourbucks:  The eventual price for Charles Shaw wines at Trader Joe’s.

double down casino says 403 forbidden:  You’ve reached your limit, Chuckie.

dion waiters defense:  Blankly staring.

blankly staring:  Known as the Dion Waiters defense.

texas asshole massacre:  But that could take days. Weeks, even.

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No flying car for you

However, you might get something else in its place, maybe:

Instead, the future is probably something closer to personal drone transport. People will have quadcopters that can take them on short trips around town and drop them off safely back onto the ground. This would be fun, safe and solve some of the transportation issues of the modern world.

We already have the technology to build a drone that can navigate around obstacles and use GPS to locate a target. The small drones you can by from hobbyist sites are simple to operate because of the built-in navigation technology. Scaling this up is nothing. Building a drone that can lift a person is basic engineering that has been done to death. Add in the software for guidance and navigation and you have a safe flying gizmo average people could use.

Except for the minor detail that average people are not good drivers: your average city thoroughfare is Lake Wobegon in reverse. Expecting these mooks to operate a vehicle a mere five feet tall that’s touching the ground most of the time is tricky enough; putting them several hundred feet in the air is the sort of thing that would get Charles Darwin to twirl at 2000 rpm, deep within Westminster Abbey.

Obviously, the safety issue is the issue. But that’s where the technology of robot cars comes into the mix. If you can safely navigate around a city street, the same technology can be applied to the drone. That way, the typical user does not slam into a building or crash into the ground when landing. Unlike cars, the drone-space would be free of dogs, pedestrians, kids running into the street, potholes, etc.

One word: liability. Nothing is allowed to happen in this world anymore unless there’s someone designated to take the blame when it doesn’t. We’re nowhere near solving this problem with ordinary cars, given the sheer volume of drivers who can’t be bothered to buy insurance no matter what sort of mandate is slapped upon them.

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This month has gone on too long

Personally, I tend to believe twenty-eight days is too long for a month like February, so you can imagine what I think on those quadrennial occasions when it has twenty-nine. I’m not as vexed as this guy was, though:

In February 1997, John Melo was convicted of home invasion and sentenced to ten years and one day in prison. Seven years later, he filed a motion complaining that the [Massachusetts] Department of Correction had miscalculated the length of his sentence. Why? Because it had failed to credit him for the additional days he had to serve on account of the February 29’s during leap years.

Melo’s motion was allowed, but he didn’t win the case. In 2006 the Superior Court ruled (Commonwealth v. John Melo) that not only did his case have no merit, but it had been a mistake to ever allow it to proceed in the first place, noting that he had clearly been sentenced to a term of years, no matter how long each year may be.

And besides, we’re talking two whole days here, 2/29/2000 and 2/29/2004. He probably spent more time than that in the prison library, looking for loopholes like that.

Melo may not have had a compelling case. However, it is true that the extra day in February can be somewhat unfair. For instance, if you’re a salaried employee you essentially have to work an extra day for free during a leap year, whereas hourly employees get an extra payday. Similarly, banks often don’t include February 29 when they calculate the interest they owe their customers, thereby giving themselves an extra bonus day of profit at everyone else’s expense.

At 42nd and Treadmill, at least, we don’t have the payday issue: both hourly and salaried employees are paid biweekly. And my bank account earned a whole six cents in interest last time around; it’s hard to imagine one day more or less would make much difference.

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Not a major market

Most of this is completely inarguable:

Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?

Donald Trump isn’t buying TV ads in Super Tuesday states prior to the big day. Doesn’t need to. He’s got all the coverage he needs, and has since June.

New Hampshire TV stations got rich from Jeb Bush and his SuperPac friends.

Well, one New Hampshire TV station: WMUR-TV Manchester, the only actual Big Four network station in the entire state. (It’s ABC, if you care, and why would you?) Everything else is low-power, PBS, or aimed at the Boston market. Still, I’m sure Hearst Television, owner of WMUR, was happy to cash those checks from the Jeb! machine.

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Keeping it in the family

Welcome to Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, the oldest hotel on earth:

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, Japan

How old is it, you ask?

Nestled among a number of picturesque hot springs in the mountains of Kyoto, the traditionally-styled Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, is recognized as the world’s oldest hotel, inn, and possibly even business in general, catering to everyone from ancient samurai to modern tourists for over a thousand years.

Originally established in 705, the traditional “onsen” or “hot spring” was the brainchild of the son of the reigning emperor’s aid. The natural hot springs in the area allowed for the creation of a number of healing baths that drew visitors and military men from all around to come and relax. Among these early patrons were a number of samurai and famed shogun, giving the spa a bit more notoriety still.

From its inception, the Keiunkan onsen has been passed down within the original family through the centuries. 52 different generations of descendants have cared for and operated the inn, growing the space and modernizing it slowly with each passing epoch.

The Friar quips:

Sometime in the next few years, its guest registry is expected to surpass Mount Fuji as the tallest point in Japan. Rates start at about $300 a night in US dollars. Feel free to mention my name; it’s guaranteed to draw as blank a look there as anywhere else on the globe.

Is it just me, or does $300 a night seem unbelievably inexpensive for the oldest hotel on earth?

(Photo by 663highland on Wikimedia Commons.)

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Quote of the week

Do political pitches seem dumber than before, this time around? Maybe — just maybe — it’s not the politicians that are dumber, but the electorate:

I read Cyril Kornbluth’s Marching Morons stories years ago; I know what it means when “performance” cars have to play engine sounds through the stereo system to keep the driver happy. The vapid uselessness of popular culture mounts steadily and in more ways than one. We’re well past the Age Of The Common Man and entering the age of the Illiterate Techno-Peasant With A Grudge. Better buckle in; it’s going to be bumpy. Care for a nice glass of lead-laced water for the ride?

Etan Cohen, co-writer with Mike Judge on Idiocracy, said last week that he never expected the film would wind up as a documentary. Of course, President Camacho, taking office in January 2017, can be expected to address this failure of prognostication.

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A downright speedy slog

A bit tired but always game, Heracles, having captured three-headed Cerberus, asked if there might be a thirteenth labor. Came the response: “We want you to guard Stephen Curry.”

The hero demurred. “No way I can keep up with that SOB.”

He wasn’t kidding. In the middle of the second quarter, Curry put together a string of three treys in what seemed to me no time at all, nearly wiping out a double-digit Thunder lead. And then the gods came up with a plot complication: a minute and a half into the third quarter, Curry, after assisting on a Harrison Barnes dunk, rolled his ankle, and disappeared into the locker room for the next five minutes. No way Steph would stay gone, and sure enough, he didn’t; with 1:15 left in the third, one of those patented Curry treys gave the Warriors their first lead of the night. Kevin Durant responded to this with two treys of his own, and the Thunder were up five going into what Judge Radar called “Twelve Minutes of Hell.” With 11:33 of that 12:00 elapsed, OKC led 100-99. KD used up half the remaining time to find a spot from 26 feet back, and splashed the trey; Klay Thompson drove in for a layup, and with 0.7 second left, Andre Iguodala, drawing Durant’s fifth foul, nailed two free throws to tie it at 103, and five minutes more hell ensued.

Then, 47 seconds into the overtime period and the Thunder up by five, Steph Curry drew a foul from KD, his sixth. (Bye-bye, Kevin.) Shortly thereafter, Curry’s eleventh trey of the game — tying a career high — tied the game at 110-all; in the last second, he got his twelfth, and that was it, 121-118, a Russell Westbrook trey at the buzzer falling short. And with 24 games left, the Warriors, 53-5, have already clinched a playoff spot.

Curry’s 46 points, of course, dwarfed everyone else’s. (Durant had 37 to lead the Thunder.) Overall shooting was almost dead even, Golden State 45-95, OKC 46-96. And neither side was particularly adept from the stripe, the Warriors making 17 of 25, the Thunder 17 of 26. The commanding OKC lead in rebounding — 62-32 — was more than offset by the turnover count: the Warriors lost only 11, the Thunder 23. You almost have to wonder what it would have been like had Steph Curry not spent five minutes in the locker room getting some fresh tape around his ankle.

Coming up: three games on the West Coast in four days, Monday at Sacramento, Wednesday at the Clippers, and Thursday at, yes, Golden State. Get your prayer shawls out of storage. In the meantime:


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Her name was Joanne

Joanne Gignilliat Trimmier Woodward, as of this writing, is the second-oldest person in Wikipedia born on the 27th of February: she’s 86 today. She did a whole lot of Golden Age television, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1957 for The Three Faces of Eve, in which she played a woman with dissociative identity disorder — what we used to call “multiple personalities.”

Joanne Woodward on the beach

In 1960, she was among the first group of celebrities honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; she was the first to pose for a photoshoot with her star, which has led to the belief that hers was the first star on the Walk, which it wasn’t.

Joanne Woodward on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

She and Paul Newman were married for fifty years, until his death in 2008.

Joanne Woodward with Paul Newman

Which may explain the dedication in Lucky Them (2013), Woodward’s most recent film, in which she has a small voice-only role and an executive-producer credit: it’s to Newman, “an inspiration, mentor, cheering squad, and darn good reason a gal could still have trouble finding a gent to fill his boots.”

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Like Lazarus, but with department stores

Consumerist follows up on a chap we’ve mentioned before, named Ellia Kassoff:

[Kassoff has] been battling Macy’s for several years over a slew of trademarks for stores Macy’s acquired and shut down. Today, Kassoff says he’s reached a deal with the department store giant that will allow him to try to breathe new life into several long-dead retail brands.

Kassoff has a knack for researching defunct brands and taking a risk on claiming trademarks that he believes are up for grabs because the most recent owners of those marks have not used them.

One of those is Foley’s, a Houston-based department-store chain founded in 1900, which Macy’s absorbed in 2006; there were four Foley’s stores (formerly Sanger Harris) in Oklahoma.

“After over five hours of negotiating with Macy’s, we finally hammered out a deal that we’re really happy with,” says Kassoff, who hopes to bring these stores back to the markets where they are remembered fondly.

“Consumers noted the current shopping experience is quite drab, as there is no localized marketing or buying for the regional stores anymore,” he says of his research into retail habits. “People want to go back to the days when shopping was a real experience at their local department store. They really miss that.”

It may take a while; one of Kassoff’s other ventures, the return of Hydrox cookies, is so far limited to a few of the major grocery chains.

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When “failed state” isn’t enough

Just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse in Venezuela, things got worse:

Since my SO, and the mother in law, are physically unable to stand in line for anything for more than half an hour, we must all share the burden. I cannot so I am resorting more and more to black market. I put on Instagram the latest of my loot on toilet paper, two heavy bags at 8 times the normal cost (and I learned that actually I got it for cheap!). But I also got 12 kilos of pasta that way, albeit at only twice the normal cost. Currently I am waiting for milk (it will be twice) and rice (at least thrice). But I have also been told not to hope much for that arrival. Corn flour is too political so my black market guy does not dare to go there. For that I will need to go to “buhoneros” in Petare at 4 times the cost, if not more, under the eyes of the Nazional Guard.

And let’s hope you’re not on medication:

There is no black market for medicine because there is none. Well, almost no black market. One of my siblings got some of his heart medicine from some one bringing it form the US and cashing it in USD!!!!!!! Well, in all fairness apparently there had been some mistake so the guy sold what he did not need through contacts, but in dollars, with overhead anyway. I am expecting some form of black market for some medicines to start organizing.

Last week, the Maduro government devalued the bolívar; the official exchange rate, formerly 6.3 Bs.F per $1 US, is now 10 Bs.F per $1 US. Then again, the official exchange rate means essentially nothing: on the black market, a single American dollar will bring as much as 1000 Bs.F. It is, of course, illegal to mention such details in the Venezuelan press. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s gold reserves are being shipped to Europe to pay sovereign debt. Can things get any worse? Wait a few weeks.

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You’ve got (marginally cheaper) mail

The price of a first-class stamp is about to drop two cents, and the Postal Service is not happy about it:

Absent Congressional or court action to extend or make permanent an existing exigent surcharge for mailing products and services — including the Forever stamp — the Postal Service will be required to reduce certain prices on Sunday, April 10, 2016. This mandatory action will worsen the Postal Service’s financial condition by reducing revenue and increasing its net losses by approximately $2 billion per year.

“The exigent surcharge granted to the Postal Service last year only partially alleviated our extreme multi-year revenue declines resulting from the Great Recession, which exceeded $7 billion in 2009 alone,” said Postmaster General and CEO Megan J. Brennan. “Removing the surcharge and reducing our prices is an irrational outcome considering the Postal Service’s precarious financial condition.”

An order from the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) requires the 4.3 percent exigent surcharge to be reversed after the Postal Service has collected surcharges totaling $4.6 billion. As outlined in a notice filed with the PRC [Thursday], that amount is expected to be reached by April 10th.

She keeps using that word. I do not believe it means what she thinks it means:

ex·i·gent, adj. 1. requiring immediate action or aid; urgent; pressing. 2. requiring a great deal, or more than is reasonable.

Decide which of those you like better, and compare to this:

Postal Service prices for Mailing Services are capped by law at the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U). However, the law does allow for exigent pricing (price increases beyond the CPI-U cap) due to extraordinary or exceptional circumstances.

On the upside, this is the second time I’ve had reason to mention the Postmaster General, Megan Brennan, in a mere two weeks.

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Something not all that new

The very first record album I bought was Something New, one of Capitol’s patchwork Beatles compilations, which included “Matchbox” and “Slow Down” from the Long Tall Sally EP (not released as such over here), a track in German (“Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand”), and eight tracks from the British A Hard Day’s Night, the last of which was “If I Fell,” an utterly lovely John Lennon ballad that apparently they didn’t take too seriously: on tour in 1964, the band often introduced the song as “If I Fell Over.”

That said, the Lennon/McCartney harmonies were seldom better than they were on “If I Fell,” and you may be certain that the MonaLisa Twins did them justice:

And really, the idea of a couple of young Austrian expats relocated to Liverpool to do British Invasion songs — and the occasional original — is really no weirder than the fact that “If I Fell,” a B-side in the States, was a Number One A-side in, um, Norway.

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I know, right?

The Democratic Party’s Twitter account circulated this image following last night’s Republican debate:

Donald Trumpified emoji

(I got this from Dawn Summers.)

Addendum: Added a link to the original tweet.

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Good against remotes

I’m sure I need not explain this:

At the very least, she’ll no longer be a little short for a stormtrooper.

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Shed shed

From late in the fall, and fall is the operative word here:

Gale-force winds for much of Wednesday came awfully close to blowing my old metal shed off its concrete block. There wasn’t much of anything out there worth saving — a bottom-of-the-line broadcast spreader was about it — but the structure itself looks like about two and a half seconds before the end of a round of Jenga.

You may safely assume that it didn’t gain any additional stability in the last hundred days or so, and yesterday I had it torn down. No great loss.

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I hear you knocking

But some of you, at least, can’t come in:

What is “this”? This:

No political or religious soliciting!
We already know who we're voting for and where we're going when we die.

I suppose that’s kinder than “Please wait while I reload.”

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